Part 1 of 2
We all go through lives quite busy, juggling multiple tasks and responsibilities. We go to school, have careers, families, and often children. Time speeds past and then one day we wake up and realize, “I am not where I wanted to be!” It is often at this point that a person might find themselves facing tricky choices and problems. So what is a midlife crisis for a woman?
When you ask, “what is a midlife crisis for a woman?” it is important to note that it looks much different than the typical characteristics of a midlife crisis for a man. From actions to relationships, women often behave in ways that are surprising, even to them. And, there are times when the woman experiencing these things is not even aware of how they are behaving.
What Does a Midlife Crisis Look Like for a Woman?
There is much written about the midlife crisis in general. For men there is the stereotypical red convertible and possibility of affairs, but what is a midlife crisis for a woman? The signs in women of a midlife crisis have a lot to do with the stressors she has experienced and the roles that she has fulfilled. A woman who has spent a large portion of her adult years raising children and taking care of a home may find herself questioning her identity and purpose once the kids have grown. A woman who has spent her days in the working world may begin to question the purpose and validity of her chosen profession.
Either way, women also have a rather clear midlife demarcation. These years bring on menopause with both its physical and emotional changes, often making their husbands wonder if their wives hate them or, if their wives have simply gone crazy. Women, even more than men, are forced into acknowledging that their life is entering a new phase and this can initiate a period of intense reflection on life, choices, and relationships. If you are asking, “what is a midlife crisis for a woman?”, knowing that the crisis itself can be more complicated due to the physical changes she is experiencing is important.
When you are wondering about what a midlife crisis is for a woman and what the symptoms are, consider that they can fall into two kinds of categories, the “I’m not waiting any longer,” category and the “where did my youth go?” category.
“I’m Not Waiting Any Longer”
Women experiencing this type of midlife crisis have gotten to a place in their lives where they may start to think about the things they have put on hold for sake of family and career. As those things begin to take a backseat it could meaning it no longer makes sense to for a woman to wait to experience what interests her.
- These women may consider this a time to claim as their own. They may have an intense desire to begin doing things that are just for themselves feeling as though they have given a great deal to everyone else and they now deserve their own time. They might decide to travel alone, make extravagant purchases without consulting a partner, or opt for activities that might push boundaries like rock climbing or skydiving.
Dr. Kurt has seen this first hand in his practice:
While a midlife crisis in men is much more talked about, they do occur in women as well. It's important to know that in both sexes the symptoms of a midlife crisis can arise at almost any age or stage of life, and are not always triggered by middle age as much as a dissatisfaction with life. The wife of a guy I'm counseling right now is having a midlife crisis that has resulted in her spending thousands of dollars on dance lessons, clothing, and competitions. What looks like a new hobby interest is actually being driven by her unhappiness with herself and her life."
- Women could also be determined to re-invent themselves and find a new purpose. Some women facing a midlife crisis may decide to go back to school, look for a new job, or take on unusual and possibly adventurous hobbies that have always been of interest.
“Where Did My Youth Go?”
In this category women sometimes look in the mirror and realize that the person they once saw there has changed drastically. They begin to feel that the many years they dedicated to family and work took their youth and they become desperate to get it back.
- This woman might begin to mourn her youth and be determined to reclaim what she can. She might consider plastic surgery or other dramatic appearance enhancing procedures. Or, she might decide that in order to ward off age, she will dress for youth in a possibly inappropriate manner. Let’s face it, even in youth belly shirts can be a dicey choice.
- In that effort to recapture the feeling of youth, a woman may begin to engage in activities she associates with youthful behavior. Things like bar-hopping, casual sex or affairs, or late-night dance club scenes, acting more like a teenager than a mature woman. While some of these are similar to a man’s behavior during a midlife crisis, women often will opt for overly sexy clothing and exhibit behaviors that make themselves vulnerable to risky situations.
Either of these categories in extreme can cause a woman to slip into depression. Symptoms of depression in women are different than symptoms of depression in men. She might sleep all the time, lose interest in her appearance all together, or experience physical ailments like headaches that become chronic and don’t respond to treatment.
The common factor in all of these behaviors is that they are a direct change from what had been her norm and they are decidedly self-centered. The hallmark of what is a midlife crisis for a woman is the fact that it is selfish.
Selfish, however, is not the same things as bad. Some things like going back to school or taking on a new hobby are easy to support and consider positive, while others like promiscuity or bar-hopping can be destructive.
This selfish behavior no matter in which category can be very exclusionary, leaving those around her feeling cut out of her life, and be harmful to relationships. When you are wondering what a midlife crisis looks like for a woman, considering which category her behavior falls into can help you determine how best to help her. In the second article in this series we will explore the affect these behaviors have on a woman’s relationships and how loved ones can help her through this time.
Looking for More? Check Out These Articles
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- My Husband Wants A Divorce - Now What Do I Do?
- Get More Help with a Midlife Crisis