“Life may not be the party we hoped for… but while we’re here we may as well dance.” Jeanne C. Stein
Mandy has two great kids that she adores. As the kids have become older and more independent, Mandy has begun struggling with who she is, what interests her, and what she wants the next phase of her life to look like. Although she’ll always be a Mother, the next 40-50 years feel like a blank canvas to her, and that is equal parts exciting and terrifying.
She wants to travel more. She wants to see things and experience things she never has before. She wants to take small risks and say yes more often when life gives her an invitation. She wants to feel again; she wants to feel connected, alive, passionate.
But she doesn’t know how to do that because that is certainly not how her life feels today.
You see, Mandy has been married for 26 years to the only man she’s ever known. Her husband is a good man who is a good provider. He doesn’t stay out too late, work too many long hours, or drink too much. He doesn’t lie or cheat. But he doesn’t really live either.
He comes home from work, eats dinner, watches sports and goes to bed.
He doesn’t want to take trips or go out to dinner because he doesn’t want to spend the money.
He doesn’t experience great sadness, but he also doesn’t experience too many great joys either. He lives in the safe zone, in a very small box and he likes it that way.
Mandy and her husband were recently at a wedding reception together. She tried to get him out on the dance floor with her, but he wouldn’t go. He just stood on the sidelines with his glass of wine, watching others have fun. Mandy ended up dancing until 2:00 in the morning and had an amazing and memorable time. He went out and waited in the car around midnight.
Now, Mandy is asking the question, “Can she have the connected, alive, and passionate life she wants with her husband?”
The answer is, of course, maybe.
That question became loud enough for Mandy that she suggested separating and that sent her husband into a tailspin. He’s now in therapy trying to overcome all the fears that keep him living that very small and safe life. And that might work…he might want to embrace life in a similar way that Mandy does one day.
Or, he might become comfortable with Mandy going out and living her life, having new and interesting experiences without him. He can be the grounded one for Mandy and the family at home, while she can spread her wings. He might become okay with that…although Mandy is skeptical.
Or, Mandy and her husband may realize that they simply want different things in their lives now. She wants connection and passion and experiences; he wants safe and secure and tidy. Isn’t that good to know?
Just because they both wanted the same things for the last 26 years does not automatically mean that they will want the same things for the next 26 years. And why can’t they both want what they want? Neither of them are wrong; they just have different desires for their lives.
Time will tell what the answer is for Mandy’s marriage, but one thing is for certain: Now that Mandy knows what it feels like to be on the dance floor of life, she’s not going back to the sidelines anytime soon.