Having had two marriages end during the “midlife years,” I have a slight advantage understanding why aging has the potential to blow a marriage apart.

The phrase “midlife crisis” is an increasingly used catch-all phrase used to explain away a person’s bad behavior regardless of their age.

  • A wife says her 20-something husband must be having a midlife crisis because he’s cheating.
  • A young wife says she must be having a midlife crisis because she’s unhappy with her responsibilities as a wife and mother.
  • Finances push a marriage to the breaking point but when one spouse leaves, the other excuses it by saying he or she must be having a midlife crisis.
  • A spouse is abusive but the abused spouse excuses it by saying “He (or she) can’t help it, he’s having a midlife crisis.”

The truth is, some marriages just aren’t very good. Some spouses are just plain mean. Some spouses aren’t capable of being faithful. Midlife crisis has nothing to do with why some marriages fall apart.

Dealing With Aging Issues

Entering middle age means we’re going to have to deal with unpleasant side effects as our bodies mature: graying hair, balding, weight gain or shift, wrinkles, age spots, and a host of diseases that seem to plague the older generations. Our physical body is reacting to our physical age. Quite frankly, we can’t live forever in this physical world of ours.

When an event occurs to push us to thoughts of our own mortality, whether it’s the death of a close friend, the death of a parent, or even disasters such as 9/11, it may cause us to rethink how we feel about our life.

Is our current life satisfying? Are we getting all the enjoyment from life that we need to in order to be happy? Is there anything we’re running out of time to do before we’re too old to do it or to enjoy it?

Midlife Divorces

In many marriages, that midlife question of “is this all there is?” can lead down a path that ends in divorce. The spouse who didn’t want the marriage to end considers the other spouse to be selfish. “It doesn’t matter what he (or she) wants, he’s being selfish by leaving me.” In reality, which spouse is being selfish? The one who leaves or the one who wants their life to stay unchanged?

Trying to “do the right thing” is painful — for the person working through to resolution and painful for the person who may have blindly thought their current life would never change.

The Decision To Leave

How can a spouse walk away from a 20-plus year marriage? It is not easy no matter how it looks to someone outside the marriage or even to the spouse who’s left behind. Those decisions aren’t made by waking up one morning and deciding that life elsewhere would be more suitable.

When a husband or wife gets to “is this all there is” and walks away from the long term marriage, does that make all those prior years a lie? No, not if those years, when they were happening, were filled with happiness. Midlife issues are just that — issues that may never have surfaced until he or she realized they weren’t going to live forever.

© Pat Gaudette. All rights reserved.