His Midlife Crisis

Q: After 27 wonderful years of marriage, my husband is going through what seems to me to be a midlife crisis. He says I should have married someone better. He always worked himself silly and rarely found time for me or the family. He hates that he is getting older. If I am supportive, he says not to worry about him, but if I back off and give him space, it just makes it worse. There have been a couple times he has done some stupid things, but I have forgiven and moved passed it, but he says he keeps disappointing me. He refuses marriage counseling, or individual counseling. He said there is no one else, so I am at a loss how to help him through this. Any suggestions? -- Amy, 47

Dr. Susan: Some people refuse to consider counseling because they are sure they know what they will be "told." In my own first marriage, I was positive a therapist would tell me to leave my husband, so I didn't go until it was too late to save the marriage (or avoid wasting years being miserable). It was actually my own inner voice I preferred to keep ignoring. Your husband may be refusing counseling because he is hiding something from you or from himself. It may be true that there is no one else, or it may not be true. If he says he keeps disappointing you, then he may very well be continuing to do those "stupid" things. Fears of getting older often involve having disappointed oneself. Something is going on for him that you can't really help with, besides being supportive of his pain. Remind him again that your relationship is very important to you, and continue urging him to see an experienced counselor for a couple of sessions. At the very least, he can research the topic of midlife crisis. Few people know what it is when it hits them. If he won't get help, you may need to go to a counselor yourself to save your own sanity and work out your options.

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