20 years of bliss...and then breakup! Why?

20 years of bliss...and then breakup! Why?

What's going on when couples like John and Elaine Mellencamp call it a day?

Singer John Mellencamp left his wife of 20 years and started a relationship with an older Meg Ryan with whom he shares creative projects. That’s just one example that makes me wonder why it is that couples who seem to have had a great time together seem to suddenly break-up. Like Al and Tipper Gore.

The New York Times published a study on long term relationships that dispels the myth that couples break up because of boredom in the bedroom. The number one sensation people want is to feel alive through shared ideals or experiences. (http://pss.sagepub.com/content/20/5/543)

I asked Wendy Patterson, Imago relationship therapist, to unlock the mystery of why couples break up after years of marriage. “Sharing an interesting, intellectual or creative pursuit with someone other than their partner may lead one to conclude: ‘I feel more alive with her/him than you.’ Experiencing something that gives two people a connection and a shared passion is very powerful and seductive,” explains Patterson.

While couples in long- term marriages share a common history, they also need to share enthusiasm for the endeavors, passions, and interests that inspire them today, and not fall into the trap of thinking that their shared history will be the glue that keeps them together.

“During periods of personal transition, it is key that individuals in a relationship feel as though their partner sees them as the new person they are becoming,” Patterson advises. Individuals must be good at paying attention to how their partner is changing, and relate to their new attitudes, beliefs, hopes, and dreams—or they are at risk for losing the intimate connection everyone wants from relationships.

The Na’vi greeting in the movie Avatar, demonstrates this sentiment in their eye locked greetings: “I see you.” People want to know that their partner “sees” them intimately.