If you’re approximately 30 years old and in a long term relationship, chances are you’re already engaged. If you’re not, you may feel that bitter kernel of resentment in the pit of your stomach. Why aren’t you engaged? All your friends are engaged. Loads of them are married. If you are living in a rented flat then why don’t you have a house? Where are your children? All your friends are having children. The self-doubt swells. The panic sets in. The alarms go off. Before you know it, you’re lying in bed, tears in your eyes as you stare at the ceiling. That kernel of resentment reaches up into your throat and makes you say it. ‘I don’t think I want to be together anymore’. Gulp.
Making yourself suddenly single at 30 is serious. Someone usually has to move out of somewhere. You might have to break off an engagement. Give back a ring. Detangle the twisted wires of two lives and start all over again. If this is you, before you take a sledge-hammer and smash it through the middle of your life, you better make sure you’re sure.
In 2013, 42% of our marriages were ending in divorce. If we got married in our 20s, then 53% of us will be divorced before we cut the cake on our Pearl Wedding Anniversary. Pearl is 30 years of marriage, by the way. I never knew that one. Probably because only 38% of us ever make it to Pearl.
Reasons for breaking up are often understandable things like infidelity, domestic violence, hatred, loathing, irreconcilable differences. But in your early 30s the reason might well be purely inertia. And also, panic. A dangerous combination which yes, can sometimes lead you to bright-green new pastures but often just leads to unhappiness, regret, ready-meals for one and living alone with too many pets.
Sadly these days, young people can’t concentrate for more than 7 seconds. They have to carefully manage their social media personas 24 hours a day and they’ll never live anywhere with stairs, unless their parents can pitch in. There’s an invisible tick list floating above the head of a 30 year old which says: Love, Job, Marriage, House, Children and when waking up on your 30th birthday, dismayed to find that the whole thing is still unticked, it’s only natural to start at the top of the list. Who are you with and is it them that’s held you up?
Item number one: Love. ‘Whatever ‘love’ is’, as Prince Charles would say. At 30, it’s feasible that you’ve been with your current partner for a pretty long time. Ten years or maybe even more. Just bumping along. Moving in together. What fun. Engaged maybe? Aren’t we grown up! When suddenly, things become frighteningly serious. You’re 30. That engagement needs to turn into a wedding. That flat you live in? You need to buy it. Can you buy a flat using your overdraft and £25 worth of coppers you’ve got saved under your bed? No. Do you really love this person? Enough for it to be forever?
Lots of break ups occur under this pressure. Couples report sadly that they just don’t feel ‘in love’ anymore. Or maybe that they love each other more as ‘friends’. They report a loss of ‘butterflies’. A lack of ‘spark’. A diminishing of ‘unicorns’ and an extinguishing of ‘wizards’. I urge people thinking and saying this sort of thing to get a grip. You are not living in a Harry Potter book.
In this wide-world of uncertainly and of war, of famine and of old people watching TV by themselves in cold front rooms, if you’ve actually found someone in the swirling, terrifying chaos that loves you and who you love, don’t bin them over a lack of ‘butterflies’, which let’s face is, it nerves. There are nice people breaking up with other nice people, for no other reason than that they want to see if they can do better. This isn’t Deal or No Deal people. Have courage in your convictions. As Al Green said, ‘Let’s Stay Together’.
“Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.” Louis de Bernieres, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin