Husband Midlife Crisis & Wives' Biggest Mistake

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    A midlife crisis in anyone can upend not only their lives, but also the lives of those they love. When it’s a husband midlife crisis, however, many wives go into crisis management mode and feel they must do something to fix it.

    Typically, the need to fix problems is more of a problem for men, but it can be hard for any of us to see our partner lost, hurting, and self-destructive. So, when you believe your husband is having a midlife crisis, most wives find it very hard to do nothing.

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    One of the biggest mistakes a wife can make with a husband in midlife crisis, though, is pushing him to fix things. Often a wife’s response, although well intended, can just drive her husband even deeper into his midlife crisis.

    Recently, a wife whose husband is having a midlife crisis asked me to give her some guidance on what to do. Here’s how she described their situation:

    My husband of 21 years together 25, abruptly asked me if I was happy. Told me he wasn't and then he said I don't love you anymore. He's 48 and military and works 6.5 hours from home. I did the wrong thing and pleaded for a chance to work on it with him. We have 2 sons about to move to college and have talked about all the fun trips and things we will get when back to together soon, but now this suddenly came out? I see all the actions and behavior of a husband in midlife crisis, but what do I do?" -Nancy

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    How To Face Your Husband’s Midlife Crisis

    So, what should Nancy do?

    Although difficult, she will need first to accept that she can’t change him. What she can do, however, is influence him.

    When you see the man you love destroying his life and yours in the process, it’s really hard not intervene. But in order to have the best outcome you've got to be strategic in how you respond.

    Finding the most effective way to face your husband’s midlife crisis requires a calm mind. Anyone who’s spouse has had a midlife crisis knows that keeping calm and looking at things logically during this time is exceedingly difficult. The emotions attached to what you’re dealing with can just be overwhelming.

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    What does it look like to influence a husband’s midlife crisis? Here are 5 dos and don'ts that can accomplish this:

    • Give him space. Although this will be hard for wives to hear, many times one of the contributors to a husband midlife crisis is his relationship with his wife. Please note that I wrote 'contributor' not 'cause.'

    It's important that wives hear this difference and not be personally hurt by the idea they could be part of the problem. Wives must continue to remind themselves that they're not going to be able to fix their husband's midlife crisis - only he can do that. The best way to help him to do this is not to push too hard and make him feel worse. So, give him space.

    • Don't label the problem. It's okay to try and understand what's happening with your husband, but be careful what you call it. For a lot of men any kind of suggestion of a mental health problem, such as a midlife crisis or being depressed, will be met with pushback. If you label his problem you could very easily lose his willingness to listen to your suggestions of ways to help.
    • Don't focus on symptoms. The reason for this is very similar to the reason not to label the problem. It's very possible that your husband may already feel that you either 'nag' him or only see the things he does wrong. Although your intent is to help him, by pointing out the symptoms of a husband’s midlife crisis. it's very possible he will only hear you 'criticizing' him.
    • Comment on harmful changes. Rather than pointing out husband midlife crisis symptoms, suggest ways the changes are hurting him. You can do this by making observations such as, "I notice that you don't seem to enjoy playing golf anymore," or "you seem more stressed and need to drink a lot more to relax."
    • Give hints at the possible problem. Another reason not to focus on the symptoms of husbands in midlife crisis is because it’s far more important to discover and address the underlying cause. When you have an idea of the possible reasons he’s facing a midlife crisis you can be much more effective in helping him.

    I work with men and women dealing with midlife crisis on a weekly basis. Some causes I’ve seen include:

    We all are inclined to reject the help of those closest to us. Some of this is just human nature, and some traces back to power struggles with our parents.

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    Sadly, and to our detriment, this tendency can still exist in adulthood as we can reject loved ones who try to help us too. This is why it's so important just to ask, suggest, and reflect on what you see happening during a midlife crisis rather than directly telling your husband what to do.

    What You Can Do To Help A Husband Experiencing Midlife Crisis

    A husband midlife crisis can be very complicated. Often there are multiple causes that have led him to this point. Understanding what those possibly are can help give you an idea how you can support him in getting to the other side.

    It’s important to know there are no shortcuts, which can mean you need a large amount of patience.

    Unfortunately, handling things poorly can extend a midlife crisis even longer than necessary. Leading to tragic consequences like, money problems, addictions, and even divorce as the impact of a midlife crisis takes its toll.

    How a wife responds can make a huge difference in the responsiveness of her husband. Although, I must say that a husbands' response is solely his responsibility, and even though a wife can be a big influence, ultimately his behavior is up to him.

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    There are significant psychological issues occurring during a midlife crisis, so getting the help of a professional counselor is very important for both him and you. I work with wives every week guiding them on the best way they can influence their midlife crisis husband.

    In the meantime, wives can best help their husband in midlife crisis by not being 'Mrs. Fix-it' and following the recommendations above.

    Join the conversation and please share your thoughts and experience with a husband in midlife crisis in a comment below.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published October 31, 2012, was updated on November 17, 2017, and has been updated again with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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