Many cultural factors intensify the midlife transition and help cause it to become a crisis.
1. We live in a youth-oriented society. When we were young adults, we enjoyed being "in". However, when we reach midlife, we feel "out." Young adults are used as the models of our society. If you're not one of them--you're "out of it!"
2. We live in a throw-away society. When I was at a men’s retreat with men who worked for electronic companies, they said their competitive industry has a systematic evaluation program to wash men out. When they started with the company as young men, they were given lots of affirmation and positive strokes, but when they turned 40, the company started evaluating them more often.
These men said, "You can always tell the midlife guys who have just been evaluated. They don’t show up for work the next couple of days. Sometimes they’re gone a whole week. They are so devastated." After a while the older men quit. Their leaving makes room for the new, young turkeys coming up the line. Those twenty-two-year-olds don’t realize they are being put on a human conveyor belt that is going to chew them up and spit them out the other end before they’re 45.
3. We have two other generations to care for. At midlife we have to care for our children, and we may be parenting our parents. Our parents have provided backup, support, counsel, and sometimes even financial assistance--but now it’s the other way around. Now we have parents needing guidance and direction, emotional support, and perhaps financial assistance--plus kids heading off to college.
The midlife man sees a guy in the paper aged 42 has died, he calls out to his wife, "Hey, Honey, did you see this in the paper? This guy was only 42, and he died of a heart attack!"
4. Marriage satisfaction is low at midlife. A man in his thirties is focused on the single goal of his career. He is willing to sacrifice almost everything else. He has not even thought about his marriage. However, the midlife marriage is marked with the husband’s midlife crisis, when he is feeling a combination of guilt because he has neglected his marriage, and hopelessness because he feels the marriage is dull and dead--plus the wife has had her own midlife crisis and now wants to go back to school to become a lawyer. Why should he even try to revive this stressed-out marriage?
5. A new awareness of the potential of death. A twenty-five-year-old looks back and sees that 25 years have passed since he was born. But a forty-five-year-old realizes that he may have only 25 years left.
The young man does not look at the obituary page on his way to read the sports page. The midlife man, however, takes a glance and when he sees a guy aged 42 has died, he calls out to his wife, "Hey, Honey, did you see this in the paper? This guy was only 42, and he died of a heart attack!" He begins to feel his chest and he wonders about that pain he has been having. Sometimes a wife will jokingly respond, "Nah, it's just gas." The midlife man suddenly feels that death isn’t far off, especially if he has lost one or more of his parents or close friends. He feels that he is the next one in line.
Too many things are keeping him from accomplishing what he wants to do. He feels worse than ever before in his life. At this point, he is entering his midlife crisis.
6. The knowledge explosion is intense. Two forces are at work in opposite directions. One is the explosion of knowledge, and the other is the expanding responsibility at work--both demand more time and energy. Both of these factors work in opposition to his aging body that doesn’t have the bounce and spring it had at 25.
7. The body is aging. One morning as he shaves, he looks at his face and sees a really old man, with wrinkles around his mouth and eyes, graying hair on the temples, a receding hairline, and the growing bald spot on top. Then, horror of horrors, he looks at his waist. So, that’s where his chest went!
He mumbles to himself, "I’m not keeping up at work, I’m repeatedly told that youth is the only good age. My marriage is in trouble. My kids think they don’t need me. My parents are needing my attention. I’m getting nearer to death. What does it all mean, anyway?". He begins to feel he has too many problems.
There is a circuit overload. Too many things are keeping him from accomplishing what he wants to do. He has spent all these years, all of the vigor of his youth, and what has it done for him? He feels worse than ever before in his life. At this point, he is entering his midlife crisis.
Conway / Farrel Articles ~ Reprint by permission only, ©2011
Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com
The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.
Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.