“Recently my husband has been acting half his age! He’s skirting all his responsibilities, drinking and going out more than he ever has, and he’s irritable and short with me like he resents me for something. I feel like he’s no longer attracted to me and he’s been friending girls on Facebook that I’ve never met! To top it off, he’s been obsessing over his looks and buying clothes that a teenager would wear and he’s constantly at the gym. I’m pretty sure he’s having an affair, but it’s more than that – he shows no interest in me or the kids, and he used to be an incredible husband and father. I can’t help but feel that something else is going on. Please help.” – Catherine M., N.Y.
So, what do you think is happening here? Why do some middle-aged, responsible family men suddenly start acting like they’re teenagers again?
A midlife crisis can wreak havoc on everyone in its path and doesn’t necessarily happen at a certain age so it can come at any time. But, you can expect this to happen sometime between the ages of 40-50. Instead of thinking ahead, men undergoing a midlife crisis focus more on things they wish they had done in their youth and how to make the most of the years that lie ahead.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine if you’re heading for a midlife crisis:
- Do you keep thinking about running away or taking a break even if you have responsibilities that keep you from doing so?
- Do you have a desperate desire for freedom and independence, regardless of how it impacts others?
- Are you acting recklessly, like driving your car too fast or engaging in other impulsive behaviors like you may have as a teenager? Are you dressing like you’re much younger than your age? Spending a lot of time with people half your age?
- Are you drinking too much, often by yourself?
- Are you overusing prescription or recreational drugs?
- Are you obsessing about your appearance, trying to ‘anti-age’ and overdoing it on procedures and products to look younger?
Do these things sound familiar to you? Are these things you may have done or felt as a teenager? Well, if you’ve answered yes to any or these questions, you may be heading for a midlife crisis.
There are 6 stages to a midlife crisis, so if you are going through this now, you can probably identify with what stage you are in and where you are headed. Or, if you haven’t experienced a midlife crisis, then you could try to prevent it altogether by reading this article!
The 6 Stages of a Midlife Crisis
The first stage is denial. Denial of the fact that you are getting older, that your body doesn’t work as well as it used to, and that you may not look as good as you used to. Until this point, you may have felt like you were still in your prime and youthful and altogether ignore the fact that age has been sneaking up on you and that you are ‘wearing out.’ When this reality hits home, many panic and get plastic surgery, buy new clothes that don’t reflect their age and anything else to make them feel younger. And, when ‘buying off’ the aging process doesn’t work, it leads to the next stage: Anger.
During the anger stage of a midlife crisis, you may start to act selfish, and lash out at others, not caring how they may feel. Most people don’t really know why they are even angry – does this sound familiar? That’s exactly how we felt as teenagers! You may begin to think ‘runaway’ thoughts because you feel stuck and trapped in the life you chose when you were younger. Perhaps you begin to think that if you could just change their life you’d be happy, but you don’t even know what to change. You start to look for outside sources to blame for your unhappiness and throw tantrums like you did in your youth. Finally, during the anger stage, many undertake risky behaviors, such as having an affair, doing drugs, drinking and continue with their quest for youth and search of self.
Next is the Replay stage, where you’re still searching for outside sources to blame for your misery, and you feel entitled to take whatever you want, regardless of who you hurt in the process. Your reasoning for this is that you have done for others your whole life, now it’s your time to have fun. Be careful, though, as this behavior can disrupt the most settled of families. Replay is the longest stage of a midlife crisis, depending on how many times these behaviors are replayed. Just as when you were a teen, you had to make the same mistake many times before you finally learned from it.
Depression is the lowest point of the mid lifer’s journey. This is where you start to face your issues and ultimately feel like a failure. Depression is your anger turned inward. Just like when you were a teenager, your hormones are out of whack due to physical changes, making you feel even worse. Your self-esteem is shot, you may have thoughts of suicide, you may receive treatment, or you may just suffer in silence. Also, just like when you were younger, you feel like nobody understands you or will understand what you’re going through; and, so it goes on. At this point, you tend to feel so much pressure that you become forgetful, irritable, argumentative, and just want to be left alone. Worst of all, this journey must be made alone. No one can fix it at this point but you.
Next, comes withdrawal. During this stage, you come face to face with the more personal, self-related types of issues that you have avoided up to this point. And, you must consider what was within you to lead you to do all the damage you have caused. Now you must face major decisions that will either make or break you about your job, relationships, and marriage. You will either choose to rebuild or, much like when you were a teenager, withdraw completely and rebel against what you know must be done. And, if you choose the former, then you can finally cross over into the final stage of Acceptance.
During the Acceptance stage, you will likely start to apologize for everything under the sun and try to make up for the damage done. Be aware that there will be temptations to go back to where you came from, but stay focused and trudge forward, revisiting each stage once and closing the door once and for all on each. You must face all your fears before coming through the final tunnel.
Much like a teenager who has passed into manhood, there are still final changes that must be made; but, with self-awareness, focus, and determination, you can once again be the responsible man you once were.