Marriage Through The Decades
Let me alert you to the changes that may occur in your long-term relationship
I can’t count the number of times someone has told me that they’re surprised the way their relationship has changed over the years. Quite frankly I'd be surprised if it didn't! After all, we aren't static creatures and circumstances change with time, as do our feelings, beliefs and attitudes.
This is all very natural unless you're caught out by surprise and come to feel that your partner is a stranger.
Here's my guide to the ups-and-downs of the various decades and what they might signify to your long-term relationship.
Pros - If you get together in your twenties, slightly earlier than the national average of marital age being around 31, this is a time when you’ll have plenty of energy and a great sense of adventure. Both of you will believe you can do anything because you’re facing the world together. You'll have a natural confidence about your future and will be full of aspirations and expectations
Cons - Unfortunately you may have accrued student debts, or if you haven't studied the University will still have little money. You’ll face a number of challenges getting started in a career rather than a "job". But either or both of you may have to settle for a job to keep the income flowing while you strive to get the training to forge the beginnings of a real career. Money worries will be the primary cause of stress in your relationship in this decade.
Critical Coping Strategy - Avoid self-centredness and be supportive of each other as you each attempt to carve a career path.
The Thirties -
Pros - At this point you’ll have hopefully developed better communication skills with each other. You may have more financial security as well as knowing more about who you are as people. During the Twenties we go through great changes and arrive in the Thirties with a whole new perspective on life.
Cons - If you've had children, the demands of young children can be enormous and will definitely impact on your relationship. Add to this the fact that your careers will still be at a relatively early stage and also demanding of your time/energy. It takes a great deal of effort to see through these various demands and still look at each other as the two people who fell in love and are a couple in their own right outside of these demands.
Critical Coping Strategy - Carve out important time for yourself as a couple so that career and children don’t overwhelm you.
The Forties -
Pros - You may have reached a stage in where you have greater career satisfaction. You'll also probably have better finances. Your children have reached ages where they’re more independent than babies/toddlers freeing up more of your time and yet still obviously needing you.
Cons - With this decade often comes the first stage of questioning what life's all about. You may experience a loss of one of your parents that sets you on a journey of soul-searching. Be aware of any potential mid-life crisis. This is also frequently a time for exploring new interests and if you don't share the same interests you may start drifting apart.
Critical Coping Strategy - The biggest danger is taking each other for granted in this decade so demonstrate regular affection and care to each other.
The Fifties -
Pros - You may well have a level of self-acceptance that you previously haven’t enjoyed. If your relationship remains happy you may enjoy a depth to it that you didn't realise was there. Your children are much more independent and may’ve moved out giving you more freedom for your leisure time and when you choose to do things like travel.
Cons - Beware, recent research shows that divorces have surged in the Fifties age group. This is largely due to the fact you may well have been asking a lot of life's “big questions” and finally decide, once your children have left, that you'd like to start afresh. You may experience health problems you haven't previously and should both be aware that women may have gone through the menopause and men may be experiencing the "manopause".
Critical Coping Strategy - Fight the "grass is greener" syndrome and resist separating unless there's insurmountable differences. Take some strolls down memory lane and revisit where you spent your early years, explore how you both felt as young people and what you saw in each other.
The Sixties -
Pros - Having weathered innumerable storms you should have a good understanding of each other and your relationship. Although you may still be questioning things like the meaning of your life you have the wisdom to know that you may not find the answers. Hopefully you have some financial security and you’re now planning how you'd like to spend your retirement. You might even be enjoying grandchildren by this time!
Cons - Ill health is the biggest worry and either or both of you may be experiencing health issues of a major type. Also along with the freedom of retirement sometimes people find that the adjustment to it is a tricky road.
Critical Coping Strategy - On a daily basis count your blessings and try to face things together, giving each other strength.
Published in The Express Newspaper