How Midlife Crisis Symptoms Differ Based on Gender

upset woman with man in background
laflor/E+/Getty Images

Most of the people I hear from wanting information on midlife crises are women complain about how hard it is to find such information. The term has long been associated with men but contrary to popular belief, women are as likely as men to experience a midlife crisis. Although both genders can experience a midlife crisis there are differences in the way the symptoms manifest themselves. 

The focus of this article is the difference between the midlife crisis experience for men and women. I also hope to answer the question I hear most often, “why is my spouse going through a midlife crisis?”

Why Do People Experience Midlife Crises?

People who live their lives fulfilling their dreams and with a purpose are less likely to experience a crisis at midlife. A man or woman who is able to meet their own needs while, at the same time, meet the needs of their spouse will more than likely find the transition into midlife easy. 

Those who put little thought into what they want out of life and more thought into taking care of others are more likely to experience a crisis at midlife. If your spouse works hard, spends most of his free time with his family and doesn’t pursue life experience outside his family he is a sitting duck. He is someone in danger of going through a midlife crisis.

If your wife spends her days taking care of children, cooking, cleaning and putting the needs of her family before her own she is asking for trouble. If she has no outside interests, no career, and nothing to fulfill dreams she may have she is in danger of going through a midlife crisis.

There is also the man or woman who avoids conflict. These types need to keep a tight rein on their emotions. They bury negative feelings and put on a happy face for decades. One day they blow and all those toxic feels spew and it's normally a spouse and marriage that suffers the most damage when the conflict-avoider is no longer able to avoid conflict. 

Common Differences Between a Male and Female Midlife Crisis

Men go through a midlife crisis because they reach a certain age and realize that life is passing them by. Commonly, men in midlife crisis become:

  1. Afraid of the changes that come with aging
  2. Afraid of becoming ill
  3. Afraid of becoming less attractive
  4. Afraid of not attaining goals they have set for themselves
  5. Afraid of dying
  6. Afraid of never feeling sexual passion again
  7. Afraid their choice in a wife was a mistake
  8. Afraid being responsible for a family will hold them back

Women, on the other hand, are often thrust into midlife crisis because they reach a certain age and find they finally have the opportunity to do all the things in life they have put off while caring for a family.

  1.  Her children are grown and, all of a sudden, she has the opportunity to do all those things she put off while being a mother.
  2. She and her spouse have both worked hard, are now financially secure, and she views this security as her opportunity to explore all those things she has put on the back-burner.
  3. She goes through menopause, which means both biological and psychological changes. The psychological changes some women experience at menopause can cause them to question how they have lived their life and whether they should make changes to better their lives.
  4. She experiences empty nest syndrome and is left with no direction or feelings of uselessness. Children leaving home can often push a woman into crisis and cause her to change course drastically. 
  5. If she married young and had children early she may feel a fervent need to recapture her youth by going out to bars, changing the way she dresses, and regressing in maturity. 

The Stages of Midlife Crisis

Male or female most go through the same stages during a midlife crisis:

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Acceptance

Some will process through these stages smoothly. Some will go back and forth between stages until they work their way through the crisis. Anyone who goes through a midlife crisis is experiencing an internal change that will have either a positive outcome or negative outcome. Any crisis is an opportunity for growth. If your spouse is a person who is able to look internally and use the changes in a healthy way you will both profit from his/her experience.

If your spouse is not a person who is able to do some internal investigation and use the changes he/she is experiencing, hold on because the ride will get bumpy and you're both likely to suffer the consequences.

Watch Now: What is a Midlife Crisis?