Does your spouse not quite understand you? It's time to begin anew and learn how to communicate.
"My husband doesn't even start to get it and I can't talk to him about it because he won't understand anyway."
A lot of my time as a coach for mid-lifers is spent helping them work through relationship and marriage issues. Indeed, it may be said that it's always about relationships—with oneself, others, circumstances, attachments, time, and money.
But in mid-life we may recognize we have foregone earlier passions and desire to rekindle them. Some say it's "now or never" to make changes for the best life and a better world. Some struggle to break free.
Like my friend, a talented musician, composer, and mid-lifer in her 40s, she feels her creative spirit is dying amidst a mountain of responsibilities, such as being a loving wife and mother to their daughter, home ownership, and career.
It's not that she doesn't love these aspects of her life, she simply feels weighed down by responsibility. She's frustrated, and not as free as she once was in her most fruitful years when her inspiration flowed.
She's decided not to talk anymore to her husband about it, "because he won"t understand anyway." This is a bury-my-head in the sand attitude that makes the boil fester ... into a mid-life breakup.
To be fair, she's already tried to talk with him. She let him know what she doesn't like and how stuck she is. She hopes he will change, but he doesn't because their relationship probably is in what psychologists call the pursue-withdraw cycle—neither can share what is going on in their heart.
He, as pursuer, will respond to her concerns with something like: "Why can't you be happy with our beautiful life, home, daughter, and a good job? Don't you see how great our life is now?"
While she can see that, she's getting no understanding of how important her creativity is to her. So, she, as withdrawer, decides not to talk anymore with him about it.
A better way exists to deal with relationship problems. Talk about what you would like, not what you don’t like nor remain silent. Talking about what you like allows openness and trust between both of you, each to speak from your hearts.
How to do that? It doesn't happen overnight. My friend has time if she and her husband choose openness and trust over pursue and withdraw.
One way is to follow a mindfulness method Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh ("Thay to his followers") practices at his Plum Village sangha (community) in France. Sister Chan Khong describes the practice in her new book, Beginning Anew: Four Steps to Restoring Communication.
Let me outline the practice for you:
1. Water the flowers. Without interruption from him, you acknowledge the "flowers" of your partner. Not flattery; honest and wholesome, all that is wonderful to you about him. He listens deeply.
Often when you know each other well, you assume shared knowledge between you. Instead of communicating openly, your talk and actions can be ambiguous. When you "water the flowers" in your spouse, you begin from a point of view that you don't know everything about each other.
2. Express regret for anything you have said or done that hurt or disturbed him. Times when mindlessness, rather than mindfulness, has been your way of operating. This helps him see you are aware of his sensitivities and that you care to undo any knots that may have tied. He continues in silence, listening with compassion.
3. Ask questions and get more information. Now is the time to check in with him on any inaccuracies and lack of information he identifies about how you have interpreted situations.
4. Express hurt or disagreement. Thay teaches to take special care to use respectful and "loving speech" in this stage. You speak to strengthen and repair the relationship, not harm it. Again, silence and compassionate listening on his part.
My friend can now talk about why her music is so important to her and what she would like to do to nurture her creativity. She can speak of her hurt and their inability to communicate openly up until now. Then, it is his turn to water your flowers and begin anew. You listen with compassion.
At the end, Thay suggests hugging meditation. Meditation from the east meets hugs from the west; Hugging in mindfulness of the loving relationship you have shared for much of your lives.
Beginning Anew dates back to the time of Buddha. His monks and nuns practiced this on the eve of every full moon and new moon.
How often will you begin anew so that your mid-life breakup turns into a long-term marriage?
Suzanne Beveridge is MidLife Success Expert, Coach and Writer, founder of MidLife Wisdom. Are you frustrated and feeling weighed down by midlife responsibility? Suzanne can help you navigate mid-life change. Get your free copy of MidLife Success Formula now.