Most of us do not like to dwell on the ‘m’ word (menopause) which is why I thought a safe place to mention it might be here, in my blog. Are men just as likely to be effected by issues of middle age? The term ‘mid-life crisis’ typically conjures up images of men in fast cars who ‘ought to know better at their age’. I should go no further without admitting to owning a sports car. Am I embracing my inner mid-life crisis or denying it? What I do know is I enjoy driving the car and notice occasional admiring glances as I wait for the lights to change; the looks are at the car, not its driver, but its still fun!
So do the sexes have anything in common in this regard? Clearly men and women do NOT have the same experience when they go through the menopause, men don’t have to come to terms with the undeniable knowledge that they are infertile. And yet men’s and women’s bodies are always ageing. Hormonally the changes are slower and more subtle for men, and so the physical symptoms are less profound and noticeable. To call it a male menopause at all is considered by many misleading. So how is it that a woman who feels perfectly normal around the time of mid-life, might notice her male partner is changing and having a crisis?
It seems lifestyle factors (rather than physical ones) are at play and can impact on both sexes. These are more likely to be the cause of mid life crisis in men, while women are experiencing physical changes to their bodies as well and can be hit by both – joy of joys – as if thirty years of monthly cycles wasn’t tough enough! The lifestyle factors that often impact at this time might include;
- Heightened levels of stress caused by more responsibility at work and home
- Noticing one’s own physical ageing; facially and bodily, experiencing wear and tear on the body, more aches and pains
- The reality of our own parents ageing or dying
- Simply knowing that we have arrived at mid-life can be a sobering thought even if we feel all is well
The outcome of this mid-life reality check can result in less than positive symptoms for both sexes; here are a few of them:
- Loss of libido
If you have any of these symptoms and need help, a sensible place to start would be to share them with your doctor.
Many people will experience less serious symptoms in the form of negative thoughts, such as:
- What’s it all for?
- I feel I’m just here to pay the bills or take care of the domestic scene
- I’ll never be at my best again
- Never look young again
- Or dance without looking silly
- Or go back packing
- Feel it’s all downhill from now on
- Or stop worrying…and the list goes on!
At this time of year many of us can find ourselves marking the passage of time as our children have a long summer break from school. For me, this brings into awareness how my children have changed in the last year and what we are doing differently this summer as a result. In my case, two of them have reached new levels of independence, phoning friends to make arrangements and only needing help from me to get them there! That’s natural, they are maturing as they should be, but it also reminds me that they are growing up and I am growing older. I know one day they will no longer need me on a daily basis, maybe that time has already arrived for you? Embracing that life change and shift of identity can be challenging.
If you are an expatriate reader, there may be added stresses that come with living a mobile lifestyle. Perhaps missing out on regular access to long term friends; people who you could share your feelings of ageing with, joking about greying or thinning hair and so on. You may not have the benefits of a well established social life in place. If however, you have stayed in the same locale you will probably notice those around you ageing with you, which can help normalise your own. If there is no acknowledgement, even in jest, it can lead to feelings of isolation. You may not be isolated (I hope you aren’t) or you may think you are unaffected by issues of mid-life. Either way, it might be something to consider as awareness is the key to good self care.
There is plenty of advice out there, it’s not rocket science; good diet, limiting smoking and alcohol, regular sleep pattern and exercise combined with time to pursue whatever makes you happy. Ask yourself what this is? No matter how significant, it could be anything from stroking the dog to excelling at something you know you are good at.
Accept what you cannot change and embrace the positive aspects of ageing; knowledge, understanding, inner peace, increased self esteem…perhaps you would like to add your own comment to this list?
Contributed by Laura J Stephens, a British writer/psychotherapist connecting and sharing transitional wisdom. Author of 'An Inconvenient Posting' an expat wife's memoir of lost identity Laura currently lives in the UK and blogs at http://laurajstephens.com