Many of the wives who contact me are dealing with a husband who appears to be going through a midlife crisis. This can be true regardless of whether there is a separation or not. These wives watch as the husband emotionally distances himself from his marriage, spouse, and family. They watch as the husband rejects what was once dear to him. They watch as he not only isolates himself, but sometimes also lashes out at some imaginary crime his wife never committed. At first, the wife may try to ignore these offenses. But over time, it can become increasingly difficult to deny.
She might also ask her husband if he did something wrong. And she might deny that she is her fault. She might tell her it’s not her, it’s him. Still, he continues to be emotionally cruel or downright mean. She might explain: “I would never describe my husband as a bad or cruel person. In fact, his kindness was the very thing that attracted me to him. He always went out of his way to show me how much he appreciates me. He’s always been wonderfully so. sweet. But last year things changed dramatically. It happened after his 50th birthday. My husband now questions everything. The things that made him happy are no longer good enough for him. Many of his friends are starting to. second marriage with younger wives. And I can’t help but notice that since this has all started, my husband is very critical of me. He will talk to me in a sarcastic tone. He never used to challenge my judgments or opinions before. But now, he’ll act like I was wrong or just not very bright when he questions my ideals. It’s not a mockery. In fact, there are times when it almost feels like an attack, like he’s criticizing or rejecting the values we both shared, I don’t understand this meanness. He denies that I did anything wrong. I asked him and searched my memory to determine if there was anything I could do. I keep arriving empty. I’m at a loss. I think I’m a good wife who is mostly caring and loving. So I don’t understand where this meanness comes from. “
Understand why he is struggling: I know it’s almost impossible not to take it personally. But sometimes, a man going through a midlife crisis will almost reject every part of his life, including his marriage, until he realizes that none of this is going to make things better. He will reject his old life and try out new roles, desperately wanting to feel at peace again. There are times when this is a frustrating process. He’s trying so hard to find his place in the world while he’s in the middle of life. It is jarring to look around and realize that you are more than halfway to mortality and that you only have so much time left.
Part of a midlife crisis is trying desperately to determine how you want to spend the time you have. There can be almost frantic juggling as you try out new roles and temporarily pause or discard old ones. Not an excuse, of course. But that’s the way a man often feels.
Because you might see average behavior: This rejection of the old or comfortable could be why you see him staying distant and behaving badly. Still not sure where you fit into this new life. So he’s drifting away emotionally until he understands everything. Meanness could very well arise from frustration. He hopes to feel better, but he hasn’t gotten the relief he was hoping for. There are times in the process when men feel like old fools instead of like a reborn person (as they had hoped). This can mean that anyone in the immediate vicinity feels the brunt of this disappointment.
I’m not defending middle-aged men who are mean to their wives. But sometimes, it helps to remember that while it may not seem like it, it’s usually a man who is struggling. This doesn’t justify the way he treats you. And you’d be in your right to say something or apologize next time it happens.
What to watch: What you want to be really careful about is to notice if his frustration turns into indifference. Don’t believe it, indifference is more dangerous to a marriage than anger or frustration, at least in my opinion. A man who distances himself from his marriage can eventually become indifferent. And this is where his emotions and his commitment to you can die out.
I do not want to scare you. Many men eventually come to their senses and escape a midlife crisis well. For many it is a temporary situation. But you want to be careful of that indifference. Because the sooner you deal with it, the better for preserving the health of your marriage.
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