So, you’re finding yourself within your spouse’s mid-life crisis, and to complicate matters, they are firmly entrenched within an affair. It’s understandable that you would be lost, afraid, but this is the time to begin pulling yourself together enough to begin understanding a few things.
Mid-life affairs by themselves can (not always, but CAN) last 3 to 5 years, if not longer. However, I have seen affairs that have only lasted 24 months. It all depends on how quickly the affair partner loses their appeal, as well as how quickly the “infatuation hormones” subside, dissolving the “mask” on both people. The length of the affair is also based on the mid-life spouse’s issues that relate to parental aspects that are often resolved during this time, and the seriousness of the same.
Not only that, but the total length of the mid-life crisis can and will also hinge on whether the left-behind spouse is willing to focus on themselves, and stop pressuring the mid-life spouse to stop what they are doing; not JUST the affair, but the WHOLE entire process.
The more pressure a left-behind spouse puts on a mid-life spouse to end their affair, and stop all of this and return back to what they were, the closer the mid-life spouse will usually cling to their affair partner, and insist on staying in the place they’re in. This can lengthen the times of both affair, and crisis,as the mid-life spouse continues to live the double life, and actually fight off the left-behind spouse’s attempts to force them to end their illicit affair.
On a side note, the journey of the mid-life spouse and left-behind spouse are attached, one to the other, and both people can cause each other to become stuck, unable to move, and the situation can get pretty bad, as each one literally keeps the other completely drawn (constantly engaged) into their individual dramas, and cycling consistently until one or the other does something to break this constant cycle.
The bulk of the responsibility for keeping both people moving along their individual journeys honestly falls upon the left-behind spouse, because they know what’s happening, or are supposed to know. Considering they are charged with standing strong as the stanchion for both people, it is key for the left-behind spouse to begin their journey, and learn to emotionally separate themselves from the mid-life spouse.
It is also key for the left-behind spouse to begin learning the lessons of life as quickly as possible, and continue their journey forward, regardless of whether the mid-life spouse takes the cue, and begins the more important aspect of growing up right along with the left-behind spouse, or decides to walk away and not do any of it.
The left-behind spouse’s part in all of this is more important than anyone realizes. If the left-behind spouse isn’t willing to learn to focus on themselves, and begin their own growth, the mid-life spouse will slip further and further away from the left-behind spouse. Somewhere within their own minds, the mid-life spouse knows that change is needed, and they will look to(no surprise here), their own spouse for that kind of leadership. When none is forthcoming, they can eventually turn away, and the marriage will end for good.
It is paramount that the left-behind spouse is encouraged onto their journey as quickly as possible, once they have gotten a good understanding of what is happening, and the sooner the better.
Where the people begin making the most mistakes is in focusing TOO closely on what is happening with their mid-life spouse; and this is a form of still trying to “fix” or “control” the process. Because they still think they can do something, anything to help this forward, conversely, they will slow themselves and their mid-life spouses down, instead of simply moving forward, while watching the mid-life spouse out of the corner of their eye.
The above is true regardless of whether another person is present or not during the crisis/ transition.
One must needs learn to distance themselves completely from the mid-life spouse, and learn to have enough patience and grace to let everything go until the time is right for accountability later on. There is so much growth that must be achieved on both parts before accountability is carried out on the left-behind spouse’s part.
Incidentally, another grave mistake has been showing a victimized attitude of “I didn’t do anything wrong, therefore, I don’t have to do anything for myself.” That’s not going to accomplish anything but put the left-behind spouse deeper within their proverbial hole of misery, and push the mid-life spouse farther away in that process, as well.
I know, because I once had that same attitude within myself, and all it brought me was more misery, and more rejection at the hands of my mid-life spouse.
Then, for awhile, I was also guilty of focusing too much on the mid-life crisis process itself, trying my best to figure out how to “short cut” the process, so I could have my husband back. Little did I know, there were NO shortcuts, and in the end, I did not get my husband back–not the man I once knew, but a much better one–and the man I once knew was relegated to the past as his changes came forth, and transformed him into the man I know today.
There came a time when I had to consciously decide to stop trying to find out all he was doing, and put all that energy wasted, yes, wasted, on someone, and a situation that I could not control, and focus on the one I could control…ME.
But it took a whole lot of time, and I was called upon to not just stand for myself, but in many ways, for him and my marriage, too.
In order for him to hopefully change, I was also called upon to take the lead, and begin changing FIRST. It really does take just one person to begin effecting changes within the two. Change really began the day my mid-life spouse dropped the emotional bomb on me.
I was informed that if I didn’t move forward, I would remain stuck within my refusal to change, grow, and become. Because I didn’t listen, the situation did become worse for a time, and I was partly at fault. This was because at first, I flat refused to change, and I flat refused to begin my journey…and I nearly lost everything because of my own stubbornness, and unwillingness.
For many mid-life spouses whose left-behind spouses insist on staying the same, rather than take the leap of faith, and begin to grow within themselves, a point of no return does come.
As a result, the mid-life spouse, perceiving the left-behind spouse is standing and stubbornly being still,(holding out for what used to be, rather than embracing the process, and learning from it) rather than “standing while moving forward”,(taking the journey to wholeness and healing, and learning as they go) can decide to go ahead and move on, continuing within their mid-life crisis, but shutting the door back to the left-behind spouse, and the life they once knew.
You see the door can be shut BOTH ways, and for different reasons on both parts.
It has been said before that it was rare that mid-life spouses became stuck in tunnel, but I have always disagreed with this assessment. It’s not always seen, but the possibilities are just as numerous in that context as it is within the marriages that survive the mid-life crisis. They just aren’t documented.
We don’t have all the couples who survived the crisis, don’t have all the couples who didn’t survive the crisis, and we don’t have all the couples whose mid-life spouse decided to simply go on with their affair partner, nor do we have all the mid-life spouses nor left-behind spouses who decided to just call it quits and go on.
The choices as they are, are equally given to BOTH people, not just to one. Each person gets to decide what they would like to have, but it only takes one to decide to stand against the odds in the hope their marriage will survive this.
In order to hopefully do that:
It all goes back to the left-behind spouse’s willingness to get themselves onto a path of change, growth and becoming, and learning to let the mid-life spouse go to do whatever they think they need to do.
The one with the most responsibility is the one charged to help both people through. Yet, there are some people who really aren’t willing to go the lengths that for example, I was willing to go in order to help navigate my marriage to safer waters.
My own journey was helpful in that I eventually learned and accepted that he and I both had choices. I had to make up my mind that I wouldn’t end it, but I had to allow my husband to choose for himself. In addition, no matter what he chose to do, I was charged with hanging tough for my marriage against Satan, who was working against me at all times, and charged with standing against everything that could have torn it all apart.
When my letting go was complete, my own life became easier, and I watched him move his way forward on his own toward his eventual end.
This is what true Standing is all about; redefining oneself as an individual, but at the same time, deciding firmly that there was still hope as long as one still loves their mid-life spouse.
The understanding of each aspect comes as time continues marching on, some of it as one moves forward, and more of it, as hindsight kicks in and teaches even more.
Love becomes unconditional, compassion is developed, accountability is eventually brought forth, and life eventually goes on, but in a whole different way than before.
Yet, it all takes TIME, and the life that was once known, will NEVER be known again…change has taken all of that away, and placed it in the past once everything is faced, resolved, and eventually healed within both people.
Once more, it all takes TIME to accomplish, complete and finish within yourselves.
And IF the mid-life spouse, in spite of all your efforts, decides to walk away? Hopefully by that time, you’ll have a better understanding that time is never wasted when you decide to do all you can do to navigate your marriage to less troubled waters.
Plus, you’ll also understand you can’t make someone stay with you if they don’t choose to…and letting go is also about setting someone free to make their own choices, even if you don’t agree with them.
If you think about it, even God doesn’t force us to serve Him, nor does He force us to even love Him, although we do love Him, because He first loved us. He will let us go to do our worst, and He will forgive us upon the asking, although, He will also allow consequences to be visited upon us for our actions toward Him, and others.
Love must be free, not binding, and because you love someone, you learn to simply let go of them, and pray for God to work within their hearts. Never discount the power of God within your relationships, and remember to always ask for His Will to be done. Only God knows what is best for all of us. We know some things, but God knows everything, and it would behoove us to trust Him fully, and believe that He always has our best interest within His heart.
Ultimately, the decision to stay or go, belongs to BOTH of you. But, if you take the time to walk your journey to wholeness and healing, your time isn’t wasted, it’s well spent, as the crisis was a wakeup call to the power of choice that can lead toward this time of emotional growth for both of you; not just one.
Food for thought.