You read much about male “midlife crisis,” but not so much about what happens afterwards. In my case, I got tired of the constant anger that developed over several years. I also tired of rampant spousal spending that made future retirement possibilities seem bleak, and I didn’t understand an environment where work, even housework, was not shared equally. I reached my breaking point after one of my daughters graduated from high school and the other was in her senior year. At the time, it seemed natural to ask, “Is this all there is?”
I wanted more of some things—more happiness, big dreams, economic conservatism, and some leisure time. I wanted less of others—less anger from my wife and teenaged daughters, less resentment, and less home workload, especially where chores could be shared. A person can work all his life, so focused on earning enough to survive, that he doesn’t focus on what he really wants from life. I was 49 and knew things had to change; I refused to spend the remainder of my life in a loveless marriage. My situation was driving me nuts, especially the walking on egg shells to avoid constant anger and even periodic physical attacks.
As I look back on it, I suspect there were legitimate reasons my household went so crazy. My teen girls were hormonal, and my ex-wife was probably in the throes of menopause. I did not consider the causes, only the results—it’s a male thing. I just wanted out of the nightmare, and after more than 25 years of marriage, I divorced.
My standard of living plummeted. I lost everything—the bank accounts, the land, the house, the cars, half of my retirement benefits for life…even my clothes. There is a down side to that, but there is also an upside. I was free, living in a small apartment where there was no anger, and I could start over. I had a great job and a Ph.D. No one could derail my future dreams; I was solely responsible for managing my future. I had nothing more to lose and everything to gain.
With nothing to lose, I was open to risk that would have been unthinkable in my prior life. I found a like-minded young woman, and we began dating. In the first three years of our courtship, I traveled to 23 countries and took her with me to twelve. During that time, we developed an ambitious plan to retire in ten years. We collected information on real estate and invested in property neither of us would have dared consider before our divorces. In short order, the risky deals began to pay off. We studied and invested more; we stayed true to our plan. As a result, we retired in less than ten years. We married after eleven years of working together as a team, and in July, we will celebrate 23 years together.
Did I find what I really wanted from life? Yes, but it was different than I first thought. Although I did not know it in advance, what I wanted most was a partner. Not just a girlfriend or a wife, but a partner in every sense of the word—someone who understood finances, taxes, investments, and the like—someone who would dare to dream big and work to make the dreams come true. Yes, even someone who would help wash the car and cut the grass.
Travel was not high on my list of “wants.” I had already traveled so much I did not care if I ever saw the inside of another airplane. On the other hand, I wanted more leisure time, even though I did not know what that meant. I hated business travel, but had never had a real vacation. My previous “vacations” were spent tending children and fixing broken items at my ex-mother-in-law’s home. Now, I learned to take cruises. I learned to dance. I learned to snorkel. I pursued skiing and water sports. I did things I could not have imagined in my prior life.
Finally, I began to appreciate art. I went to stage plays—even to performances of “Phantom of the Opera” in London and in Sydney. My partner and I went to art exhibitions and gallery openings. We began to collect art glass from all over the world. To facilitate our mutual appreciation of art, my partner designed our home to be a functional art gallery, and we surrounded ourselves with beautiful glass sculptures (see inserts).
So, would I do it again—would I change course at midlife? Knowing what I know now, I would make even more drastic changes. If I had the opportunity to live life again, I would choose my first partner more wisely. I am convinced that the single most important decision a person can make in life is the selection of his or her mate. With the right partner, all things are possible.
Now, if you want to read about the WRONG partner, try some of the Miss Havana Paranormal Comedy novels. You'll love them: http://www.amazon.com/James-L.-Hatch/e/B005CQB6E6.
Thanks for reading,
James L. Hatch