Most of the time, when I get correspondence about a spouse with a mid life crisis, it comes from the spouse who is watching the process. The spouse who is not having a mid life crisis is usually trying to cope and to keep the marriage intact, while juggling all kinds of problems beyond their control.
Occasionally though, I hear from the person who is having (or has already had) the mid life crisis and is alarmed at the problems it has caused. Many times, it has severely damaged the marriage and eroded the trust. The spouse who has gone through this can be ashamed, embarrassed, and confused about how to fix things.
They may say things like: “I am embarrassed by my behavior over the last year. And it has nearly ruined my marriage. My husband doesn’t trust me anymore. I think the whole problem started when I turned 45 and started to believe that I never really had a chance to have any real fun. I married my husband right out of high school. I had children shortly after that. I never went to college because of starting a family so early. So, my career has always been sort of disappointing. My kids are all but grown and so they do not need me anymore. I kind of got a point where I looked around and wondered if this was all my life was going to entail. And that is when the trouble started. I went on social media and reconnected with old friends. Many of them were divorced, separated, or on their second marriages. And they seemed happy and more carefree than I was. Their lives seemed much more exciting. So I started going out with them. I quit my job and went to college. As a result, I made a lot of friends who were younger and I started hanging out with younger classmates after class. That meant that I started spending less time at home. My husband tried to get me to see what I was doing, but I could not see it at the time. He begged me to pay attention to our marriage, but I would not. Honestly, I’m ashamed to say this now, but at that time, it was as if I thought my husband was holding me back. So I pretty much ignored what he said. Eventually, he got tired of this and moved out. Although we haven’t really talked about it, I suppose we are separated now. And it’s only now that I realize what an idiot I’ve been. I’ve tried to apologize to my husband and explain all of this, but he mostly seems not to believe me and keeps saying that the damage is already done. I desperately want my old life back. I don’t even hang out with those people anymore and I now realize that I had a full blown mid life crisis that is now over. But how do I get my husband back now?”
You have to believe that it can be done. And I can tell you that it can because I’ve seen it done. But you will usually need some patience and an ability to keep trying even when you are not getting a response.
Understand How Hard This Must Have Been For Your Husband: First, it helps to understand and have some empathy for your husband. Imagine how it felt to be so helpless while watching your spouse act recklessly and to basically throw your marriage away for a while. When you look at it from his viewpoint, you can certainly understand why he’s leery of your claims. He remembers how badly it hurt to watch you slip away and he doesn’t want to be hurt again. As much as he may want to believe you, his fear of being hurt may be bigger than all of this.
Understand What He Likely Wants The Most: Second, you need to understand what he most wants to see from you. I’d suspect that what he wants most is stability. He has watched you be unstable for some time. Now, he wants to see you be your old, reliable, and loving self. Over and over again. Because although it’s nice to see it initially, he will often worry that as soon as he lets his guard down, you will get bored again and return to your old ways.
That is why it’s so important to be patient and to realize that you are going to have to show him stability over time. It’s very tempting to want him to give you reassurance or to take you back immediately. But this just isn’t realistic. And for the sake of your marriage, it is better if this process is gradual because this allows him to believe in it so that you have a firm base on which to rebuild. You don’t want for him to always be on alert that the shoe is going to drop again. You want him to have true confidence in you. And it’s hard to fast forward that process. Because it takes time.
Understand That Small Progress Makes Long Term Reconciliations: Start small. Maybe you start out just talking. Then, you move on to getting together in a very low key way on a regular basis. You don’t want to immediately push for a reconciliation because you have plenty to prove to him first. Move slowly and take a step forward as you are able. Show him that your relationship and his trust are more important to you than an immediate reconciliation. If you do this, he will eventually come to see that you are sincere and that he can trust you. And both of those are the first steps toward reconciling.