How long is midlife crisis? Though there is has an average range; that does not mean a shorter or longer MLC is impossible. The range we use is 2-7 years. Two is short and 7 is long, but of course every situation is unique and it could be less than 2 or longer than 7. If longer, is it still a midlife crisis or does it become something else? If shorter, was it really a midlife crisis? For this post I would like to focus on the shorter end of the range.
I myself have noticed and others have let me know that they are concerned about some people who are fixed on the timeline and advising or warning newcomers that midlife crisis takes a long time. Warning is okay, it’s good to know, but some of these warnings are crossing to expectations. Please do not approach this situation expecting it will take 7 years! Just reading that is enough to scare people off.
I did not approach Chuck’s MLC with a 7 year expectation. What I did was set aside timeline expectations. That doesn’t mean I did not sometimes focus too heavily on where he was on some metaphorical map; I did my share of over-focusing, but I did not for a moment think that his midlife crisis would take 7 years; rather I accepted that it could. That may seem like a subtle difference, but it’s quite big. It changes the attitude—how a person approaches the situation and how a person approaches possible returns. From Bomb Drop to when Chuck ended the affair was 3.5 years—not 7. And when he came home all those times in between, I did not approach the situation Acting As If it was premature, I set that aside and focused on my hope that it would be real and working to make it real.
Things that Appear the Same May be Different
But I don’t even want you expecting it to be as long as 2 years. Why? Because that would still be an expectation. Accept 2 years as a possibility and even a high probability, but some who come here may not be MLC situations and if we tell them to expect these long timelines, we could tip a situation teetering on midlife crisis over the edge and then it will appear that we were correct when really we helped to manifest the outcome. Bomb Drop for an MLC situation may look and feel like Bomb Drop for a situation that is more of a midlife transition or marital uncertainty and dissatisfactions or discovery of an affair and the typical confusions that come with infidelity. Basically Bomb Drop may look the same for a variety of situations and so we do a disservice when someone posts in our community and we automatically default them to the MLC file. Sure, being a forum for midlife crisis situations, that will probably always be something we need to keep watch over. Men and women who are dissatisfied in their marriage or more internally dissatisfied may or may not be MLCers, but in the beginning they may all sound similar.
Not Midlife Crisis? Recovery May be Faster
There are plenty of couples who go through a rough patch and recover in a time that feels rapid to those who come from an MLC situation. We need to understand that in the beginning that couple may have looked like us and their rapid success does not mean they did something better and you messed up or that their marriage is now a ticking time bomb because their recovery was premature. Am I skeptical when a situation appears to recover quickly? No, but I am hesitant or a bit wary; those early days in recovery are the days of walking on egg filled balloons and I know that a return might be premature or that it might not or that a return that is not premature can still fail—expect anything and nothing (since those are really the same thing), but do not expect something specific.
It is important that we give people the information about midlife crisis and that includes the general time range, but it’s just as important that we do not focus on that timeline after providing the information. Instead guide toward Mirror-Work and even couples work. For situations that are (or become) MLC, the couples work will either not take off or it will fade away as the MLC progresses, but for those other situations, it is an important step toward recovering that can happen now and for any situation is part of Paving the Way.