As mid-lifers in the midst of working through some of our ‘issues’, we are acutely aware of how easy it would be to let our individual stuff derail our marriage.

It’s normal for a person in midlife to be irritable and volatile. Some react with depressive symptoms, others get angry and aggressive, and others withdraw or self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, work, food, affairs, tv, gaming or exercise. Some cope better than others, but we all go through it in some way.

Being married to a mid-lifer is often bewildering. “Where did all this vitriol come from?” we ask ourselves as our spouse opens the dump truck on us verbalising every grievance of the last 15+ years.  It’s a crappy deal. It’s even worse when you’re both transitioning through this life stage simultaneously.

But it’s important to remember that this doesn’t necessarily mean there is something fundamentally wrong with the marriage.

The truth is an emotional crisis can hit us at any time, like a couple we talked with recently.  The husband had taken some extended sick leave only to be retrenched when he returned to work. Already under financial stress, he developed depression when the unemployment became prolonged. Forced to move out of their home and into the home of their in-laws, this couple was really struggling.

As the wife stepped up to provide for the family and keep everything going, he felt undermined and got more depressed. Arguments started and the more the wife tried to be strong in the marriage, the more the husband felt like a failure. It didn’t help living under the roof of his critical father who regularly reminded him of his inadequacy.

Couples in situations like these don’t need a divorce. Nor do they need well-meaning counsellors telling one or the other that ‘not all marriages are meant to last’.  They certainly don’t need friends or family suggesting that ‘they deserve better’.

At times like this, these couples need the nurturing support of a community that will affirm their moral commitment to the marriage. When they begin to doubt their relationship, they need people around them who can speak for the marriage.

When they feel broken and overwhelmed, they need friends and family who walk the journey with them, encouraging them, supporting them in practical ways, and most importantly, praying for them. This is the real challenge for our church communities. Whether it be a classic mid-life crisis or an unscheduled stressor like unemployment or illness, marriages can easily come undone if there is no counterbalancing voice in the couple’s circle speaking in favour of the marriage.


Originally published at SmartLoving. Photo by SHVETS production.

Published On: April 5th, 20230 CommentsTags: ,

About the Author: Byron and Francine Pirola

Married for 25 years, with 5 children, Byron & Francine Pirola are the founders and co-authors of the SmartLoving Series – marriage enrichment and marriage preparation courses designed to help build successful and resilient marriages. International speakers and authors of numerous articles on marriage, more than 3000 couples have attended their programs, workshops and conferences in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain Byron & Francine are Executive Directors of the Marriage Resource Centre from which they run SmartLoving programs and produce digital resources. Francine graduated from Fordham University with a Masters in Religion and Religious Education. Byron is a founding partner of the strategic consulting firm, Port Jackson Partners Limited, and a Director of both listed and unlisted companies. He holds a PhD from the Commonwealth Centre for Gene Technology, Adelaide University.

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