Midlife And Beyond Marriage

Stop for a moment and think back to those days long ago when you met and fell in love.  Do you remember the energy, excitement and sheer enthusiasm you had for each other?  Do you remember thinking you met your ideal partner?  Then you got married and rode off into the sunset with your Prince or your Princess Charming, only to discover he or she had some irritating habits and wasn’t quite as charming as you thought.  The stars in your eyes faded enough for you to see each other’s idiosyncrasies and faults.

Unfortunately, these irritations can do more than just irritate.  When we fail to deal with these irritations, either by changing or accepting them, our intimacy gets redefined and emotional distance increases.  

It’s easy to find a low intimacy comfort level and sometimes without you even realizing it, your marriage relationship starts to take a backseat to your family, profession, church and community.  The disappointments are still there, but they get buried under the activities of a busy hectic life.  Then the kids start leaving home and you begin to ask the questions, where did all those years?  What ever happened to my Prince Charming and Princess fairy tale?  My Prince and Princess didn’t have gray hair back then.  We begin to realize that maybe all those dreams we had for our marriage didn’t materialize like we expected.  We are not sure of what the future holds and may be disappointed with where we are right now.  Welcome to Midlife and beyond marriage.  

Before you can regroup and reignite your relationship, you must deal with your own disappointments, let go of past hurts and lost dreams.  You must change your thoughts about them.  If you want a great midlife and beyond marriage you must let go of past marital disappointments, accept your spouse with his or her imperfections, realizing that when you got married it was for better or for worse.  My spouse is a package deal!

When we come to that place where we accept our spouse, the good and the not so good, realizing that if we haven’t been able to change them in the many years we have been together, the next step we can take is to forgive them, for real this time. 

Forgiveness is a key element in a healthy long-term marriage.  It has been said that forgiveness is the oil that lubricates a love relationship and it's the oil we need daily.  Forgiveness is not a one time event, it's an attitude of wanting to love your partner until the end despite their imperfections and irritations.  

Marriage in Christ is a marriage seminar Lou and I have been leading now for several years.  It is a marriage seminar geared for couples who basically have a stable marriage and want to make it better.  We instruct couples on the importance of putting Christ in the Center of our marriages by daily activities called PTA, Pray, Talk and Action.   As we work together, bringing Christ into the middle of our marriage, we begin to see our spouse in a new and different way.   

One of the sessions in a Marriage in Christ Seminar is on sin and how sin affects the core of our marriage.  When you hurt your spouse, you have sinned.  We also talk about forgiveness and the freedom it brings to our marriage.  As humans we sin but God gave us a way to reunite with Him through confession and truly forgiving your spouse their trespasses.  One participant we will call Mary asked me, “how long does it take to forgive your spouse?”  My answer was, “as long as it takes!”  “But,” she answered back, I forgave him a million times, and he does the same thing over and over, again and again.”  

I reminded her that long standing problems take time to resolve.  You can’t resolve in one day what took years to create.  However, there are steps that can be taken.  I like to call them the Three-Step Reconciliation Process.  

  1. Choose to forgive your spouse.
  2. Never put a limit on forgiveness.
  3. Change your “thoughts” about your spouse or the problem.

Mary went home that week and took our advice.  She and her husband had been in a fragile marriage for years.  If her marriage had been held together by the 50/50 rule, she would have left the marriage a long time ago.  Her spouse was a wonderful person.  He supported her and the kids well throughout the years but in her mind was never there for her when she needed him.  Many people in midlife marriage would have thrown in the towel but Mary decided to choose to forgive her spouse as many times as it took and to change her thought about him from, “he is never there for me” to “he is busy but he is good to me and I love him.”  Adding that extra step of changing the way she thought about her husband has made all the difference.  Last time we saw her she was gleaming and said to us, "When I changed my thoughts about my husband, my husband changed too."  I became more loving towards him and he started to respond to my love by coming home earlier, wanting to do fun things together on the weekend, and turning off the TV so he could hear about my day.  I also came to the realization that I can’t do anything about his actions, but I can control the way I think and act.  I had to stop the constant chatter in my brain when I felt neglected from what did I do in this situation?  Instead, thanks to my new thought, I ask, "what can I give in this situation?  I can change only one person's actions and that is mine."  

I’m sure since most of you have been married for many years you understand Steps 1 and 2.  Forgiveness is a choice.  Figure out what your grievances are and make a list, take the list and evaluate them.  Some of those little annoyances may need to be dropped off the list for the sake of a good marriage and others that have caused conflict or a change in your attitude towards your spouse may need to be looked at in a deeper way.  Sometime a good counselor or a life coach like myself, is needed to help you work through tougher issues.  I just want to mention here that although all bad habits can be changed and it's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, you can’t change your spouse, you can only change your response to your spouse and the quickest way to do this is by the 3 step process.

So know I have written down my grievances and decided which one I can eliminate and those I need to just forgive.  Now is the fun part.  For each item still on your list, ask yourself what thought do I think about my spouse or his action when I am read the grievance?  Write that thought down.  I will guarantee you it will not be a positive thought.  You may be surprised by some of the thoughts you think about your spouse and realize right there and then why you do not have the best marriage you can have.  After doing this step take each negative thought and write a new more positive thought to replace that thought in your head. This simple step is life changing.  Do this process each month and you will truly have an amazing marriage.  

One last step I add for Christian couples who practice this process of forgiveness.  Once you go through the steps and have given new thoughts to your grievances, I suggest a few quiet moments with Jesus.  See yourself, along with your spouse, standing together with Jesus.  He reaches His Hand’s out to your spouse, giving them a comforting hug.  See Jesus then reaching out to you and embracing you with a big hug.  You hear Him say, “I love you.”  “Thank you for loving and forgiving your spouse.”  Then see Jesus grab both of your hands, looking at you both lovingly, He shares how much He loves you both especially for honoring your commitment to the sacrament of marriage.  

This is a beautiful way to let Christ in the center of your marriage especially in the area of His expertise, His mercy.  

Happy Over 50 Marriage Counseling

Lori Giovannini is a Certified Marriage and Family Life Coach, a Couples Weight Loss Coach, and a Certified Brain Health Coach with Amen Clinics. Lori served as the Executive Director of a large Catholic Women’s Nonprofit before becoming a Coach. 

Not only is Lori an experienced Relationship and Brain Health Coach, she has 20 years of experience facilitating marriage retreats, workshops and seminars with her husband Lou, a Deacon in the Catholic Church. 

Her heart has always been in the prayer and healing ministry. She helps both spouses and married couples grow mentally, emotionally, intimately and spiritually through private coaching, group couples coaching, courses, bible studies and retreats. 

She has proven coaching tools and couple’s techniques to help spouses at any stage or phase of their marriage. Today she helps couples successfully BLOOM in to their second half of married life with love, purpose, passion and fulfilled faith.

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