Me: I think your wife might be going through a midlife crisis. Here are some reasons why...
Guy: Wow, when you put it like that, I think you’re right! That explains why she’s pushing away so hard from the marriage.
^ This is a super paraphrased version of a conversation I’ve found myself having with men Inside the Haven an awful lot lately.
If it feels like your wife is determined to push away from the marriage... If she's decided that there's NO WAY the marriage can make her happy, she may be going through a midlife crisis.
In my experience, a midlife crisis of is one of the most common factors that leads to a separation, infidelity or divorce.
The problem is without knowing exactly what to look for, a midlife crisis can be very difficult to spot.
I’m no expert, but I have seen a LOT of men and women go through a midlife crisis in my years running Husband Help Haven. What you’re about to read are the top 9 signs your wife is having a midlife crisis based on my experience talking to thousands of men Inside the Haven.
This post is Part 1 of a two-part series about midlife crisis in marriage.
The next article will be out next Friday, March 4, and it'll go in-depth on the real reason why your wife is having a midlife crisis and what you can do to snap her out of it.
You'll also get a downloadable PDF workbook including a midlife crisis quiz?, information about the 3 types of midlife crisis, and what you can do to get through your wife's MLC.
She Feels Unhappy With The Marriage,
But She Can’t Give You a Good Reason Why
Does it seem like your wife gives you a different reason for wanting out of the marriage every time you talk to her?
Many times the conversation will go something like this (and this is the nice version):
You: I understand that you’re unhappy, that's why I'm saying we should work on the marriage. If we fix the marriage, you can be happy again.
Her: No… I just need space.
You: Does that mean you want a separation/divorce?
Her: Yes? Hmm. Well, no, I don’t think so. Maybe… Not right now. I just need space.
You: So you want to stay together, but you don’t want to work on the marriage? What DO you want?
Her: I don’t know what I want right now! I just know I’m not happy.
Chances are that the version of this conversation you had with your wife was a bit harsher than this.
For example, many times she DOES want that separation, but she's not sure whether or not she'll come back to the marriage.
This is the single most most common sign of an oncoming midlife crisis – when your wife tells you she’s unhappy in the marriage, or even that she CAN’T be happy in the marriage, but she also can’t give you a good reason why.
Or, here's another situation that may sound familiar...
Are the reasons she says she wants out of the marriage superficial problems that SHOULD be pretty easy or straightforward to fix?
Here's an example:
Here's a real-life example...
I was talking to a Havener the other day who said that his wife told him that she wanted out of the marriage because he didn’t like the same food she did which meant they could never go on dates.
She was going to leave the house for this reason.
Over the weeks leading up to their separation and eventual divorce, she gave him a different reason every time they talked about the marriage.
- She said he didn’t dress well… Okay, he got some nicer clothes.
- Then she said that he didn’t care about having fun… Okay, he bought her concert tickets, took her out to eat, watched the kids while she had a ladies’ night out.
- Then it was that he didn’t do enough chores around the house… Okay, he started doing more chores, and checked a bunch of stuff off his "Honey Do" list.
In the end, none of it mattered because none of those issues were the real problem.
She ended up asking for a divorce, even after he fixed every single problem she pointed out.
Because none of those issues had anything to do with the REAL reason she wanted out (which we’ll talk about in the next article about why your wife is having a midlife crisis).
Yes, it’s true that the things in this example are reasonable things for any wife to ask her husband to do, but they are NOT legitimate reasons to end a marriage. It was pretty clear from talking to him that his wife had many of the most common signs of a midlife crisis, which you’ll learn about as you continue reading.
Empty Nest Syndrome
Does your wife seem extremely distant from the marriage ever since the kids left home?
Has she started making big changes in her day-to-day routine, as if she’s trying to fill the void left by the absence of parental responsibilities?
Empty nest syndrome is a classic sign that your wife is going through a midlife crisis.
An unfortunate side effect of empty nest syndrome is that many times, once the kids leave, the marriage suddenly seems hollow… All the reasons that she stayed in the marriage or enjoyed being married are gone, and all that’s left are the problems that she no longer has any reason to put up with.
Please note: Just because your wife is struggling with empty nest syndrome doesn't automatically mean that she's going through a midlife crisis. But, if you're also seeing several of the other signs here, it probably does.
As you’ll learn in the next article, a lot of what causes a midlife crisis goes back to where you get your identity. If your wife is experiencing empty nest syndrome, it’s probably because she built her identity and purpose around being a mother… When that role gets taken away from her, she’s left without any foundation or fulfillment.
She's Started Going Out With Her
Single or Divorced Friends
This is one of the easiest-to-detect signs that your wife is going through a midlife crisis, and it is also very common.
If your wife has started to frequently go out with her single/divorced friends over the past few weeks or months, you can bet that she believes partying, drinking and flirting are going to make her happy where the marriage failed.
A midlife crisis is what happens when a void in your wife’s heart goes unfilled for too long...
A new group of friends is a perfect band-aid to cover that void because the “single life” is fun and free.
This sign may also be accompanied by your wife starting to flirt with other men, or even outright dating them.
Or, maybe she is trying to revert back to a past time in her life…
This is a classic “grass is always greener" mentality. She remembers or believes she could be having a lot more fun and feeling a lot happier if she was single, and so now she is trying to rewind and get that feeling back.
Of course, you and I both know that this is a crutch and that ultimately the same problem will continue to resurface over and over again until she figures out what really gives her life meaning and fulfillment.
She's Itching to Get More Involved at Work
(at the expense of your marriage)
Has your wife become much more career driven?
Does it seem like she's always looking for new ways to get involved at work?
Careers and ambition are two of the biggest ways that people try to fix their lack of fulfillment.
This sign is similar to empty nest syndrome in that, by itself, it doesn't necessarily mean your wife is going through a midlife crisis. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to get more involved at work.
But! When this sign is combined with others, that's when you should be worried.
For example, I got an email from a guy the other day telling me about how his wife started to take extra overtime hours at her job, and even started signing up for optional business trips that she would’ve never taken in the past.
She also told him that she was unhappy in the marriage, but didn't have a good reason why.
Another guy told me how his wife was in the midst of getting her PhD, and over the past few months had thrown herself more and more into her studies, to the point that he barely ever saw her anymore.
She also told him that she was unhappy, and he soon discovered she was having an affair with one of her fellow students.
That brings us to another classic sign of a midlife crisis...
She's Having an Emotional Affair
(or physical affair, but it starts emotional)
An emotional affair almost always goes back to unfulfillment.
Just think about what happens in a midlife crisis... Your wife is convinced that she cannot be happy in the marriage, and so she has begun looking for happiness outside of the marriage.
It is very common for her to find that happiness – or at least what she believes is happiness – in an extramarital relationship.
- Usually, she will stubbornly call her relationship with the other man a “friendship”, even though she spends far more time talking to him than she does to you…
- Even though she would not give up this friendship even if it meant losing her marriage…
- Even though she loves the way that he makes her feel, and they exchange “I love you” to each other via texts or email.
I've seen this exact situation happen so many times it’s depressing.
Obviously, if you ever value a “friendship” more than you do your marriage, that means it probably isn’t a friendship at all.
I talk more about boundaries for opposite-gender friendships in this reader question.
When your wife is feels like something is missing from the marriage… When she feels like she cannot be happy in the marriage… It makes it much harder to avoid temptation. ESPECIALLY when that temptation is as subtle as emotional affairs tend to be… Many times by the time you realize your “friendship” has turned into something more, it’s already way too late.
If your wife is having an emotional affair, be sure to check out the Emotional Affairs 101 series here on the site.
Keep in mind, like many of these other midlife crisis signs, it is possible that your wife fell into an emotional or physical affair without going through a midlife crisis.
Everyone – midlife crisis or not – is exposed to temptation from time to time. You don’t HAVE to be going through a midlife crisis in order to give in to that temptation, especially for emotional affairs which most people have no idea how to identify. But, it is very common for a midlife crisis and emotional affair to go hand in hand.
She's Constantly On Her Phone or Facebook
This is a fitting follow-up sign to the emotional affair because it is probably the single most common sign of an emotional affair.
However, even if your wife ISN’T having an emotional affair with a secret online “friend”, she may still be using Facebook, web browsing or video games as a way of distracting herself from her unidentifiable unhappiness.
If your wife is constantly buried in a screen – whether that’s her phone, tablet, computer, TV, whatever – and she is also distant from the marriage and refuses to give up her screen time for time with you, that’s a good sign there are deeper problems under the surface.
"I Love You, But I'm Not IN Love With You"
If your wife has ever said “I love you, but I’m not in love with you,” then there is a good chance that what she’s REALLY telling you is that the marriage is no longer fulfilling. Maybe it hasn’t been fulfilling for a long time.
Your wife is using the common excuse that love should not take work. You can't control passion, right?
The truth is, love takes work. Pop culture tells us that “passion” is not something that can be controlled, but the truth is that it takes deliberate, conscious effort to maintain a “passionate” relationship.
If your wife says “I love you, but I’m not in love with you,” this is her way of saying that it's impossible for her to change how she feels. Of course, what this really means is that she is either:
- Too lazy to try
- Has already tried and failed
- Doesn’t want to try, or...
- She has identified her lack of fulfillment as a lack of passion.
Maybe all of the above.
To be honest, it’s easy to see why someone would make this mistake. If your wife has this underlying feeling of discontent and she can’t figure out why or what is making her feel that way, then pointing a finger at “passion” – something that she believes is out of her control – is an easy-to-accept solution for most people.
Sudden & Complete Stop to Intimacy
(she has no interest in anything physical with you)
In a way, this one is actually pretty similar to the “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” Except, instead of 'passion' your wife might blame 'chemistry'.
Basically, for whatever reason, your wife feels that she is unhappy, and because she is unhappy she has distanced herself from you. And because she is distant, by definition, she cannot be intimate with you.
Intimacy is, after all, the physical expression of closeness.
This problem is often made worse by the fact that so many men today put HUGE pressure on their wives to have sex.
It’s not uncommon for me to talk to a husband who has used guilt, verbal demands, manipulation, guilt trips and anything else to get his wife to give him the sex life he thinks he’s entitled to.
This touches on a subject that would take and entire post of its own to explain, but the long and short of it is that while yes, sex IS a part of marriage and you SHOULD be having sex in your marriage, sex is NOT a need. And chances are that your definition of a healthy sex life goes beyond what is normal or reasonable to expect.
No matter the reason, if your wife has suddenly become unwilling to be intimate with you and she's remained dead-set against intimacy for some time, then that could easily be a sign your wife is having a midlife crisis.
She's Struggling With Depression
This is a really big one. And it is a topic that hits close to home for me because I personally struggled with intense depression for much of my young adulthood.
Ultimately, I believe that the root cause of depression for 90% of people who struggle with it is an underlying lack of purpose.
I will disclaim here that I’m not a psychologist and have no credentials in anything anywhere close to psychology.
But, if you think about it for a second, it makes sense…
Someone who suffers from depression almost always believes that there is no point to their life. In extreme cases, they might even say that they're better off dead because they believe that the pain of this world is not worth the trouble of living in it.
Again, when someone struggles with depression, I believe it really points back to a lack of purpose in their life. Because they literally cannot see the point of living, it is only natural that they feel depressed.
All of that being said, if your wife struggles with depression, I’m not going to sit here and try and diagnose her. Instead, I highly, highly recommend that you try and get her to see a counselor.
Similarly, if YOU struggle with depression or if you have suicidal thoughts, please schedule a session with a therapist. Reach out to someone close to you, preferably outside the marriage. You may even reach out to me, because I genuinely care about everyone who comes to the Haven and I will do anything and everything I can to help. My email address is inside (at) husbandhelphaven (dot) com.
But I digress back to the topic at hand...
The point here is that depression and a midlife crisis are two different responses to the same root cause. If your wife is depressed, then her attitude and actions towards the marriage will often be identical to that of someone going through a midlife crisis.
This post is Part 1 of a two-part series about midlife crises in marriage. The next article will be out next Friday, March 4, and it's all about why your wife is having a midlife crisis and what you can do about it.
So, Is Your Wife Having a Midlife Crisis?
If you see just one or two of these signs in your wife, you may not be dealing with a midlife crisis. You might be, but you might not be.
However, if you see 3 or more of these signs happening with your wife, then there is a pretty good chance that a midlife crisis is playing a role in her attitude towards the marriage.
You can also take the midlife crisis quiz in the PDF workbook that will come with the next post. This 15-question quiz will tell you if your wife is having a midlife crisis and what level of crisis she is going through.
If you're still not sure whether or not your wife is having a midlife crisis, don't feel bad...
Spotting a midlife crisis is something that even trained therapists and mental health experts sometimes struggle with. This is because even among mental health experts, there are no clear-cut rules that can be used to identify or define a midlife crisis, other than that it’s a crisis that happens between ages 40 and 65.
Even then, some experts argue that you can see signs of a midlife crisis as early as late 20s!
Whether you want to call it a midlife crisis, an identity crisis or a midlife "transition"...
No matter what you call it, the first step to dealing with your wife's midlife crisis is to recognize that it is actually happening. This helps you put yourself in her shoes.
In the next post, you'll learn more about why your wife is going through a midlife crisis... The reason she's feeling and doing these things in the first place. We hinted at it a little bit in this one, but next time we'll go in-depth on what causes a midlife crisis and what you can do about it, complete with a curation of advice from several different mental health experts.
Until next time...
Much manly love,
With much manly love,
I'm Stephen, the guy behind Husband Help Haven. I'm not a marriage counselor or a lawyer, I'm just a guy on the Internet who has talked to a loooooot of men going through separation... Over 2,000 in the past 5 years. My goal is to give men the tools they need to save their marriage from separation.