mid life crisis | midlife crisis symptoms | midlife crisis in men | midlife crisis in men

Is Your Spouse Having A Midlife Crisis?

Midlife crisis in men may lead to high risk behaviors

We've all heard the term "mid life crisis". The cliché of a middle-aged man draining his bank account to splurge on sports cars and frivolous fun usually comes to mind. However, a shift in priorities and a reevaluation of life goals during these middle years – known as a mid life transition - is completely normal. How each individual handles this change into the second half of adulthood determines whether the transition becomes a "crisis." When a man begins acting differently than the person he's always been – whether it's spending large amounts of money, having an affair, or spending an unusual amount of time focusing on his physical appearance – this can leave his wife reeling with the sudden change in his priorities and personality. Questions I often hear are, "Is my husband having a midlife crisis?", "Why is my spouse having a midlife crisis?" and "How can I stop this?" or "How do I cope with my husband's midlife crisis?" While some may argue that this is a fleeting phase - or even normal - it's important to understand the difference between a midlife transition and a midlife crisis... and how the latter can have devastating effects on others.

The Difference Between
Mid Life Transition
 and Midlife Crisis

As we grow older, there comes a point in our lives when we start to reevaluate our goals, who we are, and where we want to be in life. This midlife transition can begin as early as your late 30's - or all the way into your 60's. What triggers this? Typically milestones such as kids going off to college, becoming a grandparent, a job loss or career move, and other lifestyle changes. But there doesn't always need to be a reason. Sometimes the feeling that life is passing us by is enough to make us question how we've lived our lives up until this point - and reassess our personal goals and ambitions. Many people sail through this midlife transition without a problem – especially if they have balanced their responsibilities to others while taking care of their personal needs. People who live fulfilling lives and have been able to follow their dreams while still caring for their spouse are usually not as susceptible to a mid life crisis. But not everyone is able to make the adjustments necessary in a healthy and balanced way when taking stock of where they are in life, and where they want to be - especially if they have devoted their lives to taking care of others while neglecting their own needs. That's often when we see midlife crisis symptoms arise.

Midlife Crisis in Men vs. Women

Although the majority of calls I receive on this topic are from women wondering how to cope with their husband's mid life crisis, women are just as likely as men to experience problems with a midlife transition. However, the causes of a mid life crisis can be different for men and women.

Causes of Midlife Crisis in Men

  Fear of growing old – This includes fear of death, fear of illness, and fear of losing the physical strength he may have taken for granted in his youth.

  Feeling that life is passing him by – If he has spent most of his time focused on work, bills and responsibilities, panic could set in that he's missing out on really living his life to the fullest.

  Debt – being buried in debt can have a huge psychological impact on a man's sense of worth, especially during a time in his life when he thinks he should be financially stable.

  Loss of a parent or loved one – This can make a man painfully aware of his own mortality, and fear of having regrets and missing out on life may become a new form of obsession.

  Low testosterone levels – A drop in testosterone levels is common in middle-aged men. The chemical changes that occur in the brain by lowered testosterone can cause psychological changes that mimic a mid life crisis.

Causes of Midlife Crisis in Women

  Reaching an age when children are no longer completely dependent on her, she suddenly finds herself with the time to focus on what she wants out of life.

  Menopause – The physiological and psychological effects of menopause can cause some fear of growing older, as the "finality of youth" becomes a physical realization.

  Finally having the financial security she and her husband have worked hard for, and finally having the freedom to explore the life she's dreamed about but kept on the back burner. Without a good plan though, now what?

  Divorce or loss of a loved one – Dealing with divorce or a significant loss is hard enough in itself. Grief, confusion, and the emotional pain during a mid life transition is often too much to bear - especially if a woman's perceived sense of identity has been entwined with the one she's lost.

Dealing With Your Spouse's Midlife Crisis

If your husband's mid life crisis symptoms seem to be out of control, how do you cope? Like it or not, your spouse is going through changes, and how you handle them can determine the difference between divorce - and a new lease on a better, stronger marriage. You may feel that your husband needs counseling, but don't push your luck…. Chances are he sees nothing wrong with what he's going through, and may even see you as the problem! In situations like these, counseling is more effective when the person dealing with a spouse having a midlife crisis gets help. In addition, the following tips can help make this trying time easier to cope with:

1.  Keep calm. Maybe you've found out that your husband has a sudden interest in porn. It doesn't necessarily mean he's lost interest in you. In fact, most men look at porn at some point in their lives. Is it worth a huge fight? Are you placing a significant, symbolic meaning behind the things he's doing that you don't agree with? When something upsets us, it's usually because of something within ourselves that we haven't addressed. When you feel yourself getting agitated, take a deep breath and use the opportunity to reflect upon your own unresolved fears and issues. Go for a walk. Write in a journal. And don't underestimate the benefits of talking things though with a life coach or counselor.

2.  Don't push or criticize.You can't stop a midlife crisis. No matter how outrageous or hurtful their behavior may be, lecturing, screaming, or threatening will only make matters worse. Maybe he seems less interested in you and the relationship you've built together. Pushing him to talk about his feelings and your marriage is rarely productive. If he's distancing himself from you, you'll do better by giving him some space and occupying yourself with your own interests. Chances are, he'll find you much more interesting when you're not so focused on him.

3.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Recognize that a midlife crisis is your spouse's way of desperately trying to find him or herself. Has he become obsessed with his looks? Get yourself a manicure, some new lingerie, and show him that you find him attractive, and that he's worth looking nice for too. Does he have a new found interest in motorcycles? Maybe he's craving an adrenaline rush to remind himself that he's alive. Buy him a subscription to a motorcycle magazine, rent 'Ghost Rider' or 'Mad Max', and smile if he talks excitedly to you about buying his dream bike (despite your fears of going into debt over his new passion). Sometimes our spouses just need to know we support their dreams, no matter how crazy they seem. That in itself is often all they need.

4.  Set boundaries. This is not to be confused with making ultimatums or demands. If your spouse is doing something that you simply can't support - such as having an affair – your feelings about it won't stop it. Decide what will not be allowed to intrude in your and your children's lives. If you suspect or know he's cheating, talk to a life coach or counselor to get some clarity on choosing how to move forward. Don't go through his phone just to wallow in pain and anger afterward – that would be allowing the affair to intrude on your life. If he's now into watching pornography and you can't bring yourself to being okay with it... or enjoying it as a couple... remember – out of sight, out of mind. You can't make him stop. But you can ask that it be kept private from you and/or your children.

5.  Take care of yourself. The best way to cut stress and worry over your spouse's mid life crisis symptoms is to focus on yourself and others. Immerse yourself in a new hobby, write in a journal, volunteer in your local community, and spend more time with your children, etc. You'll feel better, and taking the focus off your spouse's behavior may give him or her the time to think about what's really important.

6.  Find a healthy outlet for your anger. You're bound to get angry. You are human, after all. Fighting with your spouse might feel good for a minute, but it's not going to get you anywhere. Get your angry words out on paper, then shred or burn it. Go for a run when you start to feel your blood boil. Do whatever it takes to get it out of your system without hurting or pushing anyone away.

7.  Get counseling. As mentioned earlier, if your spouse is going through a midlife crisis, most likely he or she will see no reason to talk to a counselor. But remember – YOU are the one unhappy with a situation, therefore YOU can benefit the most with some clarity and guidance.

To make an appointment for a free initial consultation with a Certified Life Coach who has experience with midlife crisis issues, please click here.

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