A midlife crisis is a terrifying proposition for most people. Even though the existence of this phenomenon is debatable – there are many theories and studies that prove otherwise – the perennial hype around this term has ensured that people tend to mistake any adversity during the middle phase of their lives as a crisis. However, irrespective of whether the midlife crisis is just a theory or a reality, there are people who are plagued by multiple problems simultaneously in their middle age. Facing such a crisis situation is hard but it is even harder if the crisis hasn’t affected you but has unleashed its wrath upon your partner instead. It is harder because there is practically nothing under your control. It is a personal battle that your partner must fight and conquer.
Your partner’s midlife crisis has the potential to take a toll on your relationship. And considering the gravity of issues that your partner would be battling with, it is your responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t. You also need to lend support to your partner at the time when he/she needs it the most. Agreed that it isn’t the easiest task in the world but it might just become manageable if you deal with it smartly and sensitively. Here’s how you could go about it.
Accept the situation
First and foremost, you need to accept the situation that has created havoc in your partner’s life, and as a matter of fact, in your own life and relationship too. You need to accept the fact that your partner is going through a dark phase and that its effects may spill over onto your relationship. Acceptance is the first step in dealing with any problem and it isn’t any different when the problem is your partner’s midlife crisis.
You will have to acknowledge the fact that during a midlife crisis, your partner would not be the same person that you had fallen in love with. They would react differently to situations during this period. Unless you accept the potential of a midlife crisis to jeopardize your relationship, you will have no chance of saving it.
Listen to your partner without passing judgment or criticism
Okay, this one is not the easiest thing to do but it is something that you must to give your partner for a chance of surviving the crisis. If your partner initiates a conversation, listen to what they have to say without passing any sort of judgment or criticism; well, not vocally at least!
Your partner would be experiencing a lot of confusion, anxiety and self-doubt. Listening to their thoughts would give you an idea of what exactly they feel and how deep the crisis really is. You would also get an idea of how your partner’s midlife crisis would affect you and how you could deal with it. Criticizing your partner or pointing out their flaws and the irrationality of their thoughts would send their confidence plummeting to new depths. They may feel isolated. They may think that they can’t expect any support or empathy from you. They may even think that you are unwilling to help them out of this crisis and have left them to fight their battle all alone at a time when they are their weakest. The damage you may cause may be irreparable and you may just fall into a relationship crisis.
Don’t vent your anger at your partner
You will probably feel angrier than you ever have during your partner’s midlife crisis; at your partner, at yourself, at anything in general. Many a time, you will feel like screaming your lungs out at your partner when they do something which frustrates you. At times, you may be driven crazy by their behaviour and want to have a showdown then and there! However, in the best interests of your partner, your relationship, and yourself, avoid venting your frustration at them.
Understand that your partner is acting crazy because he/she is feeling a gamut of crazy and frustrating emotions. The last thing your partner would want at this time would be a rap on the knuckles from you. Venting your anger would not change your partner’s behaviour for the better; in fact, the only thing it could do is worsen it. It may create even more conflicts in your relationship and lead you to the point of no return. Learn to process your anger in a non-confrontational way. Take a kickboxing class, for example; or hurl water balloons hard against the wall or the good old method of taking it out on your favourite pillow. Whatever you do, don’t let your partner bear the brunt of your anger.
Do things that make you happy
Caught right in the middle of a major crisis, your partner potentially would be sulking on most days. While that is understandable, make sure that you do not fall into a similar mindset. Things are difficult to manage when one partner is not in a positive frame of mind. But if both of you are in a depressed state, things will spiral out of control.
To avoid such a situation, and also to retain your sanity, try doing things that make you happy. Love swimming? Head to the pool even if your partner is unwilling to accompany you. Are you a movie buff? Head to the nearest cinema with your friends! Pick up a new hobby if you wish. Do things that you have wanted to try since long but have chickened out of it every time. If you remain happy with your life, maybe you could rub off some of that joyous energy onto your partner. Things might improve sooner than usual. Even if they don’t, you would at least not blame your partner for taking the happiness out of your life.
Keep the kids away from it
If you are a parent, then your first priority during your partner’s midlife crisis should be to ensure that your kids remain unaffected by it.
As the crisis stretches out, after a point of time, your kids would eventually realize that there is something wrong. They would come up to you or your partner to inquire about it. If they are old and mature enough, they may even offer their support. This, though, is a situation that you must guard against. Involving your kids into the ongoings of your partner’s midlife crisis is a complete ‘lose-lose’ situation. If your kids are very young, they may pass judgments about their parent. If they are old enough to understand the problem at hand, they may themselves get affected by it.
Also, don’t ever pour out your emotions in front of your children or speak ill about your partner to them. This may influence them to take sides between you and your partner even though you both are actually fighting the same menace. Just thank them for their concern and assure them that their parents are dealing with the situation and everything is under control.
Refrain from initiating relationship talks
Of all the times you could pick to initiate a relationship talk with your partner, the worst is in the middle of a crisis (like honestly!). Your partner would have a million different things to think and worry about during the crisis. A serious relationship talk would clutter their minds even more. Moreover, they would neither be in the mood nor in the mental space to have a genuine chat about where your relationship is heading. So you are not going to make any progress or settle your differences with your talk. In fact, it may even make you two grow further apart from each other and face a serious relationship crisis. Lastly, it may give them the idea that you are unsure about the relationship and that you may even desert them. This is bound to send chills down their spine if the crisis hasn’t already done that. To cut the long story short, save that “We need to talk” line for later.
It is extremely critical that you remain patient with your partner as well as yourself during this troublesome period. Now is not the time to make hasty decisions or react thoughtlessly. It is important that you realize that both of you are experiencing emotional pain and that no action of yours is going to relieve this pain overnight for either of you. Your impetuousness will only make matters worse. It is not going to hasten the pace at which your partner goes about setting things right. Things will take time to heal and you must patiently wait for that time to arrive; even if it takes longer than you expect.
A midlife crisis presents a myriad of mighty challenges for victims and their partners. While the victims eventually have to find a way out primarily on their own, their partners could make the road to recovery a lot smoother and less bumpy. This situation calls for you to act with tact and the ideas discussed in this article could help you do just that. You can thank yourself later!