Why Romantic Relationships Matter in Midlife (and how to improve or find yours!)
Marriages and long-term relationships in midlife can feel hard - whether you’re rekindling a fading flame, deciding to walk away and start over, or getting back on the horse and entering the dating game; it’s challenging at this phase of life.
There are a few key things that make this so complicated:
Dealing with your own identity crisis via the midlife transition
Feeling lower confidence in what you’re bringing to the table
Pressed for time because you’re so busy and wearing so many hats
But, in spite of these challenges, pursuing a deep, meaningful, and satisfying romantic relationship is well worth the effort.
Numerous studies tout the health benefits from being in a secure and loving relationship (and on the flip side, many studies showing the ill effects that toxic or unhealthy relationships have on our health!).
WHY ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS MATTER IN MIDLIFE
Firstly, I don’t believe anyone has to have a romantic relationship to be complete or to live a fulfilling and rewarding life!
If you’re with the “right” person and in the “right” relationship, a romantic relationship certainly enhances your life and leads to an elevated level of happiness in the long run.
But, a toxic, or unhealthy relationship will have the opposite effect and being on your own is always a better option. With that said, the desire for a loving, supportive partner is one worth the effort to find, or improve.
Having a partner to weather tough times, provide support for your dreams, and to let off steam and have some fun all lead to a more engaged and fulfilling life. The presence of this person tends to lower stress, boost endorphins, and provide that extra dose of confidence.
The beauty of establishing a healthy relationship in midlife is that can lean on your independence to strengthen your relationships.
STRENGTHENING AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP
After years of being together, relationships evolve. For some, they grow closer and stronger, but for most, demanding jobs, raising children, and all of the other distractions create distance between you and your partner.
Relationships are hard and take a lot of work. If left unattended for too long, they tend to fade away.
But, that doesn’t mean they can’t be salvaged! If you’re in one of these relationships, and you don’t want to walk away, you’re likely craving a deeper connection with your partner. You want to be seen, heard, and understood by your significant other.
To bridge the gap and strengthen the bond, it takes active and intentional work from both parties (one person can’t repair, or save, a relationship!). The most important thing to facilitate the restructuring of the bond is communication.
You have to talk to your partner to express the desire to reconnect. Then, you have to talk with them to share what you’re feeling, what you want more of, what you want less of, what you need. You have to share with them how and why they mean so much to you. You have to talk through differences and compromise on solutions.
But, it’s not a one-sided street. They have to come to the table and do the same. It means getting to know each other on a new level, and from a brand new perspective. Both of you have changed since you came together, but you may not even realize how many ways because you likely haven’t noticed the subtle shifts throughout the years.
If it helps, you may even consider working with a marriage counselor to facilitate the conversations and forge a stronger bond.
Some of the biggest things plaguing marriages at this stage include
Identify shifts (due to a midlife crisis)
Exhaustion from work & family commitments
Hormonal changes (for both men and women)
Aside from good communication, you also have to make plans to spend time together. You have to make each other a priority.
When you first started dating, you spent oodles of time together and were curious about the other person. You have to do that again! Get to know each other where you are now.
EXITING A RELATIONSHIP AND STARTING OVER
Choosing to end a marriage (or long term relationship) can be one of the harder decisions you ever have to make.
It marks the end of years of dreams, expectations, love, and commitment - it’s not easy to walk away from this! But, in some cases, it’s a necessity for taking back control of your life.
If you’re unhappy more often than you’re happy and you’ve tried everything you can think of to reverse that trend, it may be time to start letting it go.
Some clear signs that you need to walk away include abuse, neglect, infidelity, etc. But, some of the not-so-obvious signs include: you’ve grown apart beyond repair, or you both have different objectives and goals for the future.
You matter. Your desires, dreams, opinions, wants, not-wants, etc. all matter and if the person you’re with doesn’t respect that, you’re better off on your own to reclaim all of that and more for yourself!
When you’re ready to start over and enter the dating scene, don’t overthink it!
My biggest piece of advice is not to rush it. Take sufficient time after the breakup to just be you and rediscover who you are at this point in your life. Doing this will ensure you attract someone for who you are now, not who you think you are based on who you were before you met your ex!
Having been a divorcee back in the dating game, I can attest to the challenge and surrealism of “getting back out there.” Depending on how long you’ve been coupled up, dating will likely be a whole new ball of wax!
But, have fun with it, and don’t look to a partner as the answer to making you whole again. Make yourself complete first, then look for the right person to balance you.
When you make yourself whole first, it changes the dating dynamic and puts you in the driver’s seat! Your goal, if you choose to partner with someone new at some point, is to find someone that allows you to connect and share on a new level, and you can’t do that unless you heal yourself, and fall in love with you, first!
Regardless of where you are in your relationship journey - single, married, divorced, dating, or somewhere in between - the most important thing you can do to maximize your relationship status is to make yourself a priority so you can show up with your cup full.
Relationships in midlife don’t have to be dull, boring, or non-existent. Determine what it is that you want, deep in your soul, then put forth the effort to get it.
You deserve a loving, fulfilling, supportive partner and it’s never too late to make that a reality in your life.