It’s time I said something about relationships.
Those of you who are not in my programs may be surprised to know that we rarely delve into relationships with significant others. This is mainly because it’s a program about you and your life and your partnership(s) are just one of the things you have accumulated on your long journey to middle age.
That said, relationships obviously play an enormous part in our lives and the phase of life we (and our partner) is in does play a critical influence on exactly what kind of relationship we’re having.
But first, some context.....
There are two critical things to understand about what constitutes a relationship:
Unlike in the songs, a relationship is not “two-people-becoming-one” (that would be hell!). It must be related to and treated as such. It’s health and vigour are independent.
You see this in relationships where one or even both partners are struggling with depression or illness but the relationship remains strong. It can often be the source of their ability to get through. You also see this in relationships where both partners are pursuing their life independently and their relationship is nothing but a shell the cossets them from other people and gives an illusion of security.
I don’t always like my wife.
She’s awesome, but sometimes that very awesomeness shits me. Luckily that’s ok because how I feel about her at any given moment doesn’t have a lot to do with the quality of my relationship.
It may sound terribly dry, but the real source of the strength of my marriage lies in the agreements we have with each other (both conscious and assumed). The basic one is that we will respect each other (even when we don’t feel like it… especially when we don’t feel like it). There are some traditional ones, monogamy, we’ll look after the kids first etc. In my case I’ve agreed to make the money and she’ll manage the ‘culture’ of the family (pretty sure I got the easier end of the deal). There are also thousands of other agreements we’ve made over the years: the most important being kind of future we are both working towards (see HERE).
Understanding and being as conscious as possible about what you have agreed to (and what they believe you have agreed to) is the source of power in any relationship (same at work: see my short video HERE).
The phase of life you are living through profoundly influences the person that is making and keeping those agreements. Not only does what you want change, but who you are and the attributes that are dominant in you also shift.
A classic example that really screws with people in marriages is the inversion of energy that happens between men and women in the second half of the 40’s and into the early 50’s.
In this period, women tend to discover that they’ve a great deal to give to the world, they know themselves, they've got energy, man y of their obligations have been fulfilled, they're CLEAR and READY to give it one last great crack. This is especially the case after menopause (but also before), they often experience a new-found power and a sense that their time has come - that they’ve something to say in the world.
What other people think matters less. New boundaries are put in place and old ones reinforced. They discover a new focus: what matters matter and what doesn’t can just be ignored: though they have less energy, they direct it much more effectively. Friendship groups shift, some people go and new ones appear. It is an exciting time.
In this period, many traits associated with a masculine energy flourish and emerge.
For men the opposite process is happening, they are start to discover their softer, more feminine side...
While their wife's/partners are beginning to explore the sharper rewards of a more virile approach to the world, the men are discovering a new vulnerability. They become interested in the family, the home, cooking, the arts, music, gardening. They start wanting to live more thought their feelings, for some men for the first time ever.
For men not used to this side of themselves this whole process can be a bit of a shock, and can be rejected with outbursts of yet more masculine virility. However, like all these processes, it is inexorable.
For a woman it makes it easier to understand that the man is exploring a side of the world they did in their early twenties – an exploration of a sensual and tender approach to others, themselves and the world. This is when men start to cry easily.
In this period men and women are exploring different aspect of themselves, but, if you don’t know it’s happening, it can break people.
After decades of trying to bring out his softer side, the woman is really finding found her feet and her voice and she’s not going to get pulled down by her man going all sloppy on her. For some women years of resentment come to the fore – “after all these years I’ve been supporting you and trying to help you and now you want to be connected… too late buddy”. A woman who has gotten comfortable with a ‘strong man’, or who was previously intimidated or dominated by her partner’s strength my find its disappearance a betrayal of one of those assumed agreement I mentioned: “we’re getting old, I can’t just start again, and you choose this moment to revert to childhood?”
I'm sure you can see the potential for a gap to occur between two people in this stage?
It is all the worse because many of us are just starting to breathe properly after the challenges of the ‘dark wood’ of the forties we just traversed together. Shouldn't we be reaching the sunlit uplands of wisdom and security now… and then this happens.
This inversion of the masculine and the feminine is the real turning point for a long-term relationship.
“During this period a couple can develop a new loyalty to each other which strengthens their love, which carries them through the next decades and reaches even beyond death”
Betty Staley “Tapestries: Weaving Life’s Journey”
This is when two people can learn to complete each other. If they can learn to be responsible for their own experience of life in this phase, as they explore the passions and the power that has driven the other all these years, then they can come together again with a new set of values and agreements that truly reflect the full self-expression of who they are.
Drawing on Betty Staley again “it is during this period that a coupe can begin to see marriage as an art form … [a true] labour of love” (p.180).
The human being flowers in their fifties...
This is the stage in arc of the human life when we reach the full expression of who we are in the world. This is true of the individual, but it is true of that third entity we many of us value so highly: our relationship.
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P.S. Whenever you’re ready to look at new ways to take charge of the second half …. here are four ways we can help:
3. Get a free pre-order of our book (just pay shipping). It’s called “Midlife Creation: how to take charge of the second half of your life. Just email “BOOK PLEASE” and I’ll send you a copy when it is published (around December).
4. If you want to ask some questions or get a sense of how to start looking for your own Leitmotif you can book a quick private chat with me HERE(pls note you can't register into a program this way, but you can check me out and see if we click)