When I turned 50 a few years ago, I was very confused about almost everything. Wanting to be healthy, fit, vital, and stylish for many years to come, I sought the advice from some of the best experts around, used their programs, and put it all together in an easy-to-use book, The Best of Everything After 50.
One of those experts was Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity. Esther is a New York City-based relationship therapist, and through her workshops and private practice she has helped thousands of couples get through the toughest transitions that life can throw at us, including one of the biggest:
Finding each other, again.
In the years leading up to this transitional time, most of us were working, raising children, and probably juggling many other obligations. The challenge then seemed to be finding the time to be together as a couple, as a man and a woman, not as mom and dad, or worker, or, as Esther is fond of saying, "productive citizens." All couples have to pay attention to their relationships and nurture them, but this is especially true of couples over the age of 50 who are finding they have more time together, not less. This can bring its own set of unique challenges, for which many couples are not prepared.
We're over 50. Maybe we're bored with our partners, or annoyed by those same qualities and characteristics that we found so charming twenty years ago. Or possibly sex has slowed down because we're all a combination of tired, over-worked, and too busy. There are zillions of reasons one could give as to why sex is often placed on the back burner and why you might want to succumb to the urges that are inherent in all of us (see my article from last week about why couples cheat) by having a fling with someone new.
But, consider this: Why not make that "someone new" the partner you already have?
There are several tools that every couple can use to keep their partnership fun, sexy, and alive. The key to success though, is that both of you have to be on board. Here are a few that you can implement today:
1) A Room of One's Own: Create your own physical space -your own place to work, think, be creative, be private, and chill out. It can be the bedroom, your home office, or a part of your basement. Simply wherever there is a place that you can call yours. Your partner should not be allowed to enter this space unless invited, or unless you give permission. Set the guidelines, the boundaries, and the rules and stick with them. But remember, your partner gets to have a space too!
2) Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: A critical mistake that many of us make is believing that in order to have a stronger relationship, we need to be closer and share everything. In fact, Esther argues, the opposite is true. Popular marital advice tells us we need more communication and to talk more with our partner. Yet excess information and over-sharing can put a damper on a relationship. A little mystery can feed attraction.
3) It Takes a Village: You cannot get everything you need from one person. Many people, both men and women, make the mistake of turning their partners into their "everything" -lover, best friend, confidante, advisor, and work-out partner. It is way too big a role for any one person to fill. This is especially true, very often, of people who retire and find that they have too much time on their hands and expect their partner to fill in the gaps. It's a recipe for disaster.
4) Get a Life: You need lives separate from each other. Both of you should try to find time for friends, hobbies, work that matters to you, and volunteering, if you can. As I often tell my daughters, "The more interested you are, the more interesting you are." Get out there, be engaged, and when you and your partner come together as a couple, you'll have so much more to discuss and share. Esther has seen this incredibly simple approach bring relationships back from near-death.
5) Come Together: Make time for your partner. Plan it and make it special so that when you are together, you'll be completely engaged and ready to give it your all. Remember when you were first dating? Remember how you planned what you would wear and what you would discuss? That's what you want to be doing now. Look fabulous and have fun!
Esther recently told me that "you can have several marriages in your life." She isn't suggesting you divorce and remarry, although that is certainly an option for many people. What she meant was that during each transition we experience in life, becoming newly married, having children, embarking on life after 50, we can reinvent ourselves and our relationship with our partners.
It's like starting over, together.
For more tips on living your best life after 50 (or 60, or 70...) check out "The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More" andwww.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter at @BGrufferman.