Mid-life brings it’s own set of unique set changes and challenges, both to individuals and to relationships.
In a long standing relationship, the mid-life issues are quite often really challenges with making transitions, as covered in the previous section. The only substantive difference is they may be require to make adjustments in patterns and routines that have been part of them for decades… and very well intrenched.
Starting a New Relationship in Mid-Life
However, more than ever people are forming new relationships and marrying in their middle years. And it’s different than doing it in their twenties… with both unique challenges and advantages.
For many couples starting a new relationship in midlife has more flexibility, especially if they’re already done with their parenting years. Freed from the expectations and constraints the often accompany the ‘building years’ of family and career, the couple may have the option to define whatever form of relationship fits best for them.
But, there are also fewer models or reference points for them to use as a guide… and fewer people with first hand experience they can turn to for guidance. One thing that usually becomes clear quite quickly is that many of the guidelines, priorities, and approaches that fit in young adulthood don’t easily transfer to romance in midlife.
One notable difference is the earlier stages of life typically contain more exploration, self-discovery, and experimentation as we’re ‘finding our self”. It’s a legitimate stage of life and couples connecting at this time often engage in that exploration together… and are being influenced by similar experiences which shape their lives in a similar direction.
However, midlife couples have already lived through that stage of self discovery… and have lived a lot of life since. So most often each partner already has significant personal patterns, preferences, and their “right way” of doing certain things. Unlike their younger counterparts who are still defining and shaping their lives while growing the relationship, for midlife couple’s forming a relationship it’s more a process of integrating and merging two fairly defined lives.
Midlife couples are also apt to come to the relationship with significantly more ‘personal baggage’, including other commitments or obligations that they must integrate into the relationship.
Most commonly challenges in this area surround integrating extended families… even when there are not children living at home. But, it can also include many other items such as houses owned, investments and financial issues, caring aging parents, and so forth.
Because of the all the personal history and patterns someone in midlife brings to a relationship, midlife couples often face significant challenges similar to those noted in the Moving Toward Commitment section.
And because we can ‘fall in love’ at any age, they are also susceptible to experiencing the dynamics of the Post Honeymoon slump as well.
Certainly age does give us experience… and hopefully some degree of wisdom as well. I’ve certainly met with many couple in midlife who clearly have more insight and a well balanced perspective on relationships and marriage. And yet, they still encounter challenges associated with merging their lives together with all their history and ongoing personal obligations needing to be integrated into their new relationship.
Counseling can be beneficial for an individual who is exploring new relationships in their middle years, and help him or her to be better prepared for these unique challenges of partnering at this stage of life.
Counseling can also be an effective added assistance for couples who are drawn to combine their lives, but are struggling to find the form that works for them or how to integrate the relationships with their separate families into their new partnership.