"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

Lessons from midlife marriage


We celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary a few months ago. That sounds a little odd for two people in their "early to mid 50s", although probably not as out-of-the-ordinary as it would have been 50 years ago. Obviously we'd both much rather we were celebrating more years together - 25 or 30 perhaps - but we're super-thankful for what we have!

A different marriage
The early years of our midlife marriage - okay, I realise we're still in the early years, but the early early years - were eye-opening for us both. We courted for a year, then came the not-entirely-unexpected proposal, and 5 weeks later we were married. Hey, when you're our age, why wait, right??

In many ways, this marriage is vastly different, for both of us, from our respective first marriages. One of the main differences, of course, is that we both come with marriage history, the pain of divorce, AND children on both sides. Not insignificant things, and not to be ignored - yes, we brought baggage with us!!! We would both agree that we've learned such a lot about ourselves, each other, and marriage in general from these first few years of making a life together.

Similar in many ways too
In other ways, though, this marriage is not so different. In the same way that young couples getting married for the first time don't really know what they're getting into until they actually get married, start living together, and find themselves bumping into each other in new ways, this was all true for us too. In spite of 36 years of marriage experience between us, this was a new marriage, to a new person, and lots of other "news" too.

We didn't live together before marriage, so there were things that came to light only after we began our life together. Little things, like toilet paper over or under, and much, much bigger things, like where shall we live, where will we go to church, how will we manage our finances, and how will we manage the whole combining two families thing. You get the picture.

What did we expect?
It's a good question!! Recently we participated in a course called "Marriage: What did you expect?" The presenter, Paul David Tripp, says that many of us get married expecting that the person we marry is going to "deliver to me my agenda, my dream of personal happiness, what makes me comfortable and content", and that we are attracted most to the person who seems like they have the right package to do this.

It sounds so selfish, doesn't it? But this is often the truth of our decision-making. During this particular course, in the couples discussion time, when we asked each other about expectations before marriage, we both had to confess that there was at least some of that selfishness in the mix. It's human nature. But the reality was, we didn't really think all that much about the "why" at the time, we were really just focused on the "let's do it".

Adjustment time!
I don't think either of us really gave a lot of thought to what life would look like AFTER "I do" either. We got the toilet paper issue sorted pretty quickly (he wanted "over", I didn't care, so "over" it is at our place). But we had a dawning realisation of our lack of preparation for this midlife marriage journey quite early in the piece, when we stumbled over a few (fairly significant........) obstacles to our not-very-well-formed and probably-a-little-naive expectations of how life was going to look from now on. Ummm, the children?

We'd agreed that after we married I would move into my husband's home, rather than he move into mine. There was good reason for this, the main one being that he felt his children had experienced several upheavals over the preceding years, and he wanted their home to remain one of the constants in their world, while other things might shift and change around them.

I understood this, it sounded reasonable, and in theory I was onboard with the idea. Except that we both failed to talk about what this would look like in practical reality, and so when we landed up living all together, to say we weren't quite prepared would probably be an understatement.

There was loads of adjusting to do, and some of it was really REALLY hard.

Forgiveness and grace
I love this quote from Dave Harvey, author of "When Sinners Say I Do", which I read in an article on the Gospel Coalition website:

...... the truth is, marriage reveals our sin, exposes our desires, challenges our relational network, and requires us to regularly practice costly forgiveness........... marriage is a call to ministry where two sinners learn - til death parts them - how to apply the gospel of grace.

Oh yeah, marriage can be challenging!! Grace (undeserved favour) is what we needed (and still need) to give and to receive, in abundance in our midlife marriage. There is no other way. We are both sinners, after all.

Paul Tripp, in his seminar, says "There are no grace-graduates in the world". Nobody has "arrived" when it comes to needing and receiving grace. We all need it, and nowhere more than in marriage. We need it from our heavenly Father, who gives "....... mercy and grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16), we need it from each other, and we need, so importantly, to give mercy, grace and forgiveness to each other, too.

Grateful for this second chance
I'm grateful for this midlife marriage, a second chance, if you like. I'm grateful for this husband who loves Jesus more than he loves me. And I'm so very grateful for my faithful heavenly Father who walks with us through all the challenges and all the joys.

10 comments

  1. Hi Sue - I think you're very blessed to have found happiness and a loving Christian marriage after the heartache you've been through. I guess it makes you appreciate what you have even more. You're right that all marriages require adjustment (no matter how old you are when you start) and the adjustments continue all the way through. My husband likes the quote "What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?" It certainly puts things into perspective and takes away some of our selfish expectations and entitlement beliefs! Congrats on the first five years and wishing you many happy and holy years to come xx

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    1. Thanks Leanne, we can't believe how fast the last 5 years have flown, but it's true we do so appreciate what we have. I really like that quote your husband likes too, and I remind myself of it often, not only in regard to marriage (although that is certainly a significant crucible) but in all manner of life situations. I absolutely believe God is far more interested in my holiness than my happiness (as challenging as it can be to be sanctified)! I certainly admire marriages like yours that not only have endured through various ups and downs, but indeed have flourished!!
      Hope you enjoy this lovely sunny day xx

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  2. I, too, am married for a second time to a man for whom this is also his second marriage. We both brought two children (teenagers at the time) into the mix. You're right, it can be challenging, but oh so rewarding. We are approaching our 20th anniversary and still happily married.

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    1. That is so awesome Christie, I hope we get 20 years and even more together. I love doing life with this man!
      Congratulations on such a milestone - it speaks to your enduring love for each other, grace and forgiveness shown over the years, putting the other person's needs before your own, and all the other attributes that make a marriage not only work but flourish! Well done xx

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  3. My husband is an "over" man too, where I had never even considered "over" or "under" before I got married! To me, you just put the toilet roll on and however that happened to be, it was. Haha! Now I've been converted to an "over" girl too :-P.

    But you're right - there are so many far deeper, far more complex differences to work through in marriage. I can't even imagine starting at the beginning with someone else all over again, it must be challenging in a whole different way with the additional "baggage" you bring to a second marriage. I admire what you and your husband have done with this "second chance" though, and the way you have put Christ at the centre of your relationship. I think a marriage that does this surely can't go too far wrong. :-) xox

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    1. It's funny, isn't it, I thought I would be the one to be fussy about the toilet roll, but it's always just been one of those things about which I couldn't care less. Not these days though, I've caught the "over" bug now myself, lol.
      I think you're spot on with your last comment, it really is the key to a marriage where both are growing in the right direction, together and not further apart, and most importantly closer to our Saviour. Thanks for your thoughtful comment as always xx

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  4. Midlife marriage can be really challenging. But yeah at the same time the experiences you both have can make swap the challenges with ease. With time everything becomes normal.

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    1. It's true, that our past marriages and general life experiences bring both challenges but also wisdom to our new midlife marriage. Being aware of the pitfalls is certainly a helpful step in minimising the difficulties, and forgiveness and grace allow us to keep moving forward. Thanks for your comment!

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  5. Another fine post, Sue. Firstly congrats on five years, I love your photo on the beach. (That would sell on photo sights for sure :) ) What a blessing to be married to a man who has the Lord central in your marriage. The Blogger's Pit Stop will feature this post.

    I have studied culture, and that makes me look at marriage like culture. Both come from a different culture or way of doing things and attitudes. It is good for a newly married couple to realize that they, together are making their own culture blending their unique way of doing things. It won't look like their parents or other peoples culture, it will be theirs to build together with the Lord. TP up or down!

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    1. Thanks so much Kathleen. I don't think we're interested in making money from the photos of our happy day - we didn't even bother with a "proper" photographer but just asked friends and family to take photos and send their best to us!
      I love your idea that we are making our own culture, blending out unique ways of doing things that will look different to other cultures. It's "ours" and it's special and we cherish it. Thanks for your encouragement as always xx

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