Life is about change. (insight of the week). Men and women are different. (second insight). Men and women have different aspects of their brain, upbringing, and social enculturation. Marriage does not change any of these basics. It may, however, bring a man and a woman closer together or drive them apart. Since life is about continual adjustments one must look at the various developmental stages and see what kind of challenges prevail and how most men and women react to them.
A disappointing factor that I frequently encounter in counseling with couples is the “miss” that takes place. Let me address a common stereotype fitting most middle to upper middle class couples.
EARLY TWENTIES: Marriage. Both work. Child arrives (sometimes planned, sometimes “oops”). Man is primary “bread winner” while the woman works at a less income producing job or stays home with the kid(s). Man has job change/transfer. Family moves. Woman adjusts and accommodates as she is the glue that keeps the family together and on track as much as is possible.
THIRTIES AND EARLY FORTIES: Similar family pattern exists. Man is mostly in control. Woman is a pleaser, peace keeper. Focus is on income production and child development. Marriage enhancement is lost in the shuffle. Distance is more prevalent between the couple. “Separate lives” is becoming the norm.
FORTIES AND FIFTIES: Man advances career. He is gone more often for work and socializing with the guys. Woman, with the kids in school or out on their own, goes back to the work place or gets more involved in women endeavors. Further distancing exists of the couple from each other. Sex life diminishes, sometimes drastically. Women are less interested because of the lack of emotional intimacy and menopause issues. Men are stressed and ED complications affect time and effort to romanticize his wife. He spends more time with the guys, and maybe the girls, as he seeks a woman connection. Increased alcohol consumption, and perhaps forays into porn and gambling.
SIXTIES: What has resulted? Woman has become cold, controlling, angry, frigid – definitely not interested in cuddling or anything beyond that. She often sleeps in a separate bedroom so as to not be bothered for sex, or awakened by snoring, or just alone time to read at her leisure. Man starts to feel melancholy, needy, empty, less self confident, depressed, worried about his health – and lonely.
For some couples the distance has become too great and one or two divorces happen through these periods. Others stay together as “roommates” because they don’t want to take the financial hit of splitting assets or starting over with a lesser life style. Plus, they do enjoy socializing with other couples who may well be in the same boat. Group fun covers up couple sadness.
Such depressive scenarios do not fit everyone. There are the cases where the man “gets it” and becomes more attuned to his wife and her needs and thus becomes a better husband. The woman decides to again be open for re-connection and pushes her “re-start” button to become more loving and nurturing.
Women usually survive better in the later years, both physically and socially. Women nurture each other better. Men die younger because they don’t take very good care of themselves and don’t have that loving partner that helps them take care of their well-being.
Okay, stereotype finished. What part of you, Respected Reader, fits you and your spousal relationship? At whatever age you are can you see yourself in this portrayal? What about going forward, your future? Different outcome desired? Changed needed?
“The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates