“It’s a good thing we aren’t dating in our twenties now,” my husband mused as I stood traumatized in the hospital room while urine sprayed wildly across the floor. “This could cause a young, single guy to escape to a hermit’s cave far away in the wilderness.”
He was trying to make me laugh, and the remark eased my grief. I was almost 50 years old and recuperating from a medical procedure to fix my collapsed bladder. (Stress incontinence is another challenging physical dilemma for midlife women.) The catheter remained attached to my body, but the end had slipped from the collection bag and the errant tube was squirting around the room. I had faint memories of my toddler son doing the same action several decades earlier; however, he laughed, and I did not.
“Why me?” I wailed in total humiliation as I grabbed for the offensive hose and shoved it into the bag. “I’m going to take a shower and might drown myself.” “I’m sure you’ll do the same for me someday,” he said as he reached for some towels and proceeded to clean the mess. “Could you get a fun nurse’s costume?” I laughed and asked him to go find some chocolate and wine. “You probably shouldn’t have any alcohol,” he warned. “You’re on some strong medications that don’t mix well with wine.”
“The party is over,” I answered. “I only agreed to this operation because I was tired of wetting my pants whenever I laughed. Now I can’t have a glass of wine and enjoy some good jokes.” “Should I get some adult diapers, too?” We both laughed. That mutual reaction is what we call making the most of midlife marriage.
A solid marriage makes it easier to handle all the grief
Marriage at midlife doesn’t guarantee total bliss, but we’ve discovered that laughter is better than breaking something, trying drugs, or running away to join a chanting group in India. Every morning I read online reports of treachery, debauchery, and ghastly evilness, and that’s only from the local garden club. A solid marriage makes it easier to handle all the grief, angst, and pure nastiness swirling around us. At the end of the day, we escape all the noise, sit together, and talk about life. And, now I can laugh out loud without wetting my pants.
Middle-aged people know marriage can be the reason they’re happy or miserable. Here are a few suggestions for causing a midlife relationship to endure.
Have a sense of humor
I don’t recommend having bladder problems with someone who can’t make or take a joke. At midlife, many of us encounter a variety of health issues that can strain relationships as our bodies start to betray us. Bladder prolapse ranks high on the list of unpleasant realities. Through it all, try to keep laughing and create a game of listing all the reasons why “It Could Be Worse.” Remember the quote from humorist Erma Bombeck, “He Who Laughs, Lasts.”
Accept the naked truth
At midlife, most of us don’t look as good naked as we did in our twenties. Gravity and sunlight can be punitive, and it doesn’t matter how hard we work out, eat salads, go under the knife, and consume multiple vitamins, we often look and feel older. But, that’s okay because we are! Maybe someday all the anti-ageing warnings in advertising will stop shaming us for getting older and still being alive. The focus should become pro-ageing celebrations. We probably won’t wear a bikini this July, but we’re delighted to enjoy another summer.
It’s party time in the empty nest
After the last child moves away, many middle-aged couples realize they haven’t been alone together in years. The new empty nest is the perfect place and time to reconnect without catering to children. Finally, you can enjoy a candlelit dinner for two and then sleep naked with the bedroom door unlocked. Try that tonight.
Honor and encourage individual activities
I enjoy taking trips to visit friends, see favorite places, or attend writing conferences. My husband encourages me to have fun, and I do the same for him.
Schedule play dates together
Don’t be too busy to enjoy time with each other and find activities you enjoy. We golf together, even though he’s much better than I am, and he joins me for concerts and plays when he’d rather be golfing. Our only standing rule is to avoid crabby people.
Keep the music playing
We usually end the day on the patio with an adult beverage and listen to our favorite playlists. Music enhances the memories, and we continue to update our favorite songs.
Finally, to make the most of midlife marriage and beyond, watch older couples together. You’ll see many who don’t communicate and others who look bitter. Don’t become those people. Other couples look, talk, and dress alike. Don’t become those, either. Choose to emulate the ones holding hands, making regular eye contact, and enjoying public displays of affection. Assume they’re married to each other. Midlife marriage can be the best time of life.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.