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Midlife Crisis and Marriage

Dave and Cheryl* have been married for 29 years, most of them content if not uneventful. Their only son recently graduated from college and relocated for a new job in another state. A combination of their two-incomes and savvy investing resulted in a nicely padded retirement fund. But just when they could enjoy sliding into enjoying the fruits of their labor, Dave got uncharacteristically restless.

He began to find fault with their comfortable routines—and her. Thinly veiled criticisms poked fun at her “grandma” cardigans or graying hair. He began to experiment with his hair, trying out more youthful styles. For the first time in decades, he bought new clothes even going shopping without her. Cheryl was amused in the beginning, but when Dave wanted to spend a good portion of their savings first on a new motorcycle and then a small boat, she didn’t find it funny at all. There was no way his silliness was going to cut into their retirement funds, but her protests made him rebellious. Their arguments began to take on more contentious tones.

The night she discovered that he had been reconnecting with old girlfriends on Facebook, she knew her marriage was in serious trouble. This was not a passing midlife crisis. Or was it? She didn’t know what to do, and it took all she had to not give into her fury and rush to a divorce attorney.

What is midlife crisis?
According to classical psychology, midlife crisis is related to a person’s fears about aging and his own mortality, and it can compel a man or woman to try to recapture youth or make otherwise drastic changes in lifestyle. It isn’t always, as in Dave’s case, about buying the tokens of youth; the sudden reflection about “Is this all there is? What do I want to experience before I die?” can send a seemingly devoted spouse packing.

Hidden resentments?
Although Dave never came out to admit his feelings, but Cheryl wondered if he was resentful that he had been pressured to marry her because she had gotten pregnant while they were dating. At the time, he seemed happy at the prospect of becoming a father even if that meant his carefree days were cut a little short. But now, she felt that this only added to his panic about aging and wanting to reclaim his youth.

Friends, family and clergy pastors encouraged her to be patient, telling her that this midlife crisis would pass. But she wasn’t so sure she would be able to outlast it. Would he blow through their savings accounts? Or even worse, have an affair? Maybe enduring the crisis wouldn’t be the challenge. After all, Dave wouldn’t be the first man to dump his marriage for a younger woman.

What would you do? Article Series
Should she be concerned and what should she do? What would you do? Visit us in the Bellaonline Marriage forum. Tell us how you would deal with this situation, and find out what Cheryl did.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of those who shared their story with us here. Any likeness or similarity to anyone in your life is purely coincidental.

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