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How to Identify a Male Midlife Crisis (For Women)

Four Parts:Noticing Emotional ChangesNoticing Changes in AppearanceNoticing Behavioral ChangesCoping with His Crisis

If a man in your life is in his 40s or 50s and is displaying some odd behaviors, he may be experiencing a midlife crisis.[1] To identify this, we'll cover emotional changes, like being angry or cut off, behavioral changes, like seeking out excessive thrills, and changes in appearance, from a new wardrobe to cosmetic surgery. What's more, we'll talk about coping as this doesn't just affect your man; it affects you, too. To save your sanity and possibly your relationship, start with Step 1 below.

Part 1
Noticing Emotional Changes

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    Sense if the man in your life is feeling down. Those suffering a midlife crisis will generally feel down or empty for long periods of time with no relief. The key here is "long periods of time" – everyone has mood swings that come and go. A midlife crisis may be present if his general demeanor seems down in the dumps and blue with no explanation.
    • Most mental health experts are wary to commit to the idea of a midlife crisis unless the symptoms have lasted for around 6 months.[2] What's more, there has to be no real attributed cause of the grief. If a loved one passed or he struggles with depression regularly, this may not be a sign.
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    Watch his temper. A man going through this rough period will likely get enraged over small things of no consequence or value. He may have violent outbursts with family and friends that seem completely out of the ordinary for his normal temperament. This can flare up with no warning and pass like a ship in the night, too.
    • Again, feeling irritable on occasion is not the same. Men, too, are allowed hormones! This is a sign if it's a constant, prevalent change that seems to have taken over the man you once knew. The temper doesn't come and go; it seems like it's there to stay.
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    Talk to him about feeling detached. A crisis-ridden man may display general signs of depression. They'll feel detached, lose interest in things that once gave them pleasure, and even may stop engaging with you, his friends, or at work. This may be completely obvious to you or it may be something you have to go digging for – some people, men especially, are very good at concealing the emotions they're battling.
    • If you're unsure, open up the topic for conversation. Say you've noticed that he doesn't seem to enjoy X anymore or that he seems less engaged with you overall. Does he know why? Does this seem to ring true? Has he noticed a change in his own personality?
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    Ask him if he thinks about his own mortality. Men going through midlife crises often become existential.[2] They constantly think about their own mortality and the meaning – or meaninglessness – of life. Does this seem to be a theme in any of your conversations? Have you noticed a "nothing really matters" mentality surfacing? If so, it could be the midlife crisis rearing its ugly head.
    • After all, this is what midlife crises are really all about. You hit the actual mid-point of your life (probably) and you step back and take a good, hard, thorough look at it. This man is plagued by how he's lived and if it's good enough. This can be quite the mental battle he's going through if he's dissatisfied with his life up until now.
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    Talk about his spiritual beliefs. Men who were once religious, in mid-crisis, may not be religious any more. He may start questioning his beliefs that once seemed staunch and unmoving. The tables may have turned on his whole belief system.
    • It works the other way, too. He may start seeking a connection to his spirituality for the first time in his entire life. "New wave" religious groups or cults may actually sound appealing to him. He may also seek out affiliation with a denomination he was once a part of.
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    Listen to your senses about your relationship. Does he seem deeply dissatisfied? Are you less close, both emotionally and physically? Do you talk less, make fewer plans, have less sex, and, in general, have sort of detached from one another? While this can obviously happen without a crisis being the culprit, if the other signs are present, you may have his midlife crisis to blame. However, this is something that can and will pass if you're willing to stick it out.
    • The important thing here is not to take his changing mindset personally; it has nothing to do with you. He doesn't love you less, he doesn't value his life less, you don't make him unhappy – he's just battling a mindset that makes him question everything.

Part 2
Noticing Changes in Appearance

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    Pay attention to weight changes. A man in a midlife crisis may either gain or lose a lot of weight. With that obviously comes changes in eating and exercising, too. This will seem to come on suddenly instead of a gradual weight loss or gain that most of us experience ten times over.[2]
    • Some men will gain a lot of weight, start binging on junk food and take up a sedentary lifestyle. Others will lose weight, lose interest in food, and even go on crash diets or excessively exercise. In certain cases, both are unhealthy.
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    Notice if he obsesses over his appearance. It's possible that a rogue, gray nose hair set off your man's midlife crisis. If he had this dawning revelation that he's getting old, he may start taking strides to look and stay young, ridiculous as they may be. He may try anti-aging solutions that range from a cabinet full of creams to cosmetic procedures or even plastic surgery.
    • A change of fashion may come, too. All of a sudden it's as if he's raided your son's closet in a desperate attempt to be cool. Sounds terribly embarrassing, but it's nothing compared to plastic surgery.
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    Know that he may look in the mirror and not know who he is. Often men mid-crisis see themselves and realize that they don't recognize their reflection. In their heads, they're still that gregarious 25-year-old with a full head of hair and tanned, glowing skin. One day they wake up and that hair seems to have moved to their nose and ears and that tan, glowing skin is still tan and glowing, just a few inches south.
    • Imagine if you woke up feeling 20 years older. Terrible, huh? That's what your man is going through. He's facing the realization that he's not young anymore and life is half over – and he's weathered to prove it.

Part 3
Noticing Behavioral Changes

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    Notice if he acts more recklessly. All of a sudden, your man may be taking on the behavior of an impulsive, immature teenager. He acts recklessly, driving his car too fast, engaging in risky behaviors, and he may even have found a rekindled interest in partying. This is all an attempt to live a younger life, an attempt to live life to its fullest, and an attempt to avoid regret.
    • Often these men have a desperate desire for freedom and independence like a teen – with the difference being that teens don't have a family to consider. He may seek adventure but be unsure where to find it, disregarding the impact it has on his family.
    • This reckless behavior may take on the form of running away or "taking a break." It becomes hard for him to see satisfaction in his current way of life, so he skirts all his responsibilities in an effort to cultivate something more exciting.[2]
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    Take into account work or career changes. Often men in this position will either think of quitting their job, consider never working again even if they can't afford to retire, or change professions entirely. The crisis isn't limited to certain aspects of his life – it's everything from family to appearance to career.
    • He may find that he can't envision life ahead with the people, activities, and career he's currently attached to. When he makes that realization, he inevitably makes changes, if at all possible. It may be just a change of employer or a more drastic change, like starting an entirely new career.
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    Know that he may seek extra sexual attention. Unfortunately, men in midlife crises often have extramarital affairs, or at least flirt with the idea of having one. They may start making sexual gestures towards others – a young co-worker, your daughter's gymnastics coach, a woman they meet at a bar – all in an effort to get more sexual attention. For the record, they know it's inappropriate.
    • Some men will resort to doing this behind the comfort of their computer. They may spend an inordinate amount of time on their computer, often engaged in online chats with strangers.
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    Pay attention to his bad habits. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for a man to pick up a drinking habit during this crisis. He'll drink too much and even by himself. Alternatively, he could be overusing prescription or recreational drugs. This is one of the few parts of a crisis that are legitimately harmful.
    • If he's endangering his life, it is your place to take action. Regardless of how detached he may be making himself, his health is at stake. If you must, look into rehabilitation programs or at the very least therapy.
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    Look for changes in spending patterns. To make this crisis more manageable, men often find themselves spending money in strange ways. They'll trade in their vehicle for a souped-up sports car, cave to infomercials claiming they've found the fountain of youth, buy a new wardrobe, invest in a fleet of mountain bikes, and, in general, spend loads on things that never interested them before.
    • This can be good or bad. Some men will spend thousands of dollars on redesigning the interior of their new car while others will spend thousands on new fitness technology to bring the whole family into shape. Good or bad, that is, if you have the money in the first place.
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    Know that he may be capable of making irreversible life choices. Because of this teenage-like rebellion, these men are very tempted to act out in ways that can blow up their lives. This may include:[1]
    • Having an affair
    • Leaving the family
    • Attempts at suicide[3]
    • Seeking out extreme thrills
    • Drinking, drug use, and gambling
      • This is because he generally feels that his life no longer fits him. These are all drastic attempts to create a new one, regardless of the negative impact it may have on him or the people around him. In most cases, there is no convincing him otherwise.

Part 4
Coping with His Crisis

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    Look after yourself. This is priority number one. He is not the only one going through a hard time here. You'll likely feel like the rug has been swept out from underneath your feet and your whole life has turned upside down. While that may be the case, you can still take care of yourself and life your life. Really, that's all you can do.
    • If you two used to have Wine Wednesdays and Stir Fridays and now he's playing poker with your son's friends, don't allow yourself to sit at home and sulk. While he's off doing him, you do you. Take up that hobby you've never had time for, spend extra time with friends, and ensure your own happiness. It's the best thing for you and for him.
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    Know that individually, these are harmless. A man who wants plastic surgery is not notable. A man that has an affair is not notable, either. Alone, these signs mean nothing. It's only if you see the vast majority of these signs that a crisis is likely at play.[2]
    • Some of these signs, like feeling detached, angry, or existential, can also be the signs of a mental health issue. If your man seems to be experiencing the mental side of this (and not the behavioral), consider this as an alternative. Talk to a counselor, psychologist, or other mental health professional for their opinion.
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    Take into account time. Decreased interest in something or a moment of passionate anger do not equate to changes in personality and, therefore, do not indicate the presence of a midlife crisis. Small changes are normal. If we didn't have them, we wouldn't grow. It's only if these changes stick around for 6 or so months and are prevalent every day that a crisis should be considered.[2]
    • Try to harken back to the first moment of the crisis. In most cases, there is a trigger. It can as small as noticing a patch of gray hairs or as large as losing a loved one. If you can remember a conversation or a moment that aligns with his new behaviors, that might be it. How long ago was that?
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    Let him know you're there. This is a very difficult time this man is going through. He has lost sight of who he actually is and what he actually wants. Without yelling, accusing, complaining, or berating, just talk to him. Don't demand anything; just let him know you're noticing changes and that you're there to support him. You may not like it, but you are not out to thwart his attempts at happiness.
    • If he is open with you, try to get a grip on his mentality and how he is viewing this time in his life. This may help you know what to expect. Every crisis is different and it may help you to pinpoint where his strife lies. Changes could concentrate themselves on his appearance, his work, his relationships, or even just his hobbies. Talking to him about it may help you predict – or, at the very least, not be surprised by – his behaviors.
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    Give him space. Though it's unfortunate, at the end of the day, your man needs to be himself and do his own thing. You will likely not be a part of his new interests. And that's fine! For right now, he needs space. If you give him it, it could be a smoother ride for the both of you.
    • He may need space emotionally as well as physically. If he doesn't want to talk about it, leave it at that. It's going to be disconcerting initially, but it may prevent additional conflict from forming.
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    Know that you're not alone. Up to 26% of people have midlife crises.[4] That's 1 in 4. Odds are you know plenty of people going through this – either as the one in crisis or a loved one standing by. You have a network of resources at your disposal if it all becomes too much. You probably just have to ask!
    • There are a number of books and websites on the matter that you may find helpful, too. They'll help you wrap your mind around the concept of "detaching with love" and help you weight out whether you want to stay or go. While this is huge for the man in your life, it may be huge for you, too. And there's nothing wrong with that.


  • If he appears to be in denial, you may wish to talk to his family or friends.
  • If at any point your man begins to participate in unhealthy and/or dangerous activities, follow up with his personal doctor.

Article Info

Categories: Emotional Health | Emotional Conditions