"One of the gifts of midlife is learning to recognize our own limitations and then extending grace to ourselves and others." ~Dorothy Littell Greco

Marriage in Midlife: A Crisis or an Opportunity?

An Author Q and A with Dorothy Greco

It couldn’t have been original with me, but one life goal, scribbled into a journal as a teen, comes to mind often in this season of midlife. In adolescent, loopy handwriting, I inscribed the words in hope.

GOAL:  Organize your life in such a way that when you have a great experience, you will have a great person to share it with.

Thirty years into a solid marriage with a truly “great person,” I can point to shared experiences galore, common threads of both joy and sorrow. Together, we’ve stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon, attended college graduations, and passed swaddled sons back and forth at all hours of the day and night. We’ve attended the funerals of all four of our parents, driven each other home from colonoscopy appointments, and prayed together for friends who have received a devastating diagnosis.

Dorothy Greco lives and writes from this sort of partnership, and Marriage in the Middle is her declaration that the surprises, challenges, and joys of midlife are best shared with a sympathetic traveler who knows you well–and loves you anyway!

I’ll eventually be sharing my review of her book over at The Englewood Review of Books, (I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s available!), so I decided to share bonus content here today with a Q and A session featuring Dorothy. I know you’ll be challenged by the personal information she shares and, as true book lovers, will appreciate getting some backstory on the book itself.

Be sure to read all the way through to the end of the interview, because I’m also sharing details about a GIVEAWAY in which one reader will be chosen to receive a copy of Marriage in the Middle.

An Interview with Dorothy Greco

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your marriage?
My husband Christopher and I met when we were students at Boston University
back in the early 80’s. Because we were both artists and somewhat new to
following Jesus, we formed an easy friendship that eventually transitioned to a
dating relationship. We had a very rocky start (which you could read about in
Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You) but since getting married 29 years ago, there’s been no looking back. He works as a teacher and worship pastor and together we raised three sons who are now all adults. We are happiest when we’re doing ministry together or traveling.

You already wrote one marriage book. Why write another one only three years
after the first?

Apparently I had more to say!
I’m almost at the tail end of midlife. As I look back over the last 20 years, I can see
how unique the season is. There are many challenges and surprises to navigate
which put pressure on us and on our marriages. These include caring for aging
parents, dealing with health issues, navigating shifting professional and relational
roles, etc. Additionally, disappointments and losses tend to mount during this time.
All of these factors can create—or even widen—fault lines in our marriages.
Christopher and I have been leading pre-marital, marriage, and long-term healing
programs for more than two decades. We have a deep understanding of the
struggles that many couples face, particularly in midlife. My hope in writing
Marriage in the Middle is to make couples aware of these issues, give them
language to talk about what’s going on, and offer practical help for how they might
intentionally nurture their marriages.

What motivated/inspired you to write Marriage in the Middle?
Around the time Making Marriage Beautiful released, three of our friends’
marriages unraveled. It was sobering and heartbreaking to watch. All three of the
couples are believers and they all have children. I want to normalize that midlife marriage is hard and we all need help from time to time. There’s nothing shameful about saying, “We’re in a hard place!” Admitting this is the first step to healing. By naming many of the challenges we face and including interviews where couples talk vulnerably about their experiences, my hope is to remove one barrier and offer some tangible hope and encouragement. Christopher and I believe that though losses and disappointments we face in midlife are notable and to some extent unavoidable, we can not only enjoy our marriages but help them to grow stronger during this time frame.

What makes this book different from other marriage books?
It’s written by a woman.
It’s rooted in scripture but not religious and I’m not afraid to pull in sociology and psychology to support my beliefs.
I steer clear of formulas and cliches. You won’t find ten steps to a perfect marriage in either of my books.
It’s bracingly honest, yet profoundly hopeful.
I include interviews with eight diverse couples rather than creating straw couples that neatly fit into a box. There’s a rawness to the interviews that I find incredibly inspiring.
My personal perspective is that men and women are created by God as equal co-heirs. That means my husband and I strive to eradicate any hierarchies and aim to have a marriage where both of us are flourishing.

Tell us what’s included in this book.
Pretty much everything we face and wrestle with in midlife marriage. The
chapters include:
• how care giving and aging affect our marriage,
• how trauma and loss affect our marriage,
• how disappointment can help us grow,
• how attachment issues affect our intimate relationships,
• sex
• the importance healthy friendship and community
• the necessity of engaging our imaginations as we think about and plan for the final chapter of our lives.

Why is midlife a particularly difficult season for marriages?
Everything piles up—including the losses, disappointments, and pressures.
Additionally, our bodies are changing in a sort of reverse adolescence. There’s so
much powerlessness! We can feel intimidated, overwhelmed, and defeated. The
psychic and spiritual load can simply exceed our ability to bear up under it.
During this season, we have to figure out what we do have control over. Though
we might feel totally powerless, that’s never true. We have agency and can make
all kinds of consequential decisions. For example, Am I going to forgive my spouse
for the ways he’s hurt me historically? Am I going to press in or back away from
my spouse because of the many losses that we’ve faced? It’s very easy to succumb to despair in midlife or act out in ways that are immature or destructive. My hope is to encourage readers to be thinking about their choices and choose well.

My marriage is in crisis mode. Would this book help?
Absolutely! There are many practical, insightful ideas in the book. If you’re in a
difficult place, Marriage in the Middle will give you language and insight. I would
add though that in and of itself, reading this book would probably be inadequate.
My husband and I are huge proponents of good marriage counseling, and we don’t
think you need to wait until you are mid-crisis to go.

My marriage is sailing along just fine. Why should I read this book?
Last year at one of our all-day marriage conferences, a couple attended who were
celebrating their 50th anniversary that weekend. 50 years!! When I asked them
why they chose to come, the husband said, “There’s always room to grow.” I love
that attitude and firmly believe that we should never assume that our marriage has arrived and does not need attention or support. I hope Christopher and I feel the
same way when we are in our seventies.

What can couples do to proactively keep their marriages strong and satisfying?
Communicate honestly. That includes listening well and being tenderhearted truth tellers.
Forgive thoroughly.
Take responsibility for your contribution to marital issues rather than blaming your spouse.
Commit to grow: both individually and together.
Develop and maintain healthy friendships.
Learn how to sacrifice for each other on a regular basis.
Find and develop common areas of interest. (Even if it’s only one or two things!)
Bless and encourage each other.
Pray for and with each other.
Figure out how you can serve the larger world together.

Your first marriage book did not have a chapter on sex but this one has two.
What’s up with that?

Indeed. Sex is hugely important in a marriage but it can also be the source of much pain and disappointment. I wanted to explore and name some of the sources for that pain and disappointment and then help couples to think about how they might find healing. Yes, sex is God-ordained. Yes, it’s meant to be wildly pleasurable—but there’s more to it than that. As with the other chapters in the book, I steer clear of easy answers and how-to and go after the deeper truths.

Can you give us the book’s premise or through line?
Though many assume that “midlife” is synonymous with “crisis,” it doesn’t have to
be that way. The demands of midlife actually force us to adjust and adapt,
providing new opportunities for discovery and growth within our marriages.
Marriage in the Middle will inspire and encourage you to invest in your
relationship with your spouse, enabling you both to thrive as you face the
challenges and changes of this era together.

Good News!

And now that you have had the opportunity to be blown away by Dorothy’s wisdom, I’ll share the good news that she lives in New England! Local friends, if you are planning a marriage retreat or an event that requires a speaker (Oh, someday, surely we will be gathering again!), click here for details on engaging Dorothy for your event.

To be entered in the drawing for he giveaway of one copy of Marriage in the Middle, comment below with how many years you’ve been married–and if you have some great marriage advice, we’re all ears!
And if you are a newsletter subscriber, the September edition will include an opportunity for an additional entry!

Many thanks to Intervarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Michele Morin

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase Making Marriage Beautiful or Marriage in the Middlesimply click on the title, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Subscribe!

"As you give all, you find all." Amy Carmichael

If you are a newsletter subscriber, you will receive the September edition in your inbox tomorrow. Along with encouraging words, you will also receive the opportunity for an additional entry for Dorothy’s book giveaway! Of course, if you’re not on the list, you can remedy that right now. It’s easy to subscribe. You can either hop on the handy (and only slightly annoying) pop up form here on the blog–or simply click here.

And as always, you can also subscribe to Living Our Days blog to get regular content delivered to your inbox twice a week. Lord willing, I’ll be sharing a book review most Wednesdays and then a Sunday Scripture to guide your heart toward the Word. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

73 thoughts on “Marriage in Midlife: A Crisis or an Opportunity?”

    1. My one piece of advice would be to always be in communication with each other. Life gets so busy and sometimes we get caught up and forget to just take the time to talk about what’s going on.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Just this week, I learned of some friends who had divorced after nearly 34 years of marriage (am writing about that, to post tomorrow). Since my husband and I are also at the 34-year mark (35 in February), this hits very close to home, and we are grieved to the core. This books sounds like a providential read for me, as even though we are in a good place right now, there is always room to improve. Thanks for highlighting this book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Patti, we went through something similar at the 15-20 years point–lots of friends struggling in their marriages and multiple divorces all within a short space. It really galvanized us and made us realize we are all vulnerable. Marriage takes work and we all have to stay alert.

      Like

  2. 49+ years of marriage and all spent in ministry. This book sounds refreshing and like one that would bless me at this particular time. We’ve been through hard things physically for the past few years and have very aged mothers many miles from us near our siblings. Also, grandchildren who are becoming adults and adult children dealing with their own sets of issues. Enjoyed the interview!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post with lots of good info. I like that she and her husband are co-heirs. I thought that bit about the couple who were married for 50 years and still had room to grow was super cute! Books and ministries like these are so important! Thanks for linking on Amanda’s Books and More!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It sounds like a great book Michele – my husband and I have been married for 38 years and have certainly had our ups and downs – I could particularly resonate with the advice to “forgive thoroughly” and to “take responsibility for your share of the problem” – something that I learnt when we had a major implosion five years ago – getting through that difficult time has made me truly value Midlife marriage and all that we both bring to the table.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Leanne! I’m so grateful that you and your husband made it through that rough patch. It’s a real encouragement to others when someone perseveres and then comes out with a good story on the other side.

      Like

  5. Marriage, definitely a give and take. If you love someone immensely, no problem…well maybe. I miss my marriage, and best friend. But married young, we had 58 years all together. Sometimes co-workers would say how do you stay married so long, but honestly, it never seemed that long until looking back. Great quote by Amy. I probably won’t read it, but hope it helps others to have a really good marriage, and blessings of life that are there for the taking. Thanks for visiting my Thankful Thursday post. ~hugs~

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 26 years, Michele. I need to read this book whether I win it or not. Advice? This particular afternoon, it would have to have something to do with laughing … with each other, at yourself, even if it makes no sense to the children in the backseat. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Married 32 years and still learning each day. It is hard work and it takes cooperation from both sides! Thanks for linking up and have a great week ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Michele,
    This sounds like a tremendously needed and helpful book. I appreciate what she had to say about being “tenderhearted truth tellers.” I’ve been married almost 7 years (after many years of a verbally and emotionally abusive marriage). The best “marriage advice” I’d give is to set your heart on out-loving your spouse every day. Feeling very blessed to have a second chance at happiness in midlife. For me, midlife has been marvelous…but would still love to read her book.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This sounds like a wonderful book with a practical, no-nonsense approach to (probably) our most important human relationship. Although I am past midlife, I am sure I could find wisdom in this book on marriage.

    I love the quote from your journal. You were wise beyond your years. You knew then what to look for in a partner!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. what an insightful interview! Thank you for sharing this. As one who has weathered a marriage of 21 years by the pure grace of God, I love her insights and wisdoms extended through this book. I will be looking to pick this one up soon!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. 45 years! What a great book. I am looking for a good read.

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    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
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    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great interview! We just celebrated our 35th anniversary last month. We’ve managed to survive these stressful months of shutdown and semi-isolation, so that’s encouraging. Giving each other space and some uninterrupted time each day has been critical — especially when we found ourselves suddenly at home together all day, every day!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Such a great interview. It makes me look forward to reading her next book when it becomes available. I’m thankful for my “great person” to live life with as well, but yes, there are always still challenges and work still to be done. Encouragement to do so is always welcome. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I resonate with so much of where Dorothy’s thoughts and insights on marriage, Michele. This sounds like an incredible book and I’m so glad she has more to say to us about marriage! Thanks for always finding so many great resources that add richness and wisdom to our lives!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I must say, Michele, that you were a deep thinker as a teen! 😉 I was thinking about marriage at that age, but not about having a great person to share great experiences with. 🙂 This book sounds like a great book. Being in a marriage in midlife, there have been all kinds of experiences I’ve shared with my husband (who is pretty much amazing). I like that Dorothy bases the things she shares on Scripture but can also add in pertinent sociology and psychology elements. Sounds fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What a great post. Sometimes, I think it all–love, life, joy–comes down to choices. Making Biblical choices makes all the difference. Thanks for sharing.

    I am glad you joined us at ‘My Corner of the World’ this week!!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Marriages change over time and we also change as people. I think it has been particularly tough for some couples (including me and hubby!) during lockdown as it is also important to have time apart which has not been possible. Thanks for linking up with #dreamteamlinky

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Great interview. I recently wrote a blog article about marriage. The institution of marriage has evolved over the year. In the beginning, it was purely designed to promote the survival and economic prosperity of both families. During the Victorian era, romantic love became viewed as the primary requirement for marriage and couples spent a huge amount of time and energy in the rituals of courting and finding romantic ways to express their love, affection, and loyalty to their chosen ones. In this modern era, the institution of marriage is evolving into a third stage, also known as the self-expressive marriage. Nowadays, marriage revolves around self-expression, we seek not just love but mutual personal growth. We want partners who are able and willing to help us explore our feelings and our identity, partners who can help us bring out our most authentic selves. Feel free to check my article – https://authorjoannereed.net/do-you-want-to-talk-about-marriage-yes-i-do/

    Liked by 1 person

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