As a relationship counsellor I would say yes, women do re-evaluate and re-think their relationships in their 50’s and 60’s because it is often a time in our lives when we feel a new sense of freedom.
Our children are likely to have ‘flown’ and we might therefore be able to make new choices and might have new needs and expectations. I think there is also a sense of responsibility to ‘make the most of life’ before health issues might concern us, or grandchildren might limit us, and so on. We might have a sense of fear that if we don’t ‘get things right’ we might have regrets later on, or we might be trying to compensate for regrets we have about the past.
It can be a time when women are looking for a greater sense of companionship from their partner because they have more time to devote to their relationship; or they might choose to be alone, or to begin an affair, because they have a sense of it being ‘their time’ to be selfish and seek out what they really want.
What do women at 50 want?
It can be helpful to draw a timeline of our lives. If we draw a line along the middle of a large piece of paper and write ‘negative’ things that have happened below the line, and ‘positive’ things above the line, year by year since we were born, then we can see our life story in front of us. Once we have done this it is vital that we accept and value who we really are, and how we have come to be where we are. All of our decisions along the way were made for the ‘right’ reasons at the time, even if we look back and regret something now. Regrets are unfair to us, and unhelpful, we each do our best, from our own point of view, at the time.
What we are doing, when we write a timeline, is helping ourselves with our self-acceptance and self-esteem;
‘Tell me how a person judges his or her self-esteem and I will tell you how that person operates in every important aspect of existence…. The reputation you have with yourself – your self-esteem – is the single most important factor for a fulfilling life.’
Once we can accept and like ourselves as we are now, we can make clearer decisions about what we want for our future.
‘It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves,
and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.’
What do we want from relationships?
We all like to feel accepted and loved by friends and family, and most of all by our husband or partner. If we don’t feel happy in our relationship, then there are things we can do.
‘The more I travelled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of
people who should be friends.’
First of all, we need to recognise that our partner poses a powerful threat to our self-esteem. We particularly care what he thinks of us and so if he is critical, rather than supportive, we can feel ‘threatened’ and our protective “fight or flight” instinct quickly kicks in.
When this happens our brain and nervous system create a physical and hormonal response; our mouths might go dry, our hearts might race, and we will feel negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, or frustration. If we are unaware what generates these feelings, then we will also be unaware that our subsequent actions are attempts to protect our self-esteem. We do what makes ourselves feel better, maybe criticise him in return and start an argument, or comfort ourselves by perhaps eating or drinking too much, and then think, ‘I wish I hadn’t done that.’
Our partner’s choice to be judgemental (if he is) comes from his self-esteem because he is being negative about us in order to feel better about himself. He will be experiencing feelings of low self-esteem for some reason, perhaps due to work issues, or retirement. Knowing this means that we can understand his criticism better, and it can therefore ‘slide off’ much more easily.
‘You can change yourself but you can’t change others.’
We can change ourselves by taking charge of our self-esteem. What do we like to do? Who do we like to be with? Only we control how we feel about ourselves, so we need to provide our own ‘oxygen’ in order to feel and be ‘at our best’. Once we feel better about ourselves, we can hope to increase our partners’ self-esteem by not needing to criticise him, then we can hope that he will change his critical behaviour toward us.
“The common thread in good marriages is the loving, caring ways they treat each other. They build each other up and are proud of their partner.”
What activities could help your partners’ self-esteem? You are not responsible for how he feels about himself, but if you know he likes certain activities, such as golf, or gardening, or a drink with a friend, encourage him to keep these up. What past-times do you like to do together which might help you to feel closer and have fun together? Make sure you talk about your needs and wants, and ask your partner what he needs from you.
“The grass is always greener where you water it”
Stay Calm And Content: No Matter What Life Throws At You by Cat Williams is available from Amazon.co.uk and www.staycalmandcontent.com priced £9.95