Posted in Being Human, Inspiration, Midlife Journey, Relationships

Solving the Male Midlife Crisis

Today’s blog is part three in a series on men and the midlife crisis.  You can read Part I here, and Part II here.  In today’s blog, I present my theory on the cause and cure for the male midlife crisis, which ironically, is the same cause and cure as solving the female midlife crisis.  🙂

male midlife crisis

The Cause

The cause of the male midlife crisis is ONE THING – the silenced voice of truth trying to be made known Ironically, this is the same cause for the female midlife crisis, but today, we’re giving men the stage.  It is also important to point out that the extent to which the midlife transition is painful, is the extent to which you have suppressed, ignored, repressed or silenced your truth. 

Contributing Factors

The reason the male truth has been silenced is two-fold:

1) Family Conditioning:  If you grew up in an environment where truth was not modeled or where your truth was silenced, ignored, criticized, condemned, or simply not allowed, then you develop coping mechanisms which continue to silence your truth.  You learned that truth was either a lie or unsafe, and you learned to ignore or suppress it.

2) The Patriarchical/hierarchical culture: While this cultural paradigm can benefit men this provides a double-edged sword.  There are certain expectations of men that arise out of this cultural paradigm (see PART II of this series for more on this) which disallow the wider expression of truth available to men.  Certain truths are either not allowed or are at the very least held as suspect within the patriarchal paradigm.  Additionally, the very roles that are held up as “male” within this paradigm disallow certain truths from even being acknowledged, let alone lived.  Most commonly, this arises in relation to work and relationship.

a) work:  The work challenge usually goes like this.  The man feels trapped in a job that he doesn’t love, possibly never really liked, but this is the job that provides for the needs of his family. The cultural paradigm tells him, “It is your job to provide for your family….and it doesn’t matter if you like it.” As a result, he feels trapped, imprisoned and probably secretly resentful (because remember, in a patriarchal culture, men are told not to feel).

b) relationship: The relationship piece looks like this.  While women have their common complaints against their male partners, men have their own list of complaints:

  • She doesn’t appreciate me
  • She doesn’t need me
  • She never wants to have sex
  • She’s always trying to control me
  • She’s always telling me what to do
  • She is always telling me how to do what I already know how to do
  • I work all day and then she wants me to help with the housework, kids, homework, etc. there is never time for me.
  • I hate my job but I can’t tell her this because we need the money
  • I feel stuck, trapped, stifled
  • I never get to do what I want to do
  • I feel like I have to beg to spend time with my friends, and then I feel punished when I do
  • She’s never satisfied, she’s always wanting more from me
  • When I get home from work, I just want to chill, and she always wants to talk, then she gets mad when I just want to be quiet

Sound familiar?  Now, before everyone gets their undies in a bundle, I will remind readers of this one VERY IMPORTANT TRUTH:

The extent to which another is unable to hear, understand, be present, open up to, spend time, be compassionate to YOU, is the extent to which they are unable to do these things for themselves. 

And this goes both ways!  If you are having trouble in your relationship – BOTH parties are to blame.  Both parties are responsible for disharmony, lack of communication, needs not being acknowledged and met, intimacy issues, inequitable distribution of labor, etc. etc. etc.  And both parties are responsible for unhappiness and dissatisfaction in your relationship.  If you want this to change, BOTH parties need to do something about it!

The Cure

The cure for the male (and female) midlife crisis is ONE THING – to be open to hearing the voice of your truth and doing something about it.  This is easier said than done, and sometimes dangerous.  Hearing the voice of your truth means first, that you have to take time (and the risk) to listen.  Secondly, it means that you need to have the courage to face what your truth has to say. Before you can get to the truth of our SOUL – the uniquely creative way in which we have been gifted to find meaning, purpose and fulfillment in our lives, you have to move through a whole lot of painful truths:

  • Unhealed wounds, including past traumas which may include sexual abuse (1 in 6 men have reported being sexually abused before the age of 18…this does not account for the abuse that has gone unreported!)
  • Ungrieved disappointments and losses
  • Unacknowledged shame
  • Unmet needs

You also have to take responsibility for all the situations in your life where you have intentionally or unintentionally harmed another human being.  In addition, in order to get at your truth, you have to silence the voice of judgment ( including the voice that is attacking you for the physical changes that accompany midlife), condemnation, criticism, blame, as well as the voice of societal “shoulds.”  In a nutshell, in order to not only survive but thrive in the midlife crisis, you have to learn how to be vulnerable.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog in which you will have an opportunity to learn some tools to assist you through the midlife transition – specifically, the tools which will help you move through fears which might prevent you from listening to and heeding the voice of your truth.

Lauri Lumby mentors men and women in their movement through the midlife transition.  To set up a face-to-face, Skype or phone session, call (920) 230-1313 or email lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com.

Posted in Being Human, Midlife Journey, Relationships

In Celebration of Men – and the midlife journey

Surviving Midlife is not just a concern for women, it is one for men as well.  As a white, heterosexual, female, I have hesitated to speak to the male journey as I am admittedly not one of them.  Instead, I have focused my blog on the issues women face during midlife.  But….women are not the only ones who suffer.  So….begging your forgiveness from the beginning….I am going to attempt to share what I have seen as important in the male journey through midlife.  All you male readers out there….PLEASE FEEL FREE to share your own comments and experience, because I’m just a girl who only sees it from the outside looking in.  🙂  In today’s blog, I want to celebrate the unique gifts of men.  Tomorrow, I will tend to some of the specific challenges men may face during midlife.

tristan-and-isolde-1912-john-duncan-1866-1945-scottish-symbolist-painter-tuttart-9

Patriarchal/Hierarchical Enculturation

To begin, I believe that one of the greatest disservices that has been done to human beings…..including men….is the enculturation of our patriarchal, hierarchical society.  While there are benefits for men in this current cultural paradigm, it provides a double-edged sword.  In a patriarchal, hierarchical society, certain expectations are put forth for men – to be providers, protectors, in charge, strong, manly, virile, sexually potent, to have all the answers, to be the best at whatever they do and to be more successful than those around them.  In a patriarchal, hierarchical society, men are told they cannot be sensitive, appreciate the arts, be sad, grieve, or feel.  If a man shows emotion he is often considered weak and if he shows sensitivity, it is assumed he is gay.  These are unfair assumptions to make regarding the male species who in fact need to have the freedom to be all these things in order to be happy, healthy and whole.

Women’s Lib and the Gifts of Men

The other thing that has happened, is that women’s lib, while doing amazing things for the rights and empowerment of women, have left men wondering about their role in the world.  Ultimately, I believe that we are in the midst of a HUGE societal shift in our definitions of gender roles and are moving beyond patriarchy and hierarchy into something that has yet to be revealed.  As such, we are currently living in the tension between what we have known and what we do not yet know.  As such, men (and women) currently spend much of their time being confused.   Who are we and how are we supposed to relate to each other?  One of the things we as “liberated” women are invited to do in this time of transition is to stop demonizing men and begin to recognize the inherent gifts and drives of men and how these gifts can serve as a source of support, not imprisonment.  Watching my 11 year younger brother grow up, reading the work of Dr, Ali Binazir, raising a son, and having the fantastic gift of close male friendships, have given me some insights into the unique and special gifts of men that I think we, as women, sometimes tend to forget.  These gifts include, but are not limited to:

  • The drive to be provider and protector.  To keep the people they love safe and to provide for their wellbeing
  • The need for competition
  • A deep sensitivity and warmth
  • A great curiosity and sense of adventure – always wanting to explore and try new things
  • The need for accomplishment
  • The need to be silly and ridiculous
  • The need to be able to do it – to confront a challenge and successfully conquer it
  • The need to be needed
  • The need to be recognized for what they are accomplishing
  • The powerful drive and need for sexual expression  – which for many is the only way they are safely (in our culture) able to experience intimacy, tenderness, and vulnerability

While women may certainly possess some of these gifts, it has been my experience that men possess these gifts in a unique and special way.  I have also observed, that when we, as women, set down our shields and put away our medieval flails, these unique gifts of men are here, not only for their enjoyment, but also for our benefit.  For example, there is nothing more enjoyable to me than to watch my son giggle and laugh at the latest, greatest, most ridiculous, gross-out video he discovered on YouTube.  There is nothing more satisfying than watching a man accomplish a task that I am either unable or unwilling to do for myself (like changing a tire or catching a bat that found its way into my house.).  Yes, I could certainly do these things for myself if I wanted, but I don’t.  And, by asking for help, I have the opportunity to allow myself to be vulnerable, and I get to observe the satisfaction a man experiences in helping another person. And finally, And there is nothing better than pure and simple chivalry – an open door, helping us on with our coat, assisting with carrying in the groceries.  Chivalry, by the way, was invented by men….not women.  Let’s not forget that!

Men are not the enemy

At the end of the day, men are not the enemy.  Instead, men have the potential to be terrific friends, generous and giving lovers, nurturing and supportive partners, fantastic providers and protectors and they have the ability to help us maintain our own sense of curiosity and adventure.  As women, if our male partners are not living up to these ideals, they are not always the ones to blame (more on that tomorrow), and it would serve our so-called battle of the sexes to exercise a little empathy and compassion as we all move through this treacherous time of gender role transition.  If we can pause for a bit and set down our weapons, we might just find that we all end up with happier, healthier, more loving and mutually supportive relationships.

Posted in Boundaries, codependency, Midlife Journey, Relationships

Dark Night of the Relationship – Undoing Co-Dependency

The purpose of the midlife and menopause journey is to birth our Soul – the uniquely creative way in which we have been gifted to find meaning, purpose and fulfillment and through which we are called to contribute to the betterment of our world.  In the process of birthing our Soul, we are invited to heal and sometimes release any inner, as well as outer obstacles to enjoying the life of Soul.  Our intimate relationships are not exempt from this invitation.  It is not a coincidence that the Dark Night of the Relationship often surfaces during midlife and even becomes the catalyst through which real transformation can begin to take place. In today’s blog, we explore the co-dependency that needs to be unraveled and undone.

dark night of the relationship

Damn, You Don’t Complete Me!

As I have mentioned before, many relationships entered into in our youth are established upon the illusion that the other person will complete us.  We look to the other to fill the emptiness and longing we feel inside.  Eventually, we realize that the other person is not completing us as disappointment and resentment rush in.   Now we have entered the dark night of the relationship.  We then begin to harbor blame, resentment and hatred against the other person for not being the fantasy we created in our mind.  It is this resentment that will eventually destroy our relationships unless we do something about it.

The Only Person Who Can Complete You is YOU!

Doing something about the resentment, many discover all the ways in which they have been socialized to seek outside of themselves for love and completion, along with all the ways in which they believe that love is something that has to be earned or that can be denied them.  What often arises out of these false perceptions is co-dependency.   If you are the one who has given away your power, hoping in return for completion and love, the invitation is to take your power back.  This means identifying all the ways in which you have remained silent, ignored or suppressed your needs or your truth, stayed in the background, forsaken your needs and tended to the needs of others at the expense of your own needs.

Welcome Perimenopause and Menopause

For women, compounding, hastening and perhaps even catalyzing this invitation to tend to ones own needs is the advent of menopause.  When women become aware (consciously or unconsciously) that their time for childbearing has come to an end, they begin to see their lives through a dramatically different lens.  During the vulnerable years of childbearing, and while the children are still tender, vulnerable little beings, a veil stands between a woman’s sight and truth.  All of the woman’s energy and attention is directed at the survival of the children.  Once the children become viable, and the woman knows she is done bearing children, the veil collapses.  Every personal need, creative drive, personal desire, wish, hope and dream that was placed on the shelf for the sake of the needs of the children and family come tumbling down.  And now, the woman’s inner drive is directed toward the rediscovery of her own truth, her own needs and the discovery of the vocation which will provide her fulfillment in the second half of her life.  Wife/Mom suddenly becomes a different person and the husband/children are left to wonder, “What the heck just happened?”  This is often when the threads of co-dependency begin to unravel and the rules of the household begin to change.  (please note that men have their own version of this midlife transition – as I understand it, it is a departure from the role of provider to the role of enjoyer…sadly our culture and our current expectations of gender roles does not do a good job of supporting this transition either!)

Undoing Co-Dependency

Whether it is the man or the woman who has been the partner bargaining their own needs for the illusion of completion and love, the process is the same.  Co-dependent behaviors are identified, and we begin the process of changing how we act and respond in our relationships.  We begin by identifying our own truth, our own needs, our own dreams, hopes and desires.  Then we begin to exercise these truths.  We name and claim our needs to those around us.  We set boundaries around our need for “ME” time.  We learn to say no to those things not supportive of our needs and we begin to make time for those things that are life-giving for us.  We stop rushing to the side of those around us every time they seem to be in distress, and we empower them to learn how to tend to their own needs.  We stop doing for others what they are capable of doing for themselves.

A Rude Awakening

For those who have been trained by our co-dependency to expect us to take care of them or to forsake our own needs for theirs, this is a time of RUDE AWAKENING!  We have trained our loved ones well, and now we are changing the rules.  The first response is often bewilderment which then turns into rebellion and often outright war!  “What do you mean you’re not going to make my breakfast?”  “But you’ve always picked out my clothes for me.”  “What good are art classes at your age?”  “You want to go back to school….for what!?”  “Why would you want time for yourself…don’t you love us?”  For those who have been trained to forsake their own needs for the needs of those they love, this can be a difficult transition as the demons of guilt whisper, and sometimes scream in our ears, “You are abandoning your family….they need you….this is your job…..”  In response to this, I will share with you a mantra that was once given to me by a great teacher:

The most loving thing you can do for those you love is to do what is most loving for yourself.

Every time you claim your own need, every time you set boundaries around your own time, every time you stop doing something for someone that they are capable of doing for themselves, you are teaching them how NOT to be co-dependent.  You are modeling for them healthy, interdependent behavior. And you are empowering them to be GROWN UPS!

Lauri Lumby mentors individuals and couples in their journey of birthing their Soul, which includes navigating the difficult transition of the dark night of the relationship.  To set up your own one-on-one session, call (920) 230-1313 or email lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com.

Posted in Midlife Journey, Relationships

Midlife and Dark Night of the Relationship – Part 3

Part 3 of a series on the Dark Night of the Relationship, what it looks like, why it often shows up during midlife, and some resources to support you in moving through this critical stage of your intimate relationship.  Read Part 2 HERE   and Part 1 HERE.  Today I will share my own experience of the Dark Night.

dark night of the relationship

Causes of the Dark Night

To begin, I want to warn the reader that the Dark Night of the Relationship does not always end in a happier, healthier, reconciled relationship.  For many who identify this stage in their relationship, seek help and do the difficult work, the end result (and the hoped for result) may be a healthier, happier, loving, and mutually supportive relationship – renegotiated to meet the newly identified and claimed needs of both parties.  For those who do not identify this stage and do not seek support, the end result will either be divorce or silent misery.  For others who identify this stage and seek help and support, the most life-giving thing for all involved may be a termination of the relationship, this proved to be the case for me.

How we got there

I want to preface this sharing by saying there are things about my marriage that I will not share here.  I will also not throw my ex under the bus by presuming to know his side of the story.  As such, I can only speak from my own perspective and out of my own particular viewpoint.  That being said, hindsight is 20/20.  I can look back now, through the eyes of wisdom and experience and identify two primary issues that, from the beginning, doomed the outcome of our marriage.

1) I believe that both myself and my (now ex) husband were looking for someone to complete us.  As I mention in Part 1 of this series – relationships are doomed when established on this foundation.  For us, a clear pattern of co-dependency was established and when I began to seek help for these behaviors and began to retrieve the strands of my co-dependent behaviors, the shaky foundation upon which our marriage was built began to collapse.

2) We had nothing in common.  Yes, we shared a few similar core values and have similar philosophies of parenting (which we still do together quite well), but our day to day interests and passions could not have been more different.    Over time, and with some work and parenting decisions that were made, we ended up living two completely separate lives.  There was nothing shared, other than our children, to tie us to each other.  Further complicating this was the fact that we were so incompatible in certain areas that this tended to overshadow any connections that might have been able to be established.

Naming my part

With the co-dependency issues and lack of common interests, the foundation of our marriage was already on shaky ground.  Compounding this were the following issues that I brought into the marriage that exerted their influence, thereby undermining the potential success of our marriage (Of course, I was not alone in contributing to the end of our marriage, but I can only take responsibility for my part.):

  • Unhealed wounds from childhood
  • Unresolved issues of co-dependency
  • Not knowing how to name and claim my needs, set healthy boundaries
  • Inadequate tools for managing grief, anger, disappointment, loss, needs not being met
  • Inadequate tools for managing anxiety, stress, fear, loneliness
  • Issues of low self-esteem

Seeking Support

When the bottom began to fall out on a relationship that didn’t have much of a bottom to begin with, I sought help.  Through 10 years of therapy, spiritual direction and intense personal development, the final outcome was arrived at.  The horse that was our marriage was dead (and I accept my part in this death) and there was truly no way of renegotiating a relationship that could be healthy, let alone mutually loving and supportive, so we decided that divorce would be the most life-giving decision for both of us, and our children.

Divorce Sucks!

Yes, divorce sucks, and the journey has not been an easy one.  In fact, I do not wish divorce on anyone.  But, what I can say is that after three years of moving through this process – from decision to now, I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.  Through on-going support and personal work, I feel more content, more whole, more confident in naming and claiming my needs, setting healthy boundaries, etc.  I have terrific tools for dealing with loss, disappointment, anxiety, sadness, fear and feelings of loneliness.  I know who I am and I know what I want.  And, I honestly believe our children are happier and healthier.  Yes they (we) grieved, and things aren’t always easy, but our children will never doubt that they are loved and cared for and that they will be supported in getting their needs met.

Dark Night Work

The moral of the story is that Dark Night work requires us to identify and transform the behaviors, attitudes, unhealed wounds that we brought into the relationship so that we are made whole and complete.  Only then can we meet at the negotiating table with our significant other (who has presumably also done their work) and determine the future course of the relationship.  For those who are able to negotiate their differences, find common ground and a shared desire to be together, the end result is a relationship better than what you ever could have imagined for yourself.  For those who choose to renegotiate through divorce, the promise is a healthier and happier self and tools through which they might be able to find mutual love, support and interdependence with another.  For those who don’t do the work, the outcome is continued unhappiness and pain.

Lauri Lumby is working with Ted Balser to bring Dark Night of the Relationship support to couples.  To learn more call Lauri at (920) 230-1313 or email lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com.

Posted in Midlife Journey, Relationships

Midlife and the Dark Night of the Relationship – Part 1

The purpose of the midlife and menopause journey is to birth our Soul – the uniquely creative way in which we have been gifted to find meaning, purpose and fulfillment and through which we are called to contribute to the betterment of our world.  In the process of birthing our Soul, we are invited to heal and sometime release any inner, as well as outer obstacles to enjoying the life of Soul.  Our intimate relationships are not exempt from this invitation.  It is not a coincidence that the Dark Night of the Relationship often surfaces during midlife and even becomes the catalyst through which real transformation can begin to take place.  For the next few days, we will be exploring the Dark Night of the Relationship, its signs, symptoms and characteristics and where to get help during this critical stage of transition.  Click HERE to learn more about Dark Night couples’ mentoring.

dark night of the relationship

Dark Night of the Relationship

The Dark Night of the Relationship is a term that I created to describe the dramatic realization of relationship issues that often surfaces during midlife.  The Dark Night of the Relationship can take on many qualities and characteristics, and all point to a significant turning point in a relationship, of which the end result, for many, is divorce.  While there are many contributing factors to the Dark Night of the Relationship, including years of issues ignored and swept under the rug, in my experience, there is one core cause for marriages arriving at this juncture in their development.

You Complete Me!

In my opinion, the single worst and most destructive movie line in history is, “You complete me,” from Jerry MacGuire.  When we enter into a relationship hoping for the other person to fill the emptiness in our soul or to provide us with something that we feel that we are missing, the relationship is immediately doomed…or at the very least, to suffer.  When we believe it is the other person’s job to complete us, or visa versa, we are entering into a contract of co-dependency, and insuring disappointment, frustration and eventually failure.  There is nothing and no one outside of us that can provide for us what we are missing within ourselves.  If we are lacking courage, strength, creative expression, excitement, fun, peace, joy, hope, balance, fulfillment, meaning or purpose, and are expecting the other person to provide that for us, or at least to provide the opportunity for us to live vicariously through them, our relationship is doomed.  Soon, we will be disappointed, angry and resentful toward the other for not giving us what we need, because ultimately, no matter what they do or how they do it, even if they possess these qualities, they cannot provide them for us.  We long for the things we do not have within ourselves, because our Soul has ignited the flame of longing so that we would seek, discover and cultivate these qualities within ourselves. And the Soul knows the difference between authentic inner strength, for example, and counterfeit strength or strength we are trying to “get” from someone else.  So if our relationships are founded on the hope that the other person will complete us (as most relationships of our youth are), then we can pretty much expect the Dark Night to rear its ugly head – at least by the time we are forty, if not sooner.

How have your relationships been reflective of the hope for the other to complete you?

Lauri Lumby collaborates with Ted Balser to provide Dark Night of the Relationship mentoring and support for couples.  Contact Lauri at (920) 230-1313 or email lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com to learn more. 

Posted in Relationships

You Don’t Complete Me

Relationships.  Co-Dependency.  Conflict in Relationship.  Unfulfilled Dreams.  Handsome Prince.  Damsel in Distress.  Why looking for something outside us to fill our own emptiness never works out.

angrycoupleclipart

Envy

In Authentic Freedom – Claiming a Life of Contentment and Joy, I reveal envy as the fifth deadly compulsion and define envy as the actions that come out of our fear that we are not loved – that love has to be earned and that love can be withheld or taken away.  On an even more general level, envy is looking outside of ourselves for the person who will fill the emptiness we feel inside.  Until we have done some serious self-awareness and healing work, most of our intimate relationships are born out of this envy.

What Drew Me To Him/Her…

Relationships born out of envy start out like this:  What drew me to him was his confidence, his creativity, her acceptance, her understanding, his stability, his drive, her advocacy, her strength.  While these are all nobel qualities, quite often, what draws us to another are the qualities that we wish we had within ourselves, the qualities that we feel we are lacking in some way.  While this, in and of itself, is not a bad thing,  unless we are doing the work to cultivate these “missing” qualities within ourselves, that which initially led us to love will eventually lead us to hell.

Enter the Dark Night

When we are drawn to someone because of qualities that we feel we are lacking within ourselves, the secret hope is that in connecting with that person, we will “get” some of their confidence, kindness, creativity, strength, stability, tenderness, etc. etc. etc.  The problem, however, is that we cannot “get” these qualities from another person…we can only nurture and cultivate them within ourselves.  Until we know this, however, we are compelled to seek this “getting” from the other.  This seeking to “get” is the path to hell.  After the infatuation wears off and reality sets in, we realize that the person we are with is human, flawed, imperfect, just like we are AND, no matter how hard we try, THEY are not making us feel confident, secure, creative, etc.  Because we cannot get these qualities from the other, we eventually find ourselves feeling unfulfilled, frustrated, angry, impatient, depressed.  Most often, we then project this unfulfilled inner state on to our partner and BLAME them for making us feel like crap.  It’s their fault that we are unhappy, unfulfilled, weak, sorrowful, depressed, anxious, shy, etc. etc. etc.  As we are blaming them for our unfulfilled inner state, we then start engaging in all sorts of relationship killers:  criticism, complaining, contempt, resentment, withdrawal, defensiveness, etc.  Now we are DEEP into the Dark Night of the Relationship.

Completing Ourselves

The Dark Night of the Relationship occurs when reality collides with the illusion that the person “out there” is going to complete us…or make us feel whole.  The Dark Night is a painful and challenging time because by the time we reach this place, a mountain of resentment, hurt, even betrayal has taken place.  When faced with the Dark Night, many couples are tempted to cut and run.  But for those who are courageous, bold and daring, there are miraculous treasures in moving THROUGH the Dark Night instead of running from it.  It is in moving through the Dark Night that the real work begins.  Here, we stop blaming the other for not being who we thought them to be and start doing the work of completing ourselves, and they in return.  Only when we are on the other side, having taken responsibility for our own inner sense of lack; healed our unhealed wounds; identified and cultivated our gifts and our passions; come to know ourselves and what we really want in a relationship; found wholeness within; and forgiven our partners and ourselves; can we enter into a relationship whole and without need.  Now we invite our partner to join us because we WANT them in our lives, not because we NEED them.

For assistance navigating the Dark Night of your Relationship, contact Lauri at (920) 230-1313 or lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com

Lauri Lumby

http://yourspiritualtruth.com