What do midlife crisis men look like? Angie’s husband is a midlife crisis man. She asked me if these are midlife crisis symptoms:
--Drinking all the time
--Gambling at the casino every free moment you can get
--Having an affair
--Abandoning your kids, job, and -- oh yea, your wife too
Yes, Angie, these can be midlife crisis symptoms. The behavior of midlife crisis men can definitely look like one or all of these.
This is exactly what her husband, Frank, has been doing for the past 11 months. And no matter how hard Angie tries to understand, she just doesn’t get what happened to her husband.
She says he used to think about others and now is only focused on himself. How do you explain what happened to the man who once packed up the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers and took them to the homeless shelter, but now walks away from his crying kids without a care in the world, she wants to know.
“I just want daddy to live with us. When can daddy live with us?” cried 6-year-old Jaden as she sat in the car. When Frank approached she pleaded, “Daddy come home with us.” Frank ignored her cries for him and quickly kissed her forehead, said goodbye and walked away. Angie believes he was headed to the casino to meet up with the other woman.
Midlife crisis men can definitely have behavior that defies common sense. On the surface it looks crazy, but when you can understand what’s going on on the inside, the illogical behavior can be a little more understandable, even though it still is crazy.
There are a lot of women are like Angie -- struggling to understand their husbands and save their families. Counseling women like her is what we do at Guy Stuff – we’re not just about counseling men. If you’ve got a man with midlife crisis symptoms, read more about midlife crisis men here – midlife crisis.
Part 1 of 2
Erica called the other day and said "my husband checked into rehab for alcohol treatment!" She couldn't believe it.
Erica and Sean began counseling at Guy Stuff about 5 months ago to deal with Sean’s affair. Quickly it became apparent to me that Sean's alcoholism was just as big of an issue as the affair. As I worked with Erica and Sean on the affair, I also helped them see the problem with Sean's alcohol abuse.
It's pretty common that people will come to couples counseling for one issue, such as an affair, but I'll see another issue that's just as important that they couldn't see, like Sean needing alcohol treatment. Sean had been a drinker as long as Erica had known him. Alcohol was such a normal part of their lives that they didn't see it as a problem except for a few extreme situations, like when Sean got sent home from work.
But the truth was that his drinking had contributed to the affair happening, as well as a number of other problems, and Erica did have a problem with it but she just hadn't been able to voice her feelings in a way that Sean heard.
However, Sean didn't want to deal with his alcohol abuse. As I helped Erica to express her feelings and called out more of the problems with Sean's alcoholism, the more uncomfortable Sean got. So after about 2 months he decided he didn't need counseling any longer.
When Sean quit, Erica was ready to quit too. What's the point in counseling she thought if the person with the problem won't go? When I shared some of the success stories other women had gotten with Guy Stuff in continuing counseling after their men had quit, she decided to continue.
For most women this is where the story ends. Their man refuses to change, so they accept it with the belief that there's nothing they can do about it. Wrong!
In the second part of this article I'll share the rest of Erica's story and show what part she had (and it's a big one) in how this story ends -- "my husband checked into rehab for alcohol treatment!" Don't miss it.
* This is the first article of two sharing the alcohol treatment success story of one couple. In the next article I'll share what Erica did that turned this story around and got Sean into alcohol treatment. Sign-up for our Blog on the right side of this page and be sure you don't miss the rest of this story (you can get notified by email or RSS feed).
Do men need anger management techniques while on vacation? Steve does.
Steve was on vacation in Hawaii with his family last week. While at the beach with his 8 year old son, Steve lost his temper when his son kept throwing sand in the air while building a sand castle.
So what’s the big deal? Sand, beach, Hawaii -- what could be wrong?
Well, the sand was landing on Steve's Kindle (his e-book reader). Even thought they were on Maui, Steve erupted like Kilauea (Hawaii's volcano). Kilauea means "spewing" in Hawaiian, which is exactly what he did all over his son.
This vacation Steve had thought was going to be the perfect break from everything, even his anger management problems. Unfortunately, he didn't realize that along with his swimsuit he also packed his anger management problems.
Fortunately, a few weeks before the trip Steve had begun anger management classes at Guy Stuff. Although he's just beginning to learn anger management techniques, Steve quickly recognized his anger problem and put to work one of the tools Guy Stuff had given him.
"I probably wouldn't have recognized it before. But I remembered the anger management techniques you taught me and started using it. That made me think about my anger and realize I needed to do something before it grew."
Later on when Steve's wife, Rebecca, heard from their son what had happened she snapped at Steve, "When are you going to start anger management classes?"
He told her "I already have. And after only the second meeting I already have a tool that works."
Can you relate to Steve's anger management problems? Ever lost it with your kid and regretted it like Steve? Then do what Steve did and start learning some anger management techniques that really work.
Q: I think all of this anger management is legitimate, but what about people who have enough sense to not physically display their anger in front of guests, only alone or when their significant other or immediate family is around? This is the case with my significant other, he will get angry when other people are around and curse and scowl, but he never breaks things or screams unless he's alone or just with me. Also he wouldn't pick a fight with a stranger at a food stand or anything like you mention, but he has certain "anger triggers" that get him. I still think he might have the explosive disorder, just more specific to certain annoyances.--Tulips
A: Many of the men who come to Guy Stuff for anger management look like your significant other. The majority of angry men maintain a public image of having it all together. But behind closed doors, alone with their family, they’re a different person.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde,” which refers to having 2 different personas. This behavior is true of many men with anger problems.
I’ve worked with men in anger management who’ve struggled to understand this problem even themselves. They can’t understand why they only have anger problems with their significant other, and not at work or in other relationships. Some of the reasons for this can be that the relationship with our significant other is where we let our guard down and are our ‘real’ selves, it’s the relationship that brings out the experiences we had with our caregivers growing up, and it's the relationship where our deepest human needs are met or not met.
I wouldn’t worry too much about whether or not his anger problems can be classified as an explosive disorder, but rather just that he has anger problems that need to be fixed. The “Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde” behavior of many angry men can be very confusing, especially when the explosive part is aimed at you.
Your significant other needs anger management. You need to insist that he gets anger management in order for your relationship to continue. Be strong and firm about this changing so you can get the man you love all of the time.
-- Kurt Smith, Marriage Counselor
Read More: This relationship sounds like it could be abusive. Read more about Abusive Relationships here.
Got a question you'd like to Ask a Marriage Counselor? Click here to submit it and I'll answer it in an up coming post. Be sure to Sign Up for Our Blog on the right so you'll get my answer as soon as it's published.
Part 2 of 2
Are there certain characteristics of midlife crisis men? Yes, I believe specific thoughts and behaviors contribute to midlife crisis in men.
In the first article on midlife crisis men we talked about Derek and Lauren (read out more about Derek here: Mid-life Crisis -- Is My Husband Having One?). One of Lauren's nagging, unanswered questions has always been why didn't Derek say or do something sooner?
Let's take a closer look at Derek and see if we can get a better idea of why he didn't. Here are a few characteristics of Derek that have contributed to his having a mid-life crisis (these are Lauren's realizations and words, and have come from out of her women's counseling at Guy Stuff):
- Thinks the grass is greener.
- Willing and wanting to leave without figuring out what is wrong in the first place.
- Thinks he is his own best counsel.
- Hates his job, but changes everything else in his life instead.
- Always taking care of, and pleasing, everyone else; now it's all about him.
- Doesn't really know what he wants or who he is. He is always searching for something -- more than just trying new things, i.e. different vehicles, motorcycle, business ideas, hobbies, etc.
- Unrealistic expectations of marriage, relationships, etc. Thinks things should be easy and not require a lot of effort. Doesn't acknowledge that relationships have ups and downs.
- Learned behavior from parent's failed marriage(s) and the behavior (affairs/divorce) that his boss has exhibited.
Here are a couple of additional things I've noticed about Derek's actions and how he's handled is unhappiness that are also descriptive of midlife crisis men:
- Kept his questioning thoughts about the marriage to himself. Derek had been unhappy for a long time, and had fears that he was married to the wrong woman. But Derek never shared those thoughts with Lauren.
- Didn't seek help. Having the thoughts and feelings described above can be very confusing. How to communicate them to your partner is very difficult. Professional marriage counselors can help you do this. But Derek never reached out for help.
- Not solving the real problems. Sadly, Derek thinks he's fixing his problems by leaving when he's really just taking them with him. He's told Lauren that it's not her fault -- the old "it's not you, it's me." But if that's the case, how is Derek's leaving really fixing his problems?
Can you relate to Derek in any way? How about Lauren and having a husband like Derek? Being unhappy like Derek is not unusual and can be fixed. Sadly, many men think a lot like Derek and try to fix their unhappiness with the same thinking and actions that caused it. Midlife crisis men often create their mid-life crisis.
Don't be a Derek. Get some help.
More Mid-life Crisis Reading:
* This is the second article of two discussing midlife crisis men. Read out more about Derek and Lauren in the first article: Mid-life Crisis -- Is My Husband Having One? Sign-up for our Blog on the right and get other great articles on men and relationships like this one.
Part 1 of 2
Is my husband having a mid-life crisis is a question I get asked pretty regularly by women. Here's one woman's story of trying to understand what happened to the man she thought she was married to.
It's been 7 months since Derek told Lauren he wanted a divorce and moved out. For Lauren, it came out of nowhere; for Derek, he had been contemplating what to do about his unhappiness for months, probably years.
Lauren came to our women's counseling to get help in how to respond to this 'new' Derek and make sense of what's happened to her shattered life. I also meet with her and Derek for divorce counseling to mediate their divorce.
Occasionally Lauren sees glimpses of 'old' Derek she thought was her husband. Like when he calls out of the blue and offers to help with something. But most of the time she deals with 'new' Derek who takes things from the house without telling her, or makes a withdrawal from the ATM without talking to her first and overdraws their joint bank account.
As she's tried to make sense of 'new' Derek and his erratic behavior, she's been asking herself, and me, is he having a mid-life crisis? Is he having an affair? Is he depressed?
The answer is potentially yes to all of those questions - although which have occurred, in what order, and have led to his behavior is still unclear.
Here are some mid-life crisis warning signs we can see in Derek that have helped Lauren see that, yes, he probably is, and has been, having a midlife crisis:
- Distant and disconnected. Derek had been this way for the past year, and Lauren had noticed it, but she thought it was just due to all the pressures at work.
- Lack of real communication. Lauren has come to realize that what she thought was good communication with her husband wasn't that deep and didn't let her know what was really going on inside Derek.
- Talk about big changes (jobs, new hobbies, large purchases). Derek has been doing these things for several years. Often these are a sign of internal unhappiness.
- Sudden lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, it took Lauren almost 3 months after Derek moved out to seek out professional help by coming to women's counseling.
Whether or not Derek is having a mid-life crisis isn’t as important as just recognizing the midlife crisis warning signs of a problem that’s going to explode the way it did for Lauren. If she or Derek had responded to these signs sooner, it's possible that much of the pain they're now suffering could have been prevented.
Since the separation Derek has admitted he’s seeing another woman. Even though Derek insists it started after he moved out, Lauren's uncertain if that's really true. Derek’s now planning to change jobs and has also gone back to school.
Lauren has asked Derek that if changing jobs or going to school will make him happy, why he didn't do them before he left. Derek hasn't been able to answer her. In the next article we’ll explore the characteristics of men who can have a mid-life crisis and why Derek didn't make these changes sooner. Lauren will also share things about Derek that she now sees, but didn’t before, that help her understand more of why he's done what he's done.
More Mid-life Crisis Reading:
* This is the first article of two discussing one man's mid-life crisis and the impact on his wife. In the next article we’ll explore the characteristics of men who can have a mid-life crisis. Sign-up for Our Blog on the right and don't miss the next article.
Here's an example of how a gambling addiction starts. This is the real story of one man who came to Guy Stuff Counseling for help with his gambling addiction.
Anthony had never gambled before. Sure, he'd played cards with friends at parties in high school, but never anything serious. Other than occasionally watching the poker tournaments on TV, gambling never had any appeal.
During his first year at college Anthony got invited into other guys' dorm rooms at night to play cards. He found that it was a great way to escape the studying he didn't want to do. As his school demands increased, so did the attraction and enjoyment of playing cards. Soon Anthony was up all night gambling and starting to skip classes. As his desire to gamble grew, he sought out other places to play and discovered online gambling.
When Anthony got kicked out of school, he knew it was partly due to his gambling, but he never thought he had a gambling addiction. He just moved back home, got a job, and started going to the local casinos to gamble. In addition to the 4 Indian casinos within easy driving distance, he found a card room only a mile from his house.
The card rooms made him feel seedy. He knew many of the other guys in there had a gambling problem. After all, they were always in there; every time he went in he saw the same faces. At least he could control it and didn't spend every day there, he thought.
He developed a strategy to keep his gambling addiction a secret from his parents. After the money he'd wasted at school, his dad watched his bank account carefully. He learned if he only withdrew a couple hundred dollars, and did from the local ATM and not at the casinos, his gambling wasn't noticeable by parents.
Anthony tried going back to school again at the local junior college, but found that missing classes and assignments didn't work there either. As he grew more and more unhappy with himself, and worried about what he would do with his life, he spent more and more time gambling. The money he was losing grew also. It didn't even seem inappropriate to him to be playing for a pot of $2,900 when he only made $10 an hour working part time at Home Depot.
One night, after getting kicked out by his girlfriend, he lost $400 in a half hour. Afterwards, as he walked out to his car and saw it packed full of everything he owned, and thought about having no money, no place to live, and no hope, he realized he had a gambling problem.
Anthony got his parents support and came to Guy Stuff for counseling. We've been working on his gambling addiction by helping him discover the reasons why he gambled. One of the things he's learned is that he used gambling to occupy his time and avoid things. As a result of our work, Anthony went back to school earlier this month and he's learning to use new ways to deal with the stressors in his life.
Part 3 of 3
"You might be a workaholic if..." could easily be a Jeff Foxworthy comedy line. Just like his famous line, "You might be a redneck if..."
In my counseling men a regular occurrence is hearing guys talk about how much they work and how hard it is to stop thinking about work. Just this week a guy who owns 10 different businesses said his mind races in bed at night. Another guy came to his counseling meeting dead tired after working a double shift all night.
Are either of these guys' workaholics or are they just hard workers? The difference between being a workaholic and not isn't so much about how many hours you work as it is the attitude you have about work.
Are you a workaholic? Find out by taking the short Work Addiction Risk Test by psychologist Bryan E. Robinson published in the Wall Street Journal. Click here to find out are you a workaholic.
What did you learn from the test? I was reminded of a few areas in my life that I can improve. Don't get too wrapped up in the term workaholic. Just see what you can learn about how you can live your life in a more healthy way for you and your loved ones. Below are some other articles on this blog that can help:
* This is the third article of three on the topic of understanding men, their stress management, and being a workaholic. You can read the first two articles by clicking the links above. Sign-up for our blog on the right side of this page and start getting notified of valuable articles like these (you can get notified by email or RSS feed).
Part 2 of 3
Do some people really need stress management while on vacation? Consider these statistics:
- 3%: Suffer from 'leisure sickness' on vacation. Signs include fatigue, muscle pain, nausea and flu-like symptoms.
- 19%: Have canceled or postponed vacation plans due to work.
- 56%: Say they are more in need of a vacation than in past years.
These numbers are from the Wall Street Journal Article, Why Relaxing Is Hard Work. In the article, Bryan E. Robinson, author of "Chained to the Desk, a Guidebook for Workaholics" and professor emeritus at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, says:
- About one-quarter of the population could be classified as workaholic, though it comes in varying degrees.
- One version is the workaholic who is physically on vacation but mentally still at work. "He may be playing catch with his daughter, but his mind is somewhere else. And she can probably tell, even though she's only 7," he says.
So if you might be a workaholic and you're going on vacation, what do you do for stress management? Here are some stress management tips from the WSJ article for the guy who needs to relax but has trouble doing so:
- Try something new. Learning something in a new place can be more relaxing and refreshing than trying to do nothing. While it's good to get outside your comfort zone, it's not necessary to explode out of it. "I don't want to go bungee jumping," says Matthew Edlund, a sleep expert in Sarasota, Fla., and author of "The Power of Rest" who says he'd much prefer walking through Berlin or Beijing. "You decide what your level of adventurousness is and do it."
- Have a plan, but be flexible. Completely winging it somewhere can be stressful, so have a rough idea of what you're going to do, but be willing to change it. "If you find that you're on a beach and you're bored out of your mind, get up and do something else," says Dr. Edlund.
- Get physical. Besides releasing endorphins, exercise also burns off excess adrenaline and cortisol. The "flight" can be on the treadmill, after all. If you haven't been exercising, a vacation can be a good time to start. Even a walk on the beach can be invigorating for a chaise potato. At the other extreme, some people relax by doing marathons or triathlons. But overdoing it be stressful as well.
- Build in a buffer. Don't work right up until the moment you leave and head back to work right off the plane. If possible, schedule an extra day off before you depart and another when you come back to dive back in slowly.
- Manage expectations. Make sure your colleagues and clients know that you'll be away and checking in only occasionally; tell those back home the kind of matters you want to be bothered about.
- Breathe. As New Agey as it sounds, meditating and paced breathing can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which works to balance the surges of adrenaline and cortisol that accompany stress, says Dr. Rosch.
- Practice mindfulness: Research suggests that focusing the mind on the present moment can have profound effects. Mostly, it involves observing your surrounds without making judgments. Try observing your own feelings.
Stress management isn't really that hard -- it just takes a little planning and effort. So which one of these stress management tips could you start using this week? Remember, you don't need to practice stress management just on vacation.
Read Part 1 Here: Understanding Men - Why Can't Men Relax?
* This is the second article of three on the topic of understanding men. In the next article we'll take a quiz to find out if you might be a workaholic. Sign-up for our blog on the right side of this page and be sure not to miss any parts of this series (you can get notified by email or RSS feed).
Are there warning signs that you need anger management classes? Yes.
Charlie Sheen was sentenced by a judge this week to 36 hours of anger management classes for assaulting his wife last Christmas. He’s just the latest male celebrity court ordered to anger management classes.
Do you think these celebrities could have been able to see that they needed anger management classes before they were standing in front of a judge facing jail time? Hello, Charlie, Sean Penn, Mel Gibson…
If you think the need to learn anger management is only for those famous guys, think again. Just in the past week I’ve worked in anger management with a truck driver, development company vice president, commercial property contractor, and medical equipment sales manager.
These men, both the famous and every day guys like you and me, all have two things in common:
- The need for anger management
- Not going to anger management classes until something really, really bad has happened – i.e. been taken to jail, standing before a judge, kicked out of the house by their wife, hurt their kids with words that can never be taken back…
All of these guys also had anger management warning signs they ignored:
- People telling them they needed to go to anger management classes, but they dismissed them.
- Hurt and fear in the faces of loved ones, like their kids, but they denied it.
- Troubled, broken relationships, such as with partners and coworkers, but they said the problem was with someone else.
Do you have anger management warning signs you're ignoring? If it's possible that you may need anger management classes, then be a man and go. Real men man up and learn how to change themselves before a judge tells them to.