Setting Boundaries With The Midlife Crisis Spouse

Caucasian couple arguing on sofa

The concept of “boundaries,” what they are and how to implement them can be confusing. I remember having a Home Economics teacher in High School who told the class that when you marry, you and your spouse become one.

Even at 17-years-old I knew there was no way I could “become one” with another human being. That I had a sense of self and giving up that would be detrimental emotionally. Often in marriage the lines are skewed, one spouse’s sense of self becomes entangled with that of their spouse.

It is easy to lose sight of what is oneself and what isn’t oneself. In other words, couples tend to take on responsibilities for the other that are not theirs to take on. They become enmeshed emotionally, and there are no boundaries that protect each from the other’s hurtful behavior.

Below Are 4 Suggestions For Setting Boundaries With Your Midlife Crisis Spouse:

1. You are not responsible for your spouse's behavior:

Your spouse is an individual who takes responsibility for his/her own behaviors. Once you define what you are responsible for and what he/she is responsible for you no longer have to own anyone’s behaviors but your own.

For example, if your midlife crisis spouse is drinking heavily and allowing it to interfere his/her ability to work it is not your responsibility to cover for him/her. When a spouse goes through a midlife crisis, it is easy to enable their bad behavior by cleaning up the messes they make.

Knowing where you begin, and he/she ends and communicating this with your spouse frees you up to no longer feel responsible for their bad behavior.

2. Giving your spouse the opportunity to take responsibility for their behavior:

With clear set boundaries…letting your spouse know what you will and will not accept you will not feel the frustration of constantly trying to fix him or her.

You will be able to focus on what you have control over. Setting boundaries with your spouse means you set limits on the extent to which your spouse’s behaviors control your actions.

Setting such boundaries not only means freedom for you but your spouse also. Freedom for you because you are giving back to your spouse responsibility for his/her behavior. Freedom for your spouse because you are giving them the opportunity to take responsibility and suffer the consequences of their behavior.

3. Boundaries protect you from emotional pain:

If your spouse treats you disrespectfully and harms you emotionally having clear boundaries protect you from further pain. If you have set clear boundaries, then you have control over what you will and will not take responsibility for. For this to take place, you have to give up the need to control what your spouse does or doesn’t do.

You have to set limits on what your spouse can get away with while in a relationship with you. Your spouse remains free to do as they please but it is now them who suffer the negative consequences instead of you.

For example, your spouse is having an affair and neglecting his/her children’s needs. Due to your spouse’s neglect, your children are angry with him/her.

Most will feel a need to “fix” the problems between the children and the other parent. Doing so keeps your spouse from suffering the negative consequences of his/her behavior…having an affair and neglecting the children.

In such a situation, having clear boundaries takes care of any responsibility you feel for your spouse’s relationship with his/her children. It frees you up to take care of yourself and your children regardless of what your spouse does.

4. You learn the value of saying, "No."

Having and setting boundaries means knowing when to say “NO.” You will not allow your spouse to abuse, control or manipulate you. You will not allow your spouse to draw you into their midlife crisis.

If you are to survive your spouse’s midlife crisis, you must have clear set boundaries defining what is and isn’t acceptable behavior from your spouse.

If you get lucky, your spouse will learn, after having to take responsibility for their behavior that they are on a path of destruction.

If not, those boundaries you’ve set may end up meaning you say “NO” to the marriage. If your spouse is unwilling to accept responsibility for his/her bad behavior divorce will free you up and keep you from constantly trying to win the love of someone who doesn’t have it to give.