How to Help Your Spouse Through a Midlife Crisis

You've promised to love, honor and cherish your spouse through sickness and in health. However, that can be easier said than done when it's time to help your spouse through a midlife crisis.

Navigating a midlife crisis

In movies and TV shows, a midlife crisis is easy to spot. The afflicted spouse dyes his or her hair, buys a fancy sports car or runs off with a younger woman or man. When it comes to real life, some people do go to these extremes, but the signs of a midlife crisis can also be much more subtle.

When coping with a midlife crisis, your spouse may become more introspective or suddenly want to go out and try new things. In some ways, the midlife period can be very much like the teenage years. It's a transition period when people are re-evaluating their lives and rediscovering themselves.

To help your spouse through a midlife crisis, it's best to be supportive. Sometimes that might just mean being there to listen. Be willing to try new things or discuss a shift in your future plans. Your spouse may consider going back to school or starting a new career. These changes can be scary, but being open to discussing them will help you and your spouse make good decisions together.

Setting boundaries

Although you want to support your spouse through a midlife crisis, you also have to set firm boundaries. A midlife crisis is not a free pass to buy a car you can't afford, have an affair or start skipping out on responsibilities. Being supportive does not mean enabling destructive behavior.

Reassure your spouse that he or she has your love and support, but also be clear about what actions will damage your relationship. It can help to be clear about where you stand. For example, you're open to buying a convertible, but not to forgiving infidelity.

When to seek professional help

A true midlife crisis may go beyond a normal, healthy re-evaluation of priorities. In some cases, middle-aged adults can lapse into serious depression or begin to act out in destructive ways. If your spouse becomes abusive toward you or himself (or herself), seek outside help, even if that means going to the authorities.

You should also seek the help of a professional therapist if your spouse is showing signs of clinical depression, such as a change in sleeping or eating habits, overwhelming sadness, loss of interest in former hobbies, increasing anxiety or thoughts of suicide. If your spouse is unwilling to talk to a therapist, it may help to enlist the help of close friends and family members.

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