If your wife is over 35 and seems dissatisfied with her life — and you — she may be going through that common affliction of middle age: a midlife crisis. Read on to learn the signs and symptoms of a mid-life crisis, and what you can do to give your spouse the support and space she needs to figure things out.
(If the shoe is on the other foot, read our companion blog: 7 Tips for Surviving Your Husband’s Midlife Crisis!)
Signs That Your Wife Is Having a Midlife Crisis
Empty Nest syndrome. She doesn’t know what to do with herself now that the kids have left the house.
Sexual withdrawal. She doesn’t want to have sex with you. This may be because she feels emotionally distant from you. Or she may feel uncomfortable with changes in her aging body and doesn’t want you looking at her unclothed.
She’s having an affair. Whether you just suspect she’s cheating, or you actually have proof, her attention has shifted to someone outside the marriage. The infidelity might be emotional (the nice guy at work), online (inappropriate electronic conversations), or physical.
Her social life is on a sudden upswing. Whether it’s book club night or a wine-tasting weekend with the girls, she always seems to have something going on – just not with you.
She complains that she’s not having fun. She no longer laughs at your jokes. You go out to dinner and she seems bored. She rolls her eyes when you ask her if she wants to watch Homeland. She’s frustrated that “we never have fun anymore,” but isn’t sure what new fun would like.
She questions all her past choices. Her regrets are unsettling: she’s not sure she should have gotten married, or at least not to you, or become a mother, or quit her job to stay home with the kids, and the list goes on.
She’s doing things that seem unlike her. She’s sporting a new tattoo, dressing younger, going to Happy Hour with friends, etc. While there’s nothing wrong with doing any of these things, the fact that she never did them before strikes you as odd.
She says she doesn’t know if she still loves you. Or she loves you, but isn’t “in love” with you. It’s devastating to hear that the woman who used to adore you isn’t sure she wants to be married to you; but remember, she’s questioning everything right now, not just your relationship.
She exercises obsessively. She’s now in the camp that exercise is the fountain of youth and becomes distraught if she can’t get to the gym every day.
She’s moody. She seems depressed and anxious. Everything you do irritates her and she picks fights, seemingly over nothing.
She’s developed an addiction. Whether it’s food, alcohol, drugs, cosmetic surgery, risky affairs, or even just Candy Crush, her drug of choice is running her life.
She makes rash decisions. She quits her job. She announces she’s going on a long trip to “figure things out.” Or she serves you with divorce papers. You never know what you’re going to get on any given day.
7 Tips To Help You And Your Marriage Survive Your Wife’s Midlife Crisis
Your wife has morphed from someone you trusted and loved, to someone who seems like a stranger. You don’t know how to talk to her. She’s irritated and dissatisfied with everything you do or say. Your once secure marriage now feels shaky. Your wife’s midlife crisis doesn’t have to spell divorce, and weathering it together may bring you even closer.
Here are 7 tips to help both of you survive it.
Be Patient. A midlife crisis can last a few years. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept that this is where your wife is for now. Of course, this doesn’t mean sweeping certain behaviors like infidelity under the carpet.
Don’t criticize her thoughts and feelings. Don’t get hung up on the details of what she says; instead, listen to the meaning behind her words (that she feels something’s lacking in herself) and try to empathize. Don’t lecture or try to “fix” her problem — unless she’s doing something dangerous, like abusing alcohol, drugs, or American Express.
Don’t write her off as “crazy.” There is no quicker way to alienate a woman than to tell her, in so many words, that she’s acting crazy. Make sure you’re not taking your wife’s “crazy” behavior out of context. Instead, ask yourself if you’re doing anything to cause a “crazy” reaction. Have you been self-absorbed? Do you tend to tell her she’s wrong instead of validating how she feels? Have you stopped courting her? Her behavior might be a cry for attention. If you want to save your marriage, you need to take a good look at your own behaviors and make necessary changes.
Recognize that a midlife crisis is part of personal growth. Women are taught to put everyone else first. They’re often so focused on what other people want that they don’t know what they want. Midlife is the time when women shift their focus from others to their own needs and desires. They may feel grief for missed opportunities and anger at those they feel have taken them for granted.
What can you do to help? Encourage her self-exploration, accept her right to assert healthy boundaries, and support her need for personal growth.
Try to have fun. If she says she “never has any fun,” try not to take it personally. Her sentiment probably has more to do with herself than with you. Validate her feelings by suggesting interesting activities you can do together – especially something that will be new for both of you.
Validate her feelings. When your wife talks about her problems, your instinct may be to come up with solutions because you care about her. Unfortunately, your good intention often goes unrewarded because your wife wants you to listen to her, not jump in to save her. In fact, the more you try to fix what you think is broken, the more she will feel criticized and alienated. Your job is not to solve her midlife crisis, but to empathize with her experience and validate her feelings.
Write a list of shared goals. If you’re not sure what your wife wants to do with the rest of her life, ask her to sit down so the two of you can write a list. Read each other’s lists and circle what you have in common. You may feel closer to each other when you discover you still want many of the same things. If your wish lists are miles apart, then it might be time to go to…
Couples Therapy. If your wife asks you to go to marriage counseling, go. Now is not the time to draw a line in the sand because you hate the idea of talking to a “shrink.” Do you want her to go? Then tell her you love her, are concerned about the distance between you, and would like to go couples therapy for the sake of your marriage. However, don’t expect your therapist to be a miracle worker. You must be prepared to examine your own behavior, take accountability, and change dysfunctional patterns of relating.
Remember: many women in midlife start to wonder what their purpose is, or if the grass is greener somewhere else (it usually isn’t). As alarming as your wife’s behavior might be, stay calm, try not to take it personally, and support her in her quest to empower herself. If she feels that you genuinely care about her happiness, you can survive her midlife storm together!
During a midlife crisis on the part of either spouse, some couples may question the state of their marriage. We understand that having your spouse announce from seemingly out of nowhere, “I want a divorce!” is extremely upsetting and confusing. Do they really mean it? Can your marriage be saved? And how can you protect yourself, and your kids? We welcome you to schedule a consultation to speak with a family law attorney to understand the divorce process, and get an idea of all your options, including reconciliation! Knowledge is power, and can be what helps you get through this tough time with less worry. Please contact us today to scheduled you no obligation consultation.
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