I was married to a wonderful man who was my high school sweetheart. I shall call him Dave. We had three children who were his life and who had made us both very proud. Dave was an excellent father. We were Christians, very active in our church, and although we were opposites, we got along well, each of us enjoying very different interests. As he told me often, we had the best marriage he knew of and all our friends seemed to agree. Life had been like a fairy tale for me. I had no reason to believe that it would ever change.
Then several things happened that, I believe, contributed to the midlife depression that hit Dave. First, he sought a promotion at work that he had counted on for several years. Someone else won the position although Dave was probably more qualified. Soon after that, a man who had been like a father to Dave passed away. After that our two oldest boys left home within a year of each other to go to college. Then our remaining son began to rebel and got into serious trouble.
Dave soon became very irritable, which was totally out of character for him. In his eyes I could do nothing right and just the sound of my voice seemed to put him on the edge. He seemed to look for reasons to get angry with me in order for us not to speak to each other. He acted as if everything about me disgusted or repulsed him. He stopped doing anything around the house and tried his best to work extra hours so that he didn’t have to face me as much.
I tried, time and time again, to talk with Dave. He refused to admit there was a problem and when I pushed too hard, he’d simply scream that I was the problem. He accused me of ‘going crazy,’ of needing psychological counseling, of yelling when I was speaking quietly, and blamed me for anything that went wrong during his day. He acted as if he would explode if he was forced to speak to me or look at me. It even entered my mind that he might try to physically hurt me; something I’d never have dreamed previously.
One day he simply did not come home. I knew immediately that he had left me. Our youngest child was still at home, causing problems and his father exiting at this time only made his rebellious behavior worse.
We did not hear from Dave for almost a month. I spoke to his best friend, in whom he confided somewhat. He said Dave had told him that he hated me, never loved me, never should have married me, and that the children never should have been born. His friend was as shocked as I was. I tried to give Dave space. Shortly, my sons came home for the summer and my three children went together to see their father at work. He told them he was embarrassed and that they shouldn’t worry because he’d be home in ‘a couple of weeks.’ He said some very harsh things about me. I was shocked to hear how he’d run me down to my own children. He would never have done that in that past.
I tried to immerse myself in activities. I had a full-time job as well as a big leadership role in my church. I also spent much time working in a nonprofit ministry of which I was the director. Often, however, I was unable to concentrate. It seemed that everything I tried to do, even simple tasks, took all my effort. I began to spiral into depression. After a time, I could not control the tears and was almost afraid to go to church because I was sure to make a spectacle of myself. I felt as if I was standing at the edge of a black hole and a physical force was pulling me down into it. I was terrified of what might happen to me if I didn’t have the strength to resist it. I confided in my gynecologist, who immediately recognized the symptoms of depression and prescribed an anti-depressant. Within a few days I began to feel the benefit of the medication and soon I was able to handle my emotions better. I continued, however, to cry a lot. Tears were probably a blessing because, along with prayer, they were the only thing that seemed to relieve my stress temporarily.
I began to read all I could find about midlife crisis but I found little written on the subject. I believe God led me to Jim Conway’s book Men In Midlife Crisis, Chariot Victor Pub. It saved my sanity to realize that this was something that had happened to others and that some had even survived it. Prior to that, I had no idea what had happened to my husband and could only see that he had become a monster. More about Midlife Crisis
Dave hid from me, our children, and friends, becoming a workaholic, dedicating his life to making money. He was obsessed. It was hard for me to understand how he could even function through a day at work when he was so irrational each time I saw him. He was almost a double personality. Many people would tell me that he seemed just like the same old Dave to them. He only allowed those very close to him see his acting out. When he wasn’t working, he was holed up in his apartment in the dark, with the TV on, or asleep. He didn’t answer the phone or the doorbell. I tried to not bother him most of the time, sensing that he needed to be alone, but occasionally I could not resist checking on him to make sure he was all right. Usually he looked terrible: unkempt, needing a bath, a shave, and haircut. He aged greatly during this time. At times he showed signs of mania, announcing that he was having the best time of his life. He often said he felt 20 years old again, only much, much wiser. Sometimes he would extol his own virtues to the extreme (telling me that I’d never find another man as good as him, etc.) which would have been almost funny had it not been so alarming and out of character. At times he was irrational. Other times he was miserable and full of self pity and it was always my fault. He told the children that the reason he could not live with me any longer was that when we rented movies, I chose ones he couldn’t tolerate. He would often line the kids up and pace up and down in front of them, yelling the same things over and over for 30 minutes at a time. When I confronted him and tried to make him identify the problem, he would only say ‘You know what it is. Don’t act so innocent.’ I truly did not know what I had done and he never did tell me. I worried about him possibly considering suicide.
Resigned to the fact that he was not coming home, I had divorce papers drawn up and presented Dave with them. He had agreed to meet me in a restaurant because he said it made him ‘uncomfortable to drive down our driveway.’ He would not answer any of my questions or discuss a divorce, but simply sat and grinned at me sarcastically while I poured my heart out to him. So I left him sitting in the restaurant with the papers and told him I’d contact him again in a month. When I did, he said he had thrown the papers away. I knew then that he really did not want a divorce. I also realized for the first time that he was no longer in control of his actions. I believe his mind was spinning and he could not stop the horrible thoughts he was having, however irrational they had become.
Some men who reach this point realize there is something very wrong and are willing to go for counseling. Dave, I believe, realized there was a problem, but was terrified of it and also had a macho attitude which kept him from admitting it or seeking help. It was easier to blame me.
Of course, I was not a perfect wife. Although I don’t feel I was the cause of Dave leaving home, there were still things about me that needed to be addressed and changed. I began to spend much time in prayer and in seeking God’s will. I went through a very painful process as the Lord started to show me myself – through his eyes. It was a time of growth and although I’d never choose to go through that trying time again, I would also not choose to change it if I could. The experience has given me great strength and God had the freedom to teach me so much because he had my undivided attention.
I sought advice and help from all the normal places. I went to three counselors, all ‘Christian,’ who talked about my own self-esteem and helped me see there were things I had to do to take care of myself during this time. After a month or two, however, they spoke of ultimatums and ‘making a decision’ and ‘getting on with my life.’ Mostly they made me feel as if I was being a doormat. My self-esteem was not necessarily boosted by talking with them. I spoke to my pastor several times and he gave me some insight on the workings of the male mind. However, he, too, although a fundamental Bible-preacher, advised divorce because Dave had ‘committed emotional adultery.’ I decided not to consult my pastor again, nor the counselors. I pledged to myself to get my counseling solely from the Bible and from friends who took the commandments of God literally. I had to hang on to the Scriptures in order to continue to even function at that point.
Grantley Morris was one of the lifesavers tossed to me when I felt as if I were drowning. Although his website had no information specifically about midlife crisis, there was much that I needed to hear – many words of comfort and instruction which were a great help to me. I believe God lead me to this website where I could learn much. We have never met in person, but Grantley was always available by e-mail, always advising me to wait on God, sometimes encouraging me to stop whining, and sometimes building me up in the Lord. God also provided some female friends who stuck by me. Although they were quite angry at the way Dave treated his family, they supported me in not going ahead with a divorce and encouraged me to understand my husband and pray for him. I have found in talking with other women in a similar situation, that friends like this are a rare commodity. Most of them get tired of hearing you whine after a few months and begin advising that you ‘get over it’ or ‘dump him.’ I had those kinds of friends too, but there were two saintly women who upheld me and counseled me to respect what God says in his word about the marriage vow. One man, Dave’s good friend, who had been a longtime family friend as well, also counseled me from a male point of view, always telling me that he believed Dave would return, and encouraging me to wait. I consider myself very blessed to have had such friends.
Although I would never have considered myself a dependent wife, when Dave left, I was scared and alone. Often the pain was so great that I didn’t know if I could live. Many nights I would collapse on the floor, unable to word a prayer, simply crying out ‘Help!’ I was broken. He was my one true love. I had been married to this man since the age of sixteen. We met Dave while I was still in elementary school and we started dating in high school. Because Dave was in the military, we moved far away from both our families, after we married. We only had each other to depend on. I always felt I could tell him anything, and that he was my best friend. I didn’t worry about keeping anything from him, even my ‘ugly side.’ He knew me inside and out. Although not an open person by nature, he was able to share with me emotionally as well.
Now there was no one who could help me other than God. I believe that the Lord finally had me where he wanted me – dependent only on him. I gained a great compassion for those who are hurting from marital difficulties.
I began to exert sheer will in order to function physically. I became adept at many skills that I hadn’t possessed before. I learned how to fix a leaky faucet, and to replace the end on an extension cord that I whacked off while trying to trim an endless row of shrubs with electric hedge trimmers. I was very proud of such accomplishments because Dave had always handled them. I was proving that I could live on my own if I had to.
Daily I was spending two, three and four hours with the Lord, praying, reading the Bible, or simply listening to God. Much of that time was spent outside, where I could be surrounded by nature. I also became great friends with our family dog, who I’d simply tolerated before. The Lord even used the dog to make me feel safe when I was alone at night. That pooch became a good friend to me and often soothed my loneliness by simply lying down next to me when she sensed I needed a warm body close by. All this was therapy for me. The Lord was very creative in providing me with strength sufficient to allow me to continue putting one foot in front of the other.
After a while Dave lost his feeling of euphoria. He became depressed and full of self-pity. Whenever any of the family saw him, he bemoaned all that he had missed out on or lost because of us. (I was the major villain in his life, although at times he included the children.) He often went on long road trips, not telling anyone where he was going or how long he would be gone. We worried that he would get in an accident on the other end of the country and no one would know where he was.
He went to great lengths to hide our separation from his family, who only saw us annually. He made up all kinds of stories to tell his parents so that it seemed he still lived at home. He also pretended to everyone where he worked that he still lived at home. Later, when that became too difficult, he said I lived with him in his apartment and that we were selling our home.
When he left, Dave didn’t take a thing with him. All his clothes were left in the closet. He didn’t even have an extra pair of socks. After about six months, he began to break in to the house (I’d had the locks changed) and steal things. He even took the furniture off our front porch and stuffed it into a utility shed where he was living.
During the next two years, he purchased a home, five vehicles, a big screen TV, furniture, expensive home appliances, and was considering a boat (he had always hated boats prior to this time). As nearly as I could calculate, he spent over $65,000 and maxed out all his credit cards. This from a man who had pinched pennies most of his life. In the meantime, he canceled my credit cards, closed our joint bank accounts, and refused to help me with bills. It seemed he enjoyed the fact that I might be suffering financially and had a need to punish me.
Although he was away from home for almost two years, my husband never became involved with another woman. Typically, men with midlife crisis, seek comfort through an illicit relationship which only causes further pain for all involved. Dave had problems with impotence, which was probably a blessing from the Lord. I am told male impotence is a common problem for men who are suffering midlife depression, and some men set out to prove they can be a man with another woman, concluding that their wife is the problem. I suppose a few, like Dave, do not wish to take the chance of being humiliated in front of a new lady, so they simply shut down sexually. The sexual acting out can only make things worse. I thank God that I did not have to face that hurdle. The Lord promises in his Word that he will not allow any more hardship than we can carry. Maybe I couldn’t have handled that one.
After two years of enduring what seemed akin to the death of my husband (he no longer existed as I had known him) I went for a mammogram a few months late. I was told I had breast cancer and that I’d need surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I was in a daze to say the least. My sons came to my rescue and lent me the adult strength they had gained through this hurtful time. I decided not to tell Dave. I did not want to face his nonchalant rejection and would not have been surprised if he had laughed or said that I deserved cancer because I was responsible for his misery. However, my oldest son informed him and Dave came to the hospital about an hour before I checked out. I think he was waiting to find out for sure that the lump the doctors removed was definitely malignant before he showed up. I was too sick to care much if he was there or not, but he followed us home and stayed.
If I had known then what I know now, I’d have probably refused him entrance into the house, but again, God was in control rather than me. After about a week, I was feeling much better physically and friends and family had left. Dave and I were alone. Dave retreated into a shell where he remained for nearly a year, improving only painfully slowly. He slept most of the time. He would go for days without uttering a word. Whenever we passed in the hall, he would step aside to avoid being close to me.
I could not allow myself to be affected too deeply by all of this because I was in the middle of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I had to give Dave over to God and take care of myself. Several times I was so sick from the chemo that I went upstairs to bed for several days at a time. Dave remained in the house downstairs, never leaving, but not so much as asking if I needed a drink of water. Several times I had to call a friend to help me get to the bathroom because I was so weak and Dave would not or could not function. He was like a zombie.
As I began to get better, Dave started to improve as well. His progress was very slow and sometimes I wondered if I was only imagining it. Significant family events helped Dave take tiny but important steps. Our oldest son, for example, did a very wise thing by including Dave in his wedding party. Not wanting to hurt me, our son asked my permission to include Dave. I struggled because my first reaction was that Dave didn’t deserve to even attend, but I knew this attitude was wrong. Dave’s participation was one of the things that said ‘you’re still a part of our family and we are ready to forgive and include you again.’ (Other examples.)
Dave began to do little things that reminded me of the old Dave and eventually I was able to stop walking on eggshells around him and relax a little. I seldom pushed him because I was sure that God was to be the one to heal and change him rather than me. I knew that I had to be patient although it was difficult.
For years he was unable to have any kind of physical relationship. Intimacy, whether emotional or physical still frightens him, but he is making great strides. I can only trust that God will bring him back 100% or better. I believe that when God restores, you usually get more than you had in the first place, so I’m counting on an even better relationship than our original one.
Today Dave has improved to the point where he is nearly himself again. He does not talk about the bad times. It seems he simply cannot face them. Sometimes I think he does not even remember some of the horrible things he said or did. Maybe he just wants to forget. I continue to pray that someday he will do what the Lord expects of him and ask my forgiveness. It would mean so much to me. However, the Lord expects me to forgive as well, even before forgiveness is asked for. So I state to the Lord and to myself almost daily that I forgive Dave of all the hurt he caused me. I don’t always feel forgiving and I continue to experience bitterness at times. Forgiveness is a process – in my case, at least, a slow one. But if one prays and states it often enough, in time it will become complete.
It has been nearly five years since the beginning of Dave’s midlife crisis, depression, breakdown, or whatever term best describes what happened to him. God has blessed my family so much that I am almost fearful. But I am grateful as well. Dave now wants to be with me almost every spare minute that he has. Although he can’t seem to talk about it, his actions speak loudly. I long to hear him say that he loves me, and for him to be romantic as in the old days. But I know, too, that love is commitment, not flowery words. I try my best to continue to wait on God for the fulfillment of his promise. And I thank Him daily for His grace.
I feel impressed to tell my story because I know that there are many women (and men) who are facing this pain which seems to come out of nowhere to strike unsuspecting families who are totally unprepared to fight back. Many have no clue what has happened to their former husband or wife and simply assume they’ve changed into a monster. It is not an easy process to survive, but there is hope for families experiencing this crisis.
On one of my dark days I asked God to please allow me to help someone else who would follow me in this process. I prayed that something good could come from it. God has already given me the opportunity many times, and now, through this webpage, He is allowing me to share with others. I am thankful.
During the bad times, I cannot say God spoke audibly to me or that there was any miraculous occurrence or vision. I cried, I pleaded, I begged for God to give me a sign, to tell me what to do to fix things. (I am, like most women, a notorious fixer!) The only message I received was ‘wait.’ It was not what I wanted to hear. It was frustrating. Frankly, it made me mad and I often railed at God. However, it was crystal clear that it was God’s way and it was what was best for me. He always gives the best advice. I desire for another marriage to be saved through someone else reading this account and realizing that they too can be given the strength to wait for a family to be healed. God bless.