Why This Is Not Your Father’s Midlife Crisis
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Health & Fitness

This Is Not Your Father’s Midlife Crisis

Why your next 10 years might be smoother than you think

Chevy Chase and Christie Brinkley in a scene from the movie Vegas Vacation
Courtesy Warner Bros.

I was really looking forward to my midlife crisis: the snazzy sports car, the trophy second wife. But midlife has morphed since our fathers’ generation. Many men now in their 40s and 50s won’t experience any midlife disruption at all. “Society has changed, and men’s behavior has changed with it,” says Dan Jones, a psychologist at East Tennessee State University.

Here are five reasons why a midlife crisis might not be in your future.

1. You’re a lot older at midlife.

Average male life expectancy has risen dramatically in the U.S. You can expect to live well into your 70s, but more of us are hitting the 90-plus mark. As a result, what used to be considered midlife (your early 40s) now arrives a decade later. That’s an extra 10 years (or more) of life experience and wisdom to draw upon.

2. You’re wised up.

When the male midlife crisis was at its stereotypical peak, the cool guy was a playboy — James Bond, Dean Martin, Hugh Hefner. But then came HIV and, of late, #MeToo, and these male caricatures are no longer as aspirational. As a result, those of us who do catch a case of midlife breakdown can expect our experience to be “tamer and less flamboyant,” Jones says.

3. COVID changed your perspective.

When you look at all the challenges that our generation has already faced — parents divorcing at double the historical rate, losing 45 percent of our wealth during the Great Recession and a global pandemic — who has the time or energy to worry about a measly midlife crisis?

Two of the classic harbingers of the midlife crisis are “the feeling that we have less time ahead of us than we have behind us” and “a general uneasiness about where we are in life,” says Jed Diamond, author of Male Menopause. COVID-19 brought both of these things to the forefront. We were not only forced to deal with our mortality but also, as work and family responsibilities shifted, our purpose.

The virus, whether you caught it or not, may have provided you with midlife-crisis antibodies.

4. You’re more socially connected.

We were raised differently than our parents were. You’re probably not as distant from yourself and others as your father was. And although COVID certainly exacerbated our isolation, in its wake we are less strangers to ourselves, more appreciative of family and friends, and more connected to people who will be there to share our experiences.

5. You’ve still got stuff to do.

“There are two mountains in life,” Diamond explains. “We climb the first as we build our careers and families, and then we start coming down the other side. That has been the traditional midlife crisis. We think depression and death await us in that valley.”

But, Diamond says, thanks to the combination of longer lives and greater social connections, we can clearly see that’s not the end; there’s a second mountain. “It requires different climbing equipment, but the journey uphill ultimately leads to the most powerful, passionate and productive time of life,” he adds.

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