Ask Andrew – My wife is having a mid-life crisis
I bought my book “I Love You But I’m Not in Love With You” for my wife as this was exactly what she told me at the start of the year. She has started to read it but she now seems to feel that the relationship is completely over. She is insistent that we must separate and divorce and I get the impression that any attempt by me to get her to examine her feelings is just me forcing to try to think differently, which she resents.
She just says she has been feeling this way for 4-5 years, perhaps longer, and that she knows what she thinks so what good is counselling going to do?
We have not been intimate for ages and it’s now got to the point where she doesn’t want me to kiss her, touch her or see her naked. The idea of me touching her seems abhorrent to her although she did allow me to hug her the other day as I was so upset with the situation. I accept that she may have fallen out of love but I seriously wonder whether she is having some sort of midlife crisis (although I know you don’t like the term). I also feel that there may be other issues clouding her judgement. She has experienced periods of depression in the past and only recently told me she never tool the medication she was prescribed. She is is very adamant that she would never ever take anti-depressant medication.
She seems to be questioning the whole marriage and wonders whether she got married and had children for her father’s sake who was terminally ill and died in 2002 a year after our first child was born. She wonders whether she had children so he could at least experience a grandchild. Her mother, with whom she had a poor relationship, passed away almost 2 years ago. She says she never wants to marry again and wants to live alone even if she finds another committed relationship. She questions the custom of the wife taking her husband’s surname and questions whether humankind is meant to be monogamous.
She seems to be craving more fun and says she has found it increasingly hard to be a mother, wife and full-time worker. She compares our life now to before we had children and seems to find the decreased opportunities for socialising hard to take. She talks warmly about friends she had in her late teens when life was completely carefree.
She wants to go on holiday by herself and just seems to want to have fun. She tells me of the attention she gets from other men when she does go out with friends and seems to attach huge importance to the fact that she looks younger than she is (she’s 46). Her youthful looks seem so important to her. She says that while she still looks good she still wants to have fun.
She seems to place importance on materialistic things and says that sometimes a woman wants a nice house and a decent car, but seems unable to accept the financial constraints. She says the house is a tip and seems to blame me entirely for this.
She says our sex life has been very poor and one of her major complaints when we were still having sex is that I insisted on wearing a condom. I didn’t want to withdraw and she wouldn’t consider using any form of birth control. It was either withdraw at the point of ejaculation, have sex during her cycle when she would be unlikely to get pregnant, or not at all. I found this extremely irresponsible. I was very inexperienced sexually when we got together.
There also seems to be a slight tendency to drink alcohol more, although not excessively.
I have tried to respond to some of her issues, by being tidier around the house for example, but she says it’s too late now and seems to regard them as me trying to change her thinking, which I suppose I am, as I want to work on the marriage.
I feel now that I may have blown it completely as I got very angry tonight and my frustrations poured out. I said that she says she wants to separate but we are still living in the same house a couple of months after she first mentioned this. I suppose I made her feel guilty by saying that we must try counselling again for the sake of our two children (aged 7 and 11) but she just said again that she knows how she feels and she will never again feel the way she used to about me (I get the “I want to be your best friend line”), something which I did start to accept but now I don’t want to throw away the marriage without a fight. We did try a couple of relate sessions but I didn’t find them very useful and as she was adamant she was going to leave, I saw no point in continuing (something I very much regret). My wife has been going on her own to talk about not only her ‘out of love’ feelings but also about other childhood issues.
I have also been giving mixed messages by one the one hand saying I wanted her to be the one I grew old with and then, when it dawned on me that she was intent on leaving, that my sexual attraction to her had also disappeared (perhaps to lessen the hurt I was feeling).
If indeed my wife is experiencing a midlife crisis, what can I do to help and is there anything I can do to if she has definitely decided to separate and divorce? How do I know, and how does she know, whether this is what she truly wants? Do you see any hope in this situation?
Of course, your wife is having a mid-life crisis. There is nothing that makes us realise that our time on earth is finite that sitting at our parent’s death bed. No wonder she’s questioning the choices she made – especially if her father was such a huge influence – now that she’s an orphan. However, I think you’re asking the wrong question! Far more interesting is: Why does she perceive you as the enemy rather than an ally? We all need to stop and ask: Does my life make sense? Am I in the right job? What next? But why can’t she turn to you and discuss these issues?
My guess is that you are part of the problem – and in a more profound sense that not being very tidy. It’s all very well to ask her to examine her feelings but at the moment, all that will achieve is finding more reasons to be angry with you. What I think would be much more productive is getting you to examine your life and your attitudes. What would you like to be different? How do you feel about your journey through life and being middle aged too? What would you change about your marriage if you did get a second chance? Why can’t communicate effectively with her? You obviously love her dearly but none of that comes across in your letter.
So do I see any hope? I think it all depends on you. Getting angry, telling her to think of the children, trying to pin all the problems on her mid-life crisis (so it’s about her not the two of you) are all classic mistakes that men make when trying to save their marriage. If you’re prepared to listen, acknowledge and not try and put her back in her old life (which isn’t working with her) but happy to change and be part of her change, there’s no reason why your relationship can’t flourish. I explain how to win back your wife – even if she says it’s over – in my new book ‘My wife doesn’t love me any more’. It requires quite a bit of giving – without getting anything back in the short term and that’s tough. So to answer, your question: How do you know if your relationship is over or not. Do you still love enough to be generous and put your hurt to one side for a while? Your wife has already answered it but you jury is still out for you.