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Why So Many Midlife Couples Become Disillusioned with Marriage

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The Oxford dictionary defines a marriage as “the social or legal union of two people to the exclusion of all others, usually with the intention of creating and maintaining a family.” However, this definition is only half the story. The other half is the effect marriage has on us, both as individuals and as couples.

There are many reasons why marriages fall apart as couples age. Among the most common issues is how the marriage progresses during middle age. Over the past half-century, women have entered the workforce, increased their educational levels, and begun their own careers, leaving their husbands to take on more responsibility for the family. As a result, it’s become more common for women to out-earn their husbands. This has led to a significant increase in divorce rates among middle-aged couples, particularly those with college-educated wives, according to a study by the American Sociological Association.

For many, marriage may be a mental or emotional burden. Couples, especially those in their thirties and forties, can have real trouble settling into the arrangement and feeling as though they are truly partners. Given that the divorce rate for couples in their thirties and forties is roughly three times their rate in other age ranges, it makes sense that many midlife couples would be disillusioned with marriage.

 

Why-So-Many-Midlife-Couples-Become-Disillusioned-with-Marriage

“Stage 3, Disillusionment, may either be the beginning of the end of your relationship or the entrée to genuine enduring love,” I write in my book The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationship and Why the Best is Yet to Come. I understand. I’ve walked both roads and helped tens of thousands of couples across the globe keep their marriages afloat. Before I learned the five phases of love, I went through two marriages and divorces, and I’ve now been happily married for forty years. 

As a marriage and family therapist for more than fifty years, I’ve come to think that the primary reason most marriages today fail is because individuals have a flawed map for establishing an intimate, passionate connection that will endure over time. The majority of people still believe in an antiquated concept of love, which goes like this:

  • That everyone of us has to discover one particular person in order to experience true, long-lasting love.
  • The rest is simple after you’ve located them. You meet, fall in love, have a family, and live happily ever after.
  • When you get disillusioned, it indicates you’ve met the wrong person, and you nurse your wounds before searching for your “one and only.”

This isn’t a blueprint for finding love and living happily ever after. It’s a path to heartbreak and loneliness. Here are the five phases of love that, in my opinion, lead to greater success:

  • The First Stage: Falling in Love
  • Stage 2: Forming a Partnership
  • Disillusionment is the third stage.
  • Stage 4: Developing Genuine, Long-Lasting Love
  • Stage 5: Changing the World with the Power of Two

To be successful in love, you must adopt a methodical approach to the whole process and recognize that Stage 3, Disillusionment, is crucial.

When most people hear the word “disillusionment,” they immediately associate it with the loss of one’s aspirations and dreams. “He’s not the guy I thought he was,” I hear people say. He’s become abrasive and obnoxious. I believe I should end this relationship.” “She’s changed,” I hear. I fell in love with a lady who was fascinating, passionate, and caring. Nothing I do seems to get her on, and we haven’t had sex in months. It’s time for me to get out of here.”

When people come to me for assistance, I remind them that stage 3 has a distinct set of goals. To begin with, it aids us in recognizing the illusions that existed when we initially fell in love. We all project our aspirations, ambitions, and fantasies about how life would be with our one true love. We seldom ever see the actual person, and they hardly ever see who we are. The curtain is lifted at Stage 3 and we can see who we really are. It may be terrifying, but it is essential. Second, we realize that the majority of our current relationship’s issues stem from our ancestral families. Third, we may repair the present by mending the past, and vice versa. 

We have two options for dealing with the disappointment we feel at Stage 3. We may physically or emotionally withdraw, disengage, and quit a relationship. We can also dig a little deeper. In his book Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges, Dr. Otto Sharmer created a paradigm for this trip. 

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He outlines two opposing mindsets in the book, each of which produces a distinct dynamic and social field. In the image above, the great artist Kelvy Bird depicts these concepts. “Absencing,” Scharmer explains, “is the condition of being disconnected from others, which leads to the annihilation of others and, eventually, ourselves.” 

“Presencing” is defined as “the condition of co-sending and co-shaping the developing future via the opening of our inner instruments of knowing.” 

I connect Dr. Scharmer’s theory to the work I’ve created over the years to assist couples traverse the five phases of love in a recent piece, Theory U Marriage: How Midlife Couples Can Navigate the 5 Stages of Love.

How to Walk the Presencing Path from Disillusionment to True Long-Term Love

The traditional love map emphasized finding the ideal spouse and living happily ever after. We lose our course and begin traveling the Absencing road when the veil is lifted and the disputes and disappointment begin:

  • The inner voices of judgment, skepticism, and fear may mislead us.
  • We blame our spouse instead of taking responsibility for our issues.
  • We become enslaved by our wounded past’s ideas.
  • We grow oblivious to our partner’s heart connection.
  • We cling to life for dear life, yet we’re disconnected and shut off.
  • Manipulative, blaming, abusive, violent, detached, and self-destructive behaviors emerge.
  • We are under a trance induced by our ancestors’ traumas, but we are unaware of the link to our history. 

The desire to be present with our emotions and delve deeper to envision the connection we really want is the first step on the Presencing journey.

  • We get interested about the link between previous connections, especially those with our family, and current ones.
  • We open our hearts to the wounded kid inside each of us and feel compassion for him or her.
  • We muster the strength to confront our deepest sorrow and need for love.
  • There is an entrance at the absolute bottom, during the “dark night of the soul,” that may lead us home to the love we so badly want.
  • This glimpse of our bright future appears paradoxically when we stop attempting to apply our previous knowledge and let go of what we already know.
  • We learn to forgive our parents and caregivers for the wounds they have inflicted on us because we realize they were once children who had their own scars.
  • We learn to forgive ourselves and to let go of our guilt. 
  • We forgive our spouse for the suffering they have brought about as a result of their own wounded.
  • We accompany our partner on a co-creative journey that brings us closer together while also mending our previous relationship.

For more than forty years, I’ve been walking the Presencing road with my wife, Carlin. It hasn’t always been easy, I can tell you. We’ve required and asked for a lot of assistance along the road. It hasn’t always been roses and hearts as it was when we first fell in love. But there’s a little-known fact that most people are unaware of. In partnerships that have progressed to Stage 4, Real Lasting Love, that wild, head-over-heels, falling in love sensation that we think can only happen in the beginning may be revived. This love is genuine and has the potential to endure a lifetime.

The road may be perplexing and discouraging at times, but it is, by God, genuine. It’s also the loveliest, most powerful journey that humans have ever taken. It’s what I refer to as the graduate school of life. Not everyone is willing to let go of their illusions and travel such a holy journey. Those who do, on the other hand, never regret their choice. 

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This time of life can be a time of unbridled optimism. Many Americans are happily married, and blissfully happy in their relationships. But the truth is that all is not always as it appears.. Read more about marrying late in life has been linked to and let us know what you think.

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The worst years in a marriage are the first few, when youre still getting to know each other and figuring out how to make your relationship work.”}},{“@type”:”Question”,”name”:”Why do wives resent their husbands?”,”acceptedAnswer”:{“@type”:”Answer”,”text”:”
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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the worst years in a marriage?

The worst years in a marriage are the first few, when youre still getting to know each other and figuring out how to make your relationship work.

Why do wives resent their husbands?

The answer to this question is very complex. There are many different reasons why wives may resent their husbands, but one of the most common ones is that they feel like they are not being appreciated for all the work that they do.

Why do relationships fail after marriage?

This is a difficult question to answer. There are many reasons that relationships fail after marriage, but one of the most common is when people stop communicating and start living in their own little bubbles.

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