Nothing To Celebrate
On holiday in Spain recently, I picked up a newspaper and read your column. The advice you gave and how you gave it sounded good, so I hope you don't mind me writing. I hope you will reply, even though I live in the United Kingdom.
A year ago I was very much looking forward to celebrating with my husband, our Silver Wedding Anniversary. My mom would make a cake and a friend was going to ice it. The event was becoming a talking point. Sadly, it never came into fruition.
In mid-September, after my daughter and I returned from a shopping expedition, my husband sat me down and said he needed to talk to me. He said we had been married 25 years with many highs and lows. He said he did not feel the same way about things anymore, did not love me in a way he once did, and did not see me in his future.
He went on to say he wanted to spend time apart to see how we got on. It turned out he had a flat ready to move into and the car was packed. Twenty minutes later, he was out the door.
The time apart became permanent. He said thoughts had been burrowing in his head for several years and he was unhappy. I was completely devastated but had the strength to pick myself up and carry on. I have wonderful friend support, and my family and two daughters have been marvelous.
Often people await announcements of separation, but ours shocked everybody. I've had people tell me all sorts of theories--midlife crisis, reliving his youth, he’s a selfish coward, to name but three. He wants another relationship. He is with his second new lady since he left. Can you air any thoughts on the matter? His behavior was out of character, but he said he’s been putting on a front.
Joan, it’s not like your husband walked into an automobile showroom, went crazy over a red sports car, and bought the Ferrari on impulse. He thought this all out; his was not a spur of the moment decision. He knows himself well enough to know he couldn’t allow you or anyone else a chance to cajole, confer, or reason him out of his conclusion.
Not everything has to be some big kind of psychological hoopla. His actions don’t necessarily imply midlife crisis, reliving his youth, or fear of death. In fact, they sound more like a planned retirement. A person feels he’s been living a fake life, and thinks, “If I don’t do this now, I never will.” The children were nearly grown, he’s no longer concerned what his in-laws think, and he’s not worried about his financial future.
Imagine two women, one with children and one without. The first woman habitually asks her friend to baby sit the children. The friend’s response is always “that’s what friends are for,” until that one day she explodes in anger or puts her house up for sale and moves away.
Your husband sounds like a weak man who felt others were directing his life, even though no one told him what to do. What you thought was amiability and thoughtfulness on his part may have been merely hiding this weakness. He felt like a silent martyr to the expectations of others.
The person who was supposed to love you was pretending. That’s on him, not on you. He never told you. Perhaps in the very beginning, after so many months of dating, he felt he would be a cad if he didn’t marry you. Perhaps he felt both families were expecting a wedding. Or perhaps he simply felt it was time for him to get married.
You will never know the exact reason, but the silver wedding anniversary was the straw that broke his camel’s back. And you didn’t even know he had a camel.
Wayne & Tamara
(From the column for the week of September 18, 2006)
My husband, 60, has moved into our motor home to “find himself.” He’s had counseling, is on medication, and has the typical midlife crisis I’ve read about. It’s his crisis, but it seems to be my problem.
I’m not really married, I’m not single, I’m not even legally separated. Do I wait to see if I’m discarded like an old snotty Kleenex? I can’t get on with my life because I’m in limbo. Any advice?
Dolores, the term “midlife crisis” may be the most abused phrase in the dictionary. It is used to explain away almost every problem a woman can have with a man.
As long as you wait for your husband to decide, you will feel helpless. That helplessness will lead to depression and less active engagement in life. Your husband lacks the will to bring things to a head. You can free yourself by being proactive.
Think about the kind of relationship you have had. What is best for you now? Do you want marriage, separation, or divorce? What would your life be like if you pursued each of these courses? What possibilities—financial, emotional, social—are open to you with each course?
Have a talk with your husband and lay your cards on the table. Lay out all the options and see what he has to say. Then make your decision. It’s your life. Live it!
Wayne & Tamara
(From the column for the week of July 31, 2000)
Home For The Holidays
I believe my 33-year-old husband is going through a mid-life crisis. We have been married for 13 years. The only thing he is interested in is his own life and his friends.
I have now gotten into competition with his friends, and I don’t want to. He told me awhile ago that he loves me but doesn’t think he is in love with me. This has been going on since June.
He totally ignores me and I can’t seem to get five minutes of his time, but I can be here at home to watch our three kids while he is living his own life. He can’t stand being touched. Maybe he can’t stand me touching him, I don’t know about others.
He told me he wanted to work on our marriage through the holidays and then reevaluate in January. I feel like I am under some sort of test. I don’t like this feeling at all. Numerous times he has told me how inadequate I am in all parts of our marriage.
I don’t know how to proceed. He refuses counseling. Any ideas?
Meredith, mid-life crisis is used to explain away all kinds of things. Based on current life expectancy, your husband hasn’t even reached mid-life yet.
What’s going on here is your husband has opted out of the marriage, but still wants a place to be for the holidays. The added benefit is he doesn’t appear to be such a Scrooge by abandoning you and the children after Christmas.
You are being set up to fail. Don’t let him get away with saying he is working on your relationship and not doing it. Why walk on eggshells and pretend over the holidays? You are free to make your decision now.
Wayne & Tamara
© 1996-2015 Wayne & Tamara Mitchell
(From the column for the week of November 29, 1999)