About Last Night: Prepare for the next stage 29-10-17

November 6, 2017

Q: Twenty years married, with three children (19, 16, 13), Beth and I are happy and comfortable. Most people would say we have it all – a beautiful home, two cars, yearly holidays et cetera. I have nothing to complain about, but I am feeling trapped. I turned 45 last month and I feel like my life is passing me by. What’s wrong with me?

A: Life is a series of changing stages, and, although every person is different, there are some generalised patterns.

For many people, their 20s are a time of training and education, forming relationships, establishing a career, starting a family, and generally getting life under way. Everything is new, challenging, and full of potential. The future is a wide vista, and anything is possible.

In your 30s, life can get really busy, with work, children, bill paying, sports, and hobbies. The years fly past in a blur, and too much is going on to stop and think. There can be little room for “Me Time”, or fun and recreation. But the future still stretches out ahead, and there is still time to follow your dreams.

By the 40s, you are starting to get established and have settled into a predictable routine. The children are becoming more self-sufficient. It is possible to pause and take stock. You realise your options are shrinking. You are never going to play for Collingwood, or win an Oscar. If you are working, you know that the ladder ahead has only a certain number of rungs. You notice signs of ageing. The words “menopause” and “prostate examination” are mentioned. The future no longer seems endless, and old age appears on the horizon.

In your relationship, you have been through the excitement of dating, falling in love, and starting on life’s path as a couple. You have also been through the years where you were so tired and busy that your relationship has been neglected. Some couples become colleagues who run on parallel tracks that never merge. The fun, sexy selves that fell in love have disappeared, and soon you will be living in an empty nest. (Cue Peggy Lee singing, Is That All There Is?)

This is the time of the mid-life crisis. Both men and women can be struck by anxiety – that they have made poor life choices, that there is a world to explore, and they have missed the boat. They want reassurance that they are still vital, attractive, and relevant. Some go on a fitness drive (middle-aged men in Lycra), or get a makeover. Others buy a Harley, or start dressing like their kids, who are now the cool and sexy peeps, who see you as lame, and sexless.

As a result, any attention from a member of the opposite sex is gratefully received as validation that you are still sexually viable. Having an affair, especially with someone younger, can be tempting because it gives you back the passion and excitement that has waned at home.

Everything you are feeling is completely natural. You are transitioning into the next stage of your life, and it is probably going to be great.

As the kids leave home, you have more free time, and money is less of a worry. It is appropriate to discover the things that you would like to do – start a small business, make a tree change, learn an instrument …

However, never make major life changes from a position of fear or self-pity. Decisions made out of desperation can have massive consequences, resulting in a lot of pain, regret, remorse and loss. You are free to make your own choices, but you cannot choose the outcome of those choices. Do not jeopardise all you have worked for chasing a fantasy.

Take some time to get back in touch with yourself. Identify what you would like to have in your life that is lacking. Quieten your mind, search your soul (not your ego), make sure that you are going after what you truly need, not just what you want now. You and Beth are entering an awesome time of life.

Email your questions to abtlastnight@gmail.com

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