At middle age, has your marriage become routine, even boring? Do you miss that warm, fuzzy feeling you once had whenever your spouse entered the room? Married for ten years or 35, there is no reason husband or wife has to become like an old shoe–comfortable but not very exciting. Sadder yet are those relationships that deteriorate into a marriage of convenience, as in: “We’re staying together for the kids.”
If your marriage today is not all you’d like it to be, what’s your excuse for not striving to restore passion, romance and an active and fulfilling full life partnership? Here are four common excuses:
Excuse #1: “The children are our first concern; our primary roles have become ‘mom’ and ‘dad’.”
Given the demands of raising children and mentoring teens, it’s all too easy to neglect those romantic evenings and weekends you once spent together. I trust you do not compound the problem through the outdated notion that intimacy in front of the kids is taboo. My late parents were married for over 60 years and loved each other very much. Despite their love and loyalty, I do not recall even once observing my mother and father passionately hugging and kissing in front of my sister and me. Heck, until I was eleven or twelve I thought the only time parents ever had sex was to have kids. With only my one sister, that meant my parents would have performed intercourse exactly twice in their entire marriage!
Excuse #2: “Our careers, parenting, housework, commuting and the rigors of daily living leave both my spouse and I too drained and stressed out for romance.”
If your job leaves you too tired and stressed out to spend quality time with spouse and offspring, it may be past time to consider a career change! A romantic, give-and-take marital relationship is especially difficult if one or both of you are in jobs you hate. Even if both of you cherish your careers, by middle age you have earned the right for balance in life. It’s one thing to work eighty hours a week, neglecting social life when you are in your twenties and early thirties, but at least by age forty you should begin asking yourself if getting to the top at all costs is really worth it.
Career transition is the subject of another blog. For now, only one comment: never let sustained excessive career demands rob you of precious moments with your spouse and children. Children and teens will never again be the age they are today and you most certainly don’t want to postpone romance with your spouse until both of you become too old to enjoy it. In your forties or fifties, isn’t it time to cut down on those long nights at the office and those exhausting road trips? Please don’t become that “weekend stranger,” the one who has no time or for romance with the spouse or energy for the kids?
Excuse #3–“I’ve been there and done that!”
From long-married couples, I’ve heard this excuse: “My spouse and I have been married 23 years and we have three kids! What more is there to learn about my spouse? Frankly, we don’t have anything new to explore or even to say to each other.”
This isn’t just about sex: how well do you really know your spouse’s true inner being, his or her goals and ambitions, fears for the future and hidden emotions? When was the last time the two of you sat down together to discuss where you would like to be in 25 or 30 years on your golden wedding anniversary? Do you really know and care about what your spouse wants both out of today and for the future? Can you help make his or her dreams come true? Of course, you have your own dreams and aspirations so it’s best the two of you share your visions in loving, thoughtful give-and-take conversations. After all, meeting in the middle is what a genuine loving partnership is all about.
Excuse #4–“My spouse is not as physically attractive and he or she once was!”
Guess what–neither are you! “I’m no longer turned on” is a common crappy excuse for entering an extra-marital affair or visiting the brother. Only the most shallow men or women enter into marriage strictly based upon physical attraction. Genuine, sustainable passion in marriage isn’t just about sex–if your wife or husband no longer excites you physically, you can seek to increase intimacy in other ways. Ride your bikes together, go to plays or take long romantic walks in the woods! Life as a couple can be a fun and adventuresome shared adventure with or without frequent sex.
If sexual attraction has gone missing from your marriage, don’t try to force its return. Forget the Viagra ads–you and I both know from experience that forced sexual interaction more often than not fails. Only infrequently are husband and wife and wife both in the mood. Here’s the good news: over time as the two of you become closer and closer emotionally and share more and more intimate life experiences, the physical part may very well come back. If it doesn’t–so what! You have nothing to prove, either to yourself or to your life partner.
Honor the fact that your spouse is aging right along with you. Exercise often and groom to look your best every day; pay frequent genuine complements whenever you notice your spouse is looking good. Look him or her in the eye when your mate is speaking to you. You can best honor and encourage your life partner by expressing and demonstrating consistent emotional support and genuine interest in what your spouse has to say.
We will talk further about reviving midlife marriages in future blogs. For right now, here are a couple of suggestions to revive positive emotions to your marriage:
Suggestion 1: For an entire day (better yet for a weekend), make your spouse the center of your attention. Your interest in husband or wife must be genuine, not forced or fake. Start the morning out with, “Honey this is your day, how do you want to spend it? What can I do to make today feel like your birthday–and you don’t have to grow a year older?” See how good this undivided interest in another makes you feel. You may be surprised at how soon your spouse turns around and dedicates a day to you.
Notes: Husbands, if you’re a football fan, do not attempt this exercise on an NFL Sunday. Wives: if your husband suggests he wants you to spend the day out shopping with the girls, you may want to seek advice from a good divorce lawyer, just in case.
Suggestion 2: Imagine the ideal mate for your spouse. With you out of the picture, what would this person be like? How would this ideal mate honor, obey and bring the best out of your spouse. Now place yourself back in the picture. How well do you fit the ideal description? If less than an ideal fit now, how much are you willing to change? Can you come closer to your spouse’s ideal mate while still being true to yourself and pursuing your own priorities and objectives?
Who knows: you may not be able to even come close to the person your spouse needs or desires in his or her life. In that case, the two of you may need to sit down together to discuss future options: what’s best for each one of you? Remember: trial separation and divorce are not always bad if you two have grown apart and the split can be negotiated and implemented on a “win/win basis” with full emotional protection for the kids. At middle age, why spend another 25 or 30 years in a relationship that does not really benefit both spouses–life is too short for that!
I’ll have more to say about refreshing and reviving midlife marriages in future blogs. For additional guidance, preview my book A Mid-Life Challenge WAKE UP! at Amazon.com or on my website www.middleagerenewal.com. Also tune into the April 15, 2013 edition of my Internet radio program “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age” on WebTalkRadio.net. During the program, I interview a charming couple still on their honeymoon after 30+ years of marriage!