Dear Neil: I would like to know whether my husband is having a midlife crisis. He keeps saying he loves me but is not in love with me anymore, and that I am not the person he married. Can you help?
Lost in Sacramento
Dear Lost: It sounds like your husband is saying he no longer loves you. That is hard to hear, but it does not mean he is in a midlife crisis. People sometimes fall out of love with each other, but they can also fall back in love as well, and that’s what I would recommend you focus on.
How would you do this? First, ask your husband for specifics. How long has he felt this way? Do these emotions come from some particular incident or memory? When he says you’re not the person he married, what specifically is he referring to? Do not explain or defend yourself, even if you’re hurt by his answers. You want to know how he feels, so if he begins telling you, don’t stop him.
Then ask him what he would like you to do differently. What could you do that would help him to feel closer, warmer and more affectionate toward you? What could you do—or quit doing—that would make a difference to him? Then, if you can, do what he asks. One month later—and every month after that—review with him whether he feels things are better. And then inquire about what else you can do that would help him feel closer and more connected to you.
For your information, recent research is questioning whether such a thing as a midlife crisis actually exists at all, even though the popular culture often talks about it. Most critical junctures we face in life—losing a job, falling behind financially, being passed by for a promotion, the death of a loved one, the breakup of a relationship, feeling disillusioned regarding our unfulfilled goals—are not unique to midlife at all, but can occur multiple times during our lives and at every age. A midlife crisis is more accurately defined as inner turmoil, anxiety, fear, apprehension and worry about growing older, and I cannot tell if that fits him.
But whether your husband’s feelings are related to growing older, or just that he is questioning his love for you, your most important task is to begin a conversation with him about what is missing in your marriage, and what the two of you can do to repair that.