What You Learn in Your 40's
The Fourth Decade of Life
In a few days you’ll be joining the half-century club. Most of your friends beat you to it, including may be your spouse. Your sibling might have been inducted two years ago and your father's been a card carrying member for over 20 years. You might have realised that you weren’t supposed to spend your 20s frantically looking for a spouse; you should have been building your career and enjoying your last gasp of freedom. You then spent your 30s ruminating on grievances accumulated in your 20s. Yes, you’re turning the big 50 and you’re excited. Your friends already threw you a surprise party but before you officially turn the corner, here are a few things you’ve learned during your decade of being in the 40s.
Marriage doesn’t Improve by Nagging
Instead, marriages improve by focusing on your partner’s strengths, and by being vulnerable and not being afraid of emotional intimacy. You might have had some rough years; you might have told your spouse about all the things they didn’t do right. But, in your self-centeredness you could’ve missed the way they showed their love towards you and the kids. Even though you might crave emotional closeness, it could possibly be that you are terrified of it; and even if it’s not so, there are other better ways to connect with your spouse than nagging. You could be each other’s best friends, bond over each other’s interests, crave spending time together and you two will be good to go.
Your Worth isn’t Determined by Your Attractiveness
In your 20s, you thought your value was based on beauty, a sexy body, cute hair, tight jeans with attention grabbing decals on the back pockets, and the perfect makeup. You may have been married or not, but you thought tight shirts, cut low, is how you were supposed to present yourself to the world. It’s not that you would have been unfaithful to your partner, but you didn’t know you had any worth other than how physically desirable you could appear. You didn’t believe anyone, male or female, could like you based on who you were, inside. It took an amazing decade of age 40 to help you see, first, that this is how you viewed yourself, and second, that people could be attracted to who you were as a human. All your silliness, quirks, passions, interests, and love of other people are actually things that determine your worth.
People’s Behaviour is About Them, Not You
There used to be a time when you used to allow the behaviour of others come to mean something about you. If someone gave you a dirty look, you assumed you must be deficient in some way, instead of considering the possibility that the person may have indigestion. But now, instead of caning yourself, you consider whether you had done something wrong, examined what you had done for others and realize that the harsh words directed at you are sourced in the speaker’s pain. You can now peacefully dismiss what others say about you.
Boundaries are About Self Preservation
And they are nothing about alienation. Once you learn that you don’t have to make everyone like you, you give yourself permission to set boundaries. The big surprise is that when you learn to set boundaries, most people respect you. The ones who don’t are telling you something very important. In your 40s, you learn that you don’t have to say yes to help out at every school function and church activity. You could say no to running yourself ragged, and yes to taking a little time out for yourself. Learning to say no gives you back time and energy to say yes to the pieces of life where your skills, strengths, and passions align.
There Were Reasons behind Choosing What You Did
You might have hated yourself for a long time because of some bad decisions you’d made in the past. Even when your spiritual beliefs would’ve allowed you to accept God’s love and forgiveness, you couldn’t grant it to yourself. You might have sat in your bedroom, crying and journaling, never moving forward from your pain and shame. But, actually, it would have been shocking if you hadn’t picked those awful choices. You might not realise but your choices could be common coping techniques many people choose to numb their pain or cope with their situations. Your 40s enable you to look at your past choices as a learning process.
Passions and Strengths Come with Time
One of the phrases you have learnt is to push gently on a lot of doors. You can’t know what you’re good at or what you enjoy until you make attempts. Attempting takes courage because you’re going to fail sometimes, but it’s better than not attempting. The failures are just as important as the successes. Over the years you might’ve learned that you’re good at teaching and writing because you’re a storyteller who remembers lots of facts. You might also have learned that you have no affinity for guitar playing or singing. 40s may have taught you that you’re sensitive, encouraging, and wired to enjoy beauty like in art and nature and that you’re passionate about justice.
Best Investment Lies in Family and Experiences
You typically don’t recognize the importance of your family in your 30s because you’re still in the difficult part of childrearing. You didn’t anticipate then that raising your children into the world for a few years, would bring them back home as friends, with the bonus of their partners. You find that what you remember are the camping weekends, road trips, blanket tents, football games, and movie nights. It sinks in how glad you are that you stayed married to your spouse. Glad you didn’t buy a bigger house because that would have meant more time away. Right now you’re enjoying weddings, college graduations, and a family trip to Europe. Joy comes in our relationships and our experiences.
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