Midlife crisis

Parent Q&A

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  • I am a 42 yr old woman. As of recent, I’ve found myself in the grip of what is most likely the dreaded “midlife crisis”. I sometimes feel like I am on the verge of emotionally self-destructing and taking my marriage down with me. 
    Unfortunately, my insurance doesn’t cover therapy and I can’t afford it. 
    I wonder if there are any support groups focusing on this issue? Or perhaps someone here is going through the same thing and would like to chat about it? 


     I just wanted to drop a line to say that there is an agency called Liberation Institute in SF that offers full sliding scale therapy. If you can only pay $1 per session that’s okay. They also do zoom sessions. 

    Try reaching out to The Psychotherapy Institute. They have a sliding scale from $40-$120/session. If this is still too expensive, they might have some other suggestions where you can receive help. I have been seeing a therapist from here for the past year for menopausal issues and she has helped me so much. I highly recommend. 

    How to Start Therapy | The Psychotherapy Institute (tpi-berkeley.org)

  • Hi neighbors, I'm in a downward spiral with a mid-life crisis and am looking for recommendations for a counselor/therapist that can work with me to help work through some issues.

    Generally, the crisis is related to issues that I'm having in my career that I can't find a way to resolve, having experienced a painful set-back two years ago that I haven't been able to come back from.  This has led to some debilitating self-worth/confidence issues that are so overwhelming to me that I fear that my marriage and relationship with my children are being impacted.

    I would greatly appreciate any recommendations for therapists in or near Berkeley.  Thanks in advance!

    Lisa Lancaster is absolutely fantastic--I found her via other recommendations here on BPN and had amazing progress after just a few sessions. A truly insightful and skilled therapist. Good luck to you!

    Original poster here - I forgot to mention a critical piece of info that I have BlueCross BlueShield insurance and would hope to find a therapist that takes this insurance.  Thanks!!

    I wanted to just write and say I HEAR YOU!  I literally feel like I could have written almost the exact same post, and I wanted you to know you are not alone and there's nothing wrong with you!  I have been reading "Why We Can't Sleep" and it has been incredibly reassuring to know that my experience is actually quite normal, and that it will likely get better. I do have a great therapist but unfortunately, her practice is full.  Huge kudos to you for reaching out to others, and taking these positive steps forward for yourself.  Just keep walking and keep the faith. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Husband's midlife crisis

May 2002

Approaching his mid-50ies, my husband declared in February that he no longer has passion for me, although he loves me deeply and tells me that I am very attractive and interesting person. I am more than a decade younger, we have been married for 15 years. There are plenty of reasons in his life that are beyond his control that could have that sort of effect on his libido. He is very focused on everything that is not right for him or in the world and 90% of these issues are beyond his control. He does not seek help from books, nor would he ever seek counseling, or take anything to increase his libido, nor get a cortisone shot for his chronic tendenitis. He openly (he feels very good about his integrity) had a short encounter with a woman 10 years younger than I am, which tore me and her to pieces. Although I never met her, she was suffering from severe pain in her uterus too. My husband on the quest ''to follow his heart'' realized that simply doing that, does not make things better.

Since then I have read ''Passages'' and ''Forgive for Good'' and have learned a lot from friends. We have a wonderful child to raise, a nice house, and I love him and hope he is able to make a new shift to being grateful for what he's got, including me (something beyond appreciation).

For the sake of my own health (that I am still struggling with right now) I have decided and communicated to him that what he calls a physical separation (no sex, but I am his best friend and we live together) will become a straightforward divorce if he takes up with another woman again. Although I make more money than he does, we do not have enough for our family living in different places.

So, what am I asking for? Any couple out there who made it through a midlife crisis? He is searching for that burning ''in- love'' feeling. Sex for me means to express the love I feel. Is it possible for men to make that shift when they've muddled through their crisis? Anyone out there with success stories? Also, if things were to go downhill from here (we are still having great family outings together and I do get hugs and kisses on my cheek), any advice on how to pay someone half of the house, so I can keep it for me and my child or any tips for affordable divorce lawyers? definitely anonymously

You have probably considered marriage counseling already but if you haven't, I strongly recommend Gilbert Neuman 841-9230. We were on the verge of divorce and I was absolutely clear that I was no longer in love with/attracted to my partner and never would be again. I was, and still am, very skeptical about therapists in general but agreed to go through it because I felt that I needed to try everything for the sake of the kids. Gil is very smart, very perceptive and a straight shooter. He can cut through the noise and get to the heart of the issue quickly. He will tell you exactly what he thinks, including whether he thinks your marriage can be saved. He really helped us through an extremely difficult time. anonymous
To the woman who posted about her husband's mid-life crisis.

My heart goes out to you. It's very difficult to make it through a mid-life crisis. Fortunately there is help available. You are right to try to save the marriage.

Check the divorcebusting web site -- there's a section on mid- life crisis.

http://www.divorcebusting.com/ No name

I suggest reading ''10 Stupid Things Couples Do to Mess Up Their Relationships'' by Dr.Laura Schlessinger. What you are going through is discussed in the book because it isn't uncommon, unfortunately. Helena
Your husband makes me so mad I want to come over there and slap him myself! But you ask about how to buy one partner out of your house if you do divorce (yes yes yes, dump him!)

My ex husband and I owned our home together when we decided to divorce. Fortunately our divorce was amicable and we came up with the following arrangement.

Before I could afford to buy him out, but after we separated, he paid half the house payment, and I paid him ''rent'' for living in his half of the house. Example: house payment $2200. Rent for a house of our caliber was, at the time, around $1400. He owed $1100 for the house payment, minus $700 rent I owed him, for a net contribution on his part of $400 a month. He also paid half of insurance, tax and repair bills for this period. He continued to be entitled to half the equity in the house.

About six months later, I had my finances in order to buy him out. I went about refinancing the home in my own name. This transferred title to me only, which my ex husband had to sign for because we were still legally married. The refi also gave me an appraisal value I could use for the ''buy out'' price. I subtracted 6% from the appraised value to account for realtor commissions I'd eventually have to pay when selling the house to get the actual equity. He was entitled to half this net equity. I signed a promissory note to him and began making him payments with interest - I used my new mortgage rate for the interest rate. A few months later, once the new mortgage was in place, I took out a home equity line of credit and paid him off. A slightly higher interest rate, but tax deductible, and the monkey off my back.

This slow process worked for us because my ex husband was not prepared to buy a new house right away. But I believe you could jump right to the refinancing/home equity loan if you are in a hurry.

Best of luck to you. anonymous

Personally, I think I'd get a no-obligation estimate of value from a couple of Realtors, so you know what it's worth, then go to a reputable loan broker, get pre-approved for a refi to buy the guy out of the house, and then drop a reality check bomb on him in the form of divorce papers. Who needs someone who is going to be a wallowing, self-pitying bad example to your child , stinking up the place. I think you've taken enough. TC in Berkeley
There is hope, people(I/we)survive the betrayal and hurt of this magnitude. But even if your partner does not seek therapy(which he desperately needs), you absolutely should. You will need the tools that therapy can bestow regarding how to move on, how to honor yourself and the family. The one thing that seemed to be the pivital point in my situation was talking over and finally giving an ultimatum regarding staying in the family/house. I was willing to take that risk because I knew and discussed with him that the fantasy life awaiting him would not be the free and easy life of his youth. Instead it would be stress filled finacially strapped life of 2 adults providing for children under 2 roofs. When would there be time for romance, and how would the children be affected by this split? Would they, like he, end up with self esteem issues that they would battle through out their lives? It has been a hard road, but we are struggling thru together, with the help of a good therapist. I also should add that it is never a one sided story. I definately was responsible on some level for my husbands seeking solace elsewhere, but at the time I was blinded by fatique, sleep deprivation and bad habits. We have also learned the hard way that our children, no matter how young have scars that relate to this time, so what ever you do, please shield your child. Her imagination can be her worst enemy with stuff like this, and her trust will be alot harder to build than yours.

I wish you all the best of luck. anon

Your message really touched me because I could have written it myself several years ago. I read several questions buried in your post, and can appreciate you are probably feeling overwhelmed by all that's going on in your life, and the potential changes that are involutarily being thrust upon you. When this happened to me, I was furious, depressed, immobilized, humiliated and scared. I also had an incredible network of friends who helped me see the situation was not a reflection of my worth, but a messy, yucky bi-product of human relationships. There are emotional, philosophical and practical issues to deal with. First, you ask about whether couples recover from similar crises. I'm sure you'll find a range of answers, but it's important to note a couple of things: one, that while the crisis itself may pass, the triggers that led your husband to make certain decisions probably are more deeply rooted and would need to be seriously looked at, assuming he has a desire not to repeat a painful situation. I understand he's not willingly going to therapy, and there isn't much you can do about that. Hopefully, he'll get there soon. But you can, and should, go for yourself--both to manage the stress and scariness of the situation, and to understand your own reactions and triggers. You also need to be prepared, if you stay together, that things will not magically go back to the way they were before. In fact, pretending that they could is a big mistake, and in order for you all to heal and get through it, a lot must be acknowledged about what has happened on both of your behalves. This sort of experience is profound and indelibly marks everyone involved. Think about whether your feelings of trust and respect are still present, or will be (and these are not necessarily the same as loving him. You can love him, but decide his actions are or are not acceptable to you for your partnership or that they are not sufficiently respectful of your relationship.) Many couples survive affairs, many don't; I personally know several people whose marriages broke up as a result of them, and who went on to find great happiness in solo lives in other relationships. My partner and I stuck it out--it's been incredibly difficult and painful, and there have been many times when I think I'm absolutely nuts to have even tried. I'm pretty convinced it'd have been easier to quit. Then there are plenty of other times when I feel grounded that it's been the right decision for me, for us, and feel confident we can weather just about any storm (and a few others have occured, unrelated to fidelity. There should be quotas on how much bad stuff happens, but there aren't.) A really good book on this is ''After the Affair'' which was still in print last time I checked.

Next, you seem to want to assure yourself that he is still affectionate, attracted to you, etc. I'm sure that can be true, and that is what makes this so darn hard. Feelings can be sincere and ambivalent at the same time. However, you seem particularly focused on how he feels, not on how you feel. I think it'd be really good to try to focus on what you want, and what you need. Maybe you need to take some distance, or maybe you actually do need to take care of him to feel good about how you're responding, or to feel that you're doing everything humanly (or super humanly) possible to save your relationshp. Just be clear about why you're doing it. If you're suppressing your needs to address his, and expect him to wake up one day and have profound and demonstrable appreciation for all you've done, you might be disappointed. If anything is common about a mid life crises, it's that it's a time of narcissism. If you can just accept that, great. If you can't, take good care of yourself.

Last about legal/financial issues. Go see an attorney, and discuss your situation for how you might position yourself to best protect yourself or keep your options open. You don't have to hire them in a permanent way and doing so doesn't mean you're on the road to a divorce--but a couple hours of counseling may ease your stress, or make you aware of other areas you should focus on. This newsletter had a recent posting with suggestions for divorce lawyers/mediators. You might want to split your funds, separate credit cards and financial responsibilities, and take a few non-permanent steps that will make a later separation a little easier. If you have separate property (non-community property, such as an inheritance or assets that clearly were yours prior to marriage), you should try to establish their source (documents, records, etc.) or set it up that future separate property isn't intermingled with your post-marriage assets. Nolo Press puts out a few good books on divorce in CA; one on financial issues particularly (and another on child custody, although you didn't ask.) It might be good for you to read them, both to be prepared and start thinking about things, and also to bring down the level of fear you might (understandably) have about all the unknowns.

Last, a separation now does not have to be a divorce, and doesn't have to be permanent. It might help you to have some time on your own to sort out your own feelings. Perhaps one of you could find a summer sublet (many available now around campus) so you can get a bit of perspective, without dealing with a total move-out or disrupting your child's life more than you have to. I think it always helps to confront huge challenges by breaking them down into bite size pieces. What you're going through is really, terribly hard. But you're not alone. Good luck. obviously anonymous, too

My very deepest sympathy. We went through something similar about three years ago and it was the roughest thing I have ever been through. Counseling (individual or couples) did not work for us. We tried everybody in town (only a slight exageration). But your mileage may vary. For the last five months though, I would say I am at one of the happiest periods of my life and feel very good about our relationship. My husband goes up and down still but on the whole he seems the happiest I have ever seen HIM. I credit reading ''To Love Is To Be Happy With'' or anything by the author Neil Kaufman for turning things around. Ultimately I believe my hub was self-medicating his chronic unhappiness with romance, a common enough habit. After reading Kaufman's book I just fixated on being happy no matter what and that has made all the difference for me, for my kids for my hubby too. Also check out a book, ''Divorce Remedy''. It was pretty helpful on some practical ideas. Another book by Weiner, ''Why Smart People Do Stupid Things'' (not sure about title) explained the seeming idiocy of my hub's behavior and my reaction to it. But moment by moment doing whatever it took to be happy turned out to be what really worked for me. Best Wishes! anon