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Can you make a man in the grip of a MidLife Crisis see sense?

(97 Posts)
SisterAct Wed 03-Oct-12 23:02:08

Namechanger but regular FWIW.

My DB is in the grip of what would appear to be a classic MLC. Has left his wife of many years, and is now shacked up with OW. He claims his marriage had ended in his mind before he had his affair. Well he would say that wouldn't he, but I know that SIL did her utmost to be what he wanted her to be and to try to save the marriage but I suppose he had no reason to really engage with that process as the OW became apparent very soon...He has children, mid and late teens, all in turmoil.

He and OW share what sounds like an addiction to their chosen hobby, something which takes up a lot of time in the evenings away from respective families. They live in lalaland. She has left her DH and children now but didn't until SIL told DB to leave. I think she (OW) sees DB as her escape and rescuer.

Is there anything we can do or say to make him see that destroying his family over a fantasy is not a great idea? Can anyone get him to open his eyes? Or do we just have to wait until he realises that the grass on the other side is still just grass, by which time the damage will be irreversible? SIL says she stil loves him and is devastated by his affair.

He thinks this is all unknowable to anyone else as we weren't there in his marriage, but from reading midlife crisis boards and stuff on here, he is just following the same old script but can't see it/doesn't realise it's all tediously common. If I tell him this he won't get it will he?

When do they wake up?

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 04-Oct-12 09:19:24

So what if SIL loves him and wants him back? Read a few threads on MN where women have been in similar situations and many of them react to the initial shock by being prepared to forgive anything to get the family back together. She's clutching at straws by talking to you, thinking you have some influence over his behaviour. In a few weeks' time, when she's had chance to think about this more clearly, she may decide that he's a total arse and she wants nothing more to do with him. This is not the time to take sides.

fluffyraggies Thu 04-Oct-12 09:23:40

No one thinks you're enjoying it sister sad

Of course you're upset and angry. Support your SIL. But remain open to your DB. People were angry with me when i left my DH. They thought i was being selfish, stupid, hot headed etc. My ex wanted me back. But I had to go.

I deeply regretted and regret still the hurt i caused, but none of it would have stopped me and wild horses wouldn't have dragged me back. None of these people were in my marriage with me. They didn't know how i felt. I don't regret leaving for one moment.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 04-Oct-12 09:25:11

I think she's enjoying it. hmm

SisterAct Thu 04-Oct-12 09:26:11

Ok so let's cut to the chase and assume he is a total arse and SIL may be better off without him. Which I accept she may well be in the end.

How do I go on with him? What do his children, mother, in laws, siblings do? Are we all supposed to just accept OW? And just be accepting of the fact they have both jettisoned children (hers are v young) so they can concentrate on each other and their all-consuming hobby?

I have no idea what to say to him and he would rather fade out of his family than talk. He is already doing it.

fluffyraggies Thu 04-Oct-12 09:28:15

He's already fading because he knows how you feel.

This is all very recent i take it. Everyone needs time, first off.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 04-Oct-12 09:30:25

You say you're disappointed in his behaviour, may never get used to the OW, and then you make damn sure he treats his ex wife and children decently in terms of money, time and so on. Of course he's going to drop from sight if all he thinks he'll get is angry finger-pointing.

fluffyraggies Thu 04-Oct-12 09:32:06

Try to step back and stop 'handling' the situation. Be supportive of your SIL, but don't make any promises to take sides or 'sort him out'.

Talk to him. Tell him you think he's being a twat but he's your brother and you still love him. Tell him you'll need a bit of time to settle down - but you want to stay being his sister and his friend.

Let everyone else deal with it as they see fit. Don't be 'in the middle', or one side or the other.

I'm sure you wont be expected to meet or speak to the OW for a good long while.

MardyArsedMidlander Thu 04-Oct-12 10:04:17

Be careful of getting involved. I was in a similar situation with a close family member- I sided with his wife. A month later- he 'came to his senses', reconciled with his wife and then they BOTH sided against me! I think she felt embarassed that I knew the ins and outs of their break up and didn't want any more remainders of it.

WaitingForMe Thu 04-Oct-12 13:30:50

And I thought my inlaws were bad shock

janelikesjam Thu 04-Oct-12 13:38:20

The pearl of knowledge and wisdom is not obtained often without great sacrifice and loss and giving up our treasured illusions and certainties. Perhaps this is part of what your DB will go through and part of what he is going through now? It is such difficult terrain that it is hard to know what support to give, especially if it seems to be "reckless" emotionally in relation to others, esp children. Whether your DB will learn from it is really down to him ultimately. If the emotional fall out comes later, I am not sure if/how you feel you can support your brother through that, but it sounds like he is somewhere else right now anyway. I wish I could be more helpful....

Feckbox Thu 04-Oct-12 13:42:12

No, you can't make him "see sense" because maybe, just maybe , it will all work out happily ever after for him.

Feckbox Thu 04-Oct-12 13:47:38

a very lovely man I know did exactly this about 5 years ago.
Completely devastated his family .

Today he is blissfully happily married to the OW ( yes , it does happen ) and his wife is very happily remarried too.

FiercePanda Thu 04-Oct-12 13:53:11

What is the hobby? Is it something sporty? Endless hours spent at the gym? Or is it geeky, are they secret World of Warcraft obsessives?

Abitwobblynow Thu 04-Oct-12 13:57:45

There is absolutely nothing you can do, not do, say or not say to stop this.

You see, this is not a crisis of the marriage, it is a crisis of SELF. He is now focussed on what is going to 'make him happy', and his wife is now a part of the scenery. Like the television aerial on the roof, or the dustball under the bed.

So sadly, what will make him happy is to focus on the emptiness within him that he is currently USING OW to fill (and get into counselling to look at their past where the emptiness came from), but men typically focus outside and put the blame on the nearest person - their spouse and family. It is desperately sad.

There are some good midlife forums out there.

SisterAct Thu 04-Oct-12 14:07:20

Yes thanks all. I have to accept there is nothing I can say. But the very fact that there are entire forums dedicated to this sort of thing shows how common it is. To those who say maybe this is true love well perhaps. Amazed that so many people think the affair must be the Real Thing. Great for them if it is. Not so great for those who didn't see it coming and whose family life is now in pieces. Am thinking particularly of DNs.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 04-Oct-12 14:32:58

Has no-one in your family ever got divorced before?

cestlavielife Thu 04-Oct-12 15:45:49

you canntot "make" anyone do anything.

practical things: make sure he supports financially his ex and children.
suggest that he arranges set times to see the children, on his own, without OW for the time being. that he makes it clear to children he still loves them and has time for them.

(if he cant do that then support the children and SIL, make them welcome at your house etc. you can meet with Brother separately. )

what do you actually want? for him to go back to SIL and say "it is all a mistake"? nothing can be the same again after this.... poeople split up, it is life. help your SIL and nephews to deal with it and move on with their lives .

he fact you say "SIL did her utmost to be what he wanted her to be" is interesting - surely she should be herself? not what he wants? what did he want her to be? presumably someone who enjoyed the hobby and wa spreapred to put thmselves and hobby above all else?

adrastea Thu 04-Oct-12 17:06:37

But the very fact that there are entire forums dedicated to this sort of thing shows how common it is.
All it shows is that there are entire forums dedicated to ascribing an objective phenomena (people leaving marriages) to another phenomena (midlife crisis). Of course there are entire forums dedicated to it because it makes people feel better to blame mid life crisis and to think that the person has 'taken leave of their senses'. Marriages end. Lots of marriages end when people are in their 40s and 50s - that's just statistically likely that that's when it will happy. A break-up of a marriage is sad, especially when it comes as a shock and other people are involved.

I am in my 30s so when my H and I separated (no other people involved) so we didn't get people blaming MLC, but we had my parents and a friend throwing around that we 'just didn't understand that marriage wasn't all a bed of roses and required work and was sometimes hard etc etc' when they didn't know the first thing about our marriage or why we were splitting up. They all wanted us to 'come to our senses' too. If were 10 years older, no doubt people would be saying MLC ... By the way, I cut off all contact with my parents for 4 months because of their attitude. If you love and care about someone, you support them and are concerned for them, even if you point out specific behaviours you think are wrong.

fluffyraggies Thu 04-Oct-12 17:22:27

I am in my 30s so when my H and I separated (no other people involved) so we didn't get people blaming MLC, but we had my parents and a friend throwing around that we 'just didn't understand that marriage wasn't all a bed of roses and required work and was sometimes hard etc etc' when they didn't know the first thing about our marriage or why we were splitting up. They all wanted us to 'come to our senses' too. If were 10 years older, no doubt people would be saying MLC ...

Yes! Yes exactly adrastea.

It stands to reason also that 'mid life' is going to be the time when allot of people maybe start to realise their own mortality and that perhaps the life they have carved out for them self in their teens or 20s is no longer the one they want. Or take stock of their life/love and find that with the children in their teens they have reached a natural end of a chapter in their lives. Perhaps it's a case of taking that long to screw up the courage to admit to themselves they married too young and are incompatable with their spouse having given it a good shot.

Staying with one person your whole entire life from teens to your 80s is a big big ask.

Separating is never a happy thing. But it's not an evil thing. It's better to leave you DH or DP than string them along and be unfaithful to them.

Charbon Thu 04-Oct-12 17:46:05

I don't think you're enjoying being outraged SisterAct. I get the sense from you that if your brother had been desperately unhappy and had made efforts over the years to resolve that unhappiness with his wife, but then still ended the marriage, you would be sad but would still offer support and friendship to both parties and their children.

Whereas from your posts it sounds as though this unhappiness has come as a surprise to everyone including his wife. Now that isn't necessarily surprising in people who don't like sharing their thoughts and feelings with others, but when combined with an affair it leads to a suspicion that this 'unhappiness' is revisionist and not actual. If his wife knew nothing about the unhappiness of her partner and therefore had no opportunity to work with him in resolution, then she is entitled to feel aggrieved - and the deception and lies of an affair will clearly add to that sense of grievance.

I think in terms of her and your DNs, it would be good to offer your SIL support and if she's having difficulty with her memories being distorted and trashed by your brother's post-affair accounts of misery, reassure her that this is a common piece of self-delusion when someone is having a second relationship. Encourage her to look at her marriage realistically, but remind her that your brother owed her the right to resolve any problems - and had the responsibility not to lie and deceive.

For your DNs, one of the problems with infidelity and children is when the adults in their lives fail to communicate that their mum or dad didn't reject them personally. Children often reach the opposite conclusion and believe that the departing parent has chosen another person over them. As an aunt, you can really help with this. Hopefully someone will be doing the same with the OW's children, who might be thinking that their mum has rejected them and not their father.

For your brother, it might be that all you can say is that you disagree with the way he has exited his marriage and all you can do is to urge him to fulfil his parental responsibilities. You're entitled not to meet the OW while feelings are running this high. Indeed it would probably be better if you did not.

No-one can project whether your DB's relationship will last. As sacrifices have been made on both sides, affair couples who are unhappy sometimes stay together longer than they should, to prove others wrong and to prove that those sacrifices were meaningful and worthwhile. No-one can see on the outside whether they are happy or unhappy, which is true of any relationship. Statistically, fewer second co-habiting relationships survive and even fewer when the beginning of it was an affair.

However, your SIL needs to get to a place where their relationship doesn't matter - and where her own future and present relationships do. Her best strategy throughout should be to tell him that she won't take him back if this other relationship falters - and to work towards that being the absolute truth.

SisterAct Thu 04-Oct-12 18:08:29

Thank you charbon. You put it all well and better than me.

Feckbox Thu 04-Oct-12 18:21:45

Adrastea, I had exactly that experience too, family and friends being incredibly unsupportive when I left my husband.

And for the much touted "rewriting of history " theory , I can assure you I was SILENTLY miserable for years before getting the courage to leave. I am sure this is true for many.

My husband claimed to have thought we were happy too, despite the fact I had told him otherwise and tried to work things out for years.

I guess it was more comforting for shocked friends and family to decide I had "rewritten history"

Abitwobblynow Thu 04-Oct-12 19:12:27

Cogito, why are you on this mission to tell Sister she isn't feeling what she is feeling, it isn't what she says it is and none of this is a big deal?

Have some buttons been pushed, or something?

Charbon Thu 04-Oct-12 19:17:59

I can't really see why anyone outside a couple would need to think you'd re-written history Feckbox, unless you left for someone else that is. Like I said in my earlier post, lots of people don't communicate their unhappiness to friends and family, but if they are being fair they will do so to their partners, which is what you said you did.

I've known several marriages break up with no-one else apparently involved and I've always taken the view that no-one apart from the people involved know what goes on in a marriage. Having said that, I've also known several marriages break up when there was someone else involved and unlike the ones I've mentioned that dissolved because of irreconcilable differences, I've been more surprised at the unfaithful parties' confessions of longstanding unhappiness, because only months earlier they'd been eulogising about how happy their marriages were. Presumably you didn't do that yourself or leave for an affair, so I can't see why people would be so judgemental.

Some people do re-write history when they are having an affair. It seems curious to infer that they do not.

adrastea Thu 04-Oct-12 19:44:54

I've been more surprised at the unfaithful parties' confessions of longstanding unhappiness, because only months earlier they'd been eulogising about how happy their marriages were.
Did you read the recent thread about 'Facebook I love yous'? Someone on there was saying the only time her and partner were making a big show of how great everything was and how much they loved each other was when they were having serious difficulties and on the verge of splitting. And of course we know that when celebrities eulogise about how happy their relationship is, it's only a matter of months before the announcement comes that they've split. So I'd take people eulogising about how great their relationship is with a huge bucket of salt.

My FIL was patently miserable for a very very long time, but probably didn't communicate it well and effectively at all. He stayed for so long for the children and because that's just what you did. I think people who are 'sticking it out' to show commitment and because they made their bed etc get so used to being stoic and suppressing communication, so it's not surprising sometimes they're useless at being constructive when it all gets too much. His and MIL's marriage, to the outside, appeared cold and really dysfunctional, and MIL had spent years depressed and on anti-depressants. She is the kind of person who just puts a smile on everything and if she can make out everything's fine, then it is. I think she was really unhappy, but in deep denial about it all so when he left (and there was an OW) it was a massive shock to her (and she'd blamed it all on a mental breakdown on his part), but it also shouldn't have been as it wasn't to anyone else IYSWIM. I don't think it's always as straightforward or simple as rewriting history.

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