Men’s Midlife Crisis: Time To Quit Your Job And Leave Your Partner?

men's midlife crisis

Often, guys in the grip of a men’s midlife crisis react to their feelings of ennui and life frustrations by “acting out” and making big, life-changing decisions concerning their work and relationships.

Drastic and often destructive measures are taken, such as jobs being quit, careers being changed, partners being dumped, and divorce proceedings being instigated.

These actions arise from reaching middle-age and, basically, panicking. Life’s half over, and yet it feels like a failure.

This results in an overpowering urge to “shake things up” and take a different, more exciting path “before it’s too late”.

A desire like this usually evolves into fantasies of affairs with much younger women, fast cars, motorbikes and road trips, or quitting a boring job to pursue an unfulfilled life-long passion.

Is leaving your job or your wife sometimes the very best thing you should do?

And if so, what’s the best way to do it?

Or should you do nothing, suffer through your men’s midlife crisis in silence and wait for the U-shaped curve to start heading upward at an unspecified time in the future?

In order to answer these questions and more, I’m going to take a look at each of the ways men act out during a male midlife crisis in turn:

  • Men’s midlife crisis and work
  • Men’s midlife crisis and marriage/relationships

Men’s Midlife Crisis And Work

Many men find themselves feeling bored and trapped by their employment circumstances. Bills need to be paid, mouths need to be fed, and so on.

Despite this, a desire to pull a Lester Burnham, stick two fingers up at your boss and make a drastic career or life change can become overwhelming.

men's midlife crisis

This often boils down to a dichotomy between doing a job that satisfies materially but leaves you feeling empty, or quitting it in order to finally do what you love but not having any financial security.

The best way to approach men’s midlife crisis and work, though, is to take a step back and break down where you are exactly employment-wise, where you’d like to be, and what realistic steps could you take to get there.

Here are five steps you can take to improve your work situation:

Step 1: Work out your current career’s pros and cons

If you’re toying with the idea of changing your career, the first step is to work out what you want to change and why.

Start by making a list of all the reasons why you’d really love to hand in that resignation letter on Monday morning. (Or if you’re self-employed, would love to hand it over to yourself.)

Are your colleagues unbearable? Does your commute take two and half hours each way? Is the work itself boring as hell?

Whatever the reasons, put them down but be sure to include things that may not only be detrimental to you, but to your family and friends.

Next, write down what you like about your current position. Granted, this may be a short list, but try to think of some things that you’d miss if you were to quit tomorrow.

Now really analyze your answers in order to nail down which aspects of your career you’d want to bring along to your next job, and which you’d happily leave behind.

This will all be highly valuable info once you start thinking about what you really want to do in Step 2.

Regarding what aspects you’d like to keep, however, make sure it’s definitely the career itself that’s causing your malaise, and not factors that can possibly be remedied, such as work colleagues, particular job position, company you work for, etc.

On reflection, you might discover that by making a few changes to your current role things would be okay. For example, you could ask for a pay rise, move closer to work, transfer to another office, take up a different position within the same company, etc.

If you’re still certain you need to make a more drastic change, though, it’s time to have a think about what this might entail.

Step 2: Decide if you want to give it all up to “follow your passion”

If you’ve always had a burning desire to be a novelist, direct movies, or open your own Pulp Fiction-themed restaurant, now might be the perfect time to try and make that dream a reality.

men's midlife crisis

To be middle-aged is, after all, still far from being old, and an argument could be made for giving it a shot now before it’s too late.

A common argument for doing this is to “follow your passion”. Blog posts, YouTube videos, and books are all full of experts and lay people alike telling us to “never give up on the dream” and “pursue your passion” because “you only live once”.

“Why spend your whole life waking up every morning to go to a job you hate, when you could leap out of bed, super amped to fulfill your childhood passion?” goes the argument.

While this advice is well-intentioned, it’s also fraught with some hidden perils that are worth checking out before you hand in your notice.

Firstly, the advice to “follow your dream” is simplistic and overly optimistic.

It implies that all you need do is follow a pre-existing, burning desire inside you to paint, write, act, become a marine biologist or whatever it is, and then never give up until you make it.

However, having a passion for something doesn’t necessarily mean that by sticking to it forever you’re going to make it.

Or that your passion naturally goes hand-in-hand with actually being good at it in the first place, as should be obvious to anyone who’s ever seen five minutes of The X-Factor.

As a matter of fact, being “good” is far from enough. Due to the high levels of competition surrounding most “dream jobs” whether they’re creative or not, you’ll need to be exceptional.

Here’s a study conducted at a University of Montreal which clearly demonstrates this disconnect between passion and career prospects:

men's midlife crisis

University of Montreal and Canadian Census Data

Secondly, let’s say you get that dream job after following your passion, there’s no guarantee you’re actually going to like it.

Our passions and “gut instincts” are often prone to leading us astray, as well as fooling us into thinking their permanent when they’re not.

What you were passionate about ten years ago you may no longer care for, and what you’re passionate about now, may not interest you in ten years time.

That’s not to say that pursuing your passion is always a bad idea, but it will inevitably come with an element of risk. If you’re determined to make a change, though, I have a few points for you to consider shortly in Step 3.

Step 3: Figure out the best ways to minimize risk

Whether you already have a passion or need to do some work first on working out what it could be, switching careers during midlife will probably involve some short-term hardships and a hit to your finances.

That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re financially prepared before going ahead and don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

Here are some options:

  • Downsize your home. Sell up and buy something smaller, giving you access to funds and the chance to build your business, search for a new job, or return to study.
  • Downsize your job. Sacrifice some of your salary by going part-time. Or quit and take a more flexible job that will enable you to focus on your new career goals.
  • Expenses audit. Keep track of all your expenses for a couple of months, then work out how much you’d need to be able to live on without a steady income. Then save up that amount before quitting or downsizing your job.
  • Use equity. If you’re a homeowner, consider taking out equity on it as a means of raising funds for your period of exploration.
  • Emergency fund. Work out what you’d do if you had unexpected expenses to take care of.

Step 4: Draw up an action plan

Let’s say you have a passion you want to pursue (or a potential one you want to cultivate) and have savings in the bank.

The next step is to draw up an action plan with a specific set of goals that you want to achieve.

The danger otherwise is that with too much free time on your hands your vision may become hazy and unfocused.

Decide how long you want to give your new project before reassessing whether it’s worth quitting, staying the course, or trying something new.

This deadline shouldn’t necessarily mean you should have “made it” by the end, but that you’ll have reached a significant milestone of some kind.

male midlife crisis

Step 5: Make the commitment

Fear of the unknown may well have been holding you back from making any career changes before now.

But if you’ve worked out what work you’re passionate about and what will give you a sense of purposefulness and meaning to your life, then it’s time to make a commitment to it.

The way to do this is to first push past any remaining fears, doubts and uncertainties you may be holding on to by asking yourself, “In the future, will I regret not giving this a go?”

Picture yourself as an older man, fifteen or twenty years from now.

Will you look back on this period in your life and wish you’d had the balls to give it a shot?

If you think the answer might be “yes”, then it’s probably worth going through some hardships now in order to reap the benefits later of a new career that you actually enjoy.

Men’s Midlife Crisis And Marriage/Long Term Relationships

As well as feeling an overwhelming need to make big career changes, a men’s midlife crisis can also have a similar effect on relationships.

men's midlife crisis

Here are the most common symptoms associated with having a male midlife crisis when it comes to relationships:

  • Feeling trapped. Many men feel stuck in their long term relationships — like there’s no way out because of shared circumstances such as kids, finances, a long shared history, etc. Or simply being fearful of winding up alone.
  • Lack of validation. Your partner no longer makes you feel special, attractive, or wanted. Whereas once you felt like you were the center of their universe, now it seems you’re behind her friends, family and the cat.
  • Lack of excitement. Having been with the same person for many years, things may not be as exciting as when you first met. Feelings of ennui and boredom can become overwhelming as you struggle to find anything interesting about her anymore.
  • Lack of communication. Not feeling like you can talk to your partner because they’ve stopped listening or caring. Which leads to…
  • Internal suffering. Concerns about the relationship are bottled up because you feel you can’t talk about them with your partner. Which in turn makes your partner more uneasy and suspicious of you and so the problems spiral.
  • Identity crisis. As your midlife crisis progresses, you’re changing but leaving your partner behind. Confusion, self-doubt, and fear set in, causing you to reevaluate your relationship and wonder whether it’s worth staying in.

Men’s midlife crisis and marriage problems: work out which came first

If you’re experiencing some or all of the above symptoms in your relationship, the first thing to do is work out if they’re due to your male midlife crisis or if you’d have them anyway.

Many marriages fail during midlife, but not all as a result of a midlife crisis.

Take some time out to really analyze your situation. Do you think you’re unhappy in your relationship because you’re going through a men’s midlife crisis? Or do you think it would be fine if the crisis didn’t exist?

Do you think you’re unhappy in your relationship because you’re going through a men’s midlife crisis? Or do you think it would be fine if the crisis didn’t exist?

Do you think you’re unhappy in your relationship because you’re going through a men’s midlife crisis? Or do you think it would be fine if the crisis didn’t exist?

As you maybe know, staying happy in a long term relationship can be tricky, but working out in your own mind how much of a role your men’s midlife crisis is playing is an important first step.

Assuming you believe your relationship problems are in fact due to your men’s midlife crisis, it’s time to work out what to do about them.

Is it time to make some big relationship changes?

Many men who suffer from a men’s midlife crisis feel an overwhelming need to “shake things up” in their relationship and instigate some kind of big change. Here are the three main changes most men opt for:

  • Have an affair/flings/hook-ups
  • Take a break from the relationship
  • Get divorced/permanently separate

Let’s take a look at each of these three options in turn by weighing up the pros and cons of each:

Men’s midlife crisis and affairs, flings, and hook-ups

While a men’s midlife crisis represents stagnation and the “same-old-same-old”, an affair represents forward motion and exciting new options.

Rather than go on feeling trapped by the same routines, an affair offers many the opportunity to “feel alive once again”.

men's midlife crisis

The lack of excitement that’s been missing in a stale, safe, boring relationship is re-found in abundance with someone new.

Emotional and sexual needs are met by having someone to talk to and get excited about physically.

A feeling of being wanted and validated returns as you reassure yourself you’ve “still got it”. There’s a spring in your step and life feels worth living again.

There’s also the chance that your affair won’t just be about the thrill of it all and dirty weekends away, but that you might actually end up with your soul mate.

An affair can also help springboard couples into action, either by ending a doomed relationship that’s only keeping them miserable or by helping rekindle lost passion.

When it’s put like that, having an affair may not seem like such a bad idea. But is it? The truth is, having an affair,

The truth is, having an affair, fling, or cheating in general, rarely works out. Rather, they tend to add problems to an already difficult situation:

  • Stress. Will your friend remember to say you were both at a work conference last weekend? Is your lover’s perfume lingering on your shirt? Will your wife work out your phone’s pass code? Keeping an affair going means developing an eye for detail usually found in secret agents, and the stress of being possibly found out can be overwhelming.
  • Guilt. It’s obviously disrespectful to go sneaking around your partner’s back, sleeping with someone else and pretending everything’s okay when it’s not. Is this the kind of man you want to be? If you’re able to look in the mirror and feel no guilty conscious at all then maybe so. But guilt is a truly horrible emotion to carry around day in day out.
  • Non-achievement. Very often an affair means looking for a solution to an unhappy relationship in someone new, when really you should be looking within yourself. This is why many affairs end when problems arise that were there in the old relationship. Old habits reform, the sex gets boring, the conversations dry up and before you know it you’re in exactly the same situation you were in before. Very often it’s the one having an affair who needs to change, not the partner.
  • Loss. To have an affair means you have to be very open to the possibility that your partner will find out. And if they find out there’s a good chance they’ll leave you. If you’re having (or are thinking of having) an affair that’s based purely on sex, is it worth the risk, considering the fact you probably won’t have someone to fall back on? Are you ready to be alone and single as a middle-aged man?
  • Suffering. If your partner does find out, you will not only be inflicting an enormous amount of pain on them and your kids if you have any, but also on yourself. Again, you have to be willing to hurt others and potentially be disliked for a very long time. Even if you find happiness with your lover, it’s not easy to move away from the fact that it’s built on the unhappiness of others.

If you’re considering having an affair (or are already having one) the first thing to consider is: Do you want to have an affair on the side and keep your partner, or do you want to get out of the relationship for good and be with someone new (or by yourself)?

Do you want to have an affair on the side and keep your partner, or do you want to get out of the relationship for good and be with someone new (or by yourself)?

Either way, you’re better off being honest with your partner and with yourself.

men's midlife crisis

If you want to have an affair on the side, it’s best to leave your partner first, because otherwise you’re being disrespectful.

If you want to get out for good, then get out for good. In both cases, it’s a question of manning up and doing what you know is right, rather than what’s easiest.

Men’s midlife crisis and taking a break

“I think we should take a break” is probably in the top five most dreaded sentences anyone in a relationship wants to hear. But should it be?

The truth is “taking a break” doesn’t necessarily mean breaking up. Sometimes people (especially men) just need some space to get a little perspective.

Sometimes people (especially men) just need some space to get a little perspective.

Rather than looking at a break as an excuse to go crazy and sleep with as many people as you can, think of it as an opportunity to see the relationship through a fresh set of eyes.

A hiatus could give you the chance to consider questions such as: How do I feel now that she’s not around? Do I miss her or do I prefer being alone? Am I finding it hard to resist reaching out?

How do I feel now that she’s not around? Do I miss her or do I prefer being alone? Am I finding it hard to resist reaching out?

Does absence truly make the heart grow fonder, or is my life generally better now than it was before?

If you’re both determined to make things work, taking a break could be a good course of action. However, if the relationship is already nearly dead it’ll probably just delay the inevitable.

However, if the relationship is already nearly dead it’ll probably just delay the inevitable.

Before taking a break always ask yourself, Am I running away from conflicts that’ll just reappear once I return? Or do I truly want to gain some perspective and really try and make a change?

Or do I truly want to gain some perspective and really try and make a change?

Men’s midlife crisis and divorce

Laura had been married for fifteen years when her middle-aged husband, Eddie, began growing more and more distant.

Whenever she asked him if anything was wrong he’d say everything’s fine — it’s just a phase. One day, though, Eddie announced out the blue that he wanted a divorce.

men's midlife crisis

He hastily packed a suitcase, jumped into his car and drove off, never to return. Laura, as you can imagine, was left dumbstruck.

This scenario gets played out at an alarmingly frequent rate among middle-aged men who are going through a midlife crisis.

Laura was lucky in that at least Eddie had seemed distant before taking off. Some men just walk out without giving away the slightest hint they were unhappy.

This kind of impulsive, unpredictable, temperamentally based behavior is often the result of many months or years of bottled up emotions finally being released.

While the man may feel a sense of relief, like a huge weight has been lifted from his shoulders, wives and kids are left crushed.

Before deciding on any of these three actions — having an affair, taking a break or getting divorced — try to disconnect your emotions from the situation and think as clearly as possible about the consequences.

Are you sure the relationship is over, or that you’re willing to risk it permanently ending? Would trying to talk about how you’re feeling again help?

Other methods you could try to rescue your longterm relationship or marriage:

  • Freshen up the relationship. Have you tried to rekindle the feelings you had when you first met your partner? Ways of doing this include, taking a vacation in your honeymoon destination, going on “dates”, reorganizing your routines, giving more time to each other, exchanging romantic gifts, etc.
  • See things from their perspective. Try to put yourself in their shoes by having a think about all the external influences your partner has had to deal with that makes them act the way they act. If you had experienced exactly the same upbringing from the same parents, lived in the same place, had the same life experiences, would you have acted any differently?
  • Try marriage counseling. If all else fails, and you can afford it, try talking to a professional counselor about your differences. Having a neutral party hear both of your grievances could be an effective way of challenging them and putting your relationship back on track.

What’s The Alternative To Making A Big Change?

Here are a few ways you can give your life a renewed sense of purpose without making a big change that’s going to drastically affect you or those around you.

  • Change your routine. A large part of being embroiled in a men’s midlife crisis comes down to feeling trapped and stuck in a routine you can’t break out of. Figure out how you can mix things up so your life is not quite so predictable. Is there a club or society you can join once a week? Could you cycle to work instead of drive? Are there any different sorts of people you could start hanging out with?
  • Pursue your passion. What do you really enjoy doing? What activity gives you immense satisfaction in life? Apart from being unexpectedly refunded for a parking fine, what else makes you truly happy? And I’m not talking about lolling about on the sofa binge-watching TV boxsets. Whatever it is, this is what you should be doing more of. Find out what it is that would give the optimum amount of satisfaction — whether that’s an on-going pursuit, or a one-off goal — and make sure you do more of it. Every month, week or day.

men's midlife crisis

  • Write a bucket list. Come up with a list of things you want to accomplish and commit to getting them done. What do you want to create? An app. A painting. An online business. Where do you want to go? Oslo. The San Siro stadium. Abroad, alone. Who do you want to be? A father. A best friend. A semi-professional musician. What do you want to accomplish? A doctorate. A road trip across the United States. Shake Sam Rockwell’s hand. What do you want to learn? French. The biography of every British prime minister. A potted history of every country in the world. What do you want to quit? Drinking. Refined sugar. Being impatient.
  • Create a safe space. These shouldn’t be just for millennial “special snowflakes” but also for middle-aged men. Create a space where you can go to get away from it all once in a while. Take some time out to recharge your batteries in a man cave at the bottom of the garden, a friend’s empty holiday home, a log cabin, an AirBnB apartment, etc. every week, month or even year.
  • Quit Facebook. Or at least stop spending so much time on it. Social media sites such as Facebook have been scientifically proven to cause stress as they result in comparing your life everyone else’s and coming off second best. Not that this is true, but a better approach is to worry less about other people’s lives and start creating your own memories to last a lifetime.


A men’s midlife crisis tends to make guys act out in unpredictable and irrational ways, but you don’t have to fall victim to your emotions in this way.

Rather, take a deep breath and note that you’re feeling this way due to emotional and biological changes brought on by midlife.

Then take your time to properly consider the consequences of your actions and do what feels right in the long term, not just the short.


Let me know if you’ve reacted to your men’s midlife crisis by making a big dramatic work or relationship change in the comments section below. How did it go? What advice would you give a guy going through a male midlife crisis?  I also have a book – Midlife Crisis In Men: How To Overcome A Male Midlife Crisis In 12 Steps – that you can check out by clicking the book cover below. 

midlife crisis in men