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Good Question: Why Are More Long Marriages Ending?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- When news broke that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver were splitting, it came as a shock. Married for 25 years, why split up now? It's the same reaction many had with Al and Tipper Gore. So why are more couples getting divorced after spending so much time together?

"I was surprised when mine broke up. It's not something you're ever prepared for," said St. Paul resident Pat McLaughlin, who's been married and divorced twice.

He said the first happened after 16 years of marriage and the second time after 20 years.

"I used to joke with people and say ...  it sure takes these women a long time to find out what a jerk I am," he laughed.

Divorce attorney Jim Vedder said he's seeing more older couples with decades of marriage filing for divorce.

"That's something that always surprises me. I've seen people married 20, 30, 40, 50 years that get divorced," he said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, if you got married in the 1960s, 70 percent made it to the 20th anniversary. In the 1970s, 58 percent made it. In the 1980s, just 54 percent.

"You're seeing more of it because people have changed. This generation has changed," said Pepper Schwartz, the relationship expert for American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). "Older people want love and romance, and they're unwilling to put up with things if they're not happy."

According to Vedder, the major factors that break-up long-time marriages are infidelity, money disputes, and the fact they've immersed their lives in their children.

"Once children are no longer in the home, the couples don't know what to do anymore," Vedder said, "after a life of taking those kids to soccer, hockey and practice."

Plus, as we live longer, some people find that they need to transition to something else.

"You could have a whole other life before you become frail. That's a lot to think about," Schwartz said.

With so many people living longer and living healthier, you could be married for 25 years and only in your late 40's or early 50's.

"If you're gonna live a long time, you want to be happy, and you may not realize until you're 50, 60 years of age. I'd like to have the next 20 to 25 years of happiness," Vedder said.

"I think that people have a sense now of having a desire to live their own life and they feel like they can do it in this day and age," McLaughlin said.

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