Confusion is a standard feature of a male midlife crisis. The man in midlife crisis is mixed up, his partner is lost, and if there are kids involved then they have no clue what's going on other than their parents are acting pretty strange.
Another hallmark of male midlife crisis is change. This is one of the things that makes most partners so confused and scared. A midlife crisis is cry out for change. And it brings with it change - often very abrupt, shocking, radical change.
It's very important to recognize that confusion and change are normal characteristics of a midlife crisis male. Men in a midlife crisis want and need change, but they're usually very confused about what that change needs to be, and thus act in very confusing and even contradictory ways. When everyone affected learns that this is normal it becomes easier to be more accepting of and less resistant to it. This is key because how we react to a midlife crisis often determines the outcome.
I wrote the following post on social media about change. Although I don't specifically address the subject of midlife crisis in men, the message is very applicable.
When I spoke with Jessica this morning she told me she was in "shock." Her husband, Steve, came home from work last Friday and announced that he is unhappy and moving out. He then packed a bag, said nothing to their 5 kids, and left. She said their 19-year marriage has had its share of ups and downs, but nothing like this before.
Jessica has talked with Steve a couple of times since he left, but she still has no idea what's going on with him other than he keeps saying he wants more separation. To say that Jessica is confused by her husband's midlife crisis would be an understatement. Ironically, confused is exactly how Steve feels too.
Sure we could blame Steve for creating the confusion by his actions, but that wouldn't move us closer to a fixing this mess. No question that Steve is responsible for his selfish decisions and confusing everyone by them, but it's important to acknowledge he's also confused and that's partly why he's acting so irrationally.
As we can see in Jessica and Steve's story, male midlife crisis brings uncertainty and change with it, and lots of it. Jessica is understandably panicking over what it all means and how to respond.
The above quote is most often attributed to Charles Darwin, but is believed to actually have originated in a speech given by Louisiana State University business professor Leon C. Megginson as he gave his interpretation of Darwin's theory. Regardless of its author, the quote is very useful for our discussion of males in midlife crisis:
"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptive to change."
This statement could be a motto for how to respond to a midlife crisis. As Darwin's theory of evolution suggests, being able to adapt to change is a crucial skill for survival. It's helpful for partners like Jessica to remember that change doesn't have to be bad, but it certainly can be scary at times.
Sometimes change that is necessary gets forced upon us through painful circumstances like a male midlife crisis. As this quote suggests, the more "adaptive to change" we can be the better our chances of survival.
The reason why male midlife crisis is so hard to sort out is because everyone involved is confused. Yet when we base our responses upon that truth and are open to change we're better able to react in ways that can find solutions to the confusion rather than adding to it.
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