Fear of Growing Apart

Karen De Maio

It’s not uncommon to have fears.  Over 19.2 million people in the United States suffer from various phobias.  The commons ones being arachnophobia (spiders), ophidiophobia (snakes- definitely me!), aerophobia (fear of flying) and acrophobia (heights). 

While those are typical fears in this world and rightfully so for many of us, what is a subconscious fear of mine is the demise of a marriage- in other words- D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

I’m not referring to the marriages that by design are destined to fail as found in reality television (my guilty pleasure).  Those would include Love After Lock Up, 90 Day Fiance and Married at First Sight.  Those are created conditions where one could conclude that the end of a marriage is highly probable given you have convicted felons, 90 days to wed and then there is meeting the person you are going to marry literally right at the altar.

What I am referring to is a marriage that has lasted decades and suddenly in thin air a couple calls it quits. I started thinking about this right after the announcement of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos and his wife Mackenzie who are divorcing after 25 years. I won’t pretend to know Jeff and his wife (although I do have Amazon Prime- love it!)) but that decision left me questioning why the break-up. First thing that came to my mind was someone must have cheated.

However, a recent AARP article states “But what we do know is that while questions of infidelity grab the most headlines, having an extramarital affair is not what's behind the breakup or divorce of most long-term relationships. The AARP Sex, Romance and Relationship on the sexuality of people 45 and older found that extramarital affairs happen for only a relatively small number of couples. So while infidelity is certainly the precipitating factor in some marriages failing, it's not the reason in most cases.”

The article continues to discuss another reason to calling it quits and one I am simply afraid of facing is the old cliché “we grew apart.”

That’s scary to think a simple statement like “we grew apart” can affect the entire sanctity of a marriage.  A difficult concept to grasp because after decades together a couple has weathered through it all including the best of times such as the birth of children/grandchildren, buying a house (well maybe- there’s always something to fix), celebrated all the special milestones of birthdays and anniversaries, a job promotion, and created lasting memories on trips/vacations. But you have also steered through the worst of times which are equally important to a relationship such as loss of a job, financial issues, sickness, loss of a child, or death of a family member.

You have been spent a better part of your life building a life with this person over a period of decades.  So when a relationship gets to that “we grew apart” phase one has to question what prompted that.  I look back at what my husband and I have been through and I get a little teary eyed thinking what if we get to that point as a couple (this July will be 14 years married).  Will we hold on tighter than before or just let it go and grow apart?

Maybe this fear is exactly what I need to help push us to continue to nurture our relationship. So a quick Google search revealed advice ranging from don’t hold grudges, give the benefit of the doubt, celebrate your anniversary, do joint activities, date your spouse and talk daily for 15 minutes.  

I thought well let me try the 15 minute talk.  So I headed into my husband’s office to catch up and chit chat.  He politely responded, “Hun, can you come back in a minute and a half.”  Perhaps years before I might have quickly responded with an attitude and frustration but I know how important the NFL AFC championships (in other words FOOTBALL) are to him so I’ll let this one go.  We have plenty of time to nurture this marriage; I plan on growing old with him!



Other articles by Karen DeMaio