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  • Writer's pictureAlexa von Oertzen, LMFT

5 Myths of the Infamous 'Midlife Crisis'

What image comes to mind when you hear “midlife crisis”? There’s a classic picture we’ve seen in the media time and time again: a man, probably in his 50s, with a family, a steady job, and a house in the suburbs. One day, he decides to buy a flashy sports car, start an affair, and launch into a life free of responsibilities where he feels he is living more authentically while his family deals with the aftermath.

There are movies, books, and even real-life stories that we’ve all heard that run along these lines. These stories can feel entirely unrelatable to many of us, so they can leave you wondering, is this the only way a midlife crisis can happen?

Could I be having a “midlife crisis”?

While the scenario of a man in a sports car does happen in real life, it’s not the only way a midlife crisis can occur. Anyone can have a midlife crisis, and the reasons behind midlife crises are complex. They usually happen when people are looking to add more meaning and depth to their lives, questioning what they have considered important in their lives and where and who they’d like to be as they confront the fact that they’re halfway through their lives. 

Our understanding of a midlife crisis is often only on the surface level, looking at actions and not at the “why” behind them or how those actions are a start at meeting unmet needs. You may know someone going through a midlife crisis, or you may be experiencing one yourself!

Midlife crises are still crises, even if they don’t fit the mold, and they can be hard to navigate alone. There’s support available, such as therapy for a midlife crisis, that can help you take the reins in your life and live your preferred life without impulsive change or trying things that don’t align with your values. Understanding the myths about what a midlife crisis can look like can help you figure out what changes you truly want in your life.

5 Myths About a Midlife Crisis:

When you experience a shift in life, such as a health crisis, a loss in your life, or a situation that has you confronting your mortality, this “wake-up call” drives home the deep need to live your best life. This may inspire a choice to no longer live in self-denial (in the many shapes & forms it may take on), and you may make radical changes to get to that point. But without understanding what a midlife crisis looks like, these changes may make life even more stressful, and they may not fulfill the needs you’re looking to meet. Let’s take some time to look at how the myths around a “midlife crisis” have limited us. 

Midlife Myth #1 - It Happens Out of Nowhere:

When someone radically shifts the direction of their life, it can seem sudden, especially if they are part of a generation or a culture that does not encourage openness and sharing of emotions and experiences. When we are encouraged to keep up appearances, play nice with others, and please other people instead of ourselves, sharing inner turmoil or a better understanding of ourselves can feel impossible.

When you add in the challenges of meeting financial needs, the responsibility over children or aging parents, or facing backlash from the people in your life, needed changes can get put off until the strain of living this less fulfilling life becomes an actual crisis. 

Midlife crises often happen after years of strain and inauthentic living, and they can look sudden and shocking. The vast shift can feel shocking and challenging for those around them, like friends and family. It can seem like they’re being selfish and hurtful for no reason. But it’s important to remember that the crisis is also happening to the person experiencing it. The trauma of long-term unmet needs and the shock of a significant life change are both part of the lived experience of someone going through a midlife crisis. 

Midlife Myth #2 - It Only Happens to Men:

Our society has sold us the idea that men are the only ones capable of a midlife crisis. But knowing that a midlife crisis usually comes from confronting one’s mortality and wanting more meaning out of life makes it clear that women can and do experience midlife crises. Anyone can experience a deep need for change when considering how they want the rest of their life to go.

When a woman looks at her life, it can be easy to see how society’s expectations could make her shrink into a role that was never a good fit. When a woman realizes a large portion of her life is over and feels limited by the time she has left, it can spur her to consider who she wants to be. 

Moving into a new career field, finding a new partner, starting a new hobby, living her life completely differently, developing a new look that feels more real to her, or even a new car are ways a woman can shift her life to feel more genuine. 

Midlife Myth #3 - You have to be 50:

Midlife is a broad category; it can easily range from late thirties into someone’s sixties. There’s no clock ticking down to when “midlife” actually is, and the realization that your life is going the wrong path, and if you don’t make changes, might rob you of happiness, can be a great motivator for change.

Midlife crises happen at whatever age you are when you lose the ability to mask who you want to be and how you want to live. They occur when you realize you don’t want to regret how you’re spending your life before you become too old or sick to take the chance to shift into a better fit, one that feels meaningful and honest to you. You don’t need to guess whether you’re experiencing a midlife crisis based on age. It’s better to embrace that you need to make changes and find ways to do so that are healthy, like through open communication and even therapy.

Midlife Myth #4 - It’s a Sign of Immaturity:

Making a huge life shift can look like immaturity to those around you, particularly if you haven’t been able to share your inner world with people. The change seems sudden, impulsive, and selfish.

It is not a sign of immaturity when you awaken to your desired reality. The immaturity in a midlife crisis is only the lack of communication that occurred up to this moment. It’s important to remember that “immaturity” means you haven’t yet grown into the ability to do something. If you feel you may be heading toward a midlife crisis or in the middle of one, it’s an excellent time to work on your communication skills to mature into a more open person to share your emotions. Opening up to your family, partner, and friends can help you talk through your inner turmoil and need for change. This space to hash things out, work with feedback, and voice your needs is a space that can help you avoid impulsive decisions or drastic choices that might not be the best solution to meet your needs. 

Midlife Myth #5 - Nothing Can be Done About it:

Midlife crises are often framed as something someone goes through on their own, and the outcome is set before you even begin. Significant life shifts, chaos, and upsetting people around you can feel like that’s the only way to handle a midlife crisis, and you’ll clean up the mess as best you can once things have settled down.

There’s a better way to address the inner need to live your dreams. Therapy for individuals contemplating a midlife crisis is a highly effective way to offer a safe space to hash out all inner truths and plan how to move toward a more meaningful second chapter in life. 

Therapy for a midlife crisis can help you live your preferred life!

Counseling can give you a space to be completely honest, and with a therapist’s support, you’ll be able to tease out your deeper emotions and best plans for the needed change. Different therapy modalities can help you dig into any anxiety, depression, or mood challenges you may be dealing with. Reducing the symptoms around those underlying issues can also help you have a clearer, more decisive, and deliberate understanding of what changes you truly want in your life.

You don’t have to deal with a midlife crisis alone. Alexa von Oertzen, LMFT with Bayview Therapy specializes in helping clients take inventory of their emotions, and achieve clarity to help them implement the best changes for a happier life. Call 954-391-5305 today for your complimentary consultation with Alexa to find out more about how she can help you live your best life. 

Alexa provides counseling for men and women at our beautiful counseling offices in Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She also provides online counseling via our secure telehealth platform. For more information about her services, click here.


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