Mid-life crises don't necessarily mean the end of a relationship whether you or your spouse are experiencing them.
Relationships are not always easy. While they often seem effortless in the beginning, relationships often require more work as you get to know your partner. A midlife crisis or emotional trauma can further complicate a relationship, leading to communication problems and a sense that the relationship is deteriorating.
For instance, your partner may react quickly to anger, show distrust, lose interest, or want a change. This can lead to conflict and leave both partners feeling stuck and uncertain about how to move forward.
If this sounds familiar, know that you are not alone. Many relationships struggle with midlife crises and unresolved emotional trauma. By understanding what your partner is going through and seeking professional help, couples can rebuild a sense of safety, improve communication, set boundaries, and work through uncertainty.
What is a Midlife Crisis?
A midlife crisis refers to a period of emotional distress caused by the passage of youth. While it isn't a specific clinical disorder, midlife crises can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression.
Midlife crises typically occur between 40 and 60 years of age and affect both men and women. They can be triggered by a significant life event, such as a career change or divorce. Midlife crises can also occur when you compare your life to others and feel like you're falling behind personally and professionally. Stress or realizing one's mortality may also trigger it. When this happens, people may begin to experience feelings of hopelessness, depression, or stagnation.
In a marriage or long-term relationship, individuals often feel the need for more independence. They may also find that their marriage is no longer fulfilling. When experiencing a midlife crisis, it is not uncommon to have an affair or engage in other behaviors that are detrimental to the marriage.
Signs of a Midlife Crisis
Everyone experiences a midlife crisis differently. However, knowing the signs can help you recognize when something is wrong. It's important to identify and understand these reactions before they affect your relationships or ability to function.
The following signs may indicate that you or your partner is experiencing a midlife crisis:
- Feeling disinterested, numb, or apathetic about life
- Feeling unfulfilled or empty
- Being excessively indecisive
- Experiencing more jealousy and envy toward others
- Changing your appearance suddenly or dramatically
- Impulsive behavior, such as buying a new car or selling your house
- Intense nostalgia
- Continuous regrets about the past
- Marriage infidelity or persistent thoughts of infidelity
- Feeling unsatisfied with your career
- Loss of interest in usual hobbies or relationships
- Feeling stuck in your life
What Causes a Midlife Crisis
Many people experience changes in their relationships and roles during midlife. For example, some people begin caring for their parents in their midlife years. Others experience empty nest syndrome or feel that their teenagers are growing up too fast.
In this period, the aging process is more evident than ever. Some people experience illnesses, while others begin to experience physical decline. In addition, they may witness their parents deteriorate or pass away.
Midlife can also be a time of deep reflection. People might take stock of their lives and question what their lives would have looked like if they had chosen a different path. Some people may regret not pursuing a different career or creating the life they once dreamed of. Others may wish they could go back to happier times.
Goal-oriented people may find themselves less reflective and more action-oriented. Instead of reminiscing about years gone by, they may set bigger goals and feel stressed about accomplishing them.
What is Emotional Trauma?
Emotional trauma can occur after experiencing distressing events that leave us feeling unsafe and helpless. It can be triggered by a single event or ongoing circumstances, such as abuse, bullying, discrimination, or sexual exploitation. While certain traumatic events can also cause physical harm, such as a car accident or assault, emotional trauma does not require physical injury.
Emotional trauma is recognized by feelings of unease, fear, anxiety, and a sense of insecurity. Other physical symptoms, such as chronic insomnia, nightmares, and other health problems, may accompany it. Trauma can change how our brains function, so emotional damage can be more damaging and difficult to recover from than physical injuries.
Emotional trauma from the past can hinder an individual's ability to grow emotionally and function well in intimate relationships. Unresolved trauma often results in supercharged emotions, escalating trivial issues, and difficult communication. Additionally, they may suffer from depression, addictions, and other mental health conditions.
How to Cope
Experiencing trauma or a major life transition can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be debilitating. Furthermore, it doesn't have to define your next move in life. Instead, learning to cope with this period of transition can help you become stronger and more content in the future.
If you or your partner is experiencing a midlife crisis or unresolved trauma, consider these seven tips:
Reflect on Your Thoughts
Emotions can lead to irrational thinking when you're in a crisis. When reflecting on your past, examine the circumstances and decisions you made. It's important to remember that the experiences you had in the past were not entirely your fault. In most cases, you probably chose the best option given the circumstances, even if the outcome was negative.
Focus on the Present
Midlife can be challenging, especially if you're reminiscing over the past or worrying about the future. However, embracing the present can help you to feel more peaceful and calm. Consider integrating mindfulness through gratitude, meditation, focused activities, and active listening to be more present. Practicing breathing exercises or yoga can also allow you to focus on the present moment, bringing you a sense of peace.
Connect with Others
Despite your tendencies to isolate and turn inward, it's important to be social and connect with others. Make new, healthy connections and reinvest your time and energy in forming long-term relationships. Having friends and loved ones around can help you stay grounded and appreciate what you have when times are tough.
Practice Emotional Self-Care
Taking care of yourself isn't selfish - it's vital for your emotional well-being. When times are stressful, self-care becomes even more important. To maintain emotional well-being, journal about your feelings, seek support from loved ones, enjoy your favorite hobbies, and relax.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Taking care of your body is just as important as maintaining good mental health. Leading a healthy lifestyle can be achieved by exercising, eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and reducing stress.
Make a Change
Midlife offers the chance to make changes. A change could be as simple as rearranging furniture, getting in shape, ending unhealthy friendships, or making the career change you've been dreaming of. Now is the time to make choices based on your needs, not those of others.
Signs it's Time to Get Help
While many people manage midlife crises or a midlife crisis and trauma without major disruptions to their daily lives, feeling lonely, disconnected, sad, or angry may warrant seeking mental health treatment.
You may also benefit from professional support if:
- You are experiencing relationship problems that are not improving
- You have low self-esteem
- You are abusing alcohol, drugs, or other vices to escape your feelings
- You have co-occurring psychological or medical conditions
- You are having thoughts of harming yourself or others
Don't feel like you need a specific reason to ask for assistance. In addition to providing a safe and non-judgmental environment for discussing emotions, therapy can teach you productive ways to manage distressing symptoms.
Psychotherapy for Relationship Issues
Working with a mental health professional for unresolved trauma or midlife transitions provides the opportunity to improve emotional distress and prepare for life's next phase. In particular, psychotherapy allows individuals to work through suppressed issues and repair relationships with others.
During therapy, a person will meet one-on-one with a trained mental health provider to uncover negative thought and behavior patterns, alleviate emotional and physical symptoms of trauma, improve communication, and find solutions for the future.
Sometimes referred to as couples therapy or marriage counseling, psychotherapy focused on relationships helps partners identify problems and find solutions. Couples therapy provides a safe place for individuals to talk about what's bothering them.
As communication is key when solving marriage problems, marriage counseling can help couples improve their communication skills, resolve disagreements, and figure out how to move forward — or amicably end the relationship if that is the best course of action.
Talk Therapy with CHE
Coping with trauma and major life transitions can cause you to reevaluate your past, relationships, and career, leading to feelings of dissatisfaction and distress. When things aren't going well in your relationship, talk therapy can help you take control and forge a path forward.
CHE Behavioral Health Services can help you get started with compassionate, professional care. Our experienced mental health professionals can help you uncover and change destructive beliefs at the heart of unresolved trauma, emotional stress, and strained relationships.
For more information about CHE Behavioral Health Services treatment options for midlife crises and emotional trauma, please call 888-515-3834. We are ready to talk, and ready to listen.