The Guy’s Perspective: Mid-Life Crisis

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Dear Guys,

I think my guy is having a mid-life crisis, or some sort of crisis. Could you please explain what’s going on in his mind? I’m very worried.

This particular question has come up often enough that we felt the need to provide a general overview of what might be going on Inside your Guy’s Mind when he’s going through a personal crisis.

What is a crisis? How do we define it? Let’s start with  Webster’s Definition See below:

crisis: ‘the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever b : a paroxysmal attack of pain, distress, or disordered function c : an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life <a midlife crisis>’

Typically, when we think of a mid-life crisis, we think of a guy who’s likely in his 40s or 50s, reflecting on his life, and dreaming of what could have been, or what might still be, if he just makes a change and heads down a different path. That said, age is arbitrary and any sort of personal crisis can happen at any time.

How does it start?

It begins with a sense of dissatisfaction, a sense that he should be doing more with his life. Maybe he’s always wanted to travel across Asia on a motorcycle, or live in a houseboat and float from continent to continent, or surf the biggest waves in the world, or be a jazz musician, a sculptor, a professor, anything other than what he’s currently doing, because he hates his job and never wanted to do it in the first place. He just kind of fell into it and now he feels stuck. He’s got responsibilities that also kind of just happened to him—mortgage, bills, kids— and now he feels he can no longer take any risks, which leaves him with a feeling of longing as well as emptiness. He starts ruminating about the career he always dreamed of doing and the life he always wanted to live and he wonders if he still has time to make some changes in order to do it. He feels more and more resentful that his many responsibilities are impeding his ability to make those changes, and he starts seriously considering leaving his responsibilities behind and recapturing the life he always wanted by taking control over his destiny.

Concurrently, he begins to question his relationships, more specifically his partner. He starts asking the same sorts of questions he’s asked about his career and his life. Is this the relationship I always dreamed of being in? Is this the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with? Did I commit too early? Should I have waited? Look at all these other women I could be with? What was I thinking? And as this transformation is happening his “other brain” takes over the controls and begins to color everything in front of him, which often leads him to make impulsive decisions that he may or may not regret later.

What happens during a crisis is that a person, in this case your guy, starts seeing his life in terms of what he DOES NOT HAVE rather than what he DOES HAVE. Once a guy heads down this path, the centrifugal force is difficult to stop, and this usually does not bode well for his current relationships.

Is it possible to make him realize what he’s doing?

We’d say yes and no. This is one of those situations where the person going through the crisis has to wake up and realize that what they’re dreaming about is not necessarily going to make them happier. But there’s a certain degree of self-awareness and maturity that needs to be present in order to have that epiphany, and sometimes a person needs to lose everything before that epiphany can happen.

Are certain guys more susceptible to mid-life crises than others? How can I help my guy figure it out before it’s too late? I want to understand more about what he might be going through?

Here are some resources to check out: 

Fiction books on the topic:  7 Must Read books for anyone going through a mid-life crisis

A memoir/non-fiction book for men: Men in Midlife Crisis by Jim Conway

From a woman’s perspective: 5 Things you can do about your husband’s mid-life crisis

Feel free to leave us a comment, ask a follow-up question, or share your own personal experience. Not only are we interested, but your comments might help others who are dealing with this difficult issue.

Check out other topics from Inside the Guy’s Mind: 

The unexpected breakup

Intimacy and Sex: Context is Everything

How Guys Compartmentalize Women

She Doesn’t Exist

Loss of Freedom

2 Comments on The Guy’s Perspective: Mid-Life Crisis

  1. “He’s got responsibilities that also kind of just happened to him—mortgage, bills, kids— and now he feels he can no longer take any risks, which leaves him with a feeling of longing as well as emptiness. ”

    I think part of it is the passive overtone – that things just happened like a bolt out of the blue. I would like to point out that presumably he had agency and chose to get married, buy a house, be a parent. At any point he could have said “no” to a proposal or not issued one; refused to live in a particular area or take on a mortgage; if the first child was an oops, or conceived in bad faith, he could have taken direct action and been responsible for birth control short- and long-term (condoms/vasectomy.

    The second part of the statement is certainly true of many people at various points in their lives. Including women and yes, it applies to men who are topic here.

    I still dislike the characterization of people who are second-guessing, rethinking or changing their lives as having been passive throughout their lives though. It’s every bit as hard to never speak up or make a decision as it is to be 100% in charge.

  2. @Alvin….Thanks for sharing your view. We do believe some people “sleepwalk” through life until they don’t. Or maybe their conscious choices snowball and get blurred by unconscious choices. For example. A guy falls in love and just decides to go with it. Maybe he rides the euphoria, and that euphoria makes him want to make his partner happy. So much so, that his partner’s happiness makes him happy. It’s also possible he hasn’t even thought about what actually makes HIM happy. That is, until he’s surrounded himself with people and things and responsibilities. So it could be a combination of things. You make some good points.

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