Cleveland Romel has an enviable life; he is educated, gainfully employed as an architect, married for 30 years to a wonderful lady, and is the father of twin boys. He also has a beautiful home in an Atlanta suburb. Yet, these days Cleveland feels trapped in the comfortable life he has built. He is often unhappy, feels unsuccessful, bored, and blames his wife for making him feel tied down. The 54-year-old grandfather of one will often find himself daydreaming about giving up the life he now leads for what he thinks are greener pastures.

Cleveland is going through a midlife crisis.

Both women and men can experience a midlife crisis, a phase when lives are carefully examined. Folks typically believe they could be happier, more successful, and more in love. They want to make changes and feel an urgency to do so quickly. “A sure sign that someone may be in a midlife crisis is if they are feeling trapped and very tempted to act out in ways that will blow up their life,” says Lynn Margolies, Ph.D., a Boston psychologist.

World-renowned psychologist Carl Jung first identified a midlife crisis as a type of emotional transition and deemed it to be a perfectly normal part of the maturing process between the ages of 40 and 60. However, women are more likely to go through a midlife crisis earlier than men, often between the ages of 35 and 44. Most people come through the phase which can last two to seven years without a scratch, while others make drastic life changes that can sometimes seriously impact those closest to them in a hurtful way.  “A midlife crisis can lead to growth or destruction,” cautions Dr. Margolies.

What are the signs of a midlife crisis?

  • Depression: Mood swings. Your mate may not want to join in on family activities. They may demonstrate such negative emotions as a lack of focus, sadness, and hopelessness. You might also see changes in the way they eat. Energy levels can also dive.
  • Anger: The spouse will probably be the brunt of all that angers the person experiencing the midlife crisis and will also appear mad most of the time. They tend to play the blame game, and their finger is always pointing at someone else for any negativity/conflict in their lives, never looking inward at themselves.
  • Marriage complaints: Even though you never heard your spouse question the marriage, you might get an earful now. They might bombard you with accusations that you were never loving or emotionally supportive and that you’re to blame for all that ails the marriage.
  • Cheating: The midlife crisis sufferer might become tired of their partner enough to want to stray. They may want to experience new thrills in the bedroom with someone else. They might feel entitled to cheat after putting up with a spouse for many years.
  • Indecisiveness: They can’t seem to make a decision and stick with it. Flip-flopping is common during the midlife crisis period. Sometimes decisions are made that can result in painful consequences like divorce.
  • Adventure: Someone going through a series of emotional ups and downs might make a purchase that seems selfish. They might buy a motorcycle just because they’ve always wanted one. They might take up a new hobby, play a new instrument, or even dye their hair an outlandish shade; these folks are looking for a life shake-up.
  • Concerned about appearance. A mate might decide to refresh their wardrobe and begin buying pieces that are more youthful or provocative.  They might also choose to cover up grays or erase/plump up the facial signs of aging.

How to navigate through a mate’s midlife crisis without getting taxed emotionally?

  • Focus on you and your family. If your home has turned into a battlefield of sorts, plan activities that will take you away from the home so that you can clear your head.
  • Take out your anger elsewhere. Going at it verbally will not help matters any. Instead, redirect your anger in a way that does not involve a shouting match with your partner. Take a Zumba or kickboxing class at a local gym, throw darts at a board, buy a punching bag, and have at it.
  • Experts recommend not initiating relationship talks during a midlife crisis as you might push your spouse further away. Your relationship is probably low on your mate’s list of priorities and they might be trying to distance themselves from you. At this point, try to get a life and make your partner wonder why you are not focusing on them.
  • Be a good listener when your spouse comes to you with any problems they’re trying to sift through while experiencing their crisis. Someone going through this phase needs to feel they’re in a non-judgment zone and will not take any criticisms lightly about their feelings.
  • If everything in your world is going south, therapy is the answer. Family and friends can lend an ear, but a good therapist will help bring objectivity and clarity to a confusing period in your life.
  • You have options if your spouse is abusive, empties out your savings, or cheats. Do you, Boo! There is always the door!