Dr. Adam Sheck examines the ways in which the midlife period for men is often a trap that feeds into the need to feel vital and powerful.
The idea of the midlife crisis is certainly something that we men face at some point in our lives, usually in our forties or fifties.
As we enter and begin to face the second half of our lives, we all have the opportunity to face our mortality and this brings up existential issues. What have I accomplished in my life? What do I have yet to accomplish? What might I never accomplish? What will I leave behind? What kind of person have I been and what kind of person do I want to be? Does my life have meaning?
Some men act out on the way to facing these questions—the stereotypes of men buying the red convertible, having affairs, getting involved with younger women, perhaps all of the above. And some older men might even choose to marry their yoga teacher!
Now I’ve never met Alec Baldwin or his lovely yoga teacher bride and I truly have no judgments about his nuptials. I’m just using this as an example to get the attention of my readers (and maybe a tiny bit of search engine optimisation). Nor am I saying that he is having a midlife crisis, though this type of behavior may reflect that in some men. Mr. Baldwin is intelligent (love his blogging), handsome, talented, successful and obviously has had his choice of many women. Being with this woman seems to be for the best, at least evidenced by his latest fit and healthy look.
Anyway, that is the last I will say about Mr. Alec Baldwin, so let the bait and switch begin…and let’s get back to the topic of midlife crisis and the question of the day:
“Why are older men attracted to young women?”
Often, it’s about what might be called the rejuvenation mystery.
The rejuvenation mystery is about recapturing lost youth, exuberance, energy and passion. In Roman times and probably earlier there was a belief that if an older person slept next to an infant, that person would somehow absorb youthful energies and rejuvenate.
More popular in our modern era is the idea of the older man/younger woman and now the cougar strategy of the older woman/younger man. Why is this so common? I would suggest that it is about the rejuvenation mystery seeking out its resolution.
Yes, for some, this is simply a preference. Yet for many, it’s an attempt to recapture and reignite those youthful energies, especially as we feel ourselves approaching old age.
The best advice I ever received about this came from my teacher, Brugh Joy (Joy’s Way, An Introduction to the Potentials for Healing). My interpretation of his wisdom is to enjoy dancing and flowing in those rejuvenating energies, yet don’t confuse them for something more than they are or something that they are not.
When I arrived at my midlife crisis in my early forties, I was enchanted by a substantially younger woman. Our time together felt like magic. I felt alive, exuberant and filled with the romantic high of falling in love.
Unfortunately, I was so full of myself that I also began another relationship, one with a yoga teacher friend. I was receiving a great deal from from both relationships, not to mention the excitement of juggling them. My yoga friend knew about the younger woman but the younger woman did not know about the yoga teacher—so there was an extra helping of drama to keep things even more exciting.
I was smart enough to realize I was playing with fire and heading for disaster. Yet I was also so inflated and high on the energies that I just didn’t care. I imagine this experience might be similar to the manic episodes some of my bipolar patients have experienced.
Needless to say it ultimately blew up. My heart was broken over the younger woman, my yoga teacher friend was deeply hurt by me and all of this tainted the next relationship I eventually entered. Iexperienced the lesson my teacher, Brugh, had shared with me years earlier. I confused my experience of the rejuvenation mystery with love and the potential for relationship. For this, I paid a huge cost.
If I had been a little more aware, a little more enlightened, I could have perhaps simply enjoyed the company of this ripe younger woman for what it was. We each had something to offer each other and if I could have accepted her gifts without projecting into the future, it might have been different. If I was able to stay centered and not create a romantic fantasy, I wouldn’t have set myself up for such heartache.
Yes, our internal psychodynamics played into it. My need to feel vital and powerful and perhaps her need for a loving, nurturing, successful father figure, kept it all in motion past the expiration date of the lesson. If I was more present and grounded, I would have believed her early on when she asserted that everything ends.
What I wanted was to create with her a world of love, lust and intensity. What I needed was to remember who I was, experience my vitality, creativity, passion and aliveness, be grateful to her for this precious gift, integrate it and move forward in my life. Alas, letting go—especially with that strong surge of intense neurotransmitters and hormones flooding my body was not something I could do.
The lesson I learned has helped me to support many men as they enter this period of their lives. Some have learned from my story and let the energies burn without the need to act them out and inflict pain upon themselves and their loved ones. Some have been more stubborn, as I was, and needed to learn a tougher, although perhaps more lasting, lesson.
We are all less than perfect. On the good days, I aspire to walk the talk. There are also days I am woefully human and fallible. My path and my lessons are what help me to connect compassionately and empathically with the people I work with. I am no better and no worse.
My final answer on the question, “Should you marry your much younger yoga teacher?” If you love that person and want to build a life with together, absolutely! If it’s in order to feel younger and better about yourself, absolutely not.
Originally appeared at Elephant Journal
About Dr. Adam Sheck
Dr. Adam Sheck, the Passion Doctor, helps couples and singles bring back the passion into their lives and into their relationships. He is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles, is certified in Imago Relationship Therapy and has practiced JUST enough Tantra to be dangerous. He blogs about relationships at thepassiondoctor.com and about issues facing men in the second half of life at www.menafterfifty.com. You can also find him on Facebook.