I am about 2.5 years into a midlife crisis, and have had some insight into my situation, but I am still struggling and have not moved on either with my wife or another person. I am doing a lot of soul searching, reading, meditating, praying and both spiritual and psychological counselling.

I speak only from my situation and experience. I am not implying that these are the “right” things for a left-behind spouse to do, but I think they may help the MLC spouse to cope and work throught the crisis.

“Cope or work through the crisis”

I would like to preface my response with: I know that anger and hurt may override a lot of the compasionate things that I feel a spouse could do. Also, I believe that over the time of a marriage and the time pre-midlife crisis, when there may be some dissatisfaction with the relationship, that there are patterns of behavior which have developed and breakdowns in communication that cannot easily be reversed especially under the stress of a crisis situation and/or affair.

1. If you think your spouse is in a midlife crisis, don’t point it out to him/her. Until they see it themselves they will find this as trivializing their strong emotions. Wait for them to see it themselves. Things like “I know you must be going through a hard time right now”, or “I know you must be hurting as much as I am” are generally good things that won’t get a person defensive.

2. Don’t blame them. Even though they may have caused all the problems with their midlife crisis, it will do no good to heap on blame. In fact, for me blame always made me focus more on my wife’s role in the demise of our relationship (I guess to take the pressure and guilt off of me). When we are attacked we get defensive.

3. If there are specific things that you feel you could change about yourself and YOU WANT TO CHANGE THEM, then do it. If they are things you know contributed to the diminished feelings your spouse had for you, and you want to change them, it would help greatly if you want your spouse back.

4. Don’t worry about crying or showing feelings in front of your spouse. (At least this has never had what I would call a bad effect on me.)

5. Be honest. Don’t play games. If you love him/her let them know (if you want to). You know how you hate games played by the MLC’er, you should be in a more grounded position than them and can play by the rules you want, presumably just being honest.

6. Don’t pressure them to make a decision or set a deadline. In my opinion there is no timetable for this stuff. I believe more people (including myself once) come back before they are ready because of pressure from just about every direction. It may look good in front of the neighbors, but you will not be doing yourself any favors if you strong arm your spouse to come back on your timetable.

It is ok to have your own timetable, but I personally think that most people will know when they have had enough only when the time comes, and cannot predict that in 6 months their feelings or ability to wait for their partner will run out.

7. Don’t always ask your spouse what they are thinking or where they are with everything. I can tell you my head was up and down every day. I almost was afraid to talk with my wife because she wanted information that I couldn’t give her.

8. Encourage your children to have a good relationship with your spouse. Re-uniting (if that is your goal) should not be based on guilt. Keep this to a minimum so the MLC’er can try to think clearly without piling on feelings of guilt about the kids. This is usually not about the kids.

Instead of painting the picture that the MLC’er is off doing bad things and has rejected your family, let them know that often in this stage of life people get confused and make choices that can be very painful to everyone. If you look around you, there are probably examples everywhere of this. Teach your children, so if it happens to them, they will be prepared (forewarned is fore-armed).

9. Don’t bad mouth the other woman/man. It makes you look bad, it puts your spouse on the defensive and, if anything, will get them defending the person. Clearly, if they felt the way you do about the other person or saw the things you see, they would not be interested in them.

10. Try to see midlife crisis as a developmental thing that happens to people in their midlife. The spouse MLC’er did not invite this to happen to them, it has ruined their life too. If you take it as a personal attack, even if they make it seem like one, you will have more anger than if you see it for what it really is. You don’t have to like it, but you are not in their head and are not going through the psychic upheaval they are experiencing.

I know I may take some heat for these comments, and you may think that I am suggesting you placate the MLC’er, but trying to be compassionate, because you can and they may not be able to, and trying to understand will make a big difference.

Posted on the Midlife Club Forum by forum member Paddy in 2003. All rights reserved.