“Have you seen our school crowd on Facebook these days?” asked my oldest pal who used to be a backbencher in school with me. “You mean the mini skirts, the tight T-shirts, the bulging muscles and colored hair?” I asked. My friend started laughing. She added, “In our last school meet, Sumati forgot that she was with school pals and started saying things like “At 35, we can do this” and “At 35…we can’t do that”. We pulled her leg mercilessly. She forgot she was with people who are the same age as her — 45! I guess all our friends are going through a midlife crisis.” “Hey, your spouse is going through a midlife crisis too so better watch out,” I said and we laughed a little bit more.
A midlife crisis is something like puberty. It will hit you, whether you like it or not. Now you could deal with it with a sense of humor, or you could let your midlife crisis lead to a mental breakdown. Whichever way you deal with it, there is no escaping it if you are between 35 and 50.
When it strikes, it can take not just you, but your partner by storm too. In fact, it can change your entire relationship dynamics with your partner and end up creating new cracks in the marriage, leading to disaster. But that does not mean that we have to be its helpless victims and watch it wreak havoc in our lives, letting it destroy relationships and our partner’s mental health when it affects them.
No, we do not have to be mere bystanders while our spouse struggles with the devil that is a midlife crisis. We can take simple, actionable steps to help through the transition instead. But, before that, we need to understand properly what a midlife crisis means and what it actually entails.
What Is A Midlife Crisis?
We somehow use the word midlife crisis in the most nonchalant way but if taken seriously the ramifications of a midlife crisis are deeper and more serious. So, what is a midlife crisis? The dictionary definition of midlife crisis is a loss of self-confidence and feeling of anxiety or disappointment that can occur in early middle age.
This is probably the most apt definition because all issues start from this sudden awakening that life is passing by and we are getting older, the grey strands keep making repeated appearances as are the aches and pains.
But this physical change leads to a psychological crisis and it becomes more heightened when people start looking back on their achievements and feel they couldn’t do enough, they suddenly feel their sexual life is heading for demise and they make a quick attempt to fix all those midlife crisis symptoms. Some people are mildly successful in doing so and some aren’t, which often leads to depression and anxiety.
Related Reading: Midlife Crisis For A Woman: What Is It? How To Deal With It?
7 Signs Your Spouse Is Going Through A Midlife Crisis
It’s the spouse who understands the midlife crisis symptoms best because he or she is always watching you from close quarters, knows your habits and quirks, and can quickly catch a change in your disposition if that occurs. Dealing with a spouse with midlife crisis is not easy. There would be signs your spouse is going through a midlife crisis and you could understand it easily if you look out for these 7 midlife crisis symptoms:
1. Mulling over unaccomplished goals
“I had so much to do, so many dreams, and look at me now. I missed out on everything.” Do you hear your spouse repeating things like this often? This is one of the first and most common midlife crisis symptoms. Midlife is a time when people start thinking if the career decisions they took in life were correct, they start comparing themselves with their peers and sometimes don’t match up to their own expectations.
Sometimes people want to change their careers at this stage and often take drastic steps, like starting a business after leaving a stable corporate career. Women who have been homemakers often become anxious to use their educational degrees and explore possibilities that they had not thought about before. Sometimes people are met with success after taking these drastic steps. Sometimes it throws their life off track.
But if your spouse is mulling over unaccomplished goals, it’s almost a sure-fire sign of a midlife crisis.
2. Altered appearance
Don’t be surprised if a spouse, who always wore a salwar kurta, suddenly starts experimenting with knee-length dresses and becomes bold with the necklines and hemlines. While women could even be ready to go under the knife or experiment with botox, men tend to hit the gym and become obsessed with the receding hairline.
A radical change in appearance is an obvious symptom of a midlife crisis. Some do lose oodles of weight and genuinely start to look younger but others often keep grappling with a negative body image that hurtles them towards depression.
3. Attention seeking syndrome
If your spouse is attending a party or an event, does your spouse make it a point to draw the attention of each and every attendee towards them? Do they revel in the compliments and hate the negative remarks on appearance? Does it seem that they are constantly craving your attention? This is a classic sign your spouse is going through a midlife crisis. Some spouses end up having a fight after every party because one partner does not often take the spouse’s heightened need for attention too kindly.
4. Sexual desire
Either there’s more of it or there is none at all. A change in sexual desire is a symptom of midlife crisis and this is when spouses find it difficult to cope with each other since their sexual desires don’t match anymore. Most often there is a dead bedroom and that’s when one spouse starts looking for sexual gratification outside the marriage. So, this is a time when a marriage becomes more vulnerable to extramarital affairs.
5. Changes in sleeping habits
A typical sign of midlife crisis mental breakdown in a spouse is sleep evading him or her. You could find your spouse up till late reading a book, even chatting on WhatsApp or watching TV. Sleep tends to elude them.
It could also happen that a spouse, who was always used to waking up early, starts staying in bed longer and sleeping continuously over the weekend while showing next to no interest in making any weekend plans.
A change in sleeping habits and patterns is a tell-tale sign of a midlife crisis.
6. Need to lead separate lives
You could have been used to doing everything together from partying to hitting the theatres for a movie or holidaying together, but suddenly your spouse wants to have that all-girls holiday in Europe. Or he wants to hang out at the bar more often with his guy friends. There’s a tendency to touch base with school and college pals, go to reunions more often and look out for old crushes on the internet. Nostalgia is the usual theme of most conversations and you tend not to be a part of it.
He or she is happier with the friends than with the spouse. This could lead to some misunderstandings and, if you don’t understand this symptom of midlife crisis in your spouse, you could end up being all clingy and nagging, which could lead to a worse situation.
Related Reading: 10 Must-Follow Healthy Relationship Boundaries
7. There’s a feeling of being stuck
Midlife crisis is a phase that occurs because there is a happiness slump. This is the age when people have to take on more responsibility, including caring for aging parents, sponsoring a child’s college education, or having to take on more responsibilities at work as senior professionals. Women suffer more from the Empty Nest Syndrome since children leave home at this age and they start feeling worthless and restless.
There is an overall feeling that there is no escape from responsibilities which often leads to mental breakdown and depression.
5 Ways To Overcome Your Spouse’s Midlife Crisis
If you see these signs of midlife crisis in your spouse, it is not really the end of the world. Your spouse is merely responding to the physical and psychological changes that come with age. This can be easily handled with patience, understanding and dollops of humor if both of you have relied on it earlier in your life.
When a midlife crisis hits our spouse, it doesn’t just affect them but can often take our own lives by storm. Every routine, every habit that you had developed together over the years will start going through a change. Your partner will attempt to alter their appearance and chase after their teen-hood dreams while constantly trying to be the center of attention.
This can create a stressful, anxious and uncomfortable situation for us. So, if your spouse has been hit with a sudden wave of midlife crisis and you are starting to find yourself struggling to fix your marriage, know that they are several ways to deal with your spouse’s midlife crisis that are not just healthy, but also actionable:
1. Accept there is a change
The first step to dealing with midlife crisis is to accept that there is a change happening and it has to be dealt with. Know that arguments do not help. Resisting the change does not help either. The first step towards dealing with your partner’s crisis is to accept that there is change and some of it is here to stay.
2. Don’t shift the blame
People going through a midlife crisis mental breakdown tend to shift the blame to their spouses, family, or even children. While that can create tense dynamics in the family, try and understand where they are coming from. If they let go of their career and life dreams to serve the family, it is understandable to feel frustrated once the feeling of crisis hits.
Of course, it’s not fair to the family either. But, while your feelings are important, helping them deal with their crisis should take priority over engaging in massive arguments. If you want to call out their behavior, try to calmly explain to them that they are hurting you and their family with their words and behavior.
Related Reading: Trust Exercises For Couples To Improve Relationships
3. Do what makes you feel good
When midlife crisis hits your spouse, he or she suffers from a feeling of worthlessness and underachievement. Encourage him to get back to swimming or bring a fancy sewing machine home and tell her to stitch again or install that basketball net for her in the driveway.
4. Do not ridicule
Spouses do have a tendency to ridicule their better halves when they see them trying out the latest fashion in clothes or an outlandish hairdo. You never know, but this change might actually do him or her good. There’s nothing wrong with changing the way one looks.
5. See a counselor
Sometimes midlife crisis is accompanied by bouts of depression, changes in temperament and acute mood swings. That’s when you should convince your spouse to see a psychological counselor. It would do a world of good.
If you can pinpoint the signs and symptoms of midlife crisis in your spouse you can deal with it in a sensible and patient way.
4 Ways To Help Your Spouse Deal With Midlife Crisis
Daniel Levinson, in his book The Seasons of a Man’s Life, talked about how men invariably question their lives and choices by the time they reach the age of 45. While research conducted since that time concludes that midlife crisis is not, in fact, inevitable, thousands of people every year do sink into despair and find themselves feeling stuff and questioning how their life went the way it did.
Watching your partner struggle with such a tremendous problem that you can’t solve for them may make you feel terribly helpless and frustrated. No one quite knows how to deal with a spouse’s midlife crisis and its effect on a marriage. A midlife crisis is not just difficult to deal with for the person facing it, their partners tend to suffer the brunt of the blow too.
There is no manual that tells you how to deal with spouse midlife crisis. It may often feel like a lost cause and that the distance and the problems between you are insurmountable. But, as long as you treat your partner going through the crisis with empathy and give them the support and attention they need to deal with the midlife crisis symptoms, you may just get the love of your life back by the end of this ordeal.
So, listed below are 4 tips that can help you support your partner who’s dealing with a midlife crisis so that they don’t just feel loved and understood, but your relationship is left healthier and stronger by the end of it:
1. Don’t judge
No matter what you do, remember not to judge or ridicule their choices. If your partner suddenly gets a new haircut, colors their hair, begins wearing makeup and/or clothes usually preferred by youngsters, understand what they are trying to do. The buildup of frustration and the feeling of being stuck in one place that characterizes midlife crisis mental breakdown can make them want to make serious changes to their lives and style.
As long as they are not hurting themselves, let them do what they want. Even if their midlife crisis behavior leaves you confused, understand that it is their life, their body and they may choose what they wish to do with it. If they are leaving their friends and you behind in order to hang out with people younger than them, understand their need to feel more active, younger, and more in control of their life. Do not laugh at them for it. Your job is to support them. Judging them for their choices will only show a lack of empathy that may end up pushing them farther away.
2. Go with the flow
Difficult as it may be to accept, you must still acknowledge that things have changed and some of those changes may just be permanent. Some of the habits you had formed together over the years, the activities that you pursued together may not interest them as much. They may find less and less solace in your company. Their midlife crisis behavior may even end up hurting your feelings sometimes.
Be understanding. They are struggling to understand things themselves. Everything that seemed okay to them before has suddenly begun seeming restrictive. So, understand that they need time to find themselves again and feel in control of their lives.
3. Help them work on their newfound aims and ambitions
The feeling of being stuck may make them suddenly want to pursue dreams and ambitions you did not know they had. Wanting to tick things off the dreams or bucket list is one of the major signs of a midlife crisis. So, support them when they tackle their fears and insecurities to go out into the world and learn a new language, engage in a new hobby, get a degree, go hiking, etc. Help them acheive their dreams.
Do not tell them, “You’re too old for this.” In their hearts, they are afraid of that too. They suddenly woke up one day and realized that most of life had passed them by. Do not let them wallow in self-pity. Encourage them instead. Encourage them to go out and take life by the horns. Tell them it’s never too late to do that. And that you can achieve anything as long as you are together.
In any romantic relationship, be it a marriage or otherwise, communication between partners is of utmost importance. Tell them your fears and anxieties. Let them tell you theirs. Learn new things about each other. Relearn each other’s love language. After years together, words of love may start seeming redundant. Let them flow now. Tell them how much you love them. Tell them how wonderful you think they are and how afraid you are of losing them. If the distance between you two seems too much, bridge it with words.
From the beginning till the very blissful or bitter end, marriage remains a teamwork. So, when your spouse struggles with a demon such as the midlife crisis, support them through it to emerge out of the darkness together as more secure people. After all, change is inevitable. But just because there is change, it does not mean that it is the end. It is the beginning of something new, something beautiful, even — and, as long as you both work together, you will learn to fall in love with every change and every new characteristic of your partner, every day.
If your husband is suddenly starting to focus on how his body and his hair looks, what he has done in his life and what all he hasn’t, if he keeps revisiting photos of his younger days, starts to attempt to work towards new ambitions, seems generally more distressed, and shows changes in sleeping behavior and sexual desires, he is exhibiting some of the classic signs of a midlife crisis.
Like grief, mid life crisis also has stages. The six stages of mid life crisis are denial, anger, replay, depression, withdrawal, and, finally, acceptance.
Mid life crisis ends when the person finally accepts that they have grown older, that time has passed, and there are some things that they may not have achieved but that’s okay. That there is still meaning, love and desire left in life.
When a woman goes through a mid life crisis, she may start by altering her appearance completely in an attempt to keep up with more current fashion trends. Some signs of a midlife crisis in women are sudden dissatisfaction with their career and life choices. If she quit work or college to be a stay at home mom, she may blame her partner for achieving their dreams while she stayed home letting life pass her by. In extreme cases, she may attempt to have sexual relations with younger guys in an attempt to feel desirable and young again.