What's the typical stereotype of a man in midlife crisis? He buys a sports car, gets new clothes and hairstyle, and finds a 25-year-old girlfriend, right? But is it always the case that midlife crisis in men means having an affair? Let's take a look.
Anything involving human behavior is going to result in different outcomes in different people. We're all unique and so there are naturally going to be a variety of choices and actions made by each of us when in the same situation -- this especially true in a midlife crisis. Each man is going to 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 asks, ”Are you having a midlife crisis?"
Man answers, ”No."
Partner says, ”But you're acting weird?"
Man says, ”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, most do. Yet it can take a long time to definitively find out about one and sometimes you never do know for sure. But the saying, “Where there's smoke there's fire” typically applies.
A woman I’m counseling had her husband cheat several years ago during his midlife crisis. She found credit card statements with unexplained hotel charges, phone records showing excessive calls to a coworker, but she never got an admission from him. 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. After all it's one of the worst things you can find out about. But at the same time partners can also want to know. First, knowing about an affair can help to make sense of the crazy behavior. Second, since no one wants to be cheated on if it has happened most people want to know. Lastly, for many people a physical affair is the line that if ever crossed will mean they're done.
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 it 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 they're partner hasn't cheated - "I'm confident he isn't having an affair..." You can't know for sure, so being skeptical and unsure is the smartest response. Remember, no matter how much you feel you know your partner, the truth is that most men in midlife crisis have affairs.
Why Do Men Have Affairs During A Midlife Crisis?
At the core of a midlife crisis is the search for happiness, contentment and 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. The excitement of pursuing someone new and the attention from a new person 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 than something new (a car, place to live, love interest…). An affair provides an escape from the life you’re unhappy with and offers up a new exciting adventure. It provides the feel good feelings that are so desperately sought out during midlife crisis.
One of the biggest things that is usually desired in a midlife crisis is a new start or a chance to do life over again -- to make different choices, or have new or re-do lost opportunities. For instance, 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 that can fill a void that is often 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, it actually doesn’t resolve anything and only gives the appearance of relief. In order to truly resolve a midlife crisis inner changes in how one thinks and feels about themselves and their life is required. 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 crisis' 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 would be 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 so easy to cheat with today's technology, even to micro-cheat, that it's hard for most people to resist seeking out an affair, or falling 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 that it’s not just men who can have a midlife crisis and affair. 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 midlife crisis and the ways people seek relief can end up multiplying the pain and causing long lasting, if not permanent, damage as it hurts 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 presently cheating, has cheated or is thinking about it. With this being the case it's understandable that partners would want to find out. How you know for sure he's having an affair is another matter though. As I mentioned earlier, even if you have receipts, text messages, even pictures, until he admits it they don't do you a lot of good as far as being able to help him.
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 -- had phones and computers scanned, put tracking devices on cars, used spying apps, hired private detectives, the list goes on and on. What they all ended up with was more questions than answers. Even feeling confident about your conclusion like Melissa was above doesn't matter if her husband won't admit it.
Sadly, the pursuit of the truth can be the most destructive thing of all as it can never end. Fueling even more distrust in trying to find out exactly what happened doesn’t help in rebuilding the relationship. Eventually the truth almost always comes out. You can almost never 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).
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 the unpredictability of a midlife crisis this is especially important because it's easy to drive him further away and even more toward and affair as you try to save your relationship.
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.
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