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Is it possible to experience a midlife crisis in late 20s?
I am responding to this question because it seems there has been a recent influx of 20-somethings coming to the forum—so many that it has sparked a discussion on the moderator board where some are voicing concerns that situations that are not about MLC may dilute the focus and intent of the board. I want to assure you that everyone is welcome here, but I also feel it is most beneficial to you that you are at place that can help you with your unique circumstances. I find that often people want the label of MLC because—at least here—they can find answers and explanations and they have something to blame.
Midlife Crisis is a normal life event—midlife transition—that has escalated to crisis levels of emotional and mental turmoil. Midlife transition is a time for self-questioning, thus it’s a quest. It’s about change; denial and attempts to avoid the transition yield crisis which manifests through avoidance, regression and depression and in the context of a marriage often includes infidelity and separation. MLCers react overtly with outward destruction; whether intentional or not, an MLCer hurts other people in significant ways.
According to Daniel Levinson, life transitions are cyclical, occurring every 7-10 years. These are periods of greater change in both life structure and ego development. This internal process of change, growth and aging is inevitable and leads to a transition of crisis when a person attempts to avoid it. Unresolved issues surface and rebury, only to resurface with additional issues at each growth phase. Greater avoidance, coupled with recycled and unresolved issues yields crises of increasing severity over time. This is why it is so important to deal with the issues when they surface. A midlife crisis is the result of unresolved issues piling upon unresolved issues from previous life transitions.
At midlife physical aging is starting to become noticeable and parents are dying off or becoming ever-more dependent. A fear of dying often surfaces. Why is this—since the generation that is dying is the parents’? Because we see the unmet dreams and unlived lives of our parents and fear the same fate, but maybe we have time to go back and replay what is unlived in our own lives.
It is possible to experience a life transition that reaches crisis levels at any time, but such a crisis in one’s twenties is different than a crisis at midlife because the developmental issues at the later crisis are greater since there are so many additional years a person has lived for piling on more unresolved issues and because in one’s twenties some of the overt issues, such as aging, are not yet prominent. So my direct answer to the question is no, it is not possible to experience a midlife crisis in your twenties.
Life transitions that become crises may have similarities at various developmental stages—so you may witness behaviors in your twenty-something partner that are similar to those common to MLCers as I or others have described them, but there will be differences as well and they may be so significant that applying advice for MLC left behind spouses may lead you astray.
The typical MLC affair is of the emotionally-bonded type. Such an affair can lead to MLC or mimic MLC—especially High-Energy Replay. At least in the beginning, the driving force of this type of affair is in-fatuation, which is an energetic state of emotion as well as a biological state distinguished by fantastical expectations of idyllic passion without consideration for growth and development of the relationship. In-fatuation prevents or overrides rational thoughts and actions and activates the pleasure center of the brain while simultaneously disabling moral judgment and the ability to assess others. It’s like a tunnel vision, they have a flood of hormones activated by the mere thought of the alienator and may feel depressed when apart or uncertain about the relationship.
Coinciding with in-fatuation is reality: a spouse and possibly children and even grandchildren. Reality causes them to cycle. They don’t want to hurt anyone, so their guilt grows and they may change their mind and decide to end the affair, but since they are in the early stages of in-fatuation the withdrawals from the alienator are too severe and they cannot stay away; they Monster at anyone who challenges their decisions or stands in their way. They try to justify their actions—often by twisting blame to make their betrayed spouse feel at fault and they project their fears and emotions onto their spouse. In my situation I was told I was crazy—and he meant insane—but given his rapidly cycling behavior it was clear he feared he was the crazy one and even admitted it a few times.
If your situation is not MLC, but there is an emotionally-bonded affair and you are baffled as to why I or someone else says it is not MLC because your spouse ticks off all of the midlife crisis check boxes; you will still benefit from understanding MLC—at least the Escape & Avoid stage if not the others as well.
What is the Focus of the Forum?
This is a site for Standers—people who want to save their marriage. But how many MLC marriages make it through to reconciliation? Sorry, but most don’t—one of my goals is to change that. Standing becomes about and for you and many of you will eventually choose on your own that you no longer want to reconcile your marriage, or that if your MLCer comes through and wants to be with you, sure you will consider it, but you aren’t holding your breath, instead you are choosing joy each and every day.
What this site is not is a fix-it-all for all types of relationship break-ups. Yes, the leading goal of most newcomers is to get their mate back, but that does not mean we can tell you how to do that. There is no magic formula—or if there is you won’t find it here. The magic is in you and the things you need to do as a Stander are the same things you need to do if you are not a Stander and the things you need to do if this is MLC are the same as what you need to do if this is not MLC: MIRROR-WORK!!! That is not a formula; it’s a lot of work that takes courage because you need to redirect your focus from your partner to you and for so many of you that is the scariest thing you can imagine.
Midlife Crisis (in marriage or marital style relationships)
DUH! The first words of the main site url are midlife crisis. The tag line is Dealing Midlife Crisis and Infidelity When You Don’t Want a Divorce. I haven’t studied Quarter Life Crises, addiction, spousal abuse, non-MLC depression or even chronic infidelity. I’ve studied personality disorders a little, but only to understand them in the context of MLC and/or infidelity. My passion is understanding MLC—infidelity is not a passion, it just tags along with most marital midlife crises. I believe that we are missing something in our culture; we fail to recognize the importance of Rites of Passage (especially in adulthood) and thus we do not learn to expect such significant personal changes as we continue to mature and when we face a transitional period we lack guidance.
Diluting the Focus of the Forum
There is general advice which applies to everyone and specific advice generalized for MLC and becomes specific for each unique situation. The general advice is the same: Live your life as if they are not coming back. Detach and focus on your own growth and healing. The most important section of articles is the Mirror-Work section. It’s also the section most people avoid or read last because they just want to find answers about MLC & Infidelity and what Standing-Actions to take to directly make this nightmare end quickly. Unfortunately the actions that will help you get through this and perhaps help your marriage as well are indirect and they start with you—your healing—not your partner and the what and why. Regardless of age or whether there is infidelity or you have an At-home spouse or they have left, Mirror-Work applies to each and every one of you.
As far as the forum focus regarding healing goes, there is no dilution when a situation is not MLC, but what about the focus on MLC? The personal Mirror-Work side is common to general self-help books or websites; it’s MLC in marriage that is the driving force of this forum. Advice for a situation that is MLC may need to be different than advice for a situation that is not MLC—whether it is about chronic infidelity, narcissism, clinical depression (that is not MLC, so perhaps chronic), emotional or physical abuse, too young for MLC… the advice may be so different as to conflict with MLC advice. The dilemma is that most people read threads with a default assumption that the situation is a midlife crisis and offer advice based on that assumption or mis-apply the advice to their situation.
Does welcoming everyone validate their belief that their situation is MLC, thereby stalling healing?
Yes, for some it will do that, but it is not our job to do their work. Maybe we are leading horses to the wrong stream or maybe we are getting them to drink water that will not slake their thirst or maybe they deny, dismiss or ignore anyone who says their situation is not about a midlife crisis. But this is also true of those whose situation is about MLC. As I said above, the most important article section is Mirror-Work, but most avoid that section until last or until they are at their wits end and give in to everyone’s pleading that they detach.
We cannot force anyone to accept or understand, but the most important thing for everyone is MIRROR-WORK!!! And it’s the same for everyone. The first step in your Mirror-Work is to work on DETACHMENT!!! All we can do is offer love, support and guidance; it is your choice whether you follow the guidance or follow your own path. Everyone has to come to this in their own way and for almost all of us that way is not straight because we are so scared and want this to be something else. But I believe that those extra curves and dips in the journey are important to our growth and it is through those mis-steps that we realize our greatest growth. We need to accept each person’s process toward recovery; that process includes things like fear, denial, panic ignoring advice, arguing advice… it is not for me to say that path is wrong—especially if it eventually leads to you discovering your beautiful Self and embracing joy.
Is The Hero’s Spouse the Right Place for You?
The discussion at the moderator board did lead me to add a new section to my Newbie Welcome Message to help you determine if this forum is a fit for your needs. I will end this post with a copy of that new section.
Though all are welcome here, please consider whether your situation fits this site. This site is for midlife crisis and/or infidelity in marriage. The site articles are specifically geared toward midlife crisis situations and the mentors are versed in MLC—as that is what they are dealing with.
- Are or were you in a committed marital style relationship?
The Standing techniques are based on having been in a long-term co-habitational relationship. Dealing with a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship has different dynamics, especially if it has not been long-term, or if it has been long-distance for a large part of the relationship or you have not lived together.
- Is your partner in the 38 – 56 MLC range?
There are outliers who are older than 56 and some in their earlier 30s, so being outside the range does not mean it cannot be MLC. But if your partner is in their 20s it is not MLC; perhaps they are having a Quarter Life Crisis or this could be a natural part of their maturation. If your partner is in their early 30s it could be a late QLC, early MLC or a natural part of their maturation.
- Has your partner displayed at least some Key Components and Symptoms of a midlife crisis?
Many and possibly most of you who come to this site are uncertain whether you are dealing with MLC—and most of you who are uncertain describe textbook cases of MLC. Most of you are typically afraid that this is just a case of falling out of love and not MLC. That’s not how it works. Long-term committed relationships don’t just end like that—often there is an affair going on or they are waiting to start an affair—which likely means it is already an Emotional Affair. Some of you are worried that it’s depression and not MLC; Midlife Crisis is a depression; some qualify as Clinically Depressed and others do not or they may slip through detection due to their depression being covert. Some of you are worried because your MLCer seems milder—less or no Monster. Not all MLCers go wild and Monster; some are more Low-Energy.
- Has your partner’s behavior changed from what had been their norm?
If your partner has always or usually displayed some of the Key Components or Symptoms of midlife crisis, then it’s not MLC; it is more likely immaturity—we see this most often in cases where the partner is outside of the MLC age range.
If You Answered No To Number 1, 2 or 4
The Mirror-Work articles apply to everyone including you, but the other sections are specific toward MLC and may misdirect you if you try and understand your situation through them. Most posters will usually assume a situation is MLC by default and offer you advice that does not fit your situation. In addition it may confuse others who may read a non-MLC thread and a mentor’s advice that does not seem to conform to general advice for MLC.
Levinson, Daniel. Seasons of a Man’s Life.