Middle-Age Couples: Your Marriage Doesn’t Have to Be Stuck in Survival Mode


How the stresses and strains of aging can strengthen the bonds of love.

During the coronavirus pandemic, my husband and I celebrated the 23rd anniversary of our first date, our 18th wedding anniversary, and our 40th birthdays. We’re plenty familiar to one another, not to mention the disruptions wrought by moves, career changes, and children.

But as we begin midlife and navigate marriage in this moment of time, we realize it’s easy to simply survive instead of thrive. Marriage in the middle of a pandemic feels a bit like steering around shipwrecks. Recently, we heard that another couple we knew was filing for divorce. While we’ve all seen high-profile couples announce their split on social media, it’s the marriages closer to home that remind us we’re not immune to the pressures that force their way between two people.

Amid months of unprecedented circumstances, as husbands and wives negotiate working from home and schooling their children, marriages are withstanding even greater pressures than before. When there is too much pressure on something delicate—like a wine glass—it shatters. Yet with harder, denser objects—think of exercises that break down muscles to help them grow back stronger—added pressure can have the opposite effect.

In a pandemic—and in midlife generally—marriages seem to go one of two ways: The added pressures cause the marriage to crack, or they can make it stronger. When I asked my friends on social media to describe the state of their marriages in one word, the most common responses were “improved,” “refined,” “closer,” and “tested.” Just about everyone I polled sensed an urgent need to band together, lest the stresses and uncertainties of 2020 overwhelm them.

How …

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