How do you deal with the MLC doubters? It’s a common question. I got an email and used it to write my weekly email and thought I’d bring that here.
The world is big, but our personal worlds are small. Does it feel like your world is against you? Do MLC doubters insist that you’re wrong or mistaken or may be just too weak to see reality? Do they think they know what’s best for you and your life? Well, sometimes they’re right, but even then, they’re also wrong because they’re preventing you from the full experience of your mistakes and the incredible growth and development that comes from learning through your mistakes. Sometimes we need to go against the advice of our well-meaning MLC doubters and forge ahead, even though doing so is risky.
How do you, you stay so strong when people around you don’t believe that midlife crisis is a thing?
Let’s start by understanding why your friends and family are MLC doubters.
Deer in the Headlights Radar
Your people—friends and family—have deer in the headlights radar. You’re the frightened and emotionally paralyzed deer and as your friend, they want to help. As your friend, they are scared for you and they are with you in your feelings—they are hurting too. If you present as a poor-me victim, your people will pounce:
- You Deserve Better
They aren’t wrong! MLCers are emotionally abusive—they have affairs, gaslight, project blame, Monster, manipulate, go through retirement and savings, abandon the children…
But you also deserve better than divorce. You may get to divorce anyway, but you deserve to get there in your own place of healing and Grace rather than with animosity and resentment. You deserve to get there because you put the effort in to understanding and trying not to get there and then making a personal decision regarding the direction of your life.
- Denial: You’re Wearing Rose-Colored Glasses
Again, they may not be wrong! There’s a lot to deny and you get a pay-off. Bomb Drop is a lot to take in—it’s shocking and traumatic and sometimes a period of denial allows us to take in tidbits and accept them at a pace we are better able to handle.
Maybe you’re not denying, you’re simply accepting MLC—while not considering it acceptable. This may be confusing to others. Yes, my spouse was having an affair, living with the alienator and even talking about what they would name their future children. I knew that—heck I new it because he taunted me with it!
But I also knew our history and that he was suddenly different. I chose to believe in the core person I had known before he became Mr. Nutcase. That’s accepting the reality of the situation with your eyes wide-open and still proceeding.
- Living in and Acting out of Fear
Um, yeah! Of course, you’re scared. To say what you’re going through is life-changing is an understatement and for most of you it was sudden. In the beginning, hold on to what you can as your security. Life will continue to change at a faster pace than is typical, but your fear is another safety feature used to protect you. It slows down the pace just a bit and allows you to heal with and through the changes.
- This is your excuse to justify bad behavior
Do you see the pattern… sometimes they’re not wrong! Let’s face it, your MLCer’s behavior is likely bad. In the beginning it may be your excuse. You need something to latch on to so you can stop the emotional spinning and confusion and often, MLC gives answers. It’s okay to have an excuse in the beginning—just like it’s okay to use hope to lift you just a little, but you then need to come to a place of shifting your strength so you’re no longer leaning on hope. Maybe Midlife Crisis will still be valid; just don’t focus all your time and energy on your spouse and the crisis.
Your friends just want you better, they may not really be MLC doubters, it’s about their love and concern for you along with their shared pain. They want you back to normal so that they can stop hurting with you—and so they can avoid anything from your personal and marital breakdown that might be contagious. The faster you’re better, the better it is for them. But this is your life and you need to do what’s best for you. Rushing healing doesn’t work because it skips critical pieces of what you need to heal. Go at your own pace, not theirs.
Strength is Credible
Not all Left Behind and Forward Moving Spouses are deer in the headlights. The best way to deal with MLC doubters is to show confidence in your choices. Be firm in your decisions—while acknowledging that life is fluid right now and your decisions may change.
Head-off your people by accepting and validating their criticisms—you deserve better, denial acting in fear, justifying… If they’re right, stop them by agreeing rather than defending and resisting. This shows your insight and willingness to look in the mirror.
Show gratitude for their concern. This acknowledges them and validates that they’re approaching this from a place of care and concern.
In the end, if someone won’t stop hounding you about what you should be doing instead or they just won’t stop criticizing you, firmly let them know that regardless of their opinions, the decisions about your life are yours to make. If they choose not to respect that, they can leave. If you’re able to have a relationship with them and not bring up your marriage and family situation and they choose to resist the urge to give you their say, you can continue your relationship, otherwise you may need to sever ties for now. Approach this with confidence and a firm tone, any weakness in your delivery sets you up as prey to their opinions.
Standing is for the strong! But in the beginning, it’s okay to Stand for a Grace Period in which you don’t make major life-altering decisions. Basically, instead of taking action and focusing toward divorce, stop and focus on healing so that you can get yourself through the initial shock, trauma and anxiety to a place where you are more emotionally stable and can handle the changes that come with life-altering decisions. You’re not waiting for perfection with your emotions. You’ll have setbacks and detachment is a practice. You’ll simply be stronger than you might be now.
It Doesn’t Matter Attitude
You don’t need your friends and family to believe in something for you to believe in it. Sometimes the MLC doubters are being right-fighters. cultivate an it doesn’t matter attitude. You have a right to interpret your life differently, but that attitude won’t work for you if you are or continue to approach them for their opinions and advice.
Everyone’s got an opinion and often times different friends will have opposing advice and opinions; you can’t please all of them and why should you anyway!
If this bothers you, consider why it’s so important that you avoid their criticism and please them. Maybe avoiding their nagging will make life easier. Or will it just make the part of life with them easier—getting rid of your MLCer and demonizing them won’t stop the pain. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll lose all of your friends. Yeah, that’s a tough one, isn’t it? Find a few friends that are at least able to accept you as you are even if they can’t handle being your go-to MLC crying shoulder.
Accept the MLC Doubters
Accept that there will be people in your life who don’t like or agree with your choices and that’s that. Accept them for who they are and move forward with love. Accept them within the context of their life, their traumas and codependencies. Accept that sometimes it’s not really about your situation, but what it means for their life and how it triggers their trauma and fears. Accept this as who they are—maybe your Buttinsky Aunt was always going to say something critical. She’s not really an MLC doubter, but she just has to be contrary!
Accept that they aren’t in your shoes. Most are not at this time having a similar direct experience of Midlife Crisis marital breakdown—so they just don’t get it. Maybe they want to understand, but without a direct and sometimes present experience, they aren’t ever going to understand—at least not in the visceral way you understand.
Accept and love your people for who they are and what they have the capacity to offer and for everything else, go somewhere else.
Accept that you won’t convince everyone that Midlife Crisis is a real thing, or that once a cheater always a cheater isn’t true or just that your spouse has a good core. They get to choose their opinions too. Withdraw your energy from trying to convince others and instead focus on your healing—a byproduct of healing is that those friends and family often stop focusing on you negatively as well.
A Community of Peers
Your people are often unable to withstand the burden of being your go-to friend when you’re feeling poor-me and wanting to talk through your MLCer problems. This is understandable since this situation is often consuming in the beginning and sometimes way too long past the beginning as well. It’s not fair to them. Instead come to us—the MLC and Standing communities. Lean on us for support, comfort, advice… Other Left Behind and Forward Moving Spouses get it, they understand what you’re experiencing and they can offer advice that takes into account your desire to Stand—if that’s your choice right now.
But are you then just surrounding yourself with like-minded people who will agree and fail to challenge you?
NO!!! The men and women who are going through this are specially placed to understand and see what works and what doesn’t work. They’ve tried and failed, they’ve cried in floor puddles and accepted blame and they’ve detached, healed and they know the pitfalls. That doesn’t always mean they know how to avoid them, sometimes they just know they exist and how to help you when through. They know that some of those pitfalls are important for your Mirror-Work and you’ve got to go through them, because skipping over them just means you’ll face them again and again until you accept the experience and what it will teach you.
Rather than MLC doubters, we have MLC challengers. Why is this MLC? Is MLC real and what does that mean? How real–is it common? What does it mean to be an MLC doubter? Is MLC just a made up idea, or maybe what’s made up is that it happens to everyone, or even most? Is it made up that it’s just about some guy buying a sports car, leaving his family and dating a younger woman? Maybe that’s the surface, but is it deeper than that? Doubt in a healthy context leads you to insight. It’s okay to ask the tough questions, but you also need to know when it’s not about challenging you and being an MLC doubter is about rushing you through to spare someone else’s observer pain.