Mid-Life Crisis


people on bikesIt seems common in our culture that somewhere between the ages of thirty-eight and forty-five, big shifts happen. This is the time of mid-life, hence the term “mid-life crisis.” This term has been used in many different ways, and has tended to become trivialized.

It is the nature of life that we go through “stages.” The term “terrible twos” refers to the time when an infant is beginning to develop a mind of his/her own, and has learned the word “no.” A similar stage occurs during adolescence. It is a time of differentiating oneself from parents, and what seems like teenage rebelliousness is just another phase of learning to say “no” to what one does not want or agree with. We do not refer to either of these stages as a “crisis.”

At mid-life, many men and women realize either that they have not been their true selves, instead shaping themselves to the expectations of others. Either that, or they look at their lives, personal or professional, and feel they cannot live out the rest of their lives in that situation. At this stage of life, we define this state as a crisis.

During the “twos”, and adolescence, we do not use the word crisis, because we know the individual is growing, and grant that it is normal to want to express oneself.

Each of these stages is a growing away from an earlier stage of dependence.

Growing does not stop at adolescence, however. As long as the growth is slow and gentle, there does not seem to be a problem. When the growth, or the urge to grow, creates a big shift within an individual, our society calls it a crisis, because the shock waves are bigger.

A corporate executive may decide to quit his job and start a hobby farm. A stay-at-home mom may decide to go back to school and pursue a career. A partner may decide to leave the marriage. These situations may create in internal crisis for the individual, because they must choose between the expectations of others, and being true to themselves. They may create an external crisis for those who are affected. They may not even recognize the being evolving in front of their eyes.

We need to develop a greater awareness of adult stages of growth, so we can anticipate and prepare for them. Couples should begin to dialogue about this in their late twenties, and keep checking in with one another, working to accommodate the true happiness of one another. Otherwise, if we bury our heads in the sand, when we lift them out ten or fifteen years later, the landscape could be very, very different.

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