Is there really such a thing as a mid-life crisis?  Well, I wouldn’t actually call it a “crisis,” but rather a wake-up call that seems to occur when people hit their mid to late 40’s.  Why?  Well, simply stated it has a lot do with the gift of finally having some time to think.

The fact is that in our 20’s and 30’s most of us are so busy establishing our careers, finding a partner, buying a house, and having babies, that we rarely have time to think beyond our family’s immediate needs.  Then a funny thing happens in our 40’s when we hit the half-way point of our life expectancy– our kids become more independent, our careers are more established, and we start to see not just our parents, but some of our own peers get sick and die, which inevitably forces us to face our own mortality and find answers to some big questions, and I do mean BIG questions like:

1.      What’s the point of it all?

2.      Am I really happy?

3.      What have I done with my life thus far?

4.      What’s my real purpose here?

5.      What do I want to do going forward?

As we work through these questions, not everyone is going to decide to change life partners.  Some just want to move to a different location or change careers, some want to modify how they spend their money or how they spend their free time.  Inevitably, however, when you are part of a family, these kinds of major changes don’t happen in a vacuum– it only takes one person’s desire for change to have a drastic impact on everyone around them.  I call this the ripple effect– and sadly, not everyone is going to be 100% on board with the waves of change, so they will resist any modification to life as they know it.  This is what often leads to an unforeseen chain of events that 9 out of 10 times results in the need to restructure family ties, and that is what I then have to address every day as a divorce lawyer.

Interestingly enough, most divorces are actually initiated by women, not men.  The current stats show that over 65% of divorces after age 50 are filed by women– and I think this number will continue to increase as our financial independence and life style options continue to grow because let’s face it– 100 years ago a woman’s life expectancy was only 40, whereas today it is 80; meanwhile, our work options outside the home were almost nonexistent a century ago, and yet in the 21st century (as of 2008 to be exact) women in their early 20’s and 30’s are now better educated and are out-earning their male counterparts resulting in the growing realization that staying married in order to survive and/or raise children really is a choice, not a necessity.

Another point that I had not considered until I read “The Female Brain,” is that hormones play a huge part into how a woman’s brain functions, and as more studies have been conducted, they have learned that indeed as the “mommy brain” phases out and the fog starts to clear, we do become less tolerant of always sacrificing our needs for the benefit of all those around us.  In our 40’s and well into our 50’s we start to really advocate for ourselves and indulge in our own desires more, and even though I have yet to reach menopause, I can already see how far less tolerant I am of miserable situations compared to 10 years ago– life is simply too short to keep putting up with b.s. and many my age share this point of view.

So, maybe now you can start to understand why in my industry we see such a huge spike in divorces around the mid-life timeframe, which for a variety of reasons causes  people to re-evaluate their lives and find the courage to make drastic changes where necessary.  Personally, I don’t see this is as a “crisis” at all, but rather an opportunity to re-assess where we are and address the problem areas in our lives that are preventing us from finding true peace and happiness.  If your life partner chooses to be part of the solution, that is fantastic, and if not, oh well… sometimes you have to let part of your life go so that something better can come along.  Just know you are not alone, and no matter how it all plays out, this too shall pass.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.