Recently, I received a question from a craniosacral practitioner. She told me that many of her mid-life female patients are discovering that they are unhappy with their marriages. They are intelligent, kind, devoted wives and moms, yet are disconnected from their husbands. She asked what I would recommend to help them sort out their feelings. I have a lot to suggest.
First, though, it’s important to understand the reason this is happening at midlife—women are heeding their inner wisdom and wondering “What about me?” We women are socialized to identify with our roles as wives and mothers. And, depending upon what you saw your mother do, you may well engage in behavior that puts your own authentic needs last while you go about the business of tending to your husband and children.
If you’re to remain healthy, this pattern has to change. My advice is this: Focus on yourself and your own needs (what a novel idea!).
To do that, go to Marshall Rosenberg’s Web site on non-violent communication and look at the list of human needs. These include reassurance, touch, rest, sleep, self-development, pleasure, understanding, validation, etc. Many women have been shamed by their families for even having needs, let alone asking that these needs be met. A harried stay-at-home mom needs to learn to say, “I’ve had a very long day. I need 30 minutes alone to take a bath. Please assist me by doing the dishes and feeding the dog so that I can take the time I need.” Notice there is no pleading, no whining, no justification. Just a straightforward articulation of a need.
Here’s another important point: Most women have been socialized to put their husband’s needs and desires ahead of their own. Worse still, we’ve been socialized to believe that a man can fulfill you (as in Jerry Maguire—“You complete me”). This is a myth, pure and simple. Women need good friends to hang out with, to talk with, to travel with, to have fun with. Your husband simply cannot do for you what girlfriends can.
Rather than think that you need a new man, you need to become a new woman. You need to put your own fulfillment and pleasure first on the list. Yes—we get enormous pleasure from providing for others. But you have to make sure this doesn’t disintegrate into self-sacrifice, which inevitably leads to resentment.
The whole reason I wrote The Secret Pleasures of Menopause and The Secret Pleasures of Menopause Playbook was to help women learn how to put fun and pleasure back into their lives. Believe me, the vast majority of husbands would just love it if you became playful and happy instead of waiting for them to make the first move. Here’s the bottom line: A turned on woman is what turns on a man. And when I say “turned on,” I mean turned on to life, not just to sex.
You can rejuvenate a marriage by first learning how to have a love affair with yourself. One of the best resources I’ve found in this regard are the books Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts 101 and Mama Gena’s Owner’s and Operator’s Guide to Men, both written by Regena Thomashauer, the founder of the Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts in New York City. I have seen many marriages completely rejuvenated when a woman learns how to embrace pleasure as a way to take the world by the tail. Trust me. This stuff works!
P.S. For any woman who is married to an abusive or completely self-absorbed man who doesn’t respect her, it’s sometimes best for her to cut her losses and get out, if possible.