Friday, October 9, 2009

Midlife crisis

Somthing's different. She isn't sure what it is, exactly, but equilibrium is gone. They've worked together for so long, toward the same objective. Things should be good. He's gotten what he wanted. Maybe it's her turn to work on herself.

It's a little scary that they cashed in their entire retirement for him to open his own law firm, but it's a calculated risk. They are near forty. If they wait any longer it will be too late.

Maybe they got married too young. So many of their friends at BYU got married at the same age, though, and they seem fine. Maybe she's just hit her midlife crisis. Suck it up, Jen. Deal with it. You've got three great kids and a husband who works hard.

Her therapist helps her reach the understanding that she is not the only one. Many women do not feel completely fulfilled as homemakers and caregivers. She's always been a runner, she keeps in shape and runs marathons with friends, but her brain is hungry. She would have gone to med school if she were younger, if there weren't three kids. When there was still time for that she was putting him through law school in New York. Then they moved to Boulder for his great job. He worked such long hours. If she were a med student or a resident neither of them would have had the time for their marriage, their growing family. She reads a lot.

I loved Boulder. I wish we'd never left.

But the siren call of Salt Lake City, a community of people who believe as they do, another great job, it was important to him. Their daughter is fourteen now. She'll be dating soon.

Salt Lake City is kind of fun. She remembers being in school. She wants that feeling again. Learning new things and building knowledge specific to a purpose.

"What do you need a job for? You have a great house and three kids, Jen. You have a responsibility to your family. You have plenty of outside interests. You do stuff with your friends, you take running trips and go to concerts. I make enough money that you don't need to work."

He doesn't understand it but he knows her mind is set. She always had an independent streak. It's largely the reason they've been in marriage counseling. Whatever. It's her midlife crisis. She starts nursing school.

Nursing school is a rush. School has changed so much! Everything is on computer now. Assignments get turned in online. There aren't enough hours in the day to keep up with running. She misses running with D and her husband.

D and Brad keep running. They decide a vacation would be fun. The families can go together. Their six year old boys are best friends. The brief trip is a bright spot, a communion of families and a respite from study. Rejuvenating.

Back at home, though, things still aren't right. Equilibrium is gone. Is it really about nursing school? The kids are happy, supper gets cooked.

The August cell phone bill looks funny. There are hundreds of text messages to just one number. It's D's number.

Brad admits to "inappropriate involvement with D." Translated from lawyer to English it sounds like an affair but he swears it's not been physical. Like that makes it better. He agrees that the right thing to do is cut off contact. They take a trip, just the two of them. She's working hard to address his complaints, to use what she's learned in marriage counseling to fill whatever need he has. New York was fun, but in Paris she knows he's not really there.

They come home and she knows he's texting D. She confronts him. He nearly convinces her she is crazy. After all, she was the one with depression issues, right? In the end, though, he comes clean.

"I love her. I'm not giving her up. I'm leaving."

So he does. She puts his clothes out the back door for him to pick up in the morning and deadbolts the door. He's gone.

It's his midlife crisis. A sports car or hair plugs would have been cheaper. Whatever. She is done.

D is still living with her husband and two kids. Brad is living in his new house around the block.

Jen, well Jen is finally living.


  1. Wow. That was very good, very tough, very emotionally wringing and yet, very descriptive of what's going on. I don't know whether to offer condolences or congratulations to Jen.

    I feel like this but from a different perspective and my wife and I both feel like we don't know how to be married. But we're trying to figure it all out. I'm at that point in life where I'm taking stock and I'm not happy with the lack of meaning in what I do for money. I'm not happy with the lack of balance in work life, home life and writing life. And that means figuring out a better balance and having an attitude adjustment.

  2. Thanks, Sarah. In Jen's case, condolences and congratulations are both appropriate. She's working on herself and willing to work at being married. She only has control over one of those two things. Since her partner won't carry his weight, she cut bait.

    Being married is hard and I definitely believe in the power of the midlife crisis. It could be, should be a healthy thing. If you're not where you want to be take stock. Look at what brings you joy and what brings you frustration. Figure it out. Make some changes for the better.

    Just ditching your wife and kids and changing your marital status won't help much, though. I almost feel sorry for him. In eighteen months to two years he will still be unhappy and painfully aware of what he "threw away with both hands," as another friend of mine put it.

    Good luck to you! We're all muddling our way through it. Writing is a good tool for that.

  3. Is this a WIP, a short story, or a case study?

  4. I guess you could say it's a case study. Friend of mine. He's an asshat.

  5. Hmmm. Well, I hope she shredded up the clothes before she stuck them in the suitcase. That is a joke. Sort of. Please encourage her to get the best freakin' lawyer she can. She put him through school. Now it is her turn for him to pay so that she can get that degree and make a good life for herself and the kids.

  6. She paid for the lawyer out of the joint checking account :)

    Aside from the emotional fallout the kids should be okay. He's apparently a better dad than he is a husband.

  7. It's definitely in the drinking water right now-- the mid-life crisis. I think that as long as people remember what really is important, and respect the people who are really important, then a mid-life crisis can be healthy. But my friend's husband who is giving in to immaturity, and saddling my friend with all the responsibility is driving me crazy. It seems as though the buck always stops with the woman. Kudos to your friend for starting her life.

  8. Hey, Heather!

    I know, right? I do know one or two families where the man does the heavy lifting but for the most part it does seem that the pressure falls on MOM.

    Last night I made sure to tell that boy I married how lucky I feel to have him. He's awesome.

  9. Wow. This is really well written. I know Jen is better off, but I'm still mad. Very, very mad. But ultimately I agree with you...He's going to be living a regretful life.

  10. Thanks, Chris. I'm still mad, too. Furious. You can ef with me but it is very ill advised to ef with my friends. I'm going to visit Jen in a couple of weeks and if I run in to the ex he's likely to get an earful that will rupture his eardrums. If they actually bleed I will assume I did my job.

  11. Wow. I guess I can only echo most of what everyone else has said. This is hard to read, emotionally difficult (both anger and sadness), but you captured the reality of such midlife crises very well.

    The only point I can add (and one that really frustrates me) is that, though it often feels like the "buck always stops with the woman" (as Heather so aptly said it), clearly there are just as many women (often married) willing to be so immature since these affairs are not conducted with other men (usually, LOL!)

  12. PS-- Just wanted to add that I'm sorry for the trauma that your friend had to endure. Having learned quite a bit about psychological trauma (in therapy school and CE seminars), it never ceases to hit me hard when I hear that the pain of spousal betrayal is equal to that of rape victims. And that the aftermath of such a traumatic event is considered PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Not a fun experience.

  13. Aine, you bring up a very good point. These men are carrying on with a woman who knows she's damaging a marriage and in this instance, a woman with two small children and a husband so she's damaging two marriages.

    Thanks for your kind thoughts. I'm going to visit next week and we'll have a lot of fun.