Jeff was a very conservative pastor. You know, poster boy for the conservative movement. Blue blazer, khaki slacks, and coordinating tie was what he wore into the pulpit each Sunday. That is, until he hit midlife. One day he appeared in a Hawaiian shirt buttoned up halfway, shorts, and Birkenstock sandals. He let his hair grow out until it reached his shoulders. He got his ear pierced and was talking about getting a tattoo. Jeff and his wife, Karen, had eight children but he was talking of selling the family van to get a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He was playing his favorite rock tunes from high school, such as “Born to Be Wild.” Karen said to me, “Who stole my husband and when will they bring him back?”
Karen dug in and learned as much as she could about men and midlife (for much more on midlife for both men and women, see www.midlife.com). She read books, went to seminars, and found a counselor specializing in midlife issues. What she learned was that men at midlife are asking a few key questions:
Is this the career I want to work in for the rest of my life?
Have I made my mark on the world?
I am mortal and I don’t like it. How can I feel young again?
Why do I feel so lost? (He may have unresolved emotional baggage from his childhood that comes back screaming to be resolved.)
I have spent so much time on work, I feel like a stranger in my own family. How can I get closer to my wife and children?
I want a deep relationship. Who will listen to my heart? (The wise wife will want this to be her. The wise midlife man will seek ways to get reconnected to his wife.)
Karen went to Sally Conway, a specialist in the area of midlife, for advice. Sally said, “Look at him through the eyes of an 18- or 19- year-old. What traits, what qualities would an 18- or 19-year-old woman find attractive in your husband? You find them attractive too. Your spouse doesn’t need another mother right now. He needs you to be his girlfriend.”
It will take time to be your husband’s girlfriend. He’ll need time for you to listen to his heart, to be his sounding board, to be his date and his sexual playmate. One day over lunch, Karen said to me, “Pam, it takes a lot of time to be your husband’s girlfriend. I have to shave my legs every day!”
Karen set aside some of her dreams, plans, and responsibilities to be her husband’s confidante and lover. She invested in things that made him feel valued—and she encouraged him to get that Harley. Karen said, “It is cheaper than a divorce and less complicated than if he got a girlfriend! He needs a new adventure!”
The result: Jeff decided to keep the family van, he cut his hair, he put back on the blue blazer (at least for Sundays) and he returned to school to finish his doctorate. And Jeff and Karen took a second honeymoon, part of the time on the Harley and part on a cruise. One day Jeff turned to Karen and said, “Honey, I’ve noticed how much you have set aside for me. I appreciate all the time you have listened and all the sacrifices you have made. I want to do something for you. I know you have wanted to start a national organization to encourage women. I want to help you. Whatever I can do, just name it, sweetie.” Jeff is now one of Karen’s best cheerleaders on a new adventure in life. Karen saved her marriage, got a teammate for life’s second half’s adventure, and saved all eight of those children a whole lot of pain—just by choosing to realign her priorities to be her husband’s girlfriend.
Pam and Bill Farrel are the authors of over 38 books including bestselling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti and Pam has a book to help maximize midlife and beyond, 10 Secrets of Living Smart, Savvy and Strong. Bill oversees www.midlife.com which offers numerous resources, free articles and online chatrooms to assist those in midlife. Bill and Pam’s resources are available at www.Love-wise.com
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