Advice For Women Who's Men Are In Midlife Crises
Being a man, I am a little hesitant to provide advice for women, but I frequently get emails from women wondering what they should do, so have decided to take the plunge. Here are some excerpts and cries for help:
- "Please give some advice as to how a woman must handle it if her husband is going through an Existential crises."
- "I believe my husband is in a full blown midlife crisis (the works). He is somewhat out of the depression part and functioning ok. He does not know that I know about his "other life". A confrontation at this time would not work. He would just get angry and lie. Is there anything else I can do? I am at a loss."
- "I'm a wife of a man who I think is going through a midlife crisis. For the past say two years he has really gone downward on who and what he is. He has left home a few times, which is hard and my girls and me. Is he just being cruel to me because it would be easier for him to just push me away by being mean then actually dealing with his feelings? You should have somewhere that wives of men that are in this situation, because I would really like some help or support while my family is going through this."
I hope what I have provided on this page will be of some help.
If you are struggling in a relationship with a man in a midlife crisis, my first suggestion is: figure out what you want in your life.
In a long term relationship, both partners must know what they want in their lives:
- What they want to accomplish before they die (which is one of the things he is struggling with right now)
- How they want to be treated in by their partner, no matter how they are being treated now (Many women tell me their husbands are mean to them, or ridicule them, or treat them with contempt. This is not acceptable in ANY significant relationship.)
In order to directly help you with this precise situation, I've written "A Harley or My Wife?"
I encourage you to click here and gain an understanding of how this resource I've developed can help both you & your husband.
This book isn't about motorcycles.
It is about the quandary a man often finds himself in at midlife, where it looks tempting to buy a Harley and hit the road…
Not all midlife transitions for men are crises.
There may be a low-grade depression, or he might feel restless, or even listless and lose interest in things he used to be passionate about, including sex. But he might still carry on in a fairly normal way, until his transition is complete.
When he is through, assuming he has learned the spiritual and 'inner' lessons of the midlife the transition, he may be 'the same, but different' than before it started:
- he might still be at the same job, but see it from a different perspective, and not let things get to him as much as they used to
- he might be more thoughtful, or more emotional than he used to be
- he may have a greater appreciation for his life, his work, and his family
If he has just suffered through it, without going on the 'inner journey', he might just get older and less pleasant to be around.
However... if his transition becomes a crisis, he might exhibit symptoms of what psychologist Jed Diamond calls "The Irritable Male Syndrome", which he describes thoroughly in his book by that name... The Irritable Male Syndrome
Following is some advice, excerpted with permission, from Jed's book - a book I highly recommend for men and women - that I hope you will find helpful.
15 ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TO HELP AN IMS (IRRITABLE MALE SYNDROME) MAN IN DENIAL
- Recognize that he is hurting but feels stuck. Remember that his irritability and anger are covering over his hurt and fear.
- Take a step back. You can't push him to change. He can make changes only when he is ready. You can step back only if you can keep yourself from panicking. This is a good time to tell someone you trust about what is going on.
- Recognize your own feelings and fears about the situation. What are his actions triggering in you? Are you feeling angry? Do you want to fight back? Do you feel inadequate? Are you wondering what you did wrong? Are you afraid that he's going to leave - or that you will?
- Slow down. Take care of yourself. Don't make any decisions while you are in a panic. Remind yourself that no matter how important your relationship is, it is not the only aspect of your life. There are other people who are important to you, and there are other things that give you pride and pleasure.
- Find your own place of emotional safety so you don't let yourself feel battered by his stormy moods. Tell yourself over and over again, "I am not the target. These are his feelings of pain and powerlessness." What he is saying or doing, no matter how hurtful, is not a statement about you or your adequacy.
- Never listen to what he thinks about you. Listen for how he feels. Judgment and blame are only cover-ups for his feelings and unmet needs. Words can be deeply wounding. When men experience the Irritable Male Syndrome, they may say things that can be very hurtful. For instance, an IMS male may say, "Damn it, can't you ever do anything right? Are you really that stupid?" You can think, "I must be a lousy wife" or "He's a vicious, mean bastard." Or you can say to yourself, "I wonder if he's feeling enraged because he needs support or comfort or understanding."
- Let him know you are aware that he is in pain and you are open to listening to what is on his mind, when he is ready. Irritable males seem to be doing everything they can to push people away, yet they want more than anything to be understood. Like angry children, they want to know that you are there, that you won't be driven away, and that you will listen when they are ready.
- Suggest walking and talking. Men often open up more easily when they are communicating "side by side" rather than "face to face." Sitting down and talking about what is going on might not be the best way to reach them. Men tend to be "doers," not "discussers." They often find it easier to talk when they are doing something (throwing a ball, fixing a car, walking) and when they are not looking into someone's eyes. To women, eye contact provides a feeling of nurturing and support. It often makes men feel that they have been put on the spot, so they become defensive and withdrawn.
- Let him know that you care about him and that you know he cares about you. Ask him if he'd be willing to listen, without responding, for five minutes while you tell him how his irritability and blame make you feel. Share your own needs for safety, self-esteem, intimacy, and love.
- Get help and support from friends and family. Don't try to solve the situation by yourself. You may feel ashamed to ask for help. You may want others to know the man in your life is acting the way he is. He may be telling you, directly or indirectly, not to tell anyone about what is going on. Don't give in to the fear; reach out to people. Be good to yourself.
Seek out a counselor, if necessary, who can help you work with your feelings and suggest ways to work with the IMS man. Sometimes you need more than the support of friends and family. Professional help may be necessary. Many times, people hold back, thinking, "If he won't go for help, what's the use?" Getting help for yourself may be the first step in breaking destructive cycles and getting help for him.
If you are seeing a counselor, request that he call the IMS man and ask him to come in to help you and the family. Often, a man has trouble asking for help for himself but will go in to help a woman and children. Even teens and young men will often go if they think their thoughts will be heard and they can help others. It helps a man's self-esteem to know that he is doing something good, even if he feels confused and angry inside.
Tell him, and remind yourself, that you are both on the same side. The problem isn't you or him. The problem is his irritability and anger that are caused by his unmet needs. Let him know that you are committed to working with him to find out what those needs are and to help him meet them.
Don't give up. Create an atmosphere of safety. Invite him to join you in finding ways to create a better relationship for you both. If he doesn't respond, pull back. Approach again at another time.
Be firm. Let him know you love him but you aren't going to give up on your own happiness. Tell him things need to change and you want him to join with you in making a life that works for both of you.
WONDERING WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU'RE ABOUT READY TO LEAVE HIM
For many couples, the tension and pain in the relationship reach a point where it seems the only way to survive is to split up.
Does this sound familiar?
I'm tired of being blamed for all his problems.
Nothing I do seems good enough for him, and he's become emotionally abusive.
I don't think he'd actually hit me. Even so, I'm tired of being treated like I'm worthless.
I'm just not going to put up with it anymore.
I've begged him to get help, but he just tells me it's my problem. I've gone to see a counselor. He refuses to go with me. I don't want a divorce, but I decided to go see a lawyer, just in case. I guess 1 can live with things for a while longer, but I'm really running out of patience. He's just oblivious to what he's doing to me and the kids. What do 1 do?
SIX KEY QUESTIONS YOU MUST ASK YOURSELF WHEN YOU'RE THINKING OF LEAVING
- Have you given up on the relationship, or do you still feel there is some chance that things can change? Be honest with yourself. You need to look deeply within your heart but also take inventory with your mind. Is there enough left in the relationship to build on? Do you really want to put in the time and energy to make the changes?
- Are you willing to get help and confront your own fears about leaving and about staying? You can't change him, but you can change you. Many people stay too long or leave too soon. Often, they are in such emotional pain they are unable to think clearly. It's useful to consult a good therapist who will help you sort things out.
- What are the pros and cons of staying? Of leaving? In the midst of confusion, it is difficult to take a clear look at your situation. I recommend asking and answering the following questions: A. What are the benefits of staying? B. What are the benefits of leaving? C. What are the drawbacks to staying? D. What are the drawbacks to leaving?
Think of A and D as being on one side of a scale with B and C on the other side. Many people have told me that this has been very helpful if making decisions they can live with.
- Is it worth staying and giving it a try? If you decide that it is, it isn't likely that there will be a significant change unless something new is added to the mix. Will you get counseling? Are you reading this book together? Are you getting help from your church or friends? If you're willing to stay while you work on making changes, be clear about how long you can stay. No one wants to remain in an abusive relationship forever. Yet change won't occur overnight. How much time are you willing to give it? Setting a time limit will allow you to work for change while reminding you that if positive change does not occur, the situation won't continue indefinitely.
- Are you overwhelmed by the bad times or can you still remember when things were good? Don't close your mind or your heart to love. Remember what your relationship was like at its best. Stay focused on how you would like things to be, not on how bad they have become.
- Are you putting energy into making the rest of your life wonderful? Be sure you do things you enjoy. See friends, enjoy family, and involve yourself in what you love. Take the attitude that your life will be fine, with him or without him.
WHAT TO DO WHEN HE IS ABOUT TO LEAVE OR ALREADY OUT THE DOOR
- Recognize that you haven't done anything wrong. When a man wants to leave, sometimes his partner blames herself. This is not your fault.
- Remind yourself that his leaving has nothing to do with your desirability as a woman. This is his problem, not yours. You haven't become less desirable because he is experiencing problems associated with IMS.
- Take time to improve your own self-esteem. After the initial shock, you may find you have been living your life in fear of his leaving. You may feel bad about yourself, but you can change that. Begin doing things that give you a sense of accomplishment.
- Use your anger to make positive changes in your own life. Often a crisis in the marriage can be the impetus to do things you have wanted to do but have neglected. One woman began a serious exercise program. Another decided to go back to school. Any changes have to be ones you want to make for yourself, not simply to hold on to him.
- Break the "I'll be perfect/You're a shit" pattern. Many women try to be "good." They revert to a childhood practice: "If I'm good enough, maybe Daddy will love me." When that doesn't work, they sometimes become angry and blaming.
- Confront your own fear of abandonment. What experiences have you had in the past where you were afraid of being left? Were there times growing up when you had to deal with these kinds of insecurities? Have there been other times you've been left?
- Make it your business to make your life so great that, whether he leaves or stays, you will feel fulfilled. I'm not talking about being a Pollyanna and pretending that everything is fine when it isn't. I'm suggesting that you make it your goal to feel so good about yourself and your life that his leaving won't wreck it.
- Let him know his needs can be met in the relationship and you are willing to do whatever it takes to help that be so. Also let him know that your own needs can be met as well, and challenge him to work with you to bring about the changes necessary for mutual growth and happiness.
- Suggest that his unhappiness, and maybe your own, may stem from the call of something deep inside. Sometimes, we think the problem is with our partners or families, when it is really about dealing with the larger issue of finding expression for our authentic selves. Midlife is often a time when major changes need to occur to give our lives meaning. So are other times of major change, such as adolescence and young adulthood. A teenager's rage at his parents may really be about his need to be more independent. A young man's anger at his boss may be an expression of his need to find work that is meaningful.
- Open a discussion of what psychologist James Hillman describes as the soul's calling. Often, a man's restlessness and irritability come from the pull of his inner world, not a pull from outside. He may think he needs to leave his family, have an affair, change jobs, run away from home, leave the country. The real longing may be to fulfill his soul's calling. Recognize that this may cause a man to want to escape from his old life. He knows he has to break away, but he's not sure what he must break away from or where he is headed. Your support for his need to be free may be exactly what is needed for a man to choose to stay close.
I Hope The Above Advice From Jed Is Helpful To You. Here Are A Few Other Resources You Might Find Useful...
Here is a bit of information from that site:
We receive many notices of spouses coming home each week. From that joyful date, it is going to take the couple about two years to heal the hurts, forget that other person, and to reconcile. Only then will they be ready to help other couples. We will never knowingly harm a struggling couple by publishing a premature restoration report. We hear of too many prodigals who leave again, because too much was being said.
If you are interested in learning how to help those who are going through a midlife crisis Click here.
By the time we reach midlife, there is also a chance we have been left alone because our spouse has died. That happened to me at age 27.
If that has happened to you, here is a book you will find useful:
Vidh: A Book of Mourning
"How well we who are left behind keep this secret from each other," writes Phyllis Nakonechny in her book Vidh: A Book of Mourning.
Like a series of photographs, or letters discovered in an old trunk, or the images one might inadvertently catch sight of when walking by someone's home at night, the writing in Vidh: A Book of Mourning with unusual candour offers a compelling glimpse into the private world of grief.
The world vidh, linked to the Indo-European widh, is the root of vidhava, the Sanskrit word for widow, having various meanings such as apart, lacking, or empty. It is this immediate sense of emptiness and isolation that Nakonechny addresses.
Vidh is not a self-help book that counsels, instructs, or offers advice. It does not seek to teach about the nature of grief, its stages or the ways of coping with it. There are many books on the market that provide that service.
What Vidh does, purely and simply, is offer the voice of someone who is living with loss.
Whether you yourself are grieving or you know someone who is Vidh provides a small gesture of affirmation, a gift of consolation when words of consolation fail.
What Others Are Saying About Vidh: A Book of Mourning "This paean of love and loss speaks to the depths of human dignity and the eternity of love and loving. Exquisitely written by Nakonechny, Vidh - A Book of Mourning is at once a celebration of the human condition and a reminder of the importance to the human spirit of memory as a way of triumphing over the deepest losses." Jurors, First Book Award, Saskatchewan Book Awards ***
"I wanted to tell you how much I have loved your book and how utterly wonderful your writing is. I wept all the way through, sometimes for sorrow, sometimes for joy and often just moved that someone can write what I feel. I have lost no great loved one, but I had an accident eight years ago in which I lost a lot - two years in hospitals, paraplegia and half a leg, and my accustomed life. The loss of walking on the earth is the greatest loss I can imagine. The grieving never seems to end, because I'm reminded of it every time a friend comes by or I see people walking past my window. That's all, just thank you and I will never let that little book go." Joy McCall ***
"I sat alone on Thursday night and read your exquisitely evocative book. It is a book for all who love or have loved someone. When I put the book down, I was enriched. The insights I now embrace have revealed a kind of dawn for me. I am indebted to you and I am honoured to be so. Thank you doesn't seem to be enough and yet it is all I can say." Wendy Swann ***
Thank you for writing Vidh…. I have not seen such powerful grief expressed on paper… I have said many times that our society does not allow people to grieve and we are so uncomfortable with those who have suffered a great loss. How wrong! How Sad! I know I will be giving many copies to friends in the years to come. Joanne Balint ***
Read More or Purchase
That is about all the help I can offer you at the moment. As I learn and/or discover more help for women dealing with men in midlife crises, I will add the information here. You might want to check back here from time to time.
Just fill in your first name and email address in the form below, and click the button.
All the best on your journey with your man, and God bless you.