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June 07, 2017 / Wednesday Chat with Bill

tos: How long does the MLC usually last? And are there predictable stages?

Bill: tos: Predictable stages: I will discuss this but I don't want you to think it is a "linear" process. It is a highly emotional stage of life so it defies logic and different people will have different experiences. Having said that, predictable stages include: (a) Preoccupation with self. It could be "I deserve better" or "I am a mess" but the focus becomes very much on self to the exclusion of other people's needs. (b) Discouragement over his/her body. Since ML is accompanied by significant physical changes which are no fun, there is generally a negative emotional reaction to the body. It could manifest in an attempt to be young again or it may express itself in consistent complaining. It is common for people in midlife to be as preoccupied with their bodies as teenagers are. (c) Decision-making turmoil. The typical MLCer knows what is right but is restless and seeking "something better." They don't know what this "something better" is and they are aware that God probably won't approve but they entertain the thought anyway. (d) Irrational decision-making. This can include finances, family relationships, affairs, spontaneous vacations "alone," hairstyle changes, clothing changes, new cars, etc. (e) foggy thinking. Often the MLCer cannot see the consequences of their actions. They don't see the long-term effects or how their behavior is affecting the people they love. They rationalize that everyone will be okay if they are happier so their filters get overrun. (f) Turmoil. They are fighting against the influential life God wants them to have based on their life experience and the wisdom they have gained. As they resist it, there is spiritual and personal stress swirling around them.

 

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June 07, 2017 / Wednesday Chat with Bill

tos: Hello

Swan: Hello tos, welcome to midlife dimensions chat.

tos: Hi- Just discovered the website in the last day or two

Bill: Hi Tos and Swan. Good to have you here tonight

Swan: This website has a wealth of information about midlife crisis, plus there are four live chats per week to join with others dealing with MLC either themselves or a loved one. Wednesday evening is the chat that Bill is with us; he is an expert in MLC, so please feel free to ask him anything.

Swan: Hi Bill.

Bill: Hi Tos. Did you discover us by "accident" or were you looking for midlife advice specifically?

tos: Looking specifically. My wife of 23 years and I have been struggling in our marriage, and after a few years of trying to change for her, I started to understand it wasn't just about me changing. Thus, the search

Bill: tos: I am sorry to hear about the struggles. Unfortunately, it is quite common and many of the people who visit here have had similar stories. When you say you have tried to "change for her," are you free to share any details (without breaking confidentiality of course or giving too many specifics)?

tos: Sure, so we are Christians and though I have been a "good husband" in terms of provision, etc., I had been emotionally closed and verbally harsh. After several years of therapy (for me) and many attempts at marriage therapy (for us), I have made great strides in becoming less defensive, empathic, etc.

tos: But, then it became clear when the focus shifted to boredom, etc. that is was about more. . .

Bill: tos: I am not sure how much you have read about this thing we call midlife. In a nutshell, it is a "new" developmental stage of life that has been added because people are living longer than previous generations. As a result, there is a shift in life from being mostly productive to being focused on influence. Prior to midlife, the focus is primarily on taking care of our responsibilities, building a career and family and finding our place in the community. Midlife ushers in a time of proven wisdom based on all this experience. Most of us, however, do not go willingly or calmly into this phase of life. Our insecurities get after us, the enemy of our soul attacks and society in general tells us we are getting old. As a result, there tends to be turmoil, personal questioning and emotional decisions based on dissatisfaction.

tos: That's what I'm beginning to understand. Our youngest just graduated high school, menopause has set in, so the timing seems to match what I have read most recently.

Bill: tos: First of all, I want to commend you for committing to your own personal growth. Even though it hasn't been the magic step that turned your marriage around, it is significant. As a man, to work on empathy, cooperation and being less defensive is awesome. Interesting you mentioned boredom as this is one of the primary symptoms of a midlife crisis.

tos: Thank you. I continue to grow and God is helping me focus on loving her as Christ loves the church. I have surrendered the situation to him, and trust that he is with me. I also know that the girl I married is a good woman and if she continues to seek him, he will lead this all to restoration, because he does in fact care about our marriage.

tos: So, let me ask you about giving her space. Right now, she doesn't want to talk about anything emotional (this is new, about the last week), which I have to admit beats arguing. I have been trying to respect that space and want to walk the balance of giving her room without shutting down and appearing disinterested.

Bill: Second, I want to remind you that this is primarily a matter of the heart. There are two major implications you will want to keep in mind. (1) the heart is unpredictable. You may watch your wife go on a rollercoaster of "I love my family and I want to do what is right" to "It is my turn. I need to have fun or find myself or do something significant" only to bounce back. All these changes happen fast because the heart moves quickly. The hope, of course, is that she wakes up one day and "wants" you, the family and God's plan for you as a couple. (2) It is highly emotional which means you can't really reason with it. Instead you have to remain steady, pray often and get good as decisions that propel your growth forward and express love to her. These tend to reach the heart even when people are resistant.

tos: Any thoughts about the balance?

tos: Thanks for that- I appreciate it as it confirms kind of what I feel. It's not my roller coaster- my responsibility before God is just to love her. . .

Bill: tos: Yes, I do. The most effective approach I have seen is based on you being the man you want to be regardless of how she is currently living. The most common approach is to "live in reaction" to the one who is not doing well. This means you make your decisions in reaction to what she does and says. Since she is not in her best place, this is not a good idea. Instead, ask yourself, "What kind of man do I want to be regardless of this situation?" Then be that man. For instance, if you want to be a husband who says, "I love you" to his wife every day, then do it without expecting anything back from her. If you want to be the kind of man who shares "news" about the kids, then do it without expecting her to do the same. If you want to be the kind of man who asks the people he lives with how the day went and what you can be praying about, do it without expecting her to do the same. If you want to be the kind of man who plans fun times for yourself, do it and invite her along. If she says, "No" go anyway. I assume you don't want to be the kind of man who argues regularly with his wife so put that on the back burner and pray for her instead. Even ask if you can pray for her but don't be disappointed if she says no.

Bill: tos: As men we tend to be problem solvers so we can get dialed in to finding a solution, reaching a conclusion and making things right. This often makes our wives feel like a project rather than a partner in life. Better to genuinely be you and let her figure things with God.

tos: Good advice. Thanks, I definitely have been too reactive, prefer the approach you outline

Bill: tos: You can be "you" forever and relatively effortlessly. You can only "act" reactively for so long.

tos: How long does the MLC usually last? And are there predictable stages?

Bill: tos: the other advice I would give you right away is to become a master of forgiveness. It is difficult to watch an otherwise solid marriage deteriorate. The tendency is become bitter without even realizing it. There is an article on the website that outlines the 6 statements of forgiveness we use to help us keep this straight.

tos: ok- will do. I know it is something I have to be aware of daily

Bill: tos: Great questions. How long does MLC usually last - this is like asking how long does adolescence last? Most people come out of adolescence between 18 and 20 but we all know 40 year olds who are still living there! In simple terms, MLC is over when it is over because it is based on a decision of what to do with the influence we now possess. Some people embrace it. Others fight it hard. Once the decision is made, the MLC calms down and life gets back on track. Having said that, the span is generally between 2 and 10 years.

Swan: Hi Little Magpie

Bill: tos: Predictable stages: I will discuss this but I don't want you to think it is a "linear" process. It is a highly emotional stage of life so it defies logic and different people will have different experiences. Having said that, predictable stages include: (a) Preoccupation with self. It could be "I deserve better" or "I am a mess" but the focus becomes very much on self to the exclusion of other people's needs. (b) discouragement over his/her body. Since ML is accompanied by significant physical changes which are no fun, there is generally a negative emotional reaction to the body. It could manifest in an attempt to be young again or it may express itself in consistent complaining. It is common for people in midlife to be as preoccupied with their bodies as teenagers are. (c) decision-making turmoil. The typical MLCer knows what is right but is restless and seeking "something better." They don't know what this "something better" is and they are aware that God probably won't approve but they entertain the thought anyway. (d) irrational decision-making. This can include finances, family relationships, affairs, spontaneous vacations "alone," hairstyle changes, clothing changes, new cars, etc. (e) foggy thinking. Often the MLCer cannot see the consequences of their actions. They don't see the long-term effects or how their behavior is affecting the people they love. They rationalize that everyone will be okay if they are happier so their filters get overrun. (f) Turmoil. They are fighting against the influential life God wants them to have based on their life experience and the wisdom they have gained. As they resist it, there is spiritual and personal stress swirling around them.

Bill: tos: You should also know that MLC ends just about as quickly as it begins. If they haven't sabotaged their life during the process, the average MLCer wakes up one day and says to him/herself, "What am I doing? I need to get back to my life."

tos: that's interesting. gives me a day to pray for I really appreciate your time on this.

Swan: Little Magpie - So, how are things for you this week? Hopefully somewhat better.

Little Magpie: Swan - Things were going okay today until about an hour and half ago when I received a text that my mom fell and was being taken by ambulance to Emergency

Swan: Little Magpie - How horrible, any news to how she is doing yet?

Swan: Little Magpie - if your mom needs assistance, will you be able to offer some time to help her while she is healing from the fall?

Bill: tos: I believe this is a stage of life we all should be talking about more. Few people are prepared for this significant time of life because it never occurred to us that is was going to happen. It is, in my opinion, a sacred time of life. When you think about the emphasis the Bible puts on wisdom, midlife takes on a whole new meaning. As we embrace the fact that we now have something to share that has been lived out and proven, it is no surprise a battle would ensue in our hearts, in our world and in the spiritual realm to keep us from it. When we step into it, however, we discover a rich partnership with God that makes a lasting difference in people's lives.

Bill: Little Magpie: I am so sorry to hear about mom.

Little Magpie: Bill and Swan - I will know more later but was told that she was being released and is okay. They will call me when they get home. Please continue I am interested in what you are sharing.

Little Magpie: Swan - Dad texted that she would be getting released and that she was "Okay". I have asked them to call when they get home. It didn't sound like she would need any but I am not sure. I have to plan a trip for the end of August to take younger d to university

Swan: Little Magpie - Good, anytime an ambulance is needed to transport someone, my mind goes to bad injuries, so glad that wasn't the case for your mom.

Bill: Little Magpie: Good news. Thanks for the update.

Bill: All: Let me share something that was very significant to me during the Promise Keepers season in Canada. My job was to share a message on the stages of a man's life. When I got to the midlife section, I discussed the season of influence based on the fact that we have real wisdom (beyond theory and wishful thinking). I then asked the men in the room who were 35 years old or younger this question, "If a man in his 50s or 60s approached you and said, 'I don't know if I have a lot of answers but if you would be interested in getting together for lunch and ask me any question you would like (about life, love, family, career, spiritual growth, etc.) I will do my best to impart what I have learned,' would you be interested?" I then told them I only wanted them to stand if they were truly interested. I made it clear I did not want them to stand simply because they were at a large men's event. I only wanted them to respond if it was a genuine desire of their hearts. I asked this in 10 different cities and 10 times I had an almost 100% response. It was a good reminder to me of the call on midlifers to share their influence.

Little Magpie: Bill - I can imagine the response would be the same for a room full of women.

Little Magpie: Swan - She came out of her eye doctor where she got an injection in her eye and ended up falling and hitting her head. That is all I know from Dad's text

Bill: All: Tos' questions have raised the desire for me to remind all of us of the importance of deciding to be who God designed us to be rather than being who we think we should be to get other people's attention. I believe this is one of life's primary challenges. In creation, the only thing God said was not good was that man was alone. Since that time, mankind has not done well alone. We panic about it, diligently seek companionship, make bad decisions just to be connected, manipulate others to make ourselves happier, and the list goes on. Every time we do this, we turn over our happiness to others and create a scenario we cannot sustain. The biblical challenge and "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you." (Matt 6:33) In practical terms this means asking strategic questions to keep ourselves focused - Who does God want me to be today? How can I love the people He has put in my life without expecting them to respond to me? What decisions do I need to make today to keep me focused on being who God designed me to be? How can I use my natural talents and spiritual gifts today to make other people's lives better?

Bill: Little Magpie: I suppose you are right although I don't think I will have the opportunity to test that!

Little Magpie: Bill - True, but it was a thought.

Bill: Little Magpie: and a good thought at that.

Swan: tos - I want to invite you to continue to come to chat, Saturday 11:00am - 12:00pm PST, Sunday 6:00 - 7:00pm PST and Tuesday 6:00 - 7:00pm, these nights are lead by facilitators, some of them have restored marriages and all can offer experiences to help through the MLC path.

Bill: Well folks, I am going to sign off for the day. Tos, thank you for joining us and asking insightful questions. Hopefully the information will help. We will be praying that God leads you and your wife with grace, wisdom and love and that the ML transition does not go on for too long. I will specifically be praying that your wife recognizes the wisdom she has to share and identifies her "natural audience." See you all next week.

Swan: Night Bill

Little Magpie: Thank you Bill!

Little Magpie: Swan and tos - Have a good night and week

Swan: Little Magpie - you too, praying for your mom

Little Magpie: Swan - Thank you

tos: How long does the MLC usually last? And are there predictable stages?

Bill: tos: Predictable stages: I will discuss this but I don't want you to think it is a "linear" process. It is a highly emotional stage of life so it defies logic and different people will have different experiences. Having said that, predictable stages include: (a) Preoccupation with self. It could be "I deserve better" or "I am a mess" but the focus becomes very much on self to the exclusion of other people's needs. (b) Discouragement over his/her body. Since ML is accompanied by significant physical changes which are no fun, there is generally a negative emotional reaction to the body. It could manifest in an attempt to be young again or it may express itself in consistent complaining. It is common for people in midlife to be as preoccupied with their bodies as teenagers are. (c) Decision-making turmoil. The typical MLCer knows what is right but is restless and seeking "something better." They don't know what this "something better" is and they are aware that God probably won't approve but they entertain the thought anyway. (d) Irrational decision-making. This can include finances, family relationships, affairs, spontaneous vacations "alone," hairstyle changes, clothing changes, new cars, etc. (e) foggy thinking. Often the MLCer cannot see the consequences of their actions. They don't see the long-term effects or how their behavior is affecting the people they love. They rationalize that everyone will be okay if they are happier so their filters get overrun. (f) Turmoil. They are fighting against the influential life God wants them to have based on their life experience and the wisdom they have gained. As they resist it, there is spiritual and personal stress swirling around them.

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