Last month on the blog I talked about the rising rate of divorce in older couples, many of whom are calling it quits after decades together. In fact, more than 40 percent of adults 50 to 74 years old have been divorced, according to the United States Census Bureau. Longer life expectancies, retirement, and economic independence are just a few things driving this phenomenal rise in gray divorce. The outlook may seem bleak for older adults who are struggling in their marriages, but all hope is not lost. If you and your spouse are willing to do the work, you can still live happily ever after.
In this article, I take a closer look at how to remedy the problem. Here are some tips:
Improve your communication
Effective communication is critical in any relationship. It may not look the same for every couple, but there are some basic rules you should try to follow.
- Avoid the temptation to be passive-aggressive. If you want something from your partner, whether it’s help with the chores or more intimacy in the bedroom, talk about it calmly and directly.
- Listen to your partner’s wants and needs with an open mind. Active listening requires you to ask questions and engage with your partner rather than just waiting for your turn to speak. Disagreements will still occur, but remember that nothing good comes from quick tempers and raised voices.
Strengthen your emotional connection
Even if you’ve spent most of your life together, there’s a chance you may not feel close to your partner. Fortunately, you can take steps to bridge the emotional distance that has been slowly developing over the years. It’s easy to take one another for granted, so make it a point to refocus on your partner’s positive attributes instead of their flaws. Be generous and vulnerable towards your partner. And be sure to take care of yourself. Giving your best to the relationship requires that you also feel your best.
Enjoy your time together and apart
Retirement can be a difficult transition for older couples after growing accustomed to spending most of their days apart. That’s why it’s important to look for ways to enjoy the extra time with your spouse. Date nights are great, but if they’ve become routine it might be time to try something new to deepen the connection. Find a hobby you can both enjoy together, such as hiking or volunteering. It’s equally important, however, to respect each other’s boundaries. If your partner wants to pursue a different interest or simply needs some alone time, that can be achieved without getting in the way of meaningful time together.
Older couples can work towards a happy future together by prioritizing and nurturing their marriage. It’s not unusual to need help along the way, and the marriage doesn’t have to be in a crisis to benefit from seeing a professional. A marriage counselor or therapist can help by equipping you with the tools and insights to strengthen your relationship. Choose a professional who has marriage counseling experience and consider a trial session so you can both agree on the right therapist.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.