Just like the rest of life, researchers have found that the secret to a fulfilling marriage in midlife is staying connected.
Within the course of a marriage, there are two significant spikes in divorce rates: after seven years, and another after 14 years.
The difference is that marriages ending after seven years tend to do so very dramatically, but after 14 years, divorces are distant and cool. Partners have simply disengaged, and don’t care enough to kick up a fuss.
According to the research, today’s couples ‘want to be fulfilled emotionally, professionally and romantically—and they want their partners to help them realise all their dreams’.
I find this a bit rich. Asking too much from anyone is just asking for trouble in my opinion; after all, it’s important to take responsibility for our own needs and not expect our partner—or anyone else for that matter—to fulfil all our needs.
What I find far more useful is not to focus on your differences, but, instead, concentrate on the things that you share and are relevant to you both.
That said, one of the big dangers is relying on the shared interest of the children you have created to be the glue that keeps partners together. While this may work while the children are young, healthy parent-child relationships mean that it’s important for them to leave the family nest.
There is a lot of wisdom in that verse from the Bible that says, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family’ (Genesis chapter 2, verse 24).
All children need to create their new lives independently of their parents, but that can leave a couple feeling they have nothing to say to each other and
no longer have anything in common.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like this, but it’s important to build a healthy couple relationship before you suddenly become empty-nesters. Being able to adapt to each other, and accepting each other through changing life situations, is the key.
Take the time to do activities as a couple, like walking to a coffee shop or sharing a movie you can chat about afterwards. If you don’t make the effort to stay connected as a couple, you are setting yourself up for marriage difficulties once you don’t have the children to focus on.
In all phases of marriage, most relationship problems come back to the Big C—communication.
Keep the communication lines open and problems can be solved. This is a time to enjoy your child-free years and reconnect to the person you fell in love with all those years ago.
Julie Houghton with Warcry New Zealand