Learn to Take Control During Your Spouse's Midlife Crisis

Make no Demands, Focus on Yourself, and Restore Your Marriage

Mature couple in kitchen, arguing
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If your spouse is having a midlife crisis you should focus on working on yourself rather than on saving the marriage. Work diligently to change negative behaviors in yourself and your behavior inside the marriage. You can make positive changes that will strengthen the relationship. Doing so will not only be helpful to you but will also teach your children the valuable lesson that marriage is a commitment that requires work.

You may think divorce is inevitable, but a large majority of couples stay together when one spouse is going through a midlife crisis. The odds are in your favor, but there is still the possibility you will end up in divorce court. Whatever the outcome, you want to be able to honestly say that you tried everything. However, when dealing with a midlife crisis you are limited in what you can do.

The Long Roller Coaster Ride of Your Spouse's Midlife Crisis

Your spouse may take time to go through a midlife crisis. You can't speed up the process and there are no quick fixes. You can’t expect your spouse to be on your schedule and take your needs into consideration. There will be a lot of ups and downs. There will be abrupt and extreme changes om the quality of your relationship with your spouse and your spouse's behavior toward you and other family members. Your spouse's moods and desires will be unpredictable.

Expect a lot of bumps during this process.

Waiting It out in Limbo Land

The worst aspect of your spouse's crisis will be the feeling that your life has been put on hold. It is easy for resentment to build if you feel someone else is holding you back from getting on with your life. Most of the resentment you feel will come from the fact that your spouse—the one in crisis—is calling all the shots.

You may find yourself:

  • Waiting for your spouse's mind to change

  • Waiting for your spouse to want to be with you again

  • Waiting for your spouse to come to her senses

  • Waiting for your spouse to turn back into the person you were married to

  • Waiting for your spouse to care about the negative impact on your children

  • Waiting for your spouse to stop behaving like a 2-year-old

You will spend a lot of time waiting. Get busy living your life while you wait. Your spouse may be in control of the path your marriage will take, but not in control of how you choose to live during this time of limbo.

Live your life “as if” all is well:

  • Plan family activities with your children.

  • Focus on your career.

  • Build a good support group.

  • Stay socially active.

  • Engage in activities that will distract you from the problems in your marriage.

Learn the Virtues of Patience

Your spouse is in a position of emotional weakness. This weakness is an opportunity for you to strengthen your character by learning the virtues of patience. Patience is defined as being steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. With patience, you are unwavering when it comes to living your life to the fullest while your spouse is going through a midlife crisis.

While you are waiting, “carry on” and keep your expectations low.

Your Best Defense Is to Become a Good Listener

Your spouse wants to paint you as the bad guy in order to justify his or her bad behavior. Defending yourself against your spouse's negative comments only makes you that much worse a person in your spouse's eyes.

Your best defense is to become a good listener. Learn to listen while someone tells you you’ve been a bad wife or lousy husband. The motive for doing nothing but listening is to keep down the conflict. The less conflict between the two of you, the less ammunition your spouse has to use against you.

As difficult as you may find it you need to listen and then validate when the midlife crisis spouse is sharing their negative opinions. Make the following five tips a habit during communication:

  1. Listen

  2. Validate

  3. Acknowledge what is said

  4. Tell your spouse you are sorry he or she feels that way.

  5. Apologize for things that warrant an apology.

You will have to give up your need to be heard and give over to your spouse's need to be heard. The midlife crisis spouse has no concern for you and your pain, so don’t expect any concern.

If your goal is to restore the marriage this will be the most difficult part of navigating your spouse’s midlife crisis. There will be many things you would love to say in response to the negativity, but you must resist. Returning negativity with negativity will only cause your spouse to withdraw further.

You Have No Authority Over Your Spouse

Due to your spouse’s midlife crisis, you have no power or clout over their belief that the marriage should end. You do have the ability to influence, though. How you respond to the crisis can and will go a long way in persuading your spouse that the marriage is worth saving.

You are not in a position to make demands on your spouse. If your spouse moves out you can’t demand that he or she comes home. If your spouse is having an affair you can’t demand they end the affair. You will have to put up with behaviors you never thought you would if the marriage is to survive.

Only You Know When Enough Is Enough

It is up to you and you alone how much bad behavior you are willing to put up with. If an extra-marital affair is too much to accept it is your right to set boundaries with your spouse. It is your right to file for a divorce and remove yourself from a marriage that is too painful. You don't have to accept the unacceptable. As an individual, only you know your limits.

Someone experiencing a midlife crisis needs space and time to process their thoughts and feelings. That time may include the company of another man or woman. There isn’t much you can do about the behaviors your spouse is choosing to engage in. You either accept it and hope the marriage survives or move on.

Do This And You'll Make the Situation Worse

There are things you can do to make the situation worse.

Making demands, asking questions, constantly interrogating your spouse is a sure-fire way of causing further withdrawal.

If your objective is to save the marriage you will need to develop a new approach to handling marital problems, one that is the opposite of how you would normally approach such situations. This can mean talking to a support network of friends and family about the problems. It can be something as simple as going for a long walk or run when you feel the need to vent your frustrations. Whatever helps you approach the situation differently, do it.

Stay Self-Focused

You need to get busy living your life. It is essential that you find ways to make yourself happy. Your mental and physical health is at stake. The more you focus on your spouse's behavior, the unhealthier you will become. What good are you to yourself, your children and your marriage if you are not functioning at your best?

The biggest adjustment you will need to make is finding joy in life without the person you are accustomed to sharing life with. Your spouse has chosen to put your marriage on hold, you cannot respond by putting your life on hold. Write done the steps you need to take daily to make your life fulfilling with or without your spouse.

This is a time when maintaining a sense of autonomy and being able to self-govern is imperative. Below are 10 tips that will help you maintain your equilibrium and help you feel good about life and yourself during his/her crisis.

  1. Write daily in a journal about the good things you experienced that day.

  2. Invest some time getting in touch with your spiritual side.

  3. Have fun with your children.

  4. Learn something new by taking a course or tackling a new hobby.

  5. Spend more time with positive, uplifting friends and family.

  6. Join a health club and workout regularly.

  7. Eat a healthy diet.

  8. Watch comedies and laugh often.

  9. Make a list of positive affirmations or Bible scripture that give you hope for the future.

  10. Talk to a therapist regularly who can help deal with your confusion and pain.

Give up Your Need to Fix Your Spouse

Your spouse will have to find his or her own answers and solve his or her own problems. Sharing articles about a midlife crisis or demanding marital therapy won't help. Heart-to-heart talks won’t help. Transitioning through the rocky path of midlife is a trip your spouse will take alone, all you can do is be patient, take care of yourself, and hope for the best.

You can’t teach a baby how to walk before it crawls. If you have children you are experienced in standing back and letting them progress at their own speed. In the same way, you are going to have to stand back and allow your spouse to find his or her own way. Letting go and detaching are tools you can use to help you work through your desire to fix the problems for your spouse.

Restoring the Marriage

If your spouse is able to successfully navigate the crisis and the marriage is restored, expect a bumpy road at the beginning. You’ve possibly been dealing with infidelity. You’ve had to put your feelings on the back burner. You will be relieved but also full of your own negative feelings about the pain your spouse has caused. You will need time to heal before the marriage can get back to “normal.”

Healing could mean marital therapy, or working with a marriage educator or your clergy. Trust will have to be rebuilt along with the new marriage the two of you.

You will have changed. You are stronger than you were before the crisis, more independent and used to being on your own. You will have both changed and will need to figure out how those changes can be incorporated into the marriage moving forward.

Focusing on the fact that you have both come a long way and made positive changes internally and externally will help make the transition smoother. You have reason to be proud of yourself and your spouse. You’ve both handled a time of adversity and come through better people. That will go a long way in building a new, loving marriage.

Points to Remember

  • Don’t push your needs off onto your midlife crisis spouse.

  • Don’t insist on relationship talks.

  • Don’t pry and become obsessed with what your spouse is doing or seeing.

  • Work on yourself.

  • Change what needs to be changed about your attitude and behavior.

  • Seek therapy with or without your spouse.

  • Distancing yourself with go way further than making demands and pushing for a resolution to the problem.