We’ve had some extensive posts about what to expect in each decade of marriage. Now we’ve caught up to where we are. Tom and I celebrated our 37th anniversary in February, so we’re almost through our fourth decade–crazy!
This has been a challenging decade for us, which surprised us quite a bit. We have always gotten along quite well and have been able to work out our differences without much drama, that is until this decade. <sigh> It seems that all of our communication skills took a backseat as new difficulties presented themselves. It left us feeling uncertain of how to handle each other. What used to work only caused more tension. We found ourselves having to relearn how to communicate effectively.
Our biggest hurdle has been to not make assumptions about what we think the other said or did.
Many times I thought Tom said one thing only to find out I didn’t hear him correctly. This has happened so many times it’s embarrassing. We’ve wondered if our hearing is starting to go, and you know? It could be. Which brings us to our first point on how to handle these years well…
- Get regular check-ups with your doctor to make sure what your dealing with isn’t a medical condition. It doesn’t serve your marriage well to ignore the indicators. Get the help needed to make sure you’re in good health physically.
- Do your best to help your spouse care for their elderly parents. Or vice versa, ask for your spouse to help you care for yours. This is the time when you may be caring for people in three generations and it can be stressful. Nothing helps more than to know your spouse is in it with you.
- Understand your wife when she becomes emotional over the empty nest stage. Sometimes even she doesn’t understand the roller coaster of emotions. It helps so much to know that you’ll love and support her through the pain.
- When it comes to sexual intimacy realize that you’re not as young as you used to be. You may need to change things a bit to make it comfortable and enjoyable for each other. The important thing is to remember sex is about connecting physically, emotionally and spiritually. If the physical becomes more of a challenge, it doesn’t mean you have to pull back emotionally and spiritually. You may find that you enjoy this season of your sex life more than any other time in your marriage. This is as it should be. Our culture promotes sex over relationship. Remember the years you have invested in your marriage to help you navigate these changes together keeping the relationship as most important.
- Impending retirement can cause unexpected stress in your marriage if you don’t prepare for this new season. Hopefully you’ve put aside money to provide for you and your spouse when you no longer work. Or maybe you haven’t and there is no end in sight as to when you’ll quit, if ever. This can be a real cause of stress especially if you play the blaming game. Don’t do it! You aren’t each other’s enemy–you’re on the same team. Get help. Ask for the input of others you respect in this regard. It may not be as bad as you think. And fighting about years past won’t benefit your marriage. The only time you can effect is the present. Pray together, and ask God for the wisdom you need make it through the years to come. He will be an ever present help in your time of need–that’s a promise! Psalm 46:1
- Once you do retire realize there is a transition stage just as the empty nest required a transition. For 2 1/2 years Tom practiced retirement and we were more surprised than anyone at the struggle it was for us. Tom had always managed people. When he came home he had no one to manage except ME! Yeah, it wasn’t good. I had been running our home for all our married life, and now Tom was here everyday all day wondering things like–why are you using THAT knife? I found myself reacting to him in ways I had never done before, and we have a strong marriage. I tell you this not to discourage you, but to help you realize that even strong marriages have trouble, but it’s what they do with the trouble that makes all the difference.
If you’re in this decade, what difficulties have you faced and how have you dealt with them?