How can a couple stay faithful through this challenging phase of life together?
Middle age is a period of transition, the end of a second adolescence, a crisis of desire when one becomes aware of the finiteness of life. It can play out differently between spouses but, whether it be the man or the woman, the symptoms are unmistakeable: a feeling of loneliness, disillusionment about your limitations and those of your spouse, doubts, lack of self-confidence, depression, lack of pleasure doing the things you’ve always done, indifference to life, ambivalence, difficulty knowing what you want, boredom, an awareness of death, and a great need for introspection. The spouse who experiences a midlife crisis feels misunderstood by their partner as they struggle to understand themselves.
So how do a husband and wife maintain fidelity when they are in the throes of this bumpy patch? Here are 10 tips.
1. Though it be a “descent into darkness,” accept this crisis as a period of growth.
2. Have confidence in life, which transforms us and leads us to full maturity.
3. This crisis is a call to offer one’s partner quality time, to respect their silences and their words. In this way, we give proof of true faithfulness to the other.
4. Dig down to that life-giving impetus in the depths of your heart, there where God resides, even if all seems dying.
5. Middle age is an opportunity, a time of self-reflection, when we can better understand who we are and therefore better give of ourselves, and reach out to each other. Therein lies fidelity.
6. For a woman, this crisis is often experienced physically, in her aging body. For a man, it is often in a feeling of being left behind and out of the race. Since midlife can be a time when marriage has settled into routines and spouses may not compliment each other any more, the desire to seduce and relive emotions that come with a new and exciting relationship can be compelling. A spouse either denies these signs, or accepts them and battles them in a positive manner. Faithfulness brings encouragement and inspires remarks of tenderness, and vice versa.
7. Find an activity to share with your partner, as a sign of your faithfulness to each other. For example, get away and do something together, such as attending a concert or a sports event together. Or pick an option that could involve your teenage children, getting all of you out of the house and off your devices.
8. Accept the other as they are, not asking of them what God alone can give: peace, love, interior prayer, the gift of self.
9. For the Christian couple, fidelity means living through crises in prayer and forgiveness. In this way, crises won’t split them apart, as is so often the danger.
10. Faithfulness can never be taken for granted; it must be chosen again every day. In marrying, we renounce other choices. By our 40s, the time has come to stop expecting what the other cannot give. Life as a couple will always remain a risk and a challenge — that’s the price of love. It’s how we learn tolerance and tenderness toward the other, who is a mystery. The 20th-century French poet Patrice de la Tour du Pin summed it all up when he said: “It’s enough just to be.”
As we navigate our way through the difficult patch of the midlife crisis, we must look at all the good things that make up our life as a couple in order to be able to say to the other: “Look at all we’ve done together; I’m grateful to you.” Once past the crisis, we discover a new conjugal joy and appreciate how much our partner means to us.
Jacques Gauthier and Luc Adrian