Mid-life crises are real but they don’t have to mean the end of your relationship. Here’s how to handle it when your partner changes
The man in your life is stomping around like a teenager, suffering with mood swings, moaning about the two of you ‘growing apart’, and spends hours examining his disappearing hairline.
What’s going on?
According to experts, he could be entering the midlife crisis zone — a phenomenon that affects 58 per cent of UK men.
Matrimonial consultant and family lawyer Sheela Mackintosh-Stewart, says: ‘Biologically, men experience a mid-life biochemical imbalance which manifests as a complex syndrome of emotional, psychological and physical changes and reactions.
‘Mid-life crises are usually triggered by an awareness of mortality and a re-evaluation of one’s life, perhaps at the onset of hair loss or death of a friend or parent.’
So who is most at risk?
Sheela says: ‘It tends to be men in their 30s or 40s who have become withdrawn, depressed or angry, and are anxious about the future. They might question the meaning of life and their relationships, and may have a lack of sexual appetite.
‘In extreme cases, they might buy a flashy car or motorbike, cheat with a younger woman or get tattoos and piercings.’
Of course, these things can put an enormous strain on any couple. But Sheela says it doesn’t have to wreck your relationship.
Recognise the signs
Rather than just burying your head in the sand and hoping it will be over soon, be aware of the signs.
Look out for phrases from your partner, such as: ‘We’re drifting apart’, ‘I feel trapped’ and ‘You deserve better than me’. These are warning signs of discontent.
Most men want and need to feel respected by their partners, even more so than feeling loved or having sex.
Many men have milder forms of a midlife crisis, which can be more difficult to spot. Not all men suffer with the most extreme case.
Offer to help
Men tend to shut off mentally and emotionally when challenged with heavy emotional discussions. So instead of questioning him on his behaviour, adopt a different approach.
Show him you are listening to his needs. Say: ‘I can see you’re struggling, how can I help?’
Ask him if there’s one thing in his life that would make him happier. Then brainstorm together on how to accomplish it.
Work as a team. By being there for him, you’re showing him you want to make his life happier.
Tempting as it is to criticise your partner, and point out his failings, this could push him further away.
If your partner has had an affair, your feelings of hurt and betrayal can make it hard to forgive, and this can trigger separation or divorce.
Avoid a knee-jerk reaction. Assess your relationship first — affairs can be symptomatic of an unhappy partnership.
Take time to fully explore if your relationship is worth saving. Many couples have worked through midlife crisis affair issues and formed stronger relationships that last a lifetime thereafter.
If you jointly believe you want to stay together, learn from what happened and start to rebuild the trust. Remember that open, honest communication is key.
Edited by Julia Sidwell
For further advice, visit sheelamackintoshstewart.com
Don’t overlook yourself
During this crisis period, it’s easy to feel defeated and things may seem out of control, but it’s important to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally and physically.
Plan some personal time to lift your mood.
Try to strike the right balance between being gentle and helping to meet your partner’s needs without giving in to something you don’t believe in.
Set clear boundaries, including what you are prepared to accept and how much you will sacrifice while ensuring he accepts responsibility for his actions.
Don’t shoulder the blame for his behaviour.