How to Stay Married and Happy at Midlife

Reboot your marriage and relight the flame

By Chan Swee Fen | 21 May, 2018

Mia and Mark ate their dinner quietly at the table. After their meal, Mark sank into to his comfortable couch and continued surfing the internet. Mia went to her room and started chatting with her friends via social media.

This has been their modus operandi since Mark and Mia’s two children became independent and started spending less time at home. The calmness and quiet permeates not just the physical environment but also the emotional space between Mia and Mark – who have been married for 25 years.

Does this story sound familiar to you? Mia and Mark are at the “empty nest” stage of their marriage – a transitional phase marked by a sense of loss when the children grow up and gradually leave home to build their own lives and families.

Couples often experience difficulty connecting with each other now that their conversations no longer revolve around the children.

Couples often experience difficulty connecting with each other now that their conversations no longer revolve around the children.

What can couples like Mia and Mark do to navigate midlife marriage ‘crisis’ successfully? Here are some S.M.A.R.T ideas!

1. Stay committed to your marriage

Despite the changes within the home, holding a firm commitment to your marriage will increase the odds of a successful marriage at midlife.

Remember that the grass is not greener on the other side; it is greener where it is tended to and nurtured. Instead of focusing on all that is frustrating or wrong about your spouse or midlife marriage, make a thanksgiving list. Note down all the strengths of your marriage, and the things that you cherish most about your spouse.

2. Move towards instead of away from

I had a counselling session with Ken*, who was going through a rough patch after 28 years of marriage. He and his wife have been leading separate lives since their children left the nest to build their own families. His wife has been pursuing her own activities and appears disinterested whenever he tries to initiate couple activities. It baffled him that there is such a wide chasm between him and his wife despite the fact that he has always been a faithful husband and responsible father.

In such a scenario, the couple has probably been drifting apart for many years and the empty-nest stage merely amplified the emotional distance. In spite of the initial setback, I encouraged him to continue turning towards his wife. With sincerity, patience and determination, I believe that she will eventually respond.

3. Acknowledge and resolve old grievances

“We hurt most the ones closest to us.” Sounds cliché, but it is true. Couples hurt each other intentionally or unknowingly through their words and actions. When hurts and disappointments go unacknowledged or unresolved, they can fester and poison the marriage relationship.

If you feel that unresolved anger or hurt is affecting you and your marriage, pluck up the courage to seek professional help. Even if your spouse is unwilling to go for counselling, you can still do so on your own. It can help you to heal and grow as an individual, which will likely have a positive effect on your marriage.

When couples let go of the past and forgive each other, they reset their marriage with renewed love and zest.

4. Rekindle romance and sexual intimacy

Research has shown that being romantic brings couples closer and also diminishes the chances of a marriage breakdown. With fewer distractions, more freedom and more time together as a couple, it is time to put the sizzle back into your marriage.

People are not born romantics; it is a learned skill. Being romantic often begins with simple, loving actions. For a start, consider the following ideas:

  • Plan a fun date together
  • Hold hands in public
  • Express appreciation to each other
  • Schedule sex (yes, it increases the anticipation)
  • Return to your honeymoon destination and reminisce the good times

Don’t let your pride stand in the way. You can and should definitely make the first romantic move.

People are not born romantics; it is a learned skill.

5. Take time to create shared purpose and meaning

In the early years of marriage, a couple’s purpose is to provide for the family, build their careers and raise confident, happy children. When the children become independent, some couples feel lost. Some may even ask, “What’s next?” or “Is this all there is to marriage?”

Without a marriage road map, it is easy to feel aimless and struggle to find things to look forward to on a regular basis. Set aside time to have conversations about the future. Ask each other:

  • What is your vision for our marriage?
  • What fears do you have about the future?
  • What challenges would you like to take on and how can I support you?
  • What are some things you have always wanted to do?

These questions will help you develop a plan to create a meaningful life together.

Marriage at midlife can be unsettling, unexciting or unfulfilling. Couples, however, can help their marriage thrive by following the S.M.A.R.T tips above.

By co-creating a new purpose, resolving past hurts and reigniting the flame, your marriage can continue flourishing, perhaps even well past the midlife stage.


© 2018 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Life is a journey, and we want to walk with you. In need of a listening ear? Come speak to our qualified counsellors today.

*For privacy purposes, names have been changed in this article.

 

 

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