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Ask Dr. Norman Brown Your Own Question

Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1168
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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How to cope with my husbands midlife crisis?

Customer Question

How to cope with my husbands midlife crisis?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.
Dr. Norman Brown :

I'm happy to help you deal with your husband's midlife crisis and your reaction to it. But please tell me what he has been doing and not doing that is causing you problems. How long have you been married? If you have children, how old are they and where are they in their stages of personality development (like schools, careers and love relationships outside of the family)? How has your husband changed and over how many years? Do you think he is dealing with career aspirations, physical decline, his most cherished goals in life, his relationships, or more than one of these? What goals and desires of yours does his present changing threaten? Do you have goals of your own that don't completely depend on his actions to pursue?

Customer:

He has announced he wants out of the 18 yr marriage..that he loves me but isn't in love with me. I've found out he had a one night stand when he was out of the country. He was adopted at birth and now has a good relationship with the birth mother that he wants to move and make a new life with them (she lives in another country) he also lost his grandmother who he was very close too a few months back and didn't grieve for. I've only saw him cry once in 24 years. We've no children .. I've didn't work either.

Customer:

Sorry that is meant to say IVF didn't work for us

Customer:

He has just changed in the last 6 weeks .. One week after the one night stand

Dr. Norman Brown :

OK. He's experiencing new love feelings (which "put to flight old love" a well known phenomenon since the Middle Ages), and he's destabilized by new love for his birth mother, that's also replacing his mother-feelings for his grandmother. So you are facing a "grass-is greener" situation in his feelings, which he's completely naive about, like most men. Did you ever find out if the infertility issue is stronger for his sperm or your eggs?

Dr. Norman Brown :

I asked if you have any life goals independent of his, and you haven't mentioned anything beyond family issues for either of you, except that you haven't worked. Most decent couples therapists would know that "in love" feelings are aroused only when some new development is happening in your life, like the new green shoots on plants in the Spring. So it can happen between couples, but mainly when one of them changes--typically by growing a new part of him- or herself outside of the relationship (like his new family of origin)--and they have to get to know and love each other all over again.

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.

Our chat has ended, but we've just begun to discuss your situation, and we have a week at least. How long do YOU have before he flies away to try to start his life over? Does he have life goals and ultimate values that motivate him? Or has he been a little lost as an adopted son without a strong bonding with his adoptive parents? If his sperm is defective, then he's going to have the same fertility problem with any other woman.

Your psychological insight is working well for you. But it may be pretty hard to slow down his departure except by hiring a solicitor to get the best divorce settlement you can, since you haven't developed a financial basis for your own support. His new loves are classic for potentially "flash in the pan" brief distractions--after which his long attachment to you may well reassert itself (see "An Unmarried Woman" movie).

I have a meditation to go to, so I'll check back in 3 or 4 hours. I'm nowhere near finished offering advice, so please write about what you have thought about on your end.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you yes I can see all this making sense. He deeply regrets the one night stand and is full of guilt as this is so out of character of him. He hasn't any plans made yet to leave the country .. He is attending a holistic therapist and she told him to do nothing for 6 months. I'm learning to drive at the minute. we work a lot together as we have our own business. He loves boxing and has his own club but he's willing to give all that up. Yes he had no attachment with the adopted parents since he left home at 17. IVF failed then we had 1 attempt at ICSI had 2 eggs but lost them before the pregnancy Test. I have endometroisis (mild) but they put it down to unexplained infertility. We are still in the same house .. I don't know if it is the guilt that he wants out if the marriage as he says he couldn't make love to me after what he has done and tells me he loves me like a friend not a wife. Everyone we know is so shocked that he wants out of the marriage including his birth mother as we do get on well but obviously not everyone knows about the one night stand.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

He told me the "spark" is now missing from the relationship and he doesn't think think he will ever get that back.

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.
dear *****, That's a naive failure to understand that love comes and goes, and renewals are possible if one doesn't take the easy way out of believing that a brand new love--that always looks much brighter than an old love--will stay brighter, and an old love will never blaze up again. If I were you I'd get him to go to a couples therapist with you--the best would be a registered Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist, because they work to discover where the emotional patterns of the relationship have gone off track by focusing on emotions primarily. I don't think he could hide very long that his excitement for his birth mother and his new hope from the romantic encounter (probably in his birth mother's country) are currently eclipsing his feelings for you. And he doesn't WANT to admit that these new fires are mostly anticipation and he's seeking a geographic cure--perhaps also to his grief and infertility.
You'll need a very good therapist to win his trust and hold his attention to past, present and future, when he's likely to be trying to dodge any shame&guilt for dumping you because of an affair by relying on love as magic. I'm sure there are EFCT practitioners in UK, and they'll be listed online. I don't know if you have any legal means of holding him back; and with no children involved, he's only betraying you--and he's obviously trying to get you to buy it that his "spark" has gone out, when he's just turned on to newer fireworks at his biomom's and his potential new romance. If a therapist can disentangle his biomom enthusiasm from his new-romantic-hope, he could realize it's not time to rush into divorce as if he could really just "start over."
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.
I'm sorry I missed your explanation about his one night stand. tyhe holistic therapist is doing the right thing. And having his birth mother ALSO not support his leaving you is a very good sigh. I'm too tired to go further tonight, but I think your chaNCES ARE VERY GOOD THAT HE'LL RECOVER FROM THIS EMOTIONAL IMBALANCE. It can also be very good if YOU develop some new branches in your own personality, so that there's a new you for him to discover that's NOT just what he thinks is all there is to you.
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.
PS. This won't be a popular piece of advice, but if the holistic therapist is a woman, that could set back your reconciliation unless she is VERY conscientious to avoid being SO much better at supporting him no matter what he feels and does than you can be. Therapists who don't understand psychodynamics (which is the fundamental discoveries of unconscious life begun by Freud and Jung) can be unaware that their efforts to be very good and kind to their clients are actually serving to get them hooked emotionally on the therapist--which can be quite good if rebuilding a marriage is not a major focus of the work. A man would be no problem, or a very old woman, but an attractive woman could be problematic even though she thinks she's just working with ego-psychological issues. An Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist almost always works with both partners in every session and seeks to get the partners to listen their way thru the layers of their own feelings, and thus teach them thru experiential repetition how their deeper feelings underneath (his shame, for example) are yearnings for a secure attachment with each other, that he may feel he's not entitled to anymore.
It's very important for the therapist to attend to building the couple intimacy and only work with the individual part time. EFCT manages the emotional expression between couple partners to deepen their intimacy, and does not build much separate intimate collaborations with one partner or the other. As I said, I hope this holistic therapist A. deeply understands and respects psychodynamic psychology and B. is either a man or a crone.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Yes she is a woman. she seems to be dealing with his past problems the soul searching .. She said he is soul dead and last week brought 6 souls back?? She told him that we shouldn't be still sharing the same house that one of us need to move out.. For about 6 months and personally I think this is the wrong advise. At the minute he just feels as if the marriage is dead and he wants out of it. He said the only way that his love could come back is if he was hypnotised!!

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.

He is frightened and he wants to go back into the womb (of his biomother) and start over. He's given himself over to a witchdoctor/shaman who (I hope she's an old crone and not an attractive sorceress) seems to prefer her recipe for him to undergo a magic process--like a death and rebirth--before he can rejoin the life he led before with no knowledge of WHO he really is (because his family of origin was unknown to him.

But the problem with her approach is that she's using intuitive skills to visualize FOR HIM what he needs to experience, and that means she has taken his discriminating ego, moral judgment and will power away "for the duration" of her treatment episode. A Jungian shamanic approach would make use of HIS OWN DREAMS (and thus HIS OWN IMAGES rather than HER imaginary SOULS, whether they are really dredged up from her mindreading of him or not) and empower him to discover his own forward-driving impulse toward personality development.

I'm aware of a delicate batch of issues here, because on the one hand, his remorse over cheating is a very good sign; but on the other hand his psychic guide seeks way too much power over him, clearly knows far too little about psychodynamics, and yet wants to eliminate the influence of your love and his love for you (which he admits has not gone away).

I've considered instructing you in how to "hypnotize him" from a distance (that is, through psychic influence), because that is both possible (especially if the target person does not WANT to resist it) and morally defensible, since you both have a long-standing love for each other, so you would not be implanting a love that sneaks under his defenses and sabotages his own will.

But this psychic therapist ("holistic" doesn't work as a label for me, except to imply that she uses her own mix of "New Age" methods) would be likely to sense and possibly combat that influence, because it might rival her own efforts to "heal" him. And my own moral sense recoils from psychic wrestling with an occult-leaning self-proclaimed therapist (does she have a UK license to do anything?) over the soul of a man who has not sought my expertise.

So I'd advise you to 1. investigate the credentials of this woman. I've dealt in dream interpretation a few times with women in the UK whose spiritual practices put them on the fringes of society, who don't follow the limiting guidelines of the Christian churches, and use their mindreading skills and esoteric studies and visualizations to "treat" people whose psychological problems are not being approached within the primitive but communal traditions of organized religion, OR the far more intelligently developed traditions of the schools of psychoanalytic, Jungian, neoanalytic or newer, more superficial schools of psychotherapy. Such enthusiastic but lopsidedly undertrained shamans aren't the only therapists that can do more harm than good.

And a second practical advice: If anyone moves out of your house, it needs to be HIM and not you. For he should FEEL the nostalgia (means pain for the nest) for what he's giving up to pursue this woman's program for him. I advise you to remain completely firm on that assertion: If he wants to follow this woman's guidance to "find himself" (even though most of himself is already present in his present container) then it is he who must depart from his nest to carry out this symbolic quest.

Paradoxically, the symbolism of him leaving home, like the thousands of folk tales and filmic hero-quests of yore, could actually HELP him find out sooner that he already knows where he belongs and who he belongs with. And you could suggest that when he wants to return home, the two of you should see a trained and certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist for a few sessions to reknit your emotional intimacy together. Those therapists also know a comparatively simple emotional process for concretizing his REMORSE over the one sexual betrayal, so that he can feel the full extent of his guilt and empathy for you, and you can know that he's ready and worthy of your trust again (tho I think you already know that--but he doesn't).

With all this said, I can agree with his guru that he's soul-dead; but that's mainly because it's quite common for both men and women to have completely lost track of the need for a soul-development (or personality development) track in their lives, even if they still have a wishywashy religious affiliation, or a rigid set of beliefs under which they are doing everything it takes to get into heaven when they die.

Among Jung's many great contributions to human psychological development is the discovery that the first half of life is meant for breaking the umbilical chord and "graduating" from the family of origin and then establishing a home and financial base of one's own, and the second half of life is meant for discovering all of what's inside of oneself that has been neglected in favor of the struggle for fullfledged membership in the external world. So one of Jung's popular books was called "Modern Man in Search of His Soul." So your holistic therapist might even preach some truths that come from Jung, and might use Jung's discovery of "active imagination" (and even art therapies) as tools for development of this neglected aspect of a "holistic" personality.

That leads me back to my previous suggestion that developing your own awareness of where your unique life path needs to lead you, through reading and dream interpretation, would help you gain your OWN footing on a life path, so 1. you're not unconsciously depending on your love relationship to be your only or main source of meaningful process and progress in life, and 2. you will have your OWN excitement for new personality development that can inspire your husband to realize that you are not JUST the "helpmeet" that has always been at his side, like Adam's rib, but you are an undiscovered person in your own being who can lead him as well as follow.

It's even possible that you married a man who didn't know where he was coming from because you didn't trust yourself to explore the unknown outer dimensions of your world--you needed him in order to venture forth from your family of origin with enough sense of safety. Now your learning to drive means navigating into your unknown outer world, and your inner world needs to unfold as well. To "spark" his interest, you may need to awaken your own "spark" and that might include entering a safer (than that woman's probably undertrained and unsupervised) form of personality development.

(I'd recommend Jungian analysis with a woman--so you don't risk developing a romanticized feeling connection that could mirror your husband's danger. Jungian analysis is a pretty strong school in UK.) And if you've had any recent dreams, you could send them to me on the Dream Interpretation site here, where I could explore one or two with you to see what they might indicate for your prospects of entering into a phase of your own self development.

In my textbook "Love and Intimate Relationships: Journeys of the Heart" (2000) I cover in six pages (353-358 if you can get the book) what happens when I couple remains static in their union stage or "we-ness" which you may have done in part because you haven't been able to have children that would have forced you into new modes of action and relationship. (I could scan, but I'd have to use "Additional Services" (probably) to get to a venue in which I could upload them to send to you). Doing things separately is not frequent, nor does it lead to development of unique parts of each partner's personality that wouldn't naturally fit into the initial way they function together. The energy in relationship can stagnate and one or both can feel smothered, though they may be unwilling and unable to admit that to themselves. This can happen around the age 30 crisis (as it did for me and my first love), but for you it may have happened around the age 40 (midlife) crisis. (I know I'm guessing here, because I know almost NOTHING about you. But it's worth considering.)

In a book by Bader & Pearson "In quest of the mythical mate: A developmental approach to diagnosis and treatment in couples therapy" (1988) the psychodynamic authors work from the fundamental principle that both partners need to continue their individual growth AFTER they have grown together as a couple for a few years (normally childbirth forces some of that), and that this "differentiation of oneself from one's partner" and from one's expectations that "soulmates" means that we think and feel alike and want all the same things forever can be quite painful at first. That is UNTIL they discover that needing to adjust to your partner's personality development repeatedly over a lifetime of building wider and deeper ramifications of who you are is a fascinating process that rewards disappointment, conflict and difficulty with new love over and over again.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi very interesting. I got an appointment with an EFCT my ex said he would go to please me but he said he doesn't see how it would work as the marriage is dead. I'm about to give up on him now and just walk away.

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.
Then you need to stop listening to his childish emotions and tell him HE has to leave your house if he wants to find himself separately. I suspect that a good EFCT expert can open up his emotions and perhaps even reach his wounded-child in the first or second session. They often schedule an individual session with each partner to get into the key issues for each AFTER the first couple session. But he MIGHT sit there in the first session and refuse to communicate feelings at all, because he ONLY WANTS TO WITHDRAW FROM THE SHAME HE FEELS AT BETRAYING YOUR MARRIAGE--OR he might break down and show his SHAME right away. And that can be worked with, probably very effectively. You're HURT and that is shame that he doesn't see/feel you anymore, so you want to push him away to keep from feeling hurt anymore.
I say DO IT. If the therapist is as good as they're trained to be, you'll recover your hope in 1 or 2 sessions at the most. I read his behavior (thru your reports) as indicating that his skin is so thin over his heart that he won't hold off his real feelings for more than a few minutes with a warm caring emotional expert.
Or you can push him out of the house and start seeing an individual therapist to grow a new life for yourself--again I'd recommend a Jungian--and of course he pays, and hires himself a flat. But don't just choose this path to punish him, because that kind of escalation can end up biting you both, and not just in the pocketbook.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

How do I hypnotize him?

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.
It's not really hypnotizing, but it is remote psychic influence. Haven't you noticed how much you can sense what your husband is feeling about you, good, bad or indifferent? Once any two people have a heart connection, what one feels & thinks (as colored by those feelings) is likely to affect the other subliminally at one time or another when there's nothing else going on in the other's mind and emotions.
Active Imagination is a process of imagining yourself in conversation or fellow-traveling with another person--but it should be a dream character or spiritual being, not be a real person that you know. For imagining yourself interacting with someone your really know can affect that person's consciousness without their realizing that the effects are coming from outside of them, from someone else. My wife was working on her cancer for month after month, every day, using active imagination (just lying with eyes closed and visualizing her pictured allies destroying cancer cells). Once she imagined going to Glastonbury Cathedral in England to pray at the statue of the Virgin Mary--which was an imaginal journey a Jungian author Jean Bolen had done in treating her own cancer. As she was imagining herself speaking to Mary, she asked her to visit our daughter and bless and help her too. The next morning our daughter called ME into her room, which was next door to ours, and told me with great wonder that the virgin Mary had hovered above her bed, not like a dream but like a vision. And she never believed in the Virgin Mary before that, nor does she think she believes in a personal God. Hannah, 26, who has a severe incurable connective tissue disease with chronic pain, has not become a Virgin Mary worshipper since then, though my wife does revere her image of Mary.
If you were to go into hypnogogic fantasy states at bedtime, or upon waking in the morning, and create images of loving with your husband the way you used to have your intimacy, you would be likely to bring about changes in his attitudes from the unconscious up. But a main caution is this: You will have a greater effect on yourself than on him, at first, and I can't know what will happen if he feels pressured and resists--but I suspect that your pursuing and his distancing has already occurred quite a bit, which is partly why he keeps saying your marriage is DEAD: because he doesn't want to feel the eerie "dead-but-alive" feelings that are going around inside of him.
So if I were you I'd put my trust in the EFCT counseling before trying too much psychic influence. I once heard about this stuff from a young man 26 in a men's psychology class I was teaching in 1974. He had gone to a Mind Dynamics weekend seminar that taught how to influence your loved ones. So he decided to use psychic influence to make his wife like house cleaning. It worked pretty well. But they were divorced within a couple of years. So I suspect he knocked their balance of power off, and that undermined their love.
But once you realize that your husband does still love you (which could easily show up in an EFCT session), you can nourish those feelings in the subtlest of ways, without running a power trip on him.
One of the reasons why so many people NEVER give love a chance after they have hurt themselves or their partner in ways they don't know how to cure, is that they can't bear to feel the hurt they have caused and felt again; and SHAME (of being Unworthy of Any love Ever again) and FEAR (of losing yourself or your beloved) are the core emotions that make distressed partners run and hide from each other. EFCT knows this and finds the way to reach into these key relationship-imprisoners, and they are not relationship-killers, because an 18 year connection can't be KILLED, no matter what he'd like to think, but only imprisoned in glass.
I wish you both the courage to go to EFCT and find your honest feelings when you get to them.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

What does it mean if the husband is " An incompetent Man "

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.
Dear *****, I don't think I ever wrote that your husband is an incompetent man, because I don't know him well enough to make such a judgment. I'd advise you to go to the EFCT therapist and present your problems. I've had their training, and I know that if the therapist focuses on building emotional safety and trust from the beginning, I suspect that your relationship will come back together in due time, because the goal of emotional safety and secure trust that they strive for is very achievable. He couldn't be that incompetent if he has a successful business.

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