Move over young newlyweds, as couples who get married later in life turn out to be much more content if not happier than their younger counterparts.

Well, at least that's according to what novelist Lionel Shriver is saying. The 45-year-old writer explains below on why she thinks her late-marriage to 52-year-old Jeff will outlast most young couples today:

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Typically for their generation, my parents met and married in their early 20s. In some respects, I'm envious of their longevity; they've been together for 56 years. To duplicate that scale of commitment, Jeff and I will have to live decades beyond our life expectancy.

Yet there are advantages to finding your match late in the day. You trade duration for variation.

Throughout a rich romantic history, I've effectively led whole different lives. I cherish my memories of most previous boyfriends (with a few nightmare exceptions), especially my last one. Not enduring for ever doesn't make a relationship meaningless or disappointing, and I would not have spent a minute of those nine years with my former partner any other way.

To my dismay, however, having a past generally means that your spouse has a past, too. I tell myself that had Jeff made it to 52 without any serious romantic entanglements there would have been something wrong with him.

...

Much is often made of how older people get set in their ways, so that couples who meet in middle age have trouble making the compromises that keep a marriage afloat. If we haven't suffered many dug-in face- offs, that's largely to Jeff's credit.

This is particularly difficult for women to accept: he's not going to change. At least by your 50s, what you see is what you get. Pardon the tautology, but Jeff is Jeff. I knew the kind of man I was marrying, and he's not likely at this point to go through some horrifying transformation and become a born-again Christian or conclude that he's gay.

Of course, there are more substantial downsides to late-life marriage. The most glaring is children. No post-menopausal wife is going to have any.

But for a woman with maternal aspirations, finally meeting the ideal father for her children when she's too old to have them must be dispiriting, like at last lighting upon the perfect fabric for the curtains when the upholstery you were hoping to match is all worn out.

...

We have to content ourselves with each others' ageing bodies, and live with the fact that we squandered the smooth, taut, resilient versions on other people. Nonetheless, I forgive his thinning hair. From my lifetime of scowling, Jeff is obliged to forgive a forehead that doubles as a Tube advert for Botox.

There's something tender about this process of mutual absolution, gracious and generous, and, gradually, my attraction to my husband blends what he looks like now with the dashing, willowy man I remember.

Marrying late, you simply don't have that much time together. A future of frailty and infirmity may await most folks eventually, but for us that degeneration is right round the corner.

I'm fearful of Jeff 's death. he's seven years my senior. He's a man. Like so many jazz musicians, he smokes. Actuarially, I'm likely to survive him by 20 years.

...

Yet this terror pushes me to appreciate Jeff is still here. Indeed, whenever he despoils dinner with hand-wringing about a pinprick brown mottle on the ceiling (moisture), I light into a now familiar refrain: 'You don't understand! Sod the ceiling! We don't have that much time left!'

People live so long these days that it's bloody difficult to marry in your 20s and still make good on till death do us part.

Congrats to the likes of my parents for defying this suspicion, but I wonder if most people are constitutionally capable of staying with the same partner for 60, even 70, years over which you go through so many changes of circumstances and heart.

The chances of Jeff and I going the distance are considerably higher because there's far less distance to go.


[DM]