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Midlife Crisis -- Is My Husband Having One?

Posted by Dr. Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC on Sat, Sep 11, 2010

Mid-life CrisisPart 1 of 2

"Is my husband having a midlife 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 midlife crisis? Is he having an affair?  Or 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 midlife 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 midlife 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 midlife 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.

* This is the first article of two discussing one man's midlife crisis and the impact on his wife. In the next article we’ll explore the characteristics of men who can have a midlife crisis. Sign-up for Our Blog on the right and don't miss the next article.

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