Contrary to popular opinion, a midlife crisis is more of a psychological experience than a chronological event. First, a chronological event implies that everyone will have a midlife crisis at a specific moment in their lives, which isn't true. 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. Others 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, 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 let your partner know you aren't giving up on them, but you are not responsible for putting them back together. Take this time to keep your own head held high and surround yourself with love and support because, like we said, their midlife crisis affects you, too.
Here are nine ways to help you deal with your partner's midlife crisis.
Focus on Yourself
While marriage is a union, it's comprised of two individuals. So when you're navigating these choppy waters, don't forget about yourself and your needs. You aren't doing your spouse or yourself any favors if you obsess over every single emotion they've been dealing with. As tough as it is to process, you have to accept that you have no control over your spouse's actions. You do, however, have complete control over what you choose to do.
Perhaps your S.O.'s midlife crisis will open your eyes to something about yourself or your life you'd like to improve. We can't think of a better time to take up a hobby, so take this moment to try something new. Whether you keep yourself busy by volunteering at a local animal shelter, taking art classes, or signing up for a gym membership, think about what would make you most happy right now.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, start with something small. It can be as simple as waking up earlier to read a few chapters of a book.
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. No one can do this for you but you. You are the only one who knows how much you are able or willing to put up with. If there are certain behaviors or attitudes that your partner has adopted during their midlife crisis, like overspending or even cheating, let them know that this part of their life is not allowed to intrude on yours. Emphasize that you will not engage or be subject to these behaviors, such as telling them you don't want to know the details of their relationship with another person.
When it comes to a midlife crisis, your partner will do what they want regardless of your feelings. Just because you can't influence what they do or don't do doesn't mean you need to bring such behavior into your own world. You know your limits, so don't try to push them to accommodate someone else's new look on life.
Listen Without Judging
If your spouse initiates conversations with you, listen without passing judgment. Keep in mind that they may be experiencing doubt and confusion about what they're going through, so listening and trying to understand is key. It's definitely not the time for sarcastic comments.
Plus, it's not your job to explain how and why they're wrong for feeling the way they do. 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 them to attend couple's counseling if they're not willing. The next best thing is to find yourself a good therapist. A licensed psychologist can listen to your concerns and help you work through the 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 marriage because they know both of you so intimately. The people closest to you may even cause 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, 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 they're being selfish from your perspective. But 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 nonconfrontational way. Whether you want to beat up a bag in boxing class or scream into your pillow, do what you need 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 your relationship may never recover, but that definitely isn't aways true. Some couples feel like their relationship becomes stronger after a trying period.
So many people assume that they must have done something wrong that kick-started the crisis. You may want to humor your curiosity and 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, insisting that they talk about your relationship will only push them further away. This, unfortunately, is something they need to get through on their own.
Change isn't easy, especially when it might mean the loss of a relationship you thought you'd be in forever. However, fighting the changes will keep you stuck in a bad situation and unable to move forward with your life. Surviving your spouse's midlife crisis means working with what you have, not constantly pondering what you could do to bring them back to the marriage. Acceptance isn’t easy, but the sooner you get there, the sooner you will overcome your sadness and grow stronger in your own life.
Try journaling. Writing the day's realities down tends to make them feel more real and concrete.
Practice patience with both yourself and your spouse. They may be the one experiencing the midlife crisis, but you are both going through a difficult time. You won't make the changes you need to make overnight, and your spouse won't work their way through the crisis on your timeline, so finding the strength within yourself to be patient is key.
Don't beat yourself up for backsliding or not moving forward as quickly as you feel you should. Time is your friend, so be willing for some time to pass: It's time that you can use to build a better life and become a better person. When your spouse does something frustrating, try to remember that they are experiencing confusing and intense emotions, just as you are. In the end, you will both end up where you need to be.