Dear Thelma: We've grown apart, and our love has lost its spark


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Dear Thelma,

My husband and I have been together for over 40 years, and lately, we've found ourselves at a crossroads that we never thought we'd face.

We're both in our late 60s, and our marriage has seen its fair share of ups and downs, just like any long-lasting relationship. However, in recent times, it feels like the downs have outweighed the ups, and we're seriously contemplating divorce.

While our friends and family may think we're crazy for considering ending things at this stage of life, we can't help but feel that we might be happier apart.

The spark that once ignited our love has dwindled, and we've grown apart in many ways. Our interests, our goals, and even our values seem to have shifted. We find ourselves arguing more frequently, and the idea of spending the rest of our lives like this is daunting.

On the other hand, we've built a life together, raised children, and created a lifetime of memories. We're also well aware of the financial and emotional challenges that come with divorce, especially at our age. We worry about loneliness and the fear of not finding companionship again.

We're genuinely torn, and the thought of making such a life-altering decision is overwhelming.

How do we navigate this difficult crossroads? What should we consider when deciding whether to part ways or try to rekindle what's left of our love? Are there resources or strategies for older couples like us who are contemplating divorce?

At A Crossroads

I'm so sorry to hear this. A 40-year relationship is a long time. I agree, it's not something to give up lightly, especially if you're not totally certain that it's over.

You say the issue is that you've grown apart and that your interests, goals and values are no longer aligned.

To have different interests is not a problem, because you can both pursue independent hobbies and interests while coming together for family time.

However, having different goals and values sounds rather daunting. For example, if you want to stay in your current home and work part-time, and he wants to move to the beach and go surfing every day, then there's no real compromise.

Your mind has moved to a split. When making decisions, we tend to focus on extremes, like not making any changes on the one hand and divorcing on the other. However, why not try a middle path?

One option is to plan a three-month sabbatical, basically a chance for both of you to do exactly what you want to do. This is not a trial separation; instead, it's a time for you two to update your feelings.

From your letter, you two have been together since your mid-20s. From there, you became parents and spent 20 years raising kids. On top of this, you also worked.

I suspect that you have been trucking along in life, doing what must be done without thinking too much about it. That's natural because raising a family and working really takes it out of you.

However, now the kids are grown and you're retiring, you two are looking at each other and those 40 years of change are suddenly at the forefront.

I imagine you are both thinking, "Where has the time gone? Who are you? Who am I? Who are we?"

So how about you take a few months where you focus on getting to know yourself again. Take a break from housework, from family responsibilities, and spend time reflecting on your past, your present and then look at what you want from your future.

I suggest you put aside a budget. Then make an agreement on how often to touch base. You may not talk at all for the three months, or send an "I'm OK" text at intervals – whatever suits you both. But the point is to enjoy a break.

Use the sabbatical to get some perspective on yourself and your needs. Try out some of your retirement goals and see how it feels.

Then, at the end of the time, reconnect with your husband. Ideally, actively plan experiences that you both enjoy. Go on a dozen dates over about two or three weeks.

Hopefully, the reset will help you rediscover each other. If so, you can rebuild your relationship and move on.

Should you discover you have different needs, it still doesn't mean you need to rush to split up.

If you can be friends, consider an arrangement where you share the house and some family activities. You might also live apart for part of the year, and together for the rest.

Living as friends or roommates rather than a formal couple ensures you keep a part of your social life intact and it's also easier financially.

In other words, there are options that fall short of the nuclear one that is divorce. So tread lightly, and don't rush any decisions.

Good luck and please know I'm thinking of you.

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Marital woes , relationships , divorce , separation


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