After a week-long conference, Paul hurried home to see his wife and three daughters. However, the welcome he received was not what he expected. Waiting at the front door, his wife threw his bag packed with all his clothes, told him never to come back again, and slamming the door closed behind her. He immediately realized that his wife found out about his affair with another woman from work. With no place to go, he checked in at a nearby hotel. He was staring at the ceiling of the small room he was in, lying in bed while asking “Where did it all go wrong?”
We have heard so many similar stories such as Paul’s. Stories from our friends, families, or workplace about hard working and faithful men who suddenly lose everything along the way because of certain wrong decisions. Earnest as people may be during their younger years, some of them succumbed to temptation and underwent drastic changes in personality and desires during their middle ages. Most men, if not all, face these kinds of challenges during their 40’s or 50’s. This is commonly known as the Midlife Transformation or “midlife crisis”.
What is this “Midlife Crisis”?
The dictionary defines a midlife crisis or transformation as an emotional turmoil of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age. According to Calvin Colarusso, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, a true midlife crisis pushes a person to take drastic changes with his life. While this can occur in both men and women, it is more common and prominent among males. Midlife is a stage in your life where you stop being parented and become a parent yourself, from being a student to a teacher or from being an observer to a role model. This is also the time when you are burdened with volumes of responsibilities and pressures such as taking care of children and old parents, while also juggling your career and personal life. Not all people can handle this pressure and those vulnerable to the emotional challenges would easily break apart into pieces. However, those who come out of it generally would become a stronger version of themselves. The fact is that a male midlife crisis or transformation can either scar or mould a person.
So, are there any signs of Midlife Crisis in Men?
How do we know if a man is going through this midlife transformation or struggling with a midlife crisis? What signs should we look out for? Here are some manifestations of those who are under this dilemma.
Realization. This is usually the trigger that starts a man’s midlife crisis. Remembering the years he spent and realizing how long he has left, one would often ask himself and will undergo a reality check. Questions like “Is this what I really want to do with my life? Is this what I truly desire to have? Am I still doing the right thing?” would often cross his mind. Even a good, family oriented man would start to doubt if the life he is leading has truly made him happy?. Men would start feeling that something is missing or inadequate in their life. This stage of introspection makes them feel caged and forces them to look for an opportunity to escape.
Regression. After realizing what they didn’t have or what they haven’t done, men fall into resentment and show signs of depression. They would start isolating themselves, even from their own families and friends. They tend to avoid intimacy and communicating with others. In fact, they would get angry at anyone who would talk or ask them about it. Worst case scenario, they may depend on addictive substances like alcohol and cigarettes to relieve him of his depression. With an erratic behaviour, men would scare everyone away thinking that being alone would help them think better.
Strength is not just about being able to fight the battle alone, but also in trusting others to fight it with you.
Reconstruction. Some men affected with this crisis would act irresponsibly in order to change their present situation. Some would spend time at the gym, change their wardrobe, and spend more time looking at the mirror. Moreover, there are many who would suddenly spend their money on something extravagant no matter how unnecessary such as a brand new car, expensive jewellery or the latest gadget/phone. These are all done in order to compensate for the things they feel are missing and in order to relive their glory days. Unfortunately, psychological surveys say that having an affair with another woman is also one of the most common occurrences. Someone who they think would bring brand new excitement and change the pace of their boring lives. But most of the time, if not always, these ill-conceived relationships are found out. With the risk of losing everything they have, they arrive at the crossroad of decision-making
Resolution. Finally, men struggling with midlife crisis reach this point where they have to choose – to keep living out their newfound ecstasy or revert back to the man they were. They start to reevaluate the choices they have made and weigh which choice is best for the future. Will the new life they’ve created bring them to new heights? Or is their previous life the only happiness they need? Whatever their choice may be, nothing may be the same ever again.
Decide what is important to you because if you don’t, others will.
So is this how we deal with it?
Every man undergoes through a midlife transformation “crisis” in varying degree. However, some make it through better than the others. What should be done when it comes to that?
- Set your priorities straight. You need to define what is most important to you and what you will do to protect it. If you see your family or career as things to be protected, never do anything to harm them. Are you willing to trade instant gratification for lasting happiness? Are you ready to surrender your selfishness for love?
- Look Back but do not stare. Whatever happened in the past, belongs to the past. All the things you lost and everything you never did can be replaced with even greater things in the future. Do not attempt to remake memories, rather create new ones.
- Learn to rely on others. Men usually don’t ask for help from others because it would appear as a weakness. However, it takes more courage and wisdom to admit your own limitations. Take every opportunity to receive support from others, learn to communicate and share your burdens.
If you are a spouse or a family member who is on the receiving end of this crisis, be sure to broaden your patience and understanding towards the sufferer. When they need some space to think, give it to them and when they need a shoulder to cry on, offer yours. Your love and support can go a long way to make or break their lives.