Men experience middle life crisis in their own way
Midlife crisis is a transitional stage in a life of an individual. For a man it marks a point where a person reflects on his or her life while anticipating the future, often this brings up unresolved issues and triggers realisations, whilst reassessing his achievements and aspirations.
Men experience midlife crisis differently to women, partly due to the difference in physiology and partly due to societal pressure. Life stages may also be a factor, as a man is commonly the de facto earner for the family so the salary level or the status may hold more value for a man.
The causes and symptoms of middle life crisis also vary depending on the individual, sometimes one is able to make generalizations depending on the age and sex of the individual but otherwise it depends on the person's character and his or her environment and lifestyle.
Men's midlife crisis is often caused by different stressors and men display different symptoms.
Men's unresolved issues and realisations in midlife that lead to a crisis are usually based on status and work, success in career or lack of. Whilst women's midlife crisis is often caused by family life issues and relationship problems.
For both sexes, physical aging is also a factor. Some men may feel bad over receding hairline or getting out of shape, but women have it worse because society values youthful women, so physical appearance is far more of a factor in mid life crisis for women than it is for men.
This is a simplification and in reality it depends on the individual and his or her values and needs.
Middle life crises lasts for a period up to about 3–10 years in men, which is longer than it is for women, who experience it for about 2–5 years. A midlife crisis could be caused by aging itself, or aging in combination with changes, problems, or regrets, guilt or grief over recent events.
What is at the core of middle life crisis for men?
At the core of middle life crisis is the concept of congruence for both men and women.
Psychologist Carl Rogers considers that for a person to achieve self-actualization they must be in a state of congruence. This means that self-actualization occurs when a person's “ideal self” (i.e. who they would like to be) is congruent with their actual behavior (self-image).
Middle life crisis often occurs when congruence gap grows, when a person recognises that self-actualization is hindered or unlikely. When a person strongly feels about unresolved issues. The gaps in congruence are identifiable by the following stressors, some of which are more important for women. These stressors trigger dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in a person's life:
Shifts in family balance (especially important for women, less so for men)
Lack of children (in some cultures a man is supposed to raise a heir)
Maturation of children, children leaving home (more relevant for family oriented men)
Death or illness of a family member (especially death of the mother, hits both sexes very hard)
Relationships ( men and women have similar needs in relationships but the minor differences cause stress)
Boredom in a relationship (may lead to frustration, dissatisfaction with the partner and to cheating)
Lack of meaningful relationships (similar to loneliness but more about not being with the right one)
Looming divorce (someitmes a relief sometimes an unexpected disaster)
Loneliness (when even friends cannot cheer the man up)
Attention towards and from younger peers ( especially at work, some men thrive from this attention, some men feel threatened)
Cheating (whether it is thoughts or an act, it may have consequences)
Association with peers
Lack of close friends (especially when one has been preoccupied with family)
Widening association gap with friends (again, this is often due to different priorities in previous stages of life)
Lack of accomplishment in comparison to peers (as above)
Lack of freedom in comparison to peers (or lack of experience in getting out of the comfort zone)
Shifts in work and career
Dead end career (this is relevant for both, especially for ambitious individuals)
Feeling lack of self-worth (especially when self-worth is tied to physical attractiveness and or status)
Threat of emergent technology (as a danger of being replaced by something more modern in some professions)
Pressure from younger, more energetic colleagues (recent generations have enjoyed the fruits of research and are often more able to adapt to changing lifestyles)
Frustration with salary (often salary is tied to the status of the individual)
Shift in focus and priorities
Losing physical shape
Visually apparent aging
Symptoms of midlife crisis in men
Symptoms for both men and women are rather similar, they can be separated into physical, psychological, realisations and significant life events. Depending on what is important for the individual -
Physical symptoms of aging and overcoming them
Finding it difficult to keep up - with buddies, on drinking, partying, physical activities
Increased weight and greater effort to keep in shape (often a man realises that he's out of shape much later than a woman)
Mental fatigue and decrease in cognitive abilities (especially due to lack of challenges at work)
Increased tolerance to dopamine realising activities such as sex and alcohol
Decreased libido (for men this is also related to erectile dysfunction)
Decreased personal attractiveness (both real and imaginary)
Unhealthy ways to compensate for physical symptoms of aging include:
Exessive activities, often when a person is out of shape, to keep up with peers
Alcoholism, workoholism and other addictions
Shutting out the outside world to get rest and sleep, often in excess, often to hide from realisations
Ridiculous and demanding diets and rigorous damaging exercise (less relevant to men)
Reliance on pills, medicine to sustain health, also sexual enhancements
Starting to use make up, obsession over receding hairline, plastic surgery and other invasive methods of looking younger
Behavioral symptoms of middle life crisis are those in which a male attempts to escape reality, a behavior that demonstrates worry and neglect for own well being.
Substance abuse, lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet, general indifference to own health may show fatalism and pessimism of the individual in question.
When combined with deteriorating health, behavior that damages own libido and lowers self-esteem, may also lead to self-pity, as a cry out for attention.
Also, dissatisfaction with personal appearance may lead a person to lead a thoroughly dull yet very healthy life, an individual may be preoccupied with physical appearance and may consider plastic surgery, hair transplantation and such.
The need to appear younger may lead a person to seek relationships with younger people, whether it be sexual or business relationship, sometimes living through own children as means of escaping own problems.
During this stage, normally faithful spouses may experience the urge to cheat on their partners as a way of telling themselves that they are still attractive and able to perform.
Psychological symptoms of aging
- Decreased tolerance of routine
- Decreased tolerance of bad company
- Increased irritability
- Lack of focus
- Lack of drive
Unhealthy ways to compensate for the psychological symptoms of aging
- Sudden, unchecked decisions to remove routine from life
- Sudden, unchecked decisions to shut out peers
- Build up of frustration and irritation
- Constant questioning of self and others, grumpyness
- Incessant self-criticism
- Inability to concentrate on important tasks and decision, running away from problems
- Inability to continue certain tasks which can create subsequent problems
Lifestyle symptoms of middle life crisis in men
Lifestyle related changes and symptoms are very apparent during middle life crisis. On one hand they may demonstrate a person's dying ego, on the other – just innocent ways of reminding himself of what he enjoys.
For example in western media, middle life crisis is associated with aging men buying sports cars to appear more attractive and hip, this is the kind of thing that one would do to bring about a sense of accomplishment. Whether it brings that sense is up to te individual, perhaps a sports car instead is just a practical means of getting from point A to point B, however in most cases it is a sign of deprecating esteem and of a faltering ego.
A lack of sense of direction in life may manifest itself in a number of ways when it comes to changes in lifestyle. General feeling of being out of ouch for example may show symptoms a male attempting to become hip whether it be through reading “thought-provoking” literature, browins online forums for solutions and ideas or perhaps attempting to make significant life changes that are uncommon for the individual.
Children as the cause of middle life crisis
For both parents, children form a massive part of family and therefore much of the lives of parents has a lot to do with children. Watching their success, their first step, their misfortunes and feeling joy and sadness with them is a big part of family life. For men, their life changes completely when they find out that they are to be parents. Some are ready and anticipate it, whilst others are taken by a surprise and therefore astonished and shocked. It may take some time to sink in that they are to become parents and whilst a woman feels motherly from the start, a gentleman is often lagging behind in terms of parenthood. The realization of becoming a father may itself be a massive stress and may lead to a middle life crisis through questions such as “How will I support the growing family”, “Am I ready for fatherhood”. Eventually the fact will sink in and the stress will ease.
As children grow up a father stays close to them and they may bring stability and a sense of family to the male. The problems begin when children grow up and leave home, bringing with that loss of close friends, like with the point above about marriage, inability to see children regularly, whilst in some cases may bring about joy through more free time, sometimes may cause stress and loneliness, Women are more likely to suffer from this than men, but still it is a burden for men and loneliness may lead to depression. It is important to approach this positively, rather than living through children as some people do. Men and women often drive their children away through overbearing discipline or through directing their children towards accomplishment and results, whilst ignoring the family and the emotional part of the relationship.
Children leaving home to start their own nest can also be a cause of middle life crisis, which may bring about a feeling of emptiness and loneliness. Solitude at any age is occasionally needed but in moderation, when children leave home – home is never the same again.
Divorce as a possible cause of midlife crisis
Divorce of course usually is a stressful event in the lives of both spouses. Whilst it may bring relief the usual reaction is stress especially when it's unexpected. It may be a cause and a symptom of a middle life crisis. As a cause it is another massive shift in people's lives, if you're on the receiving end of rejection it is a personal disaster. It may cause apart from a middle life crisis a feeling of emptiness and misdirection. A spouse could have been an sail or the anchor of a relationship and regarding of the way divorce is handled, it will expose reasons for divorce, usually the reasons are not flattering and therefore unwelcome. Divorce may also bring about a divide of friends, and if not, might still inflict division over friends and family.
If a splitting marriage has produced children this will also cause discomfort for all the parties involved, including the children themselves, it is better perhaps to minimize the impact on children, to protect them from falling out between two adults. A lot of stress may be caused by the inability to see children regularly, especially if one of the former spouses moves away. The loneliness that may result from division of friends, losing a spouse and inability to see children regularly may naturally lead to depression and middle life crisis.
Some general realisations that have an impact and may lead to middle life crisis
- Realisation that one could have done much better by now
- Realisation that the life is going nowhere
- Realisation of forthcoming certain mortality
Unhealthy ways to compensate for realisations in midlife
- Depression, sudden rush to complete things
- Jumping on bandwagons in terms of life quests and goals
- Overuse of medication and becoming a health freak
Symptoms of aging are completely natural, sometimes barely noticeable, but if one pays them too much attention and obsesses over covering for them - this leads to midlife crisis.
Concluding thoughts on middle life crisis in men
Middle life is a time of opportunity rather than crisis, it is important to see it as such.
One can minimize the effect of physical symptoms of aging by getting into shape, by improving self-esteem through positive thinking and exercise. One should not forget mental exercise as well, not to mention good sleep and much better diet. Eating better will make one feel better, whilst possessing a sound mind will always be helpful.
Whilst a healthy body and mind is important, it would be counter productive if one stresses too much even from paying attention too much to physical well-being. In order to have a fulfilling life, everything must be in limits.
Among the things people forget to do during this stage is to enjoy loving their spouses, supporting the children and looking after their parents, something that brings joy to families and individuals, toughening them and knitting them closer together.
Traveling is also almost always a good thing, it is easier to reflect on oneself during travels as well as to experience new places and to know new people
When it comes to expectations in middle life, it is important to change them accordingly so as not to put too much physical strain on oneself and not to fall victim to over expectations if they fail to become reality, so it is important to motivate yourself and switch towards things that you enjoy, whilst prioritizing according to needs.
Overall, just look after yourself, don't judge yourself too harshly and try to open yourself up to new opportunities, to create and to fulfill own potential. Perhaps finishing and attempting that novel that has been in your head is a good start or perhaps life drawing classes might bring you joy and exploring the side streets of Florence may bring you a sense of happiness.
Middle life is a time for opportunities.