A midlife crisis, as it is commonly understood, is a major shift in how a person perceives and reacts to the world around them. This usually occurs anywhere from one’s late thirties to early fifties. It tends to be brought on by major events in life, like the death of a parent, or a milestone birthday. It often manifests as feeling trapped in your life and wanting to bring about major change within a short period of time.
This can be, of course, devastating for the spouses of those people undergoing the transition, as it can often result in divorce. Few things are more hurtful than having the person you have known for years, and made a life with, suddenly go through what looks like an overnight change. But there are a few things that you can do to smooth the way if your spouse seems to be undergoing major personal changes in the form of a midlife crisis.
The first thing you need to realize is: it’s not about you! It may feel like you are in some way the cause or the instigator, but you need to work at accepting the fact that this is an entirely internal transition. And while the fallout will affect you, you didn’t cause it in the first place.
Secondly, you need to accept that nothing you say or do is going to prevent it from happening. Don’t try to rationalize or argue or manipulate your spouse out of what they are experiencing. Accept that you cannot change it, but that if you want your relationship to survive, you need to commit to being as kind and supportive of your partner as you can be during this difficult time.
Thirdly, know going in, that major change is almost inevitable. Because people tend to take a good, hard look at their lives during the course of a midlife crisis, and often feel a deep-seated desire to address the areas that they aren’t satisfied with, you need to understand that if your marriage wasn’t a happy, healthy, fulfilling one to begin with, it may end up being one of those “unsatisfactory areas” that gets “addressed”.
The most important thing is to not take it personally.
While this can be terrifying, it can also be good. Sometimes it takes a major upheaval for people to address things that, while they weren’t necessarily “good enough” to begin with, they were also not “bad enough” to warrant the discomfort of dealing with. If your marriage has been lackluster and passionless for years, maybe this will force you both to address the issues that have come between you and make some positive changes.
If your spouse chooses to address the difficult subject of divorce with the explanation that “neither of us has been satisfied in this marriage for years” or “you know this isn’t working, neither of us is really happy”, perhaps they have a point. Painful as it may be to consider, maybe your relationship has fallen into a rut and you need to take a good, hard look at what you want moving forward.
Propose the idea of marital counseling and make it known that you are open to the idea of change. If they aren’t happy, and deep down inside, you aren’t either, then maybe it is time for change. But change doesn’t have to mean divorce. It can mean altering the way you spend time together, the way you talk to each other and even the things you do together. Be willing to bend, because in a storm, things that don’t bend, end up breaking.
And lastly, be supportive. This doesn’t mean saying “yeah, sure, that’s great honey!” to every random idea your spouse may have. But it does mean being willing to listen and not judge or dismiss their feelings when they share with you. By providing a stable and loving foundation on which your spouse can undergo change means that the change itself is less likely to be negative and your relationship is more likely to survive.
However, in the event that your marriage is not able to weather this storm, or your spouse is unwilling to work through this transitional time with you, we are here to help. Contact our experienced family law attorneys for a free consultation whenever you decide that it’s time. We are available to assist you through with all of your family law concerns.