We’ve all heard about the stereotypical marriage midlife crisis during which a person– often a man– makes major life changes.
These don’t always seem for the best, either.
In the generalized scenario, a man reaches his 40s or 50s and feels overwhelmed by a sense of disappointment with what and where he is right now.
He might get depressed, have an affair, turn to alcohol and drugs or even run away from his marriage and family in reaction to the thoughts and emotions that seem to be crashing down upon his head.
Women also go through midlife crises. They might also experience a sense of inner turmoil that leads them to make choices that can be abrupt or seem radical.
It seems to Emily that Jeffrey has become a completely different person than the man she married 25 years ago.
To Emily, he has become cold, distant and restless. It seems that when they are together, he’d rather be anywhere else.
This perception of Jeffrey, has led Emily to become more distant with him. She feels rejected and wonders if he even loves her anymore.
Whenever Emily tries to talk with Jeffrey, he is evasive and vague.
Emily keeps feelings that she’s done something horribly wrong to Jeffrey but she can’t figure out what it is. What she does know is that she is tired of living in a marriage like this.
Of course, not everyone encounters a crisis during middle age. But when you or your spouse do, the inner turmoil in one (or both) of you can wreak havoc on your marriage.
Here are some advice dos and don’ts for dealing with a marriage midlife crisis…
Don’t let the “little” conflicts fester and grow.
Address misunderstandings and miscommunications when they occur. Don’t sweep your tensions away and hope that they will fade.
This is especially the time when you want to be honest and clear with one another about what you each want.
If you mate refuses to talk about it, ask him or her to agree to a time in the near future when the two of you will communicate about this topic.
Do take responsibility for your own feelings.
It’s easy to become confused and even take it personally when your mate seems distant, cold, troubled or off-kilter in some other way.
When you perceive something like this about your partner, take the time to come back to your center.
Notice how you are feeling and what’s true for you. Try to focus in on the feelings instead of any guesses or assumptions you might be making right now.
Don’t cast blame for distance in your marriage solely on your spouse or solely on yourself.
Even if your mate seems to be falling apart in the midst of a midlife crisis, resist the urge to place the blame for your marital troubles solely on him or her.
It is possible that the distance between the two of you is largely due to your partner’s inner turmoil.
While you cannot control what’s going on with your spouse, you can make conscious decisions about how
you will respond to what’s going on.
You choose not to add to the distance. You can also choose to address the distancing habits that you might be more directly part of.
Do take ownership for the choices that you made in the past.
We’ve all made some life choices that we wish we hadn’t. Often, regret about the past is a focal point for midlife crises.
Own the fact that you made the best choices that you could make at the time you made them in the past.
Forgive yourself and forgive your mate for perceived mistakes. Take steps to release the past and return your attention to the present and your desired future.
Do stay flexible and open during a marriage midlife crisis.
If your mate will talk with you about what’s going on within him or her right now, listen with as much openness as you can.
The ideas that your partner might be proposing could trigger fear or worry within you.
By all means, stay true to what you want. But at the same time, ask yourself how flexible you are willing to be during this transitional time for your mate.
Perhaps these are unexpected changes that will enhance your life as well.
Don’t shut down in response to your marriage midlife crisis.
When you meet a seemingly cold and closed down person with coldness and distance of your own, your situation will only get worse.
Keep cultivating openness, warmth and love within yourself. Approach your mate with compassion if at all possible. Not taking the midlife crisis personally and not making it all about you can help.
Do listen to and honor what you want and need right now.
Stay tuned in to you. You might need to rely on other sources of positive support for a period of time.
You might also need to set new boundaries and create agreements with your mate.
Keep as much connection as you can with your partner and continue to communicate about what you are willing to do and what you are unwilling to do at this time.
Be specific in terms of action and time frame.
Do seek outside professional help if you feel like it would be beneficial.
You might decide that a professional coach or counselor can help you and your partner through these difficulties.
Even if your partner refuses, do it anyway.
If you feel compelled to seek outside professional help with your emotions and decision-making about the future, please do so.
A good coach or counselor will not tell you what to do– that is up to you.
But he or she can help you find clarity about your next step and then follow through on a possibly new path.
There are no guarantees that any marriage will last “til death do us part”– with or without a marriage midlife crisis.
You can, however, make deliberate choices that will help you to create a life of happiness, fulfillment and love.