Do Little Things Add Up to a Midlife Crisis?

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I really don't know where to turn for advice. I keep thinking there is someone I can ask for help, but I don't really want to tell anyone about some bad things that have crept into my marriage.

I have been married to my soldier for almost 20 years. We have three kids -- one in college and two in high school.

We are stationed OCONUS on an island. My husband has on been deployed only once during our marriage.

That's the background. Here's the problem: My husband has started to act strangely, like a different person. 

Some of the things he now does are: Act very angry or accusatory of our children and their actions. He acts indifferent to me and our marriage.

He seems to relish being on various trips for his job, bragging that he has been upgraded to first class and even taking advantage of free drinks (4) on his last trip, which he told me as he was driving away from the airport with all of us in the car!

He indulges in a fantasy game called "Magic the Gathering." This includes buying cards, playing games wherever he travels and sneaking off from work during the day to play locally.

This game was something he took up in college and started playing again recently, and something he tries to hide from me.

He is so detached from the family, constantly listening to podcasts and checking his phone or playing "Magic" online. He seems angry and like another teenager in the house. I just don't know what to do. 

It feels silly to complain, but our relationship has truly suffered. I have a hard time seeing him as a lover or partner. It’s like he is regressing to being a child.

I also worry that this will affect his job -- some careless things such as drinking and driving or taking off for game playing during the day seem really reckless. 

Ms. Vicki, my husband is a professional with lots of responsibilities. But he seems to be creating some kind of fantasy world for himself. He talks about promotion and the future with all these grandiose ideas. I have to wonder if that is going to be possible. Where do I turn for help? 

Sincerely, Stranded In More Ways Than One

Dear Stranded,

Reading your letter, I can see there is a lot going on that is causing you stress. Moreover, you are not sure exactly what is happening, but a series of little things is giving you the wrong signals.

“Magic” is a very popular game that you can play using a deck of printed cards or virtually through the Internet. I’ve never played the game, but I know there is a battle between wizard “planeswalkers” who cast spells on their opponents to defeat them.

Are you concerned because he’s on the Internet a lot? Perhaps being on the Internet playing with other people could lead to other activity that could cause problems in your relationship?

Listen, I’m with you.Your husband is detached (detaching) from his family for a reason. Truth is, it is common for some people to have a midlife crisis. When this happens, they may pursue different interests and appear to be detached from their spouse and children.

It is also common to have island fever. People get bored and feel like they are locked up within a 20- to 40-mile radius with no escape. They crave open land to travel and be free. He may be experiencing many things that are causing behavioral changes.

Now, in your defense, you should be concerned about him and his career. Lord knows, he doesn’t need to do anything that would jeopardize his career.

I think you need to have a good talk with your husband about your concerns and about his behavior. Let him know that his behavior makes you feel unsafe in your marriage -- like he’s hiding something from you.

I also think you should connect with a therapist for support and guidance on this issue. A therapist could be a great sounding board for you.

In the meantime, continue to take care of yourself and your children. Your family life is going through many transitions with a child going off to college etc.

You should celebrate these transitions with your children. Pursue things that make you happy too, things you are passionate about.

I know this is a difficult time. It may be frustrating and even scary. Stay in touch and let me know how you are doing and how I can help you further.

Sincerely, Ms. Vicki

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Family and Spouse Marriage