Vail Man-to-Man: Never too late to do what you want
Vail, CO Colorado
Q: I am 65 years old, in great health, married for over 40 years, successful in business and miserable. It has taken me a long time to admit it. Though I have been faithful to my wife, our marriage has had little passion for longer than I can remember. My wife is a nervous wreck and her anxieties have kept her from enjoying life with me. As a direct result, I spend most of my time either catering to her anxieties, or finding reasons to stay away from her.
You might think that the time I have alone would be enjoyable. It is not. I feel guilty, no matter what I am doing, even exercising. She is always on my mind. I have always tried to be compassionate. Now I am beginning to sense my resentment. After all these years, one tends to be resigned to one’s circumstances, dismal as they may be. I want more. I want to be happy. I hope it is not too late.
A: It’s never too late to be the man you’ve always wanted to be. With your good health, you still have many years ahead of you. The question is, will they be happy years, or just another couple of decades trapped in the same self-imposed prison? That’s right. This is your doing.
Regardless of your wife’s emotional challenges, she is not responsible for your current state of affairs or state of mind. But because you have held her responsible all these years, you have never been able or willing to consider your options. We call this being the problem rather than the solution. So let’s start working on the solution.
If you’ve been blaming her for keeping you from doing the things you want to do, your best course of action is to simply start doing what you want to do. But for a guy who has been imprisoned by his emotional co-dependency with his wife (meaning, what she feels, you feel or react to in debilitating way) this independent action will prove challenging.
First, you’ll have to make a commitment. Whatever it is you’ve been wanting to do (sailing, rock climbing, joining a square dancing group, or taking a trip by yourself,) make the commitment, put it on your calendar and don’t ask for permission. Now try to breathe.
You may not fully enjoy the process or even the activity right away. But the only way to build this new muscle is to get into action. Eventually, you’ll find your groove and begin to enjoy this newly found freedom to pursue your interests.
Now back to your marriage. You may just be beginning to sense your own resentment, but I guarantee that you are positively full of resentment. And if you weren’t such a good little boy – even at age 65 – you’d be screaming out your anger for all the world to hear. In fact, if it had been acceptable for you to acknowledge your resentment and anger years ago, you might have been motivated to make changes then.
I wonder what would happen if you were to silence that little boy, begin to run the sex and romance in your marriage, learn to express without defending your feelings, and be the rock for her so she can talk to you without you taking things personally and feeling as if you need to fix everything.
I suspect you’d see a world of difference in your wife, in your marriage, and in your own ability to enjoy yourself. Give it try. All you have to lose is the potential of enjoying the rest of your life.
Wayne M. Levine, M.A., is a life coach and mentor for men, women, couples and families. E-mail your questions to MantoMan@BetterMen.org. Learn more about men’s groups and retreats at http://www.BetterMen.org.