How to Respond to Your Husband’s Midlife Crisis to Avoid a Divorce
It seems like men when men experience a midlife crisis, it is fairly easy to identify: buy a flashy, fast car, start dyeing their beard, and maybe experiment with finding a new (much younger) love interest in their life. But this is not the only way your husband’s midlife crisis can reveal itself.
It is common for people of a certain age to feel legitimately afraid or regretful of their life thus far. The effects of aging, opportunities missed and worries about their – um – performance in the bedroom can have significant psychological effects on men. Sometimes, these crises manifest themselves in a way that can be handled – other times, these are destructive forces. A man might begin taking better care of himself, such as by going to the gym obsessively and focusing more energy on their looks. He may start to turn his negative attention on his wife, criticizing the way she looks or dresses. Perhaps an affair happens, but his guilt overrules, and he begins sending his wife mixed signals. Maybe he begins expressing doubts about staying in the marriage. These kinds of husband’s midlife crises can be more difficult to bounce back from.
If your husband's midlife crisis is the first kind, there are steps you can take to avoid a divorce. First, accept that he is going through a personal transition of sorts and that it will not be a short or pleasant process. There is no quick-fix, and you cannot force a solution. Once you accept that getting through the crisis will take time and patience, you can manage your own expectations and avoid resentment at the outset. Stop trying to control the situation and your husband, and instead go with the flow. It can be difficult and trying. But if your husband feels that they have missed out on chances in their life, the last thing you want to do at this point is trying to control them to the point that they would rather be on their own to pursue new opportunities. Maybe they want to start a band. Maybe they want to start a new career. The healthiest thing for your relationship in a midlife crisis might just be to let them.
Try not to feel victimized (to a point). Your husband probably feels that the only thing holding them back from the life they had always imagined is you – even if that could not be further from the truth. You might feel unfairly blamed by your husband. He may say things that are not justified or unfair. Try not to get defensive and try not to play the victim. Approach the things they say from a position of understanding and acknowledge that their emotions are valid (even if you think their rationale is not). Once your spouse feels that they are actually being heard and listened to, you can begin the difficult process of having serious conversations about the way forward in your relationship.
Avoid making any ultimatums or attempting to call his bluff. Remember – you cannot force anything, and this process will largely be outside your control. Telling him ‘it's me or it's your hobbies/the gym/the other woman' or ‘File for divorce in two weeks or I’m leaving’ will probably result in the dissolution of your marriage, especially if he has pinned the blame for his mental state on you. Allow him some space. Consider bringing in a professional third-party as you navigate this territory, whether it is a therapist who can help you as a couple, or whether you need to speak to someone on your own. Making sure you have the right support and resources in place is just as important as helping your husband find his own.
You might feel that you are floating out in space without any clear direction about the state of your marriage – and you will probably be right. So, focus your energy on yourself and your own happiness while your husband figures things out. Maybe you have always wanted to start a new hobby. Perhaps there's a friendship you have been neglecting or a course you have always wanted to take. You should take this opportunity to establish your own new schedule and interests. It can be a great opportunity for you and your husband to share in the new activities, or swap stories when you each spend time apart. Some couples find that gaining this degree of independence rekindles the romance in their relationship.
Your husband is going through a change. This means that you will probably need to change, too. Chances are, both of you have become a bit lackadaisical in your marriage and have taken each other for granted. Assess the relationship with honesty (and recruit a therapist or counselor to help you gain perspective). If you can identify things that you need to change to improve the relationship, do everything you can to do so. If your spouse expresses complaints or tells you certain things they wish were different, seriously consider what they are asking and see if it is something you can accommodate. Spouses need to work together to stay together – sometimes that means one spouse does more than their share of heavy lifting. It usually evens out in the end.
If you have questions about how to deal with your husband’s midlife crisis, contact the Law Office of Peter Van Aulen today for a free, initial consultation at (201) 845 -7400.