Marriage Advice: New Rules for a Good Marriage
Myth: As you both get older, sex will simply stop mattering to you and your husband.
TV sitcoms notwithstanding, the idea that midlife couples settle into sexual
hibernation just isn't true. In fact, many report that intimacy improves as the
years go by. After all, once they get through their early-relationship trials
and errors, Sollee says, "they find a sexual style that makes them both
happy." And for many wives, sex certainly doesn't deteriorate in midlife.
On the contrary: In a recent British study, 64 percent of women surveyed
attested that after they reached menopause, their sex lives either stayed on
course or got even better.
What makes intimacy more satisfying is the comfort married couples develop
with talking about what doesn't work for them and — perhaps more important —
what does. In fact, psychologists at Dalhousie University in Canada recently
found that partners' communication about what they wanted sexually was linked
to their being happy with the sex itself.
New rule: There's no reason you won't grow more sexually connected.
Since talking about sex is key to sexual satisfaction itself, make it a
priority this weekend — regardless of whether you think your sex life is
already OK or not. Naturally, even if you both communicate perfectly well about
everything else under the sun, it may feel awkward or even embarrassing to
suddenly start giving your husband explicit sexual pointers. So ease into the
subject. If it occurs to you that you've done it exactly the same way 33 times
in a row, you could say, "I can't remember the last time we made love with
the lights on, can you?" Sexual reminiscing may not lead to a romantic
interlude, but it will get you talking. And the safer each of you feels in
expressing what you like and don't like, the easier it is to make adjustments
that can ramp up the sexual satisfaction on both sides of the bed.
Next page: Empty-nest and midlife-crisis myths
Myth: When the kids leave home, there will be nothing left to keep your marriage together.
Most parents have pangs of sadness when the kids are finally gone, moments
when the house seems impossibly quiet or they catch themselves having a lengthy
chat with the cat. And some couples really do struggle — but many renew their
commitment to each other. "With the kids out of the house, marriages can
bloom — when there is a sense of shared purpose," Gottman says. That
communion can sometimes get pushed aside in the daily round of raising a family
and making a living. "Some couples may have let that feeling of
togetherness die," he explains. "Then it's not the kids' leaving the
nest that somehow makes their marriages seem empty. They've already been empty
a long time, and when the children leave home, the couple finally
But for many husbands and wives, "marital satisfaction actually goes up
once the kids are gone," says James Bray, Ph.D., a psychologist at Baylor
College of Medicine in Houston. After an adjustment period of six to 12 months,
spouses often realize that they have more leisure time, more money, and more
freedom to reengage with each other. And without children in the house, there's
often less cause for conflicts.