Marriage in Mid-Life: Are You Stressed Out?
- Pam and Bill Farrel Contributing Writers
- 2007 12 Apr
We were both standing with our teen kids at the “To Go” order desk waiting for our dinners to be ready so we could jump back into the fast lane of family life. Two strangers, two moms, striking up a conversation to bide the time until we both could zoom back into life’s never ending stream of responsibilities. As with most midlife women’s conversations, the topic soon turned to stress. Then, this very "together" leader I was chatting with asked me what I did for a living. When I shared that Bill and I have a relationship ministry, she said, “Well maybe you can help me with mine.” My new friend did what many women in midlife do -- she shared her story of all the stressors, all the responsibilities, all the built-up frustrations that accompany many marriages —especially at midlife. She was ready to throw in the towel.
So what’s a mid life married person to do?
Get Real: When I shared that midlife marriages experience more stress because of the season of life we are in, my new friend seemed to gain hope. Think about it: Midlife moms are either older moms with little kids (exhausting), raising teens (more exhausting) or paying for graduations, cars, college, or weddings (expensively exhausting!) This doesn’t even take into account the rising number of grandparents raising their grandchildren (expensive and exhausting a second time around!) Then add to this, pressures from success: people want your wisdom, your connections, your volunteer time, your expertise in business or life. And for some add in pressures like: corporate downsizing, retirement transitions, health challenges like menopause or peri menopause for her and midlife crisis issues for him. In addition, many parents in midlife marriages are also dealing with teenage hormones and prodigal young adults sowing their wild oats.
Often a midlife marriage seems dull and lifeless when all that is really going on is extreme pressure from the life stage you are in, and you two just needing a vacation and some well deserved R and R! If you two will just hang on, get those kids out of the house and go on a second honeymoon, things might just look a whole lot better!
Get educated: Midlife does come with a prepackaged set of obstacles to overcome, the major one being your age! High blood pressure, rising cholesterol levels, weight gain and diabetes, over 100 symptoms of menopause to deal with and the growing need for medications like Premarin, Prozac, Levitra, and Viagra —are just a few of the many physical issues that midlifers might have to deal with.
If you get educated and get equipped, what looked like a negative can be turned into a positive. For example, when Bill and I hit 45, his blood pressure was up and my cholesterol was rising so we took back our schedule and added in some workout dates. We lost a little weight and gained some much needed romantic time. For our anniversary last year, we bought each other bikes and now we try to ride to romantic spots. After my brother had a heart attack, he and my sister in law began walking 2-4 miles every morning where they pray for each other, their family and chat about the coming day. It has become one of their most cherished times of the day. By getting educated, you can create a personalized plan for life and love that will be a win-win for both of you -- and that will benefit your marriage and your family. Get a new perspective: In our book, Every Marriage is a Fixer Upper, we interviewed couples who have been happily marred for over 20 years. These couples made a deliberate choice: Instead of looking at all the things that are wrong and frustrating about their mate and their life after 40, they instead opted to look at all the things they loved and would miss if their mate were no longer around.
Last week, three of us women who are over 40 and have been married over 25 years were sitting together talking about midlife and marriage. We each said how much we’d miss our mate because he had become our best friend in life. I shared how on our 25th anniversary, we had a vow renewal ceremony and this time our vows sounded very different from the first go around because we knew what it really took to keep love alive for a lifetime. I commented that it was a choice. Bill sees all my flaws and knows them well and he chooses to focus on my strengths instead. For example, he calls my impulsivity “spontaneity.” I know Bill pretty much always runs late because he is such a people person, but I choose to focus on the fact he is great at relationships and just ask him to come home 10 minutes earlier than I really need him.
As I shared these simple principles, my new friend gained some hope. She said, “We did make a commitment at the alter. I know we meant it, but I think it is time for “us” to go on the front burner of life’s priorities for awhile. I want to get back to seeing him as my best friend and my lover. Maybe life will seem fun again then.” I smiled and winked at her knowingly. Because she said her commitment out loud in front of me --a stranger -- but more importantly, because she voiced her commitment in front of her teen kids. I think she will rediscover her best friend and a second honeymoon might just be around the corner.
Need a fresh perspective on life and love? Check out Pam and Bill’s books: Fantastic After 40 and Every Marriage is a Fixer Upper at www.farrelcommunications.com. Ladies, if you are over 40, join www.Seasonedsisters.com. Also, to boost to a marriage at any stage of life try out Pam and Bill’s new DVD marriage curriculum by Lifeway Publishers, Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti and enjoy hearing and seeing the Farrels teach some great relationship principles with a twist of humor. To order: www.farrelcommunications.com . You can meet the Farrels in person at one of their many speaking events, check out the calendar: www.farrelcommunications.com