Irene is worried that her marriage is doomed

With the nest now empty, Irene is worried that her marriage is in trouble.

Irene is worried that her marriage is doomed

Since Irene’s children left home, she’s found her husband a little boorish and she’s worried that their marriage is doomed. Today, Jo Lamble has some advice on how to rekindle the flame.

Q. Irene
My husband and I have been together since our early 20s and have two wonderful grown-up children, who have recently moved out of home. While I love my husband dearly as the father of my children and for all that we’ve shared over the years, I’m not so sure that I like him very much. He can be quite boorish and overbearing especially when we’re in company. And if I’m honest, when it’s just the two of us we don't have that much to talk about. It’s only when the kids come home that he truly lights up and is like the man I married all those years ago.

I know this is perhaps common when you’ve been together for so long but is there anything I can do about it? Or should I just accept that this is life?

A. There are two real dangers for long-term relationships. The first is when couples have very young children; there is limited time to spend together and there are many stressors surrounding work/life balance. You and your husband are in the second danger zone – when the children leave home and you are left wondering whether you can live out the rest of your lives together. You’re both aware of each other’s faults and there is less to distract you without the children at home and with decreasing work pressures.

The aim is to slowly create a new normal for you and your husband. How can you make the next stage of your life as rewarding and meaningful as possible? What have you longed to do? Where have you yearned to go? What new interests do you want to take up? What bad habits do you want to stop? With these questions in mind, talk to your husband about your future as individuals and as a couple. It may take many conversations for your hope of a happy future to build up. Gently point out when you’re feeling he’s being overbearing or boorish and remind him that you both want to enjoy this next stage of life – hopefully together. 

Give your husband the chance to embrace your new life and if he struggles to move in this direction, make it clear that you are seriously questioning your future together. Many people in long-term relationships don’t realise how unhappy their partners are until it’s too late for them to make changes – their spouse has already decided to leave but has never actually said that they were close to calling it quits.



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    15th Feb 2017
    After around thirty years of marriage and a first holiday in 19 years in Thailand I realised it was time. Poolside always on my own surrounded by obese women from Europe in brief bikinis with no body image problems I new it was time to move on. I would ask my wife to come for a swim and she would say I'll meet you there but she never came. My fault? A few drinks in a bar nearby with some friendly locals and expats made me realise life was not ending.
    East of Toowoomba
    15th Feb 2017
    I think it is worth hanging in there and trying to find the man you love underneath the boorish exterior.

    He could be in a rut and may well stop dwelling on himself and what he wants, with a bit of persuasion. You might have to take the initiative when it comes to trying new things, planning trips or outings and inviting friends to visit, but keep it light and see if he doesn't lighten up in response. He could be bored with you as well and if neither of you make an effort then it could be the end of the marriage.
    15th Feb 2017
    You could both try getting new interests either together, or separately. You'll meet new people and have things to talk about. Have you wanted to travel. With the kids gone, there are endless possibilities. You do need to communicate however.
    15th Feb 2017
    Why is the complaint about what the man is doing? I doubt he has changed much over time. It is possible that the woman has shut out the husband over the years because she was so focused on the kids. Now she has lost that distraction - a major part of her life - and she is no longer the centre of their world. Could she be feeling a little left out? Lost? Not know what her own role is anymore?

    Put the critical eye away. Its time to focus on each other now, learn about who you are NOW not 20 years ago.
    15th Feb 2017
    What is so annoying in this situation is the man always seems to be sorry for himself, as if he is the only one looking down the railway track and seeing the end of the line! Try as wives may the husband has to want to do something about the boredom of the marriage. Why is it always the wife that has to boost the male ego up? I always remember one of the speeches at our marriage, it went.....think of marriage as two people in a little row boat, if one stops rowing what do you think will happen? Yes you get nowhere and go around in takes two to tango!
    15th Feb 2017
    which world are you living in

    Its always the man's fault !

    best thing the husband can do is leave

    and find a woman 20 years younger than his horrible mean ex
    15th Feb 2017
    I think Jo Lambies advice is good. Look together for what can mutually enervate and that includes finding the time for independent activity. If found, the next phase can be a delicious journey.

    In this partnership you could well find that each are thinking along similar lines. Males may be less likely to vocalise the same. Each has a partner to work together with to find new life experience and value. If, in the end, pathways diverge that too is probably for the best as it means you have not been able to find agreement in this course of discovery. The options and the values built up over years have, however, been extensively tested for possibilities despite an alternative future being clarified and agreed as the best option.

    Others disagree but I think that we make an agreement when married which deserves the utmost attention. For general extents and purposes marriage to me is a lifelong committment. It is common now to see the promises of marriage thrown away with little mind to the responsibility that is taken on by agreeing to it. When considering the future your promise, your responsibility and the fact of their being two different people involved with those things a common thread amongst a wide range of different available options should not only make the enquiry thorough but a joyful one.
    15th Feb 2017

    No one should stay in an unhappy marriage

    People change, hell the marriage may have been a big mistake in the first place and they only stayed together because of the kids.

    Lifes too short - grab the chance to live again !!!
    16th Feb 2017
    We took up Old time new Vogue dancing on our retirement. Made so many new friends and it keeps us fit and healthy. We now travel a lot and always attend the dance venues as far afield as Tasmania to Cairns. There are two types of people, fit healthy dancers and those that want to stay home and watch television.
    17th Feb 2017
    I like your attitude to this, Mike. To find something you can both enjoy together, that is healthy and makes you feel alive.

    I think that's the problem for a lot of older couples - their old zest and bloom has faded or is fading, and instead of doing something outside the norm, they just get grumpy and watch TV or play pokies in clubs. (No joy there to shake them out of their ennui).

    For traditional couples, the "empty nest" feels like retirement or being sacked for the wife (except she's still got the big baby at home), while retirement from employment for the husband is similar, leaving them both feeling like they have no purpose, status or meaning. They both have to find themselves and re-define what makes life worth living. Grandchildren are often the answer for both, with the grand dad finally given the chance to nurture and care for his grand kids, like he never had the chance to do for his own children.

    As JAID said, it should be a joyful process. Sometimes you have to be pushed outside your comfort zone and sometimes, outside is where you'll find something good and new. Doing it together, with someone you've loved and trusted for many years, makes it all the more fun.
    17th Feb 2017
    Mike I find your email offensive.

    My husband inherited his mothers issue with the spine and has each vertebra drilled to make space for the nerves. He needs crutches when out in the public arena as we have found people in general are thugs! I make no apology for that comment as he has been sent flying with a male about 60 pushing him sideways. People are in a hurry and are not in the least bit concerned if someone cannot balance that well. Husband does some gardening and cuts the lawn and keeps active that way. But because he cannot dance is not his fault. In 2015 he had six surgeries in a period of 11 months. One for his shoulder/spine. The surgeon went in under the chin and through the neck to the back! Even the nurses at the surgery were surprised to see the wound! Then he has had a huge bladder stone, a large melanoma, eye surgery on both eyes, and cancer of the prostate.
    Aren't you lucky not to have all these. Now you accuse people that are not that well that they are coach potatoes watching TV!
    He also worked full time till the age of 72 before taking retirement from civil engineering.
    23rd Feb 2017
    I think Anne is flogging a dead horse.
    Why did he not retire till 72, if he is so ill. H'm. I wonder if he didnt want to get stuck alone at home with his wife?
    23rd Feb 2017
    What a sad person you are Boof!
    We are both in our second marriage and will be celebrating our 25th Wedding anniversary later this year.
    He is not ill he is disabled.
    And he doesn't feel sorry for himself either, like some.

    My husband wants to answer this Boof..........

    I came to this country in 1982 at age 40 as a white financial refugee from Zimbabwe with $500 in my pocket and a family to support. Since my arrival I have neither asked for, or received, a single cent from the government in social welfare, pension or support to this moment. I have worked hard and saved to maintain my independence.

    I was then left to bring up my three children.

    'I thoroughly enjoyed my work as a civil engineer in the iron ore mining industry designing and building and was respected for my knowledge and experience. Sent overseas to audit the Brazilian railway for the World Bank, and sent to the UK to audit theirs. Because of the financial crash my super was badly hit and I needed to continue working to achieve an adequate retirement fund to maintain my independence from Centrelink. At the same time [aged 63] my health started to go down hill. I had need of spinal surgery [s] then.

    My wife supported me when we needed to be out of the country. Indeed in 2000 we both lost our fathers when overseas. We needed to return to care for our respective mothers. With an office based job, and no need to travel all I needed was a computer and phone have enabled me to do my work.

    Now nearly 75 next month I have a new home [no mortgage] and a supportive wife, I need crutches when out and about and dancing is out of the question; anyway not everyone is into doing the fandango!

    Lets hope this makes you realize not everyone feels sorry for themselves Boof.

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