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Women in Love

How to keep your relationship strong through the decades.

continued...

Women in the "deuce" decade need partners who will be able and willing, even if only grudgingly, to share the burden of housekeeping, doctors visits for the kids, bill paying, and all of life's other major and minor annoyances (paying attention, guys?). It's equally important for partners to stay flexible, Gottman says. "Particularly in this day and age of recession there can be job instability -- that's throughout the ages -- and couples need ways of handling the stress of changes in jobs, etc."

Friendship, with its implicit values of patience, understanding, compassion, and cooperation, is the key to weathering both the peaks and the troughs of a relationship in the early years.

And when it comes to keeping the romance alive, that may be as simple as setting aside time for a "date" for a least a few nights every month. Alice and Bob should get a babysitter and go out to dinner, if that's possible, or make a nice, intimate dinner at home and share their thoughts, hopes, and dreams with one another, just as they did when they first met.

"One of the most important things we've discovered is turning toward your partner in very small moments, where your partner is making a bid for attention," Gottman says. "If your partner is looking out the window and says 'Wow, look at that beautiful boat that just went by,' you respond with 'Oh, wow it is beautiful' -- that's all it is, it's a little tiny response as opposed to continuing to read your newspaper and not look up. That makes a huge difference."

Just as in the 20s, women want love and friendship in the 40s, but they may prefer to sow their oats on the domestic rather than the wild side.

Many couples are well settled in career and family by the time the 40s roll around (or leap out from the bushes and grab them by the throat). But for Alice and Bob, the 40s are the time when the lovable, compliant, cute-as-hell little darlings they've raised are suddenly snatched away and replaced by evil alien clones, otherwise known as adolescents.

"That is another very vulnerable time for marriages, when there are children involved," says Gottman." Adolescents and kids pulling away from families, and trying to separate puts great stress on the couple and particularly on parenting issues, and those parenting issues come up again in a big way when couples are in their 40s."

For Alice, the challenge of parenting teenagers is compounded by the first reminders that her biological clock just doesn't have the tock it once had. "Many women are beginning to go through menopause in their 40s; that can create some changes in terms of sexuality, and there have to be adaptations to women's physical and emotional changes," Gottman says.

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