I married and bored with my husband. Ten years of marriage and my kids are school age leaves me with more time now. I am 39 and feel like I don’t want to be married anymore. I love my husband and he is a wonderful man but sometimes I think if I stay married to him till the kids are out of school, I’ll be fifty-two and then what? I find myself looking to other men to flirt so I can feel attractive or twenty-something again. Is this just a stage? Did any of you feel this way? A Married Woman, Cleveland, OH
No Makeup Required felt this question was so common among married women we decided to give the panelists the anonymity they needed to answer the question. It is totally normal and expected to feel this way after many years of marriage and as you near 40. Read on to the wisdom of our panelists about this very common issue…
A Rare But Common Issue
You are hitting one of the very common (but rarely openly discussed) dirty little secrets related to long-term relationships. Is it a stage? Yes. Is it permanent? Probably not, but only you can ultimately decide that. Somewhere along the line, your needs stopped being met in the way you want them to be. Or, your needs have evolved and what might have been important a few years ago has shifted. I went through this, and I would estimate 90% of my married or long term relationship friends have been through this. A few divorced, with mixed results. Some had affairs while still married – two who did remained married and I would say are much happier now than they were during the affair periods. One who had an affair got divorced and now is living with the fall out – a new wife who is a step mother to her kids that she doesn’t like co-raising her children – and to top it off, the affair relationship didn’t work out and she’s now single and lonely. Another who had the itch got divorced, invested in ‘finding herself’, and is much happier than when she was married. I’m not advocating an affair, but I am saying that it was a short hop from how you are describing your feelings to finding someone who filled the gap – be aware it’s not as hard as you might think to stray. Or, stay in your current feeling zone and be unhappy.
The common denominator of all of these situations is that the happy women got clear on what makes them happy and fulfilled – and worked to find that happiness. The women who stayed married after their affairs realized what they were trying to put into their lives and ultimately decided they would try harder with their husbands, who in both cases stepped up and delivered! The answer of what you should do lies with first getting clear on what is important to you – what is missing for you – and then start to plan on how to fill the gap. What I’ve personally learned over the years… no one, and nothing, is perfect. That means you, your husband, a future relationship; a future alone all will have imperfections. There is a question there (and I’ll steal from the author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’)- is that you have to decide what imperfections you can live with, and those you can’t. But first, and by first I mean tomorrow, start exploring what you want and need, and enlist others you trust in helping you figure out the best path to get there. Your feelings are normal and common, and what you do with them is in your hands.
I think this question has been around since the beginning of mankind, and I use the term “mankind” deliberately as it affects both genders equally. Whether it be chocolate, new shoes, a sports car, or a member of the opposite sex, it can be incredibly hard to resist temptation. When you’re in the beginning of a relationship, literally the Honeymoon phase, I think we don’t notice the temptations as much. Once those infatuation hormones subside and it’s just you, Him and The Dishes, however, the temptations start screaming your name.
But, I’ve seen my sister go through a divorce and even though she was leaving a totally manipulative jerk, she still went through Emotional Hell. It’s not something I would recommend anyone go through without much fore-thought. If your husband is wonderful, then perhaps you should slow down and rethink things. If you don’t feel attractive, having an affair will not fix that. You’ll feel unattractive plus have this emotionally complicated life. If you feel stressed at this point in your life — being a mother with many responsibilities — I’d say you would be crazy if you didn’t dream of some sort of escape. But escaping through an affair just masks the problems. What else can you do to address what is going on inside of you? Can you reach out to a friend, sister, or your mother to ask for support? Can you find a professional to talk to; someone trained to help walk you through this? When you asked if I have felt this way, yes, for sure I have. And once I talked to friends, I find it’s very common. But this stage of life will move on to another, and you might really need that husband to help you care of elderly parents or go through a layoff at work or drive you to the doctor’s office for some sort of treatment. If your marriage is not working, then definitely address that. But do it with purpose and deliberation to make sure you are doing what is really right for you.
Take a New Picture of Your Marriage
“You should begin your soul-searching by praising yourself for being the mother and wife you have dedicated yourself to for the past 10+ years. It’s not easy by any stretch to take on these life-changing roles and then remembering who ‘YOU’ are amongst all the demands of those roles. You are not alone in the feelings that you have. You probably want that exciting feeling you had when you were a young adult, doing what you wanted to do and putting yourself first. Chances are, you don’t want to be twenty-something again, but you miss some of those carefree feelings. Just because you are a wife and mother, you should not put yourself as a lower priority. Without you being happy and feeling some excitement for things you do and achieve, it’s difficult to see the future in a positive light. You and your husband need to have some conversations about your feelings, perhaps some personal or marital counseling to have a mediator help you sort through and validate your feelings. Not only do you need to carve out a little time for yourself, but you and your spouse should find time and ways to reconnect. That sparkle and excitement you once felt is probably there, hiding behind your worry and concern. Be open to the possibility that your marriage and family stability can be stronger and more fulfilling as a result of this phase in your life.”
You’re Not Alone – Boost Your Self-Confidence
Be rest assured you are not alone. Women of all ages in all stages of marriage are susceptible to the restlessness that is bred by mediocrity and familiarity. Longevity in a marriage doesn’t necessarily mean happiness in a marriage. The ebb and flow of all of life’s stages depend on many things, and even though you may be disenchanted at this particular time, you will find that other emotions will come into play as your family grows in its shared experiences. Some will be rewarding and positive, some distancing and negative. But, because life is not stagnant, things will change and you may find you do not have the time or energy to be quite so self absorbed.
Flirting is harmless if kept platonic, but be aware it can often escalate and deliver consequences you are either unwilling or unable to handle. If I’m not mistaken, what you are looking for in another man’s eyes is sexual validation. I would suggest that if, indeed, you love your husband and at this time are not contemplating divorce, you turn your attention away from your marriage for awhile and focus on boosting your self esteem another way. Step outside of the mother/wife box and do whatever is necessary to participate in an area of life that will be rewarding to you. Open up your box of dreams, pick one and get busy making it come true!
And lastly, your “school age” children don’t need a 20 year old mother! You’ve been there, done that, and it’s time to move on in your maturity. They do need one who is confident enough in herself to lead them into adulthood with their own self esteem intact. You must teach them to look inside, not outside, of themselves for their life answers. To do that, you must first do it yourself. Good luck!
Life Can Be Boring!
Welcome to life. So you will be 52, what is that? A number? If you are staying married because the kids are little, what kind of message does that give to your children? Children know when their parents are not happy and most times they think it is their fault. Not a healthy thing for children to feel. If the true love and respect isn’t there, then get divorced and start living your life. If you are just thinking that marriage is boring, get over it. Life can be boring, not everyday is like we see on TV and wondrous things happen. Life is a slow steady slog and there are good times and there are bad times, but put it all together and it is what life is.
Time to Add Something New to Your Life
Being married for a long time is a struggle, a joy and a chore. One has to continually remake the spark and interest. I suggest you get into therapy yourself and see what you are missing. If your husband is truly a good man and good husband than maybe what you are feeling is a normal boredom with your life. And perhaps it has nothing to do with your marriage.
As you probably know, keeping your family together is paramount. If you do split up the family sometime in the future, you want to know that you did everything you could to keep it together. Talk to your husband about your dissatisfaction. Find a good family therapist and perhaps go together. Explore what you want from life and how you can do some of that together. It isn’t easy to grow with someone-but the pay off is worth it. And yes-I have felt this way-and we are working hard to reinvent our marriage as our kids grow up.