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Midlife Crisis Forum

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May-July 1997 August-October 1997 November-December 1997 Jaunuary-March 1998 April-June 1998 July-September 1998 October-December 1998 After January 1999

with

Mike Bellah

Questions

And

Answers

(January--March 1998)

Please feel free to ask any question you want on this page. If I don't have an answer, I'll try to find someone who does. So click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

Notice: The answers on these pages are offered as a free and supplemental service to readers. They are not intended to substitute for individual and professional counseling. The opinions of guest responders do not necessarily reflect my own thoughts. And, speaking of my own thoughts, they are not the advice of an expert but a sympathetic fellow-struggler in this experience we call midlife. I hope they help.

March 30, 1998

Q Mike,
Six years ago, the only woman i ever loved, my childhood sweetheart, my wife of 16 years destroyed me by telling me she wanted a divorce. There weren't any real good reasons why, she said she just wasn't happy. In shock and after the divorce, i turned to another, and after a year married only to be dumped again within 3 months. This time i lost everything and within eight months, after turning to alcohol, had lost the only job i ever loved, and was arrested for driving under the influence. I spent six months in counseling, and began to feel better, but still partied excessively.

If it wasn't for my daughter moving in with me two years ago i probably would have cashed it all in. I have improved, but not totally. My problem is that after six years, i am very unhappy with my life. I am bored, depressed, and really dislike my job and my life. I can't see any reason for anything i am doing. And i can't seem to decide want i want in life. It all seems useless to me. Quite often lately I still fill like just tossing it all away. I've been considering more counseling, but i can't even see the value in that anymore. I hate this, but i can't seem to shake off the depression and boredom.

Help...

Brit

A Hi Brit,
First off, I really feel for you. Though I've not experienced the kind of loss you have, I know what grief feels like and how devastating it can be.

I'm glad you realize that suicide is a poor option, especially because of your daughter. Her pain would last a lifetime. So if these thoughts still come up, I definitely recommend continued counseling.

You need to find something beyond yourself and beyond your unpleasant circumstances to give meaning and purpose, and, yes, to bring joy again to your life. So, although I don't usually do so, my primary advice to you is spiritual. You need to find a spiritual anchor. For me as a Christian, I have found such in Jesus Christ, but every person has to live their own quest for spiritual truth.

Do some reading. See what the great thinkers, past and present, have to say (I recommend C.S. Lewis as one of these). Visit a church or synagogue. Take some long walks outdoors and see what nature has to say to you. And ask God (if indeed he exists) to reveal himself to you.

Good luck and keep me appraised of your journey.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

Q Hi,
I'm wondering if you can give me some insight as to some of the feelings that I have been having for the last couple of months. Over the last couple of years, my career has really taken off. I have surpassed my goals from financial, materialistic, and career perspectives. As you can guess, I have looked around and realized that, to me, these aren't the REALLY important aspects of life. I have decided that being a good husband, father, and friend to my family will be the most important things I can do. I've also been a life-long agnostic and have been (cautiously) attending church with my family. That's the good part.

On the flip side, I find that I am already saddened by how fast life goes by. I have two small children and life seems to go by much too quickly! While I try to live in the moment, I sometimes find myself grieving over the fact that my little ones will grow up and leave the nest. I must admit, that sometimes I am so blue and miss my family so much, that I find it hard to concentrate on my work! When I confided to a family member, I was told "You're just having your mid-life crisis. You've achieved a lot of your goals (financially) and now you're wondering what's next."

I was somewhat surprised by this observation for several reasons: 1) I'm only thirty-two 2) I'm not having an affair (I only desire my wife/best friend!) 3) I don't feel cheated or angry about how my life has turned out - I feel very lucky!

I guess I hold the above opinions about what a mid-life crisis is because my Father had a mid-life crisis when I was five. While in his forties, my Dad emotionally and physically abandoned our family and pursued a hedonistic (and cliched) life-style involving College Co-Eds, substance abuse, WAY too much jewelry, and fast cars.

At this point I'm wondering about a few things: 1) Can someone have a "mid-life crisis" at thirty-two years of age? 2) Is the kind of sadness I'm experiencing "normal" for someone to go through? 3) Finally, can you give me any tips on how I can go through this stage of my life in a healthy manner so that I don't make any mistakes and hurt or alienate the most important people in my life?

Thanks, Doesn't Want To Be Like His Dad...

A Dear Doesn't Want To Be
I am not surprised that you have achieved success at such an early age. The wisdom I read in your words exceeds your 32 years. Realizing life's brevity and its tendency to repeat itself (like father, like son) are things that many of us don't notice until we're well into our 40s.

No, I don't think you're having a midlife crisis, but you are dealing with a similar issue: the concept that your best times are fleeting (and, yes, periodic feelings like this seem to be normal). Just remember; worrying too much about your kids growing up will cause you to miss present joys with them. Also, as one who is now experiencing an empty nest, let me say that there are unique pleasures in relationships with our children at every stage of their development, even when they are grown (I recommend that you read "Letting Go"). And though I wouldn't mind going back in time to experience a day with my kids in their childhood, I wouldn't trade what I have with them now to do so.

The bottom line is that your best years are not fleeting; they've only just begun. So enjoy.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

The following questions are answered by Susanne Beier, a professional counselor and a regular on the Best Years site.

March 20, 1998

Q Hi,
I wrote last month, "unsure and in limbo," and my husband and I are still going through a difficult time. I am still seeing a counselor and for the most part things are not too bad. He still shows no affection for me . We both work and I am confused by some of the things he says, like vacations, things to buy, etc.

He has not given me any hope that he wants to work toward a reconciliation or any thing he is planning to do. I try to let him know how important he is to me and that I love him , but he just seems to ignore me. I'm trying not to bring up anything controversial, but my patience is thin and I don't feel like I have any one who loves me ....Well not him anyway...I have friends and family but it's different.

Am I making too much of all this?? Should I just continue to go through the regular routine? He's not staying out late or gone any more than usual. I'm trying to give him space and time to himself, but it's like we're just roommates; we don't even talk much at all-only somewhat strained politeness. Sometime I think he plans to stay , but maybe he is afraid to say so, or afraid he will want to change his mind. I think he knows how much he has hurt me and he may be somewhat surprised. He dos not think I love him and I don't know how to let him know I do.

He is not receptive to anything from me. Some days I do fine but others are tough. I've finally gotten more together emotionally and do not want to do nothing until he makes up his mind. I DON'T want him to leave nor do I want him to feel trapped. It seems that what I do makes no difference and I wonder if it ever will again? Will he be able to get through this without a separation? Please advise.

Still unsure and in limbo

A Dear Unsure & in Limbo,
This is a most difficult time for you and I wish that I had a "magic pill" to make it all go away, but unfortunately I don't. I do hope that you are continuing counseling either with or without your husband. I also suggest that you review all of the letters and answers that are posted on the Best Years web site. Sadly many match with what you are going through.

Is it safe to assume that you two got married young? This is a phase of life that we all go through, middle age I mean, and it affects us all differently. It has to do with reviewing out life's accomplishments, or lack of them. As you will see from the web site, men (NOT ALL) react differently than women. We (women) tend to come to a stage in life where we cherish having some independence and enjoying some fun going on vacations, etc. with our loved one. Men, not all of course, go through a "dependent" phase where they need to hear how great they are, what all they've accomplished and basically feel like the big "hero."

The bad news is, that even if you were to start saying all of that stuff right now, your husband probably wouldn't take you seriously. You've seen too many of his "warts" over the years. The only way that you can get him back is to work on rebuilding and finding yourself. That is, shore up your self-esteem via counseling. Through that method you will be able to decide what you can tolerate and what you can't.

The limbo stage that you are in right now is the most painful. I know; I've been there. It is terrorizing to think that all that you've worked for can end so suddenly. However, staying in this stage and being inactive does not solve it. Continue asking your husband to come along with you to counseling. With the counselor's help work on what, if anything, can be salvaged.

The truth is , no matter how much you love someone, ONE person cannot make a relationship. The commitment has to come from BOTH of you. If he's not willing, then you should work out, via counseling, how you can go on without him. In closing I again suggest that you revisit the web site and review the questions and answers posted on it. If nothing else, it should help you to see that you are not alone. Good luck to you.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

Q Hi,
It's "Long Time in Coming" part 2. No reply from my 1st.letter but here goes anyway.

Over the last two years I have watched my husband lose 60 lbs. in a 3 month period, lose a job he loved, quit a 2nd; find a 3rd, cry endlessly, make phone calls, say he loves her but loves me also, lose the respect of our children, say we were married too young, felt he had worked hard over the years with nothing to show, say he never meant any of this to happen and last but not least look so amazed when he tells me "she loves me so much and she's such a nice girl"

I on the other hand have cried, wrote hundreds of pages, walked, worked exercised, talked to family, friends and counselor, stayed by his side, gotten mad at him, told him to go and be with her but most of all prayed. Prayed for my husband, our children, for me to get the strength and courage I need and also for her. I still don't know her identity but she is also hurting. In the last months he now wants to know what happened to us and our beautiful marriage. Has decided he has a lot to be thankful for. Still feels he loves her and could live with her but it's not meant to be. Says he loves me, to never stop being his best friend and to give him time to get his head together. That he should be man enough to fix this himself.

Doesn't understand why but, felt God sent him to a mall where he saw a picture of me as a child angel. Cried openly even though passers by looked on. Has finally opened up to a friend and felt a little better. Lastly, wants me to tell him what I want him to do. I guess he wants me to make his decision for him. My reply "go see a counselor and then you can make up your mind." His reply "no way." He holds me so tight that I think he feels he will drown if he lets go.

To this day my love for him has never wavered but I feel I can't go on much longer. I feel I don't deserve this treatment but I am still considerate of his mid life crisis. He is still seeing her whenever possible but when I tell him to go with her says he won't, that he will go far away from both of us instead. Am I wrong in staying, should I just leave? How long could this possibly go on? Do you feel there is hope for us to survive this? I am so tired! Thanks again.

Long Time in Coming

A Dear Long Time,
What you describe is very much like the typical "mid-life" behavior in your husband, but suspect that the loss of his job that you say "he loved" has brought on much of this crisis. I believe that his "identity" probably came with his job/career and loosing that sent him into a tailspin.

The symptoms that you describe are one of deep depression. The affair, although painful and unfair to you, is yet another example of him "boosting" his ego back up. You say that you don't want this marriage to break up, and he says that he doesn't want you to go, but sometimes "hanging in there" and waiting for them to come to their senses doesn't always work. I am a firm believer in trying to make a marriage work, even if there is only the slightest hope, but BOTH people have to work at it.

You need to decide how much you can live with and when you can't. You are right; you do deserve to have someone that loves you and definitely deserve someone who treats you better than this.....it would be so nice if it was your husband having come back to his senses. You say that he refuses to see a counselor. You need to let him know that you need to have some concrete signs that he does not want to break up this family and going to counseling with you is one of them. You do not say what this has done to the children; although they are adults I am sure that they too are reeling. How are they handling this whole thing? How is he handling them? He's not acting too adult right now and probably "can't see past his own nose".

If not for yourself, continue going to a counselor for them. Get some help in identifying what you can and can no longer deal with.

susanne

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March 17, 1998

Q Mike
My parents seem to be going through a midlife crisis. I am 26, just married and moved out. They have 3 other children living at home ranging from 16-22. My dad, 46, has a good job and my mom, 46, works part-time and does all the housework. She recently has expect my dad to help out with cooking and cleaning which he gratefully does...however he has never done this before in his life. She will be mad at him if he doesn't do the things the way she has done them all these years and won't tell him how to do them "her" way. She will ignore him for weeks and well as the children if we rock the boat. She blames my father for being sad, but I think she has problems.

They have had their ups and downs in the past year. Lately things have seemed to take a turn for the worse. Both parents have had bouts with depression...which I don't fully understand. Lately though it has been my mom who is so depressed she won't even talk to my dad or look at my dad. She is ready for bed at 7:30 and is very moody. Today is her birthday and she has decided to go out with a friend from work instead of spending it with her family. My mom doesn't have many friends and almost never ever goes out.

My dad is trying everything to help out my mom's depression, but everything he does is wrong to her. She says that no one is ever around to eat dinner and all she is good for is to do laundry and clean. She is seeking help, but the person she is seeing is telling her to leave my father to get over the depression. I think this is a midlife crisis and they should be in marital counseling. The children have finally decided to step in and are going to confront them within the next week. My parents have been married for 27 years. What can we do to help them? Is their marriage really over?

Please help!! Scared in Wisconsin

A Dear Scared,
It is indeed a scary thing to see two people you love (as well as the pillars of your childhood home) on the verge of a breakup. And probably the most scary thing is that you are limited in what you can do.

I do think it is a good idea to be open and honest with them ("confronting" seems a little strong--how do you respond when someone confronts you?). I think telling them that you love them and that you will support them through this difficult time is a good idea.

It also sounds to me like your mom may be venting over some long-term issues. Did the family always expect her to shoulder the major responsibilities around the home? Did she not have personal friends because she didn't have time for them? If so, the first thing you and your siblings might do is to deliver an overdue apology, along with a promise to help out more in the future (for those still living at home).

Finally, don't let this interfere with your own home and marriage. Your spouse needs your full support, something you can't provide if you are too distracted by your parents' problems. Just love them, pray for them, and leave the rest to your parents and to your (their?) God.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

Q Hi,
I arrived home last Tuesday nite to find a note "won't be in -have matters to attend to -am not at work", he hasn't been home since. Says he living with his son and has no answers to what he or I are to going to do. I've been in shock, pain, depression, anger and still have no idea how the heck I'm where I am now. His behavior, after a bout of vertigo last October changed dramatically. More attention to grooming, coming home late from work, etc. All, to me, signs that another woman had captured my best friends attention. He denied and denied. Now, who knows? I certainly don't. His conversation revolved around feeling trapped financially, having no joy in his work, not wanting us to accept responsibility for more grandparenting chores.

He's 51 and I'm 44 and have been married for 15 years. I am in a word absolutely devastated. This man was my best friend the core of my existence. I cannot for the life of me understand how he is able to walk away from our lives without a backward glance!!! I can't make any sense of his actions and it's quietly driving me crazy. I am due to graduate in two months with my bachelor's degree and have applied to graduate school. Now I have no idea what to expect from one day to the next. I feel like I have no control over my life. I don't work, attend school full time. It was part of a plan we had so that when I graduated from graduate school he could retire and do whatever he wanted with his life. I've lost the firm footing under me, can't sleep, eat or think. Help!

AT A LOSS

A Dear At a Loss,
Certainly does seem as though your partner is experiencing a midlife crisis of major proportions. You say you can't understand how he could just walk away with seemingly no feelings: I've heard it called "temporary insanity." There is no good explanation for leaving everything you once valued.

I'm glad you're about to graduate. You need a life apart from your husband to survive this (even if he comes back, which I hope will be the case). Can you go on to graduate school as a Graduate Assistant or Part-time Instructor? This is what I did. Are there school loans available?

You do have control over your life, just not your husband's life. So my advice is to place your emphasis on you. Do you have a support group, a good friend, a church home? Just who are you (apart from your husband's wife)? Whom do you want to be? Where do you want to be 10 years from now? You owe it to yourself to answer these questions.

I hope this helps. As I've said before, I'm not a professional counselor, just a sympathetic co-struggler. So I hope you're also getting some professional advice. Meanwhile--Hang in there. You will get through this.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

March 8, 1998

Q Hi,
How does a wife survive when her 52-year-old husband is throwing all the chips up in the air and talking about reinventing himself and becoming the real him? Many of the things he wants to do ( open a hotel in Maine) are not possible for me to follow him on due to my own work, desires and temperament. We are seeing a couples therapist after I discovered a platonic affair ( the woman was urging him to open the hotel probably so she could join him there). Is all lost?

Marianna from Mid-Hudson, NY

A Dear Marianna,
Probably all is not lost. For one thing, it sounds like your husband is willing to go to counseling with you, something many of the people on this web site wish their spouses would agree to.

Are you willing to compromise with your husband on his search for a new identity? It shouldn't have to be the hotel in Maine or nothing. Find out what he really wants; listen carefully and sympathetically; then candidly share your own hopes for the future.

Tell your husband that you love him and would like to work together to build a life that will satisfy and enrich both of you.

Good luck.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

Q Mike,
I have just recently turned fifty, and I beginning to notice that other people are far more concerned about my age than I am. Some of the people who are most interested in my age are usually ten years younger than me, and are generally in a poorer physical condition than I am. These people generally have very little going on in their own lives.

Anyway I am getting sick and tired of it. Can I expect more of this as I go through midlife? I have never let my chronological age determine what I do in life. What are your thoughts on this kind of stuff? What is a civilized way to deflect what I feel are these subtle put-downs, as I am getting to a point where I might behave in an uncivilized manner.

Kevin in California

A Kevin,
Some would say we're getting our just desserts for being part of the generation that warned against trusting anyone over 30. Yes, people do seem to discriminate on the basis of age: always have; always will.

Aside from legal recourse (I'm sure there are cases that deserve a court hearing), my advice is to ignore the subtle and not-so-subtle put-downs. For one thing, the 40-year-olds will fall victim to their own attacks all too soon (like we 20-year-olds who warned against trusting 30-somethings).

And for another thing, life is too short to be distracted by what others say about us. Keep mentally and physically fit; wholeheartedly pursue your dreams, and leave the criticizing to those who have nothing better to do with their lives.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

The following questions are answered by Susanne Beier, a professional counselor and a regular on the Best Years site.

February 27, 1998

Q Hi,
My husband and I have been married just over 20 yrs. We have always gotten along, never had any fights. We were always interested in the same things. We have two teenage kids, boy 17 and a girl 14.

One day he asked me out of the blue what I would do if we split up, I thought he was joking. He wasn't. This was a complete shock. There is another girl that he has been meeting "just as friends" supposedly. He is a pure Catholic and she is a Jehovah Witness. The complete opposite of what he believes in. A few weeks ago he moved out of the house, but he is comes when we need him and we get along.

He said he has "changed" that he wants to be alone right now. He goes out to bars by himself to other towns, which he never did before. He also stops into that girl's place, just for a drink?? Is this a mid-life crisis situation and what do I do? I love him very much and want him to come home. He is loosing a lot of friends over this also. We went to a counselor twice together and I went once by myself. I am trying to get him to talk to a priest.

He used to go to the bar once or twice a week to meet with friends and have a drink. He never drinks at home unless someone comes over and has a drink with him. He made up his mind to leave and never gave us a chance to try and work things out together. He just says "I'm sorry, and not right now" He needs something different. Please let me know if you received this E-mail.

Loving him and wanting him back soon in Ontario

A Dear Ontario,
I am sorry that you are going through such a tough time right now. I was glad to read that you both had tried counseling, but you need more than two sessions to help work something like this through. Perhaps your husband should go alone. Are you afraid of that? Do you think that it will convince him more to leave? The fact is, if he's going to leave....he will do just that.

I believe that he's going through a major identity crisis right now, particularly questioning his own sexuality and desirability. This is something that we all go through, although it hits some men harder than others. Is he perhaps having some "problems" in that area? Also, you do not say how old this "friend" of his is? Younger? At this stage of life he's probably very much enjoying being told that he's wonderful, "in charge" etc. I am not sure whether you know or not, but Jehovah's Witnesses have a very clear message that the "man is the 'head of the household' and therefore in charge". A male going through an identity crisis is an easy victim at such times. Don't misunderstand, it is not just because of this woman's religion, it has to do with her telling him what he needs to hear.

You unfortunately cannot do that right now...he's probably not listening to you. You are part of his "past" and unfair as it may seem, are the "bad guy". You and the children represent all of the things that he was never able to do... This phase DOES pass, but not without help. I strongly suggest that you continue with a counselor as well as the children, IF for no other reason than to learn how to deal with him and how to find yourself again. Did your priest ever talk to him? If your husband is true to form, he will politely listen, but still do what he wants. You are "powerless" over this; you only have control and power over how YOU deal with this. Please, meet with a counselor on a more regular basis. It will help you.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

Q Hi,
My husband had an affair that lasted over a year with a younger female co-worker. He told me about it two years ago. We stayed together and after the initial first few months of staying up late cussing and discussing, a little counseling, a lot of loving, caring and compassion, we developed what both of us decided was a very loving and satisfying relationship. Over the past 3 months my husband has been starting his own home business. While I was at work he decided all of the sudden one day to call his ex-lover to ask her questions supposedly about what had happened 2 years ago, as she had ratted him out at work when he told me about the affair and he ended up being fired for other reasons about 6 wks. later. These phone calls took place several times, leading to a lunch date. He didn't end up going because he got scared, however he still continued to call her.

When I found out about the calls, I asked him why he had all of the sudden started to think about her again and wanted to see her he told me he had unanswered questions about the past. He also finally admitted that during this time he had started to fantasize about having sex with someone other than me. He thinks he might possibly have a sexual addiction problem. I am not sure what I think.

My husband is the most caring and loving man I have ever met. He writes cards, letters, etc. that describe how he feels about me and the children and that are very romantic. He is concerned when I am upset and comforts me. He has changed into this wonderful man since he told me of his affair originally.. Now this last episode leaves not only me but him confused about why.

How is it that someone who is happy and has what he wants (including a great and exciting sex life with his wife) and knows all of the hurt, pain, recovery time, etc. can put himself on the line again? I mean it is not like he didn't suffer through all of this also. It was painful on all of us including our kids, not only emotionally but financially also.

He did admit to me that he was looking at pornography every couple days on the internet at the time and that is when he started fantasizing. Could it be that this sort of stimulus for some people can cause them to act out some fantasy. Is it simply a matter of a self-control issue. In other words, the rule was "no contact with her" and he broke it because he just lacked the self control. Even though he says he loved her during part of the affair and doesn't think that it was love now, could it be and he is torn between us? This is so complicated.

Tonya

A Dear Tonya,
It sounds as if your husband is feeling insecure about this new venture (his business), and has time on his hands to reminisce about the past too much. It also sounds like he has not resolved some of the things that have happened with the other women.

You are right to put your foot down and state your position on him not contacting this other woman. If for no other reason, you needed to do that for your self-esteem. I suggest, that you tell him that you are concerned that he is making contacts with the woman and that you want the two of you to go to counseling to help YOU (he probably won't go if he thinks it's for him) to understand what he's feeling right now.

Just a quick question, do you too write him cards and letters? You say that he is the most romantic person you've ever met. Are you reciprocating? Do you call him during the day to tell him you love him, or do you call to tell him to pick up milk, et? In other words, is the romance working both ways? If so, then that's great to hear.

However, you two still need to work out his feeling of "failing" at this new business. He must be feeling absolutely petrified and angry (unfair that he got canned the last time of the affair). It is very scary to work for yourself, especially in the beginning. He needs much support right now.....but there is a difference between support and "doormat". With counseling you can both learn the difference. good luck.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

February 20, 1998

Q Hi,
I was married for 16 years and i still don't know what happened. we are now divorced. My X lives with a woman 18 years younger than him with 3 children. Our kids are raised and away from home. My X is 48 and he never particularly liked children. This divorce came about so fast I still don't know what happened. For the longest time I thought it was something I didn't do right. I blamed myself. i did the anti-depressant thing and can relate to some of your other letters. By the way, I am 42 and attractive and thin, and have no trouble turning the heads of other men. What do you make of it?

Shocked

A Dear Shocked,
What I make of it is that your husband probably did have a midlife thing going on to leave you for someone so much younger. And if he really isn't particularly fond of children (and at 48 now has three small ones), I predict he's in for a day of reckoning.

Midlife affairs can dull the pain we feel trying to come to terms with our midlife disappointment and anxiety, but they only dull it for awhile; and when the euphoria is over, the pain returns, usually much more acute.

So don't envy him or his new spouse (she's probably in for some tough times too), and don't blame yourself. Get on with your life. Who knows? Maybe one of those heads you turn will turn out to be the love of your life.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

Q Hi Mike,
I will be 45 in July. I live in the northwest part of the panhandle. I do really enjoy your web page and newspaper article.

I have a question I've pondered some. Some people say take time over money but usually you need money to have time. How should we decide which is better?

Thanks keep up the good work.

Ray

A Ray,
An insightful observation on your part. Money can buy us time, which is possibly the answer to your question. If more time at work can, within a reasonable time frame, lead to more quality time for other things, then it's a good deal. If, on the other hand, it only makes for a larger bank account with larger time-consuming responsibilities, I'd say forget it.

Mike

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Q Hi,
I found you by "midlife crisis" in infoseek.

I'm Polly and I think I'm having one. When you realize that the only reason for you to be here is to make sure the dogs get fed, is that a "midlife crisis"? Please respond, at least to let me know you received this.

Thank you.

Polly

A Polly,
Yep. Midlife crises are often crises of personal purpose and worth. I recommend that you read Reinventing Yourself and Identifying Your Midlife Passion, and then, possibly, that you take a Midlife Getaway to re-ignite the spark that will make your life worth living again. Remember, the search may be difficult and painful, but the joy that awaits you at the other side is well worth it.

Good luck.

Mike

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February 13, 1998

Q Hi,
I believe my husband is having a midlife crisis. He moved out 6 weeks ago an in with his girlfriend, whom he's worked with for 10 years and has been seeing since October. To be brief, we've been through a lot of ups and downs, with him telling me everything from he doesn't love me anymore, to he never did, to he still does and always will. He calls and/or visits nearly every day. I'm still in love with him and I want him to come home. I continue to tell him this.

Over the past week or so, he's been more romantic than ever, but I'm not sure how to react. I've gotten all sorts of advice from be patient and give him time, to move away to the other side of the country. Should I let him be passionate? I'm seeing a counselor, but she says she can't give advice on how to save our marriage if he won't talk to her. (which he won't - yet.) He and our daughter set up night once a week to go out. The first week he invited me to go too. I did. I told him the next week they would have to choose a different night because our daughter has a camping trip. He said he'd tell the girlfriend it was "date night" anyway (to spend the evening with me).

What do I do? Is there a chance this is a midlife thing and will blow over? (He's 41) Everyone who knows about this doesn't think they'll stay together long. Please Help.

Very Worried I'll Lose Him Forever - NH

A Dear Very Worried,
Yes, most of these types of relationships (affairs) do last a relatively short time. Typical period is 3 - 6 months. That however is AFTER they are left to themselves. At this time, your husband has BOTH of you chasing after him. I bet that's more of an ego boost than he's had in years!

I suggest that you "cut him off". Tell him that you are his wife, that he made a vow to you and that you WILL NOT play second fiddle to anyone else. That you love him, want things to work out, but will not sit around waiting for him to get tired of playing games. They key thing, however, is that you make your house very "homey", that is, when you know he's coming over for any reason, your house looks (and smells like) you are expecting company.

Start going out to movies with friends, etc. Join a health club, etc. But DO NOT sit around the house waiting for him to make up his mind. Let HIM fit into your life...after all, that is what he's expecting of you, right? Use this time to find yourself again. If it's meant to be, he will be back....if not, then you will need to learn how to survive by yourself anyway, right? good luck.

susanne

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Q Hi,
I have been married for nearly 17 years. I am 40 and my husband is 44. We have one child, a daughter, 13. After nearly 3 years of tolerating my husband's "new" behavior I finally (with your help) have discovered that he is suffering from a mid-life crisis. There have been many months of his denials that anything was wrong. With each denial my anger quotient would rise.

When I finally got through to him one night he told me he felt nothing. He went on to explain that he loves his job but coming home is not his favorite part of the day. After a lot of questioning and talking I discovered he is not having an affair. And I fully believe that.

My husband has always had a tremendous sense of responsibility. He has always provided for us in the good times and bad. Now he still does so but with such an overwhelming depression. He makes me feel guilty just by being in the same room with him. He finds ways to avoid going anywhere with me, he won't talk with me after work like we used to. He cares not a flip about anything that I do, for work or fun, he even has expressed dislike of my interests. He is short and grouchy to our daughter. He hasn't told me he loves me in 6 months and I'm now realizing that he only said it before out of habit.

In early December I made a date with him to talk. He asked if he could have a couple of trips away, by himself to sort through this. All along he has told me he would work it out himself. He has been on one "trip" and when he returned he asked for more time and agreed to go to counseling. I gave him a list of names and he told me he would look it over and call one. That was 4 weeks ago.

I'm so angry, frustrated and hurt. I'm frightened for my daughter who needs a whole family now more than ever. I gave him a book about mid-life crisis, he finally read it, told me it made sense to him that is what he had but it didn't offer a solution. I know his refusal to go to a counselor is because of the whole stigma of "weakness". I just don't know what to do now. Stick it out? Try some tough love? I know he doesn't want divorce but I can't go on living with a roommate instead of a husband and a roommate that doesn't even like me at that.

Please help.

Crying "FOUL" in Texas --

A Dear Texas,
Sounds like your husband is indeed in the midst of a midlife crisis and clinically depressed to boot. Is he sleeping at night? Are his eating patterns normal? Has he talked of suicide? I am not an expert, but I think you do need some intervention here. Is there a mutual friend that you could get to talk with your husband? Maybe a member of the clergy?

The biggest problem as I see it is that your husband cannot lift himself out of this emotional valley (he needs professional help, probably including medication). And you can't continue to live with the situation either. I'd go to a counselor myself to get some advice. If he's suicidal, you might call a crisis hotline. Whatever you do, do something. This will not get better on its own.

Good luck.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

February 6, 1998

Q Hi,
My husband and I were separated for about four months and are now trying to reconcile; we have been living back together for almost two months now. We both recently turned 40 and have been married 21 years and both of our children just recently moved out of town - empty nest.

During the time we were separated, he was totally depressed then strangely up, decided God did not exist because he "overnight" took the love he had for me away and now still is not sure about his spirituality, hurt our two children so badly with lies and deceit (about "the other woman, 14 years younger with two small children), although we were separated before they were "together" and I was aware of everything that happened between them during that time, that they still aren't talking to him. He lost about 40 pounds (so have I), started dressing like he used to (so have I), primping more (so have I). Together, we have both gotten rid of just about everything in the house (we both decided nothing in the house was really "us" or what we really wanted), thrown out all of our old clothes (underwear and all, everything seemed so un-sexy or frumpy to us), and have the kind of intimacy that we started with, very passionate - but more mature, almost spiritual (don't laugh!).

We are now doing the things we have both always loved doing together like fishing, going out and dancing and socializing, making plans to do all of the things that have been put off - together and separately etc. We have made the commitment to work this out because we could not stop seeing each other while we were separated because we are such close friends and confidants. The problem is, I seem to be (no, I really am!) obsessing on "the other woman" and my self esteem has these wild ups and downs so that it is really getting in the way of our relationship. Because she is much younger than me, and in my opinion much "prettier" (although my husband says this is not at all true), close in proximity to his work (same company and just across the street - small town too), I feel like I cannot get over what they had.

At one point he thought he was in love with her, he said that lasted about a day (he found out there was another guy in her life). I found the love letter that he "was" going to give to her and I thought it was to me, until I got to the end and her name was there, I cannot tell you how devastated I was (this happened right after he moved back in). Back to square one I went and now a month later, I still don't trust that this "midlife crises" is a midlife crises - maybe he really did "fall out of love with me" and it should have just been over. I don't know how to trust him again, because if this is a true midlife crises, and because he works around this other woman and a company with 80% women and most of them single, what if this happens again?

I truly love the fact that we are both now getting a chance to be with each other alone as we only had about 1 & 1/2 years before the children came along and totally lost ourselves in raising them. But the big road block remaining is the fact that he may have really loved this other woman, and really fell out of love with me. He could not tell me he loved me again until that last couple of weeks, because his head is still mixed up. He has always said that he loves me, but not in the way I used to feel and hear it. Sometimes I felt like a fool, but he said he could never divorce me or live without me or us together.

How do I trust him again and stop obsessing on the other woman and my feelings of inadequacy. Why am I feeling this way in the first place when he has said over and over that it is "over, over, over with her and he didn't even know what the attraction was in the first place and that they had nothing ever to talk about like we do and do together like we do, he only wants me for the rest of his life etc.?

Thanks ahead -

Signed:

Very tired of feeling like this and ready to move on with my life!!

A Dear Tired.
First and foremost I want to congratulate you AND your husband in that you are BOTH making an effort to make your marriage work again. You, however, have not really gotten over the betrayal and I believe are not ready to make the emotional commitment that you made before. You have been hurt badly. It is only normal that you would feel "threatened" by this other person. However, you have to look at this simple fact..."who's your husband with"? YOU...right? Don't set this reconciliation up to fail because of your own insecurities.

I am not saying that you should be a blind fool, but that you REALLY give this marriage another chance. You say that your husband could not tell you that he loved you, "until a couple of weeks ago"...well, that means that he's now able to...right? How did your respond? I suggest that the two of you go meet with a counselor to discuss this; perhaps you should go for a couple of sessions alone....but definitely you need to talk this out with someone.

On another note, contrary to the old stories that we all heard, the "empty nest" time can be GREAT!!! No more worrying about babysitters...etc. You can have fun with each other just like you used to. Don't let this chance go to waste. The other person has already lost.....don't add to her "fantasy"...or give her that much emotional or ego power by being threatened by her now!. YOU got the guy...now enjoy it! good luck.

susanne

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February 6, 1998

Q Hi Mike,
Interestingly enough I found your page on toxic shame after reading Bradshaw's book. I was directed to it by a therapist I continue to visit once per week for about a year and a half. I think it is right on target. I have been married for 10 years and have a two year old daughter. But, sadly, I have been separated for about one year.

The short version is that my wife is an adult child of an alcoholic and four years ago was in therapy - I thought for the alcoholic parent reason - but later found it was because she didn't like being married to me. She told me this when we were to relocate to another city and she was not going to come with me. Of course, I blew right past those warning signs. She later told me she also had an "emotional" affair, or infatuation which she never revealed, but it was apparently very powerful.

After having always been faithful, I had a physical affair, which I now understand was driven by need from "toxic shame". The problem I have is that I still feel emotionally needy, tied into the "other" relationship, although I ended it. and I am taking all of the right steps on the surface - BUT, I can't seem to get past the overwhelming emotional pain. Are there other resources I can pursue? I am just sick of the months of feeling so low.

The marital problems of intimacy seem to have been dealt with by my wife, and she wants to resume our relationship on new footing - but I have difficulty with emotional vulnerability with her. Any advice on activities, resources, or suggestions on dealing with this devastating shame would be appreciated.

Sign me - No Fun

A Dear No Fun,
 You seem to be doing all the right things: seeing a therapist, researching and reading about your struggle with shame, ending an unhealthy affair. I can only speak from my own experience--I'm not a professional counselor--but, for me, I've found that my emotions often lag behind my actions and thoughts.

 In other words, it may take a long time of thinking and doing healthy things before I begin to feel better. So my suggestion is that you hang in there and be patient with yourself. Don't judge your success by how you feel, but by how you are starting to think and act.

 And, even then, strive for consistency not perfection (Have you read my "Perils of Perfectionism?"). As you do (and as you stop focusing on the negative emotions), I predict that one day you will realize that you are feeling pretty good--and have been for some time. When that happens, be sure to write back and encourage others on this web site.

 Good luck.

 Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

Q Mike,
I think the best thing that happen to me today was coming across your web page. Many of the feelings that I was experiencing I could not explain. Then I read through many of the Q&A's.

Married for 24 years, to my high school sweetheart. I should be satisfied with what I've accomplished but still disappointments, and feeling of failure. I'll soon be 44, six months older than my wife, two kids 14 and 11. I have a good job but feel trapped and was looking to move and thought I'd found the perfect job but didn't get the offer in the end. This really kind of started me on a nose dive.

My question really comes to this - I see myself in this midlife crisis - what is the best way to discuss this with my wife? It's obvious from the note reactions to midlife take all forms of change, new cars, new partners, new careers. Thanks,

Midlifer in NC

A Hi North Carolina.
 I favor the direct approach. Get a good book on midlife crisis (the Booknook has a good selection) and ask your wife to read it. Tell her you are experiencing many of the feelings described therein. Assure her that it's not anything about her that is causing this; rather it just seems to be a phase many people must move through in life. Tell her you would like it very much if she will walk beside you in your passage.

 Assure her that you love her deeply and you expect to emerge from this a better man, husband, and father. That should do it. Gook luck.

 Mike

 P.S. You also might direct her to this web site to read articles that give hope and to scan other letters that show both she and you are not alone.

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

The following questions are answered by Susanne Beier, a professional counselor and a regular on the Best Years site.

January 31, 1998

Q Hi
I have not been able to talk to ANYONE, so feel great relief in what I am about to do. For seventeen years, my husband and I have enjoyed a great marriage. Our sex life has always been good. We have 2 children, 12, and 14. We've had problems with explosive anger (his) but always managed to work things through, and stay in love.

I now know my husband is in midlife crisis. After reading your Q & A's I have identified the tragic characteristics. I had suspected for a few months that something was terribly wrong, and I turned into a suspicious detective. My investigations led me to the truth - after denying my questions (do you have a girlfriend? etc.) and lying to cover his questionable absences and strange behavior (not even looking at me when coming home, diminished sexual activity), he finally confessed everything. He had told me that he was going away to get direction, get his head together, but instead he took a woman he had been seeing to a hotel in another city, and turned their emotional relationship into a sexual one. The confession took place on New Years Day, 1998, and since then our lives have been in turmoil.

The affair lasted in total about 2 months. He insists that the experience showed him that he really does love me, doesn't want to lose me, and I don't know how I was able to accept his apologies (with God all things are possible) but I have forgiven him, and now we seem to be experiencing a pocket of marital bliss. But, because I am going through the process of healing, I cannot trust him, and doubt his sincerity, and am on a emotional roller coaster. I even still suspect that his relationship with her is still on, though he says it's over. Now we are going to be apart for a few months. In two weeks, I am leaving with our children, and we will be a long distance apart for an unknown amount of time. We will communicate through E-Mail only. His work dictates this situation, and I don't know whether it's going to be healthy for our relationship or not. He will be here with her, and I will be gone. By the way, I am 35, he is 37, and SHE is 22.

I love him very much, and believe that we have too much time invested in this marriage to just walk away. But will I be eaten up with jealousy, and suspicious to the point of my health being put in jeopardy? I feel so betrayed and hurt. I have gone through a crash in my self esteem - my weapon has been to look my best at all times, but though it is for my husband, the result has been an increase in male attention wherever I go, which makes me angry. It also has made me tired, obviously our love has to be more than how attractive I can be. Nothing is for sure anymore . . .

Surprisingly, he is concerned about my faithfulness to him once I leave for the few months. He says he needs to miss me, needs to miss our love, needs to feel again. He feels devoid of feelings. He is considering changing vocations. He as a minister feels like a hypocrite.

One plus is that our communication and level of honesty with one another has greatly improved. Given our situation, do you think it wise at this time to be apart? Something deep inside keeps saying that he wants to stay here without me to be with her, but still have a family to come home to.

What do you make of this mess??? Please talk to me.

Needed an Ear and Some Advice

A Dear NAEASA,
I can well imagine that you have been in turmoil since the "confession" that took place on New Years Day. You say, that you are now experiencing" a pocket of marital bliss," which is great and tells me that your husband is trying to make things up to you. On the other hand I also understand your underlying suspicions, especially in light of the fact that you and he will be separated for an extended period of time.

It is definitely not healthy to you and your husband's relationship to have him be with her for an extended period of time and you NOT be there. Seems to me like that is asking for trouble. I mean, how much temptation can one person, even if he is a minister, deal with without becoming lonely and vulnerable? Why can't you go? Why does he have to take this assignment? Is he a missionary? Does this woman work for him or the church? If so, you are well within your right to say to him that if he values the marriage and loves you, like he says he does, then he should make other arrangements. Yes, even if it means talking to his superiors.

This is a most difficult time for him, I agree; being a minister it is very hard to confide to someone else without feeling like he betrayed his profession. But he is human, after all, and as they say "the flesh is weak." If he can't speak to someone within your church, then let him speak to another minister out of the church. Or go to a counselor. Actually I think you should BOTH go to marriage counseling to find out what led to this situation to begin with. It is difficult to always be the "giver;" maybe he just burned out, and had to "take" for himself. Not to say that his way of doing it was the right way.

In conclusion, I reiterate that your being apart for any length of time, during this very sensitive time of your marriage, is only setting yourselves up to fail.

susanne

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Q Hi
I have a question.

My husband has been in severe midlife crisis and is still quite angry after three years. He blames me for it all, even for things I could not possibly be responsible for. He has improved greatly from always yelling, ranting, and raving. Now he just sits and stews, but quietly. My question is this: Can you give any kind of time regarding the length of midlife crisis? I know it's different for all men, but what's the average in your experience? Also, what's the longest time you've heard about? I feel as if my husband is stuck.

He left home at one point and didn't communicate with us for almost two years. He is back now, but is still very cantankerous and refuses to listen to reason. This is a man who used to love sex, but has been physically unable to do (plus he's not interested) for three years. At this point, he won't even try and is very cruel if I even hug him. Forget kissing. I'd have to wrestle him to the ground first. I'm hanging on by a thread. Please comment. I won't hold you to anything. Would just like to know how long this can possibly go on. He won't consider counseling. Seems very happy to be a lump who is cruel to his wife when confronted.

Can you give me any hope? Thanks.

Sooooo Tired

A Dear ST,
It doesn't sound like your husband will change anytime soon. Why should he? He's getting away with his abusive behavior towards you. YOU need to decide what you can tolerate and what you can't deal with anymore.

I recommend that you go to a counselor to find out why you allow such behaviors toward you to continue. Yes, I understand, you love the man, reminisce about how he used to be, etc. right? Well, he has changed. You need to look at the present situation. How healthy is this for you. If he won't go to counseling with you, then go alone. You need help getting your self-esteem out of the basement.

Now to answer your question, there is an "average time period" when men "typically" go through a midlife crisis. It is anywhere from 38 to 57. Not to say that it lasts this long; it can occur anywhere in that time frame. Think of him as a rebelling adolescent, cuz he IS rebelling against getting older and having to accept that not all his dreams will come true, etc. Then...treat him like the adolescent that he is behaving like. Ignore him. Don't chase after him, "begging" for affection. It will only make him resents you even more.

You need for him to notice that you are not there and predictable like the "rising sun." Get some interests of your own; if he doesn't like it...tough! Join a YMCA, go out and exercise and use up some of the emotional energy that you are carrying around. In other words, start focusing on yourself more.

I do have one quick question. During the period that he was gone, did he have an affair? Did he end it because he "couldn't afford" it? And does he still resent it, thus behaving like it was all YOUR fault? Did you ever ask him? Or are you afraid to find out? You two need marriage counseling. If he won't go, go by yourself. If nothing else, to learn how not to continue being emotionally abused.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

The following questions are answered by Susanne Beier, a professional counselor and a regular on the Best Years site.

January 24, 1998

Q Hi
I like your column. It contains a lot of common sense good advice. Keep up the good work. My situation is that my husband (he's 37) several months back started viewing a lot of pornography on the internet and talking sex with other women on it, too. He has always been a "looker" when it comes to women in person, which has never really bothered me too much, but recently he makes a lot of comments about how gorgeous other women are and how he'd like to have sex with a woman whose body is "perfect." I am 36-24-36, pretty, and in very good shape, especially after having 2 kids! I asked him to stop the internet "browsing" so now he does it behind my back and lies about it (I hate dishonesty). When I confronted him, he said it was harmless and quite frankly none of my business, that I had a real problem. He says he is not doing anything against ME. He has never been a particularly affectionate person, and focusing his attentions elsewhere bothers me. We have always had a good sex life, and I do many sexy things, so I don't understand this (maybe something wrong emotional?). Also, I am quite supportive and have always given him "perks" about how great I think he is, until now.

He says he is not going to stop looking at pornography, that he comes first and is not going to miss out on life experiences. He says if he ever has an affair, I will not find out about it, that if he has sex with another woman it is not against me. He says he is not planning to, that he loves me and wants to always be with me.

I have gone to counseling, he refuses to go. When we have had other issues in the past, he has turned mainly to other women for advice and support (hurtful), rather than working it out with me. I think we have a different set of views and morals.

Do you think he wants me and sex with someone else too? Is this midlife crisis stuff, or is he just a jerk?

PLEASE RESPOND....

A Dear PLEASE RESPOND,
Your husband is probably not going through a mid-life crisis, but he sure is a good candidate for it. From your description of him, it sounds like he has a real problem with "emotional intimacy" or "emotional commitment." I say this because of your description that he's always " been a looker." This is related to feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem. In other words, it sounds like he cannot fully "give himself" to one person, you.

You need to decide what is acceptable to YOU. He will not change from the sounds of your letter. You need to decide if you feel worse with or without him. I believe that his behavior is demeaning towards you and certainly towards the marriage vows that you both took. I strongly urge you to seek out counseling for yourself. You can even suggest it to him (although I doubt that he would go). It will help you to re-discover your self-esteem and help you with any future decisions that you may have to face.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

Q Hi
I'm a 43 year old woman, whose husband of 18 years (49 years of age) has recently left me, and is seeing a native woman (45 years old.) I am devastated.

However, during the past year I have treated my husband very badly ( a long story). I guess I just want to know whether there is such a thing as a mid-life crisis, and if there is life after separation, or is there such a thing as reconciliation? I feel the odds of us getting back together are about 10%; not too optimistic. Please write me back. Thanks and Happy New Year,

Rhonda, Canada

A Dear Rhonda,
You don't say what you did to your husband last year or how you treated him badly. Was it in reaction to his behaviors toward you? Were you involved with someone else? Even a friendship causing you to neglect him? Your husband is right there in the "midlife crisis age group." It usually strikes the quiet responsible ones who did everything "proper" during their younger years and now feel that they "lost out" and feel that nothing that they've done is "worth anything".

His affair could be a passing thing; it usually starts out very romantic and make-belief, (the perfect person, etc.), but usually reality kicks in pretty quick, especially when it comes to $$$$. Seek out a counselor who can help you during this tough time. It will get better, but use this time to make yourself feel better, that is, to learn how to like yourself better. His behaviors are his own. Stop punishing yourself. Good luck.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

January 17, 1998

Q Mike
I'm so glad that I found your web site, what a relief. I am a profession female, 37 years old, married 10 years and have been employed for a major corporation for 12 years. From the outside looking in, I seem to have everything, a great job, a great house on the water, a good marriage, etc. But I feel like I am drowning. I am so frustrated at my job. During the past year I have missed a lot of time from my job. My husband keeps telling this won't be tolerated by my boss, but I just can't seem to get motivated. I would love to be able to quit and stay home and do nothing for a while. I'm tired of being responsible and taking assignments because we need the money, currently I out earn my husband by quite a lot. I would like to do something that I enjoy and look forward to getting up every morning to go to my job. Our marriage has not been the greatest, yet I can't seem to get the courage up to do something about it, nor am I sure that I want to. I'm scared that I will end up losing my job and screwing up what I currently have in life and at the same time, I feel my life is almost half over and I should try and be happy. I feel so lost and lonely. Any advise?

Drowning in Detroit

________________

Hi there!

I wonder if I may be having a "mid-life crisis" of something like that. I'm going to be 36 in a few days, but I'm not your typical 36 year old. I've never married, no kids, no attachments except my cat, and am into things atypical of those my age: Beavis & Butthead, hip-hop/rap/electronica mtv-type music, computers, drive a sports car, like neon colors, etc. Fortunately, I don't look my age (yet), but recently I've done and felt things that make me wonder if I'm having a mid-life thing going on.

4 months ago, I quit my job of over 7 years, a job that was going nowhere and didn't pay what I'm worth. I saved money in advance to cushion myself financially for this transition. I also cashed out my retirement money and went to Hawaii with some of it. I knew that when I came back from my trip I would have to look for work again, but since I've returned I've been obsessing about moving to Hawaii and getting a job there.

Being in Hawaii was the freest I've ever felt. It was so beautiful there. I wonder, though, if I'm just thinking about moving there to make me feel better about the prospects of getting another suckee job here in drab wet Puget Sound, Washington? I have a lot of talents, but I'm afraid of working for another company that will pay me dirt wages to supervise a multitude of people and things. At least if I had a dirt job in Hawaii I'd be IN Hawaii and would have that to comfort me.

Am I crazy, or getting that seasonal disorder thing? What do you guys think?

Thanks,

CyberSue

A Dear CS and DID,
I'm answering your letters together because you both seem to suffer from a lack of vocation (I'm using the word the way the Latin root suggests, as a calling or summons).

Our pilgrim ancestors saw vocation as a calling, something they were created and called by their creator to perform. So even if work was hard, it was also both honorable and pleasurable. Then along came the industrial revolution and mass production and the depersonalization of work (people were simply cogs in the industrial machine, hence human resources). The result has been what you seem to now feel, a lost sense of purpose and thus passion for your job (just work instead of vocation).

I suggest that you read my column on "Identifying Your Midlife Passion," and that you try to discover this thing about you that literally can put the spring back in your step, whatever your job and wherever you choose to live.

Of course, this is just a first step (afterwards you may need career counseling and, perhaps, some retraining), but I believe it is the most important step. "DID," you don't have to live in quiet desperation, and "CS," you don't have to move to Hawaii (not yet anyway). I predict that happiness is much closer to each of you than you imagine.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.

January 13, 1998

The following questions are answered by Susanne Beier, a professional counselor and a regular on the Best Years site.

Q Hi
Don't know if I'm in the right place . . . Know nothing about midlife crisis, but am wondering if that is what we are just beginning to experience. In the last 6 months, my husband has noticed that he becomes EXTREMELY angry over little things. He admits (later) that the problem was a little one, and doesn't understand himself why he got SO unbelievably angry. He describes it as feeling like he is going to explode, that he needs to break something or he'll bust. To me, this sounds like PMS. So, is midlife crisis an actual hormonal thing? And, why are only the spouses writing here? Doesn't it seem odd that the men are the ones with the problem, but they don't seem to have the drive to do anything to fix it?

Karen in Alaska

A Dear Karen
You are in the right place. None of us really "knew" about midlife until we fell directly into it. So you are not alone. As far as your husband is concerned, it sounds like he is extremely stressed out. You don't say how old he or you are; thus I can only assume that you fall in between the magic years of 35 -57. That being the case, I suggest that you both go to a counselor now, before things really get out of hand, to discuss what is REALLY bothering him.

Is it the job? Does he feel taken for granted by you? Does he feel like he's a "meal ticket"? You don't say whether you have children, but if you do, how are they towards their father? If they are teenagers or young adults, then typically they are too self-absorbed to notice.

You ask if midlife is like "PMS;" I guess in a way it is. The jury is still out as to where hormones fit in, but it DOES have to do with life's stages of development. Kind of like when you were 12 and people had been telling you about the terrible teen years...you had no control over it, just fell into it. It was HOW you dealt with these changes that made the difference on how it turned out. Right? Well, this is the same thing. Kind of . It is the reason why I recommend counseling for you and your husband. Do so now, before it is too late, okay? Good Luck.

susanne.

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Q Hi,
I do not really know the definition of midlife crisis. Almost a year ago my husband told me he didn't love me anymore, but he would try to stay with the family because what we had was worth saving. He never wanted to communicate after that, just "we'll see." Whenever I asked for feedback he'd say, well aren't things going ok? And things were.

About a month ago I (who thought everything was hunky dory) asked if he loved me. The answer was no, and he could no longer continue to live like this. He was so lonely. I went crazy, and immediately went to counseling (again. after the 1st time he said he didn't love me I went) He refuses counseling, refuses to see an M.D.; and he has no one to talk to. He says "you can't very well tell your wife you want to see if you're attractive to other women" He wants the "magic" back that we used to have.

He distanced himself physically and emotionally from the family. I continue to let him know I love him. By saying it, touching him. But it hurts me that he refuses to discuss this. That he cannot show me he loves me. That he says he doesn't love me. I also do not understand why the sex is still so good. At one point he said he would leave after the holidays. I just lost it, couldn't speak without stuttering (I've never stuttered in my life) cried, curled up into a fetal position when I went to bed.

Now he says I "won't let him leave." He says the problem is I am the only woman he has EVER had a relationship with. He means mental, physical, he has always been afraid of womem. My counselor and doctor put me on antidepressents, and a mild sleeping pill. I told my husband they said I was depressed when he asked why on earth I would be on antidepressents (he can't tell what he is doing to me) I also said the doctor would see him if he wanted because if I was depressed, then surely he is too.

No response. He doesn't respond when I ask him questions like, "can you forgive me for the hurt I have caused during our 17 years relationship? He shows no affection, although he doesn't pull away when I show affection. The sex is still wonderful. He is 44, I am 42 and we have two beautiful daughters that he loves dearly. Is this midlife crises? And what can I do that I am not already doing? Please answer as soon as you can.

Lindsey from Wyoming.

A Dear Lindsey,.
You say you don't know what mid-life crisis is; well you pretty much described it by describing your husband's behavior. I know how difficult the whole thing is for you. I've gone through it personally (on the receiving end like you are). I strongly recommend that you continue seeing your counselor to help you deal with your husband's irrational behavior and abandonment.

Have you had any abandonment crisis in past? Your behavioral reaction to your husband's actions sounds like the typical (if there is such a thing) symptoms of abandonment syndrome. Your self-esteem must be in the basement; unfortunately you will never be able to raise your self-esteem through someone else. You need to learn to like yourself better first. This is where your counselor comes in. Please continue going.

Join a women's group if there is one in your area. Sign up for an assertiveness course at your local adult school. These are just several suggestions that may help you. In addition, I strongly recommend that you read previous letters and answers sent to this web site. You will see that you are not alone. You will also see that indeed you can get past this and be a happier person at the end of it all. I wish you the best.

susanne

PS. What anti-depressants did they put you on? Check with your MD and let him or her know that you feel that they are not helping you enough, that you still feel overwhelmed. Perhaps they can change the dosage or actual medication more suited to your system. I wish you the best.

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January 10, 1998

Q Mike,
I found your page and its contents to be very helpful. I would like to share my story with you and would appreciate your feedback as well as the feedback of others.

My wife and I have been married for 17 years. We have three daughters - 11,7, and 2. We met in high school and have been together for 22 years. (Small town, high school sweethearts...)

All of my life, I have wanted a deep, meaningful relationship as the centerpiece of my life. Early on, I felt that she had all the characteristics to build such a relationship with me. However, soon after we were married, I had the feeling that our relationship would not become deep, meaningful, and passionate. She always seemed to have a wall up around her that I couldn't get through. In the past 17 years, I have tried, somewhat gently, to get her to open up to me emotionally and physically. . . All along, I have been very understanding and hopeful that her distant stance would change and that we would have the relationship that I dreamed about. I bought cards, cooked special dinners, and offered to do more. I have helped to raise the kids, keep the house, cooked, cleaned, etc. In short, have been there and been patient and tried to gently get her to open up. There was some progress, but she was always not full accessible or sharing herself fully, freely, and openly.

About three years ago, I became involved emotionally, but not physically with another woman. About four months ago, my wife and I began counseling. About a month ago, the other relationship came to light after a discussion that my wife and I had. She finally opened herself up to explain why she had been so distant for these many years. Before we were married, but while we were still together, she had three sexual experiences with others that I never knew about until now. These were 'one-night" stands with little or no emotional attachments. Which I cannot understand. The woman that I thought I married would not be capable of a sexual relationship outside of an emotional relationship. The second issue was her inability to have a climax through intercourse. She always felt that she should be able to do that and was resistant to my advances because of her inability to have the "ultimate" experience with me. She was able to reach climax through other means, and was in general satisfied with our love life. The third issue that kept her closed was her upbringing that taught her that sex was dirty and something that good girls didn't do. And finally, she said that she has always felt inferior to me intellectually, emotionally, and sexually.

She has kept these things inside of her until now, and I am filled with anger and resentment. I cannot believe that the woman I loved could have those types of relationships. I admitted to her that I had one sexual experience that she never knew about before we were married, but still together. While it may be a double standard, it was part of a three month relatively emotional relationship, and somehow seems different to me than her three one-night stands. Further, I cannot believe that she could not talk to me about her concerns and frustration with her inability to climax through intercourse. I feel that I am patient and understanding, caring and compassionate and have been for the past 17 years.

Now she says that she is free and open and has passion for me. While this may be true, it doesn't change the fact that we are different intellectually and emotionally and that those barriers will always be there. In addition, the resentment and the anger I feel for the past 17 years is very deep. I feel cheated, duped, and now trapped by my obligations to the kids. Further, I don't want to give up the other relationship. The level of bond between us is very deep. I have been reading books like "Twin Souls" and "Only Love is Real" and feel very much like this is the one person that I have been searching for all of my life.

Deep in my heart, I believe and can imagine a life where my wife finds herself and a compatible partner. Where we share the responsibility of raising our daughters, and where I can freely enter into a deepening relationship with this other woman.

I am very interested in your thoughts and in the thoughts of others. Thanks, Mike.

Troubled

A Hi Troubled.
I'm afraid I have to agree with your wife. You do have a double standard. When it comes to cheating on a lover (married or not), emotional affairs are as wrong as physical ones (and maybe harder to heal), and the number of times is irrelevant (3 one-nighters as opposed to 1 as part of a 3-month relationship).

And why can't you believe that she would not talk to you about her feelings of sexual inadequacy? All of us tend to hide personal weaknesses from those we love best, and given her background ("sex was dirty"), not talking about sexual matters is understandable. Let go of the resentment and be glad she's talking now. You have the opportunity for greater sexual passion and intimacy than in your earlier days (how many midlife couples can say this?).

Finally, I don't buy the "Twin Souls" thing. This person is not the "one and only" who you've waited all your life to meet. She's just meeting some intense personal needs right now (maybe a midlife angst over growing older?). When the infatuation wears off (and if you leave your wife, I predict this will happen quickly), you still will be left with your own needy soul.

Don't give up. Keep up the counseling and work on your own soul's journey. You might be on the brink of your most satisfying years yet--personally, and with your spouse.

Mike

P.S. If others of you have additional thoughts for Troubled, please respond and I will post your answers on the Midlife Crisis Forum page.

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