Midlife Years: Reflections on Midlife Affairs

by Peter Milhado PHD on August 25, 2018

No one can do our soul work for us and from mid-life on, soul work includes the search for meaning.  Only when we stop expecting our spouses to bring meaning to our lives can we begin to tap our own potential.  If our primary measures of self-worth and security depend solely on the affirmation and love of our partners we end up in trouble.  In modern day parlance, if the so-called ‘co-dependent’ continues to play a supporting role in someone else’s opera, mid-life will raise absolute havoc in their inner world.  When dependency needs for a partner are out of hand, bottomless ‘ attachment hunger’ follows, which always leads to severe depression or abandonment.  Those who are not willing to face ‘fears of change’ can’t individuate nor fulfill their potential.  Some become martyrs and martyrs do not make good partners or parents, for that matter.  For the price of their ‘sainthood’ others will pay dearly!  Absolutely no change will occur when we see our life as a problem caused by others.

Women

In our patriarchal society most women have to make a greater leap than men towards their right to be themselves and individuate. Until these last few decades women were told to find fulfillment through their husbands and sons, which left a mark.  Many mid-life women, when they first arrive in therapy, are plagued with negative inner voices, “Don’t try, you’ll fail”, “You don’t have what it takes”, “Who do you think you are?!” etc.  If they listen closely they will discover this inner voice is often masculine.  Their night time dreams are often filled with threatening masculine figures trying to harm, rape or kill them.  This happens when a woman is stuck, unable to act, or chip a piece of the earth out for herself in the outside world as she is disconnected from her masculine energy.

Initially therapy deals with the expression of a lot grief and anger.  Later on when the woman begins to gather energy for a new life, challenges the fears and inner forces blocking her, the masculine figures in her dreams become less threatening and eventually become allies.  A healthy personality doesn’t seem to be a given, it’s attained through a daily struggle against the demons of doubt and fear of disapproval.

Men

Again, due to our patriarchal society men have been conditioned to shun their feelings as well as their inner life and therefore lose touch with intuitive wisdom.  By the time they reach mid life the average male is isolated, a stranger to himself and others.  He’s become a slave to power, status and money – whether he’s attained any of it or not.  Many only know the presence of power as a sign of their manhood, because our society has put such tremendous pressure to play out the old roles of economical animal and becoming top dog!  If you ask this kind of man how he feels he will tell you what he thinks.

The initial time spent in therapy is often spent in helping men reconnect to their feeling nature.  As our technological society has traded information for wisdom, soul has gone out of most working places.  That’s why you see many mid-life men dreading work and dreaming of getting to play golf on some Elysian field after the business world has spit them out.  What a tragedy that is!  We need our elders, now more than ever.  Michael Ventura had it down when he said, ”The reason other cultures didn’t invent technology is not because they’re more primitive, but because they liked their lives better!”

Reflections on Mid-Life Affairs

So when men and women crawl into mid-life this unhappy, something is bound to happen.  Statistics tell us midlife affairs occur in about 50% of the marriages with men only slightly ahead of women.  When one represses feelings or creativity or basic joy in life, forces well up in the unconscious that often overwhelm the person.  It’s not like an individual gets up in the morning and says, “Well I think I’m gonna screw up my life today, hurt my spouse and my children and risk losing everything I have fought to attain (Hollis).”

As I said in a previous post, when the 45 year old husband runs away with his 22 year old secretary, most of the time he has projected his undeveloped inner feminine side and years of longing unto the young ‘goddess’.  I’m sure there are exceptions, but this seldom works.  Therapist Mae Rohm was right when she said, “The screwing you get is not worth the screwing you get!”  In my experience, this kind of a man eventually comes in and says something like, “Things are really great, but to tell you the truth, I absolutely hate that music she plays all the time!”  Usually that’s the beginning of the end.  On the other hand there are some marriages that are so abusive and soulless, they need to be left behind!

Relationship Therapy

Many times marital therapy starts with one spouse initiating it to help validate his or her case against the other.  If at all possible, I stay away from who’s right and who’s wrong.  The real issue in relationship therapy is to eventually have both partners contemplate the following question “What is it about my behavior or my past history that contributes to the problems we are having?”  Both partners are requested to look in the mirror.  If the relationship is to survive soulfully, both partners have to do inner soul work…its hard work!  To share one’s needs, fears, hopes, sense of failure and weakness is true intimacy and takes tremendous courage; few couples achieve it.  The real cement in a marriage is to know what’s it like to live in another’s skin and yet retain one’s individuality!  A marriage can only be as good and developed as the two people in it!  Thanks again to James Hollis Ph.D. for his many contributions.

One for all and all for one. Love to Mother Meera

Peter Milhado © 2018

Leave a Comment

Previous post: