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8 Warning Signs That Your Man Is Having a Midlife Crisis
Sports cars and hairpieces. Robbing the cradle and running away. Sure they're cliche, but if these images leap to mind when you hear the words "midlife crisis," you're not alone. The thing about cliches, though, is most are based on fact. In this case, the facts are staggering. More than half of respondents to a recent poll on Notmuch.com, a Website produced by Wisconsin Public Radio, said that the midlife crisis is a "very real, gut-wrenchingly depressing experience that we all go through at one time or another." Does this mean that the man in your life is suffering through a crisis of his own? Not necessarily, but here are eight symptoms of the male midlife crisis and what you can do about them:
He says life is a bore. If your man once liked his job and was happy at home but now expresses restlessness or apathy, he might be headed for a midlife crisis. There is usually one of two reasons for this: Some men hit middle age and notice that many of their dreams have gone (and might remain) unfulfilled. Other men react this way because they have accomplished so many career goals that they wonder if there is anything left to do. Regardless of the reasoning, a bored man wants to shake up his routine. Typically, this means anything from quitting his job to making frequent plans to paint the town red with "his boys."
When this happens within a marriage or relationship, it's common for women to comfort themselves by thinking it's just a phase. But experts say that's a mistake. "There is a tendency to ignore, dismiss or deny the signals at this time, hoping they will go away," according to Lifematters.com, an online library of articles designed to educate people about mental health. "We work harder or distract ourselves only to postpone the inevitable, for months or, sometimes, years." Sometimes, a man might feel unchallenged for a long time and that can take a serious toll on a relationship. So, what can you do? Pay attention to your partner's restlessness and really listen when he talks to you about his concerns. Encourage him to make minor changes -- trying a new cuisine, taking up a hobby -- as opposed to more drastic ones like drowning his sorrows at the local bar or moving to Bora Bora.
He is thinking about (or already) having an affair. Has your longtime, faithful husband had a wandering eye lately? Are strange women calling the house? Do his shirts reek of someone else's perfume? Does he have all sorts of excuses -- from helping out friends to working late -- to explain why he hasn't been around the house lately? If you are asking yourself these questions, your husband might be cheating on you. This is just one of the painful results of a midlife crisis. Jim Conway, psychologist and cofounder of Midlife Dimensions, a group that offers counseling and support to midlife couples and their children, says that midlife men often "turn tender" and start to focus more on people and feelings, but ironically some marriages suffer for it; men are easily drawn into an affair if their wives don't understand the changes in them and communication breaks down, says Conway. But if he does have an affair, remember that it is never your fault. He made the choice to break your vows. "Can a wife prevent a midlife affair? Probably not," says Pat Gaudette, founder of The Midlife Wives Club and co-author of How to Survive Your Husband's Midlife Crisis. "She can confront, demand, give ultimatums, but if a man is amid crisis he won't be listening."
He makes a dramatic change in his personal style or appearance and is suddenly spending lots of time in front of a mirror. If your man has kicked up the vanity a notch (for example, wants hair plugs or starts getting facials even though he used to take pleasure in shower-free weekends), then you may have a problem. If the guy who always prided himself on his Roman nose is now talking about rhinoplasty, then your problem is a little bigger. The first step in boosting your man's bruised (and aging) ego is to compliment him. Sometimes, however, this isn't enough. That's when you just have to be patient.
Unfortunately, an increased sense of vanity is sometimes a sign that a man is having an affair. Obviously this is a bigger problem that usually requires couplescounseling to repair the relationship, if it's possible at all.
He is drinking too much or abusing other substances. This one is obvious. The smell of liquor on his breath, empty bottles around the house, bloodshot eyes and erratic behavior are all indications that your man might have a serious drinking problem. But this is one problem that your man may have to deal with largely on his own. "A wife can tell a husband that she disagrees with his behavior, but she cannot 'make' him stop any behavior that he doesn't want to stop," says Gaudette. "Counseling for her, him or the both of them might help a couple get through this type of crisis, but he has to be willing." If he doesn't think he has a problem, Gaudette suggests that his loved ones participate in Al-Anon or another similar group that provides support to relatives of substance-dependent people.
He is displaying the classic signs of depression -- sleeping more, loss of appetite, malaise. This behavior is often the result of a family tragedy such as a parent's death or another type of shock to the system such as getting laid off from a longtime job. Difficult life events can also trigger depression and exacerbate a midlife crisis. Although the American Psychological Association reports that depression affects more than 6 million men every year, many men choose to ignore the signs because they consider it "unmanly" to admit they feel blue and out of sorts. If you see these symptoms in your man, you can definitely encourage him to see a therapist, psychologist or even a religious leader who can counsel him. It's not uncommon for a partner to need extra support of her own in these cases. You might want to join him at couples therapy or do the same on your own.