Ask the LifeQuake Doctor – Oct 2018
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Dear Dr. Toni,
I’m not an addict, so this may not be your typical letter asking for advice. My wife, however, is a newly licensed psychotherapist who carries this magazine in her office.
To give you a little backstory: she went back to school when our kids got into high school, then was an intern for two years, and now is a full-fledged therapist in her first office. Our kids are away at college and I’m a businessman. There is a ten-year age difference between us. She’s not only in private practice, but she’s also a political activist for children’s rights.
I’ve had a very successful career, but at age sixty I’m wanting to gear down and possibly retire in two years—we can well afford it. My wife, on the other hand, is ready to go big in her career. I’ve been having disturbing dreams during which I find out she isn’t a therapist, but has become a famous actress or is being pursued by men closer to her age or younger. I also have had dreams about being naked in public and feeling uncomfortable.
I trust my wife. She’s given me no reason not to trust her, but I’ve become increasingly insecure lately. Sometimes on the weekend she makes plans that don’t involve me (with her girlfriends) and it bothers me that she doesn’t consult me first. She’s always been very independent, even as a housewife and mother when our kids were young, but I feel she needed me more then.
I don’t know if I should talk to her about this or work it out myself. I don’t want her to think of me as being unmanly or hung up on aging. Quite frankly, I don’t know what she can do about it anyway.
What do you think, doc? Should I talk to her about this?
– Confused in Newport
Part of having a truly intimate relationship is sharing your vulnerability. Your dream about being naked in public and feeling uncomfortable indicates that your persona is changing. You are being called to be more transparent and it feels scary. I would encourage you to first sit with this vulnerability without trying to change it at all. Breathe into it and allow it to feel safe and unjudged with you. Notice if it shifts. As you become more comfortable with your “emotional nakedness,” bring your wife into your awareness. Call upon your higher self (i.e., the full potential you) and ask this part to speak nonverbally to your wife about your fears. Notice how she responds in your mind’s eye. How does that feel now on a scale of one to ten, with ten being strongest? If your anxiety has dissipated to a three or less, then it is time to share your process with your wife.
When a couple become empty nesters it is time to redefine the contract you had and update it. As your wife is becoming more visible in the community and thus having greater commitments, there is an opportunity for you to explore personal development of your own. As you become less of the “hunter/provider,” workshops could provide opportunities for inner exploration. As you grow, you have something to bring back to your relationship to share that, in some ways, is a part of her world too, since she is professionally going into the world of psychospiritual growth.
I would also recommend that you think about a trip that would be an adventure or spiritual quest of some kind that you do solo. All these experiences will evolve you and also provide material for juicy conversations when you return to one another that maybe your business life did not. Having the economic freedom you now have can allow you to take on your bucket list while still staying connected to your spouse.
Given that she is a therapist and not an actress, she will most likely find your curiosity and enthusiasm for your newly created life very attractive. All people are attracted to people who have lives that turn them on.
There is a great “Act 3” waiting for you and an opportunity for you both to grow as you shed the roles of “mom” and “dad” as a predominant theme in relating to one another. In my work as a career coach, I love working with people who are entering what I call “Act 3”—the final one-third (hopefully) of their lives. Most baby boomers do not want to retire in their sixties, but like the millenials want their lives to have meaningful purpose. Keep the dialogue between you open as you both make this transition and I see great things ahead for your marriage and your individual paths.