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FYI, a longer marriage doesn’t mean a stronger marriage

MSNBC Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski, 49, has “quietly split” from her husband, Jim Hoffer, an investigative reporter at Eyewitness News WABC-TV. The couple wed in October 1993 and are parents to daughters Carlie and Emilie. When the news was confirmed by an MSNBC spokesperson, many people expressed surprise that their 22-year marriage has come to an end. But why do we tend to equate a long marriage to a strong marriage?

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There’s no shortage of celebrity couples who’ve gone their separate ways after lengthy marriages. In 2010, 73-year-old Morgan Freeman divorced wife Myrna Colley-Lee after a 26-year marriage. Robert Redford and Lola Van Wagenen were married for 27 years before making the mutual decision to divorce in 1985. And high school sweethearts former Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore separated in 2010, just after their 40th wedding anniversary.

Is there some unwritten rule that after you’ve been married for a significant length of time — say, 10 years — you’re in for the long haul whether you like it or not? When all of the above couples announced their splits, the world went into a state of shock. It’s the same in non-celebrity land. We’re far more surprised to hear of a 20-year-married couple separating than one who tied the knot only five minutes ago.

More: Let’s stop pretending being married at 40 is the only way to be happy

A long marriage can be a really strong marriage, but not necessarily more so than one where the ink is still drying on the marriage certificate. There are far too many variables to make this a black-and-white issue. Don’t we all know long-term-married couples who simply tolerate each other? They stay married for a wide range of reasons: finances, kids, fear of the unknown. And they are all perfectly legitimate reasons. Love and relationships and marriage are complicated beasts, and what works for one person may not for the next. On the flip side, we all also know long-term-married couples who appear to be just as crazy in love as they were when they were in the first flush of romance.

Longevity can bring a great sense of trust, security, a deep love that evolves over time and endures no matter what is thrown at a couple. But it can also bring boredom, resentment, complacency and panic. Surely what gives a marriage its strength — crucial to its survival — is the relationship between the two people? It either has all the necessary ingredients, or it doesn’t. There’s no expiry date, but there’s no probationary period either.

A marriage can be strong… until it isn’t. And that’s perfectly OK. What I’ve learnt from my first (perhaps only) marriage is that we live in a world where we don’t have to stay in miserable or unhealthy relationships any more. Married for 5 months or 25 years, if you know in your heart it’s over, the right thing to do is go your separate ways.

Not that it’s easy. Ending my marriage was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was a long, long time before I felt a sense of peace about my decision. There’s still a shitload of pressure on people to stay married for all the wrong reasons. It’s better for kids to grow up with two parents than one. You might never meet anyone else and will therefore be alone forever. Etc. There’s definitely still embarrassment and shame if you get divorced after a short marriage, and perhaps just as much — albeit for different reasons — if you get divorced after a long marriage.

But getting divorced is never anything to be ashamed of. Of course it’s going to be painful. But it could also be the chance to find your next great love. And what could be better than that?

More: You might be missing these signs that you’re a toxic partner

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