Surviving a Midlife Crisis as a Man
Many men enter a period in their lives where they become restless and apathetic. Upon reaching middle age, some men may realize their dreams remain unfulfilled. Others, however, may have accomplished all their career goals, but now wonder if there’s anything left to do.
This period is often referred to as a midlife crisis. Typically, it affects those who are 45 to 64 years old.
What is a Midlife Crisis?
Although men and women both experience a turning point in middle age, the crisis is often triggered for different reasons.
Women are confronted with a midlife crisis because they finally have the free time to pursue opportunities they had put off while caring for a family. While this should be an exciting period, some women are left with no direction and feelings of uselessness.
Men, however, enter a midlife crisis because they feel hopelessly trapped in a lifestyle or identity they interpret as constrictive. Day-to-day activities may feel meaningless and empty. As such, they are overcome with immense pressure to break free. Others may desperately cling to any opportunities for spontaneity and pleasure.
We often encounter the clichés whereby a middle-aged man suddenly buys a new Ferrari, even though there is still a mortgage to pay. Or a man in his 50s begins dating a 25-year-old in an attempt to recapture his youth. The thing about stereotypes, however, is that they’re often based on a lining of truth.
Reasons for Such Behavior
Many men behave this way because they are:
- Afraid of the changes that come with aging;
- Anxiety over potential illness;
- Insecurity over the possibility of becoming less attractive;
- The sudden realization of one’s mortality;
- A strong belief that caring for a family has held him back;
- Fear of never experiencing sexual passion again, or;
- Doubts about current wife.
When Does It Happen?
Men tend to hit a crisis period after their 40th birthday. This is when a lot of introspection happens. As a result, middle-aged men become uneasy about major elements in their lives. These include marriage, career, and health.
Although some men feel the need to make changes gradually, others may want to act a lot quicker. Regardless, one thing is certain. Men experiencing a midlife crisis feel the time for taking a new direction is running short.
Signs of a Midlife Crisis
When a man begins to make unusual choices, it could be a sign that he has hit a midlife crisis.
One of the key issues during this period is figuring out who they are separate from family and societal expectations. This key developmental stage also happens during adolescence, which explains why many middle-aged men go through a teenage-like rebellion.
Because a man feels trapped, he may engage in activities and decisions that could blow up his life. These include:
- Having an affair;
- Drinking more or taking drugs;
- Leaving the family;
- Becoming overly preoccupied with outward appearance, and;
- Always seeking out opportunities for thrills, excitement, and spontaneity
The above examples are typical of rebellious adolescent behavior. When parents implement rules to protect their children from dangerous situations — while allowing teens to voice their opinions and make their own choices — young people can discover what’s right for them. The same approach could be taken by partners of men who are working through a midlife crisis.
This period can go one of two ways. It can either lead to an opportunity for growth or lead down a path of destruction. A man can look at sources of unhappiness and make thoughtful, smart decisions on how to address them. Or he could make impulsive choices, like leaving his familiar life for an exciting but tumultuous relationship that burns out quickly.
Navigating a Midlife Crisis
The key to navigating this difficult stage is to acquire a vision of change that is still anchored to the context of our current lives. There are many ways in which a man can come out of a midlife crisis as a stronger and more fulfilled individual.
Be Thankful for the Good Things
Before plowing through all the negative aspects of your life, take a moment to be grateful for the things that make you happy. Whether it’s those silly moments with your children during breakfast or weekends at the cottage with the family dog.
Ask yourself how you’d feel if you lost the things that bring you joy because of impulsive actions.
Remember That Your Feelings Don’t Warrant Immediate Change
Just because you feel you have to escape your home or leave your job doesn’t mean you must act on it right away.
It’s important to put your feelings into perspective. They may certainly point to problems that need attention but remember these emotions may change or fade over time.
Before making major decisions, talk it out with someone you trust. A friend, pastor, or even your spouse can provide another perspective.
Seek out opinions from a variety of sources and consult with those who have successfully navigated their own midlife crises.
Ask Whether Your Wishes Are Realistic
Assess your need for security versus excitement and set goals accordingly. Many men in their 50s go back to school, start their own business, or backpack through Asia.
These are major lifestyle changes that will impact your future. The key is to make sure these new goals work within the framework of your current life.
Avoid Destroying Your Loved Ones
Often, a midlife crisis can be triggered by the ones we love. We may no longer find happiness with our spouse or our rebellious children may be a constant source of frustration. These may be the things that make men want to ditch family responsibilities.
It’s crucial to realize that making changes doesn’t mean you have to blow up your entire life. But if for whatever reason you do have to dismantle your family, do it thoughtfully. Do it in a way that is least destructive to everyone’s overall well-being.
Achieving Positive Outcomes
It is entirely possible to successfully navigate a midlife crisis and emerge as an even better person at the end of it.
Issues of freedom, autonomy, and self-identity must be reworked within an encouraging and constructive environment. The key is participating in healthy self-exploration during this period, not destructive rebellion.
Recognize that a midlife crisis can lead to positive outcomes and is not necessarily a negative thing. This internal protest is simply a sign that it’s time for inward reflection, which is necessary for human advancement.
Any crisis is an opportunity for immense growth. If you can set realistic goals and make practical changes in a healthy way, there is no doubt you will benefit greatly from this experience.