I’m in a similar situation but closer to the other end of this life. I’m 58, married 22 years, have 2 businesses and am looking squarely at how to handle the rest of my life.
I’ve been practicing the dhamma seriously for 8 years. I work at home alone, so I carry my morning studies and meditation practice into my entire day. I pretty much stick to the suttas and the core teachings and I couldn’t really care less about head knowledge; the dhamma is beautiful when its known and lived. The dhamma has very gradually penetrated and saturated my mind in every moment, even in my sleep. Looking back in my practice I can see times on the path where I thought I really understood the big picture yet in hindsight they were important steps but not enough.
I’ve noticed lately that living is different than it’s ever been. I don’t really have to try and be ethical in my mind, my speech and my actions, it’s just natural. I seldom react to anything in a way that I later regret. I don’t find it difficult to turn away from sense pleasure, it holds no allure for me but rather leads to a danger and trap that I know I don’t want to be ensnared in again. In fact, sex used to be something that i couldn’t help but want but now is almost an obligation that I do with my body in order to be a husband. I know well the leaning of my mind towards conceit, that inner voice that I know isn’t me.
I’ve come full circle from old beliefs and can see plainly how and why rebirth was so important to the Buddha’s teaching. I have intention to end ignorance, awaken and not be reborn. Not in a grasping way, but more in a patient, resolved joyful way. I honestly think I will awaken, this life, the next? This begs the question: what do I do in this life? How do I handle this life?
I live my life with the intention to have no ill will or cause harm to myself or others in my mind, speech or actions. Rather, I arouse benevolence, goodwill and a wish for well being for myself and others. What about my wife?
My wife is not Buddhist. She doesn’t understand the dhamma nor wants to know about it. I watch her suffer endlessly in samsara, ignorantly plunging in the second arrow over and over. I have deep compassion for her and the way I live as an example is all I can offer, as she isn’t open to me talking about the dhamma or giving unsolicited advice or commentary. That part doesn’t really bother me, as everyone makes their own choices; kamma is kamma. The Buddha taught regardless of whether all, some or anyone listened. My wife and I have lived in pretty good harmony until recently.
Retirement. What do we do with the rest of our lives together. We’ve been planning for it for some time and we’re finding a gulf between us. She wants to travel, eat, drink and be merry. I don’t live like an ascetic, but I would rather move away from that which I know leads away from real joy and head towards nibbana. She is angry and livid and thinks I’m being selfish by changing my mind from what it was 20 years ago. She is upset that she lost her drinking buddy. I can understand her pain. I can understand the dukkha of not getting what one wants. She married a man who wanted what she wants and now he isn’t interested and the rug is being pulled out from underneath her. And it’s pretty late in the game for him to change.
The question is what do I do about it? How far do I go in compromise? How far do I participate in the quest for worldly pleasures in order to have joy? How can I strike a balance between being a householder and awakening? What kind of companion do I have to be? How do I move towards awakening without harming my wife? What advice would the Buddha give me?