Out with the Young…In with the Mature!
When we reach our 40s and move into our 50s, our lives change in ways that are often difficult to prepare for psychologically in our 20s and 30s. The projects we began in those years often reach fruition: we begin to pay off student loans and mortgages; children become more independent and move on to college; careers we’ve worked on for, at this point, decades may plateau; our parents age; we age. For those of us with other life trajectories, we encounter friends and families whose lives have moved in very different directions. For even the healthiest couples, these can be trying times, as patterns we’ve grown accustomed to begin to wear out and we look to make changes. Therapy during the 40’s and 50’s can address these years in a number of ways. Continue reading to find out how older dogs can learn new tricks!
Midlife Crisis or Therapy?
Perhaps most importantly for those who’ve never pursued therapy before, it offers a space to talk about the life events and develop skills to better manage stress, as well as learning more about yourself as you figure out this new stage of life. If you’re contemplating a career change, a therapist can help you weigh the pros and cons from a variety of angles; some therapists even specialize in mid-life professional changes. If you’re dealing with family stresses, from growing children to aging parents, family counseling can be an excellent resource. As I discussed in earlier posts, children experience a lot of stress and anxiety with families as they enter their 20s and 30s, but there two sides to that coin: parents experience stress as their children grow. Similarly, counseling between aging parents and their children can be extraordinarily beneficial for all family members, as it gives children (who are now in their 40s and 50s) an opportunity to see what their parents’ lives are really like, as those children advance into caregiver roles.
Empty Nest Syndrome? Not in THIS Family!
Therapy can also be a place for couples to talk about the impact of stress and life changes on the relationship, as well as provide skills to prevent relationship crises. Because even the happiest families tend to develop routines based around the significant project of childcare, as children grow, become independent, and eventually establish their own lives, the remaining family members, particularly couples, deal with the difficulty of developing and adjusting to new routines. Habits as small as the division of household chores, to more professional work-home time distribution, even up to habits related to sex come under scrutiny and can become causes of stress that may be difficult to discuss. Learning how to discuss these issues together, whether as a couple or as a family, or how to think about them individually, is the facilitating role we should look to therapists for.
Sex Changes Too…
With respect to sex specifically, I’ve worked with many couples who had sex lives that worked out well for both partners, until suddenly, with more time just for each other along changing sexual appetites, they faced a ‘sexual roadblock’. But because they’d had a mutually pleasing sex life for years, they were increasingly anxious about expressing to their partner a newfound dissatisfaction or desire for change. Therapy is a place that’s tailor-made for starting conversations like these. If you’re a couple that’s looking to stay in shape and enjoy sex even as you age, a qualified sex therapist can help you develop habits of talking (and acting!) that may seem foreign but that will eventually become second-nature, leading to, of course, better sex, but most importantly, closer and more satisfying relationships.
So, if you’re thinking about starting therapy and have questions please reach out to me in the comments. Even if I can’t help you directly, I have lots of resources for your particular issues and in your area that I’d love to share.