What does "Happily Ever After" look like in middle age marriages? Is it more like "Tolerate Ever After," "Status Quo Ever After," or even worse, "Play Passive-Agressive Games with Each Other Ever After?"
I recently heard of a few couples in my age group throwing in the towel on their marriage. None of these couples broke up due to abuse, infidelity, or anything that would automatically spell divorce, but rather it was a general malaise in the marriage.
In fact this article says that more and more baby boomer couples are divorcing these days.
These are people who are long past the first blush of deep, mad love -- and this is not just marriage, but any committed relationship. Yet there was an implied promise to live happily ever after when you fell in love, got involved and committed, and that has turned out to be the most elusive concept of all to grasp.
Most of us don't even know HOW to be happy or feel happy anyway. There is always a few to a long list of things life throws at us causing discontent.
Lots of my peers with this kind of malaise or discontentment plan to stick it out -- the grass doesn't look a whole lot greener when you are in advanced middle age and the dating pool doesn't include young studs and slim wrinkle-free beauties. Some marriages remain intact because the alternative seems much worse or too terrifying to try. Yet the resentment builds up, and tensions rise.
I blame this mostly on the convergence of male and female menopause. Men go through hormonal changes just like women do and it makes for two very testy people living under the same roof. I know men who are crankier and more crotchety than females in this era of life.
Now granted, I am only speaking from the female perspective, and this is before I hear from every similarly neglected male calling me names and screaming at me in comments below that "it is a two way street" and blah, blah blah.
I get it guys. There is enough blame to pass around equally plenty of times. Again, I am a woman and I speak from my experiences with my peer group and from what I have heard dozens of times among them.
After many years of marriage, in some cases, men forget to treat their wife as a woman needs to be treated. It is easier for some men to compliment a car wash attendant than their wives. Because they are not freshly besotted, the need to express love, admiration, and or praise goes out the window.
When a man is treating his pet dog with more tender loving care, compliments and praise, and physically loving the animal with stroking more than their wives, we have a problem. I hear about it all the time.
There's a joke that is making its founds on the Internet that goes something like this: A woman is looking in a mirror and says to her husband nearby, "I feel horrible, I look old, fat, and ugly. I need you to pay me a compliment. The Husband replies, "Your eyesight is damn near perfect."
Yet it is a known, well-researched fact that as different as the hormones estrogen and testosterone are in women and men, loving language and verbalization -- sweet nothings -- are much more important to women for their psyche, well being, and libido.
Some women aren't even demanding to be made to feel desirable, but just to be made to feel worthy.
As one friend put it, she was as starved for a compliment -- any compliment -- as some poor children are for food in third world countries, and she engaged in an online flirtation to quell that deep hunger.
There is of course a solution. It's called working on your marriage, and requires the effort many put into their career work, or even their fantasy football.
Somehow through the years, spouses forget how to be nice, how to say sweet nothings, how to have a generous, giving spirit to the person they live with.
There are the very rare situations when guys are naturally romanticists and never stop romancing their wives. I've done stories on these types. They are still that chivalrous knight in shining armor.
Then there are engineering types, techie types like my own husband who have trouble with the romantic, flowery stuff. When he says I look great or growls or the rare occasion when he sees me, I know that is the ultimate compliment from him. because the words won't go beyond that. Sometimes it is enough, and sometimes there is a longing for more.
Still, I am luckier than most. Some women get absolutely shut out in the way of sweet nothings.
So, my advice for the day to all the guys out there is to try a little kindness. Give a genuine and heartfelt compliment, or two, or three. Commit to saying a few sweet things each week. Your wife's starving ego will thank you.
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