Mid-Life Crisis Q&A-Michael

This from Michael:

My wife is in the replay stage and is 48 years old. She has been in MLC for about 2 years and had an emotional affair until a year ago. (they both ended it before full closure) We have two teenage boys who found out about the affair, which has improved her attitude towards the family. She was a homeschool mom for years and since MLC has never moved out of the house. I imposed strict boundaries in December 2013, which she fought but conceded to. As a pay back I am paying for her to go back to college and persue her career of choice.
Give her all she needs and she still doesn’t have the deep remorse of long term commitment to me. I am continuing to work hard to be the best father and husband to my family. At times tension gets high and at times it is ok. I am encouraged with our improvement, but sometimes feal used. I try to interact with her as long as she doesn’t demonstrate disrespect or lack of engagement. She sometimes doesn’t seem to want me around. Should I take a step back from her? How much space and time alone should I give her? How much should I do special things for her, like going on trips, etc?
She generally seems happy in her present life. Am I facilitating her staying in the Replay stage? Please share your thoughts.
Thanks so much,
Michael

Hearts Blessing’s reply:

Hi Michael, 🙂
These are my thoughts for what they’re worth.

My wife is in the replay stage and is 48 years old. She has been in MLC for about 2 years and had an emotional affair until a year ago. (they both ended it before full closure) We have two teenage boys who found out about the affair, which has improved her attitude towards the family. She was a homeschool mom for years and since MLC has never moved out of the house. I imposed strict boundaries in December 2013, which she fought but conceded to. As a pay back I am paying for her to go back to college and persue her career of choice.

If your wife has been in MLC for two years, that’s short time–I’d almost guarantee she’s been in longer than that.

I give her all she needs and she still doesn’t have the deep remorse of long term commitment to me.

You’re giving her all YOU think she needs–has she spoken of what she needs to you? Sometimes what you think she needs isn’t what she thinks she needs. Your idea of what she needs, and her idea might be two different stories.

She’s not at a point of showing remorse to you, nor is she at a point of committing back to the marriage, either, because of the crisis that she’s currently still facing. Give her time, this doesn’t come at the drop of a hat. It often takes time, and sometimes lots of it.

For a person to show remorse, they have to be willing to see what they did wrong, and admit that it was wrong to themselves. I suspect you’re still viewing a lot of behaviors that show her as acting entitled, acting as if nothing ever happened, existing day to day–and are you sure that emotional affair has ended for certain? You don’t mention her processing her affair in any way-no depression, grieving, etc..–you only mention a positive change in attitude, because the teenagers found out what she was doing.

Even that positive change in attitude wouldn’t last long, because she still has issues to work out within herself.

I am continuing to work hard to be the best father and husband to my family. At times tension gets high and at times it is ok. I am encouraged with our improvement, but sometimes feel used. I try to interact with her as long as she doesn’t demonstrate disrespect or lack of engagement. She sometimes doesn’t seem to want me around. Should I take a step back from her? How much space and time alone should I give her?

You need to give her space, and that means backing away from her, stop interacting with her, except for what’s necessary and give her enough room to pursue you. There is no particular amount of space and time alone that you would need to give her–there is only backing away from her, and letting her come to you, when she chooses to. If you’re afraid this might push her into another affair, consider this–if she really wants to cheat again in any way, she will find a way, because people have a tendency to find time for what they really want to do….and mid-life spouses are no exception.

You really would need to take more than one step away from her–get your focus totally off her, and get it fully onto yourself. Lose your fear that you will lose her–you’ve already lost her to the emotional crisis she is already deep within.
Not wanting you around is part of what she will do, because she has to figure who she is without you, and she can’t if you’re always there trying to distract her–you might not see it that way, but she would…mid-life spouses are such that any effort on the part of the left-behind spouse, is often seen as attempts to control and manipulate them–and they must be let go to find themselves.

How much should I do special things for her, like going on trips, etc?

If she’s receptive then do special things, if you like. Otherwise, just be there for her if/when she needs you.

She generally seems happy in her present life. Am I facilitating her staying in the Replay stage? Please share your thoughts.
Thanks so much,
Michael

You don’t have any control over where she is within her crisis, Michael. There’s nothing you can really do to move her forward, although there are some things you can do to hold her back–and one of those things is to try and control what she does, when she does it. Setting boundaries are all about you, and not necessarily for her, as you are teaching her what you will and won’t accept in the way of behavior.

However, you cannot make her love or care about you, you cannot even make her do what you think is right. You can only let her go to do what she thinks she should when she thinks she should do it. She’s an adult, regardless of what she’s going through, and when it comes down to it, none of us are the mid-life spouse’s keepers, guardians, nor someone who is “above” them. To try and “make” them do anything you would want them to do, only serves to increase their rebellion within.

You are currently learning about yourself, so you can learn how to deal with your wife. However time and space are major aspects within the MLC– giving her space and time to work herself out on her own. Learning to deal with yourself, learning to live your own life, learn who you are without your wife, while giving her space to learn to deal with herself, and learn who she is without you, is really all you can do at this point.

As an additional thought–somewhere along the line, her self-identity was lost, just like yours, too, was lost. The two of you got married, had children, and as time went on and the kids became teenagers, she began this process of redefining herself, a time of emotional redevelopment, and discovered she didn’t know who she was, other than a wife, a mother, a caretaker–we are so much more than the roles we hold, and during a time of emotional transition, we find we must learn to define where we end, and other people begin,(learning boundaries) and it triggers a time of change, growth and becoming within ourselves.
These are but a few of the many aspects people are called upon to face during the transitional period.

I hope all this helps you. 🙂

((hugs))

Added note:

This man followed me to my forum, and for about five years, he received guidance, advice, and he followed all of it. Eventually, his wife came all the way through her crisis. Here’s his last email to me, edited for some personal details sent to me in November of 2020:

Hi HB,
I’ve been thinking of you on this Thanksgiving morning, reflecting of our discussions of years ago.
I am so thankful for you and your ministry to these aching souls who so deeply need God, You and the wisdom and directions that you offer.
You need to know that you are the reason that I was able to weather the storm with W. Your insight kept me in the game, though miserable at the time, and delivered W to a place of peace and appreciation. Although W has had some physical problems, her emotional turmoil from her crisis has settled into a calm pool of water.
I am forever grateful for you.

Michael

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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6 thoughts on “Mid-Life Crisis Q&A-Michael

  1. Thanks for your insight and suggestions. Your information on this website is phenomenal.
    Time and space are pretty constant as I work out of state on a 7 day on/ 7 day off work schedule. So we are apart half of our lives.
    She has shown some remorse on and off for about 3 months. She will say she had bad day about once every week or so. She cried all day Saturday about being sorry for the affair. She has done this several times with me, our kids, and her parents. (I don’t know what would demonstrate deep remorse, since most days she seems happy)
    The last 4 days have been wonderful for us, enjoying each other’s company in many ways. I’m making the most of it, but expect the roller coaster ride to continue.
    Thanks for the advise to pursue my life and let her come to me if she wants.
    Again, you information encourages me to see the future and prepare for a long journey.
    Michael

    1. I’m adding to my previous post. How much remorse is enough to transition to the Depression phase? Also, as I understand it, if all 6 phases are not passed through, they can come back at a later time. Is this true? She has been very sweet , attentive and affectionate for about a week now and says she really likes how we are relating to each other right now. I am giving her lots of space and time and letting her innitiate these things.
      I would appreciate your insight on these issues.
      Thanks,
      Michael

      1. HeartsBlessing says:

        How much remorse is enough to transition to the Depression phase? Transitioning across to the Depression phase isn’t based on how much remorse they show–in fact much of a mid-life spouse’s remorse during the replay phase is more for themselves, than for what they’ve done in the way of damage to others–it is not until they reach the phase of Withdrawal that they begin to truly understand all they have done wrong, and actually see the damage they’ve done from an empathetic point of view–walking the shoes of others. So much must come to pass, and many changes must take place within their growth before this happens. Until then, they will seek to continue hiding and distancing themselves from it–why? Because their emotional strength hasn’t reached this point of being able take what’s been done in the way of damage.

        She cannot even take harsh accountability at this point–her emotional health is fragile at this point, sensitive, and it is better to adhere to the Golden Rule–do unto others–during this time. This doesn’t mean she gets away with anything–bear in mind, she is also suffering deep guilt and shame, but to force her to face herself in full, before she is ready and strong enough to do this, will bring on a nervous breakdown from which she may or may not return.

        The time of accountability will come, Michael–but it’s not quite time yet for that.
        Give her time, take what you can get, build a new connection with her that will help sustain the two of you going forward. This time is more important than you realize, so take advantage of it, and learn to connect with her on her level.

        Your wife will have to transition across for herself, and she won’t do it until SHE is ready to cross over. Believe me, you will know when she crosses over, because her emotional health will take a nosedive that has to be seen to be believed. She’s simply not there yet, but in time, she will get there.

        Also, as I understand it, if all 6 phases are not passed through, they can come back at a later time. Is this true?

        Yes, that is correct–and I’m well aware that I’m not the only one who knows this as the truth–I’ve lived this through and seen this with my own eyes–the crisis demands a full and complete finishing, or any issue buried and/or skipped, will return–what one doesn’t face, (and that’s even true of the left-behind spouse, not just the mid-life spouse), will continue cycling back time and again, until faced in full.

        So, you don’t want to leave any emotional “stone” unturned while going through this–not just for her, but for you, too. With all due respect, once this time of life is triggered, it remains ongoing returning back from the point of the last issue that was “buried deep”– until finished, or a person dies trying.

        It wouldn’t even matter if you decided to simply go on and leave her, and in time, remarry someone else–you would never get away from this–as long as there are issues, the bouts of emotional crisis would continue returning within one partner or the other, until completed in full.

        You might ask what’s the point of going through this–the point is that there is hope of getting a better, and more deeply connected marriage out of this-and once you walk your own journey for yourself, there is a more peaceful existence on the other side that you didn’t have before you went through this experience. Plus, there is an emotional balance that is achieved once this is finished in full that is worth walking through this trial to attain.

        I would not trade this experience for any amount of money, and I’m very glad to have had this experience, as it taught me so much about myself–not to mention, my husband is not the same man he was before this crisis–in fact, he’s a much better man now, and that, my friend, was very worth waiting for, even as I also struggled within myself to change, grow and become what God meant for me to be through this same experience.

        Better to work your way through it completely, than to keep finding yourself in it, facing the same changes that should have already been made before, but weren’t because one didn’t think they were necessary. Better to keep holding the mid-life spouse’s feet to the fire when they seek to bury issues under the carpet within a time of bargaining. If the couple doesn’t face the past, there is no future, and if you have children, you are also teaching them what emotional commitment is all about–it’s not just about the good times, it’s also about emotionally surviving and learning the lessons of life through the bad times too.

        Life is all about walking through emotional fires that bring forth transformation–not just destruction–although some destruction becomes necessary in order to lead into future transformation on the part of every person who comes into this time of life. ((hugs)) It’s all going to work out, no matter what happens, and as you continue growing into the person God would have you to become, you do come to believe that.

        I know, as I’ve been there before. 🙂

        ((hugs))

  2. WOW, HB, your instructions seem spot on! Thank you so much for being here and being God’s instrument to help others navigate through this challenging time.
    In Re-connecting, should I continue to leave her alone when she is distant and draw closer when she is open to that? We have definitely found some reconnection, but it comes and goes. I also assume that I need to not seem weak to her, since that makes her loose respect??
    Again, your insight is amazing,
    Thanks
    Michael

    1. HeartsBlessing says:

      Hello Michael,
      In Re-connecting, should I continue to leave her alone when she is distant and draw closer when she is open to that? We have definitely found some reconnection, but it comes and goes. It would come and go, because she’s emotionally cycling at times, and her ongoing changes, growth and becoming takes time–and after she comes forward to interact, she will back off the process these interactions, so you would back off when she is distant, and draw slowly closer when she is receptive. It is OK to test the emotional waters at any time you see her cycling back in for interaction–you’ll always know what is permissible and what is not, as she will let you know. Just let her come to you when she wants to and needs to.

      I also assume that I need to not seem weak to her, since that makes her loose respect??

      The key is balancing loving actions, with firm boundaries. It’s often a tightrope, as being too constricting will cause her to think you’re trying to control and/or “fix” her, causing her to emotionally run away, and being too loose, will make her think you’re someone who will allow any kind of behavior from her, even the disrespectful kind.

      The place in your current journey will often bring to light how you are supposed to treat her that contributes to your perceived strength on her part. People will treat us as we allow them to treat us. However, staying within a fine balance, choose your battles carefully, as not everything is worth fighting about, nor is everything worth answering when it’s spoken.

      You might hear her muttering something under her breath, but you wouldn’t answer whatever it was, because that’s what teenagers will often do, and right or wrong, she has every right to how she feels. IF anything she says hurts your feelings, target yourself to see what it is within you that has reacted to her comment. Many times mid-life spouses will say things that sting of truth, and target a given issue within you.

      Set your pride aside, and consider the fact that you’re not perfect either. I know you haven’t done what she’s done, but still, we all have these capabilities within us–we are all capable of falling into temptation, committing sin, etc..but though we exercise sound choices on our part, remember that she is not you, and you are not her, and bear in mind the crisis that is working hard upon and within your wife at this time.

      Remember she is NOT the only one who is changing, growing, and becoming, you are also in this process, and both of you are learning to relate to each other in ways you’d never considered or even known before, as you’re both in this same kind of process of growing into new people…and this all takes time to do.

      You’re currently trying to build a new connection with her that will sustain you both throughout the remainder of the crisis, and this time is used to do that.

      Also, look at your dynamics to see any changes that would need to be made within a certain balance of emotional power–who pursued who in the past? If you pursued her constantly before the mid-life crisis, you would stay backed off–part of learning and experiencing the opposite side of yourself. If you were the one who was pursued, then you would gently and lovingly pursue her–however, the majority of people I speak to were always in the place of being the pursuer, so the rule of letting go, backing off and giving space is one I will most often give. It is very rare for me to speak to a left-behind spouse whose dynamics involve THEM actually being pursued constantly.

      You would also need to work on setting firm, but loving boundaries on behavior you don’t like. Remember that boundaries are for you, not for the person you set them upon. You know the difference between respectful behavior and disrespectful behavior, and you would set boundaries on disrespectful behavior, completely with consequences for a broken boundary, and enforce these as necessary.

      The only consequence I don’t advise is either telling them you will throw them out, OR that you will leave the marital home yourself. Those are two consequences that fall into the category of ultimatums, and IF you set that kind of consequence, and don’t carry it out, you would be seen as “weak.”

      Now, I often suggest that left-behind spouses tell the mid-life spouse they will leave the room if a behavioral boundary is broken, and the most common behavioral boundary set is usually one that lies within the area of loud disrespectful speaking that usually come with tantrums thrown. I had seen descriptions of mid-life spouses who would literally curse the left-behind spouse, and call them foul names. I never had to go through this myself, but at the same time, I don’t hold with that kind of behavior, and would always encourage people to set limits on this, and hold firmly, because the mid-life spouse has NO right to speak in this kind of disrespectful way to the Left-behind spouse.

      When you set a consequence of leaving the room, in effect, you’re removing the “target”, but also removing your presence from the mid-life spouse. IF the mid-life spouse follows, reinforce your consequence, and restate your behavioral boundary. Remember, you’re targeting behavior, not the person, as behavior and person are not one and the same.

      Stay strong in your boundary-setting, and remember when you set boundaries, you’re giving them a choice–they can choose to act respectfully like an adult, and still have you there, or they can act out disrespectfully like a kid (most of the time it’s the latter), and lose the privilege of having your presence there with them.

      Now, they may act AS IF they don’t care–but deep inside, they really do care, too, but don’t back down once you set a limit on what you know is disrespectful behavior on their part.

      It’s all part of what one will and won’t accept in the way of bad behavior from anyone, not just the mid-life spouse.

      Hopefully this will help more. 🙂

      ((hugs))

      1. Well, after 2 weeks of connection, kind and intimate relations, she cycled away. Thoughts within me of her affair from a year ago, triggered a discussion on the issue. She became very angry and felt that I shouldn’t need any more discussion on the emotional affair. Since then she has been distant and disconnected.
        I am working away from home, should I call her once a day that I’m gone, or let her call me(if she will)?
        She is kind when I call her but I feel that I’m pursuing her.
        Also, we are in a much better place than 6 months ago. I have not detached from her totally. Should I? Most of our conversations are very good, except the one about the affair. To re-connect during this time, should I pursue her some? I think that she is late in the Replay stage.
        HB, thank you so much for your insight and sharing your knowledge. God is using you in a mighty way.
        Michael

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