Mid-Life Crisis Q&A-Julie N

Comment from: Julie N. Her comments are in bolded italics, while mine will be shown in regular format. Another long read, but hopefully it’s informative and helpful. 🙂

Hi there.

This is the 3rd time in 6 yrs my spouse of 12 yrs said he doesn’t know if he “loves me enough to stay in the marriage.” and wonders if something better is out there. We’ve been together since teenagers, have no kids, he is 37. The last 2 times he recanted that statement within a day, went living life a couple more yrs before saying it again. This is the 3rd time, since Jan 16th, 2014, and he has not recanted his statement this time.

Hello Julie, 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to write me. I have seen situations like this before, and some of the answers you’ve been seeking have been within the articles at hand. Basically, what has happened each time he’s given you this speech, he has managed to push back his feelings of restlessness, and tried to bury the issues that were struggling to come forth within himself. Some of what he did, was a protective measure toward you, but it was also to protect himself from his own fears.

When we repress or bury something we don’t understand, we only create an emotional ticking time bomb that will eventually catch up, and go off when we least expect it. It’s only a matter of time before it does. Your spouse was frightened at what he was feeling, he didn’t feel “right” or feel like himself. This is a frightening aspect when it’s experienced.

Since his issues weren’t far behind, he simply shoved it all into an emotional closet he created within his mind, shut the door, locked it tight, and tried to ignore it in favor of continuing to try and live some semblance of a “normal” life.

But these didn’t just “go away.” They became stronger, more insistent, more demanding. He tried harder the second time with the same result, and eventually, he was overrun, as the door burst open, and everything came out on him, hence this third time being worse, resulting in him going fully into his emotional crisis.

To put this another way for greater understanding: because he didn’t face his changing feelings, and didn’t try to begin working them out, they simply built up more pressure within him each time he repressed these. It’s like trying to hold back raging waters with a weak dam. Repression of this kind never works.

One can only shore up a weak dam so many times, before it completely breaks, and the raging waters will overrun and do a great deal of damage to anything or anyone that stands in its way.
That is a decent description of what has happened with him. He could have spoken with you about this at any time, but would you have understood what he was trying to say?

No, of course, you wouldn’t-none of us have that kind of understanding in the beginning, unless we’ve already been down that road. Very few of us have had that kind of opportunity prior to the mid-life crisis. So, he kept his mouth shut, buried everything in the hope it would simply go away without any fuss.

I do have an article written on that aspect about the Aspects Leading into a Mid-Life Crisis.

However, to be fair to you, I do realize that this article only covers basic generalities, and more often as not, people want advice specifically geared toward their individual situations. Which is what I’m giving to you at this point in time-a more in depth look at your individual situation.

He is seeing an individual therapist who says it could be his depression causing him to think this way (lost his job after 10 yrs in 2010 and depressed since), or being in a “loveless” marriage could be causing him to think this way. She told him to “sort out his feelings” and get away from me more to get an opportunity to “miss me”. I have been told I am “smothering” and upon reviewing my actions in my own individual therapy, this is true, I see it now. His therapist said he has lots of personal issues to work through, and that he needs a lot of individual therapy before marriage therapy can be considered.

In my humble opinion, his counselor, while on track within the depressional aspect, on track with the personal issues, on track with him needing space to work on himself without you constantly around him,(this aspect of space given is true of and within ANY mid-life crisis situation), and on track with him needing a lot of individual therapy before marriage therapy can be considered, is way off base within the “loveless marriage” aspect.

His mid-life crisis is NOT ABOUT HIS MARRIAGE-THIS IS ABOUT HIS ISSUES WITHIN HIMSELF. Now, the caps I used are there on purpose, because the marriage didn’t “cause” his problems-his issues from HIS past that he never outgrew/matured through, were what caused HIS issues, HIS problems, HIS crisis.

I don’t see a “loveless marriage” here. If you didn’t still love him, you would not be here trying to get some additional insight into your situation. What I see in your words is that there IS love in your marriage, even if it’s love YOU are still giving him. I see that this counselor’s very thoughtless comment places a judgment on you that doesn’t exist. This is NOT your fault-the fault lies solely upon HIM, not you, nor on the marriage.

So, the counselor really doesn’t need to start talking to him like that, because you don’t give mid-life crisis spouses any ideas to further justify their bad behavior, and that is exactly what she is doing, even if it’s unintentional. You have counselors that know NOTHING about the mid-life crisis.

As a matter of fact, I have counseled several counselors over the years who were never prepared for this time of life, because the school they went to didn’t teach this aspect at all. I’m not a professional counselor, by any means, but I know the aspects of the mid-life crisis, inside and out-God knows I’ve spent enough years dealing with this aspect, and teaching on it.

In my humble opinion, a degree doesn’t make a person smart-sometimes it takes a lifetime of experiences to bring forth an expert within a given field, and college doesn’t graduate automatic experts in various fields-direct experience does.

Most schools have the idea that the mid-life crisis doesn’t exist, and that the mid-life crisis spouse is existing in a “loveless” marriage-not understanding that the mid-life crisis spouse has NO clue what love is to begin with. I don’t want to sound like I have an axe to grind on counselors as a whole, because there are many good ones out there.

But, for all the good ones, there are also bad ones. It pays to be discriminating in your choice of counselors. If you’re trying to keep a marriage together, and a counselor starts talking like that, find another counselor, as people like these don’t have any real interest in helping the mid-life spouse work through their changing feelings-preferring instead to blame their marriage, when it’s NOT the marriage-it’s a problem of issues inside of the mid-life crisis spouse.

Now, as far as your counselor is concerned, it seems that yours is helping you to begin walking the journey to wholeness and healing, and this truly begins by targeting yourself, who are you, what areas within you need targeting for improvement, what kind of growth you would need for yourself as an individual.

Of course I am watching my husband become someone I never imagined, short tempered, angry, very apathetic, loss of interest in a lot of things, VERY withdrawn….I am shocked, its like he’s been abducted and replaced by someone else. My begs/pleas/crying in front of him has all stopped, but I did this like mad before I read about mid life crisis.

Replay always shows the worst of symptoms during the mid-life crisis. Hormonal swings from one extreme to the other are not uncommon during this time. They do become not much more than children during this intensely emotional time, and they’ll act out in ways you never saw before-becoming the total opposite of the person you once knew.

Emotionally, they’ve regressed back to childhood, and because they are struggling so hard within themselves, in addition to the emotional pain they’ll experience within their psyche, it can make it hard for you to live with them, much less be patient with them, while trying to keep up with these different mood swings.

Begging and pleading on the part of the left-behind spouse, does make their behavior worse, because a mid-life crisis spouse hates perceived weakness-and the begging and pleading is seen as just that–weakness. Because they have a true lack of empathy, their spouses are viewed with contempt and disrespect.

If their spouses don’t learn to get themselves under control, don’t learn to begin triggering their own personal growth, don’t learn to set personal and relational boundaries, the mid-life crisis spouse will proceed to walk on them, if they’re allowed to get away with that.

As your growth continues, and you begin healing, you should begin learning about personal and relational boundaries, and learn how to set them. Also, as you begin some self-healing within yourself, you will begin being able to see clearly what is wrong within him, and what HE should be fixing for himself. This “seeing” the reality of him, will enable you to know what boundaries should be set to hopefully trigger his further emotional growth.

These things take time to accomplish, but that’s OK, because time is what you have to work with. The crisis didn’t begin overnight, and it won’t resolve overnight. So, settle in to learn life’s lessons, and walk your journey forward-one day at a time, one step at a time.

You can do this, I know you can. 🙂

As further advice, don’t try to keep up with his mood swings. You’ll turn yourself inside out if you don’t learn to detach from what you see. Realize that this won’t last forever (even if you think it might), live your life forward, and turn all that energy, that you’re expending worrying about him, upon yourself.

You didn’t break him, so you can’t fix him–you can’t do anything for him, but you can do everything for yourself. Let him go, give him space, work on you, because in the end, you are the only one who can control yourself, your actions, your reactions/responses.

I can barely make it through the day, I am leaning on friends, etc. He says, “some days I feel good about the relationship, some days I don’t. I want to love you because I know what a great wife you are, but for some reason I just can’t feel it. I want to see myself together with you forever, but I just can’t.” He hangs his head all the way down and cries when he says this…..

It all takes time-each day will get better as you learn to go forward within your journey. There will come a time when you’ll learn to lean upon God and yourself. People can only carry you so far before you must learn to pick yourself up, deal with yourself, and your ongoing journey will help you to do just that.

You don’t come across as a weak person-as a matter of fact, you come across as a stronger person than you realize you are. Tap into that strength within you, and draw on it to help yourself. People can advise you, but in the end, you must needs to learn to help yourself.

I’ve been there, done that, too. I found that I was a stronger woman than I ever thought I could be. I also learned to strengthen my relationship with God, and strengthen my relationship with myself. Only then, was I able to continue dealing with a mid-life spouse.

Your husband, right or wrong, has a right to how he feels. You can’t make him love you if he doesn’t have these feelings within himself. His feelings have been buried so deeply within himself, he cannot access these, and what was left in this place was an emotional “void” that cries out to be filled.

It’s hard to realize this, but since you were a part of his past, you also become part of his issues to resolve within himself. You can’t make him feel what he has lost, but you can continue to show him consideration, love, encouragement, and understanding.

I know that’s hard to do, because what we really want to do is rip their heads off, shake them hard, and scream at them to grow up, because this is all so wrong. Yet, if we do that, they’ll run so far the opposite direction, they might not ever return. Rest assured, accountability for wrong behavior will come, but not right now.

For now, focus on you, respect and validate his feelings, even when you don’t agree with them, because you have feelings that he might not agree with, but you want to be respected and validated-so give him these things without expectation. He still has yet to “outgrow” this childish way of viewing you, his life, his marriage, etc.

I am VERY worried because you know how people “grow apart?” I never believed in that, I always thought you CAN’T grow apart unless you let it happen. We haven’t been intimate since early February. I worry, that once he realizes he DOES love me and being with me is worth it, that it will be so many months that we haven’t been intimate, that he will say, “I love you like a friend but we haven’t been intimate in so long, I don’t think of you that way anymore.”

Just because you never believed in this aspect, doesn’t mean that it won’t happen for at least one of the people involved within the marriage. It’s a true fact that people CHANGE on an ongoing basis…and every decade of their lives brings on a different kind of thought pattern. I’m in my late 40s, for example, but I don’t think in the same way I did when I was say, in my 20s, or 30s. I’m constantly growing, changing and becoming in this way.

My husband is also changing, growing, and becoming. It often becomes a daily commitment to continue to choose to love, choose to commit, and choose to continue within a relationship that is going to always have problems, trials and tribulations-and everything a couple faces WILL change one, or even both, of them, regardless of when it happens, or how old they are.

In my own experience, I have learned there are NO guarantees within the mid-life crisis, but then, when you look at the bigger life’s picture, there are NO guarantees within one’s life as a whole.

There is always the chance something’s going to change, and in some circumstances, the more things change, the more they stay the same, but that can cause a emotionally stagnant state, leading to constant emotional unrest, because the issues that are still being buried, continue returning to be faced.

I’m not kidding when I say that each time these inner issues return, time is added, and the experience becomes much worse. So, change, growth and becoming is a lifelong aspect to be embraced, rather than fought.

It is an immature aspect within the spouse who tries to place their marital partner in an emotional ‘box’ simply because they are afraid they are going to be “outgrown.” No one can be “outgrown” unless the one growing chooses to walk away-we have NO control over what our spouses do-we can only do what is best for ourselves, and grow as a result of this experience, while giving them the space and time to grow for themselves.

If there are feelings left within the mid-life crisis spouse, they’ll return…if not, they won’t, but again, you can’t do anything about it-you can only do for yourself, and create an environment they may choose to return to. All you can do is figure out what past issues within yourself are being triggered by the emotionally abandoning spouse, and work on these for yourself-outgrow them, mature past these, resolve them.

Yeah, your personal growth is THAT important. 🙂 I’ve been down this road, too…though I didn’t cause anything, I learned that I had various issues that were triggered by what happened, and I came to know that my future well-being depended upon myself, NOT my spouse.

I think we’ve all been guilty, at one time or another, of thinking that people don’t change-yet, they do change. People who have the idea they are the same person they were X amount of years ago, are sadly mistaken about that. That’s their perception, but because people don’t take the time to take an honest look in the mirror of self-reflection, their lack of self-honesty ‘covers over’ what is real, and sometimes change is so gradual it goes unnoticed most of the time, especially by themselves.

I had not realized how much I had changed, until our lives were turned upside down by his mid-life crisis. Both of us had changed over time, and we did grow apart as a result. There was a lot of things we didn’t know about marriage. Since we had no idea how to stay close, we did what we never thought we would do. We emotionally separated during that time, and we even experienced an emotional “divorce” during that same time.

We must needs to learn to accept our spouses for who they are, not for what we would want them to be. We also find that as we change, these changes will also affect other people around us, as they will either rebel against our growth, and walk away, or learn to relate to us in a more mature way.

Once more, it all goes back to learning that all people have choices to exercise, and that we don’t have the right to try and take that from them. Love must be free, not binding, and if you love, let go–if feelings remain, it will return, if not, it was never really yours in the first place, as love is also a CHOICE–not just a feeling.

As far as sexual intimacy is concerned, the hormonal changes within the mid-life spouse are at the bottom of this. Again, this is something you cannot do anything about, and in time, as his hormones begin to attempt to re-balance, his desire in this area will return…it all takes time.

It seems to be an emotional “test” of some kind, when sexual intimacy and frequency drop off. Sexual intimacy, while important within a marriage, wasn’t exactly designed to last a lifetime. When people can’t be physically intimate, they learn to compensate by learning a deeper aspect of emotional intimacy. Let the friendship build first, and the sexual aspect will eventually fall into place. As people get older, their hormonal and chemistry makeup will change, and if there are no emotional components in place to continue holding the marriage together, it will fall apart in a different way.

Too much emphasis is placed upon sex, and most people will confuse sex with love, when sex is only one of the many expressions of love, but at the same time, sex isn’t the same as love. Believe me, it’s not personal on the mid-life crisis spouse’s part, it’s all about hormones, and the various changes these go through during this time of what is also called, “The Change.”

Try not to worry so much, things will work out, as they should in this area. I understand how you feel. ((hugs))

Each day he says “love you” morning and night and gives a very QUICK kiss on the lips and hug, pulls away quickly. Is this small display enough to be able to see me in a more romantic way if this crisis takes months/years down the road? His mood VARIES so GREATLY even within the course of the day he can be so withdrawn, yet also so deeply personal sharing private thoughts about his family/life. I stay supportive and Not judgmental when he tells me his thoughts. I constantly tell him how proud I am of him and how proud his dead family members would be.

The small display tells you a lot about his state of mind. He is trying, so take what you can get, continue being patient with him, regardless of his moods.

Continue encouraging him. He may seem to discount what you’re saying, but he will remember how you treated him, right down to the smallest detail. This doesn’t mean you allow him to call you names, or speak disrespectfully to you. But when you’re accepting that you can’t change what he’s going through, and you simply take what you can get, learn to develop patience, detach fully, let him go, and begin living your life for yourself, the space you accord him may be enough to help him begin to follow you as you go forward, Julie.

You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain, as you learn to separate yourself from him, and begin reclaiming your own individuality. Looks like you’re doing well in the validation/encouragement/supportive/non-judgmental aspect. I realize it’s hard to simply sit and listen to him speak of things you might think are wrong, but this is how he feels, and this is HIS honest reality. This self-imposed reality is subject to change at the drop of the hat, and most things won’t last for a lifetime, so be there for him, if he will allow you to be.

If you can do that, this experience can help and serve to draw both of you closer together over time. There is hope, there is always hope, as long as you still love him. If love ever dies, hope goes with it. We do experience the death of love as WE once knew it, but if we allow this experience to become a positive, love can be reborn into the human aspect of unconditional love.

Now, that doesn’t mean that our spouses are allowed to walk on us, but it does mean we learn to choose to love in spite of how they are, even while learning to exercise tough love that comes forth in the form of firm boundaries that draw a line on what we will and won’t accept in the way of bad behavior. God’s love doesn’t have boundaries, and He teaches us to separate the behavior from the person, just like He does.

He loves us unconditionally, but our behavior, whether toward Him, or other people is a whole other story, as He truly hates sinful and bad behavior, setting His Boundaries on these aspects, even while showing us continued love and care at the point of our deepest emotional need.

Honey, I hope that something here has helped you. I pray your situation will resolve in time, and time is what it will take before the mid-life crisis will resolve one way or the other. You can only do your part while he continues to do his. 🙂

Blessings to both of you,
HB

Since 2002, Hearts Blessing has been a pioneer in the area of knowledge and information written about the Mid Life Crisis. The owner and author of https://thestagesandlessonsofmidlife.org she writes articles that help people learn more about this confusing time of life. The main goal of this site is to help people know and understand that no matter what happens, every situation works out to the good of those who love the Lord, and are called according to His purpose. :)
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3 thoughts on “Mid-Life Crisis Q&A-Julie N

  1. Hi there.

    This is the 3rd time in 6 yrs my spouse of 12 yrs said he doesn’t know if he “loves me enough to stay in the marriage.” and wonders if something better is out there. We’ve been together since teenagers, have no kids, he is 37. The last 2 times he recanted that statement within a day, went living life a couple more yrs before saying it again. This is the 3rd time, since Jan 16th, 2014, and he has not recanted his statement this time. He is seeing an individual therapist who says it could be his depression causing him to think this way (lost his job after 10 yrs in 2010 and depressed since), or being in a “loveless” marriage could be causing him to think this way. She told him to “sort out his feelings” and get away from me more to get an opportunity to “miss me”. I have been told I am “smothering” and upon reviewing my actions in my own individual therapy, this is true, I see it now. His therapist said he has lots of personal issues to work through, and that he needs a lot of individual therapy before marriage therapy can be considered.
    Of course I am watching my husband become someone I never imagined, short tempered, angry, very apathetic, loss of interest in a lot of things, VERY withdrawn….I am shocked, its like he’s been abducted and replaced by someone else. My begs/pleas/crying in front of him has all stopped, but I did this like mad before I read about mid life crisis. I can barely make it through the day, I am leaning on friends, etc. He says, “some days I feel good about the relationship, some days I don’t. I want to love you because I know what a great wife you are, but for some reason I just can’t feel it. I want to see myself together with you forever, but I just can’t.” He hangs his head all the way down and cries when he says this…..
    I am VERY worried because you know how people “grow apart?” I never believed in that, I always thought you CAN’T grow apart unless you let it happen. We haven’t been intimate since early February. I worry, that once he realizes he DOES love me and being with me is worth it, that it will be so many months that we haven’t been intimate, that he will say, “I love you like a friend but we haven’t been intimate in so long, I don’t think of you that way anymore.” Each day he says “love you” morning and night and gives a very QUICK kiss on the lips and hug, pulls away quickly. Is this small display enough to be able to see me in a more romantic way if this crisis takes months/years down the road? His mood VARIES so GREATLY even within the course of the day he can be so withdrawn, yet also so deeply personal sharing private thoughts about his family/life. I stay supportive and Not judgmental when he tells me his thoughts. I constantly tell him how proud I am of him and how proud his dead family members would be.

  2. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and informative reply. It means so much to me to hear someone with expertise hear about my situation. I have read lots about the mid life crisis at this point. I am doing a lot of self reflection, and recognizing my role in this situation. I am working on becoming a more whole person and not so codependent. I am an only child with a rough childhood and lived through my mothers 4 divorces…I didn’t trust anyone….I usually like my alone time….But not when I have a large problem.
    But now he went on a business trip for 5 days through Sunday. I am doing terrible being alone this time, because I have a whole future in question. I keep thinking about everything I could lose- my house, my cats, my husband. It’s too overwhelming to think about. My husband’s therapist advised him to “use this time away to sort out your feelings. Get some time away from Julie, let her get her own support system while you work this out.” So he contacts me via text 1 x night to say good night, love you. For the past 10 yrs he has emailed me every morning, wondering if I got into work ok, or to tell me he got into work ok. It’s rough -this is the first time I haven’t gotten an email. I am very worried about this business trip separation, because last time he came home from the trip 2 months ago is when all this started, saying, “i don’t love you as much as i should, because I didn’t miss you at all when I was gone and started picturing a life without you. Maybe we got married too young.” So now I fear more of the same thoughts will come to him. I know, I know, I can’t control his thoughts/feelings, only my responses. I know that- and I hear it, but my heart is in terror mode right now and I can’t stop crying and thinking this is the end. He hasn’t said the word divorce and said he wasn’t thinking about divorce, he would try marriage therapy first. But he said, “I don’t know if I love you enough to stay in the marriage.” Whatever that means!! I do believe my poor reactions have extended this whole thing. I didn’t know better. Now that I know, I have been myself(cheerful/playful/upbeat) and I don’t comment on his mood, I act as if it doesn’t exist. Of course its all an act- I feel sheer horror inside. I notice he has moved from: Apathy, to Anger (for past month), now to Sadness, with brief laughter sometimes. I read your articles, I couldn’t tell which stage he is in.
    What he did say the other night was, “You promise you’ll stop asking me questions and talking about the relationship. But then you talk about it like every day. Every time I get things sorted in my mind and come close to figuring things out, I spend so much time wondering when you’re going to bring something up again, that I spend more time being angry with you, and then I have to start my thinking all over again. I have very little time as it is, being in a doctorate program and working full time. You force me to go back to square 1 with my thinking, and it’s painful.” So I apologized, didn’t realize that asking him how he’s feeling is considered “talking about it.” But he wants no conversation about his or my mood or anything re: relationship. So for the few days before he left I did great- no talking about it. I was raised without a religion, but I certainly believe in God. I don’t know much about praying, but I can tell you that every day I wake up and go to bed saying a prayer for all the things I should be thankful for in life….I have done that since I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 7 yrs ago and couldn’t walk for about a yr. My husband was the most supportive man in the world then, very worried about me until I got on Lyrica to relieve the pain. That’s why thinking he doesn’t love me anymore if unimaginable….
    What stage do you think he’s in? What does the “space and time” do for him? I hear some people say its a “cop out”.. What does that mean?

  3. HeartsBlessing says:

    Hi Julie! 🙂
    I am in the process of writing you a reply. I will link to it from here when finished. 🙂

    ((hugs))
    Love,
    HB

    **edit** OK, Julie, here’s your answer: Continuation of Julie N’s situation. I’m sorry it took so long, but I hope this will help further increase your understanding. 🙂

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