Psychotherapist-Clinical Social Work
President, Haven Behavioral Health | Milwaukee, WI
One would imagine that those of us who are 50+ are happily settled into intimate relationships, safe and secure in our mutually respected love agreements. Well, for some, that’s simply is not the case. Many of us find ourselves, after years with our partners, questioning whether or not we’ve put in too much time because the love didn’t last beyond the fairytale. Often it’s not something that has recently popped into our minds. You’ve been thinking a long time that the relationship has run its course.
You and your partner may have grown in different directions, one (or both) of you have overwhelming health issues, you have political differences, sex ended years ago, or the long silences have turned into forever. But before you pack up and move in with one of the kids, you might want to realistically review your options and ask yourself these questions?
Have you realistically reviewed your displeasure with the relationship? You may have made yourself unhappy with unrealistic expectations by still wanting the fairytale of the prince in shining armor or comparing your situation with that of your friends and acquaintances. Write down the “issues” at hand. Review them with a trusted friend, therapist, or pastor before moving forward.
Do you have realistic expectations? Your mate was lower middle class when you met and stayed that way, but now you think you deserved better. There is no big house or lavish vacations. In fact, your mate is content with sitting for hours in front of the tv and always has been. But now you blame him/her for all you think you may have missed. And a regular life of kids, bills, and the daily grind can feel restrictive if you don’t look for the joy in intimate relationships, family, and life achievements.
Is it my mate or is it me? Not doing the work on ourselves needed to be in the relationship is tantamount to failure. We sometimes use our relationships as a way to fix all that’s been broken. But, no one should be expected to fix our past hurts, heal our childhood wounds, or pretend our faults are jewels. If we come from a past that was unhealthy, lacked basic boundaries, didn’t teach the rewards of compromise, and made us believe our self-worth was tied to the attention we received; we were put on a path of defeat. Work on you first to determine if that’s what the relationship needs to survive.
Can you afford to live on your own? Face it; you’re 50+. Can you afford to be single at this stage of the game! Review your finances, insurances, burial plans, and day-to-day spending habits before barging into a lower tax bracket by divorcing or leaving your partner. If it has just become kinda ho-hum, you might decide to hang in there, if it’s not emotionally or physically draining.
Relationships aren’t always easy. But if you’ve invested years in this one, don’t throw it away on a whim. Decide if it can be saved, restructured, or even open, to get what works. See if you can make it last beyond the fairytale or if you’ve truly “stayed too long.”
During a career that spans 25-years, Charlotte Mayfield has assisted couples, families, and individuals with a plethora of mental health issues and concerns, particularly over the past 13 years. She is available to facilitate workshops.