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 family. Focusing on yourself and your children is the key to surviving a spouse's midlife crisis.
What Is a Midlife Crisis?
A midlife crisis is an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age.
Whether your spouse works through their midlife crisis without doing much harm or destroys everything within reach, it's expected that they will be dealing with changes both positive and negative. These changes may leave you wondering what you can do to help yourself (and your spouse) while saving your marriage in the process. Helping yourself survive your spouse's midlife crisis is no easy task but it is doable if you take the right steps.
Here's how you can navigate your partner's crisis without it costing you a world full of hurt.
Focus on Yourself and Your Children
You aren't doing your spouse, or yourself, any favors if you obsess over every single emotion they are dealing with. 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.
Shift your focus to things that are within your control. If you are overthinking your spouse's problems, you are filling your head with negative thoughts that can impact you as well as your children.
Instead, fill your free days with fun activities that will distract you from your spouse's behaviors. If there is tension at home, plan activities for yourself and your children away from the house. Take up a new hobby and get your children involved as well. Do whatever you have to do that will keep you and your children from becoming victims of your spouse's midlife crisis.
Set Clear Boundaries With Your Spouse
One way to keep your spouse's bad behavior from causing too much stress in your life is to set boundaries and stick to them. If your spouse is cheating, let them know that this part of their life is not allowed to intrude into yours. Tell your spouse 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 your spouse, read their emails, hack their computer, and try to find every secret they're keeping from you. The truth is, when it comes to a midlife crisis, your spouse will do what they want to do regardless of your feelings. Just let it go. Let it run its course and accept that you have no control over the situation. Mainly, don't let it alter the way you live your life.
Process Your Anger in a Healthy Way
Anger is a normal reaction to a spouse's midlife crisis, especially if it has a significant impact on you. This may be the angriest you have ever felt, but lashing out at your spouse will only make you feel better in the short-term. For some, talking things out can help ease their feelings, while others find that it exacerbates the situation. Venting directly to your spouse won't change his or her behavior; it will only lead to more conflict in the relationship and on the home-front.
It's best to get rid of your anger in a non-confrontational way. Take a kickboxing class. Throw water balloons against the house. Whatever you choose, find ways to cope with your anger in a manner that doesn't engage with your spouse. No amount of screaming, cursing, or crying is going to make any difference if your spouse is going through a midlife crisis.
Don't Initiate Relationship Talks With Your Spouse
You may have had a wonderful marriage. You may have been a couple who discussed and worked through every problem as it came up. But you're no longer that couple and you cannot expect your spouse to care about working through your relationship issues. If your spouse has put an emotional distance between you, insisting that they talk about the relationship will only push them further away.
Your spouse is going through a change that has caused them to lose interest in your once-solid relationship. Unless they have a dramatic change of heart, this is an indication that you should begin to let go. You will get further with a midlife crisis spouse if the affection or lack thereof becomes mutual.
Instead of dwelling on your broken relationship, pick up new hobbies, put more focus into your career, or find other reasons to leave the house. Now is the time to make a habit out of prioritizing yourself so you can truly begin to heal.
Listen Without Passing Judgment
If your spouse initiates conversations with you, listen without passing judgment. Your spouse will be experiencing doubt and confusion about what they are going through, so listening is key. Any snide comments about what they are feeling should be kept to yourself. It is easier said than done, especially when you feel that they are being irrational or are undeserving of sympathy.
It is not your job to explain how and why they are wrong. 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.
Get Into Therapy
There's a good chance that both you and your spouse need therapy, but it is not worth trying to force them to attend couple's counseling if they are 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 of issues your 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. Those close to you may even cause you more damage because they love you and don't want to see you hurt. Because of that, they may advise you to leave or strike back at your spouse. If you want to keep your marriage intact, don't add fuel to the fire.
Do What Is Right For You
A midlife crisis can have varying degrees of severity. If your spouse becomes involved with another person, start recklessly spending money, develop an addiction, or become abusive, you may be inclined to take action. These are destructive behaviors that should be addressed or abandoned.
The thing to remember is that no matter which road you take, you don’t have to allow your spouse to drag you down. When dealing with someone in a midlife crisis, it is best to always take the high road. Don’t do anything you might regret or feel ashamed of. In other words, just because your spouse is a victim of a midlife crisis doesn’t mean you have to fall victim, too.