Midlife Monday ~ The Midlife Marriage Fairy Tale

The Midlife Marriage Fairy Tale - do we expect it too much from our partners after decades of marriage?


KNIGHTS IN SHINING ARMOUR

I was talking to a friend about midlife marriage the other day. She lives in a perpetual state of "hope deferred" (as she refers to it) and "constant disappointment" (as I refer to it!) She keeps waiting for her husband of 28 years to step up and be her knight in shining armour. She is certain that her marriage should be a fairytale and is so disappointed that it's not.

FORGET THE FAIRY TALE

I don't even know where to begin with this. I felt like the big meanie pants when I told her that midlife marriage isn't about castles in the sky, and doting love, and dropped handkerchiefs. It's certainly not about making up tests to see if your husband loves you as much as you think he should. It's not about feeling constantly sad because you don't have the ideal romance happening every day. Why would you set yourself (and your partner) up for failure by having such unreal expectations?

Midlife marriage isn't a fairy tale (although my husband mentioned there were ogres and wicked witches in fairy tales so maybe there was an element of truth in there!) Midlife marriage isn't even fantabulous and fantastic every moment of the day. There are a lot of times when it's not even all that great, and there are even times when it's pretty woeful.

PRAGMATISM AT ITS BEST AND WORST

But does that mean midlife marriage isn't worth keeping and we should all be weeping into our hankies (that nobody picked up for us)? Should we be trading in our long term spouses for a newer model and hoping that will kick the excitement up a level or two and bring long lost romance and rainbows back into our life? Perhaps we need to buy one of the latest marriage manuals, or go to a romantic movie or two - just to show us where we're falling down in the love stakes.

I'm afraid I'm a pragmatist. I married my man for better and for worse. Sometimes I'd like to throw in the towel when the worse becomes the norm. I'd like to run away to a lovely little villa in the South of France and buy baguettes and drink coffee in small cafes. Dreams of peace and serenity dance in my head as I look at the latest crisis I'm dealing with. Because, in today's world, the solution to any trauma is to cut and run - and don't look back.



But that same pragmatist in me knows, without a doubt, that the bad times will move on eventually and the good times will roll again. But you have to be prepared to put in the effort. You can't expect the poor guy to do all the work, buy all the flowers, do all the apologizing. As nice as it would be to sit back and be wooed, midlife marriage is about continuing to invest in the relationship you started 30 or so years ago.

REALITY BEATS THE FAIRY TALE

Often we look back at our young selves and our early romance with rose coloured glasses. We forget things weren't always rosy back then, there were still times of adjustment and compromise and learning to accept each other's flaws. But we moved forward and the laughter and the love covered a multitude of sins. Our relationship deepened and we came to a fuller understanding of the person we married. But that doesn't make it a fairy tale. 

Midlife marriage is real, and it's nitty gritty, and it's good and it's bad, exciting and boring, interesting and mundane. It's so much more than a fairy tale - the happily ever after isn't a given any more, it's something we have to work for and contribute to. We have to find our authentic selves and merge together without losing who we intrinsically are. We have to stay interesting and interested, we can't afford to put our feet up and wait for Prince Charming. We married our prince all those years ago - and he may not be as perfect as we'd like, but neither are we. There is perfection in that imperfection - there is the knowledge that we've chosen each other again and again, when it would have been so easy to quit. Midlife love and marriage is deep and wide and worth every second we invest in it.
The Midlife Marriage Fairy Tale - do we expect it too much from our partners after decades of marriage?

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30 comments

  1. Great truths here, Leanne!!
    It's funny because I think we forget some of the "bad" things of the past! The real life version is really much better than the fairy tale version---we learn & grow this way!!
    jodie
    www.jtouchofstyle.com

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    1. I agree Jodie - memory blurs the little upsets and childish fights of our youth and leaves us with the romantic glow. Real life love is now and it is pretty darn good when you take a close look at it.

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  2. If you want the fairytale make it happen yourself. Don't expect anyone to step up, do it yourself. Be the captain of you. That way you won't be disappointed ha!

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    1. You are so right AJ - it's up to us to step up and put in a bit of effort - waiting around for Prince Charming to come and do all the work is a sure fire recipe for disappointment.

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  3. Marriage is a two-way street. If you're sitting around waiting for Prince Charming, don't you think he'd be sitting around waiting for Snow White? Snow White was basically a maid who cooked and cleaned all day, so was Cinderella. Better to find someone you love to have conversations with if you want to be happy.

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    1. Fairy tales all have their dark side and aren't as pretty as they're made out to be aren't they Jennifer? Give me a good dose of reality with conversation, connection and love and support any day!

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  4. Love this, Leanne. After being married 36 years, I can only say "amen" to everything you said.

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    1. We're about to hit 34 years Laurie and it's really a summation of our lives to this point. I'm so glad we hung in there through the tough times because the good times are really great.

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  5. Oh Leanne, you nailed this girl! I was one who believed in the fairy tale marriage. My knight in shining armor was also in the military. How "Knight" can you get there. However, when the honeymoon is over and reality steps in, it's not all that we dreamed of. I wish I went into it with no other expectations other than a life partner who loved me and was faithful to me. Yes, my knight failed there too. It happens, but I like you, married for better or worse. Now my fairy tale is something that visits me while I sleep. And sorry, I'm not sharing this deets. 😁

    Great reminder!

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    1. Knights in shining armour and Prince Charmings are about as real as fairy tales Bren. We all want to believe in them, but the whole concept sets the other person up to trying to meet unreal expectations and it sets us up for disappointment. I'll settle for reality (and maybe a couple of your dreams!)

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  6. Bravo, Leanne! You totally capture the essence of long-term, mid-life marriage. Hubby and I will be celebrating our 44th anniversary this year. Neither one of us believes in fairy tales and our union has been more rocky than not over the years, (both "Alpha" types). We suffered several periods of financial hardship as well, leading to major stress; each blaming the other, etc. The turning point for us was a series of prolonged separations between 2010 and 2012 (brought about by circumstance, not design), which gave us a new appreciation for each other. People in long-term relationships sometimes take each other for granted and this is where we were at the time. It's true that you don't appreciate what you have until it's gone, I think it's a great idea for people in stagnant relationships to spend some time apart. We are closer than ever these days. ☺

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    1. 44 years is a LONG time to spend together and I think anyone who makes it past the first few years without a serious hiccup or two is the exception to the rule Debbie. I have huge admiration for those of us who have survived the battles and the hurdles and come out the other end still committed and still wanting to do life together - it's an achievement in itself isn't it?

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  7. I love the truths you wrote here. Sometimes I find myself daydreaming on how we were before we were married and had kids. And yes I looked back with rose-tinted glasses, never remembering the problems we had then. I realised that we had challenges then as we do have now and it is truly about nourishing the relationship we have now. Thanks for this post. I had some realisations to inspire me throughout the day. xx

    Jacq
    jacqwritesworld.com

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    1. Hi Jacq - I'm so glad you can see what I was getting at in this post - life happens and there are good times, great times, and quite a few sucky times too. We need to work on what we have now and not compare it to those dim, glossy times of the past (that perhaps weren't quite as glossy as remember them!) Have a great day x

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  8. Such a healthy dose of reality here Leanne! Glad you wrote it with both experience and conviction. There aint no such thing as perfection. Oh my I agree that in the earlier years of marriage I 'expected' more. What I don't know. However, nothing like a huge illness in one (and a very early medical retirement from his career aged 30) to determine what is most important in a marriage. For us, it was staying together ...through all the times..and for the first time in the past 46 years we are 'just us two' and enjoying the ease of it very much. Loved that saying too. Thanks for linking up for #lifethisweek 7/52. Next week: A Pet Story.

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    1. I love reading about other women who have marriages that have weathered the storm and who appreciate all that involves. Midlife love is all the deeper and sweeter for having been through the mill and surviving (and thriving) afterwards.

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  9. Very nicely said Leanne. I think a lot of people romanticise their relationships too much and expect to be treated like princesses forever. Once we slumber into midlife marriage it can be droll and boring at times, but our expectations are probably a lot less than they were in those initial heady days of our relationship. I am very comfortable with my husband and would find trading him in for someone different too scary to contemplate! :) #TeamLovinLife

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    1. I'm hanging on to my husband too Kathy - just the thought of getting back into the dating scene is enough to have me holding on tight! Luckily for me he's also a good catch (most of the time) :)

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  10. Woah - some excellent writing here Leanne! Reality for sure. Too many cut and run at the first little hiccup. I've been married for 32 years so I can totally relate to your words. #TeamLovinLife

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    1. It's amazing to think that we've done more than 30 years with the same person isn't it Min? To have gone all that time without any hiccups would be pretty unusual I would think. It's nice to know we weathered them!

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  11. You're so right Leanne - life is NOT a fairy tale. We need to have realistic expectations of what marriage is meant to be ... and it's up to both partners to create romance, not just the husband! #TeamLovinLife

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    1. It's a big ask for our poor husbands to always be doing the hearts and flowers while we sit back fanning ourselves and waiting for them to peel our grapes isn't it Lyndall? I agree that it's a two way street if you want a really good marriage.

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  12. We are 21 years married but through a long journey of infertility and adoption we still have the kids fully on our hands (13.5 and 7). So sometimes I feel really caught in this limbo between going into middle-age and still having young kids, especially with our son still little. So I wouldn't call ours a typical mid-life marriage but we muddle through the busyness with the kids and life. One day it might get easier right!

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    1. You might end up being the norm for the new midlifers Kathy. I look at all the millenials who are putting off motherhood until their mid to late 30's and I think they'll be finding the same challenges as you. I guess midlife will just have to start in your 60's - better late than never :)

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  13. I'm not married but it fits in very well with my post today about romance novels and fairytales and the like. I ponder (albeit with my tongue planted in my cheek) if my singledom (overly high expectations of love, romance and partners) is caused by my earlier love of Mills & Boon novels. I mention that I now don't read ANY romance novels because they feel like they're taunting me.

    I also mention that most stories / fairytales end with the wedding / partnering up and don't show what comes after.

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    1. I read your post this morning Deb and it resonated with me too - I remember reading Mills and Boon when I was single and coming to the realization that they were giving me a totally wrong impression of what love was really about. They were such a trite rendition of something that is so much deeper and more complex.

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  14. IT's definitely an investment. Any marriage. I find the longer we are together the more we are investing and the more we've got to lose if we choose to gamble with it. We renewed our wedding vows at 10 years. 20 years is not too far off (next year in fact) and I think we'll renew our vows again ... just to solidify that investment even more.
    #teamlovinlife

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    1. I like the idea of renewing your vows Leanne (and it would be a great excuse to buy a new dress for the occasion - how shallow am I?) but you're right about it being an investment in the long term and the pain that would go with ending it all - it's a scary thought.

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  15. This is beautiful Leanne. Anybody (like you!) that reads my blog or follows along on social media would know that I love the hubster to bits - we've been together 30 years this year, married for 27 in May. BUT. We still have our moments! Truth be told he was driving me mad just last week - he gets very stressed and grumpy from work. There are days I don't love that but fortunately the good days outweigh the bad.

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    1. I think all marriages have their good days and bad days Janet - the secret is to put the bad behind us as quickly as possible and focus on the stretches of time where we are in sync and all is going well. Sometimes I could strangle my husband (and vice versa) but we're in it for the long haul and love covers a multitude of annoyances :)

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