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Women in Love

How to keep your relationship strong through the decades.
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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.

But aside from the stresses of adolescence and menopause, the 40s tend to be a more peaceful time in a relationship. "If things have gone well in the first let's say 10-15 years of the marriage, which is where most people are entering into their 40s, if there's a foundation where there has been friendship, if there's a way in which couples have been able to talk about conflict, then they do pretty well in their 40s," Gottman says.

To stay out of a rut, she advises couples to "make sure to express fondness, appreciation, and admiration for your partner. What the research shows is that in happily married couples there's a ratio of about 5-1 positive to negative interactions, and those positive interactions include things like expressing appreciation. In unhappy relationships the ratio is about 1.9- to 1, so there's still some appreciation being expressed, but not enough, and that can make the difference."

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