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Monday, August 17, 2015

Coping with Mid-Life Stresses in Marriage

Here's an article that was published several years ago in a marriage magazine. It shares about the mid-life transitions we made when Larry retired and we moved to a new home and community. I hope it strengthens your marriage, whether you're in mid-life or newly married.


Kathy’s side:

I was so surprised that after 32 years of marriage, stress was taking a toll on our marriage. Haven’t we learned enough to face these mid-life issues? In the midst of buying and selling a house, moving 2 hours away from family and friends, saying goodbye to our daughter and her husband who moved 3,000 miles away, and making what seemed like a thousand decisions about building a new home, I had lost the joy of being with my high school sweetheart. (Tweet that!) And it didn’t help that my emotions fluctuated along with burning up with hot flashes. I felt like a little cloud of doom hovered over me throughout the day. I knew I was entering the peri-menopause stage and it didn’t feel fun.


It seemed to me that Larry’s reactions were discouraging, even mean. As we made so many decisions about the house, I felt like my opinion wasn’t very valuable. Larry had always been very opinionated but now it seemed like very few of my ideas were important. When I mentioned that I would prefer a concrete pad on the side of the house for the trash cans, Larry's contorted face communicated seeming disgust and unbelief. “Why would you want that?” he said in shock, as if no one on earth could ever want such a thing. My heart felt like it was stabbed with a knife. I became afraid to share my opinion, for fear he would respond like that all the time. Although I’m normally a confident person, I felt my self-assurance slipping away.

I knew I was overreacting and super-sensitive because of my hormonal flux, but I still felt like Larry wasn’t on my side. I even found myself wanting him to fail at things in revenge. He was quickly becoming the enemy and no matter how much I tried to talk myself out of my negativity, each time he responded in his “I can’t believe you think that!” I sank back into my pity-party mental chair. I withdrew more each time and built a protective wall. 

Larry’s side:
When I retired, I got a new wife…I wanted the old one back. After 31 years of marriage I was shocked to discover my loving easy going wife was a wounded and sullen roommate. All of a sudden the comments I normally made caused pain. I couldn’t figure Kathy out. I didn’t understand how 30 plus years of communication between us all of a sudden wounded her spirit. It seemed every time I offered an opinion or comment she took offense. Any attempted explanation or clarification was meant was silence or tears. I ddin’t know what to do. I was tempted to cut off normal communications because it hurt too much to se her in pain. I remember discussing this with her several times. Kathy would tell me how I had hurt her and I would apologize and try to understand her new sensitivity. But nothing seemed to change. Usually these intimate discussions would bring lasting healing to our relationship. Not now! I finally thought to myself, “Larry, just gut this out until Kathy’s hormones get settled. After all, it’s her problem.”

What Kathy and Larry Did:

Kathy and Larry had gone through many stress factors in their marriage over the years, so Kathy rehearsed again that difficulties weren’t unusual and that Satan wanted to divide them. When she stopped looking at Larry as the enemy and saw the real spiritual enemy, she could refocus on trying to having a more realistic view of all that was happening. And that included understanding that they were indeed in a new phase of life that brought new challenges. “Somehow it lightened my mental load to know we were only experiencing the normal struggles of marriage and it could be overcome,” says Kathy. 

That was especially important because as speakers and authors about marriage, Kathy and Larry were representing the Lord in ministry and Satan wanted to divert their effectiveness. “Seeing the real cause of our battles made me more determined to see Larry through God’s eyes,” Kathy says. “That we really were on the same team and I didn’t want Satan to be victorious.” 

Larry: Kathy was away on a speaking engagement. I started to think about the most important theme I share on my teaching about marriage and family issues, the husband taking responsibility to lead. As I thought through this issue, the Lord spoke to my heart, “Take responsibility. Be the leader!” Now this was not an audible voice but the message rang loud and clear. The real issue wasn’t Kathy’s changed sensitivity but my reluctance to take leadership and assume some godly responsibility for my family. I realized that in order to practice what I’d been preaching, I needed to immediately call Kathy. I called and told her, “Honey, I want your forgiveness. I have not provided the spiritual leadership you need and I haven’t been a spiritual covering for you.” I then went on to tell her how my attitude before was that this was just a transition you had to get over on her own. “This is not your problem, but a spiritual attack that requires godly leadership. This is my problem and we’ll work this through together.”  

 When Larry asked for Kathy’s forgiveness, Kathy was so encouraged. Larry proved he was seeking the Lord and also sensitive to her. By the time Kathy returned from her trip, it was as if the burden over her heart and mind was lifted. “I saw Larry in a new light of us being on the same side. When he said that we would do whatever it took to work together on this, I felt as if he had pulled me alongside him to look forward together rather than facing each other in anger and misunderstanding.” 

Kathy also took steps to deal with her hormonal changes. Eating around 160 mg. of soy products a day has helped her body to experience less hot flashes and to handle the negative thinking more effectively. Hebrews 12:15 says, “Keep a sharp eye out for
weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.” (The Message). “I recognized that I was discontented because I only focused on the few negative things Larry did. I needed to also focus on the many positive things Larry did and give him credit.”

Kathy and Larry also returned to the basics of their good marriage: instead of putting all their focus on the demands of the house, they made sure they were giving each other affection and saying “I love you” often throughout the day. 

Update: Larry and I moved 13 years ago and our marriage has actually improved. We're more in love now than ever and we just celebrated our 45th anniversary. (Tweet that!) Sometimes we tell each other so many times in a day how much we love and appreciate each other that it almost seems ridiculous. But choosing to love and focus on the positives has kept us strong. I just love my godly man!

(photos courtesy of David Castillo Dominici and samarattiw from www.freedigitalphotos.net)

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