Midlife crisis signs often appear between the ages of 35 and 65. For the most part, this is when people reevaluate their lives and the choices they’re making for the future. Everyone handles this stage differently, depending on their circumstances. How a midlife crisis manifests itself varies greatly between men and women. In order to understand how best to respond, it’s helpful to understand how men and women experience this stage of life.
Western Societal And Gender Norms
Every culture shapes people in its own unique way, and for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on dominant norms in American and western cultures. By understanding how cultural norms and expectations shape children growing up in that environment, we are better able to understand their behaviors later in life.
From a young age, boys are encouraged to separate from their feelings. They are touched less after the age of 8 and are expected to be “tough”. Emotional responses in boys are still seen as weak and undesirable, although that is changing. Boys may shy away from physical affection and touch.
In contrast, girls express themselves through touch and open communication. There’s an expectation that girls are emotive and empathetic. Girls tend to be more in tune with others’ feelings. And there’s no stigma around physical expressions of affection between girls in the same way there is for boys. It’s not uncommon that female friends will hug each other or hold hands, while this is far less common for males.
When boys become men, they find physical activity like sports, hiking, work, and sex analogous to their feelings. Friendships are formed around activities, hobbies, and work. On the other hand, girls who grow into women find compliments, touch, adoration and conversation intimate nurturing. Friendships are based on feelings, emotional connection, and strong communication.
Midlife Crisis Signs In Women vs. Men
A midlife crisis for a man is more external in nature. It has less to do with his interior or emotional landscape and more about external influences or stimulation. A midlife crisis for a man has a lot to do with his actions and desires. It often involves spending money on things he hasn’t been able to afford before, getting back in shape if he let that go, making new (and sometimes younger) friends, showing more interest in sex, sometimes having an affair, and often using porn.
A midlife crisis for women is more internal. A woman may look inward in search of meaning, gratification and soul-searching. Talking to friends or professionals, working again if that was put off to raise kids, volunteering if money is not an issue, or going back to school are all endeavors women take up in midlife. In addition to working on her inner self, she may also join a gym or pay more attention to diet and nutrition. Women are also prone to feeling the negative impacts of empty nests, especially if they’ve been full time caregivers.
Realigning Your Marriage
If you or your partner are struggling through a midlife crisis, know that this is perfectly normal and doesn’t mean your relationship is on the brink. Assessing what you want out of life and out of marriage is actually quite healthy. But if this process leads to unhealthy new habits or behaviors, then it may be time for you and your spouse to get on the same page about the vision you have for your future together.
At Marriage Quest, we have been helping couples bridge the gap between desired behaviors and preferred outcomes for over 40 years. In fact, countless couples worked through issues related to a midlife crisis quickly and effectively with the help of Marriage Quest’s couples retreats. Most marriages are able to withstand a midlife crisis or two. And sometimes, marriages even grow stronger once the dust has settled. The good news is that at the end of the day, both partners want to feel appreciated and desired. And both tend to prefer their physical and emotional needs be met by their spouse.
So if you’ve noticed midlife crisis signs in yourself or in your partner, recognize it as a natural part of aging. It’s better to face and embrace it head on than to avoid it. And if you’re considering getting some therapeutic support as you navigate the twists and turns of midlife, Marriage Quest is here to help at each step of the way.