How could she have predicted that attending the wedding of her daughter’s best friend would be such a catalyst for Lizbeth? She would have been more prepared for her inner world being rearranged if it had been her own daughter walking down the aisle but for this wedding she hadn’t even purchased a new dress. Looking back on the evening, Lizbeth wasn’t sure how she got to the moment she now calls the “tipping point.” Only later, with the generous support of hindsight could she recognize that she had been inching in this direction since she turned 40, her midyears nudging her along in small everyday movements, like the sliding weight on the scale at the gym, gradually taking her into new territory. She could afford to ignore the slippage until the moment she heard, well actually felt the “thunk!” It was an awakening.
Here she was, after years of marriage and childbearing, and rearing, sitting next to Roy in the stained glass windowed chapel, having her first inkling of discomfort over what had been for so many years wonderfully comfortable and familiar. The bride was beautiful, the groom obviously smitten and the attendants looked like they each had a story of their own. Maybe it was the music that stirred Lizbeth’s longing for something unknown, maybe it was the reading of the Hafiz poem (from “Who Wrote All the Music):
Okay my dear,
You have stumbled enough in the earth's sweet dance.
You have paid all your dues
Now let's get down to the real reason
Why we sit together and breathe
And begin the laughing, the diving laughing,
Like great heroic women
She scanned the room, looking at other couples, hoping she would see what she was longing for in the living examples sitting all around her.
On the groom’s side of the aisle sat Jake and Sasha. Lizbeth knew how Sasha was dealing with her midlife longing. She was having an affair with her personal trainer. Several pews back Lizbeth recognized Ann and Micky. When their kids were fully launched, Ann threw herself further into her career, traveling so much that she was rarely home to notice how much things had changed. Next to them sat a couple Lizbeth didn’t know but from her ruddy face and his nodding head, she assumed they had been imbibing before the wedding started.
As the bride and groom turned their beaming faces toward their guests, ready to leave the church and enter their life as Mr. & Mrs., Lizbeth caught the wave of joy. This was young love and commitment. She recalled the feelings and questions she had held when she and Roy first began dating:
- Is he the “One”?
- Could we live happily ever after together?
- Will he love me for who I am?”
And as love grew, there were unformed fearful questions:
- Will there be challenges that change how we feel about each other?
- How will this partnership shape who I am to become, and will it be for better or for worse?”
The bride and groom were now outside. As Lizbeth stood up to leave, she took Roy’s arm and in that moment the longing that had been stirring in her heart formed a flurry of new questions:
- What is mature midlife love and commitment?
- What does love look like after years of togetherness?
- What’s the point when it is no longer fueled by the desire for procreation, establishment of identity and worth, nor necessary for security?
- Is there a flame without these?
- Is something else possible in my current relationship?
- How much is it about me and how much is it dependant on my partner?
- What is this new inner disquiet?
Stepping outside of the chapel, her heart holding current but uncomfortable questions, Lizbeth made a new covenant of love. She chose to fully step into her midlife by tending to these new questions. She would discover her own answers, revitalize the desire to know more fully what love is, raise the bar on what she thought was possible for her heart to feel, and enliven her vision of herself in partnership with expanded, creative and deeper possibilities.
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Have you experienced midlife longings for love that feel different than at earlier stages?
Where have these longings taken you?
What resources have you used to support your journey of discovery?
Let’s begin a dialogue. I’d love to hear what you are doing with your questions about love at midlife.