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So What’s the Deal with Relationships?

BDN blogger Karen Foley recently got together with fellow blogger Jim LaPierre to discuss the joys and challenges of negotiating relationships in middle-age!

Being a BDN blogger has given me the opportunity to meet some really great people. One of them is fellow blogger Jim LaPierre. Besides being a very genuinely nice guy, Jim is a counselor, which means he clearly possesses skills I may be in need of! He has also been married to his wife for over 24 years. This gives him insight into several areas I’m lacking, namely men and marriage! Jim and I decided to sit down and share our different perspectives on relationships. Although as Jim pointed out, unless I’m planning on living to be 100, I may actually be passed middle-age (thanks Jim, seriously, thanks)!

So what is the deal with men anyway? What does your wife know that the rest of us haven’t been able to figure out? In other words, can you sum up the key to a successful, long term relationship, in say, 50 words or less?

My wife, Brigitte’s answer is that relationships are Work and they hinge on Willingness to Change and Compromise. She points out that neither one of us are the same people we were when we got married. She feels that people need to embrace a “never give up attitude.” She went into this marriage believing this was a lifetime proposition – what she didn’t know at the time was that people change a LOT over the years. We made a choice to change and grow together.

My explanation for our great relationship is that we are best friends. We put no one before each other. We accept each other as we are – warts and all. We do not try to change each other; rather we support each other in the changes we want to make individually, as a couple, and as a family. Oh – and we laugh a lot.

(Hmmm, coincidence that Jim’s wife’s name is also the name of one of the most powerful female saints of all time. I think not, sorry Jim, next question).

As a man in his mid-forties, what is the one piece of advice about life and relationships that you would give to men or women who are now in their twenties? What do you wish you had known back then? Don’t be afraid alone. Don’t struggle alone. Don’t cry alone. Don’t do anything alone unless it’s something you really enjoy. You’re not burdening your partner, family, or friends by sharing how you feel what you want and what you need. Not communicating those things creates distance in relationships and it’s a breeding ground for resentment.

So it was only fair, in the interest of relationship science, to let Jim ask some questions of me as well.

Why do women remain so willing to blame themselves for what men do? I’ve sat with hundreds of women who tell me things like, “It’s my fault, I married him.” Or “It’s my fault my mother warned me and I didn’t listen.” I’ve talked with very, very few men who told me similar things.

Valid question, however, not my policy. My policy is that it is always the man’s fault (sort of joking here). I can’t speak for all other women but my guess is that it has something to do with the belief that they are responsible for keeping the family together, and for meeting everyone’s needs. As a society, I think we still cut men way too much slack. If one more person says to me “well, he did this or that, but you know how men are” I may slap them.

I try to think better of the men I know than to believe that they are big animals incapable of controlling their emotions or impulses! However, this is still the excuse many woman let them use. Why do we still put up with this? Is this some hold over from our Puritan days? I believe that women and men who refuse to put up with this will eventually raise women and men who will change our world! As a woman in (not so) middle age, what are the challenges you face in relationships that you didn’t face when you were younger?

Relationships at this age are ridiculous. At twenty, we picture two people running towards each other through a field of daisies. There is no one else around, just the two of them heading towards their happy destiny! At this age, picture two people, same field, running maybe but if one’s back is out, they may be walking. The field if also full of other people they must negotiate around; children whose needs must be met, x spouses who are a distraction, baggage strewn about. The path is not clear!

Before we end, I have to ask Jim one more question that all of us are just dying to know. Jim, what’s your hair care regime? Do you have a certain brand product you recommend? (Seriously, I don’t know what I envy more, your successful marriage or your awesome hair!).

Lol! Yes, Suave conditioner and lots of brushing leave me resembling Gandalf the Gray. Sadly, women 50 and over believe they can’t have long hair like mine. I’d love to hear from your readers what they struggle with in relationships and make this an ongoing collaboration. One of my great joys professionally is doing couples therapy. I explain to my clients that I am multilingual I can translate male/female, female/female, and male/male.

Wow! Jim and I both feel we are going to need to revisit these topics again. There is a lot here to talk about. Please pipe in with your questions, comments or complaints! We’d both love to hear from you!

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