If you think the so-called midlife crisis is just for men, think again. In my practice, I speak with an almost equal number of worried husbands who are wondering whether their wife is having a midlife crisis. Their biggest worry, of course, is that it will lead to an affair. In many cases, they have cause for concern. Just as men often cheat during a midlife crisis, so too do women.
For the record, “midlife” for our purposes here is anywhere between 30 and 60 years old. It’s a stereotype that only women over 40, perhaps struggling with the empty nest syndrome, show midlife crisis behavior. I’m seeing the behavior (including infidelity) in women as young as 30, including those who still have younger children at home.
Below are eight signs that your wife may be a candidate for a midlife crisis affair:
1. She is pulling away from you and possibly her own children. At the same time, she is more interested in socializing with other people. Often, these are people that concern her husband, such as divorced or single “party animal” or “man-hater” friends.
2. She is finding more fault with the marriage, often rewriting your history as a couple and even seeming to remember bad things that didn’t happen. She argues or doesn’t hear you when you try to remind her of the good times. She rethinks past choices and says things like, “I don’t know if I’ve ever been happy” or “Looking back, I think we got married for the wrong reasons.
3. She is more critical of you and may even say some mean-spirited things about your appearance, intelligence, success, or performance. She quickly grows impatient with you and perhaps even her kids.
4. She is diving into new lifestyle habits or ideas. It’s common for women who are going through this to become more introspective, read more self-help books, or try new spiritual systems (these wouldn’t be bad things; however, they seem to only weaken the marriage all the more).
5. She is less interested than ever in emotional and especially sexual intimacy with you. Yet despite this, she is actively trying to improve the way she looks. This may involve becoming fitter or even getting plastic surgery.
6. She is uncharacteristically self-indulgent and even ego-centric. It seems like she is only thinking of herself, and gets angry if this behavior is challenged. She may say, “It’s time for me to put myself first.” She may start to spend more time and money on herself.
7. She acts confused about her feelings for you and says she “isn’t sure” about her commitment level to the marriage. She may say things like, “I love you but I’m not in love with you” or “I don’t know what I want…I need space to figure it out.” Now, this is the point when you will likely notice either a new male friend – or an ex-flame – on the scene. And the closer she gets to him, the more “confused” she seems about you.
8. She becomes more secretive, especially with her phone, computer, and online or social media accounts. She may lock her devices, change her passwords, and delete her text history. If you express concern about this, she will accuse you of being controlling or paranoid. At the same time, you have reason to believe – even if it’s only your little voice telling you – that her “friendship” with this other man has transitioned into an emotional affair (at the least). She is very protective of this friendship and may prioritize it over the marriage.
Of course, I’m only touching on the behaviors associated with midlife crisis affairs in the most superficial way, here. It’s essential that you talk to your wife and – even more importantly – listen to her. Midlife is a time of great transition for many women, and your job is to be there for her. There may definitely be larger issues in the marriage that need to be assertively addressed.
Yet many husbands have found that talking to her and supporting her doesn’t seem to enough. In fact, nothing seems to be enough. And all the while, a wife’s behavior continues to grow evermore secretive, self-focused and even deceptive.
If you find yourself checking off more than five or six of the items on this list, it doesn’t mean your wife is having an affair; however, it does mean the situation is serious enough that it needs to be addressed. If she won’t talk to you, if she won’t be honest, I suggest reaching out for professional help.
And find it now. Because like it or not, these situations – especially when they involve an overly close male friend – tend to get worse before they get better.