Dealing with your husband’s mid-life crisis

Is your husband going through a mid life crisis? He has a long journey of self-discovery to go on first. Start thinking about yourself. You are the only person in this world over whom you have any control. You are also the only person in the world for whom you are responsible. That means you have a duty to yourself – to take care of yourself. It also means that you are not responsible for him or his actions, nor can you control him.

A marriage consists of two willing participants. If he is currently not a willing participant, then you can’t make him be. I’m not saying you have to give up on your marriage, you can hold out as long as you want to for him to return and some of these men do return and go on to have solid good marriages. I am saying that you need to understand that you are not doing yourself any good by continually focusing on your husband and your marriage. You cannot control either of them whilst he is not a willing participant. The only one you can control is yourself. I know that may not be what you want to hear, but that is how it stands.

It is true in all of our relationships that we cannot control and are not responsible for another, but it is crucial to understand this when it comes to a midlife crisis man. He is not doing this because he wants to hurt you, you have not caused it. It is simply a part of his development as a person and personal growth is, by definition, a one person project. You cannot influence it. To help you to learn to practice loving detachment from him and instead switch your focus onto yourself and getting yourself through this difficult time.

EMOTIONAL DETACHMENT
Emotional detachment is a way in which we can truly honor and respect another person. It means allowing them to live their life in the way they choose and not trying to intervene or to “help” them because we believe that we know better for them. If you can truly detach from your husband then you will not be basing your own wellbeing on him and his behavior, you will be accepting that although he is making choices that hurt you he is making the best decisions he is capable of for himself at this point in time.

Detaching really does mean accepting that you have no control over or responsibility for him and accepting that he will do whatever he is going to do and you cannot change it. Detaching does not mean stopping caring, but it does mean stopping being affected so badly by your husband’s choices. I’m not going to claim it is easy, it is very, very difficult when you have been basing your happiness around him. It is however, very necessary to your emotional wellbeing that you try to let yourself be affected as little as possible by him.

You have to understand and remember that his crisis is not about you and it is not aimed at you, it will only affect you to the extent you allow it to. Of course it will affect you, this is your husband we are talking about, but you DO have control over whether you allow it to destroy you and your life or whether you choose to detach as much as you can in order to take care of yourself.

I use the term “loving detachment” because it is not about trying not to care, of course you care. It’s more about saying “I love you enough that, despite the fact that it hurts me and I do not understand, I will not interfere in what you are choosing to do. I will be here waiting should you choose to come back to our marriage, but I also love myself enough that I cannot allow myself to be destroyed by your choices in the meantime”.

It is incredibly difficult to detach. It is also the best thing you can do for yourself. The more you focus on yourself the less you will be able to focus on him. So turn your attention and energy away from him and all that you cannot control. I am advocating that you devote your energy toward taking care of yourself in order to survive and not make his crisis your crisis.

How do you start taking care of yourself? That is such a big question that it can stop you from even trying. Your world has been turned on its head. All your stability and normality has been torn away from you and even when you are able to think about starting to take care of yourself, you have no idea which steps to take first.

The starting place is different for each one of us. Your own thoughts will lead you to the place you need to begin. They will constantly drag you back to the place you need to focus on. Let me explain……. The aspects that our minds dwell on are our own particular demons. They are the places that we get stuck for reasons of our own, they are aspects of our own weaknesses and our own conditioning that come out under stress. Until we address them we can’t become the whole healthy person we need to be.

Let’s take a moment to look at some of the common places we get stuck that prevent us from starting to take care of ourselves and detach from our husband.

BLAME
It’s a cycle that many of us go through, we fall to blame, it appears to offer some answers, but beware, it is a trap! It’s just a way to perpetuate the misery. If you find yourself living in, with, or for, blame, it’s time to stop it. Moving past blame is your place to start. Yes, I know that’s hard, but until you can manage it, you cannot move forward, it is purely destructive. The constructive is to be found in responsibility. Taking responsibility for yourself and your actions, recognizing and refusing to own the things are not your responsibility. One very important aspect is acknowledging what is his responsibility, not blaming him, just noticing and accepting fact. The truth of his midlife crisis is that it’s his responsibility, all his choices all his actions are his alone, only he has control, only he has responsibility. Blame won’t help you deal with it, but accepting that you are not responsible and cannot control the situation can help you deal with it.

SELFLESSNESS
Another of the ways we try to deal with this ordeal is by being totally selfless. Compromising ourselves, our beliefs and our values in order to support him, or win him back, or just to have to avoid dealing with ourselves, is not good. You need to become selfish and importantly, being selfish is really not so awful. You need to begin your process of looking after yourself by wrestling with this demon. Until you can do that it will keep coming back to haunt you, holding you back from loving yourself. Understanding this area will also help you deal with his selfishness in a different way.

NOT SETTING YOUR BOUNDARIES
You might find that you are constantly doing things you feel uncomfortable with in order to accommodate your husband’s wants or supposed needs. Whenever you feel uncomfortable doing something for him or because of him, you are compromising your own boundaries.

This is a time in your life when you can and need to define your own boundaries. Not having boundaries and not upholding boundaries is very unhealthy. People who don’t uphold their boundaries are often thought of as ‘doormats”, they allow people to walk all over them. In order for you to take care of yourself, it is really important to decide what you will accept and what you will not accept in the ways you are treated. It is time to stand up for yourself and protect what is important to you. It is certainly not a case of being harsh or cold, simply a matter of deciding to protect yourself from more hurt.

What if you still don’t know where to start? Those first three examples of areas that might be major issues for you tend to be the most common ones. But what if that doesn’t feel right for you or you just don’t feel ready to tackle those demons yet?

You need to take your focus off your situation and how to cope with it and focus instead on how you are and what you need in order to cope with it. If a friend were to come to you and describe the situation that you are facing, what would you do? What would you want to do for her? Listen to her, show her support, be there for her, take her out for lunch? Whatever you would do for a friend, why can you not do that much for yourself?

Treat yourself with at least as much kindness as you would show to a friend.

Pampering yourself may be the furthest thing from your mind at the moment, I understand, but what harm can it do? How can being good to yourself damage anything? How can it not help you? Try it and see. Even just one tiny little gesture to start with.

There’s also gratitude. It may seem odd to start thinking about gratitude at this point too. I know it can feel that there is not a lot to be grateful for when your marriage and your life are falling apart. You don’t want any of this to be happening, but it is and you can’t stop it, what’s to be grateful for in that? This is where you need to come all the way back to basics and have a bit of a perspective shift. There are so many things still to be grateful for, there really are, and once you can begin to notice them again, you will be shifting your mind to a more positive place from which so much more is possible than it is in the dark, negative pit.