Marriage and the Middle Years
LATELY there have been disturbing reports about middle-age marriages. A study made in Canada, for example, reportedly shows a decline in intimacy and in marital satisfaction as a marriage grows older. Some statistical studies seem to indicate that the divorce rate among couples over 45 years of age is “soaring.” And perhaps even your own marriage is not the source of joy it used to be.
So many are forsaking marriage these days that you may at times wonder if it is worth the trouble to work marital problems out. Some “experts” are even extolling the virtues of starting over again with a new mate. But how do those who go this route really fare?
“You’re too old!” a middle-aged man brazenly told his wife. He was greedily carrying on an adulterous affair with a younger woman. Recalls his wife: “He was proud of it! He even wanted me to listen to every detail of his affair.”
Why do men—and women—deal so treacherously with their mates even after many years of marriage? (Malachi 2:14-16) For some, an “affair” is a way to boost a sagging ego, a chance to reaffirm one’s manhood or womanhood. Too, a man may fear that his sexual powers are declining and may want to “prove himself.”
The Bible described well the consequences of adultery when it said: “But a man [or a woman] who commits adultery doesn’t have any sense. He is just destroying himself.”—Proverbs 6:32, Today’s English Version.
How could an act done in secret ‘destroy’ a person? For one thing, the adulterer suffers a ruined conscience. Even the boastful man mentioned previously later confessed, “I can’t sleep at night!” His innocent wife, on the other hand, recalls being able to sleep soundly. “I had no feelings of guilt whatsoever,” she says, “because I tried to follow Jehovah’s way.”
The adulterer also damages his self-respect and his prospects for future happiness. Could his new wife (even if he weds his adulterous partner) really trust him? Worst of all, such treacherous dealings destroy his relationship with God, who will “judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) A heavy price to pay for a selfish fling!
Solomon thus advised: “Let your water source [or, sexual interests] prove to be blessed [by remaining faithful], and rejoice with the wife of your youth.” (Proverbs 5:18) Sexual problems, however, can develop in a marriage at any age. So the Bible counsels couples in general: “Do not be depriving each other of it [the sexual due].”—1 Corinthians 7:5.
As a marriage counselor observed, breakdowns in communication “have become the number-one problem of couples who have been married for many years.” How do such problems develop?
“The Number-One Problem”
A man gets home from work and is greeted with the news of the latest crisis. (“Honey, the dentist says Dave’s teeth need fixing!”) “And she used to ask me how my day went,” he sighs.
However, talk about report cards and measles shots can easily dominate your conversations. Only when the children have grown and gone do some couples realize they have forgotten how to talk on a personal basis.
A problem may also manifest itself during the wife’s menopause, when she needs compassion and understanding. The husband, perhaps battling mid-life crisis, may become quite aggressive or argumentative. Hardly a model of understanding.
Aggression can spawn counter-aggression. Say the authors of Making It From 40 to 50: “They bicker, complain, nag; they hurt each other as only those who have loved and lived together for a long time can. They know each other’s particular weaknesses and hidden fears, and these become the targets of attack in battles that sometimes reach extraordinary heights of viciousness.” How can the argument cycle be stopped?
“Love,” says the Bible, “is long-suffering and kind . . . does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5) So forget self-pity! Rather, be sensitive to the emotional stress your mate may be feeling. Make allowances for each other. And refuse to fuel an argument! “Where there is no wood the fire goes out.”—Proverbs 26:20, 21.
If communication is hindered because you feel your mate doesn’t understand you, let your mate know how you feel. True, this is not easy for everyone to do. Men especially seem to have difficulty revealing their fears and weaknesses.
Abraham, though, father of the Jewish race and bold man of action, was not afraid to admit his fears—even to his wife. And she deeply respected him. (See Genesis 12:11-13; 18:12.) Would not similar honesty and candor improve your marriage?
Communication is therefore a key to keeping your marriage alive. True, age does bring physical deterioration; and sometimes the decline is greater in one mate than in the other. But if you have “sown” wisely over the years, your marriage will have more going for it than just physical attraction. As one man put it: “When you have a real rapport with your mate, it is most satisfying. You can freely express your emotions and feelings to someone who knows you better than anyone else and understands how you feel.” Yes, you will have the companionship of someone you truly delight to be with. Is not such a marvelous union worth holding on to? Why, you may even find the middle years to be the closest, most satisfying years of your marriage yet.
[Pictures on page 9]
Do you fight . . .
. . . or truly love each other?