How To Deal With A Midlife Crisis In Your Marriage

People between the ages of 35 and 65 often wrestle with big questions regarding their meaning, purpose, and direction in life. Every person handles this stage of their life differently, and it also depends on the health of the marriage, the individual’s wellbeing, and the connection support that one has in their general community. Figuring out how to deal with a midlife crisis while balancing all other areas of your life can be very challenging.

How Serious Is A Midlife Crisis?

Behaviors during a midlife crisis can be mild or they can be very serious, ranging from buying a new car to having an affair or considering or asking for a divorce. It’s normal and healthy to deeply reflect on who you are and what you do at any age. However, if you or your spouse make drastic changes that have serious consequences and that cannot be easily undone, this must be addressed in a way that is respectful to both of you while honoring this stage of life.

The midlife phase in a marriage has its own unique challenges. You might have become busy with life and feel like you are no longer being seen as attractive and interesting by your spouse. You might even feel more appreciated and accomplished at work than in your home. Maybe fun has become almost non-existent, and everything seems out of balance with the different parts of your life. While this is normal and painful, it can be a time of renewed connection with your partner if managed in the right way.

Can Marriage Survive A Midlife Crisis?

You may be wondering if your marriage can survive your current situation. While many middle-aged people have mood swings and act in strange and unusual ways, some mid-life crises can destroy a marriage. When a spouse spends a lot of money on things that are not in the family budget, or when someone has an affair, this can be devastating to the marital bond. However, mid-life explorations are survivable and can actually be a catalyst for deep conversations that will renew and strengthen your marriage.

What Triggers A Midlife Crisis?

A crisis can occur when a middle-aged adult is triggered by a big dip in their happiness levels. It is often a result of a significant event that occurred at this age and phase of life. It also can be from a feeling of regret and a delayed reaction to past experiences such as bad situations, poor life choices, significant events, and past traumas. Some of the examples that we have frequently worked with are:

image of a father stressed by children and how that affects marital bond and sex life

Stress Due To Children

Adding children to your household almost always adds stress to a marriage.

Couples often shift from long dates and experiences with each other, to changing diapers, driving to kid based activities, and sneaking in romance whenever infrequently possible. There are ways that children can put a damper on your sex life, cause financial stress, and take up all of your free time. All of this puts stress on the marriage.

image of person through 3 stages of life cycle representing how aging of the body affects a marriage

Signs Of Aging

Couples usually commit to each other when they are at their peak physical condition and appearance.

That will change. As the wrinkles and gray hair starts to appear, skin sags, men start to bald and women grow hair on their face, life creates scars. It’s normal for spouses to be feel less attractive and less attracted to their beloved one. This can impact personal mental health as well as relationship and life satisfaction. We help couples find ways of celebrating a life well lived, from scars of childbirth to work wounds to normal aging. Looking at your partner’s body can be a reminder of the history you have with each other. It could put a smile on your face.

image of person in rocking chair with dollar sign & financial chart representing the affect of retirement on a marriage

Retirement

When a spouse retires, everything changes for both husband and wife.

Not only does the retiree’s daily life go through a major change, which would be expected, but there are also big changes for the spouse’s routine as well. Couples often have issues with the retirement phase of life if they had spent little time together, had few common interests, and had little to no connection prior to retirement. After retirement, these issues will often resurface or take on a more obvious presence. Our work is to bridge your gap in habits and expectations and find new ways for you to be in your home and the world together.

image of empty nest representing this later life stage of a marriage and its challenges

Empty Nest

Empty Nest is the stage of life for a couple when the last child leaves home and goes out on their own.

While some children return to the nest again, many are gone for good. This is supposed to mark the start of the golden years, but for many couples it is a very stressful time. Either way this creates a shift in the marital relationship. For some people who have been over-close to their children, this stage of life may feel like a death experience and they may go through a grief process. It is actually an opportunity to celebrate all that you have done and bonding with each other again after all these years of raising a family.

image of persons brain with electric shock signals representing the many stresses that affect marriages

Marital Stress

Many things can contribute to the stress in a marriage, many of them have been described here.

We usually deal with a few of them and teach you skills to deal with others in the future. The better each of you can learn to self-regulate and manage your own personal stress, the healthier your marriage will be.

image of ill man representing how health challenges stress a marriage

Personal Health Challenges

People can experience a variety of health changes and challenges as they age.

It can be as simple as taking longer to heal when you get a scrap or as serious as a cancer diagnosis. Facing one’s own fragility or mortality can significantly impact one’s self perception and their marriage. While modern medicine and medical procedures keep you living longer, it sometimes can complicate your relationship. Whether you are the “patient” or the caregiver, there are benefits to having productive and positive conversations.

image of sad child representing the stress of family death on a marriage

Death Of Close Friend Or Family Member

Death becomes a normal experience as people age. Parents may need elder care or hospice. 

You may lose loved ones to natural causes or accidents. Some have even experienced suicide in their circle of family and friends. These kinds of experiences can lodge in our hearts and minds taking up space that doesn’t allow for joy or fun. Feelings of guilt or shame can be toxic and can create or exacerbate depression or anxiety. Many spouses during this time start to isolate or become deeply introspective which can leave their partner feeling alone and rejected. Couples need to help each other purge that negativity and trauma until there in once room again for peace and love to fill our hearts and minds.

image of man with happy and sad thoughts about career and how that dissatisfaction affects a marriage

Career Dissatisfaction

Many people spend more time at work than with their family or preferred hobbies.

If you already do not like what you do for a living this can lead to major career dissatisfaction once you realize that you regret how you have spent many years of your life. If you do like what you do for a living it is more likely you will regret how out of balance you have been with life, work, and family. It has been said that no one on their death bed has ever wished they spent more time at work. Furthermore, the fear of dying is less about mortality and more about spending time with those you love doing things that you love to do.

image of swirl pattern representing unresolved childhood trauma as it affects or stresses a marriage

Unresolved Trauma

When people don’t appropriately deal with childhood and other traumas, it usually impacts their self esteem, makes them more emotionally guarded, and leads them to be more emotionally triggered during conversations.

Unresolved trauma leaves a minefield of potential conflict that must be addressed for a marriage to be healthy. This is especially true for Adverse Childhood Experiences (known as ACES).

image of hold holding heart with cross representing existential search for meaning in life as it affects marriage

Questioning Purpose And Meaning In Life

It’s valuable to question your meaning and purpose in life, however this existential journey can also cause a lot of distress.

Instead of trying to handle this experience on your own, it is helpful to process your thoughts and feelings with your spouse not only for your benefit but also to strengthen the marriage.

image of woman confused by her husband's loss of libido

Changes In Libido

It’s valuable to question your meaning and purpose in life, however this existential journey can also cause a lot of distress.

Instead of trying to handle this experience on your own, it is helpful to process your thoughts and feelings with your spouse not only for your benefit but also to strengthen the marriage.

image representing menopause and its physical and emotional effects as it relates to a marriage

Menopause

For many women, menopause is a major life transition. This is a time when she can no longer get pregnant, which for some women is a relief but for others the various mental and physical changes are overwhelming.

Many women deal with hot flashes and night sweats. Others deal with brain fog when they are more forgetful than before. It can be a stressful time in an intimate relationship because of these physical and emotional challenges.

Does A Midlife Crisis Lead To Divorce?

Not necessarily. A midlife crisis can be the opportunity that encourages a couple to go into counseling to explore and work on their deeper issues. To the contrary, in a healthy marriage, you can use your spouse as a support through a midlife crisis as you process it together. The reason that such a crisis would lead to divorce is when you feel unsupported, dismissed, judged, or belittled during a time where you need more emotional support and tender care. 

 

How To Cope With Midlife Crises

Many people cope with their midlife crisis through sex, drugs, or rock n roll. This is also a common time for affairs in a marriage. It’s normal to feel anxious or depressed during this time in your life as you are likely wrestling with large themes of existence and purpose. If you never found closure with past traumas or are unsure about your future based on your life decisions up to this point, it’s necessary to find acceptance, self compassion, and healthy decision making. Some couples can support each other through this process, but many need additional support from a therapist.

How Can I Get Help With My Midlife Crises?

Some couples are able to help each other through a midlife crisis, however most need some professional support. The purpose of support is to help the person in crisis identify the behaviors that are problematic, understand the underlying emotions that they are struggling with, and find ways to be vulnerable and communicate with their partner in order to have their needs met in a healthy way.

During a Marriage Quest® Retreat, we will teach you how to effectively communicate so you can have these deeper needs met within your marriage, resolve past crises, and increase your overall resiliency in the face of future challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions

Moms are usually closer emotionally to the children than dads. Therefore, fathers often feel left out and unimportant in the family setting. If work goes well, they fill their emotional needs on the job. That keeps them satisfied until somewhere in their 40s. If they are not happy at work, they start exploring what life has for them and they slide into a mid-life crisis as early as 35 years old.

Women are typically very busy with raising children until they are in their 40’s, approaching their 50’s. When the kids move into their teenage years, moms are not needed, nor wanted, as much. This shift can create a challenge for their sense of purpose. This challenge along with menopausal changes can create a mid-life crisis in the 40s and 50s.
Not everyone goes through a midlife crisis experience. Some people have a mild exploration phase and others tetter on the edge of catastrophe. A midlife crisis can vary in length for each person. It can be resolved quickly with a good intervention from friends, family, or a trained therapist or coach. It can last for many years if not dealt with properly. Some sources say that a midlife crisis for men usually last longer than for women.
Yes, some people continue to explore their life’s meaning and purpose and question their self-worth for a long time, others go in and out of these mindful challenges. Sudden traumatic events can push someone into a crisis and deep emotional exploration. The good news is that if you deal with pain of some loss or the fears of mortality well you will have a happier end of life experience being at peace with yourself and your life choices.

A Marriage Counseling Retreat Is Your Solution

It is crucial to gain an understanding of the causes of a mid-life crisis so that the objectionable behavior will not be repeated. We find that though our private intensive marriage retreat it is possible to use the midlife crisis as a way to bring meaning and direction to a couple’s lives. The process can be used as a path to gain a new-found understanding of one’s life goals and to gain help in finding a direction towards them.

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Contact one of our well trained therapists today to make sure we are a good fit for your relationship and marriage goals. You can send us an email or schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation to answer your questions and provide information on available dates and pricing.