“Good morning, Angel. How are you?” I sincerely thought I would get a simple and endearing response from the love of my life. Instead, the discussion immediately turned to keeping up with the day’s demands.
“Thanks for going into work early this morning so you can check in on Mom before tonight. You remember that we are meeting the Smiths for dinner, right? Then we will head off to the football game together.” I admired Pam’s focus and efficiency, but wasn’t quite ready for another list from another person.
“Whoa, we have a very busy day ahead of us,” I said with a little sarcasm in my voice hoping it would interrupt the discussion that was about to take over the morning.
“Yes, but it is nothing compared to tomorrow,” she said, speeding up the conversation. “Zach has soccer in the morning. Caleb has basketball in the afternoon. The garbage disposer desperately needs to be fixed and we are hosting our small group for a barbecue. And, don’t forget that we are having lunch with my family after church on Sunday before we help the kids finish their science fair projects.”
Just talking about our lives was exhausting, and we hadn’t even started the day. I couldn’t help but think, “If we don’t have enough time to stop and relax once in a while, how are we ever going to stay in love?”
The Breakneck Speed Of Midlife
This type of pace is typical for couples in their forties for a number of reasons:
- Work becomes more demanding as we have demonstrated competency in our field, so people depend on us at a high level.
- We may become insecure at work as younger adults vie for our positions.
- Our kids enter the teen years with their unrelenting schedules and unpredictable emotions.
- Our parents show signs of aging and need more attention than in previous years.
- We feel increased spiritual stress as unseen forces seek to interrupt the solid wisdom we have acquired through real world experience.
- Our bodies begin to change, providing us with less energy than we had when we made all the commitments that now flood our lives with responsibility. As a result, we would rather take a nap than be needed one more time.
In the midst of all this, we still long to have a fulfilling, romantic relationship. It is just much harder than we ever imagined it would be.
I love the work Pam and I do. I love our kids and am very proud of who they have become. I love the community we live in. But, I never wanted any of them to steal Pam’s heart or be more important than our marriage. I can easily get angry or disappointed when I think my life is competing for my wife!
Choosing To Stay In Love
It became obvious that Pam and I would not stay in love by accident during our forties. It was going to take deliberate, focused and consistent effort to interrupt the flow of responsibility before it interrupted our love for each other. I was willing to fight for our love, but it was a surprise when I discovered the real enemy of intimacy is responsibility. The only way to stay in love when the demands of life were high was to adjust our expectations and schedule couple time into our life with the same urgency as business meetings and parental commitments.
In our case, we did the following:
- We prepared ourselves through books and articles so we wouldn’t be surprised. We had heard that the forties are the most common time when couples get divorced and we wanted to know why.
- We set a new goal. Prior to our forties, we had lofty goals for our marriage and family. Our new objective was to survive! We said to one another, “If we are still married, in good health, interacting with our children and sincerely love God on our 50th birthdays, we have won!” After that, we knew we could regroup and benefit from the gritty wisdom we had acquired.
- We set regular date nights to break up the stress with the same priority as business appointments.
- We interviewed couples we respected who were past their forties to see how they navigated those years.
It wasn’t easy. Our family juggled two careers with three athletic, advanced placement student schedules. We faced health challenges in our parents, our friends and our own bodies. We were mad, moody and demotivated at times. But we made it, and our love has more value today because we struggled through it together.
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