A few weeks ago I was having coffee with a colleague about the pressures they were under at work when they suddenly said ‘Why doesn’t my wife understand that I am having a midlife crisis?’.
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this question, in fact I had asked it myself during my own crisis, and many times since when speaking to other midlife crisis sufferers. One thing that most people having a midlife crisis experience is a feeling of loneliness or isolation. Despite the idea of a midlife crisis being common it is rare for anyone to truly acknowledge it. Sometimes a reference may be made such as ‘Bob bought a new Harley Davidson, he must be having a midlife crisis’, but few people recognize when someone is truly suffering.
The feeling of isolation is common, it is coupled with a belief that if we talk about our situation then others will not understand, or will make light of the situation. In some ways this is a self-fulfilling prophesy, if we don’t talk about midlife crisis then people will not fully understand it. Furthermore, as we have written about in other articles there is a widely held belief that the midlife crisis is a myth, and that in some cases it is ‘cool’ to be seen as having a midlife crisis.
So in response to the person asking ‘Why doesn’t my wife understand my midlife crisis?’ I usually say ‘Does she know you feel you are having a midlife crisis?’. This is met with a variety of responses, most common are ‘of course, but she still doesn’t understand’ and ‘How can I do that, men aren’t supposed to talk about their feelings’. Therein lies the root of the issue, in many cases (but not all) the frank and honest admission that you are suffering with something that you don’t fully understand, and that you need help, has not been made.
Your wife is the person who knows you best, in some ways better than you know yourself. The two of you have shared many challenges throughout your lives together. Despite knowing you well she is not psychic, and she is also human. There is no magic way that she will understand how you feel without an open and honest discussion about those feelings. Keep in mind that if you are worried about a midlife crisis but don’t understand why it is happening, or don’t understand what you are feeling then how is someone else going to know? You may have been feeling different, lost, isolated, unfulfilled or worried for many months but may not have expressed that openly. Your wife may only have seen the outward changes in behavior, short temper, unusual quiet periods, lack of enthusiasm, and she could well be confused as to the cause.
Marriages are partnerships, and partners need to communicate. It is unlikely that the two of you made it through many years together without talking about the issues that arose, the same is true in the case of a midlife crisis. Speak to your wife about how you feel, any confusions you may have, concerns and worries too. Remember, she is invested in the relationship too and wants to see you are happy.
When talking about your concerns keep in mind that she is a person too, with her own feelings. Be patient with each other and talk openly together, do not list all the things that are wrong with your life and expect her to have the answers. Even after talking about your midlife crisis, your wife may not understand immediately, but if you don’t talk with her then that is the first reason she doesn’t understand why you are having a midlife crisis.