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Questions & Answers with Mike & Susanne

Mike Bellah Th.B., M.A., Ph.D.
In the first place, I am not an authority on midlife or aging. My academic studies have centered not in psychology and sociology, but in theology, English literature, and technical communication. Thus what follows is the opinion of a veteran not an expert. Here is advice from one who has walked where many of you are walking; simply put, these are words from a sympathetic fellow-struggler in this experience we call midlife.
(See also "My Qualifications.")
Susanne Beier, M.Ed., NCC, NCCC
A Ph.D. student at Walden University, Susanne earned her master's degree in counseling and psychology from Rutgers University. Her professional counseling practice, which began in 1985, focuses on adults in crisis, including those experiencing marital conflict, divorce, job loss and career change. A recognized authority on these subjects, Susanne has been featured in such publications as New Woman, Self, Working Woman and Cosmopolitan.
(See also "There's Light at the End of the Tunnel.")

(July-September 1998)

Please feel free to ask any question you want on this page. Just click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question. For more responses to these questions, or if you want to respond to something below, visit the Midlife Crisis Forum Page.

Notice: The answers on these pages are offered as a free and supplemental service to readers. They are not intended to substitute for individual, professional counseling.

September 28, 1998

Q Way to go Mike! Great Site!
I went to school in Canyon also. I'am about four years younger than you. Your last name did sound familiar. What single things are there to do in Amarillo and Canyon that are not in bars and stuff to be around and meet people. I lost my freinds in a divorce with my husband! :(

oh well if you have any suggestions I would appreciate it. I am beginning a new life again and could use the help. all over again Thanks!

Newly Single

A Hi Newly Single,
This is not one I can answer by personal experience, but I do have two suggestions.

What comes to mind first is groups that focus around a shared interest. I'm thinking of a single's class at a church or a study group at a library or a special interest club that promotes a cause or activity that you enjoy.

The second thought I have is to ask those who have been down this road before you. What do other midlif singles have to say? And, since I'm sure some of these people are reading these words, I'll ask them for you.

What advice do you singles out there have for a newly single person? Tell N.S. and I'll post answers on the Midlife Crisis Forum.

Hope this helps and good luck.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.
Important: You may also view the Midlife Crisis Forum for additional questions and follow up responses to these.

Q Hi.
I really appreciate your column. You seem to be very compassionate to those of us who are having some trouble finding our way!

I have had a couple of things happen to me mentally lately, things that I thought could and would NEVER happen to ME! I am female, and just turned 40, so am chalking it all up to a mid life crisis, but need some advice, never the less.

My main concern at this time is that - all of a sudden - my biological clock started ticking! My husband is much older than me - 20 years, in fact - and had raised a family (4 children) prior to our marriage (we have been married 16 years). I never felt the need, nor the desire for children, and he really didn't want any more, so that worked out well.

Well, all of a sudden I am afraid that I am missing one of the most fulfilling and important things in life. I am trying to decide if this is a real desire, or just a passing thing. Some of my friends have small children, so it wouldn't be like I would be the only 40-50 year old mother out there!

My husband had a vasectomy after his fourth son was born, so I would probably have to go the sperm donor route if I really went through with this. He is not really in favor of it - he recently retired and we are financially fairly well off. We travel alot and he is afraid a child would tie us down too much. I think that if I really truly wanted to do this he would go along with it, though. And I think he would truly love a child (he loves our dog to pieces) and would be able to be a decent parent to it this time. (He was not a very good parent to his other children. Too much work stress, an unhappy marriage, etc.) He is in great physical health and looks and acts much younger than his age.

So, my question is - how do I know if this is really something I should do, or whether it is just a manifestation of my mid life crisis? Having a child is awfully irrevocable to be doing just on a whim!

Thanks.

G.G.

A Hi G.G.,
Glad you like the column.

You show great insight and true love to realize that having a child is not something to decide on a whim.

Yes, you would not be the only new mom at midlife. I hear from many who have done so with great satisfaction and success. However, I would be cautious in your case for one major reason: your husband.

From your letter it sounds as though the two of you chose together to remain childless. So his reluctance to bring a child into the world now is nothing new, and he is not being unreasonable or unloving to maintain the status quo.

Also, by his own admission, he was not a good father the first time around. I know you think he will make a good one now, but can you afford to bet a child's life on this? At the minimum, I would be reluctant to have a child unless your husband is as enthusiastic about it as you are (this means, among other things, a willingness to work on his parenting skills).

Finally, I suggest that you think seriously about the alternative. You don't have to give birth to a child of your own to satisfy your motherly desires. There are many children out there who need an adult female in their lives. You can find them through official channels such as Girl Scouts or Big Sisters or informally on your own (I know a number of adults who will tell you that the most influential person in their childhood was not a natural parent but someone else who gave them the love they needed).

Please don't be discouraged. I'm convinced there is a child out there who needs exactly what you have to offer. Go find them.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.
Important: You may also view the Midlife Crisis Forum for additional questions and follow up responses to these.

Q Mike,
My husband is suffering from depression and I believe midlife crisis. He denies this and says that if he hears this one more time he will scream. He is currently in therapy.

This started with the there has to be more to life than this. Then advanced to I love you, but-I am not in love with you. He began to tell me he needs some space and some time to think about this situation. He doesn't want to let go of me, but! he wants his space to think things through. I willingly gave him the space and he is living in our second home. There is nothing I can say or do right in his mind. He talks about how he has told me how he feels and he is sorry, then- turns right around and says,"I just need time away, I think this is about me, not us." I feel he is very confused.

He acts as though he is the only one with feelings in this situation. His therapist told me that she thought this would work out if he could just have some time to sort things out. He was so verbally cruel to me, I was devastated and suffered through many days of crying and such sadness that I felt I might die. Never did he offer me comfort. Before, he was such a nice person to the family..;This man has changed.

Now, I am getting stronger and I am not sure how long I can go on with this. Why is it these men always think they have feelings but no one else does.? Do you think there is hope here? I think being in limbo with someone is the worst thing.

Sad in Houston

A Dear Sad,
I think there is hope for two reasons: one, he is going to a therapist (unlikely if someone just wants out) and, two, his therapist thinks there is hope.

About your husband hurting your feelings--it's not that he wants to hurt you; it's just that he is so focused on his own hurt right now that he is insensitive to everyone else, including you.

If you want to get through this, you're going to have to seek emotional support for a while through other sources: friends, family, a church, a support group.

I know the indecision is hard. Hang in there.

Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.
Important: You may also view the Midlife Crisis Forum for additional questions and follow up responses to these.

September 18, 1998

Q Hi.
I've been reading the different posts and am hoping you can give me some insight. I have been married for 9 years and my husband and I are both in our mid 30's. We are from very different cultures and very different religions and very different concepts about marriage though we have managed a pretty strong relationship.

I've known my husband for 15 years but in the last three years he twice betrayed me. First time he said he was quite simply tempted beyond his ability to say no and the second time, which was not a sexual betrayal by the way, he can't really explain why he did it...it being an emotional relationship which ended after 7 weeks of an unsuccessful attempt to lure this woman from her husband for the purpose of sex.

Admittedly I know that his culture has a more accepting view of infidelity than does the American culture though he knows how much this hurts me. He seems to genuinely love me and truly is a very good person.

We are not able to find a marriage counselor comfortable enough to help us as they are all concerned because of our very different backgrounds. So I am having to rely on sources such as this website for assistance.

I am trying to find out if it really matters or not as to why my husband betrayed me the second time. I do not feel that simply because it was without sex that it is insignificant because it is not. Sex is just sex. But the fact that he was consciously lying to me despite the fact that he knew I was figuring it out and trying to have faith in him is obviously a signal that something was wrong...but he doesn't know what.

In my own opinion he seems to have some kind of a mental block that either consciously or subconsciously prevents him from being able to think about it. I suspect it is in part the result of major guilt.

However, the question still remains, do we really need to figure out why this happened and much more so, HOW do we begin to do it because for one year now he has been "trying" to figure it out and is no closer to knowing now than he was then.

It seems to me that if we don't know why he did it then there is a good chance of it happening again, especially since another betrayal would now be a third betrayal.

I don't know how to help him and I haven't been able to confirm the importance of the need to know so your thoughts would be very helpful.

Thank you.

From Hope

A Dear Hope,
Your situation certainly is a unique one but not unmanageable. How many counselors have you tried to contact to help you deal with this? I am quite sure that there is someone in your area that can focus on the real issues here, that is, betrayal of trust. You say you have been married for nine years and have known your husband for 15, right? Did this subject not come up before you got married? I mean, the subject of "cheating"??

You do not state what culture you or your husband are, but it seems obvious to me that you are BOTH living here and living here under all the other "American cultures", no? I find it interesting that your husband selects to his old system when it becomes convenient for him, and for you to excuse that behavior. Betrayal is betrayal no matter what culture you live in. Yes, some cultures have a more open policy to men (seen as the powerful one in the relationship) not being monogamous; however, you are both living here.

Tell your husband that if he wants to hold on to old "customs" then he cannot be selective at your expense. You also need to decide internally what you can and cannot tolerate for your own sense of self. If he is not willing to change, then that is how it is. You do not have any control over him or his behavior...none of us do over our partner....you only have control over how YOU react to it and how YOU deal with it for your own sanity.

That's it pure and simple. All the wishing in the world is not going to bring about a change if HE is not willing to let go of this behavior. I suggest that you continue looking for a counselor, call your embassy or his and get the name of someone that they can recommend for you. Good luck.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.
Important: You may also view the Midlife Crisis Forum for additional questions and follow up responses to these.

Q Hello,
Is it possible for a female to experience mid-life crisis at 33. My wife and I have been married for five years and have two wonderful children, one 7 and one 3. Approximately 3 months ago my wife informed me that she loved me but was not in love with me anymore. This was proceeded by a change in music tastes, bright fingernail polishes which she never wore, a new wardrobe, and other unusual things. She has told me she is leaving but has yet to go anywhere and even insists that I still do stuff with her. We sleep in the same bed but I am not allowed to touch her. I know that she is not seeing anyone else and for the first six weeks of this she was still kissing me and telling me she loved me then that stopped completely. At first she wanted to give me the kids and now she wants them. She changes on a daily to weekly basis.

I am in counseling but she feels that there is nothing wrong with her. I have now told her that it is time for her to make a decision but she won't give me an answer. Her responses are always if i go, or If i decide to leave.

Is there a recommendation you can make or possibly a solution of how to get her help if you think she needs it. I am trying to move forward with my life even though I love her dearly but she doesn't seem to want to let go.

Frustrated from Maryland

A Dear Frustrated
Women typically reach their sexual and emotional peak during the early thirties. It is a form of midlife, but not quite the same. There are many similarities such as questioning themselves about "what about me?"

How old were you two when you got married? Did any major changes happen recently in her and your life? Death of someone dear? Kids going to school/day care? You two need to meet with a marriage counselor. I understand that she is not willing to go at this time, and therefore recommend that YOU continue to go by yourself to help you deal with this. I am sure that your counselor by now has told you that you need to set up some personal "deadlines" of how long you can tolerate her behavior.

How is she supporting herself? I have seen situations like yours where the wife left having nothing to support herself with, slept in her car, but would do anything rather than return to the marriage. I hope that your situation has not reached that level yet.

Is your counselor helping you to see how YOU played into this? Were you gone at work too much? Did you not listen to her? Material things do not compensate for intimacy. What has she said to you? Has she always been alone with the kids? How are the children handling this? This whole situation that you describe must be incredibly painful to them and to both of your families. You all need to think of the welfare of the children first...yes, even before yours. Let the children meet with a counselor to help them see that it was not their fault that "mommy 's not the same."

In summary I can only tell you that you now need to be strong for the children and put your own needs on the backburner (which I suspect is what your wife had done up to this point). Continue with counseling; don't just go three or four times.....work this thing through so that it won't happen to you again. good luck.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.
Important: You may also view the Midlife Crisis Forum for additional questions and follow up responses to these.

Q Hi.
I am in a relationship with a 43 yr old man who is presently going through serious mid-life crisis. He usually is very attentive to me & shows me much affection. The past few weeks, he has been taking a lot of his aggression and frustration out on me. He says that he doesn't know if he is capable of giving me what I deserve (marriage, family, etc.). He says that nothing is important to him lately. He says that he is dealing with a lot of things from his past that weren't dealt with in the past. He is very depressed and just wants to be alone.

He sees a therapist, but his progress has been slow. I have tried my best to be there in whatever way I can. However, he says that he doesn't know how to let me in. He says that he needs time, because he isn't able to put any focus on our relationship. All of his focus must be on what he is dealing with & his career.

He had been married for 10 years and the marriage failed. He left everything to move to California to pursue his acting career. He was in a relationship with a woman for a few years after his divorce. He says that he knew that she wasn't the one for him, but it was the security he stayed with. He says that I am the first woman he has had a meaningful relationship with since he divorced. He isn't able to even tell me that he loves me right now. I realize now that his behavior has nothing to do with me. However, I am hurting because I do not understand why He is taking a time out with me. I have a lot of faith in him & I believe that he is capable of giving me the love and future I deserve.

Please help me to understand what I need to do. I feel very alone. I know he needs time. But, why is it that he needs time away from me?

A heart that hurts.

A Dear Heart that Hurts.
It very much sounds like your boyfriend has some unresolved issues from his past. He definitely is right in the midlife crisis age group, but that is probably not the whole thing here. It sounds more like he did not deal with his divorce and his new life in "acting". Has he experienced success in it?

He definitely is reviewing the choices that he's made in life and probably reviewing all the things that he "could have, should have" done differently.. I suggest that you turn to the Q&A section of this Website and review some of the old letters (and answers) that are there. It should help you to get some clarity on how to deal with this.

In the meantime, you too should be going to counseling. You need help in restoring your self-esteem after this blow. You mention that his progress is slow in counseling. Unfortunately that is often the case, as there are no "magic" pills that make this all go away.

So, while he's going to counseling to help find himself, why don't you take this time to help you to also find who you are? What your needs are? What you think you deserve in a relationship? How you feel about commitment? Why, for example, did you stay with him when he told you that he could not give you a "marriage commitment"? Counseling is not the answer to all and everything, but it sure helps. So, go ahead and try it. You will feel better. I promise.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.
Important: You may also view the Midlife Crisis Forum for additional questions and follow up responses to these.

September 13, 1998

Q Hi.
I don't think I am in a midlife crisis, but a life crisis! I am 50 yrs old, have been married to the same women for 30 yrs(we enjoy a very good and sexually exciting relationship), I have 2 married adult children(no grand children, yet), my mother is 87 yrs old and in fair health, I am an only child(I was born illegitimately), I have worked at the same company for 28 yrs with only a couple of minor job changes. I am not involved in many outside activities or sports. I enjoy many different things but don't have a passion for any one activity. With all that said the only way to describe my life is--BORING!!

My question to you is very simple. What can I do to spice up my life??? I do not like my job, but I am in debt so deep(just short of bankruptcy) that I can't see breaking away from the security of my boring, unfulfilling job. My first thought was to sell all that I own, including my house of 14 yrs, settle what debts that I can and declare bankruptcy on the remaining and leave town and become a beach bum. I would like to take up writing and think I can become very good, but my life is do screwed up I don't know what to do.

My wife would not go along with my plan. She is "comfortable" in our lifestyle, I hate it. I have given my family the best that I have been able to over the last many years, is it wrong for me to want "my time"? If it were not for the debt problem I would make a decision to downsize my life and find a part-time job and try to write as much as possible.

I am not getting any younger or happier-----HELP SOON!!!!

Joe in NC

A Hi Joe,
 First, go to your video store and rent It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart, and let it remind you how blessed you already are.

 Second, it is not wrong for you to want more individual time along with more adventure and pleasure. And you don't have to upset the apple cart to do so. I suggest choosing one or two new things (writing can be one) and schedule regular time to engage in it/them.

 And third, I think the debt problem is making you depressed. See a professional debt counselor (there are inexpensive ones listed in your yellow pages), and develop a plan to ease this burden.

 Believe me; it can and will get better.

 Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.
Important: You may also view the Midlife Crisis Forum for additional questions and follow up responses to these.

Q Hi.
I have had a very difficult couple years in my marriage. I am 39 years old; so is my husband. My husband briefly, stopped drinking alcohol one and a half years ago after getting a DUI and realizing his drinking was out of control. He is also an attorney and worked excessively.

About 7 months ago I was at an office party (without spouses) and a coworker came on to me, (he is married, in fact newlywed and 7 years younger than me..)Anyway, I had a few drinks myself and was very attracted to him; one thing led to another and we madeout in the car for hours. Although I never had intercourse with him, we continued to fool around occasionally.. in the office and outside the office..

I have NEVER been so turned on by a man.. I figured I would never get this chance to feel this way again. Well things have cooled off; we haven't been together for 3 months.. I am determined to stay in my marriage, but I am bored. (how do you compare housework and a new romance??) My husband is a better person, and I care for him but I don't feel the tingles... QUESTION: how do I give up the passion I found out I was missing????? I miss him horribly.. but I know an affair is wrong, and terribly complicated.

Tingleless

A Dear Tingleless,
Of course an extramarital affair and housework do not compare. Neither does a heroine high and the quiet pleasure of walking in the mountains. Yet the former passions are, at best, short lived, and, at worst, personally destructive.

 I believe that marital romance, including sex, can "tingle" for you again (or for the first time if you didn't have this with your husband in the beginning). Could it be that your husband's stress and drinking took the spark out of your relationship? At any rate, it will take effort on your part.

 You must summon the courage to break off the affair and then the patience to work on your marriage. Professional counseling will help.

 Good luck.

 Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.
Important: You may also view the Midlife Crisis Forum for additional questions and follow up responses to these.

Q Mike,
Last week out of the blue my wife of almost 12 years told me she wasn't in love with me. She said she loved me but wasn't in love with me. We've had our fights like any other couples, but this came out of the blue.

She turned 40 in March and I threw her a surprise birthday party inviting friend and family. Is 40 too young for midlife crisis? She has been doing yoga for 5 years now and is certified to teach. I've told her how proud I was and have supported her in this direction. We have 2 children, 8 & 11, and my world is falling apart.

I have told her we should see a counselor, and she agrees, but I feel like this is only to appease me. It's like she needs to hear what a mistake she is possibly going to make. Our lives have been good overall and we're fortunate to have a good business and many friends. What's you take on this situation?

D.M.

A D.M.
 My take is that 40 is not too young to have a midlife crisis, and your wife may be in one. The good thing is that she is willing to see a counselor together with you. Do so ASAP.

 Mike

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.
Important: You may also view the Midlife Crisis Forum for additional questions and follow up responses to these.

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September 4, 1998

Q Hi.
My husband has suffered a severe Mid-Life Crisis and has left our family and filed for divorce. My question is about my son's reaction to this. Our son was adopted and has always had a rather wary relationship with his father. Since his father left, my son has avoided or out right refused contact with his father. He says things like, "He tried to teach me about trust for 19 years and now he can't be trusted!" Or "Don't refer to him as MY DAD....he is not my dad anymore!" He is so incredibly angry at his father and feels abandoned.

One of the things that has exacerbated this problem, is that when my husband left, he refused to give us his address and after 7 months, has not even invited his son to spend the afternoon with him, much less a week-end!

Should I discuss this with my husband? I am afraid he will think I am trying to make him feel guilty so he will come back, instead of trying to inform him about his son.

Should I just but out and let their relationship fall apart, too? It really isn't my responsibility, is it?

Signed, Worried About My Son

A Dear worried,
Unfortunately one of the "side effects" of this midlife crisis thing is an alienation of the children (even adult ones), and sometimes the loss of the child. Your son,as you said, is very angry at his dad and feels betrayed by him. As his mom you want to make it easier for you son...even ignoring some of your own pain, huh? Remember that your HUSBAND is the one that abandoned him. He will feel the consequences of his actions....sometimes not until many years later.

In the meantime I STRONGLY recommend that you and your son go meet with a counselor. Tell him (your son) that you need help in dealing with this whole thing and you would really appreciate it if he came with you...to help YOU. That may be a strong enough reason for him to go. The bottom line is that he really should talk to someone about the anger (rightful anger) that he feels, and to help him deal with some of the abandonment issues that he, as an adoptive, has dealt with before. You, in the meantime, can tell him that yes, his father taught him responsibility and trust, and has betrayed both of you. But that it has NOTHING to do with him (your son). HE did nothing to make this happen (he probably at some level feels that he should have foreseen is, prevented it, etc), and feels that he failed you. You need to reinforce with him that YOU still have the trust that he was taught and that has not changed.

You are right, you should not be the one telling this to your husband. It should be a third party. Either a counselor, minister, etc. Has your son told his father at all how he feels about this whole thing? Tell him to write it down if he can't bring himself to tell his dad. Tell him that he should hold on to his letter for 24 hours, and if he still feels as strongly as he did when he wrote it, tell him to mail it to his dad. Actually, since you don't have an address for him, can it be sent to your husband's mom in care of??

Finally, I want to reiterate that you both meet with a counselor--him to deal with the feelings of hurt and betrayal and abandonment and you for the feelings of guilt that you failed your son by not preventing him having to deal with this pain. I hope this letter helps you a little bit. I know this is a very difficult time for you and your son.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.
Important: You may also view the Midlife Crisis Forum for additional questions and follow up responses to these.

Q Hello.
I am recently new to the computer bit so I hope this makes it to you. My husband and I will have been married 7 years in December. He will be turning 40 in October and I just turned 29 in June. He works as an underground miner for a very well known gold producer in Nevada. A high stress job of sorts, considering your life is a stake each time you go down 1400 feet underground every day. On top of that he has the postion of Leader Miner so he has his crews lives at stake as well. We are going to marriage counceling at the time but I am very uncomfortable with telling the councelor his problems when I don't have his permission of sorts. Sound like an oxy-moron with me telling them here?

We recently worked out our problems with our marriage and mine dealing with sex. Now that I am uninhibited in the sexual department he tells me that his sex drive is not what it used to be and I feel like I am just hitting my stride. He also says that he doesn't know why and that it's not because that he is not attracted to me. I can't help but feel that this is not the case because the only time we have sex anymore is after he gets through watching a spicy movie or checking out some of the more explict sites on the Internet.

The communication in our marriage has never been better however we or I seem to be lacking in the other department. Is this just a problem for me to deal with or is this the start of midlife for him? He also says that when we go out or are out with friends drinking socially and he gets hungry now all he wants to do is eat and the go to sleep. Something that he has never done before. I need help. I don't where to go from here are what to do when I get there. Do you have any suggestions? It would be deeply appreciated if you do.

Stumped in Nevada

A Dear Stumped,
If you are seeing a licensed marriage counselor you should be free to tell him/her whatever you feel are the problems in your marriage. He/she is bound by ethic code not to share any such information unless you give permission to do so. That even means when your husband meets with him/her.

I strongly suggest that you both continue with the marriage counseling. It can get very uncomfortable before it gets better. Both of you need to deal with the age difference between you two and the different levels of energy and emotional development that you are at. Don't give up. Continue going to the sessions; even go alone if you have to.

susanne

click here to view my policies on writing questions, and then here to ask your question.
Important: You may also view the Midlife Crisis Forum for additional questions and follow up responses to these.

Q Hello.
My situation is not unique after reading some other stories sent to you.My husband and I have been married for 13 years . We have known each other for twenty. We are living in Mexico working for an American company as expatriates. My husband, 38 years old was fired from his job a year ago. He was able to get another job within two months for another company so that was not the problem but perhaps was the reason our problems began. I believe that we have had a strong marriage up until a year ago.

He began phone conversations with a former female employee soon after his job loss. He swears that they are just friends. He has become an habitual liar, even about small things. He has become disrespectful to me in many ways. It seems he is the opposite person that he was for many years. We have been through marriage counseling this year but I think our marriage was picked apart instead of focusing on the present problem, and that is that he has changed, seems to be lost and totally confused on what he wants. One day he loves me, the next he is unsure. He has asked for a separation so that he may renew his loving feelings toward me. I gave him 4 months.

We set a date for him to return, and he said he wasnt ready. One morning, after having a rough morning with our children ages 7 and 5, I gave him another date and said that was it. He returns or we go back to the States without him. He returned. He has only been home a week now and then left on a business trip to South America for two weeks. His phone calls are quick ones while he is away. While he has been gone, I have discovered that he continued these phone calls with that woman during our separation. He told me on many occasions that he no longer spoke to her. I am hurt by this, but am reaching numbness. I tend to cry less. I am getting to the point where I will just leave him if he continues to lie and hurt me.

He normally is a wonderful husband and father, The children and I adore him. I really cant imagine my life without him and I feel sick when I think about my children not growing up with him as their father on a daily basis. He is the love of my life and I really want our marriage to work, but how can he get through this, how can i get through this, without more damage done? Is it possible to heal wounds after so much deciet and hurt?

I must also mention that my husband is Mexican and grew up not too far from where we presently live. We lived in the United States the first 11 years of our marriage and moved to Mexico with the first company 2 years ago. He likes living here very much and would like this to be our home forever. I love living here as well but have always viewed this as a temporary adventure. Please, any advice welcome. Thank you.

Tired in Mexico

A Dear Tired,
At this time of your life and stage of your marriage I suggest very strongly that you go to meet with a counselor alone, one that will help you to regain your sense of self and rebuild your self-esteem. Often the thing that we are most afraid of is not near as horrible when it actually happens.

You did good by setting a timeline within which you can operate. This is one way of saving a relationship and having the other person decide what they want. Your husband is now in the "extended adolescence" stage of his life. He wants everything the way HE wants it and when HE wants it. And he probably sees himself as the victim and you as being unreasonable. No matter what, you need to clarify what you will and will not tolerate and him dealing with another women is just too dangerous to your marriage and relationship within it.

Tell him that you are willing to go to counseling and to do whatever you have to do save your marriage, but this does NOT include his "emotional" involvement with another women. Tell him that you know that he still talks to her, etc. Let him know that the time that he spends talking to her takes away from the time that the two of you should be spending to rebuild your marriage. Often in marriage counseling one has to deal into the past to find out how to change the present.

Don't give up. Keep encouraging going to counseling. Go by yourself if he won't go with you anymore.

susanne

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August 26, 1998

Q Hello.
I'm a 50 year old male, who has probably passed the mid-life crisis and moved into the end-of-life funk. I have been the sole support of my wife and family for 31 years. Since early in our relationship, my wife assumed the role of an adult child and has been completely helpless regarding family finances or any other difficult aspect of managing our home or family. Thirty years ago, I was a musician but I gave up music, altogether, about 20 years ago to commit myself to the breadwinner role. I've taken a series of jobs, over those years, that have provided me with decreasingly less satisfaction and honor but my income has increased as compensation.

Now, my children have grown and moved into their own lives. My wife is considering a hobby job to earn what I call beer money. (Over the years, her occasional job has always provided "her money," mine provides "our money.") I recently sold a house and considered taking the money to give myself a year away from work and make an attempt to see if there was any of myself left to find. That idea has passed and I've dumped most of the cash into the stock market, just so I can tell myself I'm doing something with it. I honestly could care less if it does well or I lose it all. The money amounts to nothing more than yet another failed dream.

If I could find the courage, I would commit suicide. I'm worth considerably more dead than alive, to my family and I'm worth nothing to myself. As it is, I'm overweight, lethargic, with high blood pressure and higher cholesterol, and every day of life is like a prison sentence. Every day of work is a day in Hell. When I read the letters from wives and children of men who have thrown off the expectations and made a last flailing attempt at finding a life, I know that the surface has only been scratched. It's next to impossible to "find help" and work a 50 hour week. With no one else willing to take up the financial slack, families (especially wives) make it clear that their personal comfort is far more important than saving the lives of fathers and husbands.

Fed Up

A Hi Fed Up,
Frankly, your words scare me. You sound seriously and dangerously depressed and YOU MUST GET HELP WITH THIS IMMEDIATELY.

I hear what you're saying and wholeheartedly agree that you seem to be on the giving end of things much more than the receiving end. But these issues can be resolved (sometimes it just takes learning to be honest about your own feelings).

You don't have to go on feeling this way. Help is available.

Please tell a friend, family member, pastor, someone what you have told me. You can call a suicide hotline number if you want to remain anonymous and get some free advice. BUT PLEASE DO SOMETHING NOW. Life can be much, much, better. Really.

I'm pulling for you,

Mike

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Q Dear Mike,
My husband and I had the most startling conversation last night, in which he informed me that he loves me, but is not in love with me. Much of this smells of midlife crisis to me, hence my investigation of your helpful web site, but I'm still not clear on what I should do about it.

We've been together 12 years, married 8; he just turned 40, I'm 35. We have a two-year-old, and very active careers, that have taken a lot of energy over the last couple of years, including some time apart. He's not quite sure when this passion/romance feeling slipped away, but I know that we've been distancing for some time. Our sex life was always infrequent, it's now almost moribund. But on the up side, we both say that we don't want to split, and on a day-to-day basis we get along quite well. I like him and he says he likes me, we share interests, we now spend a good deal of time together--and our love for our child takes up much of our respective needs for emotional release, we both admit.

He says that on one hand, he's unhappy that he doesn't have it all, meaning he doesn't have a passionate love in his life now, in the way he used to feel for me. But on the other, he's made the decision to not risk what he has that are very high priorities--a family, a home, a career, etc--in order to look for the ever-elusive romance. He wants to stay where he is, and ride this out, and just hope that he doesn't find himself twenty years from now thinking he made a mistake.

I'm not sure how I feel. I do love him and I'm desperate to not split up the family. But I know what he means about missing the pitter-patter of romance. And the absence of sex bothers me a whole lot more than it bothers him.

Can we get back that feeling? Or do we look for other outlets (I don't mean affairs, but other interests)?

Unsettled in Texas

A Dear Unsettled,
Of course you can recapture "that feeling," and the fact that both of you like each other, share common interests, and are committed to the marriage makes it much easier.

Find a good marriage counselor and share your story. They will have many practical things for you to do to begin to restore the sexual intimacy. And be sure to write back when things get better (they will). I'd like to share your story.

Mike

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August 22, 1998

Q Hi
This is Sandy from MN, I just asked a question on my greeting to you, does that tell you how mixed up I am?

My husband is going through a midlife crisis; he has moved out of the house, been gone just a short time, there is no other person in either of our lives, we love each other, financially secure, age group of early 40's, recent death of father, and wondering if he did everything right in his life, such as having his own biological children; he has helped raised my children, and they all have a loving and close relationship.

We are both in separate counseling and I'm hanging on by a thread. I want my marriage and my husband, my best friend back. Does this sound like the typical MIDLIFE CRISIS? I've been told that it is and that I should hang in there, in time we'll find our way back to each other and our marriage will be better then ever. Is this the usual case.

Please help. Thank you

A Dear Sandy,
Yes, it sounds like your husband is in a midlife crisis stage. I agree with your counselor, that in time you MAY find your way back to each other. I as a counselor do not believe in giving someone false hope, thus I include the "MAY" word. I believe the statistic is that 80% of men return in this stage of life, but that means that 20% don't. Doesn't it?

Your situation sounds very much like my personal one (read about it in "There is a light at the end of the tunnel") . There are no guarantees when these crisis happen; the control is totally out of your hands as it relates to your husband. You ONLY have control over how YOU react to it and how YOU deal with it. I can only assume, without additional information, that your counselor is helping you to regain some of your self-esteem and is advising you to begin building a life for yourself..that is, to begin doing things...going out with friends (dinners).

Leave the door open for your husband, but also start living for YOURSELF. How are your children? How old are they? Mine were teenagers. It was very painful for them, but they have recovered fine. Both are married now and I'm a grandma many times over. Does your husband still talk to the children? Are they talking to him? A good relationship with them, may help him to realize how much he misses the family life. I conclude by telling you again that it DOES get better...either way. Also, I advise you to continue seeing your counselor.

I wish you the best, be strong.....if not fully for yourself, for your children who are also going through pain right now. ok?

susanne

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Q Hi
I am divorced after 17 years of marriage due to my husband having an affair. He wants us to get back together. I don't know if I want to go back.

I had been going to school for 5 years to gain my B.S. degree while working full time. We had no children for my ex didn't want any. I put too much emphasis on my work and my school and had no time for him. I helped him immensely in his work (he is self-employed) but he turned to a woman he met on the phone for comfort after his dad died, and his business got hit with a million dollar lawsuit that had little to do with him. The woman he met also suffers from depression and hasn't worked in 6 years. All they did was talk on the phone for hours and have rendezvous. He also suffers from depression and trigemingal neuralgia, a nerve disease that causes severe pain in the face. It was as if all this hit within a few months and he collapsed.

I can't forgive and forget while I know he is sincere and loves me and wants me to come back. Should I be on my own for awhile? Can I ask him to wait for me? I don't know what to do.

Any advise would help.

Thanks Starla

A Dear Starla,
You say that you "put too much emphasis on my work and my school and had not time for him." Is that what your husband told you was the reason that he turned to the other woman? Or is this what you yourself feel about your commitment to the marriage that you made? If it is that your husband told you that was the reason why he turned to the other women, then it is a "standard" (if there is such a thing), excuse not to take responsibility for his actions.

Nowhere in your letter do you say that you love, or even loved, this man. You are still very angry at him, and it sounds as if you actually are quite happy without him. Are you? If so, why would you want to go back? I feel that before you and he do move back together again, etc. that you BOTH enter into some serious marriage counseling--you to help you deal with the rage that you are still feeling toward him (that is why you can't get passed this and to "forgive"), him to find out why he betrayed you.

Unless you both deal with some of the issues and emotions that brought about this breakup, the marriage is doomed to repeated patterns and unhappiness. Don't misunderstand me, there is always hope for a marriage, IF, and that is a big "if" both parties are willing to work on it.

Have you started to go out on "dates"? It would be one way to see if you have any feelings left for this man, or he for you. In closing I advise, again, that you both seek out marriage counseling. In addition, if you haven't already, I think that you could benefit from some individual sessions to help you to let go of some of the anger and hurt that this has caused you. Either way, it will help you with your new life....with, or without him. I wish you the best.

susanne

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Q Hi
Please help me. I have been married 20+ yrs; my husband & I are both in our early 40s. He had a 5yr affair with an ex which resulted in a pregnancy. I found out when she sued for child support. What a shock to find out he had been unfaithful AND he had a child with this OW!

I have been through hell & back, barely surviving a nervous breakdown, & lost 20lbs. Thanks to God, Himself, I still have my sanity & my family intact. I have even welcomed this child into our home. BUT, I have never seen this woman. My husband refuses to introduce me. I refuse to see her alone. I NEED to see "who the enemy" was. Don't you think I need to know? If you would agree, how should I get this done? Oh, he dated her first, so technically, she may feel that I "stole her man". By the way, she has moved on & had a child for another man, but remains unmarried.

Your advice is appreciated. Lori

A Dear Lori,
Yo'ur in an especially painful experience. It speaks volumes for you that you are able to accept his child into your home. As you realize, the child is after all innocent, right? Do you and your husband have children? What do they think? Does your husband still see this other woman? Do you know?

You say that he refuses to introduce you; how does it happen that he sees her? Does he drop the baby off? It probably would not be a good idea for you to accompany him to drop off the baby. You will find yourself obsessing about this woman more, once you have a "face" attached to your fears. I think it is very inappropriate for him to see her by himself if that is what is happening. There should be a third party going along. This of course, is with the assumption that your husband has chosen YOU and is not "playing" either or both of you.

I strongly suggest that you go to counseling. Have you spoken with anyone? Your pastor? A women's center? Is your husband willing to go with you? Or does he think it is "all okay" now. You say that "she has moved on" and that she's had another child with another man. Has your husband said anything about how he feels about this woman? If he is truly over her, then there should be the standard visitation order in effect that usually happens with divorce. Is he (and you by default) paying child support? How is your marriage since this whole thing has happened and your husband chose to stay with you? Did it get stronger? How does he say he feels about you?

Much work needs to be done in your marriage to help you Both rebuild the marriage and family that you once had and to regain the trust that was lost as a result of this.

susanne

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August 17, 1998

Q Hi
 I've just discovered your web site, and it's great. I hope you can help.

 Here's the problem. I'm almost 42; my wife is 44. I've drifted for most of my adult life so far, either killing time as a "professional student" in a variety of settings, never learning anything I'd want to use, or working in a series of dead-end jobs (though I was a radio and TV reporter for a while, having taken a diploma in broadcast journalism after my B.A.--but I quit. I didn't like it, and I wasn't very good).

 Now, I find I've spent 8 YEARS as a postal worker, wondering where the time went and berating myself for not doing what I love. I could have been a great teacher, and I want to write training materials and get into instructional design.

 That's the work side. On the personal side, I've never been anywhere, never done anything--and now my wife and I are expecting a baby! We've been married eight years, and tried on and off, but didn't have any luck until now.

 I feel like I've just awakened from a coma, and find myself with my back to the wall. (Sorry for mixing the metaphors, but they do describe my state)

 All the midlife stuff I've read (books, etc.) ASSUMES we fortysomethings have already made it--i.e. We have the career, the big house, the three kids, and now we just have to tweak into a career change, maybe read a few issues of Men's Health, and we'll delete that midlife crisis.

 None of that speaks to me. I'm just getting started NOW. Are there any other "oldest rookies" out there?

 Oldest Rookie

A Dear Oldest Rookie
 In the first place, most people in this generation change careers several times over a life span--some experts predict as many as six changes for us boomers (I'm in my 3rd).

 Secondly, you imply that you've never done anything of consequence, which I seriously doubt, but, even then, you're about to assist God in the greatest miracle of all, bringing a new life into the world. This alone is your best chance to make a mark on the planet.

 Finally, the assumption that most midlifers have "made it" by this stage in life is a myth. Please read "The Myth of Making It," and then forget about stereotypic visions of success, and enjoy the successes you do have, which you will begin to notice if you just open your eyes to them.

Mike

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Q Hi Mike!
 This is my first time on your web page. I am a young and inexperienced pastor of a church in eastern Iowa. I ran across your page while looking for information on busyness for an upcoming sermon. I really appreciate your thoughts and insight on this topic.

 I haven't had 'time' to really dig into your page yet, but I wondered what role God plays, in your mind, in claiming the middle years of life as the best. Big question I know, but I was just curious about the perspective that you write from. Thanks for the help with my sermon and thanks in advance for your response.

 A new fan...Pastor Greg in Iowa

A Hi Greg.
I'm flattered that you found the piece helpful.

 To answer you question, I only can write with authority about my own experience since I don't know what part a belief in God plays with other midlifers (although many authors on the subject do mention spiritual renewal).

 For me, my midlife journey, and especially the renewal, would not have been possible without God. The Christian Gospel I embrace offers forgiveness for past failures (which gave me the courage to be honest and vulnerable), a renewed identity and sense of purpose (which helped me overcome the midlife struggles with shame and low self-esteem), an incredible power to cope and change (which has fueled both personal and career metamorphoses), and a bright hope for the future (which is why I can get up each morning).

 So your Bible does have important things to say to the midlifers in you church. Blessings on you.

 Mike

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Q Hi
I am in a job that I have been doing for the last 9 years. It is not a career that I planned for, but fell into. I believe that if I left this job I would have to take a significant cut in pay to do something else. The problem is not just that I want to change jobs or companies, but I want to have a career that I feel good about. Something that makes a difference.

 I am single and 36. I want to go back to college to obtain the training I would need. That would drastically change my lifestyle. Part of me thinks I am stupid to even consider leaving a job with great pay & benefits. Part of me thinks I can't stand this job much longer. I know that actions have consequences, but not taking action also has consequences.

 There is another factor in my decision making process. Both of my parents are in their mid 70's and they are both in poor health. They are currently able to take care of themselves. However, the day is soon approaching (within 1-2 years) that they will need round-the-clock medical attention.

 Part of me thinks I need to stay at my job until the time they need me. I really want to be with my parents as much as possible when that time comes. Thank you for your help.

 Allen in Indiana

A Hi Allen,
 When I was about your age, I went back to college part-time to train for a new career. Later on, I was able to switch to full-time and complete two graduate degrees.

 The point is that you can minimize your risk by beginning slowly and then becoming more involved in your new training as circumstances allow it.

 Also, trying new things on a part-time basis first will give you the chance to make sure this is what you really want to do before you irrevocably ditch you present job.

 Good luck to you.

 Mike

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August 12, 1998

Q Hi
What could (or should) happen when a 48 year old man and a 48 year old woman rediscover each other's love after 30 years?

Kathy and I met when we were 18 years old, seniors in High School. We dated most of our senior year, all of our first year of college, and some in our second year of college. We drifted apart thereafter, for a number of reasons, and each ended up with others. Terry and I have been married for nearly 27 years. Kathy and Bob just celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary.

Kathy and I have stayed in touch over the years, numerous cards, letters, and phone calls every year. Both of us treating the other as old friends, with no hint of romantic love. But, the thing is, we have each carried a torch for the other for 30 years.

Finally, after all of these years, we have each admitted to the other that our marriages were wrong, and that we have always loved each other. The last time we saw each other--until a few nights ago--was 22 years ago. Kathy and I spent this last week end together, each of our families believing that we were out of town on business (Kathy and I are both engineers). Now, this may seem odd to some of you, but even though we shared a bed one night, we did not share lovemaking. When Kathy and I were dating, our relationship was more platonic than physical. We were both two innocent virgins in high school. Although we always have hugged and kissed and held each other if we met, we have never made love. Emotionally though, we each care about the other more than either of us have ever cared about anyone else.

Neither of us want to hurt our families, but neither of us want to give up our renewed emotional bonds. Kathy and I are more compatible with each other, and more comfortable with each other, than we were 30 years ago. It is not going to be easy for either of us to always think of our families first.

I really need some advice.

Bill

A Dear Bill,
As we reach middle age and realize that ends do come, we begin to analyze what choices we made in the past and what roads were taken; often we regret these choices. It is important to realize that you are NOW reviewing your choice of 20+ years ago with a lot of "hindsight" and "Monday Morning Quarterbacking".....of course Kathy is more attractive to you now and you to her....neither of you has had to deal with the day to day "stuff" that married life is all about. It is a reminder othat "youth," often to our chagrin, is not a constant and does leave us. Thus, we hold on to the "old" memories, etc.

Most importantly, however, you need to think very hard about wrecking your and her lives. An "emotional affair" is just as dangerous as a physical one, maybe even more so. You can't tell me that you have not been "pre-occupied" while at home. If you were to spend the same amount of energy on rebuilding the "flame" with your wife and Kathy with her husband, perhaps BOTH of you and her families would be happier.

One more thing, at the time that you chose your wife as your life's partner, you based the decision on the "database of information" that you had available to you then. And with that information you chose NOT to marry Kathy and she chose to marry someone else. You are now trying to make a choice based on a whole set of different variables and bank of information....this one based on losses and mistakes made in a marriage (along with the good times).

Just like you will never be able to be a senior in high school again. can you again be an "innocent virgin?" In other words,. base your decision on who you and she (Kathy) are TODAY, not on who you were back then. You are only setting yourselves up for a whole lot of pain...and also pain for both your families. My recommendation is to let Kathy be a pleasant and wonderful memory of your youth, and your wife and family be your memories of today and the future.

susanne

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Q Hello
This is my second attempt at writing to you. It has been over a month since my first "contact" with you. When I went back and read what I wrote the first time it dawned on me I didn't give you much information. Perhaps that is the delay in seeing an answer on the board. Or perhaps you are just flooded with questions and it takes a while.

Nonetheless, I thought I would give you more information to hopefully make an answer from you easier. If you'd like to scrap the first request for help and just go with this one, that is fine.

My husband and I are coming up on our 14th year of marriage. I never thought it was possible for me to say I was unhappy in my marriage. I am finding myself crying a lot and over the littlest things ... songs on the radio are what get me the most.

About seven weeks ago my husband shattered my happiness. Out of the blue he told me that he was having a sexual problem. Although our life with our three year old has been busy, I didn't realize it was affecting our marriage that much. I couldn't imagine what was "wrong". Well, he went on to explain and our three year old had nothing to do with it.

He told me for two months prior to that any woman (attractive or even semi-attractive) that walked by would spark a sexual interest for him. "Any woman except for you that is", he said. I keep hearing those words resound in my head and I can't get them out. Now I have no desire for him. I question his true love for me. When I look at pictures from this two month period, all I see now is deceit. He has tarnished those pictures forever.

He has tried to assure me that his love for me has not changed and that he wants our marriage to continue. He has assured me that he has not acted on any of these impulses he gets around other women and he has even avoided situations where he could possibly find himself in an "awkward" position alone with another woman.

I appreciate his efforts at trying to remain faithful. I have offered to be available to him whenever he has these urges, with the thinking that perhaps if we did it more frequently his desire for others would diminish. He has only taken me up on my offer a handful of times and to be honest all I wanted was for the task to be over with. The idea that he may be imagining me as someone else while we are having sex (it is definitely not making love at this point), is just repulsing to me. I don't know that's what he is thinking -- and I don't WANT to know. If he told me yes, it would tear me apart even more.

We have a very honest relationship. He rarely tells me any of his problems. Why he told me this one, I don't know, but I am having a real hard time with it. He says his desires have lowered in frequency since he told me about this. And he goes on with life like nothing has changed.

Is this part of a midlife crisis? Is there hope for him? For us? For me? I don't know how to help him through it, and I don't know how to help myself with my reactions to his "problem".

Please, anything you can offer my way would be GREATLY appreciated. I have no where else to turn as my husband is a very well loved man, and a very good man, in our community. I wouldn't dare want to tarnish his image by telling a friend. And I don't want my family to think less of him, so I can't talk to family either.

Suffering in Silence in Greenville

A Dear Suffering in Silence
There is always "hope" for a "us", but unfortunately BOTH parities have to want to make the relationship work. Your husband's comments to you are cruel and emotionally damaging. For him to tell you that he's having sexual problems and that he's attracted to other women is selfish to put it mildly. How would he like it if you told him that YOU were having sexual problems and that you found other men more attractive than him? I am NOT suggesting that you do that, by the way, I am simply pointing out how selfish your husband's comments are.

At this stage I strongly recommend that you meet with a counselor to help you deal with the disappointment and hurt that this has caused in your marriage. It sounds very much like your husband "wants to have his cake and eat it too," which is often the case of midlife crisis. You need to work out what you can and cannot tolerate. How much are you willing to "share" him emotionally or otherwise?

He in turn, needs to see you as more than just a "dependent wife and mother to his child. It will take HIS willingness also to work on this marriage. You can't do it alone. You CAN however, help heal yourself and find the "old" self that he was attracted to to begin with. You have NO control over him and what he does; you only have control over how YOU react to it. Counseling will help you find the strength again to stand up TO him and FOR yourself. Good luck.

susanne

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Q Hi
I have written to you before about my husband, who is 38 and seems to be suffering classic mid-life crisis symptoms -- worrying about his image, weight, hair loss; getting a convertible; having an affair with a young woman in his office, not wanting to deal with reality, finances, etc.

Now he says he can't eat, sleep, work, cries all the time, doesn't know who he is, what he wants. He occasionally thinks about jumping out windows, but the thought of our kids stops him. He doesn't know who he is or what he wants. This says to me: clinical depression, and I am really concerned.

He has started to say that he misses "his" couch, where he slept before he moved out. He says I "should" have known he was just angry when he said he wanted a divorce and would never come back to me even if SHE kicked him out. He wants to "talk" once a week about our relationship.

I am very confused! My question is: how many people in midlife suffer true depression and how is the best way to help them deal with it? I have the feeling that until he gets to a doctor (which he's resisting) he won't be ABLE to deal with the other issues on his mind, never mind healing our relationship. I wonder how often DEPRESSION causes midlife crisis to be more severe. I don't know what to do! I feel like I'm walking a tightrope: if I act too concerned he'll think I'm mothering him, if I'm too aloof he thinks I don't care. How can I help?

Hanging in There

A Dear Hanging
Yes, midlife sufferers often are depressed. There is a real feeling of having lost control over oneself and sadness for the mistakes that have been made. There is also a strong current of anger (which can also be a symptom of depression) at how things have turned out. And there is a tremendous amount of guilt about the choices that were made during this phase which turned out to be "wrong" choices. It is sometimes referred to as "extended adolescence" and if you think about the behaviors of the typical rebellious adolescent, you can see how similar it is to someone in "midlife". Right?

Is your husband willing to go to couple's counseling with you? I strongly recommend that either both of you, you alone, or HE alone go for therapy. He definitely sounds like he's in a clinical depression. Unfortunately, the disease of depression is one where the "patient" is not likely to ask for help, instead just becomes immobilized and "turned inward."

Talk to him, have his friends and family talk to him. Have them tell him that he is loved. However, do not lose YOURSELF in his pity. Tell him that you love him, that you love the marriage, but that YOU also deserve to be happy. That you also deserve to have someone who loves you. Tell him that you will "talk" about the relationship once a week only with a "mediator" (counselor), not with just the two of you going in circles and not establishing anything.

You did say that "she threw him out" right? It sounds as he's "pining' away for her. Ask him that directly. And if he tells you yes and that you should be understanding of his pain....tell him that is not acceptable! That you deserve to be first in a relationship....not a "safety net." I hope that you are getting counseling to help you deal with the disappointment and pain that you've felt and are getting strong enough to stand up for yourself and your own rights to happiness and a committed relationship. I know this is a hard time for you, but it DOES get better. I wish you the best.

susanne

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August 7, 1998

Q Hi Mike,
My wife of 11 years recently kicked me to the curb. Being kicked to the curb at anytime of your life hurts but being kicked to the curb in midlife seems to hurt worse than I remember.

It all ended in the fall of '97. Our daughter had graduated from high school and my wife just graduated from medical school (which I paid for). I was advised via email that she wanted to pursue a new life, that she yearned to be free, etc.

During all this my father became very ill and a family crisis ensued as to what to do with him. I have always been a very strong person., a person others rally around for guidance. I now feel very weak. I still love my wife. My father has gotten better. I'm 43, in good health, have a great career, but feel all alone. Got any suggestions?

Kicked to the Curb in Los Angeles

A Dear Kicked,
Ouch. What a story! I've heard similar tales from midlife wives, but it's not as common to see a man jettisoned after putting his wife through school.

Of course you feel weak and alone; you've been through hurtful and scary times. The good news is that your can recover--you can establish rich relationships again; you can come out of this stronger than ever.

Are you seeing a counselor? Do you have a support group? What are you reading?

You've been a victim long enough; today you need to start becoming a victor. You sound like the kind of guy who, in past crises, has sat down, evaluated things, and mapped our a strategy to help others through tough times. Today you need to do the same for yourself.

You might start by reading Letting Go, Recovering Your Midlife Passion, and A Midlife Getaway. Also let me suggest Friends of Best Years as a starting place for a support group. And don't forget to make an appointment with a professional counselor.

Mike

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Q Hi Mike,
I am 37 and married to a man who is 42 and thinks his life is worthless. He is quite moody and withdrawn a lot of the time. Some days, I'm lucky if he pays me any attention.

We will be married 3 years (the good Lord willing) this month. I need some insight on men's mood swings as they approach mid-life.

I love my husband, but it hurts me deeply when he won't talk to me. He won't go to a marriage counselor, because we can't afford it, and he doesn't want to take time off work. He is a workaholic.

Confused in Amarillo

A Dear Confused,
I suggest Men in Mid-life Crisis by Jim Conway and Your Husband's Mid-life Crisis by Sally Conway. Also you might check out Male Menopause by Jed Diamond and Understanding Men's Passages by Gail Sheehy.

What kind of support do you have apart from your husband? You won't be able to help him if you are emotionally and spiritually depleted yourself?

If you aren't already, you need to get involved in a support group (look in the yellow pages under women's groups, or ask a marriage counselor for a suggestion, or maybe see if your church has a small group ministry for people in crisis). Just be sure to find a group where people can share their needs honestly without fear of disclosure or condemnation.

Good luck.

Mike

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Q Hi,
Are there any typical signs to look for in midlife affairs that indicate what one is experiencing is real or illusion? Namely, is this new person in my life really the most absolutely perfect person on earth for me, or am I manufacturing this love affair totally out of the internal changes that I am going thru at age 46?

How have others fared in this area? I am female, career-professional, married 22 years and I think in love for the first time, not with my husband. I am paralyzed with fear that I will turn out to be a silly middle-aged fool.

By finding this site I just realized I am not totally alone here.

Dazed in Seattle

A Hi Dazed,
Most experts say that midlife extramarital affairs are, by definition, illusionary. That's because we get (fall) into them for all the wrong reasons. Whether consciously, or more often subconsciously, we use them to shore up a sagging self-esteem, to take our minds off of unfulfilled expectations, or to keep us (if only for a moment) from facing the scary issue of midlife: our own mortality.

For women, there is also the beauty issue (it happens to men too, but not as dramatically). In our youth-dominated culture, women often feel that beauty is power. For men, we might think that wealth or intelligence is power. So when beauty starts to fade (as it does for all of us at midlife), the tendency is to panic.

Thus, an affair can be an addictive drug. It reassures us that we are attractive. The problem is, like other addictive drugs, the results are temporal and illusionary. They will wear off and we will have to face reality, which may be even more disturbing if we've lost a family that loved us in the process.

So I say end this thing immediately. Get yourself a good counselor who is familiar with midlife issues (just ask). And begin to deal with your midlife fears.

Finally, there are joys and pleasures to be experienced in the second half of life (some say the best ones), but you never will know them until you let go of the false high.

Mike

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July 27, 1998

Q Hi,
I am a 41-year-old male who is preparing to go through a career change. Currently, I manage projects in the area of computer system implementations. I've realized a while ago that this type of work has not been enjoyable or fulfilling.

I am considering several career alternatives, but am concerned that I may not be able to research my options and continue full-time employment at the same time. Since my current employer does not offer part-time work, this would mean quitting my current job before I have a new one. My financial situation would permit me to go unemployed for several months, but I've always believed that becoming unemployed (even at my own choosing) can narrow the number of employers who would be interested in me. Should this be a valid concern for me?

Employed & Miserable

A Hi E&M,
I think you're right. Finding employment while one has no job is like selling a house that is vacant. The buyers (employers) seem to assume there must be something deficient with the property.

I'd say keep your job while you're looking, even if only long enough to find suitable part-time work.

Good luck.

Mike

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Q Hello.
Having raised my two children as a single mother, focused on merely surviving and meeting the needs... I was always extremely focused to work hard - constantly move ahead and to never limit myself. I never had the luxury of asking myself if I liked what I was doing, but was in a position to earn the most I could. As my daughter is starting college, I am asking myself what is my life's calling? My purpose was so clearly to just "GET BY" which all by itself was huge... what is the purpose for my life?

I just got married again last fall, and my life has settled down; things are somewhat easier and yet there is a restlessness in me to find my life's purpose. I want to contribute something... to do something... to make a difference in my life's work. What do you do if you're 42 and you don't know what you want to do when you grow up? Is this common?

Meanwhile I just crashed my new car into a highway construction drum while trying to adjust to my new progressive bifocals. And just today, I tried on a dress and saw my mother's knees. My 83-year-old father would love to be my age again... I'm not old and I've lived too long and know too much to be young. John Lennon said "Life is what's happening while you're out making other plans." I love this. Am I having a mid-life crisis?

Linda from Indianapolis.

A Linda,
Maybe not a midlife crisis, but certainly midlife-type thoughts. And, yes, it's common to desire a purpose and calling at this time in life, to want to not just "get by."

I suggest that you do some reading (you'll find some suggestions in the Booknook) and maybe some listening (I find it helpful to talk with those 83-year-olds in our lives), and then some reflecting (see my column, "A Midlife Getaway").

I think Lennon's point is that we can get so focused on the future that we miss the present. I say focus on both--make new plans and begin implementing them, but not at the expense of meaningful living right now.

Hope this helps.

Mike

P.S. I've got the noline bifocals also. What a funny story!

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Q Dear Mike,
I have sent two messages but I forgot to put guest in the subject line. I am new at this internet thing, but my sister told me of your web page. I have so many things on my mind I have been troubled for quite a long time; this is hard ( and unusual ) for me to seek this type of help. I feel very alone a lot of the times in my marriage. We have 3 children; our oldest, a girl is doing very well in college. She will be graduating next year. The problem is our two teenage sons (17, 19); my husband and I cannot agree on how to handle some serious problems.

My oldest dropped out of high school and is attending a community college (special program ) to earn diploma and associates at the same time. I know he smokes marijuana, not very motivated, works maybe 2 days a week; the younger son is still in school but not exactly doing stellar work....I have caught him "smoking" as well. I spend a great majority of my time trying to talk to and parent my sons. I know my husband is concerned but I feel he is very complacent in his parenting. We have had MANY serious fights over how to handle these situations. I have begged for us to get "help" he told me I need it......ouch!!I

I realize I am not the only person with troubles, I don't mean to go on and on....I have sent 2 other messages; I guess I am not sure of the protocol of this web page "stuff." Do I keep checking ?????

I really could use some help/advice/shoulder.....there is more.

Please advice me or I will keep checking. Thanks for listening..

Disappointed in the North East...

A Dear Disappointed,
Sorry to be so long in answering, but (1) we get a bunch of emails and (2) I've been away for a couple of weeks.

I hear from many midlifers who share your struggle with wayward teens and I hear from almost as many who struggle with their spouses over what to do about it.

I think the most practical thing for you to do at the moment is to seek professional counseling for the only one in this situation you can control: yourself. Regardless of what your husband and sons do, you need some support and insight to get through this.

In addition, the counselor might suggest strategies to get the others involved. More likely, if the support helps you become a more balanced, happier, person, perhaps your family will come to you with a desire to find out what is helping.

Finally, you might join the new Friends of Best Years Site (will start this week) to receive daily support from others with similar problems.

I wish you the best.

Mike

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July 12, 1998

Q Hi,
After reading the Q & A section of your web site, I am convinced that my husband of 22 years (43 yrs. old) is in the midst of a midlife crisis. He moved out 3 months ago and is having a relationship with a 30 year old. He initially insisted that they were just friends, but has recently admitted that he thinks he loves her. He insists that the relationship has not gone as far as sex.

He still tells me that he loves me, though he does not think he has the feelings for me that he should. He seems to have a need to keep in constant contact with me. He either calls or stops by everyday, sometimes several times. This will be more difficult after next week, since I am starting a new job. He can't or won't tell me that he wants a divorce. He seems to move in that direction and then does a complete turn around, telling me he does not want to lose me.

Our sex life has always been one of the best parts of our relationship. Even when things are bad, it has still been good. Since he left, we have continued our sexual relationship. In some ways it has even gotten better. He tells me he feels bad about it because he is afraid he will give me the wrong idea about his feelings. I am really torn. How stupid is it to continue to have sex with a man who says he doesn't love you as he should? On the other hand, he is still my husband, and at least it keeps us close and connected.

I know there probably isn't any simple answer to this, but what is the best thing to do? Also, I know that I can't change him, but is there any way to bring him to his senses? I believe ( and so do all our friends and family ) that he is going to end up sorry and miserable. Thanks for your input.

Dazed and Confused

A Dear Dazed and Confused,
It's a tough call to say whether you should continue having sex with your husband even though he has this "friendship" with that other woman. As you say it can make you feel closer, but is it also a way of avoiding the reality for both of you? He needs to decide what he wants to do and, I believe, he is probably at this time unable to do so. He's going through emotional pain and confusion not much unlike yours.

There obviously is still a "connection" between the two of you, but I would not suggest making "sex" the only thread. Is he in fact releasing his sexual energy with you...so as to avoid feeling guilty about this "emotional" affair?

In order for you two to have a chance at a marriage, the friendship has to stop. It is asking for trouble. Inevitably it WILL lead to sex with the other woman, and where does that leave you? I suggest that you seek out a counselor to help you deal with the confusion, anger and pain that you are feeling, and, of course, get back some of the self-esteem that you've lost along the way.

In addition, I suggest that you read some of the old letters in the Q&A section of this web site. You will see yourself and your situation in quite a few of them I'm sure. By the way, have you asked your husband whether he's willing to go to marriage counseling? If he says no, go by and for yourself. good luck to you.

susanne

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July 3, 1998

Q Hello,
Can women have a mid-life crisis? I am 46-years-old with a wonderful husband of 24 years, 2 great kids and a wonderful life. I got it all and I know it. Yet, I find myself looking for something else.

I am still quite attractive and am always thinking and looking to have an affair--so far I have not followed through which I am grateful for (stupid I ain't). But I am scared of myself and where I might be heading. I have contacted an old boyfriend from 26 years ago and do fool around on the internet somewhat. I so don't want to mess up my life but I seem to be heading for a disaster and I can't or don't want to stop it. I make up all kinds of excuses to myself why it is okay but I know it is not.

Reading some of your articles I grew up with no security in my home and not much parental supervision or advice(parents divorced). Help--stop me before I do something I know I will regret.

Please Stop Me

A Dear Please Stop Me,
Yes, women can have a midlife crisis, and, I'm not a psychologist, but I'd say you're in one.

You are insightful to see that an affair would mess up your life (and the lives of others as you will see in the following letter). I'm also impressed by your honesty--realizing that your "can't" might be more accurately a "don't want to stop it."

I have two pieces of advice:

One, immediately see a professional counselor (and maybe a close female friend) to share your feelings with. You need both advice and accountability. And hurry; the fact that you've already made some overtures tells me that your are bailing water from a fast sinking ship. You need help NOW.

Two, know that what you are looking for will not be found in an affair (at least not in the long run). Please read my column "Our Desires Are Too Weak," and then set out to discover (or rediscover) your true passion in life. Only this will fill the empty place in your soul, and, in the process, keep from harming those you love.

Good luck.

Mike

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Q Help!
I think my dad is going through a midlife crisis. My husband and I own a double house with my parents, so I hear a lot and see a lot. My parents have always done everything together. They loved to go antiquing and to craft shows. They love decorating their home together. My father loved to bake, always from scratch.

All of a sudden, he's never home. I truly don't believe it has anything to do with an affair. He has a male friend that he has been helping do some remodeling work. He started going once a week. Now he goes almost everyday, from the time he gets out of work till late at night. My parents fight and he blames my mother saying she is too possessive and she's never satisfied. He wants her to be satisfied with an hour here or there.

I try to tell her that she is in no way at fault here. This is very hard for me because I have always been extremely close with my father. He has not only pushed away from my mother, but myself and my brother and his grandkids. I use to go out with my parents at least once a week, sometimes twice. He no longer has any time for these things. This has been building over a four or five month period. My parents have been married 32 years and it is killing me to see this happening, and I find myself very angry with my father and blame him fully.

We now stand here. I believe he is leaving. He is looking for a place. He has told my mother that he loves her but does not like the person she is. He NEVER wants to go to craft shows or do things in the house that they use to do because they are "girly things." He is now totally into his body. He wants to do things now like hunt, rollerblade, get tattoos. These are all things he use to make so much fun of. He is throwing a 32-year-old marriage away. How can I help my mother through this. Her whole life is my father. She has never done anything without him. She is so lonely. I can't bare the pain she is in.

Is this marriage really over? This just goes to prove that the kids of a marriage are never old enough to be able to handle the pain of parental problems. I am 28 years old and this is killing me. I guess the difference is the maturity to work it through and I can give my mother all the support she needs. Is there anything you can tell me???????????

HELP!!!!

A Dear Help,
You are a good daughter. Both your mother and father are lucky to have you at this difficult time in their lives.

You are right to focus mostly on helping your mother. Continuing to reassure her that this is not her fault is a good idea, as is trying to get her to a professional counselor (look in the phone book and shop around; try to find someone who specializes in midlife issues). You also might try to find a support group. In addition, give your mother this web address. Here she will see that she is not alone and will receive encouragement from others in similar circumstances.

All you can do for your father right now is to share honestly how you feel (I say do this only once or he will see it as nagging) and then tell him you love him and don't want to see him lose something he may never regain.

If he asks, you can go further and suggest counseling, but he probably won't. My readers suggest keeping the communication lines open, trying to maintain some kind of relationship even though it will be far from perfect. You don't want to burn bridges you may someday want to cross.

Good luck.

Mike

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