The big question and fear in middle age is age and stage appropriate. The kids are grown and leaving, for better or worse. You’ve completed this part of your life. The time for change has come again.
So, what next? What do we want to do – together or alone? Don’t decide in the confines of your own mind. Dialogue together over time.
The first stage of your life was “student.” You grew up, went to school and prepared for adult life. For better or worse.
The second stage was “householder.” You got a job or career, got married and raised kids. For better or worse.
Now life rolls you into the third stage, ready or not. The kids leave or you throw them out. You’re no longer needed as the mommy or daddy who’s responsible for everything they do or for protecting them from the pitfalls of life or who’s necessary to teach them how to make good choices and to succeed. In fact, you probably realize that there are some lessons they simply won’t learn from you. They’ll have to learn them the hard way – from life.
You’ll always be their mother or father, but you don’t need to be on call whenever they sneeze. What does an adult relationship with them look like – day-by-day, week-by-week?
So what do you do with your partner/spouse for the next 40 years? You know each other well in the old roles. You both know how to say the wrong thing, you know how to make the crushing put-down, you know how to start a fight. You know each other’s tendencies, hopes, fears and struggles. You know what’s easy and seems to come naturally, and you know what’s really difficult.
You can fill your time with the old mommy/daddy roles or pressure them to have grandchildren so you can slide back into comfortable roles giving and caring. But maybe it’s time to step back and ask, “What have we each been hungering for all these years? What does my spirit want me to develop? What do we want to do together? What do we want to do apart? How to we make this happen in a loving way?”
If there’s any love left between you, start courting again. Remember, you used to be excited to see each other, you used to bring interesting things to each other, you used to suck it up and be cheerful no matter what was happening, you used to be polite. Start doing these alluring things again.
Hold hands while you have the important, deep and sensitive conversations. Start talking without having a fight over who’s more reasonable or right. Remember, you once got together because it was fun. How can you have fun now? Have a date. Have two. Do one each week.
Even if the together part is only 25% at first, start there and see where you want to go. Explore, one step at a time. Don’t think 40 years ahead. Think 3-5 at most. Think of ice cream and walks. Plan as interested and encouraging friends.
On the other hand, if you’re way beyond hate, figure out how to go your separate ways without proving who’s right. Negativity, criticism, righteousness, blame, shame, guilt, harassment, bullying and abuse are not going to help you or the kids – no matter how tempting.
Age and state appropriate development again, just when you thought you had it all figured out and nothing would change for the next 40 years. For better or worse.
The best way to plan for a rewarding rest of your life is to hire Dr. Ben for personalized coaching and counseling so you can:
- Develop the strength, courage, will and determination to be and to act your best resolutely, diligently and effectively.
- Develop a plan and master the skills necessary to deal with the specific situation you’re in.