Marriage is never easy and getting old doesn’t make it easier. As we age, marriage must be adjusted to compensate as we become sweet, little, old ladies and grumpy old men.
Men and women are equal but different. Aging brings out different qualities in each and though none of us are completely alike, age does seem to affect each gender in some ways that are common to us all. For the most part, I and my girlfriends seem more accepting of the changes that come with the aging process. Our husbands are at war, struggling to maintain the control they’ve enjoyed almost all of their lives. Women are used to accepting some measure of dependence but men are more likely to view themselves in control of their world and they don’t easily surrender the office of Alpha male. My girlfriends seem to be growing to become sweet, little, old ladies but my husband and his friends often behave as grumpy, old men. Marriages that were strained before couples became senior citizens, are likely to continue to struggle, well into old age. Either they will struggle or break apart. I’m finding that the vow “Until death do you part” is taking on a whole new meaning, as I enter in to old age. I love my husband and he loves me but getting old isn’t an easy experience. The good news I’m told, is that the senior years don’t last long but if my marriage is to endure my senior years, there are adjustments that must be made.
One of the most difficult things to adjust to is more time together. Couples who’ve lived separate lives bound together by their children can find themselves miserable in retirement and spending day after day, together. Like many boomers, my husband and I are still working but the slow economy still means more time together. This isn’t planned time designated for fun, this is on top of each other during the daily grind time together. If each of us doesn’t take the other’s schedule into consideration, it leads to lots of friction. We both get tired quicker and a little friction can be devastating in what each of us is able to accomplish in a day. Each evening, I try to remember to ask what his plans are for the next day and decide when I will do what, according to when he will be under foot. If I don’t ask then generally, he asks but there are those times when nothing happens the way either of us planned. On those days, we each have to take a deep breath and usually, settle for accomplishing less than what we planned. Getting into an argument only wastes more time and precious energy. Good marriages require sacrifice and as always, my husband and I are happier when we think of meeting the other’s need, rather than our own. The more we are together, the more we need to think of the needs of the other and bend to meet those needs.
Aging brings its unique problems and struggles. I find it hard to let go of my looks and my husband finds it hard to let go of his physical strength. We both have to let go of our adult children and take a back seat in their lives. Neither of us is as strong as we used to be but on the inside, we still have dreams and plans. Some will be accomplished but some will have to be put to rest. My husband must relinquish more and more control over his business to his sons and I must be there to give him the support he needs to do so. Romance isn’t what it used to be and I find myself relating more to him as a dear old friend, rather than a lover. Relationships change. Marriage changes too. Love is the conscience commitment that keeps marriages together. Some of my husband’s judgements aren’t what they used to be and sometimes, I have to swallow the loss that results from those decisions and comfort my husband. I’m not as sharp as I used to be either but somehow, if there is still love, I know, we will muddle through together; as long as we are committed to love one another.
My husband and I are very different people with very different interests. This is the one part of our marriage that hasn’t changed. It requires more work than ever to find those things that join us together, rather than break us apart. Each of us has to make room for the interests of the other and try to show at least, minimal interest in that which brings the other enjoyment. We do have the children we raised, our grandchildren, and the home we’ve built together in common. We also, have mutual faith in, Jesus. In these things, we each have a great enough investment to keep our mutual investment in one another valuable to each. When we stay focused on, Jesus and the family we’ve created together, friction between us is less likely to develop.
Divorce is a threat to marriage that doesn’t decrease with age. Marriage is as much conscious commitment to love one another, in old age, as it is during any other time of life. When that commitment is made to God first and each other second, it has the kind of foundation that makes marriage durable. Love is the number one important ingredient for a successful marriage. Not the kind of love that waxes and wanes with romantic attraction but the kind of love that is in itself, a conscious commitment to another person. The kind of love that lasts and keeps people happy together until death parts them. Faith in, Jesus is where this enduring love is found. It is love based upon what is good for your mate and doesn’t come from a place of need. The enduring love that keeps marriages happy and together is unconditional. Love that isn’t diminished in times of sickness or poverty. A good marriage provides the love both partners need to get them through the good times and the bad. It is the same kind of love needed by sweet, little, old ladies and grumpy, old men in order, to keep them happily married, until the end. When marriage is good, there is nothing sweeter. When marriage is bad, there is no more tortuous hell. Smart boomers make the commitment to love and the choices to sacrifice that make being married a joy.