Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Midlife Crisis for Overwhelmed Women

The Regressives: 40 is the new 25

Forty something married women are acting like 25-year-old singles. And the husbands look on supportively? Amy Sohn, in her new novel, "Motherland", chronicles the misadventures of five New York City parents who react to their mid-life crisis through infidelity, alcohol and drugs.

http://www.theawl.com/2012/07/the-40-year-old-reversion

Amy poignantly describes the despair as married, working, monogamous, homeowning women are overwhelmed by their responsibilities as anchors for their expanding nuclear families in the 2010s: "...everything our children thrive on—stability, routine, lack of flux, love, well-paired parents—feels like death to those entrusted with their care." Unlike the women of previous generations who sought relief from their stiffling existence by immersing themselves in  college, career, self help, women's liberation and New Age gurus, Amy shows how this generation numbs themselves in "Fifty Shades of Grey and body shots." Much as the middle age man in the 1960s would show up in a convertible sports car and a twenty-five-year old blonde on his arm, these women rebel against the burdens of home by acting like 25-year-olds.

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In the 2010s the husbands are supportive of their Regressive Wives midlife crisis. This makes sense because so many men have given control of the relationship to the woman from the start of their romance. Now that the wives want to go out and party, the husbands are not going to suddenly stand in their way. They just don't want to get dragged along. The days of being the inseparable couple are but a dim memory. They are more than happy to wave goodbye and watch the kids because, as Amy put it, the husbands  "are too tired, too anti-social, or just want to stay home smoking pot." Or watch ESPN's Sport Center.

This acceptance by the husbands is the classic end stage of Mirage Man Syndrome. Like a salmon after the inevitable spawning, these husbands are figuratively floating downstream, emotionally and physically spent. They are resigned to an immediate future bound to someone they would never otherwise seek out for friendship, doing things they would never otherwise imagine themselves doing. So if the wife wants a regular ladies night out, they are all for it. It's a win/win because she has something to look forward to each week that lightens her mood around the house and it is one less social appearance for him to make. The fact that she rushes through the bedroom in the dark banging into furniture to take a shower at 2AM to get the smell of smokes and cologne off her or the nauseating sound effects emanating from the bathroom as she bows to the porcelain god after one too many margaritas or jello shots doesn't bother him one bit. These mirage men don't mind that their mates are living out a "Mad Men" fantasy and, as Amy put it, become the men their mothers divorced. They just want a little bit of peace in  the chaos of bringing up children in a two income family.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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