If Only I Could Change Partners

by Carl E. Feather, Star Beacon Newspaper
(An interview with Jim Conway Ph.D. and others)

Man Deep in thought black and whiteConway said the man in midlife crisis views his family as a source of stress and commitment rather than joy. "He thinks 'If it weren't for these obligations, I could do what I want to,"' Conway said.

"There's nothing going on between them," Moschetta said. "It's like running a family business. There's no nurturing going on between them. They're like a closed book to each other."

Wives can have little sympathy or understanding for a man who is moody and brooding over his feelings of loss, depression and self-pity. On the other hand, the young secretary at work may be willing to listen to his frustrations and assuage his hurts. The midlife man begins to feel comfortable with her and thinks about what life might be with this person.

Perkins said the man may begin to make "courtship gestures" to the young woman, signs that he has become infatuated with her. The rush of endorphin’s that he gets from the relationship helps break the monotony and pain of his midlife depression.

"It is one thing to have a conversation in your head and another with the ears," Young said.

"They compare it to their first in-love feelings, when most men do more talking. It's something that is almost required during courtship. But over the long haul, they stop talking," Moschetta said.

"All of a sudden, he thinks he is in love," Conway said. "It's connected to his bigger need."

Young describes two different kinds of affairs—the emotional and the physical. Most men don't progress beyond the emotional affair, but the distorted thinking that can go on during that period of infatuation can be very harmful, nevertheless. The man may develop a mental scenario of the blissful state he and the young woman would experience if he would just leave his wife, kids and crummy job in the rear view mirror of a new sports car.

Young said that men who play out the affair in their minds don't see the many pitfalls that could occur if their passions are acted out. Talking to a friend or therapist about these fantasies can help them identify the illogical aspects of their plans. "It is one thing to have a conversation in your head and another with the ears," Young said.

I need space

If a man does decide to progress to Step B and leave his wife, he is unlikely to confess the presence of another woman. Conway said one of the comments his staff frequently receives from wives of midlife men is that their husband wants out of the marriage because he needs some "time and space."

"Men don't leave marriages for time and space," Conway said. "They leave—to go to someone else."

When an affair moves beyond being emotional, the man is usually unprepared for what he will encounter in the bedroom and divorce court.

"All the pieces come together, so the 50s are very powerful," he said. "It's the most powerful generation because you have experience, time, leadership, money and you still have your health."

Conway said that the woman can be brutally honest about a man's sexual performance. Young said a midlife man who goes for a young woman is like a man who hasn't eaten for weeks gorging on a gourmet meal. He simply is not able to digest it.

"They get a change of pace, a high-voltage buzz," Young said. "But they also get a lot stuff they weren't expecting."

Young said the man who has an affair seldom considers what he will do with all his emotions after the relationship is ended, or, if it results in divorce and remarriage, how he will handle the drastic change in lifestyle.

"Most people who think about leaving their spouse have no idea what they are in for," Moschetta said. "The cost of divorce in terms of emotional impact on their lives and their children's lives is tremendous."

The man entering an affair also is unlikely to consider what kinds of emotions he will suffer if the affair itself ends without being exposed. Conway notes in his book "Men in Midlife Crisis" that many affairs don't make it to the altar—the shroud of secrecy under which the affair must operate eventually destroys it.

"The midlife man is trying to escape the monotony and boredom of his marriage," Conway writes. "But he soon finds that he has reproduced the same tediousness in the affair. The new monotony is even more intense, because the affair doesn't halve the potential to grow into a broad relationship providing variety, sparkle and ultimate security."

Better days ahead

Conway urges the midlife man to forsake the fantasy world of the affair, of the woman who can never truly be his. He said midlife marriages can be fulfilling, and part of his ministry is to help couples get their marriages back on track. Conway said once marriage partners work through their midlife issues, they usually emerge into a golden period of their lives—the '50s.

"All the pieces come together, so the 50s are very powerful," he said. "It's the most powerful generation because you have experience, time, leadership, money and you still have your health."
Couple Retired Baby Boomers

The MacArthur Foundation's Midlife Development in the United States (Midus) survey confirmed that midlife marriage can be of very high quality. On a scale of 1 to 10, the midlifers rated marriage quality as 8.1 and overall life as 7.7. Sexual satisfaction, however, was mediocre, 5.5.

The Moschettas say building a good midlife marriage depends upon moving beyond the physical and into a higher realm of conversation.

"The level of our conversation, our ability to share ourselves, must become new," Moschetta said. Their book sets forth a seven-step plan for reconnecting by breaking patterns of dull routine, defusing anger, developing new images of each other and rebuilding trust and values.

"Everyday life is so pressed," Moschetta said. "Everything screams at us demanding attention. Our marriage falls to the bottom of the to-do list. We take them for granted. But a healthy, loving relationship is a good health tonic. We help people recreate their marriage as a sacred place where they can take good care of each other."

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.