We were both standing with our teen kids at the “To Go” order desk waiting for our dinners to be ready so we could jump back into the fast lane of family life. Two moms, striking up a conversation to bide the time until we both could zoom back into life’s never ending stream of responsibilities. We both longed to be at the spa getting a mini makeover instead standing in yet another endlessly long line. As with most midlife women’s conversations, the topic soon turned to stress. I learned that my new friend was a very high profile leader in her communityâ€”someone much like me and you in her role in life. Then, this very seemingly “together” leader I was chatting with asked me what I did for a living. When I shared that 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 shared the story of all the stressors, all the responsibilities, all the built up frustrations that accompany many marriagesâ€”especially at midlife. She was a woman whom thousands look up to as a leaderâ€”a woman in a powerful, influential position in lifeâ€”every day she helped others solve issues and problems in their lives yet she was ready to throw in the towel on her marriage.
So what’s a midlife parent to do?
TAKE A BREAK: When I shared that midlife marriages experience more stress because of the season of life we are in, my new friend seemed to gain hope. Think about it. Many midlife parents may still have little children (exhausting), or 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)! Then, add the pressures from success on top of all that. People want your wisdom, connections, time, and expertise in ministry, love, or life.
Clergy couples have the added pressure of growing churches, building projects, and a myriad of other stressors like long hours for little pay. Other couples add in pressures like church politics, and time volunteering. Many are concerned about retirement transitions and health challenges such as menopause or perimenopause for her and midlife crisis issues for him. In addition, many parents are also dealing with teenage hormones and prodigal young adults sowing their wild oats. Often a midlife marriage seems dull and lifeless when all that is really going on is extreme pressure from the life stage you are in. All you want is a vacation and some well deserved R and R!
MIDLIFE MAKEOVER CHALLENGE #1: See if someone will watch the kids so you can get away for a weekend, or better yet — a week, on a second honeymoonâ€”get a little rest and things will look a whole lot better!
GET A GRIP: For the past year I, have been writing a book, Fantastic After 40!, for women who want to live longer and stronger for God. My desk is stacked with research on this phase of life. Midlife does come with a prepackaged set of obstacles to overcome, the major one being your age! High blood pressure, rising cholesterol levels, weight gain and diabetes, over 100 symptoms of menopause to deal with, and the growing need for medications like Premarin, Prozac, Levitra, and Viagra. These are just a few of the many physical issues that midlifers might have to deal with. If you get educated and get equipped, then what looked like a negative can be turned into a positive.
For example, when Bill and I hit 45, our church had grown to be the largest in town, we were in the middle of a building project; his blood pressure rose to levels of concern from his doctor, and my cholesterol was rising so I, too, was being chided by my physician to make some lifestyle changes. We needed to do something drastic or we’d be in loveâ€”but we’d be dead so we wouldn’t enjoy our love much! We took back our schedule and added in some workout time as “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.
What Satan means for evilâ€”God means for good. My brother and sister-in-law also have a ministry minded marriage. Life stress and bad family genes caught up to him in his early 40’s and he had a heart attack. In response, they began walking 2-4 miles every morning where 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. My doctor told me that those of us in “people helping careers” die 10 years sooner than the average person because we are so busy caring for others that we don’t care for ourselves.
MIDLIFE MAKEOVER CHALLENGE #2: Look at the DNA of your family tree. What issue can you nip in the bud by twisting it together with a little exercise and romance? (Did you know kissing burns calories?)
GET A NEW PERSPECTIVE: In our book, The 10 Best Decisions A Couple Can Make, we interviewed couples who have been happily married over 20 years who made a deliberate decision during the midlife season of their marriage. Instead of looking at all the things that are wrong and frustrating about their mate and life after age 40, they opted to look at all the things they loved and would miss if their mate were no longer around.
Last week, three of us women, who are over 40 and have been married over 25 years, were sitting together talking about midlife and marriage. We each said how much we’d miss our mate if he were no longer around because he had become our best friend. I shared how, on our 25th anniversary, we had a vow renewal ceremony and this time our vows sounded very different from the first go around because we knew what it really took to keep love alive for a lifetime. I commented that having a healthy minded marriage is a choice. Bill sees all my flaws and knows them well and he chooses to focus on my strengths instead. For example, he calls my impulsivity “spontaneity”. I know Bill pretty much always runs late because he is such a people person, but I choose to focus on the fact he is great at relationships and just ask him to come home 20 minutes earlier than I really need him.
While all these tips are framed in the context of midlife marriage, it is actually great advice to work into your life at any stage of marital loveâ€”to protect your loveâ€”and your life. As I shared these simple principles, my new friend gained some hope. 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. This very high profile couple, one whom many look to as a role model, might just stay that way nowâ€”which is refreshing in a world with so many leaders failing in marriage.
MAKEOVER CHALLENGE #3: Hang on and know this is just for a season. Make an agreement to encourage each other’s strengths, and overlook the weaknesses. Think of how fast time has gone by to get you to this point,
stop and smell the roses now because no matter how bad your marriage might be, it’s only temporary, and before you know it — your kids will be out of the house and you’ll be in an entirely new season of life.
We hope you choose to do a mini marriage makeover — where as a couple you can commit to rediscover love and respect for each other — and have a little fun in the process!!
Check out Pam and Bill’s new DVD marriage curriculum by LifeWay Publishers, Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti.
Conway / Farrel Articles ~ Reprint by permission only, ©2011
Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com
The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors. Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.
The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.
Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.