My husband is going through a midlife crisis and wants to be alone.
I love him so much, but he pushes away every single attempt I make to help him.
This has left me so perplexed and at my wit’s end.
What should I do next?
How it all started…
I used to think the idea of a midlife crisis was just a cliché or some kind of urban legend.
Oh, how naïve I was.
Midlife crises are all too real, and I feel like a sociological experiment has exploded all over my home for the past half a year.
Granted, most of the time it’s dead silent in our home.
Midlife crises are real, but my experience of it has not been full of the fireworks you hear about or buying flashy sports cars.
For one thing, my husband has nowhere near that level of credit, which is part of how this whole crisis was sparked off.
Financial tension led to arguments about my husband staying in his job (which he hates, but which pays well) and I sensed him withdrawing every day until one day he just kind of went vacant in the eyes and he stopped participating in the marriage.
Now it’s like we’re strangers living together in the same house.
It’s both heartbreaking and incredibly awkward.
I sometimes wish we had kids just to break the constant tension existing between us.
My husband is lost…
When I first met my husband after college, he had blue hair.
We worked in the same office building and crossed paths every lunch break and sometimes on the way into work while swiping in.
This lanky blue-haired dude became a fixture of my morning routine and I started saying “hi” when I saw him.
I always wondered what punk rock t-shirt he’d be wearing tomorrow and he rarely disappointed.
I wouldn’t describe myself as overly alternative, but his style did catch my eye.
The guy honestly looked like a tropical parrot or something, which I found hilarious at first. My stifled giggles eventually led to a conversation and him asking me out.
The rest is history, including our picture perfect wedding where he did not have blue hair but did still have a Mohawk (well, a fauxhawk).
Fast forward to today…
I’ve never for a moment regretted marrying my husband, but the current reality is grim.
He mainly sits in his man cave cracking beers and talking in grunts if and when I can get him to come to dinner.
He’s no longer lanky, and a less considerate wife would have to use the word fat to describe him because that’s the harsh truth about his weight.
If and when he does talk for a minute or two my husband only goes on about how his job is “sh*t” and how wishes we’d never moved into our suburban home.
I’ve been searching all over the place for some answers I can actually use and read a lot of advice.
But it’s one idea in particular that helped me understand what was going on and how to fix it.
I came across this free video on finding your purpose and it helped explain so much about what’s going on with my husband in his midlife crisis and what to do about it.
Lack of reflection
Whenever I’d ask my husband what was going on or for him to open up a bit more he’d just grunt or go on a rant about his job.
Watching this video about discovering your true calling in life showed me what was going on with my man.
He wasn’t just depressed or down, he was abdicating his own place in his life and just wanting to hit the pause button.
His midlife crisis was being made worse by a lack of reflection about what he really wanted.
Instead, he’d just tell me what he didn’t want and seek to self-isolate.
Realizing that there was a way to start guiding him back into a more proactive role was a big boost to me, and it couldn’t have come soon enough.
Like I said, he was barely communicating, and the job he was still dragging his a** to on the daily was eating whatever was left of his soul.
The kind of reflection that he needed led me to understanding what needed to be done to address this.
It all starts with focusing on what exactly the problem is, because denial doesn’t get anyone anywhere.
My husband has always been a loner and that’s part of what drew me to him.
But he used to have some sparkle and shine and zest for life.
At the time, his reserved nature drew me to him, as well as the suspense of him letting me in little by little.
Once he opened up to me it was like entering a whole new world I’d never known existed.
I didn’t mind that he needed more time alone than most, I understood from the start that it was just the way he functioned and I never took it personally.
It’s now after a few years at this current job and approaching middle age (47) that he’s slid off a cliff.
As time went on and once his midlife crisis took off he went from needing time and space alone to becoming every worst stereotype of the uncommunicative, emotionally distant husband who’s not present in the relationship.
It was so different from our early days together, and it’s been hard for me not to look back with nostalgia and feel sad about how much had changed.
He had big plans at the time we married and early in our marriage to become an architect. I work as a real estate agent.
Instead of becoming an architect, he ended up taking a mid-level position in the urban planning department of our local municipality.
It’s a job he now describes as “literally hell.”
I feel kind of bad for refugees and people going through actual hell, but I can feel the sincerity of his frustration and ennui.
He doesn’t like his colleagues, doesn’t like the work, doesn’t like his office environment and also doesn’t like the specific operating systems and software hey use on their computers.
What does he like? The salary. Well, frankly, we both do.
Combined with mine it’s what gets our mortgage paid and keeps our car lease in good standing and paid regularly.
But in my husband’s midlife crisis I realized two key truths.
He doesn’t feel like he’s where he should be in his career, and he feels a lack of identity as a man and member of society.
Those may sound very similar and the more I dug into it the more I found that all of these issues hitting him in midlife were intertwined.
This is the problem.
The solution is to find his purpose.
Finding his purpose (and mine)…
At first it seemed obvious that my husband just needed to go back to his dream of trying to be an architect and also stop working for our local government.
Maybe he could sign up for some kind of men’s club as well and find more friends.
Working out a way for him to get certified or shift to part time while studying seemed doable, and he had a couple of old friends who’d call him up now and then.
I didn’t see why we couldn’t make it happen.
But finding his purpose on a deeper level wasn’t just about outer answers, it was about the relationship between the two of us and taking an honest look in the mirror.
We needed to look deep at our relationship and how I was also part of the problem.
By trying to do it for him and pushing too hard, he said I wasn’t giving him the space he needed to figure things out.
I let him know I loved him and stopped pushing, but in the process of encouraging my husband to spend some time reflecting and letting him know I’d be there for him no matter what, something shifted in him and in our relationship.
This is where things began to turn around over the course of a few months, eventually leading to a big change and him going back to take courses in architecture and eventually partnering up with an old university friend to start a private firm.
The key to all of it was encouraging my husband to find his purpose and go after it no matter what.
It was also about helping him see the road ahead without holding his hand every step of the way but while still being there for him in a very real way.
This is where I have more tips about how to help somebody in a midlife crisis to find the purpose they have been lacking.
Practical tips for a partner facing a midlife crisis
1) Take it slow
A key for me in breaking through my husband’s wall of silence and gloom was going slow.
I’d seen he wasn’t doing well for at least half a year before I even mentioned it, because I didn’t want to be a nag.
We all have periods when we don’t really want to get up in the morning, and I was hoping he’d open up to me more voluntarily.
Once he did start getting more into his dislike of his job and feeling stuck as a man, I was able to be a sympathetic ear.
After moving too fast at the beginning to try to resolve all his issues and help him, I learned to hold back a bit.
This is crucial when helping your husband.
Don’t try to resolve everything all at once.
2) Be there for them
Next up is to be there for them.
Your husband doesn’t want you to force him to change or snap out of his negative state, but seeing that you love him unconditionally can be the boost he needs.
If he feels obligated it’s likely to only feed into the downward cycle.
But if he feels loved rather than monitored, he’s much more likely to take your advice to engage in more reflection and find a path forward.
3) Don’t babysit
Some women make the mistake of trying to babysit their husband during a midlife crisis.
This is awful and leads to you becoming like his counselor and therapist instead of his wife.
If he needs therapy or professional help there’s no shame in that, but you don’t want to be getting too much into the role of checking up on him constantly or having very long therapeutic talks with him.
Occasionally you will be his shoulder to cry on if he’s ready to open up, but don’t become his therapist or his mom.
4) Communicate clearly
I started out grasping at straws and frazzled, asking my husband all the time what he wanted to do or what was wrong.
Eventually having more insights into the kind of reflection we could do, I started communicating more intentionally and with less expectation of response.
The result was that he felt less compelled to engage and started voluntarily coming forward and opening up to me.
He also felt comfortable in expressing his true frustrations and insecurities, because I made a strong effort to speak clearly and truthfully.
5) Do your own reflection
Finally, a midlife crisis in your husband’s life is a time to do your own reflection as well.
For me this situation helped me draw firmer boundaries around love and codependency.
I realized that no matter how much I love my husband, I can’t live his life for him and I do need to have my own life and my own stress outlets.
No matter how strong my love is, I can’t dedicate all my time and energy only to somebody else.
This realization has made my marriage stronger and raised my husband’s respect for me.
My husband has progressed leaps and bounds in the last few months.
He’s far from feeling perfect, but he’s motivated once again and the over-drinking and sitting around have decreased.
My own reflection has also led to me doing more social things in my life and developing side hobbies.
This midlife crisis has been rough, but I am glad for the wake-up call it gave my marriage and me.