Contrary to popular opinion, a midlife crisis is more of a psychological experience than a chronological event. We couldn't agree more for a few reasons: First, a chronological event implies that everyone will have a midlife crisis at a specific moment in their lives, which isn't true; and second, a midlife crisis revolves around a feeling of being trapped in a life that's going by too fast. Some people manage to navigate a midlife crisis, learn from it, and move on to a more rewarding life. Then there are those who morph into a lesser version of themselves and inflict enormous pain on their friends and family.
What Is a Midlife Crisis?
A midlife crisis is an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age. It's usually fueled by the epiphany of time passing.
Everyone responds to their midlife crisis differently, but one thing is for sure in every case: They are not the only ones afflicted by what they're going through. If your partner is experiencing all the symptoms of a midlife crisis (bored, rash, impulsive, insecure, and depressed, to name a few), your first instinct may be to try to "fix" them, but unfortunately, this isn't a problem with a clear-cut solution. Of course, you can respond in positive and encouraging ways that subtly lets your partner know you aren't giving up on him, but know that you are not responsible for putting him back together. Take this time to keep your own head held high and surround yourself with love and support because, like we said, his midlife crisis affects you too.
Here are seven things you can try to help you survive your partner's midlife crisis in tact.
Focus on Yourself
You aren't doing your spouse or yourself any favors if you obsess over every single emotion he's been dealing with during this uncertain time. As tough as it is to process, you have to accept that you have no control over what your spouse does or doesn't do. You do, however, have complete control over what you choose to do.
We can't think of a better time to take up a hobby than when your spouse is going through something, so take this time to try something new. Whether you keep yourself busy by volunteering at a local animal shelter, taking art classes, signing up for a gym membership, or reading a great book, think about what would make you most happy right now.
Set Clear Boundaries
One way to keep your partner's bad behavior from causing too much stress in your life is to set boundaries and stick to them. If she's cheating, let her know that this part of her life is not allowed to intrude on yours. Tell her that you don't want to know anything about their relationship with another person and emphasize that you will not engage in conflict or become involved in a love triangle.
Your first instinct may be to find out everything you can about the other person. You may even want to spy on her, read her emails, hack into her computer, and try to find every secret she may be keeping from you. The truth is, though, when it comes to a midlife crisis, your partner will do what they want to do regardless of your feelings. You don't have to let it go and pretend everything is fine, but try your best to let it go for now because this is definitely not the time to have a mature and thoughtful conversation.
Listen Without Judging
If your spouse initiates conversations with you, listen without passing judgment. Keep in mind that he will be experiencing doubt and confusion about what he's going through, so listening and trying to understand is key. Any snide comments about what he's feeling should be kept to yourself.
Plus, it's not your job to explain how and why he's wrong for feeling the way he does. On that note, don't try to get them to see it from your perspective. Anyone going through a midlife crisis has to figure it out on their own terms.
Visit a Counselor
There's a good chance that both you and your partner could benefit hugely from therapy, but it's not worth trying to force him to attend couple's counseling if he's not willing. The next best thing is to find yourself a good therapist to talk to. A licensed psychologist can listen to your concerns and help you work through the myriad issues you're facing—including a sense of betrayal. The best thing about a therapist is that they're objective.
Family and friends are great if you need support, but they can't be objective when it comes to your spouse and your marriage because they know both of you so intimately. The people closest to you may even cause you more damage because they love you and don't want to see you hurt. For instance, they may advise you to leave or strike back at your partner, but if you're going to give your marriage a fighting chance, don't add fuel to the fire.
Do What's Best for You
A midlife crisis can have varying degrees of severity. If your partner becomes emotionally or sexually involved with someone else, starts recklessly spending money, develops an addiction, or becomes abusive, take action. As much as you love your partner, consider your own self-worth. If you don't feel safe or valued with him, don't stick around for their benefit.
Process Your Anger
If you feel angry in response to your S.O.'s midlife crisis, that is totally normal. After all, it may feel like he's being selfish from your perspective. Trust us, though, try to keep your anger in check because lashing out will only make you feel better in the short-term. The best course of action is to get rid of your anger in a non-confrontational way. Whether you want to beat up a heavy bag in a boxing class or scream into your pillow, do what you need to do to blow off some steam.
That said, don't feel like you can't talk to your partner. There are definitely ways to express your anger without yelling, cursing, or throwing plates against the wall.
Don't Rush the Healing Process
One important thing to note: Your spouse's midlife crisis has nothing to do with you, nor is it a reflection of your relationship. It's easy to assume that given the rocky state of your relationship at the moment, it may never recover, but that definitely isn't aways true. Some couples probably feel like their relationship because stronger after such a horrible period. So many people assume that because their partner is going through this depressive period, they must have done something wrong that kick-started the midlife crisis. You may want to humor your curiosity, and straight-up ask your partner where you stand or what you did, but trust us; don't go there.
If your partner has started to create an emotional distance between you two, insisting that she talk about your relationship will only push her further away. This, unfortunately, is something she needs to get through on her own. In due time, the relationship you used to cherish will come back, too.