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Forum:The Midlife Crisis

So what are your thoughts on issues pertaining to the midlife crisis?Talk to me; talk to each other, or just talk. I look forward to hearingfrom you.

Midlife Crisis Forum by Year
April-December 1997 January-December 1998 January-December1999 January-December 2000 January-December 2001
Midlife Crisis Forum 1999
January-March April-May June-August September-October November-December

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September-October 1999

September 13, 1999

Are their very many men that wake up and want to come back home to their familys? Why do they always talk so nasty to their family members when the ow is around them? Please any advise would help me.

BR

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I am involved with a 41 year old male who has never had a permanent relationship before me. We have been seeing each other for over 2 years. Up until a month ago, he was talking marriage and the whole nine yards. A couple of weeks ago and after a trip he had made to Europe, he has started to have doubts about our relationship and his life in general. He wants to make new friends and change his whole lifestyle. He's not sure of his feelings for me right now either. Although he keeps in contact with me almost every day, and says he cares very much for me.

I'm very confused about this whole thing. Any advice you could offer would be appreciated.

BD

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Dear SPS, and Mike B.-I access the Retrouvaille Home Page by www.retrouvaille.org. I am so glad we happened upon this program. It has helped us so much. It has been a year since our marital crisis surfaced in the form of my husband's MLC. Mike-I cannot thank you enough for your site. Your genuine caring and concern is so apparent. Sometimes it felt like your site was one of the few things in life that helped me understand such pain and confusion. Thanks again!

BK

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I have noticed that many of you women speak of your husbands MLC like it was something he could choose not to do. Like this was some whim that he has, but has put no thought into. Let me give you a man's perspective I have been going through this for a little over a year now, and let me tell you its hell. I find nothing rewarding at home, but I should. I have a great wife.! I have a nice home, I was once a very happily married man, and father of 3 children. , 15,18, and 21 (all from a previous marriage that ended after my 1st wife had numerous affairs on me) Now I'm just married, with three kids It was a joke among my friends for years after I got married the 2nd time that I didn't even notice other women. We would be driving near the beach. They would see a woman who wasn't just beautiful but stunning.. I would n't even notice her. All I could think about was my wife and kids. I wasn't blind. I saw her, I was satisfied thats all. Does that make sense ? But now my marraige and my family life is like sitting down to a great meal, It looks wonderful, It's smells even better, but when you eat it, it has no taste, and does not satisfy your hunger. You want to be filled up so bad!.. Your so hungry it hurts!You would do almost anything to fill this void inside. You can remember eating this exact meal not long ago and finding that it was wonderful, and satisfying. I have never gone out with another woman, not even once. I do my very best to keep my word. I go to work everyday, and faithfully bring home my check. I don't gamble, smoke, and only drink socially I have met a woman recently. I am not involved with her but I would like to be. I have never felt this way before. I feel like a louse It takes everything thats in me to not take steps toward this new woman.

Everyday I tell myself I'm not going to notice her, I'm going to keep my attention where its supposed to be. and then I'll see her walk by, or worse, I'll catch the smell of her hair. and I melt I would a give a minor piece of my anatomy to not feel this way. I havn't told my wife how I feel. It would devestae her to know. She has given me no justification for any of this..This would be so easy if she was a shrew, but she's nothing but wonderful. I just don't find her attractive, or as engaging as I did. She knows something is wrong with me but I just can't bare the thought of what this will do to her and my children. I know this sounds awful, and selfish, and self centered Believe me when I tell you that my friends and family are all going to faint when this all comes to a head. I am not the kind of man who does this. I went to see a Phycologist. His advice."hang in there!" Wow ! why didn't I think of that. "Just say no" Yup that'll work (not) I am still in the marriage, trying to hold on, hoping and praying that the nightmare will end, and I can go back to my life. I don't know about your husband(s) but let me tell you this hurts like hell its confusing and frustrating and I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. The worst of it is that there is nothing that I can do about it, except watch my life circle the bowl.

BW

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I am a 30 year old woman and I believe after reading the above forum, that I'm experiencing a midlife crisis. I never thought something like this could/would happen to me. I've been very happily married for 7 years--no complaints whatsoever. My husband has been most supportive towards me in all aspects of my life but I'm just not happy. I'm burned out on work and I feel this need to do something outrageously different. Part of my MLC is the pressure to start our family. I thought I wanted children but much of this stemmed from the pressure I was getting from family members. My husband wants children children but it's not something I feel I want in my life. Additionally, I met someone online whom I've been cooresponding with for over a year. I wasn't looking for some escape from my married life but it just so happened that we became very close through daily coorespondence. He's 15 years older than I am and lives in New York. I still love my husband but I've fallen in love with this other man. I'm finding that there are many things that have changed in my life and my needs are different from when I was 22 and first married. This person very much fulfills these needs. The overwhelming guilt I feel is causing a lot of stress on me. I don't want to hurt my husband. He doesn't deserve it, but, I'm not sure that this feeling I have to be with this other man will change either. I'm desperate for some advice from anyone who might have any.

Looking for Advice

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Do all people going through a midlife crisis read from the same script? I'm starting to heal from my husband's mlc, but I get so angry when I hear the "experts" say there is no such thing. I have found friends going through the same experiences as I, some worse, some a little easier, but we all have been profoundly wounded, our children scarred by these people who cannot face middle age and somehow think they can replay their adult lives. And I don't understand the women, and men, who encourage them to destroy their families by believing their rewritten histories of their miserable lives.

Angry

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My husband and I married when we were 17, I was pregnant. We've had a comfortable marraige for 23 years. Last December, as our youngest was preparing to graduate high school, my 40 year old husbanc moved to his mother's garage to "think about his life" During this time I found out he had a 28 year old girlfriend and told him forget it. He was ambivilent for 3 months, jerking me back and forth until I came close to losing my mind. The divorce was final in May and I have moved on. He has become VERY religious and now wants me back. I can't see myself ever putting myself on the line again. Just clawing my way out of that "hole" has been daunting, but I did it. Now, I feel like I'm having the crisis, I'm dating and sowing wild oats. I feel like a teenager sometimes. Not only did my nest become empty of children, the biggest relationship of my life fell apart. Am I normal? Should I go back to him?

LE

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I know I'm in the middle of a midlife crisis with my husband of 16 years. He's just turned 40 and I'm 37. We don't have any children. I noticed the changes in him after I was in a car accident and he had to take care of everything. The first couple monthes were ok but then I could see him getting angry. I hired a kid to come help out on the weekends with barn chores but it just didn't seem to be enough. He was still nice and friendly but always going to bed and even if he was home early he started falling asleep on the couch and conversation stopped. When I started trying to get close to him in conversation he seemed to tolorate it or pull back. He also didn't want me to go out with him to his pool league nights anymore. Because of my situation I was not able to get around to well and needed his help. He started drinking heavier and passing out on the way home and as I got better he started getting mean while he was drinking. Then even when he was sober he would be sullen and uncommunicative.Then he began to tell me he didn't love me any more and blaming me for everything even if it was something he liked he'd turn it around some how and make it a bad thing and blame me for it. I threw him out after he didn't come home till 3am and left me to babysit his dad who was up for a visit. This backfired to, then he was hurt and didn't understand why I threw him out. He's drank himself into stupers a couple times now and even used the company truck when he did this. This is realy out of character for him he's always been careful about not jeapordizing his job. He is the one who can't have kids but he turned that around to and its my fault and its also my fault that we didn't adopt kids. He told me that he thought it was my problem because he got two girls pregnant when he was younger only they got abortions before he knew about it. True? first time I heard about this. Our sex life went down the tubes (probably my fault for some inhibitions I've had) and we were starting to turn it around but he just shut me out. I decided to go on vacation and he wanted to come with so I said ok. Everything was fine during the day while we were doing things together but at night he'd sleep in the other bed and not do to much talking when we were alone together. And I admit I was at a lose for words myself I didn't want to argue or upset him. When things started really getting bad I told him he had to stop tearing me apart or move out and he said he was going to move out. So I packed his bags for him and had everything ready to go then he turns around and says he doesn't want to leave me. This happened twice. Finally in another drinking bout he said he was moving out and I made him hold to it. He wouldn't go because he didn't have enough money so I got it for him and he packed and left. The motel he usually stays in was full so he moved into one thats in town here instead of one that was closer to work for him. I told him I wanted 3 weeks no contact that meant no phone calls no coming out to the house etc. because I needed to get myself straightened out after the ripping he's done on me. He left some things here so he could come pick them up at another time so I loaded them up and dropped them and his vehical off at his job so he has no reason to come out here. He's made a couple excuses to call one was for work so I talked to him and the other I don't know I just hung up. As far as other woman he says there's noone else and he's not looking and that's been confirmed but when drinking he said he met someone he was talking to and liked but that she found someone else and thats over now. I don't know if I beleive this or not no one has seen him talking to anyone gal in particular. He has started hugging alot of gals none that I have to worry about they are just friends of ours but I'm jealous he doesn't hold me anymore. And there was one gal, they were hanging all over each other and she invited him to go to another bar with her which he refused. But all night long he was giving her the yes signs. This all went on right in front of my face and when he looked at me it was like a daring in his eyes "what you going to do about it". So maybe it was all for my benefit I don't know. I'm seeing a counseler and also have started attending Alanon and have been put on anti-depressants by my counseler and physician which has helped me enourmously. He said when he left that this was something he had to do. The confusing part is the back and forth he moved out but not too far away calls even though he wants me to give him his space. He says he doesn't love me but that he still cares about me that he'll never leave me etc. He's sending so many mixed signals I don't know what to think anymore. He's said he's thought about suicide 3 times to me now and once to a friend but where we live there's nothing I can do unless he tries it first and now that he's out he doesn't have access to the guns. He went to counseling with me once and won't go back. The counseler said he's got a problem with alcohol which I do beleive is the truth at this time. My hubby is still putting 80-90% of his paychecks into our account so I can make the payments so he still feels something or he'd just be running around blowing it. He's now trying to stay away from bars some since he moved out and he's trying to bury himself in his job (which is the only thing he wants to do now make alot of money) I know he's severly depressed but at this point I can't do anything to help or I'd have him go in to see his doctor. This is a very hard time for me I know he needs help but my hands are tied I would love to hold him and let him know that we will get through this but he won't allow me to so guess I'm out of ideas and answers. I love him heart and soul always have and its always been unconditional. I've pulled back at times because he's done some mean things when he's been drinking but I've always gotten over them and loved him more everyday. Am I doing the right thing in cutting him off? I just don't know what to do anymore I've done everything I can think of and now I have to let him go out there and find himself? I sure hope you can help shed some light on this situation for me.

Thanks. Lost and Lonely

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I,m scared & confused. My husband says he loves me & cares for me,but he doesnt want to be married anymore. We have 3 children 16, 13, & 11 that would be affested by his selfishness. Can you give me any words of encouragement.? What can I do to be helpful & supportive?

Chris

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September 24, '99

My husband of 23 years moved out and I divorced him. He had a girlfriend but realized quickly that he had made a mistake. I no longer felt the same as before. I have dated some, but my question is when will I stop feeling guilty about having sex with someone else????

LE

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A male midlife crisis seems to last forever. There really isn't much you can do but be there if he asks, although mine never did. Instead of waiting for him to come home, go out yourself. Find new interests, new friends, new ideas. Don't depend on him, and don't scold, or try to manipulate by guilt. That doesn't work. You will have to detach yourself until he returns (mine finally did) or find a new life for yourself. I know the heartache. Some days it hurts so bad you think you will simply die from the pain. But being independent helps. Stay busy. You are not responsible for his behavior so don't let him blame you. It is easy to forgive the behavior, but it is difficult to forget. It is a period of growth for both of you.

MW

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This response is for BW. Having been at the receiving end of what you are experiencing, I would like to offer a suggestion. Tell your wife everything you're feeling. Go to a marriage counselor together. Go into the Marriage Builder site at http://www.marriagebuilders.com. It will give you another approach to restoring what you've lost at home. My husband couldn't talk to me about what he was experiencing. We had been together for 34 years. Instead, he took a job 2,000 miles away and left his family, friends, career and me. He did everything in secret including leaving his 30 year career with a year and 10 months until retirement. He told me I was the perfect wife and mother and still he left and handed me legal separation papers the night before. Four days before our divorce was final, he told me he still didn't know where he was in his life. He has been gone for 11 months and has aged ten years. He left a Government job and took a job with the private sector. That alone is stress enough to level any 55 year old. He added the pain of abandoning his family and giving up most of what he worked for. We were a very small and close family with a daughter who is 28 and a son who is 26. Both have been so blown away by his actions that they do not communicate with him. Actions do have consequences. It's important to take a long look down the road you're about to take. I've been there the past 18 months.

Casey

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this is the most incredible life journey I have been on to date. my husband, of 27 years and friend since kindergarten, father of our four children with no blood relatives alive other than us has and is going through what all of you are talking about. it is like the nursery rhyme "humpty dumpty sat on a wall, humpty dumpy had a great fall, all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put humpty dumpty together again". it is incredibly tragic at the moment yet oddly enough I feel enriched by it and have learned a great deal about my own strengths and weaknesses. at the same time I feel terribly threatened because my whole entire life as I have known it has been swept away like a huge wave just gobbled me up. now I am in this sea of turmoil which I know my husband is going through also. it is torture. the woman who swept my husband up has been there before. she has pursued married men. it is almost as though she smelled my husband coming. her track record is not very good. does my husband see this? no. and he cannot control his actions at all. I know this and I realize that there is nothing I can do. prayer and staying on top is all I can do for now. hopefully the storm will let up soon. thank you

CH

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Mike...I have written you on occasion and continue to monitor your column. My wife of 15 years continues her search for the ultimate soul mate. Our children are becoming more aware of their mothers' moodiness. My wife has finally cast off her quest of her gay peer at work and for the time being has settled back to be a wife and mother. Her search will continue again as she and a female peer of hers are going to another psychic for further direction. Wife continues to shroud me as I am only there to pay the bills and provide support for the family unit. This midlife crisis for my wife has brought me a lot closer to my children and made me recognize more that she is sick and in pain to. Her comments that she "would leave me and the kids in a minute if she met her true soul mate" speaks volumes to the confusion, and pain she is in. This has been going on 18 months and although she appears to be warming up to me again I have to let her work out her frustrations and fear she feels with getting older, dealing with the transition of perimenopause and her own discomforts and demons. She is 44 and no one can help her until she realizes or decides that what she has can be beautiful and sufficient. He journey will be a long one and I hope my continued support and love for her will some day help her out of this crisis In the meantime, I continue counseling for my own personal strength and have surrounded my self with s strong net work of friends and supports and find comfort in your column . No matter what happens to me I know I did my best and was and will be there for my children and the one I love.

KJM Ontario Canada

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Ihave been looking through your Best Years on the internet. I am really looking for some literature which will help both my husband and myself. He is suffering with a mid life crisis and has left home to live by himself to find out what it is that he really wants. This, of course, has been extremely hard for me and our daughter (16 years old), but we are coping. He has made little effort to find out about what is happening to him, but I need to have more information so that I can try to understand what is happening to him and how to help him (if he will let me). I live in Trinidad in the West Indies and information books are hard to come by, however, from the internet I thought I may be able to source some useful information. If you can help me I would be most grateful.

Sincerely, Erika

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Erika,

I suggest you order some of the Conway books, which you can find online at http://www.midlife.com

Good luck.

Mike

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October 4, '99

I am thanksful I came across this web site. Today I called in sick from work because I was so depressed and finding this page was like a prayer being answered.

Sad,

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Glad to be of help. I'm glad you're seeing a therapist, and YOU WILL GET BETTER. Hang in there.

Mike

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To KLM

I too am going throught the same thing you are go, only I am going through with my husband of 20 years. I love him with all my heart and soul and tell him often. I truly believe they are going through something.there is something very deep inside of them that they are missing. We as a family went as far as moving to the United states as we are from Canada also I have recently begong to read all kinds of physcologial books, and gotten very close to his sister and brother who have gone through the same thing he is going through right now. The only difference is I will not leave him,I know this is a very deep emotional problem he has,buried inside himself. He will not talk about it only when he is drinking,but I know there is hope, and I have alot of FAITH in muself and God that we can work rhis out. So hold on, she needs your strength and support more then you know. I will pray for you and you do the same for me and God WILL answer own prayers. Canada in U.S.A.

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Dear Mike: This past year has been an incredible turning point for me.The loss I suppose I have had at 42 is the idealistic dreams I had about life and career that were not realistic in the first place.I have learned you have to allow room for other possibilities if one dream does not pan out.Otherwise, you can set yourself up for a really miserable letdown. You learn that being "rich and famous" as many people aspire to be does not mean you are going to be happy--especially if you are trying to live up to someone else's standards of success.You can have 10 phd's,but if someone wants to prove that you are an idiot anyway,they will find a way to do so.If they sit around knocking you, it is usually because they are jealous anyway. All one has to do is pick up any edition of the National Enquirer, read about all the celebrities who supposedly have everything, and read about their drug, financial,marital and legal problems, and you wonder why you ever thought their lives were so great.What's wrong with just enjoying one's self and life for it's own sake?If someone speculates that you are a no-good failure and they are not impressed with you, why do you need that person anyway? What is wrong with thinking for yourself for a change and deciding what success means to you instead of someone else's definition?If the result of all this realization is severe depression,which is what happened in my case,tell your audience not to hesitate to get therapy combined with anti-depressant medication if that is what it takes.You don't have to suffer, and life CAN be enjoyed at any stage. Clint

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October 10, '99

Similar to someone else on this page, I'm a graduate student and am doing an article on mid-life career changes (which I'm in the middle of myself).

I need to "interview" someone about what they went through in making a career change. Obviously, the interview can be done by e-mail.

Thanks for any help you can provide!

Suzanne School of Communications - American University

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Hi. I've been married to the same man for 23 years. He is the one and only man I have had sexual relations with. I will be turning 43 in November and my sex drive is sky rocketing. The problem is, my husband's isn't. Our relationship has never been overly sexual, and we have always experienced role reversal (he always has the headaches.) He continually tells me it isn't me, yet when I check our internet "history" he has visited some 30-50 cites just about every weekend. If he paid me as much attention as he does his computer, I wouldn't be writing this. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

DM

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To Canada in the USA

I thank you for your heart felt comments and assure that I too will not leave. I have seen a beautiful warm loving wife who I love with all I have literally torn apart by her journey. Her quest for something different, her feelings of dismay, lack of confidence in herself , her dissatisfaction with unaccomplished dreams and her pain . When I married her I took a solemn oat/pledge infront of family and friends and I made a commitment to My God that I would be there for her through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. Yes I will be there and I hope others have the same faith. Yes I will pray for you and all others going through this terrible journey.

KJM Kitchener, Ontario

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I just discovered this info. I tried so hard a year ago and could find nothing on male midlife crisis. While reading these letters from other women ,I feel like they are telling me my life for the last year. My husband of 30 years walked out 2 weeks before we were to take our last child (#4), a son, to college. Our only daughter moved out on my husband's 50th birthday-poor timing. My husband too was crying all the time and didn't want to hurt me. After a week he wanted a divorce over the computer for $99. I had been going to a counselor that he found when our daughter left. She told me to listen to him and not say anything. It has only gotten worse. To him there's nothing wrong with him. But all the books I read on the subject point to midlife crisis. Our family and friends were so shocked when I told them what happened. Even his relatives email me to give me encouragement. We were the model family. Everyone looked up to us . He was the son-in-law that could do no wrong. Like the other women I keep praying that he will finally see that this is something that can be helped. His friends and co workers have come to me and ask what's wrong with him. He's yelling all the time. When I personally witnessed one of these screaming fits, it scared me to death. I know how horrible the hurt is. But what hurts me most is that he did this to our youngest son just before he left for school. Our two older children, sons, are married and live quite a distance from here. One has two children of his own. We are only in our early 50s. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. We both have lawyers now and it's getting very ugly. But you know what? I still want our life back with him well.

Thanks , Suesizzle

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October 16, '99

Dear Wondering:

Midlife crisis may last years and many marriages lend up in divorce. My reason for filing for divorce was to preserve my financial stability that was being threatened by my husband affair with a younger women with two small children and in severe financial problems. My husband who never paid any bill throughout our 29 years of marriage started to open charge accounts with both their names on the credit card. I was left with the responsibility of taking care of a disable daughter and a son still in college. He moved out, cut all financial support, and literally abandoned his family. I still wonder if there are any men who are later regret what they have done to their family? Love does not pay the bill!

ES

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Hi:

My wife and I have been married for 11 years and have 2 wonderful children (9 and 6). We are both 39 and my wife will turn 40 next month. A few days ago my wife came back from a funeral and was most obviously annoyed with me and seemed very preoccupied. She told me that she was feeling like we have drifted apart and that she was feeling very boxed in. She also said she felt like there was a big hole inside her and that something is missing. We had been planning on going to New Zealand over Christmas to visit her mother who owns a business there. She told me that she did not want me to go on this trip and that she was looking forward to being away from me for that period of time. I had also been planning on taking 2 weeks vacation so we could spend some more time together. She said that she did not think that was a good idea and discouraged me from taking a vacation. I hugged her and told her repeatedly that I love her more than anything in the world and that nothing matters to me more than her and the kids. I was absoultely crushed by this turn of events and spent the rest of the weekend in a fog. The thought of losing her and the kids is absolutely devastating!! When I pulled into the parking lot of work on Monday morning I completely broke down and was sobbing uncontrolably in my car. It took a while but I finally got ahold of myself and went into work. I have been a basket case since this happened.

My work has been extremely stressful and frantic for the last 2 years. It has taken its toll on me and I have been depressed for about the last year. I feel as though I have been struggling with some mid life issues for a while but I didn't recognize it until my wife hit me with her issues as I described above. I had been finding myself looking and flirting with other women, buying pornographic magazines, and in general being more withdrawn, moody, and selfish around my family. In the days since my wife hit me with her issues it has been like an awakening for me. I have been looking back over the last couple of years and last few months in particular and can see how I have been extremely selfish and have inflicted pain upon my wife by not paying attention to her, our relationship or her needs. I feel like the biggest jerk in the world and would do anything to get the last 2 years back. I love my wife and want to spend the rest of my life with her. I am going to see a counselor tomorrow to start to work on my issues and hopefully find some way of rebuilding our relationship.

I believe my wife has also been struggling with mid life issues as well (probably prompted by my selfish behavior). In addition to the events I described, she recently quit her teaching job and is pursuing other career interests. I think this is wonderful and I hope she can find a career that is truely fullfilling for her. She says she feels like she is not the same person and that she is changing and becoming more independant. She is going to see a counselor today. After having read alot of the stories on this web site and the advice given by you I asked my wife if she would be willing to go to marriage counseling together. She said she wanted to go the her counselor first and we'll see after that.

I have not seen anything posted on the web site which describes the situation where both husband and wife are suffering from mid life problems. Hopefully we can go to a marriage counselor together to work through this. I just hope it is not too late. What do you think?

Thanks,

-Crushed

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HELLO,

AFTER 15 YEARS TOGETHER THE WIFE FOUND A BOY FRIEND TOLD ME SHE NEEDED TIME & SPACE TO WORK THINGS OUT FILED PAPERS TOLD THE KIDS DADDY'S NEVER COMING HOME AGAIN. TOLD ME THE SEPERATION WAS FOR ABOUT A MONTH. CHANGED THE LOCKS. ETC ETC ETC. CAN NOW LIE TO ME ABOUT ANYTHING. SO HOW DO I GET ON WITH MY LIFE AS A HAPPY CAMPER.

A TRUSTING FOOL!

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I am a 56 year old woman. I got a divorce 16 years ago. Yes, the stories all sound familiar. All of a sudden there is the shock of finding out that the marriage has deteriorated.

I've got to get ready to go to work this morning, but I wanted to say a few words to those facing this enormous change.

Since my divorce, I've completed my doctorate, traveled to Europe and South America, worked in Micronesia, Puerto Rico, California, and Alaska. I have four kids in college. One of my sons won a chemistry scholarship the year he earned his B.S. in chemistry. He is now attending M.I.T. in Boston.

I never remarried, love to go dancing, biking, to concerts, museums, lectures, and hope to make more friends as I go along in life.

I gained more confidence as I worked and engaged in graduate studies. It has been a long time since I felt helpless. Economic self sufficiency, personal/professional options, and forward thinking are the basis for strength. Divorce, estrangement, abandonment can be either reasons for self destruction or challenging motivation/impetus for change and growth.

Go forward. Don't linger in doubt and dread. Give yourself a limited period of time (15 minutes a day) to withdraw and lick your wounds (for self pity). Then, get up and start designing/implementing your strategy.

I may never have another husband or significant other. I will always have myself.

In regards to others, all I strive for is to be real, responsible, and reliable.

In terms of my personal goals, I strive to take good care of myself and those I care about.

LU

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October 22, '99

I can remember sitting in my kitchen worrying about pregnancy, my husband's frequent absences and strange behavior. I was so very unhappy. It felt almost as though I were drowning in pain and sorrow. I took out a pad of paper and colored pencils and began to draw a picture of what I thought happiness might look like. I drew a picture of myself with my four children sitting on the bank of a river in the jungle beside a waterfall. As things worked out, one day I realized that this instance of visual imagery had literally saved my life. I made it to that waterfall with my children. Today we have a picture, taken in 1988, of all five of us frolicking under a waterfall in the Lacondon jungle in the state of Chiapas, Mexico.

I am a 56 year old woman. I got a divorce 16 years ago. Yes, the stories all sound familiar. All of a sudden there is the shock of finding out that the marriage has deteriorated.

I've got to get ready to go to work this morning, but I wanted to say a few words to those facing this enormous change.

Since my divorce, I've completed my doctorate, traveled to Europe and South America, worked in Micronesia, Puerto Rico, California, and Alaska. I have four kids in college. One of my sons won a chemistry scholarship the year he earned his B.S. in chemistry. He is now attending M.I.T. in Boston.

I never remarried, love to go dancing, biking, to concerts, museums, lectures, and hope to make more friends as I go along in life.

I gained more confidence as I worked and engaged in graduate studies. It has been a long time since I felt helpless. Economic self sufficiency, personal/professional options, and forward thinking are the basis for strength. Divorce, estrangement, abandonment can be either reasons for self destruction or challenging motivation/impetus for change and growth.

Go forward. Don't linger in doubt and dread. Give yourself a limited period of time (15 minutes a day) to withdraw and lick your wounds (for self pity). Then, get up and start designing/implementing your strategy.

I may never have another husband or significant other. I will always have myself.

In regards to others, all I strive for is to be real, responsible, and reliable.

In terms of my personal goals, I strive to take good care of myself and those I care about.

CL, Alaska

________________________

Just looking for some feedback...I've been married for ten years, no kids (my choice as well as his). Have been together with this man for thirteen years and love him dearly, although I am starting to wonder why - ha ha. A few months ago, I came home from a trip to a perfect stranger. Had known something was up before I left but the distance and coldness became apparent over the phone while I was gone and hit me like I ton of bricks upon my return. My sweet husband was gone and in his place, once again, was a man who is emotionally shut down, totally confused, angry (though he won't admit this), unable to let go of the distant past (specifically, the "bumpy" - his words - start to our marriage) and can't (or won't) see the good in what we have built together and the potential for the future. This has occurred three times in our relationship, although this one is by far the worst - a true "mid-life". The first was all the way back in the second year we were dating (we broke up, he came back) and the second time was right before we got married (it seemed to be the proverbial "cold feet" syndrome). The last time it happened, he was 35, and the crisis was primarily career-related. Now he is 41 and this is by far the worst and it is REALLY jeopardizing our marriage, because I'm not willing to put up with this anymore.

Like the stories of so many of you who have written here, my husband says that he is ambivalent about being married, always was, doesn't know if he loves me, feels he was pressured into getting married (I guess because we had dated for three years and I wanted to either get married or end it, for crying out loud). He has admitted to flirting with a woman at work but says it hasn't gone beyond that. I find it telling that while I was away, he spent time hanging out with the least "grown-up" of his friends (a guy who is also over 40, not married, has no real responsiblities because money and living quarters are supplied by his parents, etc.). He obviously has regrets about the past and the path(s) he did not follow, and the problem clearly is that he is stuck in this space. He can't take a step forward because he keeps looking back. He even went so far as to say that he wants to take one of those pre-marital compatability tests with me -- as if the past nine years count for nothing and as if he can go back and start all over again! I find this hurtful, especially since we haven't exactly lived through nine years of pure hell -- most of them, especially the past five or so, have been good, or so I thought! Anyway, when he went through his career/life crisis six years ago, I specifically told him that I did not want him coming back under any circumstances other than that he WANTED to. I even went overseas for a while so that I wasn't in his face and he had plenty of time and space to think.

Well, he did come back and soon after, we bought a house - something which he initiated. Because of the fact that it was HIS decision entirely to come back, I thought we were finally past all this and we had started to talk about a family - "someday". No concrete plans, just talk at that point. Now we're back to the same old song again, it seems. Our family can't believe what he is doing. They have been very supportive of me and him, but they are not condoning his behavior.

He has taken a big step forward by going to counseling; this is unheard of for him. I am also going to counseling on my own and am finding out just how strong I really am. We don't have shouting matches and I am not in any danger physically. It's strange - he's not unpleasant to be around, but it's like having a roommate instead of a husband.

My question: How long do I wait for him to get his stuff together? I am 35 years old and not getting any younger. How long, realistically, should it take for him to be "counseled" through this? I don't want to bail too soon and possibly regret it later on; on the other hand, I don't want to deal with this backsliding anymore, because I am grown up enough now to know that I deserve better than this and I have worked very hard over the past years to move my life FORWARD (by overcoming a lot of the things that contributed to our "bumpy" beginning). On some level I am really angry that he keeps pulling us back into the past when I have worked so hard to get beyond that past, and think I have been pretty successful in doing so. Do I give him a chance to make it better? Or do I pull the plug? Any insight you could share would be very much appreciated.

Just sign me: Forward-Thinker (married to Backwards-Traveler)

________________________

OK. I have read through several letters on this site. I have seen comments that there are no letters from the male side of MLC. Here's one.

I am 47, have been married for 21 years to a fine woman and we have three wonderful children. I apparently do not have a strong case of MLC, I haven't walked out or run away from my family ..... yet. But the thought is ever in my mind and growing. Reading the letters of those left behind was a slap in the face for me.

For me MLC has been growing like a cancer for about 3 years. It started slowly under the constant pressure and responsibility of trying to be everything to everyone (the perfect employee, husband, father and son). Working 9-10 hour days, running home to make dinner and/or run the kids to activities, doing laundry and sharing other household chores, house maintenance, taking occasional classes, supporting my wife's return to school, dealing with my elderly parent's & in-law's health problems. I know, none of this is any different that the lives many thousands of others live, but, after several years, it is wearing none the less.

If it was only the day to day problems I could survive, but then there is the growing realization that my career ended years ago, knowing I would never get promoted again and that I was just working for a paycheck. Compounded with the stress of constant restructuring and expectation that at any moment I could lose my job completely. Bottom line is realizing I'm too old to be marketable and could never get a job paying as much as I make now.

Then there is the financial stress. I face a growing mountain of debt (my fault & hers .... we bought more house than we could afford, a few house/car emergencies and she loves to shop and before we knew it she was paying monthly bills with credit cards). With the debt, no savings, a shaky job, a wife only working part-time and three active kids getting ready for college in a very few years I feel overwhelmed every day of my life.

Aging itself adds to the stress, bifocals, some weight gain, thinning hair, getting gray. Basically feeling in your mind that your 25 and seeing a middle age man looking back from the mirror.

Realizing and knowing that I'm a complete failure in both my career and financially. At home I feel more of a servant to everyone than a member of the family .... taxi, butler, cook, dishwasher, handyman, laundryman, hell I even work as a doorman for the dog and cats! Is this how the family views me? I don't know, hopefully not, but that is how it feels.

As I mentioned my wife works part-time and mostly at nights and on weekends. I've been rejected for sex so often I don't even try anymore, even on the rare times she seems interested. (I don't really blame her, when she does get home from work she's tired and the kids are usually still awake ... I understand that, but it still pushes us apart).

I can see and understand at least some of the stresses eating at me, but I feel helpless to stop them. I dream of running away from everyone and everything. Living more simply. Not being responsible for anyone. It's a dream I know I can never have .... more likely I'll end up selling pencils on a street corner.

Do I love my wife? I honestly don't know, maybe that love is still there, somewhere. We've grown apart over the years and only really have the kids in common. We are friendly but I feel isolated from her, I know she feels it and probably doesn't understand it. I keep hoping these feelings will fade. I don't know how to even explain them to her, they aren't her doing .... she has contributed, but unknowingly.

I would love to get away from everything for a while to just clear my mind. I fully understand why so many of the men in these letters just say goodbye and leave. The pain for them is less but it leaves their families floundering in confusion. I also understand the ones who decide to leave life.

Yes, I have snapped at my wife and kids over stupid things and acted irrationally. I know it as soon as I start to utter the words but they come out anyway. When I get these feelings I try to just leave the room and workout or cut grass, anything to avoid saying something really dumb.

So let me wrap these ramblings up a bit. When we start out after college or high school the world is open to us and we dream of all the great things we will do. I think my MLC started when my dreams started to wither, now most of my dreams are dead or dying and I have a growing apathy toward life. Yes, I feel depressed frequently and have been close to tears many times but I'm never alone to let it out. Unlike many of the men in these letters I am still able to put up a good front, but I know it is cracking. I don't want to hurt my family but unless I find my way out of this abyss I'll have to leave someway. [On a more positive note I am trying to get a better handle on our finances and am studying to prepare myself for another career ... so I haven't lost all hope or reason.]

I used to joke that I was too busy and too poor to have a mid-life crisis .....

Signed,

I'm not laughing now.

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October 25, '99

Dear "I'm not laughing now,"

I learned much from reading your message. It gave me reasons to think over where I stand today. I never stopped to examine my ex-husbands side of the situation the day I picked up and left the house with the kids. Our relationship had deteriorated much like yours as you describe it. However, I was the major earning in the family. I took care of money, management, the house and the children. I also continued to take college courses. Learned to work with the computer, went to seminars on personal development, made many new friends, and spent plenty of time with my children.

My husband became more and more secretive as the years went by. He avoided conversation, spending time alone with me. and paying attention to the children. He worked an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at the hospital. I taught school. So, I was able to be with the kids during most of my free time. He wanted the house quiet so he could sleep during the afternoons and evenings. I took the kids to the parks, movies, concerts, and many other places for this reason. I took them out of the house more than I would have wished because he said he needed his rest. When I got home with the kids he was already in bedroom with door locked. Eventually, I began sleeping in the extra bedroom because he complained that my movements bothered him.

I went to marriage counseling alone for a while. Then I decided that maybe sex counseling was in order. I found a sex counselor. My insurance paid for the counseling sessions. My husband finally agreed to go with me. I was shocked and hurt when he told the counselor in my presence that he would rather masturbate than sleep with a b----h like me. I decided to use this information constructively, and stupid me, I went out and bought every book I could find on the subject. After much research, I decided to approach him on a different level. I reasoned that if this was what he preferred, I would learn to be an expert practitioner. Of course this didn't help matters at all. I was still regularly locked out of our bedroom.

Eventually, I turned my attention toward improving my life and sense of well-being. I was married a total of 12 years. The question I asked myself was, "Are my needs being met?" The answer was a definite, "NO!" I made a list of the things I wanted from a marriage, life, and for my children.

In retrospect, I realize the main problem was alcoholism. Today the man is dying of the effects of alcohol upon the body. Palsy, dementia, etc. My children are now 29, 26, 23, and 21. I left when they were very young. They lived in a quiet, calm, happy single parent family. We took vacations, celebrated holidays, and weathered the storms of adolescence and college life together. Over the years, they telephoned their father every week, and visited when he wanted to see them. This August, they got together, and rushed to his side in an attempt to get him to go to the hospital for treatment. He refused. They came away with little to say to me about their visit.

If I had it to do all over again, how would I handle it? I worked in good faith throughout the marriage. My ex-husband was drunk at the divorce hearing which took place two years after I left the house. I hired a lawyer to represent him. I agreed to pay spousal support when he became unable to work. Luckily, he remarried. He began to pay child support on an irregular basis because his paychecks were attached by court order. Eventually, the payments stopped because he worked and got paid "under the table".

I was busy taking care of my family, working, and studying. I didn't have time to worry about what my ex-husband did or didn't do. I figured it would have been a waste of time and energy. In the meantime, I learned that he had fathered a child with his girlfriend during our marriage. He went on to have two more children after our divorce. Then his wife died.

I never met his wife or their children. My mother knew about his extra-marital relationship. This is something I feel badly about to this day. My husband and my mother were very good friends. His children even called her "Gram-Ma". This means that when I went to my mother for advice she was cautious about protecting her knowledge of his other family. This taught me a valuable lesson. A painful one, but nonetheless, worthwhile. I learned to trust my feelings and instincts.

I called my mother once a week to let her know that we were safe and sound after leaving the house. We were three thousand miles away. He called her to inquire about us three weeks later. He said he hadn't heard us around the house all day while he was trying to get some rest, and wondered where we had gone for the day!

12 years. We used up twelve years of our lives in what turned out to be a miserable marriage for my ex-husband. I was not miserable because I was busy filling in the blanks of my delusion. I gave him the benefit of the doubt at each step of the decomposition. I wanted a strong lifelong marriage. I created it in my mind, obviously. Then one day, my ex-husband said he did not want to be married to me. I thought he was kidding. I was a super wife, mother, lover, friend. He told me that I was his best friend. This was not much of a consolation!

"I'm not laughing now" is busy working hard and living in a sad unrewarding relationship. His wife must take full responsibility for her own happiness. I wonder if she is like me. She may think that things will get better if she can only keep smiling and going about her daily chores. In the meantime, her sex life has disappeared, the friendship and joy are evaporating.

I started reading books on the subject of happiness. Marcus Aurelius, etc. wanted to talk about the meaning of happiness with my ex-husband. He didn't want to chat with me, much less discuss happiness. Well, I took the subject to the hilt. I eventually came to the conclusion that I wanted to choose happiness. That it was possible for me to create a life on my terms. I concluded that happiness for me meant living life my way. That at the end of my life, I wanted to be able to say that I had reached out for happiness and achieved some measure of success. I chose as my main goal to facilitate my children's growth and development. That meant that I had to become a strong and healthy role model. Every minute I wasted mourning the marriage was time better spent building a better life for my family. I saw that my ex-husband wanted no part in this discussion, much

less was he willing to participate in this endeavor. He said that if the kids wanted to go to college they would have to do it on their own. I disagreed completely with him on this issue. I came to realize that I had married someone with completely different values from my own. I was willing to work toward these goals on my own. However, marriage to him, meant a joint bank account. His money was his, and my earnings were also up for grabs. I started putting my paychecks in a separate bank account. This caused a great deal of friction. At least this prompted short dialogs. He began talking when the money disappeared from the joint account. Temper tantrums, accusations, grumbling. I earned enough that his earnings made little difference in our standard of living. It became apparent that money had been disappearing without me noticing it. When we mixed our money in a joint account, it was easy for him to pull off whatever amounts he wished without me noticing. I hadn't created a system of accountability. I was trusting. I thought we both believed in the honor system. Moral development became a concern of mine at this point.

Many of the messages remind me of the various stages I went through without realizing what was happening. This is what makes a person angry after the fact. "How could I have been so naive?" I ask myself this question today. Now I realize that everyone has to go through the process before learning to be self protective. Learning to look out for one's self.

Someone asked a question about how long to stay in a situation. I think a person has to stay until he/she has reached the point at which there is no more energy left to give to the relationship. A certain numbness sets in. A person stops arguing, quarreling, being constantly upset. It is a plateau. That's the end of the road for the marriage, in my opinion. It is like wearing a pair of shoes that really hurt. A person can only walk so far before he/she decides to take off the shoes and make the trip barefooted. I hate pain. It's not over until it's over. A knock out. Round 10.

A marriage is a like a machine or a system in many ways. If any part of it shifts, change will surely take place. People seem to adjust gradually to living in misery and discomfort. It becomes the norm for them. Human beings, like most other animals, seem to enjoy the familiar and shone the unknown.

Regards, CA/AK

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