Science gives men a hall pass when it comes to looking after their personal well-being. According to research, men have a hard time talking about their feelings to both men and women. In a study reported in the American Journal of Men’s Health, only 13% of male participants had a habit of talking about their emotions. This has something to do with being seen as the Alpha Male — discussing feelings undermines this position for men — which is why, to their own detriment, they don’t do it much.
Not talking about your emotions is actually excellent in the phase of life where a man is laser focussed on growing a career. And then, life catches up, causing a startled awakening around “Middle-Age”. A moment in time when men appear to find themselves bewildered. Where once they were the confident Alpha leader of the pack, they are now strangely irrelevant. Irrelevant at home, in their relationships with their children, for some, increasingly irrelevant at work. They awake to a life they don’t remember signing up for, and, because we know on good authority that men don’t talk about their feelings, they panic. They swap out decades of shared memories and future dreams to relive a forgotten version of themselves, thinking that a return to the beginning will restore their self-relevance.
I’m not a middle aged man, but I have the good fortune of living with one. Even better, I have the good fortune of living with one of the ones who not only is in the 13%, but also took the time to investigate and understand what happens to men during this bizzare phase of Middle Age. As we both come to this relationship having had (the good fortune) of 3.5 failed marriages between us, it is normal that we have spent time talking about and dissecting what exactly happens to men during this phase in life — and why it is that over and over, men look for self-relevance in the arms of a younger woman, instead of looking within to resolve the root of their unhappiness and sense of loss.
An unheroic journey
We all know someone who has been through a Mid Life Crisis, if not ourselves, then a friend, a friend’s partner, a sister’s husband, a neighbour. A friend of a friend. We have witnessed this unheroic journey taken with varying degrees of dignity: for some couples, the phase creates a stronger bond, for most, it leaves a trail of carnage and destruction. Denial, excess, infidelity, rapidly broken relationships, and most importantly, the settling in of hopelessness, regret and self- doubt. The quiet and insidious acceptance that from this point forward, it’s all downhill. The best years are behind us.
The unquestioned untruth
The men in our lives appear to approach the middle age phase without questioning the dogma. It’s All Downhill from Here.
They stare at the 40 year versions of themselves, repeating what others have told them. That if they have not achieved the goals of their childhood, they never will. That their relationships will wither in direct proportion to the diminishing size of their dreams, and in indirect proportion to their slowly increasing girths. They believe without question that their fitness will decline, their thirst for adventure will extinguish, and that their richest and deepest sexual experiences are long behind them. (Spoiler: they are not)
Stop, and realise that middle age is only half time
Imagine if the part of your life that came after the Mid Life Crisis was better.
Imagine if middle-age was not the tipping point into decline, but an opportunity to pause. A perfectly designed moment to review, refine, reset, adjust, and take on the next half of life with a sense of energy and urgency.
What if we could leverage all the learnings and lessons from the first 45 years, and use them to make the next 45 more meaningful, and filled with purpose and relevance? What if there was a way to eliminate the frustration, and instead concentrate on how to get more out of life in the second half?
Becoming Relevant in the second half of life is a book that every man approaching middle age should read. It is an accessible book, designed to be read on a flight home, or a long commute to the office.
Becoming Relevant talks about a middle aged man’s learnings, navigating through numerous divorces, a loss of self-identity, a loss of primary family unit, a loss of professional identity. It’s a practical book, filled with practical steps to regain self-relevance, relevance in the eyes of one’s children, and relevance in the context of a deep and fulfilling relationship.
A guide for regular, mid-life crisis going men living in the suburbs with 2.5 kids, a mortgage, a dog they did not want, a job they barely tolerate, and a week where obligations regularly supersede hopes of mid — week sex
Stop the swap
The guidelines in Becoming Relevant work, as they don’t demand that one become like Ghandi. It is not a recipe for how to sell all of one’s earthly possessions and undertake a silent journey to Find Oneself in the ashrams of India, or the hills of Byron Bay. It does not demand that you become Vegan or give up wine.
It is however, a raw and honest tale of a man’s journey to regain his own self-relevance, and in the process, help others lift themselves out of a mindset of diminishing returns in the second half of life.
It is a book that has the power to change the course of your relationship. Slip it to the middle aged men in your orbit.
Disclosure: Becoming Relevant in the second half of life, by Steve White, is available on Amazon Kindle. The book was written in collaboration with Dr Anna Harrison, the Author of this article. Excerpts from the book included with full permission.