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Marriage Advice: New Rules for a Good Marriage

New rule: Your marriage can flourish in that new freedom.

When your kids move out, keep your life full and your relationship central. Compile lists of what you and your husband can do now that you couldn't before, suggests Bray, whether it's traveling to Tahiti or having sex on the sofa. "Celebrate! You've succeeded in raising independent adults," he says, "and now you have the opportunity to decide what to do next. Will you get more involved in town politics? Learn to tango? Go out to dinner more often?" Whatever it is, make sure it's something you both enjoy as you rediscover each other.

Myth: Every guy has a midlife crisis — any day, your spouse will drive off in a new red sports car.

It's true that men sometimes do crazy things when they reach a certain age. You may feel like snickering at some of their attempts to regain their lost youth, like the balding executive who gets a spanking-new Harley — or a much younger girlfriend. Such drastic changes are fortunately far from commonplace outside the soaps, but psychologists say that most of us will go through a period of midlife reevaluation.

New rule: It's not a crisis — and it's not just for men.

Actually, this period of reexamination is a healthy part of development. As people move into their 40s, 50s, and beyond, their perspectives shift. Careers may plateau or take off in unexpected new directions. The first serious health problem may come along, or a parent may die and spur you to rethink your priorities. All of these are natural, inevitable transitions, and the best approach to dealing with them is to learn what you can and follow where they lead you. Fortunately, most people do: A recent poll by volunteermatch.org found that more than half of those over 55 are looking forward to starting new chapters in their lives.

More and more the phrase "midlife crisis" is being swapped for "reinvention"; all across America, you can hear men and women talking about their second acts. But rarely do they mean a full-scale life overhaul. More often they're contemplating ways to make more time for what they already love. Men who have done a little woodworking take on a deck redesign; women who have always wanted more time to get in shape sign up for their first triathlon.

Not only are these course corrections good for us as individuals, they also seem to invigorate our relationships. People in their 40s and 50s feel they have more control over their work, their finances, and their marriages, reports a multi-university study. Some crisis, huh? Instead of worrying about his issues, focus on whether you're ripe for reinvention yourself. Rediscover your priorities, and above all, don't feel you're being selfish by pursuing your passion: What's good for you is good for your marriage, too.

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