Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife of 27 years, Melinda Gates, recently announced their divorce. This has shocked the world because the Gates seemed like the epitome of a best-friends marriage, united by three children and their joint leadership of the world's largest charitable foundation.
We don’t claim to know anything about the Gates’ divorce. We are, however, increasingly aware of a crisis point many couples reach after about 25 years of marriage when the kids are raised, careers may be winding down, and couples may look at each other and say, "Who are you?" Life can become all about the kids, the bills, the business, and other things. Couples drift apart. This phenomenon is known as the “Gray Divorce.”
Money can help take some of the worry out of life. But if the richest couple in the world is divorcing, there has to be more to making marriage work than having enough money. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Prioritize the marital relationship above all other relationships. Intentionally turn toward your partner.
2. Stay friends. With all of the busyness of life, don't forget to keep playing. If you run a business together, as the Gates did (and we don't know their circumstances), that might give you more opportunities to interact. But none of us wants everything to be about the bottom line.
3. Take time for personal development. New discoveries and growth as a person better enable you to handle the difficulties that come along, and keep things interesting for your partner. Being intelligent and educated doesn't guarantee marital bliss. However, a lifetime of commitment to personal growth and human relationships can positively impact your companionship.
4. Be intentional about maintaining passion and sexual connection. We want to love and be loved passionately and freely. Once novelty and newness have worn off, this area of life requires more purposeful attention. Don't "outgrow" passion or you may outgrow your marriage.
We can never judge another person’s divorce accurately. It is better to offer love and compassion. Sometimes divorce is the most loving choice. We can assume good intent and refuse to judge or pick sides. To learn more about “divorce stories” and how to choose a perspective that best serves you and future relationships, listen to our recent podcast.
LILY Pod Episode 12: Divorce Stories
Jeff and Cathy each hold college degrees in the family science field. The principle of least interest is a prominent theory in this discipline. It simply means that the partner who is least invested in a relationship controls that relationship. This is so because the less interested partner is more willing to walk away rather than compromise or change.
We have seen many manifestations of this, such as a wife who is constantly clamoring for her husband's attention while he works long hours to avoid feeling smothered at home. It could be the husband who is pressing his wife for more couple time while she focuses on the kids and her friends, often to the exclusion of her husband.
In the realm of dating, one person may be very excited about another, while that other may still be dating a lot of other people. That dynamic creates a great deal of frustration for both of them. The one who is dating all of the other people controls the relationship because he or she is prepared to pursue other interests, while the other is willing to make the relationship a priority.
If you are the more interested dating partner, here are a few suggestions to help you deal with a relationship where you have no power:
- Date other people. If your partner does not commit to an exclusive relationship, neither should you. I have coached people who have protested, "But I don't want to date anybody else. I have found the person I want to be with." Don't invest more than your partner is willing to invest. This isn't a matter of playing games but of recognizing where your relationship really is. For commitments to be meaningful they need to be mutual. If you are constantly chasing someone who is chasing other people, you are likely wasting a lot of time and emotional energy, and smothering your partner in the process. Keep dating other people and give your partner a chance to catch up. Be open to meeting someone else.
- Develop other interests. Take a class. Restore an old car. Get together with friends and go to a movie. Do some scrapbooking – whatever you enjoy. Don't overload a relationship with constant demands that the other person "be there" to make you happy. Make yourself happy and accept what the other person is willing to give. Ultimately, if your partner does not get more invested, your relationship is not going to go anywhere and it shouldn't. Occasionally we have seen relationships where the more interested person gave an ultimatum and the less interested person gave into it under pressure. That leads to a marriage to a half-hearted partner. Does anyone want that?
- Don't get married where there is a huge emotional intimacy gap. If you are in a relationship where you find yourself always wanting more of your partner, this may not be the right relationship for you. You may have fundamentally different ideas about the appropriate amount of time together and the balance between relationship and outside interests. You might have great physical chemistry and the ability to connect in conversation. But if your partner is not invested in the relationship at roughly the same level as you, it is going to take a lot of adjustment for you to get comfortable in the relationship. You're probably going to do a lot of grieving. You have to decide whether that is something you are ready to do, or if there might be another person out there that is better suited to you.
Listen to our LILY Pod episode which outlines dating etiquette for mid-singles and for married couples. If in addition to these free materials you would like to consider one-on-one coaching for your own dating and relationships, email us at loveinlateryears.com to schedule a free consult.
Enjoy LILY Pod Episode 7: Dating Etiquette for Mid-Singles and Married Couples
"Loving someone will never be wasted."
During our mid-single years, we met a lot of amazing people and created many good relationships. They didn't all lead to marriage and that's okay. When a relationship doesn't turn out as we may hope (forever), the opportunity to connect with and love another person is never wasted.
On our most recent anniversary, Cathy suggested this hand photo. We are each wearing our "kelibet," which is the Ethiopian word for engagement. In Ethiopia, the first phase of the wedding is the kelibet ceremony where rings are exchanged. At this stage of proceedings, you are engaged to be married, but not actually married yet. Since we got engaged in Ethiopia, we bought rings and began to wear them immediately. These rings were not expensive, but the memories they evoke are dear to us, so we only wear these rings on special occasions. We have other wedding rings that we wear at other times to remind us of the covenant we have made to each other.
Thankfully, my sealing clearance went through the first presidency quickly. Even so, we only had a month before our intended wedding date to plan the wedding. I think it took us approximately two hours of discussion.
We decided on the Provo City Center Temple because it is near my hometown, it is splendidly elegant and, most important, its history represents how lives can be burned to the ground and rise again with a higher and holier purpose, and even more beautiful than before. At the wedding we enjoyed the presence of loved ones on both sides of the veil. My oldest son was my escort.
Instead of wearing a wedding dress, Cathy chose to wear her temple dress. Coming out of the Temple, she wore a beautiful Ethiopian celebratory dress that we bought on our engagement trip. We had our couples pictures taken the day before on the temple grounds because rain was forecast for our wedding day. But we had a great little window of time right after we came out of the Temple to take some great group pictures. We splurged a little bit on the photographer. He gave us a great deal, and he was very experienced and affordably priced.
After the wedding, we had a lunch of all you can eat fajitas at Los Hermanos, which our guests loved -- and it was a third of the price of catering a brunch at the nearby Marriott. Something fun and festive was more our personality anyway.
The next day, we had an open house and many of our friends and relatives came to congratulate us. We planned it for the next evening partly because we had both been through weddings where all of the festivities were on one day, and it was hectic, running from one thing to the next all day. Planning it as we did, we were done with our wedding luncheon by mid-afternoon. We got to spend a lot of time relaxing together in our hotel room and having a quiet, private dinner together at Market Street Grill.
For our open house, Daniel Coburn made wings for our guests as a wedding present to us. We had other trays of meat and cheese, vegetables, and other food that we bought and friends put together. Instead of wedding cake, we served cake bites from Sweet Tooth Fairy. We served each other bites of a giant wedding cupcake. Throughout the evening, a mix of our favorite love songs was playing on the stereo.
We had circles of chairs set up in a few places in the house, so groups of friends or family could sit down together and talk. The whole mood of the evening was festive and happy.
I don't say this to either boast or sound cheap, but we did the wedding for around $1000, including dress, rings, and everything. (A client of mine who owned a hotel donated his presidential suite for the night -- so that was a nice freebie that we very much appreciated.) We splurged for lunch for our sealing ceremony guests and the photographer, but all in all did our wedding inexpensively and with almost zero stress. And guess what! It was amazing! We just got to relax and enjoy our day (and the next evening) together with loved ones.
I remember my first wedding, which was a financial stress for my parents and my former wife's -- not to mention that my former wife had all kinds of dreams about her wedding day that would have cost millions of dollars to fulfill. No matter what we did, it seemed like we were disappointing someone. It was stressful, and the focus really was not on the sacred moment in the temple -- which Cathy and I chose to focus our wedding on. (To my former wife's credit, when she remarried in a simple ceremony at the university library where her husband worked, she walked down the aisle to a favorite Beatles song. I respect the fact that she also learned valuable lessons from the stress of our first wedding -- and did something simpler and more reflective of their personality as a couple.)
I bring this up because many in our group will marry in their middle or mature years as we did, and I hope this perspective might help you to create great memories around your wedding, without breaking the bank, and without creating an undue amount of stress for yourselves. It won't be exactly like ours. It will be your own creation. It can reflect your personality, even if you don't choose to spend a lot of money or are unable to. The thing I do hope is that it will be centered on the covenants you are making, and that your guests will understand how important that is to you.
"About a Boy" is a popular 2002 film starring Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult. It begins with a self-centered mid-single man named Will (Grant) who lives off of the royalties of a Christmas jingle his father wrote. So he has no job and doesn't need one. He insists that he is an "island" and doesn't need anyone in his life. He spends his day playing pool, getting haircuts, watching TV, buying things, and figuring out ways to date lots of different girls. A couple of his married friends offered to make him godfather to their daughter Imogene. Will's response was, "I can't think of a worse godfather for Imogene." He said that he likely wouldn't do anything to help her until her 18th birthday, when he would take her out, get her drunk and, "let's face it, probably try and shag her." The mother says, "I can't really believe you're that shallow." Will boastfully responds, "No, you've always had that wrong. I really am that shallow."
Will develops an elaborate scheme to date "single mums" by attending a support group and pretending he has a two year-old child named "Ned." It actually works and he begins dating a woman from the support group he is attending. They end up on a Saturday outing to a park. The woman informs Will on their way out the door that they are taking her friend's geeky teenage son "Marcus" (Hoult) on the outing with them because his mother (Toni Collette) is not feeling well. His mother is something of a hippie and gives him a loaf of bread to take on the picnic. It is hard as a rock and won't break when Marcus tries to feed the ducks with it. In desperation, he finally throws the entire loaf into the pond and kills a duck with it. Forever after that he calls that day "the dead duck day."
When Will and his date take Marcus home, they find his mother lying unconscious, having attempted suicide. They call an ambulance and rush her to the hospital, where she receives life saving treatment and lives.
Marcus is very disconcerted by his mother's suicide attempt. He is bullied at school and doesn't have any friends. He is such a target for bullies that even the other geeky kids don't feel safe hanging around him. He also realizes that the only person he really has in the world is his mother, and she is unstable. He says to himself that one person is not enough. "You need backup." So Marcus turns to Will, the "island" man, and starts dropping by his apartment after school. At first Will is resistant, but eventually takes a liking to Marcus.
One day when Will sees Marcus getting bullied, he takes him out and buys him some cool new shoes. Of course, soon thereafter, the bullies steal the shoes and he has to walk home in the rain in his stocking feet. As he explains the situation to his mother, he is forced to tell her who bought him the new shoes, and she goes to a restaurant and confronts Will about "these little after school tea parties." Will gets upset, tells her off for being a bad mother and not knowing what her son needs, and vows to "not open my door to Marcus again, adding "I'll be grateful to be rid of the pair of you frankly." The mother then seems to shift her position by saying, "so that's it then, you're out of his life?" She asks him if, by some miracle, he is right about what Marcus needs and she is wrong, what he is going to do about it. At first he claims that Marcus is none of his business, but continues to allow him around his apartment, gives him socially relevant Christmas presents, and coaches him through his first crush. He observes that, "When you let one person in, all sorts of other people come in too." I think, perhaps, that is the most important idea in the movie. Marcus helps Will to realize that being an island isn't enough. There are "Island chains." Will realizes that he needs people in his life.
After he lets Marcus in, Will takes a fancy to another beautiful "single mum" named "Rachel" (Rachel Weisz) and wants her to be his girlfriend. He wishes that he was "in any way interesting" to make him more appealing to her. He interjects a comment about Marcus in a conversation she is having with someone else, and she assumes that Marcus is Will's son. Not having learned his lesson yet, Will allows her to go on believing that, even when he brings Marcus over to her house for a Saturday afternoon. During that little event, Marcus is forced to associate with Rachel's son Ali (Augustus Prew), who is one of the kids bullying Marcus at school. When he threatens to cut Marcus into little pieces if he doesn't stop his "father" from dating Rachel, Marcus goes running from the house, and Rachel is forced to do some advanced single parenting.
Will ultimately decides that he has to tell Rachel that Marcus is not his son, but he blames her for choosing to believe it. She gets upset that he has been lying to her about having a son and breaks up with him.
Will, fresh from this stinging rejection, blames Marcus for messing up his relationship and says he can't help him with "real things" like his mother's depression. Marcus gets upset and decides the only way to make his mother happy is to sing "Killing Me Softly" in front of his entire school at a talent show, playing a tambourine that his mother gave him for Christmas.
After Marcus deserts Will and stops coming around his house, Will misses him and realizes that his perfect little life doesn't mean anything. He realizes that the only thing that means anything to him is Marcus. So he goes to Marcus's mother and pleads with her not to try to kill herself again. In the course of this conversation, he learns about Marcus's plan to perform at the talent show and knows immediately that it is going to get him bullied even worse at school. Will and Marcus's mother rush off to put a stop to Marcus's plan.
When they get there, Will pleads with Marcus not to perform and tells him that he cannot make his mother happy, and she has to do that for herself. Marcus disagrees and goes out on stage. He begins a timid performance and is about to be laughed off stage when Will shows up on stage with an electric guitar and gives a humorous (but a little more "hip") performance--for which he takes an apple to the head from a heckling student in the crowd. His performance saves the day for Marcus. Rachel is in the crowd and is impressed by Will's willingness to make a fool out of himself to get Marcus through his moment of humiliation. She gets back together with him and Marcus develops some sort of relationship with the first crush. The closing scene of the film is where they are all celebrating Christmas together as a hodgepodge of misfit people.
I love this movie for a few reasons. First and foremost, I think it explores the fact that letting one person into your life and your heart can open the floodgates to a whole lot more love. Marcus's persistence softens Will's heart, and he realizes that it feels good to love and be loved. Once he let Marcus in, he could let Rachel in and have more than a superficial relationship.
I also love that this movie is full of single parents who are finding their own ways through life, and a confirmed bachelor who develops a parental kind of love for a young kid. They are figuring out parenting mostly on their own. When I was a mid-single, I often said, "We are the Island of misfit toys." I think it helps for mid-singles to be together and give each other support. It is tempting to draw a little bubble around ourselves and our children and stay isolated. Having been through significant traumas, it feels safer to close people out. But letting more people in is important. Letting love in is essential.
The important message of "About a Boy" is that life doesn't mean much if you are an island. It means more when you share it with others. If you want a funny, heartwarming movie, find this one, pop some popcorn and enjoy. If you are a mid-single, I think it will speak to your heart.
We celebrated our anniversary this past weekend by treating ourselves to LIVE theater for the first time since Covid shut it down. Desert Star's first show opening back up was "Harry Poppins," a fun spoof on Harry Potter, Mary Poppins, and even Star Wars. Cathy knew their amazing pianist (Tracy) from back in her pageant days and we were lucky enough to get tickets. It turns out Jeff also knew one of the cast members and talented costume designer (Lee) from back in grade school. We were able to chat with each of them after the show; it was good to catch up with old friends!
There was a fun surprise for both of us at the end of the play when they called us out by name as a couple celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary. They had us stand up and dance in front of everyone while Tracy played a lovely rendition of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart."
At the end of our dance and unexpected moment in the spotlight, Jeff twirled Cathy around and while the audience clapped, we kissed with our masks on!
HaPpY SaiNt PaTriCkS DaY!!!
Here's a fun little story about luck in finding love. This photo was taken 5 years ago, when Cathy was a mid single, actively looking for her "lucky charm."
I vividly remember the moment when I took this selfie on March 17, 2016. Intending to share it on singles pages, I thought it would be a cute way to attract potential dating partners. At the time, I was feeling discouraged by all the effort I was putting into dating. I was meeting great guys, but that one special person I could really see myself with long term had not shown up yet. I remember thinking, "this will not likely attract my future spouse." I also remember thinking, "oh well, I'll just keep trying anyway until I do!"
That day, Jeff and I became Facebook friends. I made absolutely no connection to that fateful selfie. It wasn't until two years later, when we were engaged in 2018, that we were reminded by Facebook that St Patrick's 2016 was our "Friendiversary." It turns out my future forever spouse did come into my life that day! It just took us a while to figure it out.
Happy searching and best of Irish luck to all our single friends out there!
During the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, “the world came together as people stayed apart.” Every time I see a photo or video footage of people in other countries wearing masks and social distancing, much like we do here in America, I am in awe of how we are all coming together globally in a common effort to kindly stay apart. 💕
We have been particularly aware of mid-singles and the unique challenges they face with these unexpected social changes. Please know that you are loved and prayed for. We have been using this time to create elevating resources (writing our book, "Intentional Courtship" and creating LILY Pod podcasts) and new opportunities (LILY Coaching services) especially for you.
We hope you are staying connected in all the ways that you can and continuing to grow and progress in your life's journey.