I'm a 41-year-old married man with two small kids. Lately, I have been feeling empty and unfulfilled. It’s like I’m stuck in between feeling young and feeling old. Hobbies that once made me happy don’t give me any pleasure these days. I also fear my relationship with my wife is failing. We get into arguments more often than we used to. I often think of being unfaithful with my wife even though I love her and don’t want anything to happen to our relationship. I am wracked with guilt and regret. It’s like no one understands me and I don’t know what to do anymore. --- AS
Answer by Kapil Sharma, Counselling Psychologist, HUDEC-Nepal
First, I want to acknowledge that it is okay to feel this way at this stage of your life. Our happiness tracks a U shape in our lifespan. As a kid, we are the happiest at the top. As we grow older, we take on more responsibilities on our shoulders. We reach the point in the U-curve where there is a lot going on in our life and happiness is at its lowest. But as we grow and become more mature, our understanding of life becomes clearer and we learn to become happy again. So, you feeling this way, at this point of life, is normal.
If hobbies don’t give you joy anymore, you can always try something new. It’s never too late to look for what makes you happy in the present, and now is a great time to make a new breakthrough in life. If you feel like doing something spontaneous, just do it.
Also, communication is an important part of getting through a midlife crisis. Try talking to your elders, who most probably have been through the same conflicted feelings like you have. They can help you validate your emotions. Their experience and advice can be comforting. Try talking to your friends as well. Share with them how you have been feeling and listen to them, for they might be going through the same thing.
Talking about your feelings with your wife is the most important thing you can do to improve your relationship. It is likely that she is going through something similar, and just be honest with her about everything. Communicating with one's spouse can strengthen relationships. Your wife can provide you emotional support in times like this. You can also talk to your kids. Share your experiences in a way they understand, and there is no doubt it will comfort you.
Self-reflection and self-awareness are other important factors at times like these. One activity you can do is ‘life auditing’, where you create a lifeline of your life, marking important things that happened to you, decisions that brought a change in your life, your significant experiences—anything that you feel made you the person you are today. It will help you understand if there were any instances that built up to this feeling of emptiness now, and you will know what part of yourself to work on to overcome it.
If things have gotten to a point that it is affecting your eating and sleeping as well as your work, I suggest that you visit a therapist or a psychiatrist.