Where are our wise elders?

Reality TV stars Gerry Turner and Theresa Nist, who charmed Americans on “The Golden Bachelor,” announced Friday that their marriage was over, just three months after 7 million watched their emotional wedding.

“I truly thought it was going to last forever,” Nist wrote of her marriage in an Instagram post Monday. “It turns out, even at the age of 70, you don’t know everything.”

What a disappointment.

Of course, I have no idea what led to Turner and Nist’s divorce—and perhaps their failed marriage says more about the insanity of reality TV marriages than anything else.

But for a moment, it looked like “The Golden Bachelor” was a different kind of reality TV show. Featuring exclusively contestants aged 60 and older, the show suggested that perhaps older Americans would be wiser—and more successful—in love than their younger counterparts.

Turner had been married for 43 years to his high school sweetheart, Toni, before she died in 2017. Nist, who won Turner’s heart, similarly had been married for 42 years to her high school sweetheart before his death in 2015.

Turner and Nist may have been teens during the Summer of Love and part of the first generation to grow up amid the rapidly changing mores of the sexual revolution. But their personal lives and seemingly successful long marriages were old-fashioned.

Viewers were hooked. Dubbed “fall TV’s biggest hit” by Yahoo Entertainment, “The Golden Bachelor” was ratings gold from the beginning, including on streaming, where younger viewers tend to watch. The show’s finale was the most-watched “Bachelor” episode in four years.

But now “Golden Bachelor” has a more ignominious record: Nist and Turner had “the shortest marriage in franchise history,” according to Vanity Fair.

Sure, that’s in part because few “Bachelor” franchise contestants rush to the altar. Although virtually every “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” finale involves an engagement, few couples ever make it to the wedding day.

Sadly, Turner and Nist’s divorce, not their long previous marriages, may make them more realistic representations of their baby boomer generation. Although Nist had had a long marriage, had lived “‘til death do us part,” many other female contestants on “Golden Bachelor” had experienced divorce.

Nor were they outliers. The “gray divorce” phenomenon is real: “Well over a third of people who are getting divorced now are over the age of 50,” researcher Susan L. Brown told CNN.

Brown is co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, which tracks divorce by age. “Between 1990 and 2021, the divorce rate decreased for those aged 15 to 44, whereas it increased for those aged 45 and older,” the center found. Among those 65 and older, the divorce rate has tripled since 1990.  

Seniors are still divorcing at lower rates than young adults: Among those over 65, the divorce rate is 5.5%, while for those 25 to 34, it’s 19.4%. But seniors are trending toward a higher divorce rate while young adults are moving to a lower rate.

Nor do seniors seem to be following old-fashioned mores about sex. Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among Americans 55 and older.

Between 2012 and 2022, “the number of syphilis cases among people ages 55 and up increased sevenfold … while gonorrhea cases increased nearly fivefold and chlamydia cases more than tripled during that time,” reports NBC News, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

None of this suggests the boomers learned much from the aftershocks of the sexual revolution. Yet, for a while there, “The Golden Bachelor,” suggested that maybe older Americans could set an example for young and middle-aged Americans about how to get, and stay, married.

After all, although it’s immature to assume marriage will lead to a fairy-tale ending, it is true that marriage seems to be correlated with happiness. “The odds that men and women are ‘very happy’ with their lives are 151% higher for those who are married, compared to those who are unmarried, according to the General Social Survey,” writes University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox in his new book “Get Married.”

Yet younger Americans, facing an often toxic dating atmosphere and seeing the fallout of older generations’ divorces, are shrinking from marriage. A quarter of 40-year-olds have never been married, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey. That’s up from 20% in 2010 and a mere 6% in 1980.

For a moment, it looked like “The Golden Bachelor” may have shown Americans of all ages that marriage could be great. Sadly, it was just another reality TV mirage.

The post ‘Golden Bachelor’ Divorce Par for the Course for Baby Boomers appeared first on The Daily Signal.


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