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An Unfinished Symphony

May 17, 2011

"Emerald Isle" photo by D Sander - all rights reserved.

Marriage at Midlife ~ Part 3

“The rhythm of life is when you experience your own body, mind and soul.”

~ The Yogi Tea Bag Mystic

The time arrived. The striving had ceased. My time to care for others with my whole being had ended. Midlife is a time of letting go, of saying goodbye to the dreams of our youth and grieving the loss of the childhood innocence that allowed us to believe we are eternal beings.  It is time to release our children, and dare to let go of their hand to allow them to fly free to choose their own destinies. It not only takes courage, but it takes trust in the processes of life to give wings to their future and our own.

Through the process of saying goodbye to my children as children, and goodbye to my earthly mother and father I removed the shackles of expectation and external demands and created an empty space within which to look for and find myself. The rhythm of life carries us forward, quite often not of our own volition.  The hands of time hurl us through experiences we barely see let alone comprehend and before we know it we have landed somewhere totally unexpected.

My arrival at the gate of midlife was abrupt and unyielding. I had covered my eyes for as long as I could and then I had to begin the journey to myself. It was time and slowly I began to release the deathly grip on my marriage that had led to unrealistic expectations and dashed hopes.  I had clung too long and too feverishly to my own very small and very narrow idea of how things were supposed to be. My husband could not soothe all of my pains, cure-all of my ills and wash away all of my problems. He was not the very narrow version of a man I thought he was.  If only, we could make that perfect connection that allowed us to transmit, one to the other, exactly that thing the other needed. We would be at peace. The illusion of love and romance lives on as long as it possibly can because the idea of it is so complete. However, it is only an idea, a goal, a lure to bring the connection and intimacy we all crave.

I believe in love. I will always believe in love. I will always believe that there is hope of finding love for those who are looking. The idea of love, and the bits we can fully accept from our loved ones gives us hope to face another day. It provides us with courage to acknowledge our fears and do it anyway. Love is the underpinning of truth and goodness and freedom. I believe in ever after. I believe in a one and only. It is and it is not exactly what I thought it would be when I was fifteen. It is more.

Love could not provide the reason for living if it were not complex. It is the simplest and yet the most complex of forces, stirring our hearts to ferocious anger and life sacrificing risk. Just as we set our children free, we must set love free.  We must allow it to live and breathe, to grow and expand and instruct us as to what its true nature and intent. Just as we can only truly be ourselves when we abandon our expectations of the outcome, so too it is necessary to set our beloved free, to release him from our expectations of who he should be. Then the magic will happen.

To release our beloved for his “function” and purpose in our lives we step away from an “I-It” relationship and into an “I-Thou” relationship (Martin Buber). It does not matter how our beloved performs, what matters is that we stand face to face and accept and appreciate the other for the miracle that they are. Standing together thus, we might just see the face of God.

And so, I released my children. I released my husband and I am slowly releasing myself from my own expectations. As a result, I have witnessed a miracle. I am day by day growing into the person I always was and am surprised daily by the gifts God has placed gently in my hands. My beloved has begun to break the chains that bound him to an I-It relationship with himself and with me and he too has begun to move into a new, unexpected, yet fully recognizable place.  More often than ever before, we stand together, ever so loosely bound by love and our commitment to one another, to embrace our destiny in an I-Thou connection.

The details hardly matter, as it is the freedom that we have both begun to feel in our individual lives and in our life together that tells the story. I would encourage all married couples facing a midlife marriage crisis to release the death grip of what you thought your marriage should or could have been and take whatever steps necessary to turn your attention away from the expectations you are undoubtedly placing on your spouse. Turn your attention for a time upon yourself and discover what gifts lie buried. There are tools, books, therapists, and life coaches to nudge you forward, but the truth is within you. While you are busy “finding yourself”, the miracle of life will be having its affect on your beloved. It is up to him to allow the influences to mold and shape his understanding of himself and your marriage. Trust the process and the miracle of a new beginning may just take root.

My marriage of twenty-nine years is an unfinished symphony. Our instruments still need tuning and we often struggle with the Director’s methodology. But in spite of, or because of  all of its imperfections, our life together occasionally produces sounds so sweet that one can’t help but recognize the dim reflection of eternal love.\

Part 1: Aging Abundantly Through the Challenges of Marriage

Part 2: Challenges of Marriage at Midlife

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. vicki permalink
    May 17, 2011 7:02 pm

    it was worth the wait, dorothy! lovely, warm, wise… :)

  2. May 18, 2011 1:39 pm

    I was inspired by this post, though I have been divorced for 25 years. The willingness to release one’s expectations about self, children, relationships rings true regardless of one’s age or circumstances.

    As a 60 something woman, I find that the process of releasing the old and embracing the present is never finished.

    Thanks, Dorothy!

    • May 18, 2011 1:49 pm

      So true Kathy! It’s so common in Western thought to “go for the gold” and think that’s where you’ll stay when you get there. Life is fluid, ever changing, and as you noted, a process to be embraced. I appreciate your thoughts.

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