Taking Care of Yourself During Your Spouse's Midlife Crisis

a couple overlooking a mountain hugging eachother

Bruce and Rebecca Meissner/Stocksy

If your spouse is undergoing a midlife crisis, you are probably spending a lot of time trying to understand their behavior—and control its impact. After all, their behavior is affecting you. Maybe you are blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility, or ignoring your needs and the needs of your children—all to try to make your spouse happy. The lack of control you have over the marital problems your spouse's midlife crisis has caused may leave you feeling anxious and depressed. It takes willpower and the ability to stand back from the situation to see it for what it really is, and you need to take care of yourself during your spouse's midlife crisis.

Most of us are action people; when faced with a problem, we want to solve it. If your spouse is having a midlife crisis, there is no action you can take to save your spouse from their midlife crisis, but there are actions you can take that will save you and your children from being drawn into the crisis.

Focus on Your Behavior, Not Your Spouse's

You will have to force yourself to stop thinking about your spouse's behavior. Do not think about what your spouse is doing or whom they are doing it with. Accept that you have no control over anyone’s behaviors but your own. "Whatever you do, don’t tell your spouse that they’re in the middle of a midlife crisis. That will just make them mad," says marriage therapist Dr. Lynda Spann.

Set boundaries with for the kind of behavior you will accept, and stick to them. Lovingly tell your spouse what is and isn’t acceptable, and what you will do if they behave in unacceptable ways.

Do not allow your spouse's midlife crisis behavior to cause conflict in your life. 

​Focus on Processing Your Emotions

Learn how to process your emotions in a healthy way. You are dealing with an irrational spouse; it is important that you be able to remain calm and centered for the sake of you and your children.

Work on building good self-esteem. If all you can focus on is nothing but what your spouse is doing, your self-esteem could use a boost. Regardless of what your spouse does, you will be fine.

Stay Active and Engaged in Life

Go out at least once a week with friends. Remain involved in church. Take an art class. Do something you find pleasure in and that fills you up spiritually and emotionally.

Do not make plans that include your spouse. If your spouse has shown you through their behavior that they no longer want to act “married,” then don’t expect them to want to engage in family outings or catch a movie with you. Live your life with your children as if you are single.

Stay Positive

Focus on what is good in your life. In the midst of problems, it can be hard to stay aware of the blessings in your life. Stop daily, look around you, and count them. If you pay close attention, you will see that, regardless of your spouse’s crisis, you have many things to be thankful for.

Set Boundaries

If you and your spouse are separated, do not call them. Try not to initiate conversations about the problems in your marriage, and don't tell your spouse how much you love them and want them to come home. "Stop the constant texts or calls. Quit asking for an accounting of how every minute of their day was spent. Instead, take your focus off your spouse. Start taking better care of yourself," says Spann. 

It's important to not appear needy to your midlife crisis spouse—the more they believe you need them and can’t do without them, the more comfortable they are in pulling away from you.

If you and your spouse are still living in the same home, be courteous, but don’t spend time in the same room unless they request your company. Busy yourself in a different part of the home. The less contact you have with the person causing you emotional harm, the better you will feel.

If your spouse is having problems with their relationship with your children, it is not your responsibility to fix those problems, and your spouse may see any help you offer as interference.

​​Protect Yourself and Your Emotions

Do not defend yourself against any accusations your spouse makes. Pushing your buttons and putting you on the defensive is exactly what your spouse wants. If they make an outrageous accusation, say, “whatever” and remove yourself from the conversation. They will soon learn your buttons can’t be pushed.

Do not suggest marital therapy, but if your spouse makes the suggestion, be willing to attend. If you are going to talk through issues with someone going through a midlife crisis, it is best to do so in front of a trained marital counselor.

If at any time you feel unable to handle the situation emotionally, seek help from a therapist. "If you feel you, or someone you know, is going through a midlife crisis, then it’s crucial to seek intervention whether it be through counseling, psychotherapy, or other contact with a mental health professional," says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It is not uncommon for the spouse of someone going through a midlife crisis to sink into depression. If this is the case, get help, and medication, if needed.

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