You buy a sports car, start hitting the gym and have an affair: It’s the stereotypical midlife crisis, one we’ve seen played out both onscreen and in real life.
Although not everyone acts out middle-age angst in such a way, many of us do experience a reckoning or longing as we approach midlife, the feeling of hitting a wall and wondering if there isn’t more to life — and in, particular, to marriage.
I often see this phenomenon in my own practice, as one or both partners begin to question their relationship. Even in younger couples, disagreements over classic issues such as finances, parenthood and sex can lead to concerns that they may not be on the same page regarding many of life’s greatest stressors and demands.
But are such couples headed for divorce, or are they simply mired in difficulties that could be better navigated together?
In her new book, “The Rough Patch: Marriage and the Art of Living Together,” psychologist Daphne de Marneffe argues that it’s often entirely possible for couples to weather these and other bumps in the road, coming out stronger on the other side.
According to de Marneffe, it’s not only common but natural for today’s couples to experience rough patches. In the past, marriage was often an economic arrangement based on a division of labor and child-rearing. Now, we want a partner in love, too. And we live longer than ever. “We aspire to close, intimate marriages, but emotions can be complicated and inconvenient,” she explains. “We want to have it all in a relationship, but that can be challenging.”
Here, she shares some advice for couples trying to get out of midlife rough patches, as well as for younger couples hoping to avoid them altogether.