By Pam and Bill Farrel
We both stood with our teens at the "To Go" order desk waiting for our dinners so we could jump back into the fast lane of family life. Two strangers, two moms, engaged in conversation to bide the time. As with most conversations among midlife women, the topic soon turned to stress. It didn't take long before this very together-looking leader with whom I chatted asked me what I did for a living. When I shared that my husband Bill and I have a relationship ministry, she said, "Well maybe you can help me with mine." Then my new friend did what many women in midlife do -- she spilled her story of all the stressors, all the responsibilities, and all the built up frustrations that accompany many midlife marriages. She was ready to throw in the towel.
Our culture seems to place a high value on the euphoria of young love and early romance, rarely taking into account the challenges that come as we advance through the decades together. So what's a midlife married couple to do?
Get Real: Midlife marriages experience more stress because of the season of life we are in. When I shared this news with my new friend, she 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!) Or, how about the pressures resulting 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, and health challenges like menopause or midlife crisis issues. In addition, many parents in midlife marriages must deal with prodigal young adults sowing their wild oats.
It's not uncommon for the midlife marriage to seem dull and lifeless. But what you're really experiencing is extreme pressure and the need for a vacation! If the midlife couple will commit to hang on, get those kids out of the house and go on a second honeymoon, things might look a whole lot better!
Get educated: Midlife comes with a prepackaged set of obstacles to overcome -- the biggest issue being your age. High blood pressure, rising cholesterol levels, weight gain and diabetes, menopause and the growing need for medications like Premarin, Prozac, Levitra, and Viagra are just a few of the hundreds of physical issues that midlifers could face. But If you get educated and get equipped, what looked like a negative can turn into a positive.
When Bill and I hit 45, his blood pressure was up and my cholesterol was rising so we took this opportunity to add more personal time into our schedules in the form of "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. During this time 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 entire family.
Get a new perspective: In our book, Every Marriage is a Fixer Upper, we interviewed couples who have been happily marred over 20 years. What did we find differentiates these couples from others? These couples make a deliberate choice: Instead of looking at all the things that are wrong and frustrating about their mates and life after 40, they instead opt to look at all the things they love and would miss if their mates were no longer around.
Last week, three of us over-40 women -- all married at least 25 years -- were sitting together and talking about midlife and marriage. We each shared how much we'd miss our mate because he had become our best friend in life. I recalled our 25th anniversary when Bill and I had a vow renewal ceremony. Our vows sounded very different from the first go-around because we now know what it really takes to keep love alive for a lifetime. "Love is a choice," I commented.
After two-and-a-half decades together, Bill sees all my flaws and knows them well – yet he chooses to focus on my strengths instead. For example, Bill calls my impulsivity, "spontaneity." And on my end, I know Bill pretty much always runs late because he is such a "people person," but I choose to overlook his lateness and focus on the fact that he is great at relationships. (And I ask him to come home 10 minutes earlier than I really need him!)
As I shared these simple principles, my new friend gained hope. With her teen standing beside her, she said, "We did make a commitment at the altar. I know we meant it, but I think it is time for â 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. 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 http://www.farrelcommunications.com/. Ladies, if you are over 40, join http://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. You can meet the Farrels in person at one of their many speaking events, check out the calendar: www.farrelcommunications.com.