To be honest, I don’t have a good intro for this post this week. I was simply standing in the shower, wondering what I should write, and it felt like a portal opened up in the top of m head and these three things were somehow transmitted down into my brain.
Which tells me: somebody needs this post because the stars have aligned and I’m just the messenger for the whoever needs this.
So there we are.
This week we’re talking about three important keys, or building blocks, for a good marriage at mid-life. I’m not talking about a great marriage or a perfect marriage or a fairy tale marriage. I’m just talking about a good one.
These three blocks are something I see, again and again, in good marriages. They are also the things that go missing or begin to crumble in difficult marriages. But I think they’re important to take a look at during mid-life because, goodness knows, people change and marriages change and sometimes the best answer at mid-life is completely different than what we thought it was at 23 or 35.
So here are three things about marriage to ponder, wherever you are today.
Right off the bat, in ANY relationship, you should feel safe. Physical safety is first. If you don’t feel physically safe the relationship is doomed; leave sooner rather than later. Safety should grow and spread from there, extending to emotional safety. Good relationships depend on feeling like your partner has your back.
A woman blooms when she feels safe with her partner– and that benefits everyone. Take a moment and think about what it feels like to be safe in your relationship.
Especially with how we feel. We need to have good communication with our partner, and this includes being honest about what we think, feel, and need. Do we have to tell everything? No. When I was going through the Sex Surge I shared with my husband about how I was feeling, that I was attracted to another man, but I didn’t say, “And this is what I fantasize we’d do with each other.” Honesty does not always mean ‘tell everything,’ but it certainly means telling the truth about what we are feeling, most of all.
Supporting each other.
Whether it’s reaching for a personal goal or just living through the day-to-day, having the support and encouragement of your partner means the world- for both the giver and the receiver. One of the first complaints I hear when a marriage is starting to south is that support is being withheld, denied, or mocked by one partner for the other; it’s a horrible feeling. No one should feel alone in their marriage. What does support look like for you?
As we ponder these and think about what our definition of each is, we must remember that each of these blocks has a flip side. The flip side of feeling safe in our relationship is that moving into deeper intimacy and vulnerability can feel unsafe. We have to balance the discomfort of vulnerability with the reward of deeper intimacy.
The flip side of honesty is that the truth can sometimes be painful. We have to have solid tools for staying connected when the truth makes us feel sad, angry, or worried.
And the flip side of feeling supported is that we can sometimes have unhealthy, co-dependent boundaries with our partner. Even partners need healthy boundaries.
The other thing about these three items is that, if you like each other enough to want to stay together, they are ALL FIXABLE (pretty much). The key question is knowing whether you both want to stay together or not.
Lastly, I am going to say- there are times in mid-life and during peri-menopause when you may well want to be alone and have fantasies of living alone in some wonderful cottage or apartment. You may well want to tell your partner to leave. This is normal- absolutely normal. Take the time and space if you need it, because it’s only by going inwards that we can have integrity about our outward choices.
Long-term partnership can be a beautiful path- full of joy and learning. And at mid-life we may find ourselves deeply questioning and reconsidering whether we are best served in a long-term relationship, or whether we want a long-term relationship with our current partner anymore. Thinking about our capacity to give and receive safety, honest, and support can help us figure out where we want to go in the next half of our lives.