There’s a song out there by Clint Black called Something That We Do. The lyrics have always rung true to me:
Love is certain, love is kind
Love is yours and love is mine
But it isn’t something that we find
It’s something that we do
It’s holding tight, lettin’ go
It’s flying high and laying low
Let your strongest feelings show
And your weakness, too
It’s a little and a lot to ask
An endless and a welcome task
Love isn’t something that we have
It’s something that we do
As an individual, we are on this journey called life. It’s an ever-changing, ebb and flow environment where we take in everything a day has to offer, then respond and play our part based on who we are and what we choose to do. It never ends. It’s always changing.
And yet somewhere in there we look at marriage as an ending point. Cinderella gets her fella. Snow White falls in love. Every romance out there ends once the question is popped and the “I Do’s” follow.
Yeah, welcome to the real world.
That’s when the fun begins.
- New jobs
- Losing jobs
- Changing jobs
- Giving up on jobs
And through it all, we internalize everything.
Why am I here?
Who do I want to be?
Is this right for me?
What else do I want to do?
How the hell did I get here?
As an individual, we’ve all questioned our own sanity a few times.
When you’re a couple, that doubles the pain. Not only do you have to watch the effects on the person you love, but the final decision impacts you too.
I married young. Very young. Too young. At least by today’s standards. Twenty-two and just out of college, before I’d ever had a chance to do things on my own.
But it made sense at the time. Times were different. And all of my cousins were marrying young. I remember my grandmother stating how grand it was my cousin was marrying at 18. “She found a good one to take care of her.” So at 22, I felt “old” in some aspects, and was happy to join the club.
I lucked out. It may sound cliche to say it was love at first sight, but something about him impacted me from the moment I laid eyes on him. It took a couple of years for our first date, but eventually, we found our way into each other’s arms, and we’ve never looked back.
That doesn’t mean it’s been a road to paradise ever since. In thirty years, there’s been a lot of ups and downs. We’ve flown high and low. We’ve held tight. And at times, we’ve let go. Through it all, we always ended up together. Truly, love has been something we do. Daily. Hourly. Secondly.
What I’ve Learned
I think you learn the most from the worst of times. Because that’s when your true colors fly. When you’re happy and everything is working correctly, you sit in a holding pattern. You don’t have to dig deep for what’s truly inside.
But face the worst in life: losing a job, watching a loved one die, watching a business fail, losing a crapload of money, facing business lawsuits, letting go of friends and family you no longer agree with – all of that changes who you are at your core.
In my twenties, I could recover quicker. I still had a lot of life left.
In my thirties, I was building. Each failure came as a learning tool.
In my forties, I built on the experiences I’d already accumulated. I felt each change happened for a reason.
Then midlife hit.
They call it a midlife crisis. But I think it’s more than that.
You reach a point when you know enough to keep it all in mind when you find yourself in someplace new. Change becomes scarier because you understand more about the consequences. You have more responsibilities weighing on you from many different directions. To say NO or to give up something that’s always been there is difficult at best.
You’ve spent two or three decades as an adult and suddenly its all become a bit monotonous. It’s the same stuff over and over and over again.
Of course, you’re bored. Of course, you’re ready for something new.
We convince ourselves that adults don’t do that kind of thing. Why not? When you’re kids are bored, you tell them to go do something.
You’re in midlife. GO DO SOMETHING.
You Suddenly Look In The Mirror
Facebook makes it all but apparent who looks like they’re aging. And it’s not me. (Never me.)
My husband came to me with his tablet the other day, holding up a photograph on his newsfeed. “Guess who?” he asked. I stared. I pondered. I looked closer. Who was it? I honestly had no idea.
He told me and … my eyes popped out. NO WAY!
Ever have that feeling? Ever done something about it?
Look in the mirror and you see the crows feet, the jiggle that was never there before, the age spots forming, the gray hairs popping in a little more frequently.
Looking in the mirror can be a good thing. It makes you eat a little better. Study a little harder to learn about the food we eat. Join the gym. Sign up for the yoga class. Head out for a spa weekend. Why not? You can be better if you try.
What (Who) Else Is Out There?
I remember as a child, one of my parents’ couple friends went through a midlife crisis. He left her for a younger woman, only to come crawling back after a few months asking for forgiveness. Oh, the whispers at the dinner parties!
My takeaway was what most western society thinks:
Midlife crisis, men only
Midlife crisis, men grow wandering eyes
Husband cheating, bad
Husband cheating leads to divorce
But after thirty years of marriage, life isn’t that simple. Midlife effects all of us. Maybe women more so now that we’ve taken on just as much stress as men.
We’re human. We look. And that can be a very good thing.
With kids and work and family commitments, I was always burning the candle at both ends. Now that some of that has changed, I have more time on my hands. I think more. I’m out there in the world more. I deal with adults more. I write romance – yep, I think a lot about adult relationships.
But it’s also made me more aware that I’m in the relationship I am for a reason. We’ve built something together and I’m not going to throw it all away for simple pleasures. In her book Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun, she shared her mother’s advice for a long marriage:
It was simply not getting divorced.
I like that. It’s not flippant or naive. Instead, it’s commitment. It’s realizing love is something that we do. We make a choice every day. We look. We internalize the consequences. We make a choice. And we live with our decisions.
You Make Irrational Decisions
Many of us assume it’s only men who throw relationships to the wind for an affair with a younger woman, but they’re no longer the only ones ditching long-term relationships for the chance at a healthy love life.
I recently read an article on Chris Evert who had an affair after 18 years of marriage. She said menopause was partly to blame.
Nobody ever talks about everything you go through with perimenopause and menopause. All the things you’ll face that creep up on you and make you question everything.
I Google everything. A few years ago I started Googling a few symptoms I was having and discovered a woman’s libido can kick into high gear. Several articles identified that the libido of a woman in perimenopause can often resemble a man’s in his early twenties. Yup, I’ll confirm that. Makes the concept of cougars suddenly a little more understandable, doesn’t it?
Knowing it solves a lot of issues. Suddenly it puts the facts in place and gives a purpose to what’s happening. It gives something to hold onto and something to discuss.
I do something a little different in my relationship. We give each other permission to make irrational decisions – you just have to claim ownership. My husband wants the midlife car? Fine. Choose the reddest, hottest, fastest, most souped-up car you want. Just make sure it fits within “these” parameters. And he agrees. Why bankrupt ourselves because of his desire to “go fast.”
Me? I have my own irrational behavior. Some would say my need for travel is a bit out of hand. But we’ve agreed together to make this our lifestyle. And together we decide how it works best in our lives.
It’s holding tight, lettin’ go
It’s flying high and laying low
This really is something that we do. Choose to do. Together.
You Start Playing The Blame Game
In our thirty years of marriage, we’ve had a couple of years of knock down, drag out fighting going on. We weren’t at our best. To say we weren’t happy with each other would be an understatement.
With marriage, it’s inevitable. However, at the end of the day, I could never quite imagine my life without him. Him too, I guess. That’s why we’re still here.
You did this. You said this. You meant this. You believe this.
Ever thrown those words at someone? Things don’t go well from there.
I remember blaming him for everything. He did it wrong. He thought wrong. He was wrong.
Until one day I realized it was me.
I let him get to me. I wasn’t healthy with my own thoughts. I wasn’t confident with my life. And therefore every little thing he said, I took as a personal dig to what my life had become.
So I worked on me. I went high. I learned to fly on my own.
Suddenly he wanted to come along. And more importantly, I wanted him to be there.
Do we fight? Do fish need water?
We both realize that every disagreement we have is just a way for us to find a way to come together.
You’re Ready To Change Your Lifestyle
I had to laugh at an advice column I read the other day offering sympathy to a woman whose husband was trying desperately to change. The writer told her if she really wants to stay in her marriage, to suck it up and wait. Eventually, her husband would come back to reality and realize he was a grown up. He’d get back to paying the mortgage by going to the job he’d had for years. He’d realize he has cars and credit card bills to pay. He’d realize that he was where he was by choice, and eventually, he’d fall back into his old patterns.
That works some of the time. But this makes the assumption that being “grown up” is accepting all the shit that we’ve built over time. Being an adult means having the American Dream. It means going to school, working for a living, buying a TON of crap, upgrading your lifestyle every chance you get, bigger house, nicer cars, better schools for the kids, more STUFF to play the part.
What if instead the man finally woke up? What if instead, he’s trying desperately to “wake up” his wife and get her to join him too? Do you need all of the stuff? Do you need the house and the car and the million things that go along with your lifestyle?
We’ve been taught to be who we are for a reason.
Midlife woke me up and made me look at what was truly important.
- Financial commitments
- Time commitments
Or maybe it was the chance to slow down and be who I’m truly meant to be.
We press that issue in all the self-help available on the market today. Discover your passion. Find out who you are. Learn who you’re meant to be.
But are they just words?
Sometimes it takes stepping back and throwing a lot of it away to be able to move forward in a better way.
Life is a journey, not a destination. We each change every day.
Those of who are flexible get there in much better shape. Because we realize we’re each in it to grow and change with every single step.
Marriage simply means you travel down the path with two instead of one. It doesn’t mean there aren’t side roads for each of you. It’s that you’ve decided there’s a highway you’ve built together and you’re convinced it’s the right way to travel.
Take a detour. Check out the destination a few miles off the road. Follow the road through peaks and valleys. Enjoy the view.