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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 hearing from you.

Please notice the dates below. If you want entries other than today's date, here are your options.

Midlife Crisis Forum for Other Months
April-August, 1997 August-October 1997 November-December 1997 January-March 1998 April-July 1998 August-October 1998 November-December 1998 January-March 1999

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November-December 1997

November 3, 1997

Hi everyone. I've started this new forum page today because the previous one was full, and because it had become a very limited conversation. In the future, I will try to not let only a few of us dominate the discussion on these pages. So what do you have to share? Remember, you can use this forum as an alternative to the Q & A page if you simply want advice from your peers. Hope it helps--Mike

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November 17, '97

Dear Mike, My husband, age 42, has been in crisis for about six months. All the classic signs are there--the emotional distancing, rudeness, inattention, focus on his hobbies, a red sports car...the works!! I have read and studied voraciously about midlife crisis and would like to think I have been doing the right things: not distancing myself, remaining active with my interests, loving, etc.

Five months ago, I got him to at least share two things "that were wrong with me". They were (1) I had become emotionally/sexually distant, thus he was losing passion for our marriage and (2) that I did not like/love his 3 children (my stepchildren, ages 9,9,11). Rather than fight with him over these topics or try to defend myself while he was in this state of mind, I spent alot of time studying parenting, stepparenting, and worked very hard to strengthen the relationship with his kids. Frankly, we never had a bad relationship--just one that takes time. The kids and I get along fine. Also, I worked hard at my relationship skills, being more loving, touching, etc. Over the 5 months, he remains distant from me in terms of touching, initiating closeness, etc. Sex is mechanical but is not harsh or degrading. No love words or touch. My heart physically aches when I see other husbands touch their wives or hold their hands. When I reach for his hand, he will hold it, or I will get a good-bye kiss in the morning. He never says he loves me, but if I say that I love him, he will say, "I love you too" quietly.

After 5 months of trying very hard in these two areas, I felt it was time for us to talk about "where things were". I was confident that he would see the positive changes. His only comment was "how soon are you going to go back to being your 'old self?" I did not go through 5 months of changes for him...or to please him...or to make him happy. I changed some things in my life because it was the right thing to do. At least one thing I have that is positive is that I made changes for the right reasons. And Mike, the "old self" wasn't bad to begin with!!! I think I could try to continue to "change" until the cows come home and it would never be enough. Well, I made some changes for the right reasons and I know that more change is not necessary because it would be futile as well as not being true to myself. Right now I am very discouraged. I feel like he is holding me up to a standard that no one can meet...or that I will "fail" in his eyes. As far as the physical closeness, he says he feels like our marriage is a "business arrangement"...ie, we pay bills together, have a mortgage, a place for the kids to live, etc. His emotions could be summed up in one word: neutral or non-existant.

And now I also have cancer. I had surgery last week and I hope they got it all. He was there and was supportive--mostly I think because he had been told by people that he needed to be and it was the "honorable" thing to do.

Mike, am I deluding myself that I can get back that great guy I married 5 1/2 years ago? We had a good marriage, but it seems like it went to hell overnight. As you can imagine, the cancer has broken a lot of my spirit and I need my strengths pointed in the right direction. He said he would go to counseling with me, but wants to wait until we get the final cancer reports and things "settle down". I hope he means it. Like I said, I need my strength in the right direction. Working on a relationship in crisis is hard work, and so is cancer. I want to recover from both. I hope you have some answers. Jana


Hi Jana. I am assuming that you are the same Jana I've heard from before. Your story sounds similar but anyway my response would be the same.

I don't know if you're deluding yourself, but there's sometimes a thin line between hope and delusion. My advice to you is to (1) continue to make the changes you think are right and don't worry about the other ones--you're right; if your husband is facing other unresolved issues (and it seems like he is) changes on your part will never be enough in his eyes, (2) continue to seek support from sources other than your husband (friends, family, a cancer support group, maybe a small group at a church), (3) you might find help with some personal counseling for you irregardless of his participation, (4) and most important, find opportunities that will bring joy and passion to your life--you might look at "Identifying Your Midlife Passion," or "Recovering Your Midlife Identity."

Trying to change people that don't want to be changed is one of the most frustrating things we experience in life. I have no easy answers here. I do wish you the best.


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November 21, 1997

Response to Jana:

I read your letter to Mike on the Forum page. I, too, have had cancer this year and have been dealing with a midlife man for almost 3 years. He came home when I was diagnosed but is still deep in the crisis. You have many things to be thankful for. My husband does not ever touch me, we never have sex, and he is very critical of me. He makes fun of me for reading because he knows I have read much on midlife crisis and he chooses to deny that he is having one. He insists that I am a terrible person and that I am what's wrong with our relationship. Money is a big problem with him. He is in debt and continues to spend, spend, spend. This is totally foreign to his previous nature. He's always been a saver. While he is constantly spending money on frivolous things, he is very frustrated because he has so many bills and can't keep up. He refuses to give me any money but often takes the family out to dinner as a "gift". He loves to brag about what he spends on others. He has stopped going to church, doesn't want to be with friends. At this point, he has made great improvement, but still has a long way to go. I am blessed because he has not had an affair, but he has caused great pain to my family, leaving home and staying away for almost 2 years while he continually lived in a state of pure rage. At times he still gets very angry. Other times he isolates himself and refuses to communicate. My strength comes from God and my family. I don't know how I have hung on this long. I believe that your husband will come around. However, you still have a long road. Hang in there. It will be worth it in the end.


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November 28, 1997

Well, after pursuing these various letters I thought I'd write one of my own. I'm 45, have three kids 15,18 and 20. I've been a stay at home mom because I wanted to raise three wonderful humans...in that we were successful. It's difficult sometimes to project ahead and have the conviction of your choices. However, of course there are trade-offs no matter what your choices. I am of the in-between generation for women, a time when fulfillment was to be had in career. Being out of step is my vocation. I didn't have a career when that was important(though I had been a Respiratory Therapist in my other life) Now it's coming full circle that women are discovering that raising their children is much more important than a career and are opting to stay home(the same women who looked down their noses at us). Anyway, my question has to do with being rather out of step and what to do about it. When my last child started school I did too, getting a BA in art from a university and graduating PBK. I also became a carpenter and built a house. I am an accomplished painter(not financially of course)and I took up my passion for oriental dance which I now teach. I also got a motorcycle(I gave mine up when I had a family). Underlying all of these passions, I have integrated a spirituality which is the basis of my everyday life. Now that my children are older I have much more time on my hands but the reverse is true for me in that I know what my passions are but can't say I've 'made it' in the worldly sense. It's funny that if I were in Bali I would fit in perfectly. It makes me wonder if the problem we encounter in this culture is more a symptom of the culture itself and less a problem of our own. In regards to affairs you mentioned a few things that really rang true for me and I was quite happy to see you mention them. Within my marriage I have had a few liaisons and several years of not wanting to be married but staying together because of our commitment to our children. Several things I learned along the way. My liaisons were a way for me to 'work out' the problems I had stemming from childhood. For me, and I suspect this may be true for others, I knew I could not do this through talking with a therapist. I had to act it out in order to resolve it. Major risk factor here!! However, I generally knew what I was doing and had to prove it to myself. I had a troubled childhood fraught with abandonment and abuse by my father. Therefore I am continually drawn to men who trigger this absolute desire to bond with them, men who would abuse me, men who were 'unavailable'. I will always be drawn to them, but now I know that and am now in control of this kind of addiction. I know if I were to ever have a daily relationship with these people, I would find that my fantasies would be much more satisfying than reality and it would be over shortly. My husband is a wonderful, kind, intelligent man and has all the qualities one would want in a husband but...for a person like myself, the triggers for attraction and passion aren't there because he's not abusive and he's totally available. I deliberately chose someone opposite my dad in qualities that trigger passion because I knew on a gut level they weren't healthy but I found out later in life that I still had to deal with those issues because my husband would not provide the fuel for that... so I had to seek it outside my marriage. Though certainly unorthodox, it did in the end work out. After my 'epiphany' I realized I did not want to be defined as a wife...I had to re-evaluate my relationship to my husband in terms of who he is, who I am, can we be friends, do things together, enjoy each other's company, now, with all the changes of the last 22 years. In the process, I discovered that the further I pushed him away the closer I was to achieving this...to the point that I asked him to move and then felt like being with him. (issues of intimacy? yes and no)Yes I realized that controlling intimacy is an issue for me and that it has worked as a way of achieving connection. I know it's a behavior that is problematic. I know it won't go away but knowing that this is operating in the background allows me to live with it. I accept that. Asking him to leave finally gave me the breathing space I needed to 'see' him and myself as individuals and friends. All these 'neurotic' patterns of behavior I am now aware of and have more control over them so they don't control me. BTW, he never got to the actual point of moving out and we are now closer than we have been in years. Since I've been able to pursue my passions, I've become a more eccentric woman in terms of our culture. I have by my 45th year resolved a few of the major defective dilemmas of my psyche. I've became a fairly balanced person in terms of the masculine and feminine interests, I know what my passions are, my gifts. My gifts and interests don't translate into money and careers so much. Now what? I lack a society. I feel a little alone because many people socialize through work and I don't value socializing through work enough to give up my freedom. So, I'm out of step. The people in my position are older and retired. I don't have enough in common with them. I'm not struggling for a living. I can do what I love but have to do most things alone because few people have time to do these things. My life stretches out before me but it seems to feel unproductive in a way. Sometimes it's boring. Sometimes my self-esteem suffers because I'm not successful in the wordily/career sense that most can identify with yet identifying ones passions seems to be the goal and I have had the good fortune to achieve that. My interests in motorcycles and building are intriguing to men but off putting to women. My interest in belly dance is interesting to women in a different way that it interests men...men's fantasy machine gets cranked up with the notion of a belly-dancing biker. To others who bike, I'm a little too conservative and intellectual I suppose. I guess my point is, if the answer to mid-life question is to identify your passions, savor the little things in life, generatively give back by mentoring to others...I'm doing that but something still seems to be missing...what could it be? It's as if I'm at one end of the spectrum from everyone else and feeling a bit lonely out here and out of synch enough with others that I don't have enough in common with them. Have I individuated too much and what does one do? You can't go backwards. I wouldn't want to. It's as if I've arrived here a little too soon and have a whole lot of time left and don't quite know where to go from here. The up side is that I even arrived and to have done it so early in my life but the down side is that I'm looking around for others and they're not there. Any suggestions of where to go from here? And why am I not jumping for joy that I'm living a life others would love? Is it again the neurotic desire to be suffering? I, for the first time in my life have resolved the issues that made me suffer. I used to create my suffering because that was what I had always been comfortable with. I'm not accustomed to life without the sturm and drang(I know that's not healthy) but it leaves me with a sense of boredom with the even calmness that I'm not used to. I refuse, however to go out there and stir things up just because I'm bored. On top of all this, having arrived with time on my hands so to speak, I also realize time is running out. I wish I had been doing some of these things all along. Is this just a great sorting time and how does one maneuver through it? Reading over this I would say I don't have a problem...and maybe I don't... maybe I just need a little tweaking so to speak.

Hmmm. artms



What a thinker you are! I get the feeling that you should be answering my questions. Can we individuate too much? Probably. I think the tension between individual and community identity is ongoing and the balance is somewhere in the middle. What's still missing for you? I don't know, but midlife seems to be a time when many people answer that question (maybe not in a permanent fashion--it may be that this life will always have some missing pieces--but they do discover a completeness unknown to their youth). Anyway, glad to have you join our forum, and maybe others will have responses to your many insightful observations--Mike

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December 5, '97

Dear Ready to Leave

When I was about to ready to leave writing to this page your question stopped me from leaving this page. What I want to say to you is sometimes we want to leave but we cannot whatever may be the reasons.

I'm the one who has quoted "Supporting your husband in whatever he does is the best way of showing how much you care." I really meant this in a positive way. Support him for his benifit and the benifit of the family. Support him for good or bad iff he doesn't betray your trust and love. If he has done a mistake forgive him incase he thinks and you feel that he will learn from his mistake.

RTL, Sometimes we fake self-sufficiency. We pretend. We say "I'm OK, I'm tough, I can handle it, I'm ready to leave etc", While inside we may be frightened, lonenly and craving for something/someone to listen to. Most of the pretending is done by those who are desperate for affection. It appears to me by reading your question both of you are faking both of you are desperate for affection. You are not alone may be I'm faking "I'm ready to leave writing may be I'm not for my own reasons".

You have written in your question that your husband is not affectionate. Do you show affection to your husband? Failure to give affection and inability to recieve and enjoy affection show ones poor self image. If you show him affection and if he doesn't know how to enjoy then he has to work to improve his self-image.

Ready to Leave, I'm not telling what your husband is doing is right. But for everything there is a reason. Incase you love him and want to find out the reason why he is doing this? What is that you are missing/he is missing in the marriage. Unless you find out the reason it seems the fault is at the other end. Now is the time for you to show your inner beauty and your inner strengths to him which he is failing to see inorder to gain him back if you really love him and want him back in your life. One thing it's not easy to let him go that easily since you have been together for such a long time. I'm pretty sure you are saying that you want to leave inorder to hide your pain which is coming in the form of anger right now.

If you see a problem, do you want to run away from the problem or would you like to solve the problem? If you decide to solve the problem and win him back my sincere advise for you to do things for him without being asked and acknowledge for the things he does for the family by open appreciation show him more affection so that he will not turn into any other women. Inspite of your doing this if he fails to enjoy your innner beauty then he has a very low self-image then You can set him free. Don't give up so easily the best thing that happened to you until you explore all posibilities to save your LOVE.

I hope this helps.


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December 26, '97

Jana, I am a 47 year old, surprised at being a grandmother of two. I am, finally, a senior in college. Often I have given a piece of advice to young women which I now find is equally good for us midlifers. No one of us can change anyone else. We can only be the best person that is possible ourselves at this time in order to be able to give love, support, and strength to those we hope will return these. I hope this somehow helps. Teresa

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