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The phrase "phone-a-friend" took on new meaning in Chris Tarrant’s household recently. For his wife Ingrid it meant regular calls to a private detective. For Chris it was fifty-fifty whether his calls were to some busty blonde. Not only is Chris a man of a certain age who's played away recently but also Bradley Walsh has betrayed long-standing wife Donna with “Corrie” co-star Debra Stephenson. Both men are candidates for typical male mid-life crises. Believe me, their "crises" consisting of angst ridden, soul-searching as they slept with someone else is more devastating for their partners!
Although more women now choose to leave marriages in mid-life they often do so without a crisis as such. Instead they instigate lots of discussion about issues. On the whole feeling responsible for both partners often having juggled all aspects of their lives for many years. They want to do what's right by both and don't readily succumb to selfish desires. When all fails they issue warnings they want something else "for the rest of their life".
That's the key to many classic mid-life crises - the big relationship-threatening question, "Is this how I'm spending the rest of my life?" Many men find it scary that what they're experiencing right now is “it”. If “it’s” not exciting or stimulating no surprises some bolt. “Mid-lifers” plunge into crazy behaviour because of fear, believing they must seize life right now. They take action to give their life meaning. Unfortunately for some their actions aren’t grounded in rational thought.
"If only I'd seen it coming," is the heartfelt response I hear. It's also a logical response because if some mid-life crises (MLC) can be prevented. Statistics vary with some research finding a third, but others find 10%, of both sexes have a full-blown MLC. Critical signs include:
* A sense of restlessness - he can’t settle to his normal work or routine, feeling edgy and unsettled.
* Angry moods - restlessness may be accompanied by angry moods that spring from nowhere, without legitimate basis for the anger.
* What, me mortal? Suddenly death is on his mind. He wonders if he'll be missed, if he's made his mark, does the arbour he built at the end of the garden count as a permanent memorial?
* The classic change of style - suddenly he buys a whole new wardrobe. Often his choices are completely unsuitable!
* New musical tastes - like a middle-aged politician he buys CDs meant for the youth market.
* Inappropriate flirtatiousness - like a man gasping for a drink at a last chance saloon, he begins to flirt with any woman. If he shows signs of having attended the Chris Tarrant School of Charm and Charisma the outlook’s bleak.
* In denial about Medical issues - because he’s "not old" he can’t possibly be "ill" so he ignores the chesty cough that worsens, or backaches that cripple him, or other symptoms until they get unbearable.
* Suddenly the adventurer - he starts looking for exciting travel adventures up the Himalayas or across the Amazon. Prior to this the most daring adventure he's had is in a dinghy off Cornwall.
* Starts faking/pretending - for example, your grown-up child brings home a new partner and he pretends he’s 10 years younger. He lies about his age, weight, what he does with his spare time (making it sound far more exciting than it is), etc.
* Implies you have a negative effect - you become the source of his unhappiness. You're a "drag", you never want to "do anything exciting", etc.
* New horizons - he starts wittering on about the vineyard he's always wanted, the surfing he plans to take up, or the Latin-American dance trip to Cuba he's planning. Previously never expressing interest in any of these things.
* Mr Competitive - he suddenly wants to keep up with any male colleague/friend who's doing anything new or exciting. This includes trying, e.g., Viagra or Uprima since he's heard, "David started taking it and swears by it!"
If the female versions apply to you it’s time to assess whether you're careening towards your own mid-life crisis.
Prevention is better than cure:
ü Creative communication! Carve out time together to reconnect. Do the simple things you never have time for, like long country walks. Pretend it's a first date and that you don't know anything about the other. Give each other time to express the things on your minds. It's not about arguing your viewpoint but getting to know each other again.
ü Keep stimulated! You’re less likely to have a MLC if you don't allow life to stagnant. Don't just flop in front of the telly - read books and discuss them, see films, go to an art gallery.
ü Have an adventure! Plan that once in a lifetime trip together to a far-flung destination.
ü Don't be a bore! Start saying Yes to new things, invitations, and with new people, too. Old routines are a recipe for a boring life.
ü Match him at his own game! Get a make-over and enjoy new clothes/hairstyles. Avoid the classic "mutton dressed as" syndrome. You can look sexy yet sophisticated, stylish and not eccentric.
ü Throw caution to the wind! Discuss your secret fantasies (not necessarily sexual) and longings together. Maybe you do want to take up Latin-American dance, or windsurfing, or an eco-project. There’s no better time!
ü Rekindle sexual chemistry! Allow each other to suggest one new thing in a non-threatening way. Share a candlelit bath or sensual massage. Let the other know you care about them feeling good.
Give meaning to your life! Discuss what’s brought you both happiness over the years. Time spent with family/friends? Intellectual pursuits? Perhaps practical projects like designing your garden? Create more of what’s brought you most happiness, and try it in a different and fresh way.
Published in the Express Newspaper
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