Being married to the same person for a long time can be quite an achievement. But for many older couples, the celebration of a long life together is overshadowed by health issues, caregiver stress, and lack of independence. Tensions can run high when one spouse is no longer able to care for themselves or tend to their partner’s needs the way they used to. But experts say there are a number of things that couples in their golden years, and their children can do to keep the marriage happy, healthy, and firing on all pistons. One of the first tips that experts give is for children, especially those who have assumed the role of caregiver, to butt out! “Couples who have been together for 60 years tend to have worked out ways to manage conflict – or they wouldn’t still be together,” said psychologist Dr. Gordon Herz from Wisconsin.
In fact, most experts agree that couples who could benefit from some third party direction would be better off consulting a relationship therapist rather than their own children. Some studies suggest marital therapy is most beneficial for older couples because that is when change is most difficult. Lifestyle changes, social changes and physical changes make the older years some of the most stressful. Marriage therapy can help individuals work through their challenges and continue to have a happy and healthy relationship.
Even if couples are struggling with physical and cognitive problems, intimacy is still one of the core elements of a strong relationship. Holding hands, cuddling, or engaging in an activity together can help couples bolster intimacy. But experts also warn not to spend too much time together. As couples age, they tend to be less active and spend more time with each other and not socializing with other people. This is particularly true if one spouse is disabled in some way. It is important for each spouse to take time to care for themselves and rejuvenate their bodies and minds so that they can be fully plugged in when they interact with each other. One recommendation is for spouses, especially those who feel dependent on others, to take time to volunteer in a way that allows them to feel productive and useful. This will improve their well-being and will spill over into their relationship with their spouse.
Seliger, Susan. In the middle: Helping unhappy couples. (n.d.): n. pag. The New York Times. 18 Dec. 2012. Web. 19 Dec. 2012. http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/in-the-middle-helping-unhappy-couples/
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