Little Magpie: Swan - it seems that as time goes on I get more guarded and withdrawn
Bill: Little Magpie: I appreciate your honest response. I believe that becoming guarded and withdrawn is the "expected" result of life on this earth. Apart from the love and power of God at work in our lives, this place can be a scary, overwhelming place. The Bible is quite upfront about the condition of this world and the battle we all have raging in our souls. It is no surprise that many elderly people end up disillusioned, discouraged, angry and sullen. In the midst of all this, Jesus offers hope and strength through the Holy Spirit which reaches to the depth of our hearts and gives us the courage to keep "putting ourselves out there" to see what God can do with the little we have to offer.
Little Magpie: Bill - I am not quite sure I get it but I do get - realizing disappointments and things beyond our control happen and that we have personal tendencies like being a planner that we adapt into our daily lives
Bill: Little Magpie: God orchestrates the moments. We don't have to go looking for them or create them. God leads us through them at the right time, in the right circumstances. Our job is to respond to them and let them have their impact on us.
tos: Bill, I think part of what I see her struggle with is unforgiveness/bitterness and a great amount of fear. I've admitted I was wrong so often, worked to improve (and have, though I'm not perfect), but the pain she is experiencing is overwhelming I think.
Bill: tos: I am sure there is bitterness involved and a strong sense of disappointment in herself she doesn't want to admit to. These lead to irrational conclusions that become self-fulfilling. This is why you can do "all the right things" and still not see the changes you thought were sure to happen. I am glad you have taken your own inventory and made changes that made sense but you now see the situation is bigger than your mistakes and shortcomings. Families are collections of very imperfect people who need grace, acceptance and courage to figure out life together. They are strongly connected but can be fragile at the same time.
Swan: Bill - That sounds awesome. Everyone seems to think that families suddenly become aware of everything they need to know and that is so far from the truth. My husband and I didn't really have good examples of a family, so when we entered into marriage, sadly we were very unequipped. Sadly we didn't provide a very good example either for our children, at least as adults they have been willing to listen to things I have learned from my own failings.
Bill: Swan: I also don't know anywhere else, except churches and camps, where you can get the truth about families. The world definitely has a lot to say but so much of it is unattainable and inconsistent with the way God made life. I feel very fortunate to have learned from very faithful people since neither Pam nor I had great role models to follow. Our experience gives us confidence that anyone who wants to figure it out can if they are willing to learn and humbly accept God's direction.
tos: Well, last time you warned against getting bitter and I have to say, that was helpful. There are days when I am really angry at my spouse for putting "us" (meaning me and our children) through this. But, after talking to God about my feelings, I go back to forgiving. I also just had a friend from church write me and ask for prayer because his 47 year old wife is doing the same things.
Bill: tos: Well done tos. The primary battle for those who are affected by the actions of an MLCer is at the level of the heart. It is unfair, disappointing and painful. If it turns to bitterness, it can be worse on us than the one causing the pain. I also think you are going to find this is a big club. Statistically, ML is the most prevalent time of life when divorce takes place. The hurt, pain and poor decisions cause so much turmoil that people just give up or react. In a strange way, I am glad to hear others reaching out to you because it means you are growing forward in the midst of your disappointment.
Swan: Little Magpie - What happens if you don't step in and take responsibility for others? Just wondering, sometimes others will actually step in and take care of their responsibilities if no one else with jump in and do it for them.
Bill: Swan: Great question to consider. I am a big believer in fully taking on our responsibility while not taking on the responsibility that legitimately belongs to others. It is easier to think about than to do but I think it is a theme we should all keep in front of us on a daily basis.
Swan: Bill - How are Jim and Jan, when I see anything on facebook or email, they seem to be doing great. They are a sweet couple, I am so glad they found each other.
Bill: Swan: We need to be praying for him. He had a minor stroke earlier this year and had a fall from the roof/ladder. He is doing ok but he has moments when he is not quite himself.
tos: How long does the MLC usually last? And are there predictable stages?
Bill: tos: Predictable stages: I will discuss this but I don't want you to think it is a "linear" process. It is a highly emotional stage of life so it defies logic and different people will have different experiences. Having said that, predictable stages include: (a) Preoccupation with self. It could be "I deserve better" or "I am a mess" but the focus becomes very much on self to the exclusion of other people's needs. (b) Discouragement over his/her body. Since ML is accompanied by significant physical changes which are no fun, there is generally a negative emotional reaction to the body. It could manifest in an attempt to be young again or it may express itself in consistent complaining. It is common for people in midlife to be as preoccupied with their bodies as teenagers are. (c) Decision-making turmoil. The typical MLCer knows what is right but is restless and seeking "something better." They don't know what this "something better" is and they are aware that God probably won't approve but they entertain the thought anyway. (d) Irrational decision-making. This can include finances, family relationships, affairs, spontaneous vacations "alone," hairstyle changes, clothing changes, new cars, etc. (e) foggy thinking. Often the MLCer cannot see the consequences of their actions. They don't see the long-term effects or how their behavior is affecting the people they love. They rationalize that everyone will be okay if they are happier so their filters get overrun. (f) Turmoil. They are fighting against the influential life God wants them to have based on their life experience and the wisdom they have gained. As they resist it, there is spiritual and personal stress swirling around them.
Little Magpie: Bill - it's tough. We don't spend time together. He stays up to all hours reading or watching videos or goes to sleep before I get home.
Bill: Little Magpie: I don't know how to say this tactfully so allow me to ramble. Your H is exhibiting typical "I am committed but have no idea what to do" behavior. He isn't going to leave. He isn't going to say he wants you to go. At the same time, he probably thinks your needs are too big and beyond his ability. As a result, he is hanging around; coming home every night hoping the relationship gets easier so he can feel like he can succeed. Some of it is probably true while some of it is his perception of the way things are. The things that tend to help are prayer for your marriage, a focus on your own personal growth that lowers your needs, specifically asking the Holy Spirit what to say and what not to say (and then responding to how he leads) and finding ways to enjoy his presence without presenting expectations. I am not sure how you could pull this off apart from the active help of the Holy Spirit but it tends to be what works. At the moment you two seem stuck in this cycle neither of you are enjoying.
Little Magpie: All - this is our first child going away to college and this one is planning to go a long way away. How did you deal with kids going away to college?
Bill: Little Magpie: Great question about releasing kids to pursue their college goals. There is no formula but I will share what we did with our kids. First, we had them spell out their goals for us (in writing). We knew we were going to be helping them financially (although not everything) so we wanted to know they were not just floating or doing dumb things. We wanted to know there were real and measurable markers they were trying to hit. Second, we set up a routine for staying connected. In this day and age of technology it is easier than ever so we wanted a weekly, dependable, face to face way of communicating so we could get a read on how they were doing. Third, we talked up the opportunities they could have in a new, stimulating environment since we wanted them to become better people as a result of going to college. Fourth, we outlined the conditions under which we would bring them home. This included such things as willful sin, irresponsible choices, choosing a peer group that dragged them down, failure to perform in school at their ability and disrespect for us as their parents and the sacrifice we had made and were making to invest in them. Hope that helps.
Pualani: Bill, in all honesty I don't know that I have learned that much. I just know that almost 9 years after my H dropped the 'bomb' on me I'm still struggling a lot of the time...
Bill: Pualani: Thanks for the honesty! Some of what I have learned includes: (1) We need to forgive the people who loved us for the things they said and did that had a negative impact on us. Since they are all human, they are guaranteed to have made mistakes. Colossians 3:13 challenges us to forgive whatever grievances we have so we need to forgive everybody for everything. Another step in making real change is (2) Do an honest evaluation of the people how had the biggest impact on us growing up. Gen 2:24 says we are to "leave our father and mother and cleave . . ." In the west we think of this as a physical move. When it was written, families continued to work together on a daily basis and usually lived on the same property. Therefore, leaving is not necessarily physical. It means we intentionally embrace the good traits of the people in our family and capitalize on the benefit of those traits. We also "relieve them of responsibility" in the areas they weren't good at. Rather than expect them to be good at what they aren't good at, we take those areas over so we can bring them to Jesus and put together a better strategy.