Midlife Years: Reflections on Midlife Affairs

by Peter Milhado PHD on August 25, 2018

No one can do our soul work for us and from mid-life on, soul work includes the search for meaning.  Only when we stop expecting our spouses to bring meaning to our lives can we begin to tap our own potential.  If our primary measures of self-worth and security depend solely on the affirmation and love of our partners we end up in trouble.  In modern day parlance, if the so-called ‘co-dependent’ continues to play a supporting role in someone else’s opera, mid-life will raise absolute havoc in their inner world.  When dependency needs for a partner are out of hand, bottomless ‘ attachment hunger’ follows, which always leads to severe depression or abandonment.  Those who are not willing to face ‘fears of change’ can’t individuate nor fulfill their potential.  Some become martyrs and martyrs do not make good partners or parents, for that matter.  For the price of their ‘sainthood’ others will pay dearly!  Absolutely no change will occur when we see our life as a problem caused by others.

Women

In our patriarchal society most women have to make a greater leap than men towards their right to be themselves and individuate. Until these last few decades women were told to find fulfillment through their husbands and sons, which left a mark.  Many mid-life women, when they first arrive in therapy, are plagued with negative inner voices, “Don’t try, you’ll fail”, “You don’t have what it takes”, “Who do you think you are?!” etc.  If they listen closely they will discover this inner voice is often masculine.  Their night time dreams are often filled with threatening masculine figures trying to harm, rape or kill them.  This happens when a woman is stuck, unable to act, or chip a piece of the earth out for herself in the outside world as she is disconnected from her masculine energy.

Initially therapy deals with the expression of a lot grief and anger.  Later on when the woman begins to gather energy for a new life, challenges the fears and inner forces blocking her, the masculine figures in her dreams become less threatening and eventually become allies.  A healthy personality doesn’t seem to be a given, it’s attained through a daily struggle against the demons of doubt and fear of disapproval.

Men

Again, due to our patriarchal society men have been conditioned to shun their feelings as well as their inner life and therefore lose touch with intuitive wisdom.  By the time they reach mid life the average male is isolated, a stranger to himself and others.  He’s become a slave to power, status and money – whether he’s attained any of it or not.  Many only know the presence of power as a sign of their manhood, because our society has put such tremendous pressure to play out the old roles of economical animal and becoming top dog!  If you ask this kind of man how he feels he will tell you what he thinks.

The initial time spent in therapy is often spent in helping men reconnect to their feeling nature.  As our technological society has traded information for wisdom, soul has gone out of most working places.  That’s why you see many mid-life men dreading work and dreaming of getting to play golf on some Elysian field after the business world has spit them out.  What a tragedy that is!  We need our elders, now more than ever.  Michael Ventura had it down when he said, ”The reason other cultures didn’t invent technology is not because they’re more primitive, but because they liked their lives better!”

Reflections on Mid-Life Affairs

So when men and women crawl into mid-life this unhappy, something is bound to happen.  Statistics tell us midlife affairs occur in about 50% of the marriages with men only slightly ahead of women.  When one represses feelings or creativity or basic joy in life, forces well up in the unconscious that often overwhelm the person.  It’s not like an individual gets up in the morning and says, “Well I think I’m gonna screw up my life today, hurt my spouse and my children and risk losing everything I have fought to attain (Hollis).”

As I said in a previous post, when the 45 year old husband runs away with his 22 year old secretary, most of the time he has projected his undeveloped inner feminine side and years of longing unto the young ‘goddess’.  I’m sure there are exceptions, but this seldom works.  Therapist Mae Rohm was right when she said, “The screwing you get is not worth the screwing you get!”  In my experience, this kind of a man eventually comes in and says something like, “Things are really great, but to tell you the truth, I absolutely hate that music she plays all the time!”  Usually that’s the beginning of the end.  On the other hand there are some marriages that are so abusive and soulless, they need to be left behind!

Relationship Therapy

Many times marital therapy starts with one spouse initiating it to help validate his or her case against the other.  If at all possible, I stay away from who’s right and who’s wrong.  The real issue in relationship therapy is to eventually have both partners contemplate the following question “What is it about my behavior or my past history that contributes to the problems we are having?”  Both partners are requested to look in the mirror.  If the relationship is to survive soulfully, both partners have to do inner soul work…its hard work!  To share one’s needs, fears, hopes, sense of failure and weakness is true intimacy and takes tremendous courage; few couples achieve it.  The real cement in a marriage is to know what’s it like to live in another’s skin and yet retain one’s individuality!  A marriage can only be as good and developed as the two people in it!  Thanks again to James Hollis Ph.D. for his many contributions.

One for all and all for one. Love to Mother Meera

Peter Milhado © 2018

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Midlife Years: Relationships

by Peter Milhado PHD on July 10, 2018

Because so much hope and so much need is invested in our relationships, the opportunity for disappointment is tremendous.  Most marriages who even make it to mid-life are under great strain.  It is pretty amazing, for those who can admit it, to realize that the enormity of such choices as picking a marriage partner were largely made unconsciously, usually a couple of decades before.  Unfortunately, the same holds true for career choices as well.

Intimate relationships reveal quite a bit about ourselves when we start them.  Beginning relationships are symptomatic of the state of our inner life, as no relationship can be any better than the relationship we have to our own unconscious.  How we are related to ourselves determines not only the choice of our partner but also the quality of the relationship.  This might be a bitter pill to swallow for those who passively ‘ended up’ in a relationship or those who were in obsessive pursuit of the ‘magical other’.  The bottom line is; however, no intimate relationship can be better than our relationship with ourselves. (J. Hollis)

The Fusion Model (1+1=1)

The psychological model for marriage in our culture is one of total togetherness and fusion i.e. (1+1=1).  The assumption is that only through union with another will I become complete; whatever I lack will be made up by my partner.  Whenever we feel that meaning in our life will be provided primarily through relationship with our spouses we end up in major trouble.  In mid-life we have to acknowledge that this enmeshment does not work, because this need to merge with another is largely based on insecurity and fear.  Each person is in charge of their own soul development, we all have to find meaning for ourselves in our naked aloneness.  There is a strong push from inside of us in mid-life to separate psychologically from our mates and to individuate.  This is a healthy impulse and can ultimately lead to much healthier intimacy.  Obviously individuation and psychological separation does not necessarily mean physical separation or divorce.  If only one partner becomes conscious of this and begins to individuate this will bring havoc into the established marriage for awhile.  The status quo needs to be challenged.

The Individuation Model (1+1=3)

Ultimately, we can only serve our marriages by becoming more fully ourselves and separate psychologically.  When we realize this, tremendous strain is added to our relationships…especially if only one in the partnership becomes conscious first, which is usually the case.  At that point the accusation ‘you’re not the person I married’ is actually a compliment.  Whereas in the first half of life we wanted confirmation, in mid-life we must accept difference.  “Where one wanted the simple love of sameness, one must now learn the difficult task of otherness.”(Hollis)

If we stop our growth because we’re afraid our partner can’t handle it we end up chronically depressed and angry.  On the other hand, if we try to block the soulful development of our spouses, we’re committing a spiritual crime.  In mid-life it’s imperative we grow, that we attempt to fulfill our potential and ‘follow one’s bliss’ so to speak.  We must grant the same right to our spouses!  The sooner both partners embrace the necessity of psychological separation and individuation, the greater the chance the marriage will survive soulfully.  Mid-life by definition is a time when change must be embraced otherwise we’ll wither into resentment and cynicism.  It’s either grow or die within.

To the poet Rilke relationship was the sharing of solitude with another.  He would defend the other person’s right to solitude as his own.  Another German poet Friederich Nietsche told us that marriage is a conversation…a grand dialogue.  When couples don’t talk anymore and have exhausted their conversation, growing as individuals stopped.  The ability to separate and be alone is essential, but so is the ability to dialogue and talk.  Long time intimacy requires a long time dialogue.  In a soulful relationship we share our outer and inner journeys with one another through compassion, sexuality and conversation.  When we’re able to stay connected with our partner through dialogue and yet support each other’s separateness we have a new model for relationship, namely 1+1=3… two individual souls who create a third entity, (the relationship) which stretches us beyond our individual limitations and brings us closer to the mystery of life. Gratitude to James Hollis Ph.D. in whose work this article is anchored.

One for all and all for one. Love to Mother Meera

Peter Milhado © 2018

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