From Dr. Jane's Notebook
As time goes by. . .
Long beyond child-bearing and child-rearing, parents continue to grow and
change individually and as couples. Theories of family development suggest that
family crises occur whenever family members join or depart from the family unit.
Early on, many years are spent adjusting to the changing stages of children;
later on, we must adjust to the changing stages of growing older.
Consider the following relationship issues and how couples must adapt:
- Affection and Communication: Needs that never go away. We
never outgrow our need for affection. While some people need more and others
less, physical contact remains an important way to validate each other.
Likewise, our need for communication is essential to help us feel important and
to help us keep abreast of the world. When others speak with us, our greatest
task is to listen well. Others sense when our attention is elsewhere; they also
sense when we are judgmental, critical, annoyed or impatient. Even when we are
sure we know what another is about to say, it is important to honor them simply
by listening. Especially when someone seems to be repeating themselves, we must
consider the possibility that they feel they have not been heard.
- Sexuality and Compromise. Among the greatest myths in our
society is the myth that we grow to old to engage in sexual relations past our
prime. On the contrary, regular sexual encounters serve to strengthen
relationships and personal vitality. Some say that sex was designed to be
lifelong, as evidenced by the fact that you can do it lying down. The secret to
an ongoing sex life lies in a couple’s capacity to change and adapt as they
grow older. Sex changes over the years along with every other aspect of our
lives. Yet, the ability of spouses to enter into the closest of unions is not
only possible, but highly desirable. As with other things in life, however, the
ability to compromise and change together is an essential element of that
- Role changes and management of conflict. With changes in household
occupancy and work schedules, comes the need to re-evaluate roles within a
marriage. When kids are no longer around to help with certain tasks, someone
will need to do them. When there’s an extra pair of hands around the house, it
is only fair that the wealth of chores be spread around a little more evenly.
When retirement or disability become real, couples must be willing to change
what they do in order to adequately address the current needs for living.
Without this ability to adapt, family changes are met with resentment, hostility
and discontent. In contrast, we must be prepared to change our previous ways of
doing things and willing to do so in the spirit of good sportsmanship.
Understand the keys to lifelong happiness and personal satisfaction have
never been as important as they are today. Couples are living longer and
retirement often occurs at younger ages than even before. Thus, when we speak of
life-planning, we are no longer just referring to the years of our careers and
as families who are busy with child-rearing. In her best-seller, Divine
Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells describes life as an
experience which is short but wide. I agree. And since it keeps changing, we all
still have much to learn.
©Copyright, 2001, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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