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Boomers Face Their Own Perfect Storm
the movie, The Perfect Storm, three weather systems collide to form a
massive storm off the eastern seaboard. Boomers, the generation born from
the postwar era to late 1950ís, who are married, face their own perfect
storm, the coming together of three major life challenges; menopause,
launching your children and the empty nest; and caring for or losing aging
parents. While any one event can precipitate a crisis of adjustment, the
colliding of all three can throw even the best of marriages towards the
brink. Marital bliss can take a hit in the wake of the perfect storm.
often considered a womenís issue, is also a relationship issue. As
changes occur to the woman and she copes and adjusts, so too must the
husband adjust. The wife may be coping with symptomís such as hot
flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, migraine headaches, breast
swelling and tenderness, heavy menstrual periods, irregular or erratic
periods, fibroids, change in libido, vaginal dryness and/or painful
intercourse, urinary symptoms, skin problems, bone loss, insomnia and
fuzzy thinking. The surfacing of any one or combination of these symptoms
can intrude on the marital relationship. Depending on the understanding of
the husband, any of these symptoms can cause a cascade of marital
problems. The most obvious is a decrease in sexual libido or painful
intercourse. Less obvious to most men are issues of fatigue, fuzzy
thinking or even hot flashes. Menopause is an issue that men must come to
understand and appreciate if they are to appropriately support
their wife and the symptoms experienced.
the same time of life, parents are seeing their children not only off to
college, but off to the military, work or even marriage. Kids are leaving
home in droves. Once a family life programmed by chauffeuring, soccer
games, recitals and dealing with teenage dilemmaís, family life has
morphed into mom and dad alone to their own devices. There are existential
adjustments as they redefine themselves, less as parents and more as
couple. While many embrace this, others feel a sting from the loss of
their role as parent and loss of their childrenís proximity. Some suffer
in the adjustment of redefining roles and daily activities. Couples that
have distanced from themselves during the childrearing rears may have to
cross a great disconnect as they rekindle their relationship. Couples in
this situation need time to reconnect and develop their mutual interests
and activities as they come to rely on time in each otherís company to
pass the days, versus time taken to rear the kids.
occurring at this stage of life is the confrontation of oneís own aging
parentís and their mortality. With diseases like Parkinson and Alzheimer
many boomers are thrust into caring for their parentís, parents who will
only suffer a steady decline. This state of the human condition is fraught
with despair and anxiety for many people whose parentís care falls
solely to their hands. The challenge of caring for an aging parent can be
enormous, physically, emotionally and financially. The challenge can be
greater or lesser depending upon the quality of the relationship prior to
having to care for oneís parents. Caring for an aging parent can
seriously tax the resources of the marriage. The couple must make serious
accommodations and even when a parent is lost quickly and mercifully,
there remains an adjustment to their loss. Psychologically, boomers are
thus also faced with their own mortality.
Surviving the perfect storm takes perspective, maturity and mutual support. Boomers are well advised to learn about the issues involved so they can attribute their stressors appropriately to these events and not to any attitude or issue between themselves. If you are stuck in the perfect storm, riding it out remains key. In time most people adjust. Parents pass away. Biological changes occur. We take our place as matriarch and patriarch of our families and grandchildren bring new purpose and focus of attention. If the perfect storm has sent your marriage adrift, consider counseling to help with the adjustment. Odds are you have as many or near as many adult years ahead as you have behind. Time, understanding and counseling can be the way to smoother waters.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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