In case you hadn’t noticed, marriages are breaking down at breakneck speed. This stage and age of life seems SUCH A HOT FURNACE. It’s worth delving in to investigate WHY. Same sex couples take note, some aspects apply to you and in other aspects you may fare even better than the hetros.
Sandy married her husband almost 48 years ago. Still happily married, she declares although she found the young kids years tough. Raising 3 children to adulthood, she ran a business for 25 years with her husband, moved 3 times and now lives a comfortable retired life. She’s also my mother. Her advice for me on life, love and marriage errs on the ‘sobering reality’ side. She has a few theories why 35 to 50 is such a ‘hot furnace’ and she’s never too shy to share them. Common sentiments down at Bridge Club, no less.
1 YOU CHOOSE IT YOU LOSE IT
“Age 35 to 50 does not have to be so difficult”. Sandy feels. “Young people (these days) start families with high expectations and want to have it all NOW. They want the massive ‘look at me, look at me’ wedding, the big overseas honeymoon then settle back into family life, filled with mundane daily goings-ons and get restless and bored”.
Dr. John Grohol, expert in online mental health writes about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues. He says “Relationships are never easy. The grass always looks greener in other people’s lives because few share the truth of the amount of work that goes into a relationship. Even the best relationships require constant work”. Compromise, communication and picking your battles are his top tips at the best chance of success. Same sex couples are on equal footing to hetro couples here.
2. DEBT UP TO THE EYEBALLS
Sandy feels the financial choices people make trap them in unhappiness creating high stress circumstances impacting on marriage. “Mortgages are so high these days. People in this demographic drive expensive cars exorbitant to maintain and they’re max’d to the eyeballs on credit cards”. She’s a big fan of the ‘little by little’ method like the old days, starting out with an old car, old furniture, modest holidays and modest wardrobes. She feels choosing less or going without is half the fun. “What have people got to look forward to if they’ve had it all by 45?” She wonders. “Our friends, downsizing homes in their 70s can’t even give their furniture to their grown up children, they don’t want it. Everyone wants to start out with CoCo Republic Furniture”.
The author of Dr Foster’s Guide to Making Great Decisions writes “Your future is made of decisions. Great futures are made of great decisions. Why else do you think people have great lives? Luck? Talent?” He believes “Your life consists of all you say yes to and all you say no to. Every yes and no is a decision”. He suggests people stop and look at why they’re making a particular choice and ask, is this the most important thing or is there something more important?” Sandy and Dr Foster both imply you are not the victim but the creator of your circumstances. If you’re miserable and your marriage is in danger, take stock of your choices and back out of the mess. Worth considering the day your credit card statement arrives. Or the week before…
3. DREARY FUTURE
Everyone is entitled to their opinions but Sandy is critical of the modern culture normalising couples live together for extended periods pre-marriage. She thinks it’s a big contributor to middle age boredom. ” It must be… same old, same old…(in the bedroom) then they look around for something new”.
Dr Foster cautions against getting trapped in your own attitudes. “Every decision you’ll ever make is based on how you believe the world works”. He suggests watching to see if you have unquestioned rules of thumbs, such as ‘always follow your heart’. His reasons “You haven’t earned the right to use a rule of thumb if you haven’t seriously and respectfully considered the alternatives. In this example, the alternative is ‘always follow your head’ and alternative thinking might just save your marriage”.
4. GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Expectation-manangement is key to everything. Entering a relationship expecting life to be full of daily surprises and magic is unrealistic. Or maybe that’s my belief system, courtesy of my sobering-realities upbringing. “Life is mostly mundane with lots of special moments in between” was one heartfelt piece of advice I received pre-wedding. Luckily, if you’re fond of under-promising and over-delivering ( I’m a fan) life can be great and certainly what you make it.
Dr Phil McGraw, famous US relationship psychologist is married for over 40 years. His marriage advice focuses on how couples treat each other to steer them through the hot furnace years. He’s a huge proponent of building a strong relationship founded on friendship, listening to each other’s needs and being realistic. He cautions, “Falling in love is not the same thing as being in love. Embrace the change and know that it takes work”. Not expecting life or marriage to be easy is the take-away message from all so far.
5. CONTRADICTIONS TO NAVIGATE
Needs. A controversial phenomenon. Humans have 5 needs; oxygen, food, water, shelter and clothing. The needs long-married experts speak of are emotional and ambition desires. Women have suppressed and sacrificed these last two since time began and here lies the contradictions nobody can fix.
The trouble with respecting each other’s needs is satisfying (ambitious and emotional) needs of one usually impacts the (emotional and ambitious) needs of the other. Maybe same-sex couples will fare better because certainly in hetero marriages getting the balance right is tough work.
“It’s all easy until you have kids” suggested a counsellor, supervising her child at a local kids party yesterday. I noticed she had an American accent and asked her how her transition from Connecticut to Sydney’s Northern Beaches has been. “Before kids you just go out, wake up late or do whatever you want. Once babies come along ‘someone’ has to mind them. I’m currently not working because we just couldn’t navigate drop offs and pick ups so something (someone’s ambitions) had to give”.
There are plenty of contradictory messages when the kids of baby boomers raise their own babies. Life-long messages ring in young mums’ ears as they negotiate the terms of their marriage, “make sure you don’t ….give up your career/put up with crap/give up your friends/give up your own income”.
Baby boomers desperately wanted daughters to access tertiary education, equality in marriages and equality in the workplace. Feminism was hard fought, we’re grateful for that.
“Always have your own money” YET “You must look after your own children” messages my mother sold me. Very difficult to achieve both simultaneously and no less stressful. “Everyone wants to be a two income family yet the stress is enormous”, Septegarians tut-tut ironically after urging daughters to work, have their own money but bring up well-adjusted unspoilt children somehow without stress.
Which sword do you die by; bring up your kids and rely on your man? Both go part-time and argue about the laundry? Perhaps the cruelest cut of all, the common experience among women who outsource childcare in the quest to be true equals, watching your babies reach for the nanny when they hurt themselves.
Dr Libby Weaver (PhD), acclaimed nutritionist, and author runs a thriving business from the profits of women on the quest to remain equals, have healthy marriages and be efficient workers. She wrote Rushing Women’s Syndrome, a brilliant book peppered with advice for women “Do you often feel overwhelmed? Or in a daily battle to keep up, rarely getting through your never-ending to-do list, at times feeling out of control and as though you’re surviving rather than thriving? If so, you may be experiencing the first signs of Rushing Woman’s Syndrome”.
POSITIVE TAKE AWAYS
Collectively, if we put current issues on the table we may arrive at solutions and you’re either the example or the warning. Age 35-50 marriage furnace is not a modern problem, women cast onto fires or cast aside when infertile started Day dot and still goes on. I’m yet to see a couple who has all answers. I’m humbled by lengths people go to in quest for life-balance, relationship repair or keeping it real. Some say social media is fake but I’m blown away by honestly of people as they bare all in their struggles. The thriving wellness industry, plethora of blogs and books available to stay informed and interested in life, the counselling opportunities , yoga and essential oils industries are booming for both sexes. Surely that’s an improvement on ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ (Valium) and history’s preference for bottling up personal problems. I’ll take the discuss and analyse approach any day of the week. Thanks mum, you did a good job. Excuse me, I’ve got to go and dust my CoCo Republic Furniture set.
35-50 is also the time to look for a divorcee through online dating. The number of divorced/separated fathers I come across is staggering.
People take marriage too lightly. It’s relatively easy to get out of compared to yesteryear, and it’s more about the day than the lifetime that comes after it. Noone wants to put the effort in, stick together through thick and thin. We cop out when things get tough. I also think people get married and have their kids too young, and we add too much stress and strain to our lives. We buy buy buy even though it means debt, we buy houses and have kids with no idea how to balances the outgoings or who is going to take the childcare duties.
Women want to go back to work but their earnings barely cover the child care costs. So why work, to make a point that you can. and have someone else rear your children? I know we all go on about equality, but the old model worked.
Modern life does not allow for a close knit family, for enriched family time. It’s about work, and spending and jet setting. And everyone wants that and the old model. It doesn’t always work and people quickly crack when the bubble bursts and they just don’t want to work at it.
On the other end of the scale mid thirties onwards is when career go-getters start to panic and realise they haven’t done the married/kids thing, so I suppose for them it gives them more potential candidates if they don’t mind divorcees and step kids and in our modern age it’s almost a part of the package now.
I never wanted kids or marriage for these and many other reasons. I’ve sat back and watch as friends and family got married, had kids, struggled to cope with everything it throws at them and then separated. It’s a sad legacy but I also think is how people have evolved. Fragmented upbringings and dysfunctional families are no longer rare, they are the standard.