Can we talk about women in midlife crisis for minute? We joke about buying sports cars and making huge changes in lifestyle, but what is actually going on?
The answer is we don’t know. Beginning at about age 40, women start experiencing a whole new set of problems that nobody has EVER discussed with us — issues like accepting your menopausal body, dealing with aging parents, or finding purpose in life again. Frankly, these are all normal issues that aging women face. But because of our societal obsession with keeping women “eternally young”, we find ourselves facing middle age and our next chapter with very little idea of what to expect…
Which can lead many of us into a midlife crisis if we don’t take action.
Let’s take a look at a few of the midlife struggles women face and shine a light on issues most people won’t talk about openly. There is no need for any of these to become a full-blown “crisis” — so we’re here to foster a little transparency and open conversation!
Your changing body & self-worth
Our aging bodies spring on us without warning and without any clear catalyst other than simply age. So why isn’t anyone talking about the massive shifts in our bodies as we age?
In midlife, our bodies are suddenly and surprisingly out of our control. And even if we take care of ourselves, the aging process can lead to wrinkles, sagging skin, grey hair, weight gain, lost muscle mass, and even a decline in bone density.
In addition to the physical changes, many women also struggle with body image issues. They may feel like they are not as attractive as they used to be and that their bodies are no longer “perfect.”
Newsflash: every woman goes through these changes. You are not alone. You do not have to feel like you’re in a tailspin, hurtling into midlife crisis because you don’t have the same control over your body you once did.
Menopause, for example, is a perfectly natural process that all women go through, just like menstruation was when we were younger. The difference is no one talks about it. It’s as if women should simply stay “young” forever, and pretending like menopause doesn’t happen helps perpetuate the societal myth. But what if we DO talk about it?
Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, loss of memory, weight gain, loss of elasticity in our skin, and more…. these changes are normal and a sign of a well-lived life! For the problematic symptoms there are lots of solutions for managing them, and some women even find that menopause is actually a time of renewed energy and vitality.
Instead of dwelling on what we’ve lost, let’s focus on what we still have: strength, experience, and wisdom. Our changes may not be welcome at first, but they can ultimately lead to a richer and more fulfilling life. So let’s embrace our changing bodies and reclaim our power.
Avoid a Physical Midlife Crisis
- Talk to your doctor about any changes you are experiencing.
- Accept that these changes are natural and that they do not mean you are any less beautiful.
- Focus on health rather than appearance. Make sure you are eating a nutritious diet and getting enough exercise. These things will do wonders for your body and your self-esteem.
- Remember that your value as a person is not based on your looks.
- Find clothing that fits well and makes you feel good about yourself. The reason there are so many choices out there is that we all have unique shapes and sizes.
- And finally, don’t be afraid to show your body some love. Invest in pampering yourself through massages, a manicure, or a fresh new haircut that makes you feel great!
Changes in your sex life
It’s no secret that women’s sex lives tend to change as they get older, but we sure as hell aren’t talking about it. As we age, we go through drastic changes that affect our sexual desire and function.
For example, we may experience a total loss of libido during menopause. This can be due to a variety of factors — hormonal changes, stress, and fatigue. In addition, those same changes in hormones can lead to vaginal dryness, which can make sex extremely painful.
On the flip side, we may lose our life partner to divorce or death, and we suddenly find ourselves with enormous unmet needs. Some menopausal women stop worrying so much about being perfect in bed, and their sex drive suddenly kicks into high gear. While this may seem like a great shift, consider that your aging partner may also be struggling in their own ways… there is a reason Viagra and Cialis are so successful!
The difference in sex drive, desire, and frequency can cause a ton of friction (ahem) between couples. Where one partner is self-conscious and struggling, the other is anticipating and frustrated because they have unmet needs.
You easily can see how our relationships may begin to suffer, and our own satisfaction and wellness may decline, leading to a significant sexual and relational midlife crisis. After all, sex is a basic human need, and it is critical to our wellness that we keep our reproductive system and our intimacy healthy!
Avoid a Sexual Midlife Crisis
- Discomfort or pain? Many women find that using lubricants can help reduce the pain. Exercise caution — look for water-based, all natural lubricants that aren’t full of chemicals. In addition, regular exercise can help to maintain vaginal elasticity and lubrication.
- Overactive libido or no partner? Get honest about your needs and make a plan. If necessary, make very good friends with your favorite vibrator. There is no shame in meeting your own needs — do not let society or your religion negate what your body is clearly communicating to you.
- No sex drive? Try these tips to stay engaged with your partner so you don’t lose that all-important intimacy:
- Talk about your needs and desires openly. Be honest about changes in your body, and work together to find a mutual solution.
- Make time for physical affection and intimacy, even if you’re not interested in sex. Couch snuggling counts! Remember that intimacy is always a relationship priority.
- Be present when you are together, and put away distractions like phones and laptops.
- Find new ways to connect through shared interests or spending time together.
- Seek professional help if you’re struggling to communicate or connect with your partner.
It is important to remember that there are many ways to keep your sex life satisfying. Don’t be afraid to experiment. This is your sign that it’s time to try new things! There are many different types of sexual activity, and you might be surprised by what you like.
Empty Nest Syndrome & Identity Confusion
Many of us go through our lives without ever really stopping to think about who we are. We focus on our roles as wives, mothers, and employees, and we define ourselves by our relationships and our work.
But what happens when those roles change? When the children grow up and leave home or when you retire from your job? Suddenly, you may find yourself at a loss, feeling like you no longer know who you are.
You feel like you’re losing your sense of self. You might feel like you’re not as interesting or exciting as you used to be. All of this begins a spiral of confusion and potential midlife crisis if we don’t take deliberate action to navigate the transition.
As we face the empty nest and the end of our careers, it’s normal to feel some identity confusion. But instead of being defined by our roles and heading into a midlife crisis, we can begin the fun process of defining ourselves by our interests, our values, and our goals. We can create new fulfilling experiences that give us a sense of purpose and satisfaction. In short, we can reinvent ourselves.
Self-Discovery & Personal Reinvention
The journey to finding your identity can be a long and winding one. Often, it is not until midlife that you finally feel comfortable being your authentic self.
For many of us, the process of discovering who we are can be simultaneously scary and liberating — scary because it can involve letting go of who we thought we were supposed to be, and liberating because it allows us to embrace our true selves. The process is often accompanied by a deep sense of introspection and self-reflection.
Ultimately, though, personal rediscovery is worth the work, because it leads to a more authentic and fulfilling life. It can certainly be easier to conform to the expectations of others than it is to blaze your own trail. But the women who are able to do so are the ones who end up living the most rewarding lives.
Avoid an Identity Midlife Crisis
- Enlist the help of a personal coach to identify your fears around midlife and what might be holding you back from living a more fulfilling life
- Spend time doing things that make you feel good
- Surround yourself with people who support and understand you
- Make a list of things you’ve always wanted to do, and start working towards them. Take a dance class, learn a new language, volunteer, plan to travel, or pick up a new hobby. Challenging yourself will help you feel more alive and engaged with the world.
- Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Getting Some Help with Your Own Struggles
As we age, we often face new challenges and changes in our lives, and some of us even get precariously close to having a midlife crisis. This can be a an incredibly stressful time, but there are ways to make the transition easier. Life coaching is one way that women in midlife can find support and guidance.
A life coach can help you identify your goals and create a plan to achieve them. They can provide support and encouragement as you make changes in your life. They can also help you manage stress, discuss your dream life, and deal with navigating difficult struggles like the ones above.
It is important to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources and programs available to help you face these issues head-on, and Live Outrageously is a sisterhood and community where you can share your experiences with other women who understand what you are going through.
If you’re facing challenges that feel like the beginnings of a midlife crisis, consider connecting with me to talk about how coaching might help. You can schedule a no-obligation, (super casual) discovery call with me to see if we are a good client-coach fit and to even share a little about what you might be facing in your own life.
I am confident we can help you navigate this time of transition and make it a positive experience full of promise and excitement about the next chapter!