Difficulties in the middle period of marriage
In most animal species, the family unit consisting of parents and children does not last long. As a rule, parents annually produce offspring, and the young go out into the world, continuing their line, while the parents start a new brood. But human parents are obliged to take care of their children for many years, keeping in touch with them even after they have to be considered not as children, but as equal adults. This one-of-a-kind device requires family members to adapt to unusual changes in mutual relationships that occur over a number of years. As family relationships change, marriage relationships are constantly being reviewed.When we talk about the marital problem, we create a certain concept of “marriage” that ignores all the extra-marital forces that affect it. The boundary drawn around a married couple, around a reduced family, or around a kinship system is arbitrary and serves only for the convenience of discussion. When we consider the impact of welfare on a poor family, or the corporate invasion of the privacy of middle-class employees, it becomes clear that the problems of a married couple are only partially explicable when attention is focused on that couple. When a man is unemployed and his wife receives social security benefits, the” marital problem ” includes some government intervention in the marriage. Similarly, the main source of difficulties in marriage may be the intrusion of the mother-in-law, the behavior of children, and a number of other factors. It is important to always keep in mind that a family is a changing group, subject to changing external influences, with its own history and future, its own stages of development, and its own familiar patterns of relationships between members of the group.
In the family we see today, a couple who has been married for ten or fifteen years faces problems that can be described in terms of the individual, the couple, or the entire family. At this time, the husband and wife reach the middle years of their life cycle. This is often one of the best periods of life. The husband can enjoy success in his work, and the wife can share this success that they have achieved together. In addition, as children make fewer demands, the wife becomes freer and can develop her talents and make her own career. The problems that had previously faced the family were eventually resolved, and the approach of both spouses to life softened. This is a period when marital relations are deepening and expanding, and when stable relationships with relatives and friends have been established. The difficulties of raising young children have already been overcome, and have been replaced by the joy of both spouses at the sight of how children grow and develop in an amazing way.
At this stage, the Clinician sees the family not when things are going well, but when they are going badly. This is a difficult time for many families. Often the husband reaches at this time the point in his career when he realizes that he will not be able to meet the ambitious hopes of his youth. His frustration can affect the entire family and, in particular, his status in the eyes of his wife. Or, on the contrary, the husband was luckier than expected, and although he is highly respected outside the home, the wife continues to treat him the same way as before, when he was not so important, and this causes him irritation, turning into conflicts. One of the inevitable human problems is that a man who has reached middle age and achieved status and respect becomes more attractive to young women, while his wife, who is more dependent on her appearance, feels less attractive to men.
When all the children are already going to school, the wife feels that she must change her life. Free time encourages her, for example, to return to her previous career expectations, and she may feel insecure about her abilities. As children need her less and less, she is more concerned with the notion of modern culture that it is not enough for a woman to be a housewife and a mother. From time to time, she feels that housework is taking her life, that her status is declining, while her husband is becoming more important.
By this middle age, the couple had already gone through many conflicts and developed very rigid and stereotypical ways of treating each other. They have learned to maintain stability in the family through complex patterns of interaction that allow them to solve problems or avoid solving them. But when children grow up and the family changes, the old patterns may not be enough, and a crisis may arise. Sometimes some form of undesirable behavior, such as drunkenness or violence, accumulates and goes beyond the limits of tolerance. One or both of the spouses may feel that if they ever want to get rid of this miserable life, they should separate now that they are not too old.
Middle age can encourage spouses to decide whether to stay together or go their separate ways. This time, when children are less often at home, also forces parents to realize that, eventually, the children will leave completely, and then they will be left alone with each other. In many cases, they have agreed to stay together for the sake of the children, and when they see that the children will soon leave them, marital troubles begin.
In this middle age, there can be severe tensions in their lives leading to divorce, even if the couple has suffered many crises in the past. Other periods of family stress are most often associated with the arrival or departure of a family member. In middle age, the composition of the family does not change; but in a sense, it does change, because at this time children turn into young adults. The so-called anxiety with teenagers can be seen as a struggle in the family system to maintain the former hierarchical structure. If, for example, a mother has developed ways to treat her daughter when she was a child, and ways to treat competing women, then she does not know how to treat her daughter properly when she Matures and turns into a competing woman. A father caught between them may be confused. A similar change occurs when the father has to treat the son as his own child and, at the same time, as an adult man. In this case, the child or parent may show symptoms as a way to stabilize the system; but in this period, more often than in others, the main problem is the recognized despair of the spouses.
In the middle stage of marriage, solving marital problems is often more difficult than in the case of young couples who are still unstable and developing new patterns. In the middle stage, the patterns are already established and have become a habit. It often happens that the couple has already tried different ways to reconcile differences, but, despite the despair, returned to the old patterns. One of the typical patterns of marriage stabilization is the communication of spouses with each other through children; the crisis occurs when the children leave the house and the spouses are again face to face with each other.