I have no statistics, but it certainly appears as if a disproportionate number of the people consulting me are 43 to 46 years old husbands. I consider that the age of the male midlife crisis. I must count myself among that group.
However, a recent article in the March/April 2015 issue of Scientific American Mind , Debunking Midlife Myths, by Hanna Drimalla, a psychologist and freelance journalist in Berlin, may have a different view. That article notes that psychological studies suggest that midlife crises are real, but the stereotypes are not.
Dr. Drimalla begins by telling of the fortysomething middle manager who quits his day job, buys a sports car and abandons his wife for younger woman. According to scientists, hallmarks of midlife include increased self-reflection, aging, career and family changes, which can seed deep dissatisfaction. However, the author notes that many common beliefs about the midlife meltdown are untrue.
Among other areas, Dr. Drimalla notes that midlife stress does not foredoom us to a life out of control, especially in our relationships. A 2011 Kinsey Institute study of more than 1000 couples in Germany, Spain, the United States, Japan and Brazil found that middle-aged men and women rate their relationships and sex lives higher the longer they have been married. Couples entering middle age with a long-term partner have a good chance of staying together.
Of the marriages that do break down, the husband is not typically the one to walk out. According to the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, women instigate two thirds of all divorces – most likely not because they are having midlife crises, but because their husbands are behaving badly.
The author suggests that maybe knowing that our misgivings about midlife are usually exaggerated – and temporary – can make the passage to late maturity just a bit more manageable.
Perhaps my advice to those fortysomethings who consult me should simply be, “wait it out.”