Sports cars, gym membership, new clothes, emotional affairs, sexual trysts, trophy wives, grey divorce- what does a midlife crisis look like?
A midlife crisis can leave clues if you know where to look!
What Does a Midlife Crisis Look Like?
As a middle-aged woman, you may be wondering if the sudden changes happening in your life are normal or a sign of something more serious.
Does Everyone Have A Midlife Crisis?
The truth is that many women(and men) experience a midlife crisis at some point in their lives, and it’s nothing to be afraid of. We are designed to grow and change throughout our lives. It’s normal at some point to pause and reflect upon your life.
When we hit middle age, many of us slow down and look for a larger meaning in our lives. We begin to process our earlier life choices and their results. Some women struggle with forgiving their younger selves for the choices they made
As you spend time reflecting, be prepared for negative emotions. Don’t be surprised if you feel some regret or even grief, that is a normal part of the process. It is important to realize that we might grieve lives that we didn’t live. We might grieve certain choices or people that we left behind.
Midlife Regrets Are Common
It is normal for a middle age woman to look in the rearview mirror of life and wonder what would have happened if she had made different decisions. Looking back isn’t bad, sometimes we need to put names/categories on parts of our lives.
The potential for problems arises when we get stuck in the past. Stuck in our regrets or stuck in our stupidity or stuck in anger. It’s impossible to move forward successfully if you are frozen, constantly looking in the rearview mirror of life.
Is A Midlife Crisis A Bad Thing?
If you feel a sense of restlessness and a desire for change, you might be having a type of midlife crisis. As you probably already know that the idea of a midlife crisis originated in the 1960s. Although big changes were brewing in American society, most people still lived in a traditional family framework.
Men went to work; women were homemakers and many folks self-medicated with double dirty martinis or anti-depressants. They didn’t call those pretty pills “mother’s little helpers” for nothing!
Why Does Getting Older Make Me Sad?
For the first time, psychological research was being conducted on our human limitations, our restricted possibilities, and our morality. Phrases and ideas were coming into focus, science was beginning to study the emotions of middle age. It made perfect sense for those disillusioned folks to create a negative term to explain some of the daily dysfunction they felt!
In the 1960’s the average lifespan for men was 66 years old and for women, it was 73 years.
Can you imagine being 33 years old and thinking that your life is half over? No matter what century or era that someone is alive, we all have dreams and goals. Of course, it would feel like a crisis if you believed that your one single valuable life was dedicated to working to pay the family bills!
And then you died.
Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
Is There More Than One Type of Life Crisis?
There is some debate about the accuracy of the midlife crisis experience and the stereotypes surrounding it. Some recent research evidence exists that major milestones in aging bring a crisis of sorts.
Have you heard of the Quarter Life Crisis? Apparently, there is a new body of evidence that describes a common “crisis” for those under the age of 30. Say “hi” to the newly minted “Quarter Life Crisis”- the turmoil and emotional confusion that hits when a person turns 25 years old.
Midlife Crisis Stereotypes
Whether or not we can totally identify with the idea of a midlife crisis, there are definite emotions and struggles that go with this season of life, for both men and women.
We all know the common midlife crisis stereotypes for men: affairs with younger women, fast fancy cars, and trying to recover lost hair with growth products and bad toupees.
Midlife Crisis For Women and Divorce Can Be Related
Women in midlife crises are often described as angry, giving up the pursuit and enjoyment of sex, and eventually falling into a type of low-energy depression. More recently, there is a surge of “grey divorce” initiated by women. There is some speculation that a sense of personal unhappiness is causing middle-aged women to file for divorce.
Modern middle-aged women have more income and financial stability than in previous generations. Looking at the grey divorce trend, many women no longer need to be in a marriage to have basic resources and security.
Basic Definition of Midlife Crisis
So, what are some of the basic ideas around a midlife crisis? Where does it come from and how can we avoid it?
A midlife crisis is loosely defined as an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age (courtesy of Dictionary/Oxford Languages). You might be feeling a transition of identity or maybe it’s a sense of emotional turmoil in this season of life. Doubt, confusion, and a deep desire for change are also common during a midlife crisis.
What Causes Female Midlife Crisis?
Researchers believe that a midlife crisis happens as we become aware of our aging. Physical changes, cognitive delays, and a sense of limited time can set the stage for a midlife crisis. For some women, a midlife crisis can start when the kids leave the house. It is very common for a midlife crisis to emerge when the nest empties.
Left alone with her husband, many women find that there is not much to talk about anymore. Raising kids kept the marriage busy but prevented the couple from building long-term connection and emotional intimacy. Feeling disconnected and unsatisfied with their marriage, some women begin to wonder if they are falling out of love with their husband. Work may no longer satisfy you, and you might feel like your life is a daily routine of ho-hum boredom.
5 Clues You Are Having A Midlife Crisis
Here are some of the most common feelings and thoughts that can happen when you are facing a midlife crisis.
You feel like you’re stuck in a rut
One of the most common signs of a midlife crisis is a feeling of stagnation or boredom. You may feel like you’re stuck in a job or a relationship that no longer brings you joy, and you’re not sure what to do about it. You may find yourself daydreaming about quitting your job or getting a divorce, but you’re not sure if those are the right choices for you.
You feel like time is running out
Another common symptom of a midlife crisis is a feeling of urgency or panic. You may feel like time is running out and that you haven’t achieved all the things you wanted to in life. This can lead to feelings of regret and disappointment, as well as a sense of desperation to change your life before it’s too late.
You’re questioning everything
During a midlife crisis, it’s common to question everything in your life. You may wonder if you’ve made the right choices in your career, your relationships, and your lifestyle. You may also start questioning your beliefs and values, wondering if they still align with who you are and what you want from life.
You feel like you’re not yourself
Another symptom of a midlife crisis is a feeling of disconnection from yourself. You may feel like you’re not the same person you used to be, and you’re not sure how to get back to that place. You may also feel like you’re living someone else’s life, rather than your own.
You’re seeking new experiences
One way that people deal with a midlife crisis is by seeking out new experiences. You may decide to take up a new hobby, travel to a new place, or start a new career. While this can be a healthy way of dealing with your feelings, it’s important to make sure that you’re not just running away from your problems.
While each person is unique, the following ideas will help you navigate the feelings that come with a midlife crisis. Remember we all have a mixture of complexity and emotional baggage. Be prepared to take some extra steps (talking with a therapist or qualified coach) to explore any confusing feelings before you make major changes.
Avoiding Divorce Regrets During A Midlife Crisis
If your marriage feels like the focus of your unhappiness, you must begin to have open, clear conversations about your feelings with your spouse. It is very common for women to feel unhappy in marriage while their husbands feel very satisfied in the same situation.
Meeting with a couples therapist can be one way to open up communication and move toward a more interconnected future. Hopefully, your spouse will see the need for some marital support and agree to make changes that will help both of you.
Working with midlife crisis clients, I see the following three things show up consistently.
Check Your Self-Confidence Levels
Midlife often brings a crisis of confidence. Crisis of confidence in yourself, wavering confidence in the life you have created, and a lack of confidence in the future that awaits you.
Many women emerge from the decades of raising kids and hardcore “momming” to realize that they have completely lost their identity. Cue midlife crisis feelings. The cure? Take time to re-direct your life and your energy.
Find something that is uniquely yours. Not your husbands’ hobbies. Not the leftovers from the kids’ hobbies. Feel free to give up that volunteer position you have been resenting!
Hubby can find his own friends; the kids will be completely ignoring you soon (in a loving adulting-type way) and someone else can staff the school cafeteria. Choose for you- and only you.
Choosing to build a confident life will benefit your marriage and your relationships with your adult children. Remind yourself that you have everything you need to move forward with confidence. You have the resources and the intelligence to create a life that will confidently carry you into the next season of aging.
Your Emotions Are Important Cues
Pay attention to the cues in your soul. Midlife is a time of slowing down and becoming more reflective. It is also a time when we start to grieve the things we didn’t do, the soft regrets of giving up or missing out on things that mattered to us.
Don’t be surprised if you start experiencing feelings of loss or hollowness. It is normal to feel unsettled in your soul at points in life. It does not always mean you are having a midlife crisis! Don’t ignore your feelings, but take some time to analyze them.
It is very possible that you are longing for more of something in your life. More romance? More travel? More education? Take the time to figure out what is stirring inside of you and then create small steps to shift your life.
Self-Compassion Is Vital
Most importantly, learn to give yourself compassion during a midlife crisis. So often we are quick to deny or shut down our uncomfortable feelings. Until we accept that we are here to live as a whole person, we will cut off the parts of us that are messy and painful.
Many of us were raised with parents that were not able to teach us how to safely feel our feelings. And some of us were punished for having big emotions. So, in a sense, when we shut down our uncomfortable emotions we are re-creating the same childhood framework.
Re-Parenting Yourself Can Be Important During A Midlife Crisis
Try this the next time you feel yourself starting to shut down your big feelings. Picture yourself as a little child who needs comfort and nurture. In your mind, open your arms to her and let her feel safe in your arms. Let yourself relax in your own soul, knowing you are now an adult and safe.
Give yourself permission to cry, be angry or yell. Moving the negative emotional energy through your body will help you successfully release it. Releasing negative emotional energy helps our body reset and return to our baseline of emotional stability.
Practicing self-compassion can take some effort, but it is an important life skill to develop. The world around us can be incredibly harsh at times. Learning to love and value yourself despite your mistakes and faults is one of the most adult things we can do.
It’s never too late to learn to give yourself kindness, joy, and appreciation. You are worth it. Especially if you are in the midst of a midlife crisis.
A Midlife Crisis Can Be The Beginning of Something New
One of the great joys of being human is having the ability to think in nuanced ways, to plan the next adventure, and to realize that it might be time to make some changes. Midlife allows us to stand on the hard-won wisdom from our youth, and look forward to the future with anticipation of adventures to come.
A midlife crisis can be a difficult and confusing time, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Many people experience this phase in their lives, and it’s a natural part of the aging process. By understanding the signs and symptoms of a midlife crisis, you can take steps to manage your feelings and make positive changes in your life. Remember to be kind to yourself and seek support from loved ones and professionals if you need it.
Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts about ways to navigate a midlife crisis.
Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.