Posted on January 26th, 2017
They knew soon after they met that they were meant for each other, together for life. They married, became parents and had a strong family life, and at least one of them developed a successful career. Now it’s decades later. The children have left, their careers have matured, and they have begun actively moving into the second half of life.
The deep love and connectedness they feel with each other has remained a singular event in their lives. The couple, however, is no longer the two people they were when they formed their relationship, even though they still contain many traces of those earlier selves. They have grown in many dimensions, becoming much more individuated, and more sure of themselves even when they aren’t sure of their direction.
What is happening for people at this stage of life varies widely. Where their individual desires and directions were before somewhat held in check by the necessities of family life or career struggle, those barriers aren’t that much in play any longer. Some are continuing to deal with the repercussions of childhood difficulties, while others are feeling newly freed from internal obligations they have carried for decades. For some, unrealized earlier dreams are suddenly re-emerging with new force, or there are new dreams coming to the fore. For others, this is a time to slow down and simplify life into a quiet daily routine, even to become contemplative.
Sometimes at this stage, the life directions of two lifelong partners mesh easily, but even so, there’s often an adjustment to make. This is because one of the ways young couples often make things work is to suppress a great deal of open conflict between who they individually are and the life they are living together. Now, after decades of such self-suppression, they are much less willing to do that, so couples become more openly at odds with each other. This heightened conflict is built into the progression of life development.
Having to integrate their newly expressed differences into their relationship can present a larger challenge and more open conflict than many couples previously have had to face. They don’t want to walk away from each other, if only because they have invested so much of themselves and are so deeply connected, both emotionally and historically. But moving forward together requires an increased level of skill and emotional readiness for dealing with differences. This means acknowledging these differences openly and working together to resolve them where possible, and also working to accept them where resolution is not possible. This is both the challenge and the promise of a maturing relationship.
Posted in Marriage and Couples