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Midlife crisis from crisis to positive transition

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy. Amazon lists over 2,000 books dealing with midlife with titles as different as Awakening at Midlife, Midlife Meltdown, Thinking about Tomorrow: The message is that against the backdrop of mortality and a story half told, men and women navigate their midlife passage in different ways with different challenges and different needs.

When married, the impact they have on each other is inevitable. After his father died, he changed.

Marriage and Midlife Crisis: Challenges and Transitions

She started going to the gym…she looked great but she acted differently. She wanted to go out at night with her girlfriends. Was it a midlife crisis? I was fine until he said he was tired of the rat race.

Midlife crisis does not happen in a vacuum. It always takes place in the context of relationships. On the broadest social level there are cultural norms for lifespan, expectations of happiness, measures for success, opportunities for mobility, medical advances for health and beauty, wars, and reversals of fortune that bear on our experience of midlife and that of our partner.

No matter where or when you started your journey, most couples end up in unknown territory in midlife. His or her midlife crisis becomes yours.

Healing Together for Couples

Generally speaking Midlife Crisis is defined as a period of emotional turmoil in middle age 40-60 years characterized by a strong desire for change. While originally midlife crisis was identified with men and associated with fear of deaththe definition expanded to include the issues faced by both men and women in response to physical, social and psychological issues associated with aging.

Notwithstanding the media driven stereotypes of the middle-aged man in new sports car or the menopausal woman trying anything to look younger, middle age is a complex journey of re-evaluation and re-definition.

That midlife inevitably equates to a midlife crisis, however, has been questioned.

  • Stagnation dissatisfaction and lack of productivity;
  • Some consider outside help as a couple or as individuals;
  • Differing from theoretical expectations, participants did not attribute their self-reported midlife crisis to aging or fear of death, but rather to major life events that posed a severe threat and challenge during a broadly defined period of midlife;
  • From Midlife Crisis to Transition It may be worth considering mid-life crisis and midlife transition not as alternative definitions of this time period but as points on a continuum.

Both terms imply change and change need not be crisis. A follow-up phone interview study of 724 Americans suggested that regardless of academic research, there is a popular perception of midlife crisis being more prevalent. For them the term connotes personal turmoil and sudden changes.

  1. While originally midlife crisis was identified with men and associated with fear of death , the definition expanded to include the issues faced by both men and women in response to physical, social and psychological issues associated with aging.
  2. Given that partners may jolt, stir, soothe or support this transition, it is worth considering some strategies for navigating the passage. There is often an urge to make something happen just to abate the anxiety.
  3. There is often an urge to make something happen just to abate the anxiety.

For men it is often a metaphor for physical or psychological changes. Differing from theoretical expectations, participants did not attribute their self-reported midlife crisis to aging or fear of death, but rather to major life events that posed a severe threat and challenge during a broadly defined period of midlife.

For men the events dealt with job or marriage and for women, health, family, deaths and marriage. From Midlife Crisis to Transition It may be worth considering mid-life crisis and midlife transition not as alternative definitions of this time period but as points on a continuum.

  1. Notwithstanding the media driven stereotypes of the middle-aged man in new sports car or the menopausal woman trying anything to look younger, middle age is a complex journey of re-evaluation and re-definition.
  2. For them the term connotes personal turmoil and sudden changes. Differing from theoretical expectations, participants did not attribute their self-reported midlife crisis to aging or fear of death, but rather to major life events that posed a severe threat and challenge during a broadly defined period of midlife.
  3. After his father died, he changed.
  4. After his father died, he changed. There is often an urge to make something happen just to abate the anxiety.

Given that partners may jolt, stir, soothe or support this transition, it is worth considering some strategies for navigating the passage. Beware of the comments of the immediate world and the judgment of social stereotypes. Binocular Vision Given that midlife demands a re-consideration of what has been and often a confused sense of what comes next, partners need to use the wider field of vision that humans have to keep their eyes on self and other.

There is often an urge to make something happen just to abate the anxiety: Partners facilitate this when they support positive expectations, forgive mistakes and allow the passing of time to clarify feelings and options. Same Time — Different Places What is often confusing to partners as they try to negotiate their midlife together is that they are psychologically in different places.

Actually this is not such a surprise.

  • There is an agreement to end the marriage or there is disruption and contention without repair;
  • When married, the impact they have on each other is inevitable;
  • No matter where or when you started your journey, most couples end up in unknown territory in midlife;
  • Whereas people from 19 to40 years, for example, are considered to be working on the balance of Intimacy capacity to make a commitment vs.

As clarified by Erikson in his well known eight stages of psychosocial development, the stages are rarely traversed in a linear way and most people carry unresolved issues from earlier stages into later years.

Whereas people from 19 to40 years, for example, are considered to be working on the balance of Intimacy capacity to make a commitment vs. Stagnation dissatisfaction and lack of productivity. She wants to change careers, to make a difference in a different kind of way. He wants to retire, get away and finally be intimate. Sometimes it takes risking the unconventional or the experimental.

It always involves trying to clarify needs and goals so both know the challenges and the possibilities ahead. Regulating Loss and Re-defining Self Dealing with midlife is about dealing with loss on many levels in ourselves and in what we may observe in our partner. The reality of this may be hard for one or both to integrate. Some feel depressed for a time and may need support as well as validation of feelings.

Some consider outside help as a couple or as individuals. Many consciously and unconsciously use the assault of loss in midlife as a turning point for re-evaluating their life thus far.

Often colored by regrets of what could or should be, they consider how the second half of life might be different.

There is ample evidence that midlife is a time of stress and strain in relationships often evidenced by infidelity of partners. The rupture of trust can equate to a loss of innocence, a feeling of rejection, guilt — even of mutual failure. Accepting this loss, using it as a point of information, many couples actually find a way to a better place. There is an agreement to end the marriage or there is disruption and contention without repair. Clinically I have seen many who come devastated, confused, depressed and bereft by the break-up of a marriage in midlife.

Often they feel stuck in a dark unknown place without options. The response of partners as well as the use of outside resources, be they recreational, educational, spiritual or on-line groups addressing midlife issuesreduce the chances of getting lost or of traveling alone.

Midlife Crisis, Marriage and Opportunity In a marriage, a midlife crisis is often something faced together.