Has your midlife marriage or long-term romantic partnership hit the skids? Do you suffer from the after-effects of a bitter divorce? Whether you are a multi-millionaire or unemployed living on welfare, a marriage turned sour isn’t any fun, is it?
If your marriage is on the rocks, how do the two of you intend to resolve the issues? Have you talked things out? Is there any hope of reconciliation? Are one or both of you committed to saving the marriage, at least until your youngest child is grown? Can you hold on that long? Should you even try? Can health and career prosper while living at home in a cold war atmosphere with an occasional “hot-war” flare-up–a loud argument over money, division of household labor, teen discipline or whatever?
Let’s examine some common factors contributing to crumbling midlife marriages:
- Loss of a child, extended unemployment, serious illness or some other traumatic event has disrupted a formerly serene relationship. Why in the world don’t the two help each other to pull through? Didn’t you vow to spend a lifetime together, in sickness and health, good times or bad? Does it really solve matters to place all the blame on your spouse? Will your futures turn brighter if you seperate and mourn the consequences apart?
- Stress in some other aspect of your life masquerdes as unhappiness with your partner. Ask yourself, “Has my marital relationship really gone bad or am I stressed out from one or more external factors (sagging career, workplace demands, job loss, a toxic boss, financial pressures, misbeaving children or teens, caregiving of an elderly parent)? Ask for support; the two of you can conquer this difficulty together!
- You two simply have grown apart. Ask yourself why: “How have I changed? How has my spouse changed? Do I still love the person within? What common interests or activities might bring us back together in love. Write out a profile of your spouse’s ideal mate as of today. How well do you fit the profile? If not a good fit, how much are you willing and able to change?
- Your spouse has become your emotional punching bag. Why ruin his or her day every time things don’t go well for you? Place yourself in your spouse’s shoes. You certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end, would you?
- The mutual passion you once shared is gone for good! OK, so you’re no longer in your twenties, both your bellies have grown, wrinkles have surfaced and (husbands only) your head of hair is a distant memory. I trust in the beginning your marriage wasn’t just about physical attraction! The inner person you fell in love with is still there. Sexual desire may be down but you can strengthen other aspects of your life together (take up a joint hobby, go on trips, buy or adopt a pet, take in a show.)
- You or your spouse is having an affair. This certainly can be a deal breaker, but before you throw in the towel, what kind of an affair? Casual or serious? One-time or serial? Physical attraction or true emotional bonding? On-going or is it over? Is the illicit partner completely out of your life or your spouse’s life? Are you or your spouse sincerely remourseful? Do both of you want to reconcile? Now perhaps the toughest question of all: if your spouse had the affair, are you partly responsible by failing to fulfill his or her physical and emotional needs? Are you willing to work harder on your end as well?
Let’s assume the worst: your disintegrating midlife marriage can’t be salvaged. If the marriage is beyond repair and you both want out, why not part as friends? Love may be gone but respect should remain–don’t be bitter, just call it “quits.” Carrying a grudge after divorce assists absolutely no one; in fact it harms everyone around you, especially your kids. Never force your children to choose sides. Close friends and siblings don’t want to hear you rail continually against that “bitch” or that “SOB”! Why shouldn’t both of you move on to new success, joy and contentment? In no way will it benefit you if your ex suffers misfortune.
On the back side of divorce, life in a cramped bachelor pad or a big empty house alone or with the kids is no bed of roses! Before too long, you will need to make an emotional choice: are you prepared to go it alone, filled with a series of friendships and casual relationships or should you seek out a new long-term romantic relationship? If you choose the latter, how will you avoid repeating the same mistakes all over again?
Here’s a scary statistic: the divorce rate actually is higher for second marriages, approaching 60%. (We Americans don’t learn very well from experience, do we?) Here are a few issues to ponder before you get serious and pop the question (or accept) for a second time around:
- Why did my prior marraige fail and how will I approach it differently this time?
- Can I learn to argue and handle disagreements without hurting my spouse’s feelings and creating an irreconcilable divide? Do I genuinely understand his or her point of view.
- Can I picture myself loving this person more deeply than ever in 10 or 20 years when both of us are old and gray and our energy is flagging?
- Do both of us have acceptance and support from children and immediate family? Do our two sets of offspring get along?
- Have we worked out seperate and joint finances so that money and family feuding over inheritance don’t sour our relationship?
- Is this a genuine, heart-felt love or have stars simply gotten in my eyes while on the rebound?
- Do both of us have compatible views on future careers, living arrangements and retirement? Are our respective dreams for the future the same?
I know some couples who have wonderful second or third marraiges. I also know divorced men and women who years ago made a conscious decision to go it alone and are doing just fine. Take your time and enjoy the moment. Your next stage in life is up to you and you will choose the right direction–after all, you are CEO of you!
Don’t take my word for it–two opinions are better than one. Tune in to the segment which debuts on Monday, September 10, 2012 on my Internet radio program, “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age” on WebTalkRadio.net. My guest is Kimberly Pryor, acclaimed relationship coach and author of THE INDESRTUCTIBLE RELATIONSHIP. She is an expert on divorce recovery and preserving midlife marriages in difficult times.
Also, preview my book, A Mid-Life Challenge WAKE UP! which offers several chapters of advice on reviving middle age marriages and relationships. You can examine it and obtain a free gift at www,middleagerenewal.com.