Advice: Mid-Life Crisis?

Hara Estroff Marano gives advice to a woman debating whether to get back with her husband who cheated on her.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published on March 1, 2004 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

I'm a 31-year-old woman with three children. I have been married for seven years. My husband moved the family out of state; we were there for one month and decided that he didn't want to be with me anymore. We moved back home and he got his own place. He has just turned 40. He tells me he wants to be better friends. He tells me he is confused and he has got me so confused. I'm not sure what to do. Its like he has his cake and he’s eating it to. I’m not sure if I should stick by him through all this. (He also had an affair about a year ago.) He doesn't really tell me much of anything other than he does still care for me and that we need to be better friends before the next step, if there is a next step. Should I continue to put myself, and my children, through all this? Is he be going through a mid-life crisis?

A lot of bad behavior gets done in the name of mid-life crisis. It’s not acceptable to unilaterally opt out of marriage and responsibility to children at any time. You’re confused because your husband probably isn’t telling the truth. He is likely having an affair, possibly continuing the old one. Or maybe he’s started a new one. Lots of people look toward affairs to jump start excitement in their life, instead of building in enough excitement into their home life. Your husband would rather look at someone else than at himself. And, yes, that’s not fair. That violates the terms of your agreement. The way to get over an affair is only with lots of talking. You need to rebuild trust. Your husband needs to explain what happened and why, until you are satisfied with his explanations, and until you feel you can trust him again.

Your husband is devising and playing by his own set of rules. This is terribly unfair to the marriage you thought you were in. You would do well to create a set of rules that get you some of what you need. Think about what you want from him—explanations about past behavior, the truth about what is going on now, opportunities for regular discussion. Make it clear that before he is allowed to see the kids, he must first have some conversations with you.

No relationship can thrive without regular communication. If you want the relationship—or any relationship—to work in the future, you must each keep each other tuned in to your own world on a regular basis. Otherwise you grow apart and it’s too easy for one partner to seek closeness with an outsider.