Ask Ellie: A certain age group can be negative turning point

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: What is it about being ages 40s-to-50s that breaks up marriages? We’re both 44 and my wife of 15 years has raised what she calls our “dysfunction.” I knew we weren’t the perfect couple but I felt we were doing fine.

We’ve handled the pandemic without screaming fights when both working from home, and I expect we’ll be back to normal when I return to my office, she to hers.

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We usually have dinner together with our two teenagers.

We download movies on weekends and the kids often join us.

We have sex usually once a week. I may not always say it, but I still love her. So, where’s the dysfunction?

Two couples, our friends for 10 years-plus, are now separated. One husband’s already left the home for another woman. In the other case, the wife’s moving out.

I asked my wife if she’s nervous about their example or seriously thinks our marriage is failing. She said there’s a lot that needs to change, and left the room crying.

Where do I go from here — to counselling, or a lawyer?

Confused Husband

Start by telling your wife that you still love her. Say that you want to discuss the dysfunction she feels so you can work together on fixing it. Don’t rush this conversation or argue that she’s wrong… instead, listen.

If possible, offer positive thoughts about what you’re willing to work on with her. Or, tell her you want to have professional therapy to repair the marriage, together.

Through this column, I, too, have noted how many marital break-ups occur at this life stage of 40-to-50. Realize it or not, both people have changed somewhat: through positive OR negative experiences. There are possible contributing health issues, including a wife’s peri-menopause symptoms which can be difficult or a husband’s mid-life anxieties which can be very disturbing.

It takes a trained, experienced marriage therapist to see what the underlying issues of marriage dysfunction are really about. But once recognized, a couple has a far better chance at surmounting them.

Dear Ellie: Is there a way to set and enforce “house rules” with children without always having heated arguments?

One common example in my house has to do with my daughters not putting away their clean or dirty laundry themselves — something I think is a minor request of girls 12 and 13.

Not to mention my always finding their school assignments all over the floor in their bedroom.

They say of the accumulated clothing that they’ll move it later. It never gets done and even clean clothing ends up in the wash again. Besides a waste of water and electricity, their bedroom door is always being closed by me and them. (Me not wanting to see the mess and the girls not wanting me to see their school assignments also left all over the floor.)

This leads to an argument without resolution. Should I just walk away from this?

Frustrated Mom

Try a new approach. Ask your daughters how they want to handle their own clothing – clean and dirty. Offer suggestions to get the chat going, e.g., two different-coloured laundry baskets.

Sounds to me that it’s time you teach your girls how to do their own laundry, and to operate the machines safely. Once you show them the “intricacies” of colour separation, washing, hanging, drying and folding, they may come to appreciate the time and energy that you’ve put in and they’ve taken for granted.

Reader’s commentary

Regarding the woman whose “runaway” husband was trying to leave her destitute (July 6):

“My ex-wife tried everything to intimidate me repeatedly calling police with false accusations. The police stopped answering realizing who was the “real victim.”

“Do not reciprocate in any way. Just follow your lawyer’s advice.

“Document and record EVERYTHING, as a log of his “antics.” Where possible, take photos. Get copies of previous bank statements. They’ll reveal if he’s tried to drain any accounts. Keep receipts for all your expenses.

“During my mediation my ex-wife’s lawyer was taken aback when my lawyer presented my log (over 70 pages with photos). And copies of all the police reports complementary to my side.

“My ex-wife’s lawyer realized just how much her client had been lying to her and trying to intimidate me.

“Though she was after EVERYTHING, my ex-wife only received the minimum to which she was legally entitled.”

Ellie’s Tip of the Day

The ages of 40s-through-50s can be a negative turning point for those who take their spouses for granted. Listen/discuss/speak love.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.

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