Every married couple looks forward to having a stable, secure and mature relationship. A relationship where difficult issues have been resolved (or at least agreed to not resolve them), where the understanding and rules of the relationship have been firmly established and where both parties feel secure and understood. Unfortunately, there is one ingredient that is essential for a relationship to become a mature relationship and that is this: time.
Even if you do everything right, time is the only way to grow your relationship from a weak, immature one to a solid, mature one. This can be particularly frustrating for couples who are marrying or re-marrying late in life. If you are in your 40's, 50's or 60's, you undoubtedly have achieved a great degree of maturity in your personal life. You now have found that special other person, fallen in love and tied the knot. You look around yourself you see that many of your friends who are in the same age bracket have wonderful marriages that are secure and mature. You also assume that, since you are of a mature age, you too should have a mature relationship, yet yours seems to be a continual struggle. You ask yourself "We are grown adults, why do we struggle so?" or "Why do my friends seem to get along so good in their relationships but we are so frustrated?" I'll tell you why: because your marriage is only a few years old while those in your age bracket have been married for 20, 25 and 30+ years.
You somehow believe that since you are both mature adults you should be able to fast track your relationship into the mature type of marriages you see in those around you, but you are not being realistic. It doesn't matter how old YOU are - your relationship is just a few years old. In fact, one of the great struggles of getting married later in life is that even though you may be 47 years old, after just a few years of marriage you will have the relationship of a 20 something year old who just got married - and that can be very frustrating. It's one thing to have a marriage of a 20 year old when you are 20. Its quite another to have the marriage of a 20 year old when you are pushing 50. And the truth is, the 20-something year olds are likely to be able to adapt to their marriage problems more easily than the 50-something year olds. What can you do?
First of all, you have to adjust your expectations. The only way you will have the marriage of a couple who has been married for 30 years is to stay married for 30 years - period. Just get used to that fact.
Secondly, stop comparing your marriage with those 30 year old marriages around you. Sure, they are the same age as you, but their relationship is a lot older than yours and there is just no way you can compete with that. It would be like being 50 and comparing your body to that of an 18 year old. I don't care how much you work, cry and pray you will never have the body of an 18 year old again. Such comparisons are only likely to create a sense of depression. So, too, when you compare your marriage to those of your peers who have been married a long time.
When you marry later in life, it may seem like the one thing you don't have is time, but like with a fine wine, time is the only way you can get what you truly want. So get as comfortable as you can with the notion that you are 53 and have the marriage of a 21 year old. Realize that staring at the water won't make it boil any faster and sit back and allow what years you do have together to sweeten your relationship. And stop comparing your 5 year marriage to your friends who have been married for 35 years. Finally, be thankful to God for the relationship you do have (you could be alone). Enjoy what you have and let patience have her perfect work in you. Time is too valuable to waste while wishing that things were different.
Mark Gungor is one of the most sought-after speakers on marriage and family in the country. Each year thousands of couples attend his Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage® seminars. His take on marriage issues is refreshingly free of both churchy and psychological lingo. Mark is pastor of Celebration Church in Green Bay, WI. He speaks for churches, civic events, and business meetings and is even a speaker for the US Army. Mark has been featured on national broadcasts such as Focus on the Family and ABC News. His daily internet radio show is heard on over 250 radio stations nationwide, and his television show Love, Marriage and Stinking Thinking is available nationwide on TBN and Sky Angel.