They come into my office on a regular basis. Women in their late 40’s who have been married for 20 years or more, have grown up children and what looks like a happy and stable family life, who have suddenly been told by their husband that they want a divorce. I call them casualties of the male menopause.
The male menopause used to be laughingly referred to as a mid-life crisis, but more recently even the medical profession has started to take it seriously as a real physical and psychological condition. Married women will recognise many symptoms in their husbands which may now be attributed to medical conditions such as Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome; fatigue, irritability, weight gain and reduced libido (often resulting in a complete cessation of any sex life for the couple).
The symptoms that can often be more troublesome are the psychological ones. When he starts going to the gym after years of taking no exercise or starts dyeing his grey hairs you might want to take notice. Of course this could just be a healthy effort to take care of himself, but it could also be an attempt to make himself more appealing to the opposite sex in an effort to try and recapture his youthful vigour. We all know the clichés of men buying sports cars or motorbikes for the same reasons, but the really dangerous symptoms to look out for are him changing his socialising habits with that new group of friends, working late at the office and hiding credit card bills.
In many cases, unfortunately, this behaviour ends up with him having an affair, often with a much younger trophy girlfriend. To people on the outside it can appear to be a form of madness to walk away from a long established family and give up everything that the couple have built together, but it is all too common an occurrence.
The cost for walking away from a family can, in some cases, be a hefty divorce settlement in favour of the wife in addition to ongoing child maintenance.
Let’s not kid ourselves that this type of behaviour is exclusive to middle aged men; plenty of women go down the same path in an attempt to fight off the ageing process and recapture their youth.
Of course it doesn’t have to turn out like this. Picking up on the early signs of your husband’s problems can give you an opportunity to support him and to address them within the relationship, before he goes and does anything irreversible. It is always worth considering marriage guidance or other forms of therapy. Adultery doesn’t always mean the end to a marriage, but it is certainly one of the main reasons cited when petitioning for a divorce.