10 Min Read
- Do All Men Have Affairs During A Midlife Crisis?
- Why Do Men Have Affairs During A Midlife Crisis?
- Does Midlife Crisis Cause Affairs?
- How To Know If He’s Having An Affair
- What To Take Away
What's comes to mind when we think about the typical stereotype of a man in midlife crisis? He buys a sports car (probably red), gets new clothes and hairstyle, and finds a 25-year-old girlfriend, right?
But are these things a given? And more specifically, is it always the case that midlife crisis in men means having an affair?
Let's look at things more closely.
Anything involving human behavior will result in different outcomes for different people. We're all unique, so there will naturally be a variety of choices and actions made by each of us in the same situation -- this is especially true in a midlife crisis.
So, it should be no surprise that each man will respond differently to the unhappiness that comes with a midlife crisis.
There's a lot of denial that comes along with a midlife crisis too. Just like there is about admitting you're having an affair.
Here's an example of what a typical dialogue between partners can look like during one:
Partner: “Are you having a midlife crisis?"
Partner: “But you're acting weird?"
Man: “I'm just confused." (Key symptom of MLC by the way).
Partner: “About what?"
Man: “I don't know. Stuff." (The truth? My life, you,…)
Partner: “Are you unhappy with us?"
Man: “I don't know." (Truth? Yes.)
Partner: "Are you having an affair?"
Man: "No. Why would you think that?"
If you're the partner of a midlife crisis man then you know how this kind of exchange can go.
Do All Men Have Affairs During A Midlife Crisis?
No, not all men have affairs during their midlife crisis. However, many do end up engaging in either emotional affairs or physical ones.
It can take a long time to definitively find out about whether your partner is having an affair, however, and sometimes you never really know for sure. But the saying, “Where there's smoke there's fire,” typically applies.
The husband of a woman I’m counseling cheated on her several years ago during his midlife crisis. When she found credit card statements with unexplained hotel charges and phone records showing excessive calls to a coworker, she confronted him but never got an actual admission. Even during our divorce counseling he was adamant in his denials about having had an affair.
What’s she supposed to believe?
Understandably, partners want to hope and believe they haven't been cheated on. It's one of the worst things you can discover and leads to horrific pain.
And feeling you don’t want it to be true, but still want to know if it’s happening is completely normal. After all, there are benefits to knowing.
- Knowing about an affair can help to make sense of the crazy and secretive behavior, or his disinterest in being intimate with you.
- Since that level of betrayal changes the perspective a person has of their relationship, the limbo of suspecting but not knowing can cause extreme anxiety and frustration. Unfortunately, while finding out can relieve the anxiety, the resulting anger can lead to erratic actions, like confronting the other woman.
- For many people a physical affair is the line that once crossed will mean the end of the relationship.
The woman who wrote in below wants to believe her husband hasn’t cheated.
I'm pretty certain my husband is going through a midlife crisis. I feel like someone kidnapped him and replaced him with a stranger. At first he blamed me and stated he needed space and to get away from me. However over time I began to notice things he'd say that made it clear the problem isn't actually me. He seems all mixed up. Says his mind isn't right. Surprisingly enough I'm confident he isn't having an affair during his midlife crisis. He seems lost and like he's trying to figure out what's wrong with himself. After several months I decided to detach. It wasn't hard because I got tired of being around him. He's miserable, disconnected from me and the kids, irritable, forgetful. So I give him his space. He moved some of his things into his friends spare room but has still been at home on our couch more than he sleeps at his friends house. Recently he admitted he's been neglecting our young boys and a week after that he apologized for his attitude and stated that he hopes the counselor he will start seeing will help him 'get through this and get my head back on straight.' I have pulled back tremendously, and I feel like it made him somewhat change his tune. He still isn't normal and even when he tries to be kinder and more connected he still seems 'off.' And he easily slips back into his usually disconnected self. Most of the time I have no clue as to where I stand with him." -Emily
There are a lot of partners like Emily who want to believe their partner hasn't cheated - "I'm confident he isn't having an affair..."
Because it’s hard to know for sure, being skeptical and protecting yourself is wise. Remember, no matter how much you feel you know your partner, the truth is that the possibility that a man in midlife crisis will have an affair is high.
Why Do Men Have Affairs During A Midlife Crisis?
At the core of a midlife crisis is the search for happiness, contentment, and a purpose.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to gain those things, at least temporarily, is by having an affair.
A new love interest brings with it a high that’s intoxicating. This is because the excitement of pursuing someone new and the attention from them releases powerful chemicals in the brain that alleviate (momentarily) the emotional pain of being in a midlife crisis.
When you’re tired of the old (your current life and all that it encompasses) nothing works better at creating happiness than something new (a car, place to live, love interest, etc.).
An affair provides an escape from the things in your life that seem to be causing your unhappiness and offers a new exciting adventure with enticing possibilities, like the opportunity to,
- Reinvent yourself
- Be seen in a different light
- Feel attractive
- Feel younger
- Have new sexual experiences
In other words, it provides the feel-good experiences that are so desperately sought out during a midlife crisis.
Some of the biggest things desired by people going through a midlife crisis are,
- A new start or chance to do things over again
- Make different choices or have another shot at missed opportunities
- Re-experience the vitality and passion of youth
For these reasons, men who feel they didn’t get the chance to fully experience dating and have multiple romantic and sexual relationships are particularly vulnerable to pursuing an affair during midlife crisis.
Here’s an example of how affairs develop when a man is in a midlife crisis:
I am mid-40s, look 10 years younger and am reasonably attractive. Married to my husband (who is a year younger than me) for 20 years now. We had a wonderful marriage, he was a devoted husband and involved father. 6 years ago, he had an affair with a woman 10 years+ younger. She knew he is married with kid. He said they met during a work seminar, she asked him for a coffee date, he relented to find out how far it would go (sounds like teenage rebellion to me). He said he ended the relationship after 6 months because he knew nothing would come out of it. They kissed/smooched but no sex. I only found out about the affair after it had ended, thanks to my intuition. We continued with our marriage, but did not seek counselling. I was resentful and became ‘less loving’ towards him. He gradually became withdrawn, disconnected and shared less about himself and work and stopped having sex with me. Finally he changed his phone password. There were threats or talks about divorce between us but never materialized. He said the problem is not me nor our marriage, is him. He said he has changed, his feelings has changed, he is different, his needs has changed. I asked him what was his need that I could not meet. He said he has sexual connection with that woman but not me. He refused to tell me more. Thereafter, he became a changed person overnight. He became disrespectful, disregarded our child’s safety and emotional needs, said he felt trapped with me, did outrageous things that were unlike the usual him. It felt like all hell break loose, felt like he was 'possessed.' He became illogical. He was unsure of how much he really like/love that woman, but yet he told me he was likely to remarry. Just when he was at the verge of moving out, I found out that he got to know her during one of his regular business trips and my husband does not speak her language much. All the puzzle pieces came together and I figured that the woman was likely to be a scam. He probably figured that out after I pointed some suspicious traits/events surrounding their relationship. He ended the affair and stayed. He said he is a ruined man, and I remembered he once said he was not as successful (yet he holds a very good position at work). He has no hobby for a long time. He is a workaholic. He is either sleeping or working from home most of the time on weekends if we are not out since many years ago. When we pass by mirrors in public places, he would look at his balding crown. He started losing some hair during his mid twenties and it got progressively worse recent years. His parents did not have a good marriage for a very very long time. I am wondering whether my husband is having a midlife crisis? Have the affairs got anything to do with it? He refused to go counselling and said he would argue with the therapist and would not cooperate. What should I do, what can I do? He was a very good man." -Miranda
A new lover typically offers plenty of praise, adoration, and validation. These things fill the void that’s a significant part of what fuels a midlife crisis.
Self-worth is something we all can wrestle with, but during a midlife crisis this is particularly true. As a result, an affair is especially alluring for midlife crisis men as it appears to resolve what’s causing their discontent.
Unfortunately, affairs don’t actually resolve anything and only give the appearance of relief. In order to truly resolve a midlife crisis, there are deeper changes that need to be made to how one thinks and feels about themselves and their life.
If only external changes are made then the problems that caused the crisis will only be masked, not fixed.
Does Midlife Crisis Cause Affairs?
No, a midlife crisis doesn't cause an affair, and neither does an affair cause a midlife crisis.
However, many, if not most, midlife crises have affairs associated with them. What affairs and midlife crisis have in common is the pursuit of pleasure and happiness. And because of this they often go together.
Rather than say a midlife caused an affair it’s more accurate to say midlife crisis in men can lead to an affair.
As I've described above, the discontent that comes along with a midlife crisis often finds relief through an affair.
It's also so easy to cheat with today's technology, especially to micro-cheat, that it's hard for many people struggling with the difficult feelings during midlife crisis to resist succumbing to infidelity. Or just stumbling into one like Miranda's husband above may have done (by the way, I've worked with men who've been conned similar to the way she suspects her husband was).
It's important to recognize, however, that it’s not just men who can have midlife crisis affairs.
Read below for an example of a woman who had a midlife crisis and cheated.
I had an affair for 8 months, which started a year and a half ago. My husband fought for our marriage while I struggled through the beginning of an empty nest syndrome and midlife crisis (I've been a stay at home mom of 5 for 21 years). He moved in and out multiple times. I was never a healer and blamed him for being controlling even after the affair (he was traumatized but I thought he was controlling me.). After not seeing the affair partner for 8 months this past year, he contacted me and I talked, texted, met with him for 2 weeks. Nothing physical happened but 1 kiss, which I admitted to. My husband found out and left. He's been gone for over 9 weeks, will not see me or speak to me. He blocked my phone and social media. The only contact we have are the emails I send. He responds to very few and his responses were angry and now are hopeless. He says he can't ever trust me and wants a divorce. I am VERY remorseful and see everything I did wrong now very clearly. I am willing to do anything to repair the damage and restore trust but he sees no hope, although he has admitted to still loving me in emails and to my children. He lives in a condo, with very little of his belongings and NO pictures of our family. He sees the children very little, except for my 17 year old son, who drives over there almost every day. What can I do to make him want to try to make this work? We've been together for 27 plus years and married for 24 years, with 5 children. The youngest is 12. The oldest is 20. Please help. My love letters, filled with apologies, explanations and promises don't seem to help. I am seeing a counselor twice a week and have changed all of my routines. What can I do?" -Janelle
Janelle's story is a great example of how the pain of a midlife crisis can drive people seek to relief through an affair. Sadly, like in Janelle’s situation, this generally only multiplies the pain and causes long-lasting, if not permanent, damage to others.
How To Know If He’s Having An Affair
If a man is having a midlife crisis it’s very likely that he is either currently cheating, has cheated, or is thinking about cheating.
With this being the case it's understandable when partners start seeking answers or evidence.
But how you determine concretely that he's having an affair is another matter.
As I mentioned earlier, even if you have receipts, text messages, or pictures, until he admits it they don't do you any good. Especially if your goal is to help him and repair your relationship.
Over the years I've worked with a lot of people who've used a variety of techniques to discover and prove they had a cheating spouse. I’ve been told about,
- Phones and computers being scanned
- Tracking devices on cars
- Use of spying apps
- Private detectives
and the list goes on and on.
Ultimately, they all ended up with more questions than answers. Even feeling confident about your conclusion like, Emily above, doesn't matter if her husband is having an affair and won't admit it.
A sad twist to all of this is that the pursuit of the truth can be the most destructive thing of all. Without an admission the wondering and suspicion will never end. And fueling more distrust by trying to find out exactly what happened doesn’t help with rebuilding the relationship and restoring your sanity.
Eventually the truth almost always comes out. It’s extremely difficult to hide an affair forever.
- A friend sees him with her
- He brings the other woman to a family birthday party
- He tells your kids about her
I've seen all of these happen.
What To Take Away
If you’re one of the many women dealing with a husband having a midlife crisis affair, you’re not alone. That may be cold comfort, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to mean your marriage is over. Some couples who deal with midlife crisis affairs do find their way back to each other and a happy marriage eventually.
But the couples who have a positive outcome work to make that happen – it’s not automatic.
My advice is not to ignore an affair, but rather to be careful how much your pursuit of proving it consumes you and negatively impacts the possibility of rebuilding the relationship.
During a midlife crisis this is especially important because it's very easy to drive him further away and toward the affair as you try to save your relationship.
As you’re navigating this difficult time, keep the following things in mind:
- Although affairs are common during a midlife crisis, it’s not a given. So, be careful about making assumptions or jumping to conclusions.
- Men (and women) in a midlife crisis are battling unhappiness, and often low self-esteem and feelings of failure. While you can’t fix that for them, if you’re aware of these feelings you can make an effort to sooth and counteract them.
- The length of a midlife crisis can vary, but most men do come out of the midlife crisis eventually. And often they have regrets and want to get back the life they left. Whether that’s an option will depend on the willingness of both partners to work at fixing their relationship.
- Counseling really helps. Not just the person going through the midlife crisis, but the partner of that person as well. So, there’s no reason the partner can’t or shouldn’t start counseling on their own. Being someone’s collateral damage is extremely painful.
- A midlife crisis affair isn’t a reflection on the attractiveness or value of the partner. As crushing as it may be, the midlife crisis and subsequent affair is an issue within the person going through it – not a measurement of the partner left behind.
Dealing with a midlife crisis in men is hard enough. Adding an affair into the mix along with a man's midlife crisis makes it immensely complicated. If you’re struggling with either one, or both, be sure ask for help as it's very difficult to know the right thing to do on your own.
Have you had any experience with midlife crisis and affairs? Please share it with us in a comment below.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published November 07, 2019 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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