Being with a partner who is going through a midlife crisis is emotionally exhausting and it can even drain your finances. It can almost feel like the partner you once knew turned into a rebellious teen stuck in an old person’s body. You might even feel unappreciated and crushed. Here’s the person you love, the person you vowed to spend the rest of your life with, and now he/she can’t find any good or right about you and your life together. You feel hurt and spend days trying to sort out where things went wrong. Because you love your partner and want to keep your marriage, you start trying to fix things like a mad person. You bend over backward trying to please him/her, but their needs seem to be a moving target. Nothing you do makes a difference.
First, you need to know that you are not the cause of all the unhappiness. There may be things in your marriage with enough room for improvement, but the emotions he’s pinning on you have much more to do with him/her than you.
Midlife crises are usually existential and triggered by an awareness of mortality and a re-evaluation of one’s life. Many marriages end up in divorce due to this. But Don’t Panic! Your partner's midlife crisis doesn’t necessarily mean you’re headed for divorce court. How he/she chooses to handle it is up to him/her, but there are things you can do to support your partner and keep your marriage intact.
Understand the Mid-Life Crisis Transformation: The person going through a midlife crisis is transforming into someone new, psychologically they are becoming a new person. This means that the way your partner used to be is going to be very different now. In fact, the person going through the mid-life crisis is like a child or a teenager trying to find an identity.
Support your partner's dreams and desire: As long as the new sports car can be afforded, don’t give him/her a hard time for buying it. And don’t roll your eyes when your partner takes up a hobby you think is ridiculous; if he/she wants to learn to tango, make sure you’re their dance partner.
Set Boundaries: One way to keep your spouse's inadequate behavior from causing too much stress in your life is to set boundaries and stick to those boundaries. It's easy to feel defeated and destabilized because you have little or no control. But, you can take control of yours and your family’s lives. If your spouse is cheating, let him/her know that this part of their life is not allowed to disrupt yours. Stress that you don't want to hear about it, engage in conflict or become involved in a love triangle. Striking the right balance by setting clear boundaries to meet both your needs is imperative.
Practice Acceptance: Change isn’t easy, especially when that change means the loss of the relationship with your spouse. Fighting the changes in your relationship is what will keep you stuck and unable to move forward. Outliving your spouse’s midlife crisis means working with what you have, not continually pondering what you might be able to do to bring him/her back to the marriage. Be aware there isn’t a single simple answer to make it all resolve quickly. Supporting your partner is a process that takes patience, acceptance and time to accomplish.
Focus on Yourself: I'm sure you have heard it before "Take care of yourself first" "Focus on yourself" "You do You", but it is during this time when it's the most needed. It is absolutely essential that you find ways to make yourself happy through this difficult time. Find things that you want to do with your life. The motive is NOT to get your spouse to notice that you are fine without them, but for you to actually get a life that is not dependent on your relationship with your spouse. Take up a hobby, join a gym, take that vacation you’ve always wanted to take.
Get into Therapy: There's a big chance your spouse needs therapy, and ideally, it would be great to go together to couples counseling, but don’t expect that to happen. Mention it to your partner, more than once if necessary, but whatever you do, do not push the issue too much. The best thing you can do for yourself is to find yourself a good therapist to talk to. A licensed therapist 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 unbiased. Family and friends are great if you need support, but they can't be objective when it comes to your spouse and your marriage. Friends/Family may cause more damage because they love you and hate seeing you hurt. Because of that, they may advise you to leave or strike back at your "insane" spouse. If you want to keep your marriage intact, don't add fuel to the fire.
Let time go by: Part of surviving a mid-life crisis as a couple, is letting time go by--in addition to all the tips above. Time is needed because you and your partner are figuring out a lot of things at a personal and relationship level. In other words, you won’t make the changes you need to make overnight and your spouse won’t work through their crisis on your timeline. Don’t beat yourself up for not moving as quickly as you feel you should. Be willing to let time to pass. Use the time to build a better life and become a better person. And when your spouse does something hindering or insane, try to remember that they are experiencing confusing and frustrating emotions just as you are. In the end, you will both end up where you need to be: That’s the silver lining.
Why do all this work when your significant other is the one experiencing the crisis?
Well, truth be told, you may be next. That’s one possibility. Most everyone experience life crisis--some younger than others, and some people have more than one life-crisis in their lifespan. Therefore, we can expect a mid-life crisis in any long term relationship we get involved in.
Another reason that may make it worth working it out, is that the outcome may be an evolved and stronger relationship. At any given point, when a relationship is going through crisis, it is an opportunity to learn something new and grow together.
Your Therapy Friend,
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