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Rich and Co.

Differences in Emotion Management in Older Couples – Effects on Finances?

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Older men feel frustrated when wives want support

A study of more than 700 couples who’ve been married on average 39 years shows big emotional differences in how men and women cope with marital problems.

“The men don’t really want to talk about it or spend too much time thinking about it…Men often don’t want to express vulnerable emotions, while women are much more comfortable expressing sadness or worry.”

Men and women have very different emotional reactions to the strain and support they experience in marriage, Carr says. While talking about issues and offering support makes the wives—who traditionally feel responsible for sustaining the emotional climate of a marriage—feel good, this only frustrated the husbands surveyed.

“For women, getting a lot of support from their spouse is a positive experience…Older men, however, may feel frustrated receiving lots of support from their wife, especially if it makes them feel helpless or less competent.”

The husbands in the study, who more often rated their marriages positively and reported significantly higher levels of emotional support and lower levels of marital strain than their wives, felt frustrated giving as well as receiving support.

“Men who provide high levels of support to their wives may feel this frustration if they believe that they would rather be focusing their energies on another activity,” Carr says.

This is particularly important as couples age, become more dependent, less healthy and face the possibility of getting dementia or becoming a caregiver, Carr notes.

“If older men or women with dementia have reduced impulse control, they could lash out against their spouse if they’re feeling frustrated,” she says. “It’s very important to keep in mind these dynamics even with long married couples who you may not think have any problems.”

The bottom line, says Carr, is that there has to be a middle ground between marital suffocation and togetherness. Spouses want to feel loved and supported but not trapped.

“The general message is that support is good only if one views it as helpful and desirable…Most people want to feel they’re capable of managing their own life.”

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Written by Rich and Co.

October 27, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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