Midlife Crisis is sometimes joked about, but it's not much fun if you're having one. My blog is about my own epxerience but also about those I work with as I help them through their won midlife crisis.
The midlife crisis is a myth — sort of
Well now, I like to stay abreast of what the world is saying about my areas of specialism, and whilst perusing the press for Midlife Crisis, I came across an article entitle “Ten Politically Incorrect Truths about Human Nature”.
The title itself was intriguing. As a life coach, I know that The Ugly Truth is always preferable to a shiny, pretty lie. The truthg is THE ONLY solid foundation upon which to build a fruitful and happy life.
But I know that sometimes, we find it hard to face the truth. It presents fears, embarassments and sadnesses to us which we would often rather not see.
So the title of this article intriqued me - recognising the tension between truth and comfort.
I’m not saying the article’s 8th truth is actually true or not - but it is radical and at least plausible. Here is is:
Many believe that men go through a midlife crisis when they are in middle age. Not quite. Many middle-aged men do go through midlife crises, but it’s not because they are middle-aged. It’s because their wives are. From the evolutionary psychological perspective, a man’s midlife crisis is precipitated by his wife’s imminent menopause and end of her reproductive career, and thus his renewed need to attract younger women. Accordingly, a 50-year-old man married to a 25-year-old woman would not go through a midlife crisis, while a 25-year-old man married to a 50-year-old woman would, just like a more typical 50-year-old man married to a 50-year-old woman. It’s not his midlife that matters; it’s hers. When he buys a shiny-red sports car, he’s not trying to regain his youth; he’s trying to attract young women to replace his menopausal wife by trumpeting his flash and cash.
You can find the rest of the article, by Deekonda Ramesh, here.
What do you think? Has this changed your view on YOUR midlife crisis?
Are You in Midlife Crisis? And if so - What Now?
In my practice I find most clients in mid-life crisis exhibit most of these symptoms: -
- Feeling newly discontent with your lifestyle
- Doubting decisions you have made about your life
- Feeling bored with things and people
- Feeling unusually adventurous
- Questioning the meaning and value of your existence
- Feeling confused about who you are, or where your life is going
Does that sound like you? If it does, then don’t panic.
Whilst I’ve said that midlife crisis can be very grim, it doesn’t HAVE to be, and it’s very common in Western society, so you’re in good company. And we know a lot more about midlife crisis these days, and how to deal with it.
The fact that midlife crisis is unsettling can often lead to denial and withdrawal, but it’s not useful to bury it. It’s going to come out - and better sooner than later. That doesn’t mean you should let rip with the Ducati motorbike and the 18-year-old floozy, but it DOES mean that you should try to accept that it’s there and listen to it (but don’t always obey it!) Find a way to talk about it with your partner BEFORE you act drastically. Easier said than done - I know. It’s not always easy telling your wife of 30 years that you no longer love her and you want to start a new life away from her and your wonderful grown-up daughters.How can you feel good about that - or about yourself for thinking it?
So the basic rules of thumb for not messing up you massively are these:
- Inside yourself, accept the truth as you see it - ugliness, “selfish cruelty”, warts and all.
- Don’t label it GOOD or BAD - it simple IS and there’s no point lying about it to yourself.
- Do not act rashly. Try to keep you strong impulses under control, but not by burying them - rather explore them mentally but don’t act on them yet.
- Share as much as you feel you can and should of how you are feeling with your loved one. That’s hard to do, and it may hurt them - but not as much as the alternative.
- Find comfort and pleasure in small ways - with friends, safe treats, and so on.
- Find one person you can confide completely in, but choose them wisely. Misery loves company and some people have hidden agendas which may not serve you well.
When you acknowledge your midlife crisis and take these even a few steps, you’re FAR less likely to create catastrophe in your life and the lives of those you have spent most of your adult life caring about.
So … What Exactly Is Midlife Crisis?
Mostly, men in their 40s and fifties get midlife crisis, but women get it too, and the age range is only a guide.I had mine in my thirties. Joseph Campbell said:
midlife crisis is when you reach the top of the ladder and you find that it was leaning against the wrong tree.
Most of us spent our 20s starting work and building a career. We spend our 30s climbing that ladder and raising a family, and then in our 40s or 50s we find we no longer believe in the whole process any more. We don’t find value in our career - our job seems worthless, and along with that - all of those years we spent (and I mean SPENT - they’re GONE!) seem like a tragic waste.
Woven into this is often a powerful and terrifying sense of our own mortality. In our mirror, we see the undeniably signs of aging. We see our younger selves fading inexorably away.
So - our past was a sham - and our future’s limited and brutal. That realisation (though not strictly accurate) destabilises many of us.
We may do rash or dangerous things. We may question our marriage - normally happily-married men may become irresponsible, hostile and cruel, or deeply depressed and un-communicative. We may lose the ability to earn their living. We often shut out or downright reject our loved ones.
Often men see their wives as having “trapped” them and taken their youths and their lives away.
Coming close on the heels of all this is acute guilt for our thoughts and/or actions.
Finally - all anchors with our previous role in life break down. We feel adrift - struggling to find HOME, to find a place and a role and a future we can believe in. Make no mistake.
We sometimes joke about midlife crisis, but it can be a desperately painful, destructive and hugely challenging time in our lives.
Midlife crisis - Does it Exist?
August 18th, 1995, mid-afternoon. Sunny, I recall.
I sat in my office at my computer with a one-line resignation letter on the screen and smiled at the quaint idea - purely theoretical - that I might actually jump off the stinking ship.
And then, to my own amazement and horror, I actually sent the damned thing! I laughed but I was afraid. I was 36 years old, and that was the beginning of my midlife crisis.
I’m 48 now, and I’ve come out the other side of my crisis, but I can say pretty clearly that midlife crisis definitely exists!
Mine lead me to dump my 17-year blue-chip management career, and - though I didnt realise it at the time - along with the job went not just my livelihoood, but also my sense of place, or purpose of value and all other ties to any conventional existence.
I had leapt off the cliff without any idea of where I was going to land. Where I ACTUALLY landed was rocky terrain, and it’s been a wild ride since then, so I can’t really recommend the Blue Sky Leaping strategy for tackling midlife crisis, but if I had stayed where I was, I think I’d be dead by now, so maybe those rocks weren’t so bad.
So here I am, 12 years on, all midlife crisis -ed out.
These days I help people in all kinds of life challenges for my living, and one of the most common is midlife crisis. Not only have I been there and done it - but I go there most days with my clients, so I’m up-to-speed with the whole thing. The process I use is called life coaching.
My midlife crisis blog’s going to document key points from my client work. Names and details’ll be changed to protect the suffering, but the issues and what we do about them will be real. I hope you’ll find them useful in your own midlife crisis.