male midlife crisis

Every day, at Couples Therapy Inc, we help men come to grips with a restlessness inside that threatens to destroy their marriage.   It's a special kind of couples therapy, which demands that each spouse re-examine their lives, their priorities, and the values they hold dear, and not sell themselves short, or their families.  Perhaps they're called "Midlife Crisis Men."

Schedule a consultation with our Intake Coordinator, Daniel or the clinician of your choice to learn more.  Contact us. 

We're here to help.

The Start of a Male Midlife Crisis:  Thomas and Carrie

Thomas looked through his law school "update" of classmate achievements. It told him what his graduating peers were now doing, and he reflected on what he was doing. He sat down and stared at the wall for a long time.  When his wife tried to talk to him, he joked, but she could tell he was upset.

"I know it's not how I wanted to live my life," he told her, "but I can't help but feel like a loser compared to them..."

Thomas was a successful lawyer in his own firm, but he had not become a leader of government, the head of a large corporation, or a Chief Justice.  Neither, (had he thought to himself, quietly) had he married a woman as successful or glamorous as his peers.  Many, he noted, seemed to be on their second marriage, and married to a "younger model." It was a thought he quickly discarded and felt ashamed for thinking it.

...He started drinking wine at dinner, something he had never done before...

Yet, he seemed to find fault with Carrie over the next month and began making disparaging statements to himself about her, his life, and his chosen career.  He suggested that they might be better off to leave Chicago, a city that wasn't "home," but both of them had grown to love.  Nightly, he started to drink wine with dinner, something he had never done before.  And he started to spend longer and longer hours on the internet, rather than come to bed with his wife, a tradition they had agreed to years before.

Carrie told herself to be patient.  Thomas was often in a funk after reading "that darn update."

But when she discovered texting between him and a former sweetheart, everything broke loose.

Do you feel as if you or your husband or wife is going through a midlife crisis? Could it lead you (or them) to leave your marriage? I'll be talking about this and other issues in this post including:

  • What is a Midlife Crisis?
  • Are Middle Life Crisis always in Mid-life?
  • What is a Male Midlife Crisis?
  • Are their Midlife Crisis Stages?
  • What are the Stages of Midlife Crisis?
  • Is there such a thing as a "Midlife Crisis Divorce"?
  • Are Midlife Crises Common?

What is a "Midlife Crisis?"

For many adults, it is a time to stop, reflect, and pay attention to the internal gnawing inside that tells them "Something's going on." Part of the challenge is to be in enough touch with yourself and to be able to be honest enough, to look head on into that feeling and make necessary, but often difficult changes.  For many people, those changes are in their individual lives:

  • Their health,
  • Their jobs or careers,
  • Their self-careIs,
  • Their friendships.

Is a Middle Life Crisis always in Mid-life?

Of course a "mid-life crisis," is, by definition a crisis that occurs at midlife.  But a "life crisis" at any age are defined as instability in mental and emotional health, affecting the individuals for a year or longer. And can alter the course of their lives.  So a life crisis can really happen at any age.

Psychologist Nic Beets, from Couple Work in Auckland, New Zealand says:

"A mid life crisis is a good and normal thing to have.  We should pause in mid-life and reflect on the choices we’ve made and consider if they are serving us well.  The danger is in thinking "I’ve done the wrong things - married the wrong person, taken the wrong job, lived in the wrong city..." Then we are likely  to rush out and do something else - take a new lover, buy a new car  etc etc.  The real profit comes from reflecting on who I have been and the way I have been being.   Reflecting on this honestly helps us see the ways we have been undermining or thwarting our committed relationships."

So from this perspective, the danger in a midlife crisis comes from jumping into action, rather than understanding that each decision we've made in our lives is neither "good" nor "bad" in itself.  They've been decision points on life's path.  Regret can be problematic, and create its own set of difficulties.

What's a Male Midlife Crisis? Are there "Midlife Crisis Men" who are More Susceptible?

Thomas, the lawyer we met above, was 45 years old, an age where men often go into crisis.  And he was middle aged. Many men in a midlife crisis have suffered from some distress previously in their lives.  Interestingly, men who have changed careers or jobs earlier in their lives, seem to have a lower percentage of "crisis" than other men.  Men living in China and India don't appear to be "Midlife Crisis Men."

“The shift from one era to the next is a massive development step and require transitional period of several years,” said Daniel Levinson, in his best seller "Seasons of a Man's Life" (1977).  Levinson outlined five phases of a man's life:

  • Phase One: Pre-adulthood stage (age 0 – 22),
  • Phase Two: The early adulthood stage (age 17 – 45),
  • Phase Three: The middle adult stage (age 40 – 65)
  • Phase Four: The late adulthood stage (age 60 – 85), and
  • Phase Five: The late-late adult stage (age 80 plus).

The fourth phase of Levinson’s model is called Becoming One’s Own Man, or BOOM phase, is what is commonly called "A midlife Crisis."  In this stage, the man feels constrained. He sees where he's come, and he feels the limitations.  He may begin to have power struggles with the authority figures in his life.  He wants things to get "real."  He wants to reach his potential.  He wants a life that is true, and rich and genuine.

But along with this, he is also aware of the amount of responsibility he already has and may feel a great sense of burden.

In a study I completed in graduate school, we learned that many of Levinson's study subjects were themselves fathers, who had children in adolescence.  Just as his teenagers are struggling with a sense of "Who am I?" and "What do I want from my life, who do I want to be?" the father can often struggle with these same questions.  Levinson reports that men believe they have one last "push" in them to succeed (although that is more perception than reality).

There Is No Ceiling to Success

If he has reached the "C" level, he wonders if he's in the right corporation.  If he's running a corporation, he wonders if he should be owning it, or starting another one.

If he is in a career, he realizes, like Thomas, that people in the world around him have more authority and prestige than he does.  And in the deep recesses of his mind, Thomas also feared that he had made the wrong choice in so many areas of his life...most terrifyingly in his marriage.

Family of Origin Issues

In the song: "Father and Son," two men struggle with an age-old story of dreams versus practicality.


How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It's always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.


I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy,
To be calm when you've found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why think of everything you've got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.


All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I'd agree, but it's them they know, not me.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

Now, in a midlife crisis, both Father AND Son are the same person.  Perhaps, as in Thomas's case, the man's father is aged and in poor health.  For many men, a crisis occurs at the loss of a parent or a close friend. At the death of a parent, people in middle age realize that they, themselves are mortal. It can be an unsettling thought that won't leave them.

And even if the parents are still alive, they are aging, and for many adults, roles are reversed:  Thomas's father now needs Thomas to care for him and make adult decisions.

Yet, inside of Thomas, there was a storm raging, the restless part that says: "There's a way and I know that I have to go away." 

Another voice was also present inside him as well. This is the more mature and rational side.  He was telling himself: "...take your time, think a lot. Think of everything you've got, for you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not."

Thomas needed to express both sides of himself. Had he been clearer, he might have sought out the help of an individual or couples therapist to talk about his ambivalence. He also needed his wife on his side to do it. He had tried, he told me, to tell her that he wanted to make changes, but she seemed to "dismiss them."  In reality, he himself dismissed them, because he was also internally ambivalent.

Unfortunately, like so many men in his situation, he split off these two sides of himself, and externalized them, when through Facebook, he "reconnected" with a former girlfriend, Nicole. For Thomas:

  • The Father was embodied in his relationship with his wife, Carrie,
  • while he began to share his dreams, his "crazy strivings," with this lover from his youth, Nicole.  Through that relationship, he was able to become the "rebellious."

More on that in a bit...

Breaking Out into a Midlife Crisis

Thomas was not the only male in the family struggling with rebellion and ambivalence. Thomas's son, Timothy, was now 17 and looking at colleges.  He had so many choices ahead of him, and Thomas did an outstanding job of helping his son to carefully consider the options. But he son was also struggling with his own ambivalence about leaving a home, where he had two supportive, loving parents.  That ambivalence showed up in fights with his mother, Carrie.

Carrie told me that she felt like she had two teenagers at home, not just one.  When she'd ask for cooperation around household tasks, that used to be "no big deal," now their son, put up a fight.  When she'd turn to Thomas for support in talking to Timothy about compliance, she'd hear: "Go easy on him, he's just got one more year at home..."

Even Thomas himself seemed to contribute to, and intensify the chaos of what used to be an orderly home.  He'd come home late for dinner, and seem angry that Carrie wanted a "heads up." Instead of asking for consideration on his part, he now framed her requests as "controlling."  Then Timothy would come home even later, and start making his dinner all over again, as the kitchen was put back in order.

Carrie was upset, but mostly just confused.

Until she saw the texting with "that woman."

Midlife Crisis Affairs

"That woman" was Nicole.  Nicole was a woman Thomas knew many, many years ago. Back then, he had decided (for good reason) that Nicole was an inappropriate life mate.  She initially contacted Thomas on Facebook, and at first, their contact was limited to a few public exchanges.  But as Thomas's own internal turmoil grew, so did his conversations with Nicole. Eventually, he began to have "private chats" with her.  Then phone texting.

He shared his "crazy dreams" of getting out of law completely.  He told her how much he loved to work with wood as a teenager, and she remembered.  She had kept a jewelry box he had made her, and sent the picture of it.  Thomas felt lighter and freer talking to her.  She didn't "poo poo" his ideas like he had imagined Carrie would do... ("But Timothy will be in college!").  Did he want to get closer to Nicole?  Absolutely.  But more than that, he wanted to get closer to the way he felt when he texted, and later talked to her.  He wanted to feel like he once did like he wanted his son to feel:  anything is possible.  Your dreams have value.

The Midlife Crisis Intensifies

Understandably, when Carrie discovered the emotional affair, she was hurt and angry.  It had been over two months since Thomas had approached her for sex, and she told herself it was the stress of his busy law practice.  Now she suspected he was having sex somewhere else. Fortunately, she was wrong, but it brought them into couples therapy.

Canadian therapist Sue Potts says: "Couples who don’t work actively on keeping their passion alive, can hit a "mid-life relationship crisis” and start looking elsewhere for their fun.  This could include online sexual encounters, real life affairs or a compulsive hobby that preoccupies all their spare time."

In Thomas's case, it was an internal withdrawal from his wife, that lead to a mutual complacency.  Carrie knew he was withdrawn, but she saw it as temporary.  She herself was peri-menopausal and coping with her own issues of aging, and a teenage rebellious teen, she didn't have the "energy" to reconnect with her husband and investigate what was wrong.  She was waiting for it to blow over.  Instead, it blew up.

And how could Thomas explain it?  He didn't want to give up what was making him feel alive and passionate again.  He had already felt deadened by the burdens of life.  The unfortunate part was that Thomas believed it was Nicole, and not his own internal discontent and desires, that he wanted.  His frame was wrong.  He told his wife that she was being unreasonable, in demanding that he "give up" this "harmless friendship."

After all, they've "never even kissed."

Is there such a thing as a "Midlife Crisis Divorce"?

Absolutely.  I see it and try to stop it all the time.  Too often, these are like runaway freight trains.  Sometimes they appear to the spouse to "come out of nowhere" but to the person leaving, they'll say: "This has been brewing for a long time..."

They show up differently for men and women.  For men, like Thomas, it may have started with a feeling of a general malaise.  His unsettled feeling about his job, watching his son's excitement and fears about going to college, that update from his former law school, and perhaps his wife's own increasing irritability going through peri-menopause, caused him to unconsciously fall into an emotional affair with Nicole.  Had Carrie not found out about it, it might have turned into a sexual involvement.

But for many men in Thomas's position, he would have been shocked to learn, only a year earlier, that he would "fall in love" with another woman and leave his wife.  He would have told you he was a happily married man...and he would have been right.

What are the Stages of Midlife Crisis?

While some researchers suggest that men can have "midlife crises" that last 3-10 years, there may not be "stages" per se.  We may see a variety of preoccupations such as new hobbies, gadgets, boats, etc.  They may seek to place themselves in the company of younger people, whether that's in the role of mentor, parent, or sexual partner.  They may experience depression or have deep feelings of remorse over past wrongs.  They may also have a preoccupation with appearance, and a desire to appear or dress more youthfully, impact baldness or get more physically fit.

They may also put pressure on their own children to "make up for" things that they, themselves "did wrong," whether that's in athletics, academia, or some other area.

Of great concern is the use of drugs or alcohol to treat the angst and anxiety or depression they are experiencing.

Recommitting to Life Goals and Dreams

The sooner the man comes to grips with the issues in his life that he feels the desire to change, the sooner he can move from crisis to resolution.

Thomas's marriage was in crisis, yes. However it was difficult for both of them to realize that Thomas really needed to painfully reflect not only on was not his marriage, but his entire life's goals. Reappraising one's life is tough at any stage, but Thomas now had to do that with an angry wife and facing the potential of separation or divorce.

But for many couples like this, we needed to sort out "dreams" from "realities," and allow Thomas to articulate what he actually needed, from the fantasy of what he thought he wanted.

After that, he has to heal and repair the damage done to his marriage, that came from his actions.

The Dreams of Divorce

It is sometimes tempting for a man in a midlife crisis to consider divorce...or at least the most positive aspects.

  • "I can have the house all to myself."
  • "I don't have to tell anyone what time I'll be home."
  • "No one will complain if I watch 8 straight hours of sports on TV."
  • "I can see more of my friends."
  • "I can meet new and interesting people."
  • "The fighting will stop and I can finally have peace in my life."

But they forget about what Steely Dan calls: "The Things I Miss the Most."

"I don't miss the funky attitudes. And I don't miss the fights:"

If you're not into Steely Dan, the song talks about a man who's divorced, and how he thinks about what he misses:

  • The talk
  • The sex
  • Somebody to trust

...and of course, if you have resources...

  • The Audi TT
  • The house on the Vineyard
  • The house on the gulf coast

Recommitting to a marriage often involves facing into the benefits of staying married, and looking to be able to incorporate into one's MARRIED life, the things they hope divorce will promise:  time alone, a renewal of friendships, re-establishing a power balance in the marriage, etc.

Do Midlife Crisis Affairs Last?

On this, the statistics are pretty clear: No.

Gottman says only 3% go on to marry and of those, over 70% end in divorce.  That notion of "rebound" comes in here.  If you don't know where you are going, or what you want, you'll probably end up somewhere else. And life dreams usually aren't found in another human being.  They develop in the work two people do to build a genuine life.

Are Midlife Crises Common?

Not in the same disrupting degrees. Only 10% of people would suffer to the extent that they need support or help.  But 10% is a huge number when you're talking about "everybody."  What's important to understand is unlike the teenager, Tom, adult Thomas has many options, and is restricted by only his own internal demons.  Will there be trade-offs if he wants to become a woodworker, and give up law?  Of course, but these might be trade-offs he or Carrie might be willing to make if it means he'll find greater job satisfaction and both find greater marital happiness.

Ready for a change in your relationship?

It starts with a no-obligation 15 minute phone call with our client services team.

Dr. Kathy McMahon

Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K) is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also the founder and president of Couples Therapy Inc. Dr. K feels passionate about couples therapy and sex therapy and holds a deep respect towards those who invest in making their relationship better. She is currently conducting online and in person private couples retreats.

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  1. I visited Couples Therapy Inc and was impressed by their website's quality and breadth of information. As someone interested in relationships and therapy's role in improving them, I think their articles and resources are informative, engaging, and thought-provoking. The website is also user-friendly and easy to navigate, which is always a plus in my book. Overall, Couples Therapy Inc is a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their relationship or learn more about the benefits of couples therapy.
    Here's a question that I don't think is answered on the blog:
    What is the success rate of couples therapy, and how do therapists measure success in this context?

  2. Thanks for sharing this informative article on midlife crises in men! It's essential to recognize men's unique challenges and struggles during this transitional period of life. The post offers practical tips and advice to help men navigate this phase successfully and become more assertive on the other side. It's great that couples therapy can provide the necessary support and guidance to overcome midlife crisis issues. Overall, an excellent resource for men and their partners who may be going through this challenging phase.

  3. I found out about my husband’s affair 7 weeks ago. The lies he told, hanging out with friends and helping friends out. He missed our anniversary to be with her. He just turned 60 and has depression and PTSD. He fell in love with his 26 year old coworker and they both got fired from their job on the same day – apparently for vaping in the same work truck. My husband had all these dreams and now none of them mean anything. He told me he wanted to see where this was going with her. The first couple of weeks I begged and pleaded with him. He even went to Halloween party with her. He hates parties and Halloween! He cut off all his friends and family, even his kids. Haven’t kicked him out since he has no job. Now I don’t plead, beg, yell or ask questions. He is openly having the affair, staying at her house week days or weekends. His phone rings constantly and he always answers her calls and text. I think he may have even gotten a job just recently with her but he hasn’t said. I wanted to try and work it out but now I am not too sure. I also think a few years he may have had another affair that he said he would hang out with friends. I did see a guy in his car with him then but other things told me otherwise it was a woman. I was sure his crisis started then. I don’t know what to do. We have 3 kids and they know. I am trying to be strong and work on myself. He notices when I am in different to him and tries to talk or joke with me. He never looks me in the eye. Am I fools for letting him stay? Will this relationship with her work? He buys her stuff constantly and does everything for her including driving her to and from work. He then comes home to our house and hangs out all day and does nothing around the house. I pray everyday. I am sooooo lost.

    1. You can wait it out. You can demand you both go to couples therapy. You can leave. Those are about your choices. But whatever you do, be good to yourself. Get a new haircut and some new clothes. A gym membership. A new job. Go back to school. Pick up an interesting hobby. Made vacation plans. Just DON’T STAY STUCK.

    2. You can wait it out. You can demand you both go to couples therapy. You can leave. Those are about your choices. But whatever you do, be good to yourself. Get a new haircut and some new clothes. A gym membership. A new job. Go back to school. Pick up an interesting hobby. Make vacation plans. Just DON’T STAY STUCK.

  4. I need help please. My husband and I don't fight or argue and last Saturday he comes home from work and tells me. I am not happy and I don't love you. It me not you. Then he tells me he is going to file for divorce. Please help me what can I do. I am so hurt, lost in words and heart broken. I would understand if we were fight but we weren't. I just want he back home. Most of my friends say he's going through midlife crisis. He's 45. Please help me what I need to do for him to come back home. Thank you

    1. Unfortunately, you can’t “make him see reason.” All you can do is to learn to listen to what is complains are (were) and try to understand why he left. Consider “Hopeful Spouse” to get a more personalized, targetted help to put yourself in the best position to rescue your marriage.

  5. My husband of 28 years and I divorced after his last affair. There have been many for him in our marriage. I asked him to choose between “her” and I and he did not choose. To me, that was a choice. We both were very sad and upset that it had come to this yet he did not say he valued me or wanted to seek help to make it work. I am in utter devastation ” I filed”. I cannot seem to get out of this funk. I still love and miss him so much. Our family is in shambles. I want him to want me again as I do him and our life. Is this possible? He is dating and ” she is happy”, he acts happy but he is not. He has spoken to our son in law and has conveyed this to him but he will not step forward to me. He is pretending so hard. Our grandchildren are so confused. Please help!!!

  6. I just let my husband go now. He came back once but seemed depressed & angry I tried being there talking with him etc.. he just seemed raging & blaming me for his misery. So I gave him space it’s been 7 weeks I feel better. If it’s true love will be together if not it’s best to set someone your husband free .. you don’t own him. It’s his life if he loves you he will let you know. If not you have no choice bout to move on & find someone hopefully the does. Sounds harsh but you need to become independent of him… date others etc.. live like you have no pain. Hold your head high set him free he isn’t your possession he is your husband. Sorry being honest here. If someone truly loves you they come back ok.

    1. My hubby is def. going through this. We were seperated (my choice) for 2 years but were reconciling. Boom he tells me he filed divorce & is living with someone. That was November. Now he says he is thinking of me all the time & cant wait to see me to make love to me when we go on this trip together. Seems he is finding his way back to me and good n ews is as SOON as he told me all this I started LISTENING & not blaming & prayed for guidance & somehow I was able to love him more & CHANGE myself to be a better mate. It has been HARD so HARD & I am not done yet but I ask for prayers that the marriage stays intact & we can reunite soon. I too have teen kids & it is so hard to go through this with them always criticizing me every second, UGH.

  7. Hi,
    I’m 43 years old and my husband of 15 years and partner of 24 is having a midlife crisis. He knows he is. He says he loves me and we are in counseling, but he is depressed and wants to be alone, in his own place. He tells me he wishes he could date me and start over and I dont what to make of that? We have no kids but prior to the blow up a month ago had decided to try and now everything seems uncertain. I don’t want to pressure him but I am afraid all we have is teetering on the edge and could be done at any minute.
    In the process I am going thru my own anxiety and re-evaluation and am not sure how to find my better self that I know is out there and what it means for us later.
    It’s terrifying to think how lost we both got and I am just hoping that what we find at the end of this journey results in the two of us being better as individuals as well as together. It’s the unknown that is so hard. I got so caught up in who I was in my marriage and making that “ok” that I lost who I was as an individual. Finding her might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

    1. Working on your own issues is really important, though, RB, and I am glad you realize that. Patience is also important when your partner is going through a midlife crisis.
      Why not date? Perhaps he’ll realize why he fell in love to begin with…

      Dr. K

  8. My husband of 26 years is divorcing me. He started showing signs of depression about 9 years ago. Started asking me if I was happy, did I love him, did he hold me back. I was a stay at home mom and wrapped my life around him. He then started hanging out with a male friend who was having trouble with his wife. Then he lost weight, got a gym membership, personal trainer and started dressing differently. He started spending more time with families with younger kids (ours were getting ready to graduate high school) and especially one of the women from his office who was also my friend. The “group” partied and drank, not my thing. I started to withdraw and he seemed confused as to why I wouldn’t join in the chaos (neither of us were big drinker/partiers before). When his male friend divorced his wife and left town, he really started spending time with the female friend, sometimes when I was around (almost ignoring me), sometimes when I wasn’t. He started travelling to conferences with “staff only” and this lady went with him. I finally found receipts after he stayed past a conference time to participate in recreation one weekend (our anniversary weekend) that confirmed he had had a very expensive meal with this woman as well as a few other meals. We made up, but he continued to flaunt the relationship and cross boundaries. After my daughter was married this summer, he told me we were done. I love you but am not in love with you, am not attracted to you and not sure if I like you. I’ve also heard that he believes I don’t like him or love him and haven’t for years. I was so devastated I ended up losing 45 lbs. Now that we are divorcing, he is trying to be my friend, he’s cried around me, says he doesn’t want to divorce but sees no other way, says he’s not happier since he’s left but sees it as his best chance for happiness. He is calling me more to vent about his problems, talks of being old and tired, money worries, fears, etc. I have chosen to stand for my marriage. I have learned to stop crying and pleading, I just stay friendly, listen to him and validate. He no longer has me to blame for many things he used to blame me for, and now seems to be blaming others. I hope he is nearing his journey’s end.

  9. I too have a nowcex husband that I believe to be in “chaos kid MLC. After 23 years of what I felt was a good marriage and thought we were best friends. I felt he had been pulling away from me and got to checking phone records and caught him texting one of your married friends from church! She divorced her husband and mine files for divorce about a year later. He blamed me for all sorts of untrue things such as I wasn’t having sex often enough, I worked late and wasn’t here for him…and besides this woman is fun and bubbly and as he put it ” he doesn’t have to put up a front for her…she understands him”

    Our divorce was final a few months ago and they have been seen together several times although they travel in separate vehicles so they can wait for some time to go by.

    To say this was the most painful thing I’ve ever had to go through would be an understatement but I got very close to God and worked on me. I know his memories are with me and one day he will realize he threw away the woman who loved him more than her own life. I don’t see him ever having the same happiness that we shared for 20 out of 23 years. I’d say he’s been in MLC for about 5 years. In have moved on with my life and would not take him back if he came crawling. If he were the last man on earth I’d ask for a recount…he hurt me THAT much. Oh and I forgot to mention he has so much anger towards me its like he is a stranger I do not know anymore…not the moral Christian man I married 23 yes ago. Nobody in our families or circle of friends can wrap their minds around it either.

    1. This is a painful story to read. It is remarkable how, when in a few years he finds his new partner not so fun and bubbly, he’ll wonder why. This is why effective evidence-based couples therapy can really be a wake-up call in cases like this.
      Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  10. I wanted to share an experience from someone who went through a midlife crisis divorce nearly 3 years ago. Our stories are so similar. I was married to the love of my life for 24 years, together for 31 years. 6-1/2 years ago, he said “I don’t know if I want to be married anymore and I don’t love you and maybe never did”, I was heartbroken and went into a tailspin. He left and came back several times over the next two plus years. Finally he moved out the day our only child (our daughter) graduated from high school. He had an affair that he would not admit to, but finally did, and he was verbally abusive, mean, angry and would not consider anything but a divorce. He finally got it in 2013.

    Fast forward to today. I am 53 and have always worked, so I am fine financially. Our daughter is completing college and is doing well. I don’t write this to say that everyone could experience a divorce. I would dearly have loved to stay married if my husband could have had any semblance of reason. He was unwilling to do anything for our marriage. Today he is still angry, mean and disrespectful. Still blames me for his feelings and anxiety. I stay as far away as I can. I still miss the man I knew and loved. For nearly all of our years together he was a very sweet and caring man and a loving husband.

    I think that some men exeperience a midlife crisis because they have old wounds from childhood that seemingly return and they are blindsided. My ex husband alluded to some dark things that happened to him as a child, but he refused any kind of counseling. Still won’t accept that he could benefit from help.

    This time in my life has been one of growth and learning to live alone. I had never really lived alone and it was very difficult at first, I focus on my dear family and friends and wonderful co-workers who remind me that my ex husband’s crisis is not about me, despite his attempts to blame me. He won’t face his issues, so it is easier to just paint me as the enemy. He runs from himself, but tells himself he is running from me. I am not in the picture, yet he still thinks I cause him issue.

    My advice is similar to the comments from others. Focus on yourself and your children if you have children. My adult daughter still needs support and understanding as her father claims this divorce had no impact on her whatsoever. Another way to avoid the damage he has caused. I suspect my ex husband is dealing with a lot of shame and guilt. He is also very conflict avoidant.

    It was not in my nature to “focus on me” as I received that advice when I was in the midst of the crisis with my ex husband. But, during these past 2 plus years post divorce, I have learned to do this and now am comfortable living alone.

    I thought that a midlife crisis would last only 2-3 years, and I had hoped my husband would come through it before he insisted on a divorce. I believe he may well remain in this state for up to 10 years. He won’t make any progress until he is willing to do some serious introspection and look at the cause of his unrest. It is his own demons he must face, and that I am unsure he will ever do.

    I wrote this to say that there is a life to be had after this type of horrific end to what was believed to be a strong marriage. Above all, keep in mind that the crisis is not about you, you didn’t cause it, you cannot fix it or your husband and you cannot control what he does. I wish I had accepted that a lot sooner than I did. I think it would have helped me greatly,

    I send healing thoughts to all of you. It does get better.

  11. I wanted to drop a note here. I am going though this with my wife. She dropped the bomb on me in Nov that she;s unhappy with her marriage and her job. She wants a divorce and wants to be alone. I was blind-sided. I’ve always supported in her job and whatever she wanted so I was shocked. We bought our dream house one year ago for us and our two boys (12 and 9). Now, it’s all going away. I am close to her mom and dad and they are besides themselves. They are suffering from the thought of the family breaking up. I mentioned to my wife yesterday that I thought she was having a mid life crisis (I know, because I had one), but she seemed offended, was adamant
    that that wasn’t the case, and was irritated that I said it. Then she said she just wants to be alone and that we are nothing more than roommates. Even though she says she loves me and that I am the best person she knows (along with being her best friend), she still wants to leave. I don’t know what else a person could be to another. She just wants to be alone and do her thing. As far as the MLC, I mentioned it to her weeks ago and she equated a MLC with plastic surgery and a boob job. I tried to tell her that a MLC is much more serious than wanting plastic surgery. It’s an emotional time that causes a rational person to become irrational. In the past, I would never have ever accused my wife of being irrational but there have been times lately when I don’t recognize the person my wife is. It is scary to think someone could hide their feeling like that then blow everything up in a matter of hours. Relationship-wise, we get along great. There are no other people we want to be with (as far as I know), and we talk as if there is no problem. This more than anything is baffling. Since she dropped the bomb in Nov, she has let me know how guilty and awful she feels that she is doing to me. She has mentioned that she feels bad sometimes that she can barely function at work. I am trying to keep my cool- I don’t fuss but I have let her know a few times how soul-crushing her words and actions have been. I have held my anger in check she knows I am upset over losing her and our family. The reason I am being calm is, for one, to be angry serves no purpose. If your spouse is going through a MLC, then lashing out while only force him/her away quicker. The other reason is that I went through my own MLC. I had thoughts of leaving, quitting my job, restlessness, feelings of missing out, and (sometimes) some very sad days. These feelings were hard to reconcile because I really had nothing to complain about. I just felt lost at times. I also started seeing psychiatrist after five years of riding that roller coaster. I got some help and meds and I started to see my way clear. When I emerged from my MLC coma, I saw that my most important thing in life was to take care of my wife and my boys. A sense of being settled came over me. I stopped obsessing about my looks and my weight (which was hard because I was a rather good-looking guy in my 20s and 30s). When 40 hit, I started losing that-it was hard to handle. I wanted desperately to return to those years when my looks were an advantage and I was young and fit and could do anything. By 41, I had started losing my hair, I got fat and I couldn’t play ball anymore. I felt insignificant and not myself. However, I emerged a better person because I let my pride, ego and selfishness go. I stopped being so vain and asking “what’s in it for me?” I am better person now, unfortunately my wife seems to be going through the same thing. I hate the prospect of my future without her-however, I am not hanging on to that. I am trying to move forward. I hope this helps other who have been in the dark about their spouses behavior.

    1. Thanks for sharing. I love how you said when you came out of this you felt your priroty was to take care of your wife & kids. I am praying that is what happenes in my hubbys case too. <3

  12. My husband of 13 years came home a month ago and out of the blue said he doesn’t love me anymore, that he hasn’t for years, yet hat tears in his eyes as he said it. (I was confused and asked everyone we were around the past year alone and they all said no that you could see it on his face) Then with in the same time frame I found out there is a 25 yr old co worker that has had a thing for him and was there for him. Needless to say he rushed to be with her instead of trying to work on us. Since then he has become a 15 yr old with her. I have 3 kids with him and our kids used to be his world now it seems all he sees is her and her son. Everyone mentions to me its a midlife crisis and he will be back. He currently lives here and is actively looking for a place for them. Always brings up she is “old” me when I was 25. He is 35. I haven’t yelled at him or blown up at him over this. I tried to mention a midlife crisis but he don’t want to acknowledge it. I do know he does see that I started my own personal improvements and he says he wishes I changed then, and if things don’t work out with her he will be back. He is always saying one second how he misses me, etc reminince about the old days and how things weren’t that bad, then he also says how great she is and how if I had been different he wouldn’t be with her now. Is this a midlife crisis? I love him so much. I want my family back. Everyone tells me just to keep holding on and work on me for now. I am focusing on that, but is this a normal behavior during a midlife crisis? Will he go back to the old him and see how great we really were and remember his love of his family? He never once in 13 yrs strayed, this came out of the blue like a freight train, and to me this freight train has picked up speed with this woman.

  13. Shelly, I often wish as a therapist that I had a magic wand that could heal the emotional devastation of an ended relationship. It sounds as if your entire world has been turned upside down with these events. You mention forgiving your husband and a willingness to try to make it work because there is so much invested in this relationship. In my personal experience I’ve learned that heartbreak isn’t always unavoidable but it can bring out the resiliency of the human spirit if we let it. I want to encourage you to take some time off for you. Pick up a hobby you haven’t done in a while, reconnect with a friend, take a holiday. Identify people in your life who love and want the best for you and talk to them. You wrote about extending grace to your husband but I also want to encourage you to extend some grace to yourself and allow yourself to feel all your emotions without feeling guilty for them. It’s fine to be upset, to be sad, to feel numb,etc. These emotions are all a part of your experience. Last but not least, find someone to confide in. Many people have found that talking to a therapist is helpful in processing emotions and venting without feeling judged.

    Best wishes,
    Alisha Powell, LCSW

  14. We are 40 not 49. Don’t have my glasses on. Also,I am not homely but I’m also not 23 anymore. Extremely broken and just want restoration.

  15. My husband left us Ict 8th. We have a 17 year old who is in her Sr year and now refuses to even take pictures. We had no warning. He simply said “I’m done!” Then left. Told me less than a 1% chance he will come home. We absolutely adore him. I found out he was using escort services. We are both 49 and he has been seeing girls in their early 20’s. Moved out Abd says he wants a different life. One of luxury. Well we have a beautiful home on 5 acres with hirses. I had been talking to him about change anyway but he seems so full of anger. He won’t reply to me so I ha e given up on trying to communicate. I am deeply broken. We ha e been together 24 years, married 21 and he says he doesn’t even who he is.
    I forgave him as soon as I found out and he doesn’t understand it. I have the heart of God and truly can not find it in myself to be mad. His brother told hi sometimes you just gotta be selfish so he took that as his permission slip and ran. We also have a 21 year old. Both girls are hurting as well but he dies t want to hear the truth. Thinks I am using it against him just to get him home. He was literally my best friend.
    I need help.

  16. My husband and I are on a “trail separation” by his choice. When he first told me he was scared that he needs a life altering change. He told me that I did not do anything wrong, he still loves me. He is the bad guy and he will tell his family that. He does not care about money, I can have it all. I would receive his pay check. He said he has not abandoned us. He said he is unhappy with his life, he is a failure, catholic guilty, he is always being the referee and has never been selfish and he needs to be alone to sort out things. Also wants to be alone and get his own place. He left to his Mom’s. After 2 weeks, I stormed up to his mother’s home and asked him where this was going and he said Divorce. He told me again about He is the bad guy and he will tell his family that. He does not care about money, I can have it all. I would receive his pay check. He said he has not abandoned us. The next day, I packed up his stuff and my son was shocked. I did not know my son had asked to talk to him and was coming over to the house. My son spoke with him about going to counseling. My daughter came home at the same time and pointed to the living room and asked what the boxes and suit cases were. My husband asked me why I did that. I explained that I need to heal and move on. Than he said he would go to counseling. He comes over to help with thing I can’t do around the house. 3 months later, he has not proceeded with anything. The holidays are coming up and Halloween was difficult – he always passed out candy and his Mom would bring over a Halloween baskets. what advise does anyone have. I am thinking he is lost.

  17. Thank you so much to both of you for the advice. I am trying very hard to continue to focus on myself and my well being and allow him the space and time he needs to find his path. I am just hoping his path leads back to our family but am preparing that it may not.
    Again, thank you so much for your help

  18. Dear Lisa,

    I really like Angela’s points of using this stage of your marital relationship as an opportunity for self growth. I also second her recommendation of staying calm and take good care of yourself. Marital relationship goes through developmental stages just like a baby goes through his/her maturation journey. The more complicated part of a marital relationship however, is that while the relationship is changing, the individuals in the dynamic are changing too. We, as individuals, do not stop changing as years goes on. It sounded like your husband might have been going through some changes himself but clearly he did not communicate that with you and left you with surprises and anxiety.

    I thanked you for actively seeking help to manage your anxiety and talk to an attorney for you and your daughter’s benefits. Your husband does not sound like he’s at a place to be able to hear you and anybody else right now. It is unsettle and scary, and that’s why it is important for you to continue to use all the skills that you have learned to manage your feelings. Your husband needs his time to re-find himself, and it is a good opportunity for you to re-ground yourself and figure out what is important to you.

    Go out and explore the world, and do activities that you enjoy. When you give your husband the space to explore his new journey, and you start doing things that make you happy, trust me – it will make you shine, and it might spark some curiosity in him to wonder “what have you been up to.” You need to change the dynamic of going after him and pleading him to work on the relationship. Do something different!

    If you need extra help or suggestion, please don’t hesitate to contact Couples Therapy Inc, as we have many trained therapists who can help you navigate this difficult stage of your life and your marriage.

    Please remember – your husband is important, your daughter is important, your marriage is important, and that’s why you are IMPORTANT too!

  19. Hi,
    My husband of 20 years (together 23 years) told me on August 23, 2015 that he wanted a divorce, this came out of the clear blue. I later found several text messages and phone calls between another woman and him. I confronted him and he continues to deny it.
    We are still living in the same house, we have a 16 year old daughter. He filed for divorce and wants to sell the house. He is completely irrational and will not even consider any kind of counseling or ways to work on the marriage, says “I need to move forward in my life and it doesn’t include you”.
    I went through a few weeks of severe panic attacks and have finally gotten that under control. I have decided to seek counseling for myself.
    He is 45, he started running again and lost weight, is hanging around with younger people and going to the bars more often (he has past struggles with alcoholism).
    I love him so much and want to try and work on our marriage, but he seems so adamant that it’s over and his is going to divorce me.
    He will not listen to anyone who wants to talk to him about working on the marriage.
    I just don’t know what else to do, I have hired an attorney also, because I needed to protect myself and our daughter. But our state does not allow you to contest divorce and midlife crisis is not considered a “mental illness” that would leave someone incapacitated to make decisions such as he is making.
    I’m so scared I am going to lose everything, including him, because he is acting impulsively and irrationally through this crisis. I love him more than anything and do not want this to end.

    1. Dear Lisa

      I have experienced the same some years ago and want to express my deepest sympathy to you. It felt as if I was trapped in a storm for a long period of time. It was exhausting and very scary. Your response brought back memories and I was contemplating what I did back then to ease the pain.

      I focused on myself and started a regular hot yoga practice. Having a place to go every day where there was peace and quietness helped somewhat to deal with the feeling of loneliness. I went on long walks by myself. I reached out to friends. I tried to eat healthy. I focused on new career goals. I revived some old passions such as horseback riding. I researched information about the financial aspects of divorce. I was very sad for a long period of time!

      It was a time of inner growth. I was like a caterpillar transitioning to a beautiful butterfly. Today I still go to yoga, meditate daily, and eat healthy. I made new friends who broadened my horizon. I have pursued new interests such as surfing and skiing.

      I have developed a new professional focus. I feel passionate about helping couples to develop or rediscover connection and intimacy. This process takes time and commitment. It is a privilege to be part of a couple’s journey. No matter what the result is, there is always a better understanding and new found appreciation for each other.

      I hope this helps you. Please remember: There is light at the end of the tunnel. Take good care of yourself and stay calm.

      Angela Voegele

      (Angela is one of the experienced Couples Therapists here at Couples Therapy Inc. Practices in the Maryland/DC area…Dr. K)

  20. My husband of 24 years was caught with 10,500 texts in one month. We got in a huge fight and he left. He tells me he is unhappy and just needs time alone. He has been gone for a week but when I see him he tells me he still loves me. My mom died July 30, 2015. We moved into a new house on August 13, 2015. He lost his job of 11 years on August 21, 2015. He left on August 26, 2015. I just don’t know what I should do to help him. Should I move on and live my life without him. I love him and don’t know what to do.

    1. First, you have to stay calm and keep your head on straight. You just lost your Mother. Wow. Big, big deal. Next, your husband is having a melt down. You could really use support, so don’t hesitate to talk to a trained professional.

      With regard to your husband, it sounds like you want to let him know in a calm way that after 24 years, he should try to reflect on his actions and his life situation and get some help. Job loss is a tremendous blow to most people. Moving into a home is also a real life changer. Combine those two, and you have a lot of stress, both of you. How people act out around that is varied.
      Why not start by giving him a few weeks, and then asking him if he’d be willing to talk to someone? We offer a free consultation to people who have considered leaving, or those who want help in figuring out whether or not to go into couples therapy. He sounds in crisis. You sound like you’re in a crisis. Don’t give up, just yet. Let things mellow for a short while, then get help.
      Dr. K

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