A midlife crisis is an emotionally uncomfortable period that men and women go through between the age of 35 and 55. For most, it is a time to question priorities and adjust one's lifestyle to fit better with their emotional needs.
For others, this period is a true "crisis," one that causes them to stray from the marriage for outside affection and attention. They question every choice they've made during the first half of their life, and they look back on it all with pessimism. It is these folks who usually destroy their families and seem to completely change their character and belief system.
What Is a Midlife Crisis?
Those going through a midlife crisis are struggling with their own mortality, confidence, identity, and accomplishments thus far in life. A midlife crisis usually occurs between the ages of 45-55 and can lead to depression, remorse, and/or anxiety, as well as cause the individual to potentially make drastic changes to their current lifestyle.
Feeling a Need for Adventure and Change
It's all about having fun and re-capturing their youth. Men are known to buy sports cars or motorcycles, while women have been known to invest in beauty treatments and the latest fashion trends. If your spouse is neglecting things that were once important to them in favor of something they have never expressed an interest in, they are probably experiencing a midlife crisis.
You have choices in such a situation. Participating, even infrequently, in their newfound need for adventure can bring you closer together instead of creating the distance that can cause the midlife crisis spouse to start questioning whether or not to stay in the marriage.
Some who go through a midlife crisis will experience depression that affects their mood and to the point that activities and relationships are negatively affected. Friends, family, and work may all be neglected. If you think your spouse is suffering from depression watch for the following symptoms:
- Sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, pessimism
- Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
- Lack of energy
- Inability to focus or make decisions
- Unusual sleep patterns
- Unusual appetite, or noticeable weight loss or gain
Questioning Long-Held Beliefs
Abruptly quitting their job or investing in a new life path is a red flag. While it is healthy to pursue things that we are passionate about, abandoning things we've known for years is unusual and may create more problems than it solves. In a marriage, when one spouse acts suddenly and without clear reasoning, it can disrupt other aspects of the lives of both people in the relationship. It is best to approach these impulses with caution, as there is no way to know where these questions of values and beliefs will lead.
Anger and Blame
In lashing out about their changing feelings, a spouse going through a midlife crisis will try to pin the problems on their partner. If only they hadn't noticed or addressed those behaviors, then everything would be completely normal—or so they think. In reality, they need to do some self-reflection and find confrontation on this matter to be unfair or aggressive.
An internal crisis will cause someone to look outward and blame others. They will be short-tempered and angry, but it is unwise to respond with their level of energy and vitriol. There is no reason to escalate the situation into a conflict.
Unable to Make Decisions About Their Future
Indecision can take two forms. The first is a paralysis in one's life, which can lead to frustration for both them and the people around them. They cannot commit to making a real change in their life despite acknowledging that one is needed.
The other type of indecision manifests as flip-flopping on important life decisions. The spouse in midlife crisis will question whether the marriage was ever legitimate. It is possible they are unhappy in the relationship now, but instead of making an impulse decision to hire a lawyer, the first step should be to analyze what could be causing their unhappiness. Often, the very spouse they thought they needed to leave is the reason that they are able to return to a sense of normalcy.
Desire for More from Their Relationship
Indecision can turn into a desire for divorce, as can a newfound desire for more from their marriage. This differs slightly from the unhappiness cited in the previous point, but contributes to the same end—unnecessary conflict about something that has never been a problem in the relationship before.
The husband/wife who is going through a midlife crisis may become tired of the "same old, same old" in the bedroom. It isn't uncommon for someone married to a spouse who is going through a midlife crisis to suffer the negative consequences of their infidelity.
If your spouse is spending more time in chat lines on the computer, working strange hours or on their cell phone more than usual, you may be seeing signs of a cheating spouse. These are only signs but coupled with the other symptoms of midlife crisis you should consider the possibility that your spouse has found someone to fulfill the need for a more passionate, intimate relationship.
American Psychological Association. Midlife Crisis. Updated 2020.
Lachman ME, Teshale S, Agrigoroaei S. Midlife as a Pivotal Period in the Life Course: Balancing Growth and Decline at the Crossroads of Youth and Old Age. Int J Behav Dev. 2015;39(1):20-31.doi:10.1177/0165025414533223