Many people discuss or consult with our office about divorce and either believe their spouse is experiencing a midlife crisis or will even admit that they, themselves, are experiencing the classic signs and symptoms of a midlife crisis. Many people say that the symptoms of a midlife crisis are readily apparent as they often involve buying a flashing, fast car, dyeing their hair/doing other things to look younger and in some situations, finding a new and younger love interest. However, these are not the only signs and symptoms of a midlife crisis that can lead to the need to consult about or even seek divorce.
What is a Midlife Crisis and Why Do They Occur?
It is not unusual for people to begin to feel afraid, or even fearful of regretting their life when they get to a certain age. While, fundamentally, pursuing any given path in life means that you have chosen not to pursue other, alternative paths in life, some people become consumed by the fear or worry of missing out on an alternate path. The wondering and “what if’s” can consume their life and thinking to make them wonder if a variety of other paths in life would have been happier or more satisfying. Some men also experience significant fears and worries about their continued ability to perform in t the bedroom. Often these fears and concerns become a self-fulfilling prophesy in the sense that the stress, fear and worries about performance causes actual performance issues. Some men experience midlife crises that can be worked through in a healthy and safe way for the family, other men, unfortunately, exercise their midlife crisis in a way that can be negative, harmful or destructive for the family. If a man experiences his midlife crisis by deciding to be better groomed, take care of himself or even getting healthy, fit and exercising, this may not be harmful. On the other hand, if he takes his focus from self-improvement to becoming loathing or critical of his wife and the way she looks or dresses, this may rise to the level of causing unhealthy concerns in the marriage. If this occurs, in many relationships, the next step is the husband engaging in an emotional or physical affair. Beyond that, for many men who engage in affairs, their history, love for their spouse and knowledge about right and wrong induces deep guilt and he begins sending his wife mixed signals which are difficult and confusing to follow and understand. This behavior can be difficult to address, process through and for some marriages, becomes too much to work through and ends in a divorce process.
Where Do You Go From Here?
If your husband's midlife crisis has manageable traits, many people want to consider whether a divorce can be avoided. To attempt to avoid the end of your relationship what can you do? Often, you need to accept that your husband is going through a transition and that all people, in relationships, change in various ways over time. If you let go of what you have known and learn to embrace changes, it may help you to have the healthiest mindset possible to be able to move forward in your marriage. With understanding that the process will take time and patience, hopefully, you will be able to reduce your resentment and manage your expectations. The more you resolve to let go of control and expectations and simply move forward and embrace the changes in your spouse, the less likely they ae to affect you. If your husband is already struggling with his life and the status of his life, you making efforts to place controls on his life, the more he is likely to resist those changes and try to find new opportunities. If your husband wants to try a new career, or join a band or make other life changes, as long as they are not unreasonable, perhaps it is best to embrace and support them, rather than battle them.
As long as there is not physical, emotional or verbal abuse occurring with this midlife crisis, or other boundary-inducing behavior such as using drugs or abusing alcohol, the more you can focus on not feeling victimized, the more likely the opportunity for you to successfully navigate changes in your life. In many midlife crises, your spouse actually contemplates that the biggest thing holding him or her back from another possible path in life is their spouse, and children, if any. This behavior, belief and approach can make you feel unfairly blamed. In some circumstances, a spouse experiencing a midlife crisis may say things that are not fair or even well-reasoned. If you know that your spouse is not being reasonable with what he is saying, try not to focus too much on what is being said. Try to simply listen from a place of understanding, acknowledging that your spouse’s feelings in any particular moment are valid as their own, personal thoughts and feelings. Often the other person’s belief that they matter enough to be heard and meaningfully listened to if the first step forward in being able to acknowledge and address the concerns of the other spouse.
If possible, avoid issuing ultimatums or challenging your spouse to dare to defy you. The decisions of your spouse are largely beyond your control. Saying things like “I’ll file for divorce in two weeks if you don’t do X” rarely gets you the results you are looking for. Particularly if your spouse is in a difficult mental state, which often accompanies a midlife crisis, your spouse will not respond well to challenges. Often in these situations, you need a calm voice of reason which can be obtained through a professional counselor or therapist who can provide perspective to both spouses.
What Should You Do While Waiting Out Your Spouse’s Midlife Crisis?
Of course, if you are concerned about your spouse filing for divorce, you are being abused (physically, mentally or emotionally) or your spouse has taken up an unsafe habit such as drugs or excessive alcohol, it is likely wise to seek a consultation with a divorce or family law attorney so that you can discuss your options, understand your rights and responsibilities and make carefully planned and well-reasoned decisions (particularly at a time when emotions feel like they are spiraling out of control). On the other hand, if your spouse is simply making some changes in his life and none of his changes are harmful, abusive or unsafe for you, it may simply be a time to re-focus on yourself, whether it is engaging in activities you enjoy, getting healthy, spending time with friends, among many other options.
If you are dealing with your husband’s midlife crisis and you feel a consultation is needed to research your options and understand a plan of action going forward, please call Pingel Family Law at (816) 208-8130.