Male Mid-Life Crisis Is A Myth

The male mid-life crisis isn’t what you think it is, it’s about how old the man’s wife is. A forty year old man with a forty year old wife has a mid-life crisis, a forty year old man with a twenty-five year old wife doesn’t. A twenty-five year old man with a forty year old wife has a “mid-life crisis”. It’s really not about his his age,  it’s about his partner moving into a non or markedly less fertile phase of life, and his Body Agenda deciding to search for someone else that is more fertile. It’s best to think of it as a “partner not so fertile crisis”.
What happens when you have a “partner not so fertile crisis” is that your own body starts up a set of programming called “The Rationalization Hamster”. The Hamster just goes into overdrive trying to drum up reasons to be pissed off at your spouse, ways to look on them negatively, ways to blow up minor issues into larger ones and generally any excuse to justify running off with a new partner or getting some on the sly.
The current partner may be doing nothing overtly wrong other than…
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  1. Pickle says:

    Sooooooo….should I eventually worry that my guy who is 22 years my senior might freak out on me because he at some point might think his previous marriage really was savable? Even if they both agree it wasn't? And now I am happy I can still harass him about his mid life crisis…LOL

  2. Stephen says:

    Wow…You hit this one outa the ballpark have to agree with everything you say. I feel this post should be directed more for the women. I don't believe men can stop themselves from feeling this way but it would be helpful for their wives to have a heads up on what this is about.

  3. dalrock says:

    Great post. I'd seen this outlined on a psychology blog, but you did a much better job with it.

    One thing I find interesting is that men leaving their wives at midlife isn't all that common. It happens, but for example the AARP study on late life divorce which focused almost exclusively on divorces in the 40s or early 50s showed that women still initiated the vast majority of divorces at those ages. Many act as if our hard wiring can't be overcome. It is much harder if you don't understand what is happening, but either way we aren't slaves to biology to the degree many assert.

    So the lack of mass male defections when the wife hits menopause should serve as a counterargument to those who say women can't possibly be expected to keep promises they make and not follow their tingle. Honorable people are honorable even when it is difficult. Dishonorable people are honorable until things get tough.

    None of this is to say that men and women shouldn't be aware of the tugs the other is potentially feeling and act to minimize the degree of temptation.

  4. (R)Evolutionary says:

    Nice work here, and I'm in complete agreement up until you wrote the bit about "when you are 40-something you just aren't going to get the same level of quality of woman interested in you as when you were a 20-something." I don't believe this to be correct for moderately attractive men with decent game skills and good internal game (read: self-confidence.)

    But then maybe that's my rationalization hamster kicking dropping a couple gears & getting into the turbos, but I'mma do my best to prove you wrong in my own life, being a single man with aspirations of a family at some point.

    Keep up the great work.

  5. mnl says:

    I confess I had never thought of it this way before. Makes a lot of sense.

  6. Athol Kay says:

    Pickle – actually he should worry that you are going to dump him once you hit your crisis.

    Dalrock – actually I see this kicking in before menopause hits. By the time menopause is happening the guy is usually 50-60 and is fairly well aged out of having an ability to attract someone to make kids with him. Menopause is better understood as a medical event by everyone too. I think what I'm talking about hits earlier – like when the wife is mid 30's to early 40s.

  7. dalrock says:

    I think what I'm talking about hits earlier – like when the wife is mid 30's to early 40s.

    Interesting. That is a little earlier than I was thinking then, but not by much. That study would still have picked it up if it were an common occurrence, because men tend to be around 5 years older than their wives (on average). I just double checked my post on Grey Divorce, and 73% of the divorces measured in that AARP study occured when the person responding was in their 40s. Another 15% happened when the person was between 50 & 55.

    Looking at the study, it seems that women initiated the divorces around 60% of the time (the answers of men and women were somewhat contradictory, and in some cases it was mutual). I don't know the actual stats for younger divorces so I'm not sure if it picked something up there or not. At any rate, women still initiate the bulk of divorces, even when men's midlife crisis is kicking in. I think this is telling.

  8. Athol Kay says:

    But men cheat more. You don't have to divorce to get a younger woman.

    Also divorce law is slanted towards women which likely is the biggest effect on who files for divorce.

  9. Lily says:

    Women do initiate divorce more even when the man has abandoned the marriage (either mentally or physically). I think it's partly because of what Athol says on divorce law (i.e in the unlikely event a man actually leaves his wife for a mistress, he doesn't file for divorce as that means financial measures) but also some men just don't want to deal with it.

    And for example, I have a male friend who had an affair, the affair partly led to the breakup of his marriage (his wife does not know about it, still) in the end his wife moved out of their marital home. The affair broke up and he is now seeing several women. Now he's looking at getting back with the affair partner.

    I keep encouraging him to start divorce proceedings as the marriage is clearly over and it's not fair on his wife (she still thinks there is a chance of reconciliation). If you end things in a gentlemanly way, chances are you can have a dignified relationship, come to a mature agreement on money etc. But he just doesn't want to deal with it. At some stage she will want to move on from her limbo state and will initiate divorce proceedings. I can only imagine what would happen if she found out about the affair, we all know the woman scorned expression.

    I only know of 2 men who initiated divorce proceedings themselves. Both of these were because they were keen on joint child custody. Oh and they both got it. Neither of them sat around whining about divorce 2.0 or whatever malarkey. Both strong men though.

  10. Doug1 says:

    The laws aren't the same in Britain and the US Lily. Our child support=stealth alimony looks to me to be about 50% higher on an after tax basis in higher tax coastal states than yours. Your courts may also grant true joint custody – with no child support=stealth alimony much more than ours do. As well feminists have even gotten many of the few states which do grant a lot of joint physical custody to give women what's then clearly spousal support but it's called child support when there's a significant earnings gap.

    As well states about never calculate what earnings a woman COULD earn, while they usually do with men. That is in America, if a man was working as a highly paid lawyer but decides he's sick of it and wants to be a magazine write instead, and work on a novel on the side, our courts will often assess the same child support=stealth alimony they did when he was earning mega bucks. If that's not modern day indentured servitude for males, please tell me what is.

  11. Flahute says:

    I am cruel. My wife was recently telling me how bad her girlfriends look (a few years after having hit the wall) and how great she is holding up (it's true, she looks great and much younger than her age). I recently told her in bed "don't worry, you still look kinda sexy." Ouch.

  12. Athol Kay says:

    Lily – he's just keeping the door open to go back to his wife is all. It's called stringing her along. He may or may not go back.

    USA child support and alimony laws vary so much by State that it is hard to do anything other than talk in sweeping terms. In general they are slanted towards the wife, in some case quite heavily.

  13. Lily says:

    Sure, on the US laws, but that would make it even more likely than the UK that men may 'leave' a marriage but not file for a divorce so the women filing for divorce stat being higher does not reflect the actual reality of reasons of marital breakdown.

    Don't think they'll get back together but yes I think he'd like to keep that door open. But she's been in limbo for a while now so I suspect at some stage, probably just before Christmas she's want to move on and file for divorce. So that will another divorce stat of the woman filing for divorce which won't reflect the reality of how the marriage broke down.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I'm 20 and my husband is 39, last year, he bought a red corvette, married me, spent a ton of money on an alienware custom PC, and started pointing out every other girl, and saying "oh she has a nice ass" etc, stopped having sex with me!!! and then said he was unhappy for no reason at all. Presently we are still together, he eventually sold the corvette, bought a more conventional vehicle and sex picked back up, we sort of coasted through that time in our lives, but it was all really confusing for me. I'm 120lbs and young! Would this event be considered a mid-life crisis? We both said we weren't interested in having kids, he has 2 from his previous marriage! Just doesn't make any sense.

  15. Athol Kay says:

    Anon – my point is that saying you don't want kids doesn't really mean anything, that's just the Rationalization Hamster talking, your Body Agenda and his probably want kids.

    It seems that deep down the whole point of his being with you was to have more children and you weren't supplying them. Hence his loss of sexual interest in you and looking around at other women.

    The Alienware PC is just because they are awesome.

  16. Anonymous says:

    "I only know of 2 men who initiated divorce proceedings themselves. Both of these were because they were keen on joint child custody. Oh and they both got it. Neither of them sat around whining about divorce 2.0 or whatever malarkey. Both strong men though."

    Absolutely correct. In the US you have to file first and be very aggressive legally if you want joint custody.

  17. It's Deeper Than That says:

    Athol, where did you come up with this theory? Any data? Stats?

    I have a theory of my own. The mid-life crises is a spiritual crises. Has nothing to do with the body, or sex, or reproduction or new cars – those are just substitutes for what people are really looking for.

    They have rightly intuited that all these things – all the "things" (including even family) that they have been brainwashed into thinking will give them "fullfilment" actually does not and cannot.

    But they don't know what to do other than wash, rinse, repeat – so they go for the younger partner, the car, the PC, whatever, and STILL the Kool Aid doesn't quench their thirst.

    Because it can't.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Well. I am forty, never married, with a girlfriend who is 27 who loves me a lot and I am having a midlife crisis of the size of the Grand Canyon. I am three years into the crisis and it has been the worst period of my life (Of course, I have been in the hands of professionals, to no avail).

    The problem is not sex or young partners (I don't have problem with that).You start thinking about old age, the meaning of life, death, what you have accomplished, if this was worth it, the shattered dreams of your youth, what you are going to do with your life now that the horizon is not that far away. You see your beloved people aging and dying.

    Marriage, relationships, sex, job, success… do not matter so much anymore. You don't feel that it is worth it the huge amount of work that it takes.

    The only thing that makes you get out of bed in the morning are dreams. Midlife crisis is when you have lost all your dreams and you only see the futility of life.

  19. Athol Kay says:

    Have you considered having kids with your girlfriend?

    At the end of life the only thing that really matters is your family.

    Yes there are risks to marriage and having kids, but there are also risks to not being married and having kids too.

  20. It's Deeper Than That says:

    "The problem is not sex or young partners (I don't have problem with that).You start thinking about old age, the meaning of life, death, what you have accomplished, if this was worth it, the shattered dreams of your youth, what you are going to do with your life now that the horizon is not that far away. You see your beloved people aging and dying.

    Marriage, relationships, sex, job, success… do not matter so much anymore. You don't feel that it is worth it the huge amount of work that it takes."

    Anonymous, this is EXACTLY what I was talking about when I said "spiritual".

    It's true. These external things start showing up as insignificant, precisely because THEY ARE.

    Athol suggests starting a family. But even THAT can prove insignificant at some point as well.

  21. Athol Kay says:

    So what exactly are you advising Deeper? Spiritual is a very vague term.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I am the last anonymous. Thanks for your interest. I have thought about marrying and having kids with my girlfriend. My girlfriend is very nice, sweet, affectionate, lovely, traditional, non-feminist, a good girl, LOVES kids, loves me and will do an amazing stay-at-home mother. I would have preferred for her to work but I will be happy to support her because I know she is worth it.

    I have lots of affection towards her and would do anything to protect her and help her, but it bores the hell out of me (her intelligence and conversation are very limited and she only wants to be at home, kissing and in silence). Yesterday we were together and I was asking God for her to go back home so I can escape the boredom (I am never bored when I am alone).

    Some part of me thinks that the solution is starting a family. All my family is married and most of them seem genuinely happy about that. I don't live in America and, being 40, there are no good prospects for me: I think my girlfriend is the very best I can do. But enduring 40 years of boredom can be a tough pill to take.

    Other part of me thinks that external things are not the solution. I have tried to read books about midlife, optimism and spiritual awakening. I also tried to go to a church but my faith is weak.

    So I am curious about what Deeper can say about this.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Comment: When I said, there are no good prospects for me, I refer to marriage not to casual sex.

  24. Athol Kay says:

    Some of that lack of conversation comes from the age gap between you.

    It's also pretty rare that one person has everything you could possibly need from them to make you happy. And if you expect that from a spouse they will always disappoint you somehow.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Yes, you are right Athol. The age gap is important. And you are right that the perfect partner does not exist.

  26. Anonymous says:

    (I forgot to say that our sex is awful. I prefer to do without sex. But enough about my pathetic life).

  27. Athol Kay says:

    Awful sex would be a seriously bad sign. :-(

  28. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Athol :-( (

  29. It's Deeper Than That says:

    Anonymous, I don't know what the answer is. What I do know is – look around you. It has no meaning. That's right. Your home, car, or public transportation, all the lights, the signs, the advertisements, the stores, the stuff in the stores, clothing, your computer, your computer keyboard, the internet, etc, it's all meaningless.

    We are supposed to think it all has meaning. We are PAYING for it to have meaning. But it doesn't.

    Trees, grass, natural bodies of water – these have meaning. Try to find out what that meaning is.

  30. JD says:

    Anon: I wish you well in your search; this blog probably can't help you much with deep psychological or spiritual problems (no offense, Athol!).

    We're so often told what we should want in our lives, no wonder we're blindsided when the big dream doesn't make us happy. She's sweet, pretty, young but BORING; even sex can't make it work; you need some intellectual qualities in your partner; you're evolving.

    Whatever decision you reach, please, please, do NOT have children with her! Having babies will not fix an unsatisfying relationship; they are not meant to have that burden. Be extra careful with the birth control – she may think a "happy accident" will fix the situation – it won't. Best of luck.


  31. Athol Kay says:

    None taken JD. I'm pretty clear what the blog is about. :-)

  32. Karen says:

    This is a bunch of non sense. My husband of 22 years
    Is In mid-life crisis. We were married 22 years
    And from day one. I have never been able to have children.
    So the theory that it is driven by the desire to reproduce makes no sense.
    Fact is men are selfish and cheating is ego. I think it is pathetic and sickening
    When men want to blame their actions on their wives. Why don’t
    Men just take the responsibility for their own actions and call it for what it is. PURE Selfishness
    And lack of honor or integrity

  33. Athol Kay says:

    @Karen You’re arguing that sexual behavior isn’t driven by the desire to reproduce?

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