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Mid-Life Crisis Affairs

What is a Midlife Crisis Affair?

The notion of a “mid-life crisis affair” is in the same category as “empty-nester syndrome.”

Researchers believe that what passes for a mid-life crisis affair has more to do with individual states, traits, and experiences and not some trans-personal rite of passage into old age.

Ironically, unlike social science researchers, most Americans (over 90%) could provide a definition of the midlife crisis, and these definitions are pretty consistent with the definitions used in theoretical speculations about the developmental challenges of approaching middle age.

But hard-nosed researchers would again argue that these crisis-inducing experiences are not time-bound. They can occur at any point in life in life. Researchers also tell us that only about 15% of middle-aged adults experienced this type of crisis in midlife.

On the other hand, couples therapists are quite familiar with clients experiencing major life transitions that provoke periods of stress, depression, anxiety…or a mid-life crisis affair.

Some of these transitions have predictable triggers, such as the death of a parent or sibling, or a dissatisfaction with work or career. And most importantly, infidelity offers an easy distraction from these discontents.

A Cultural Self-Diagnosis?

A “mid-life crisis affair” is an attractive idea for explaining infidelity to the American public.

Researcher and Cornell sociologist Elaine Wethington reports that over 25% of Americans over age 35 think they’ve experienced a midlife crisis, but in reality, over half were not a crisis at all.

They were simply experiencing a rough adjustment due to a serious loss, or some other life-stressor.

The “mid-life crisis” is often used as a cultural catch-all phrase for a persistently stressful time.

Stages of a Mid-Life Crisis Affair

I thought it might be interesting to at least grapple with how most people understand it. Here’s a working definition I think might be useful:

A Midlife crisis is a felt sense of dramatic self-doubt that is typically experienced in the “middle years” of life, as people acquire a deeply felt sense of their fading youth, and the near-term onset of old age.

Sometimes, transitional experiences such as menopause, the death of parents, financial or career setbacks, or a soon to be “empty nest” can sometimes trigger the feeling of having a “mid-life crisis.”

The consequences may be a sudden desire to make significant changes in day-to-day life, such as in marriage, career, or romantic entanglements.

Our cultural meme of an MLC typically involves changing your entire life in a hurry…and nothing changes your life more dramatically than changing your intimate partner. The quiet desperation of some lives may lead to unusual and atypical behavior, such as mid-life crisis affairs.

Men and the Mid Life Crisis Affair

The Guy Code socializes men to believe that unless they are moving forward, they are falling behind. If your dissatisfaction with your life is playing out in your marriage, a good couples therapist will help you examine the causes of the unhappiness you feel, and help you take decisive action to address them.

That sort of careful examination of why you’re being pulled into a mid-life crisis affair might be painful, but that’s your growing edge.

On the other hand, if you’ve been making sudden, impulsive decisions, like abandoning your spouse for a relationship with a younger partner, or blowing yourself up financially or professionally…you don’t need me to tell you that it’s not going to end well.

Practical Tips for a Mid Life Crisis Affair

If you feel as if you’re struggling with what feels like a Midlife crisis, here are a few practical tips:

  • Remember that It’s a fact that you have a feeling…but your feelings are not facts.  So you’re not happy. Before you do something you’ll regret, give it a hard look-see. It doesn’t mean you have to accept what’s being offered by that mate poacher at work. The first stage of a mid-life crisis affair is often a vague sense of dissatisfaction. Take this feeling as a symptom. Be curious…but don’t act on it.
  • Be grateful. Notice what is working in your life. Take time to be grateful for the aspects of your life that were working well, perhaps it’s your kids or your career.
  • Construct a disaster scenario about how a mid-life crisis affair at work could impulsively blow your life up. How would you feel if the parts of your life that were working were held hostage by the parts that needed work?
  • Talk it out and over. Before you make any life-changing decisions, find a good couples therapist and talk it through.
  • Are you being real?  You can be dissatisfied and inspired at the same time. What do you want instead? Is it practical? Or are you just “shoulding” all over yourself?
  • It’s not just about you. Take a step back. What needs to change? And what (or who?) needs to be nurtured and protected?

If you need help with any of these issues, please get in touch today.