Concerned about your marriage? Want to revive your relationship? Interested in keeping your marriage vibrant and intimate? If so, it’s a good sign that your marriage will not only survive but thrive. Staying proactive in your relationship after age 50 is more crucial than ever before.
According to Pew Research, since the 1990s divorce rates among those 50 and older have doubled. Now known as “gray divorce,” this troubling trend has caught the media’s attention and is putting a spotlight on marriage during the “golden years.”
But it’s possible that this trend is more about how people are dealing with chronic relationship problems in later life rather than about a sudden decline in marriage health during these years. Either way, no one wants to suffer in a burnout marriage or face divorce. So, what can you do to ensure a “happily ever after” in your relationship? Here are some tips to keep you on the right track.
1. Reminisce About the Good Times
If a negative piece of your marital past comes flooding back to your mind, put a stop to it. Before it comes out of your mouth, put on the brakes and keep it to yourself. Sharing the less-than-happy memory will only create negative feelings in your spouse. Take that thought and replace it with a happy memory and be sure to pass it along.
As set aside what is forgiven, make it a point to remind each other about those happy moments. If your memory is a little fuzzy (and whose isn’t?), pull out some photos or dig through your old journals. If you periodically take a joyful trip down memory lane together, those magical memories will tighten your bond and remind you of all that is good between you. This puts the spark and sparkle back in your eyes as you remember who your spouse has been and still is.
2. Forgive Each Other for the Bad Times
Even though frequently focusing on the negative spells D-O-O-M for a marriage, it’s also a bad idea to sweep difficult memories under the rug and pretend they never happened. This type of reaction puts another nail in the coffin of your marriage.
Instead, it’s best to deal with the issue, forgive, and move forward. This sounds simpler than it is, and depending on the issue at hand, you might need some marriage counseling to get through it. But it’s an infinitely better option than trying to move on without closure. As weeks, months, and years unfold, your mind and heart will react based upon the truth and not upon your pretend reality. This means it’s affecting your marriage even though you think it’s buried.
3. Stay Best Friends
Companionship is crucial to marriage and perhaps even more so in your later years. Careers are winding down, children are grown, and most of the time it’s just the two of you. You need each other’s friendship now more than ever to keep your marriage happy.
Pay attention to your current habits. Are you wandering around your home separately with little more than necessary interaction? Are most of your activities carried out apart from one another? Are one or both of you leaning on someone else when in need? Do you bring news to a friend before sharing it with your spouse? Who is your go-to person? If it’s not your spouse, seek to make a change.
Closer friendship will grow as you choose your spouse over others, remember those good times, and bring closure to the past. Seek for mutually enjoyed hobbies or activities and be sure to set aside plenty of time together.
4. Maintain Manners and Appearance
You’ve seen each other at your worst, because life happens. You two have been on this crazy roller coaster ride together and not every snapshot is flattering. But this doesn’t mean that you toss polite behavior to the wind, become thoughtless, or allow anger to rule. Even though you have seen the worst side of each other, you don’t want it to be the norm.
When couples “let themselves go” in marriage whether in appearance, behavior, or both, it’s a serious blow to the relationship. So, make an effort to use manners and be polite. Treat your spouse as a valuable best friend and don’t lose the desire to “impress”. You wouldn’t belch at the dinner table when you were dating, so why do it now? Respectful manners can add much happiness to your marriage.
And while time changes many things, including physical appearance, it’s best that both of you make a reasonable effort to care for your appearance. It should go without saying, but proper daily hygiene is a must if you want to keep a close (and intimate) relationship with your spouse. And even though it’s a personal and sensitive topic, it’s best for your relationship and your own wellbeing if you maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
5. Keep Communication Open
Relationship and companionship require personal exchange, otherwise known as communication. This means you share about your day, your thoughts, and even your struggles. If you’re feeling concerned or troubled about your relationship, be sure to communicate that as well.
In marriage, problems don’t disappear: they must be solved. And they must be solved together. Open and careful communication is the first step toward that goal. While much communication is and should be spontaneous, you might want to set aside special time to talk at least once per week (or more often if you’re both retired). While this doesn’t replace regular communication, it does give you a definite opportunity to catch up on anything that was missed or to have longer discussions than you would during your daily routine.
For the ladies reading, this isn’t a tough concept to grasp. But close communication and the relating of deeper thoughts and emotions can be trickier for men, which after many years of marriage, you’ve surely noticed. Men, try to understand that while communicating openly and often about feelings might not be a skill you were socialized to develop, it’s vital for maintaining health and happiness in marriage.
6. Find Common Ground About Finances
It’s no secret that money is what couples fight about the most, which means you need to deal wisely to keep a happy marriage. Financial stressors and disputes are a major trigger for divorce. And at the very least, this topic adds a whole lot of tension to the relationship, especially if you don’t have income flowing in like before. Moving to a fixed income is a transition that requires much adjustment.
So, what can you do?
It’s imperative that you get on the same page about your financial situation and stick to a budget. This may take both parties giving a little on specific issues, and it certainly requires that you trust each other. Do your best to make financial plans together and keep open communication about your concerns and spending habits.
And don’t hesitate to receive financial advice specifically for retirees. You might find outside resources helpful.
7. Prioritize Romance
Setting aside time to “date” each other and focus on your spouse is crucial to a happy marriage after 50. And if you’re both retired, it should be much easier to find the time. And while communication will be part of your romantic time together, you should make this a special “problem-free” type of exchange.
For instance, date night isn’t the time to discuss why your spouse overspent in a budget area or failed to carry out a time-sensitive errand. While these issues may need to be addressed, it’s not during the time dedicated to keeping the flames of love alive.
Of course, you don’t want your date nights to challenge your budget or create financial stress. So talk together about how much you can afford to spend and how often. Then spend that budget in a way that pleases you both.
But even if your date-night budget is limited or nonexistent, you can find creative and more affordable ways to make these times special.
8. Continue Intimacy
While sex is still important to many seniors, it is only one form of physical intimacy. For many, sexual needs change with age. So, have an open discussion about your current needs and seek to meet those for each other.
And if sex isn’t a high priority for one or both of you, remember that physical affection is also a form of intimacy. Holding hands, snuggling, kissing, or touching in any way are all ways to stay intimate even as the years pass. If you prioritize physical affection in your marriage, you’ll find it can profoundly increase happiness within the relationship.
If both of you are committed to achieving and maintaining a happy marriage in your golden years, then you don’t have to succumb to a ‘gray divorce’ or suffer in your relationship. You can each assess your marriage as it stands right now and determine which of these areas you need to grow in. If there are several areas, then you can both agree on one or two places to start.
Even if you pinpoint areas for improvement, be encouraged. At this stage in life you can be thankful that you are both committed to health and happiness in your marriage. It indicates you’re well on your way to achieving your relationship goals.