Is there really such a thing as a mid-life crisis? Well, “crisis” is a bit of a misnomer, when what is really going on is more of a wake-up call that seems to occur when people hit their mid to late 40’s. The reason this occurs is simple– this is when many have finally established a career, found a partner, bought a house and started a family. After running on the treadmill like mad during our 20’s and 30’s, it is indeed in our 40’s that most of us get the gift of some time to think and reflect.
As we hit the half-way point in our life expectancy, a funny thing happens– just as our kids become more independent, we start to see our parents become increasingly dependent on us, and meanwhile we start to see some of our own peers become ill or worse. All of this inevitably forces us to face our own mortality and seek answers to some big questions, such as:
1. What is the point of it all?
2. Am I really happy?
3. What have I done with my life thus far?
4. What is my real purpose here?
5. What do I want to do going forward?
As we work through these questions, not everyone is going to decide to change life partners. Some just want to move to a different location or change careers, some want to modify how they spend their money or how they spend their free time. Inevitably, however, when you are part of a family, these kinds of major changes do not happen in a vacuum. It only takes one person’s desire for change to have a drastic impact on everyone around them. I call this the ripple effect– and sadly, not everyone is going to be 100% on board with the waves of change, so they will resist any modification to life as they know it. This is what often leads to an unforeseen chain of events that often results in the need to restructure family ties.
Currently, most divorces are actually initiated by women, not men. The statistics show that “gray divorces” are on the rise, with over 65% of divorces after age 50 being filed by women– and this number will likely continue to increase as their financial independence and life style options continue to grow, especially compared to 100 years ago when a woman’s life expectancy was only 40, and her work options outside the home were almost nonexistent. By stark contrast to life in the 1900’s, women in their early 20’s and 30’s in the 21st century (as of 2008 to be exact) are now better educated and are out-earning their male counterparts resulting in the growing realization that staying married in order to survive and/or raise children really is a choice, not a necessity.
Another factor to consider is hormones. “The Female Brain” by Dr. Brizendine explains that hormones play a huge part into how a woman’s brain functions, and as more studies have been conducted, they have learned that indeed as the “mommy brain” phases out and the fog starts to clear, women do become less tolerant of always sacrificing all their needs for the benefit of all those around them. As they start to pursue more of their own interests and change, their partners may not be as accepting of this new family dynamic.
All of these factors combined provide a clear understanding of why we see a huge spike in divorces around the mid-life timeframe, but far from viewing this as a “crisis” I think we need to encourage greater understanding and acceptance for change, not just within families, but within our society. If someone is dissatisfied with his/her work or home life situation, then s/he should be supported in making changes that will promote greater personal satisfaction, and if we can all be more tolerant and learn to adapt to these changes, we stand a far better chance of preventing total chaos from ensuing while promoting each person’s ability to find true peace and happiness.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.