Sometimes I just need to speak my peace about stuff. Let me ramble on, I've lived long enough to make some observations. Recently, a few folks we know have had break-ups from long marriages, which has had me pondering on stuff (watch out when I ponder)!
The pain of parting wouldn't be half so bad if we weren't brought up to EXPECT that our marriages should all last a lifetime, just as we all somehow EXPECT to live until we are 90 or 100. Some do, and it's an inspiration and an acknowledgement of how very fortunate that couple is, to have lucked out the first time, AND that their union is mutually beneficial, so that there is the desire to make it last until death do them part (and beyond, maybe).
I expected that myself for the first time, and I tried as much as possible that last decade of my first 30 years of marriage...but it was like beating a dead horse, as they say.
What happens is that it becomes a waste of precious time for both parties, especially after the children are grown & gone. The home is empty, the walls echo, and you look at your partner and ask: "O.k., who are you? Are we still in love? Are we still a team?" We feel like FAILURES if we can't fulfill that contract in our minds, that expectation we were brought up with, the fantasy of "forever after". Well, for some - like my grandparents, like a few other couples that we know - it is/was real. But we can't all be them. I tried, though.
Back in the days when the average lifespan was 40, and just enough time to raise the kids, being married for life was more do-able. Parting is painful, but it is not a sin or a crime you can't go the distance. And yes - those who are left get the worst of it, sometimes total devastation and mourning. I put my first husband through that, and I still have regrets and guilt about how I handled everything. He was a dear, dear man, and didn't deserve that.
Working at our relationship is the key, as long as it is good for you BOTH. My personal belief is that once you start to sleep in separate bedrooms, once the intimacy is lost, that is the death knell for the marriage. I realize some will disagree with me. But I am not so complacent to think that I can just coast along without putting in the effort at times - Mike and I can both be trying individuals - and that my second marriage will last forever (though at this point, the odds are more likely that one of us will drop dead first). AWARENESS. Don't take it all for granted. Nothing is guaranteed, or a given. And for those left behind, there is hope. It happened for me, and it can happen for you. Or get a pet....they will love you for the rest of their lives, if treated well.