The term “midlife crisis” is used to encompass a great many reasons why people do the damaging things they do to destroy their marriage. Midlife crisis is sometimes used to brand any type of unsuitable behavior within a marriage, even if the person is years away from midlife.

Being a cheater at age 25 isn’t having a midlife crisis, it’s disrespecting marriage vows. A man who cheated when he was younger and cheats at midlife is just doing what he’s always done. A faithful husband who, at age 45, searches for his “true love” outside his marriage, might be in the grip of a midlife crisis.

Midlife crisis isn’t a medical condition that is easily diagnosed and cured. There are no pills or innoculations or preventative surgeries for midlife crisis. It can breed anywhere. It can be a short “blip” in a marriage or a “black hole” with disastrous results.

What triggers a midlife crisis? Is it really seeing the wrinkles for the first time? Is it finding that exercise doesn’t keep the flab away the way it used to? Is it realizing that those adults in the photograph are actually your grown children — can you possibly be that old?!

Is it believing that acting young will stop the clock? Is it grasping your mortality, understanding finally that life doesn’t last forever? Is it the first time you are called “gramps” or “grandma”?

If there is one thing many midlifers seem to have in common, it is that they don’t want to make the passage alone, and too many of them also don’t want to make the passage with the person to whom they are married when their crisis begins.

Is it necessary to destroy a marriage in the pursuit of midlife happiness? A midlifer will not feel that they are destroying anything. They will believe they are finally finding the happiness they have been seeking.

A married midlifer may feel their marriage is the cause of their growing dispair and their spouse becomes the target of their anger and frustration as the unhappiness within them consumes them. If they can get away from this person, if they can replace this person with someone who is more understanding, more comforting, then they can escape the unhappiness and pain.

Because the unhappiness is within the person going through crisis, no one, including their spouse, can ease it for them. The midlife spouse will have few options other than taking care of themself as the person they love changes into a stranger and their life together begins unraveling.

In less frequent instances, the midlifer may have a clear vision of the new life they want for themselves and will be willing to sacrifice everything to get it. In such a case, the midlifer has no qualms about walking away from a marriage because he or she has a specific goal in mind and may have already entered a new relationship to make the transition easier.

Sometimes the sacrifice of a marriage due to aging issues turns out to be a mistake. The midlifer makes the passage, discovers that the happiness he or she seeks is the life they threw away, and returns home. Life does not go on as it always has because there are scars and bruises that must heal. Forgiveness takes time. Sometimes there is no home to return to, the cuts are too deep, time has expired on forgiveness.

Sometimes a midlifer finds his or her new life to be worth the price. Even if their spouse is willing to try again, wants to forgive, begs for a chance to restore the marriage, they will not return.

Not every midlife passage will turn into a crisis but for those that do, the passage will cause unbelievable pain to the person in the middle of it as well as to the loved ones caught in the grinder with them.

There is no way to know which midlife passages will end with the marriage intact and which will end with the marriage forever broken. The only surety is that too many midlife journeys will be passages through Hell and back.

© Pat Gaudette. All rights reserved.