The midlife is a pretty peculiar stage of your life to start a new relationship. You may carry scars from your previous relationships but you would also be excited at the opportunity of finding lasting love after previous failed attempts. Your experiences up to this stage of life would be far more enriching, impactful, hurtful, and would have generally been spread over different walks of life as compared to your experiences in your early twenties. They are bound to have a greater impact on your love life. They may define your choice of partner, your behavioural patterns in the relationship, what you seek from the relationship, your favourite soccer player (quite true in some cases!) etc.
Your experiences, and particularly the ones derived from your previous relationships, also teach you some important relationship lessons. These lessons may make you understand what went wrong earlier and how you could set things right this time. They may teach you how you could have avoided a fallout with your partner if you wouldn’t have argued over a petty issue and allow it to snowball into something irreparable. They may also teach you how it would have been a wise decision for you to stand up for yourself and let go of the relationship when your partner was constantly causing hurt to you but you let go of it to save the relationship. Either way, these lessons are invaluable and if you want to ensure that your new midlife relationship succeeds, then you must carry those lessons into the relationship. Here are 12 of these all-important midlife relationship lessons.
- Fights and arguments are commonplace in a relationship
When 2 people spend a lot of time with each other, there are bound to be those occasional (or in some cases, regular) fights and arguments. No two people are exactly alike and you are bound to disagree on various things – whether to go for a movie or watch a game, what restaurant to go to, your political preferences, your mannerisms, etc. It is important that you understand that you would not be able to avoid such situations. These disagreements need to be sorted but they need not be given too much of importance simply because they are unavoidable, perennially present parts of a relationship.
- Scorekeeping is best left to professional scorekeepers
Who did the laundry last time? Who apologized in the previous fight? Who came late for the date? If you keep a score of such trivial matters, your relationship is not going to get anywhere. Scorekeeping is a job best left for professional scorekeepers in a sport. There is no point in imbibing their skills and applying them in your new midlife relationship, is it? Besides, even professional scorekeepers would struggle to give an ‘unbiased’ score in this regard!
- Constant, 2-way communication is a must for a relationship’s survival
As much as we would not like to believe it, but us humans are pretty bad at gauging the mood of our companions (or of all our fellow humans, for that matter). So the only way to understand how your partner is feeling at a certain point or to convey your sentiments to them is by actually, physically, verbally spelling it out. Leave the guesswork for statisticians and weather forecasters (even they are pretty bad at it, to be honest!). A constant, 2-way communication channel between you and your partner would keep both of you aware of each other’s emotions and experiences and let you know when you need to give them a hug and when to give them their space.
- Forgive and forget
As far as midlife relationship lessons go, there are barely a few that are as important as this one. There is a reason why our elders (or some of the more matured people) always preach the importance of ‘forgive and forget’ policy. When your partner makes a mistake and owns up to it, forgive them for their error and forget the whole chapter then and there. Make sure that you stick to the right meaning of forgiving and forgetting; some people forgive their partner’s mistake and then forget about their forgiveness when they run out of arguments in a future conflict!
- Admitting a mistake and apologizing won’t make you a smaller person
If you expect your partner to own up for mistakes and apologize, then you can’t set different standards for yourself. You need to walk the talk. Accepting a mistake would not make you a smaller person. In fact, it would only increase mutual trust and respect between you and your partner. Your partner would know that you are not the one who would shy away from taking responsibility for something that you messed up and that the blame-game is not your favourite game!
- Your life goals and desires won’t be the same as the ones in your twenties
This is one of the more obvious midlife relationship lessons. In midlife, your goals, desires, and ambitions would all be different from the ones you had in your teens and twenties. They would be more practical and personal. Your career may not be the centrepiece of your midlife, as it would have been earlier. Your happiness is largely sourced from personal relationships with your friends, family, and partner.
- There is no set script for a perfect relationship
Don’t let those books and movies fool you! There is never a set script for a perfect relationship. In fact, there never is a perfect relationship! (sad but true!) However, you always strive to make it perfect even though you know it could never become that. That is what keeps a relationship healthy and strong. The willingness and desire of both partners to maintain an imperfect relationship is what actually makes it perfect (a paradox if ever there was one!).
- Respect your partner’s individuality and ascertain that they respect yours
Each person is different and has his or her own unique behavioural traits and quirks. Your partner would be no different either. Your partner may be strikingly different from you in various aspects. You might be the outgoing extrovert while your partner would rather prefer reading a book than going to a club. You might be the one who greets people warmly with a hug while a handshake may be enough for your partner. Respect your partner’s individuality. Also, make sure that they respect yours. Do not try to change each other and just let yourselves be yourselves.
- Laughter is indeed the best medicine
The midlife usually comes with a few challenges of its own (no, we are not uttering suggesting the mythical ‘midlife crisis’). Both you and your partner would probably be tackling them right throughout the day. So when you are in each other’s company, it is important that you really enjoy that time. And what brings greater joy than laughter? Well, pizza does but you can’t have it daily, could you? Spending laughter-filled times with your partner would ease out the stress that both of you are facing. Laughter, most definitely, is the best medicine (and also the most inexpensive one!).
- Being in a relationship is hard work
To be honest, it isn’t just hard work, it is bloody hard work! But at this stage of your life, you would probably have known that. Being in and maintaining a relationship requires constant and monumental efforts from both partners, particularly if it is a new midlife relationship. There will be challenges aplenty but they could be worked through if both partners develop a willingness to overcome them. A relationship is always a work in progress; it never is a finished product. Constant hard work is what keeps a relationship going and brings it closer to the finished product stage even though it would never quite get there.
- Love your partner for what they are, not for what they could be
When you buy a ticket to a romantic comedy, do you expect it to suddenly transform into a sci-fi movie? When you buy a ticket to a crocodile zoo, do you expect lions and tigers to show up there? You don’t, right? Then how could you expect your partner to turn into a different and exponentially superior person altogether during the course of your relationship? When you enter a new midlife relationship, you are entering it with a real person and not with a (hopeful) figment of your imagination. Remember that you are dealing with a person and not with stocks; so if the potential value is a decisive factor in your choice of a partner then you could pretty much expect a lot of disappointment coming your way, sooner or later!
- Always putting yourself last could be a big mistake
There is a fine line between ‘letting go’ and allowing your partner to gain one-upmanship in your new midlife relationship. This line may define how your relationship pans out and, more importantly, how you come out as a person from that relationship. Letting go of small issues is a nice trait to have but only if your partner doesn’t constantly undermine you. Your self-esteem is as important as the relationship (because it is one thing that would surely stay with you for the rest of your life; something that can’t be said about a person). If the relationship harms it, then you need to have a chat about it with your partner.
If you have just entered a new midlife relationship or are looking for a partner, these 12 relationship lessons would hold you in pretty good stead. Apply them to your relationship and you’d have a far better chance of succeeding at it than otherwise.