Old enough to know better

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Old enough to know better

The divorce of a middle-aged celebrity couple is a hot issue today. They had been married for 26 years, enjoying what seemed like a happy life in the eyes of onlookers. Their breakup is a typical sample of divorce in middle age, when couples mutually agree to release each other after their children have grown up.
In addition to the increasing number of breakups among older couples, the separation of middle-aged couples in their 40s or 50s is also becoming an issue.
According to reports by the statistics agency, growth in the divorce rate is slowing down, but divorce among older couples is an exception.
As of 2006, whereas the total number of divorced couples decreased by 2.7 percent from the previous year, the number of divorced women aged 45 to 49 has increased by 10.1 percent, while those aged 50 to 54 has increased by 16.9 percent.
Since the year 2005, one in 17 people in their 40s and 50s was a divorcee, and the middle-aged population of divorcees accounts for over 70 percent of the total population of divorced people.
The biggest factor in the skyrocketing increase in middle-age divorces is a change in the status of women. Women no longer endure sacrifice so readily as they have more economic power and social status. Other reasons include the open acceptance of female sexual desire, greater individualism and protection of the property rights of wives. In low-income families, economic motivation is the biggest reason for divorce.
The increase in middle-age divorce reminds us that psychological strategies are required in order to maintain an extended period of marriage in an aging society.
We need to adopt the idea of a “third age” of marriage that represents a second period of growth in one’s life.
Andrew Marshall in the television program “SOS Marriage Clinic” raises a more fundamental problem.
He says that these days people want to have romance and adventure instead of remaining in a comfortable relationship.
Indeed we always talk about love, but we don’t know what it is. As womens’ activities outside the home increase, the notion of married life based on the husband’s income is finished. Previously the monopolistic exchange of economic power and sexual service between different the sexes underpinned the system of marriage.
Yet love now seems to be the sole reason for maintaining a marriage.
Perhaps what we should really study now is the theory of love.

The writer is a deputy culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Yang Sung-hee [shyang@joongang.co.kr]
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