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LOVE LETTERS

Fearing 'midlife crisis' crisis

She’s got a great marriage, but how can she be sure he won’t stray?

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / May 28, 2011

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Q. Most of your letters are about breakups, but mine is about preparing for the future. I’ll give you some background. My husband and I got married in our early 20s. We are now in our early 30s. We have three beautiful boys and a great, loving marriage.

My husband is a great father and awesome husband, and the list of awesome qualities goes on and on. Although things are fabulous now, I live with one fear every day of my life: I’m scared of his potential midlife crisis.

I hear from so many women who, like me, were married young, and they tell me how their husbands woke up one morning and decided they wanted something different and had an affair. I’m scared that the same fate lies ahead for me simply because we were so young when we got married and also started a family right away.

So my question for you and your commenters is: What causes a man’s midlife crisis? Is it preventable? What can I do to make certain we grow old together? I’m OK if he buys a sports car or speed boat as a result of a midlife crisis, but an affair would be devastating! Is my worrying about it like creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?

MID-LIFE CRISIS AHEAD, South Shore

A. I bet that if you interviewed these men who got married young and had affairs, they’d tell you that they didn’t just wake up one random morning with a desire to cheat. I bet they’d tell you that they’d been questioning their marriages for a long time. I have a serious hunch that many people know that their relationships are in trouble by the time they’ve been married for 10 years.

I’m not telling you that you’re 100 percent safe from relationship decay because you’ve survived a decade — bad things can happen to any good twosome no matter how long they’ve been together — but the fact that you’re happy after 10 years says a lot about your strength as a couple. And know this: A lot of women e-mail me about wanting a fresh start after marrying young. You’re just as likely to have a midlife crisis. And you’re pretty confident that you’re not going to bail, right? Why would your husband be different?

Don’t waste your time worrying about this stuff. Just remind your husband that if there are ever any problems, you want to talk about them immediately.

And maybe when he turns 40, buy him a ridiculous car. Couldn’t hurt. MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND:

Not every single man has a midlife crisis. There is something that is leading you to have these worries. What is that? Maybe this is something that needs to be explored and discussed first, and then that will alleviate the anxiety.

BOSTONGAL109

Simple answer: Never take what you have for granted. If you want a marriage to last for 50 years, then every one of those 50 years needs to express new love, new passion, new devotion. Talk. But more importantly, listen and communicate. Help each other refresh yourselves daily.

THIRTYSOMETHING

Some people get so caught up staring at the potential abyss, they fail to see that all the materials to build a bridge over it are right there. You and your husband have the ability to build a bridge over any problems during any potential midlife crisis on either of your parts. Stop creating problems where none exist.

BUTTERFLYZ

Jeesh, your life sounds great. I think you need to relax. Worrying about a crisis isn’t going to stop it, so why waste energy? Use your energy to work on keeping your marriage wonderful. Make sure you have alone time with your husband, try new things together, keep communication open, etc. A good marriage is something to be proud of. Enjoy it.

REDSOXBONO

Listen to your husband. Take time to talk, and be not only his wife but his best friend. Keep it sexy, fun, and adventurous in the bedroom. Remember all the hot, sexy, fun things about your husband that attracted you to him in the first place, and plan nights out for just you and him.

BADABOOM1020

I think the biggest problem with people who marry young is that when they marry they have not become the person they will live most of their life as. In many cases that causes people to drift apart, not with enmity but just naturally. If that’s your worry it may be legitimate, and you’ll need to focus on what binds you (can’t be kids) and work on that.

EGERSIS

I for one do believe in the “male midlife crisis.’’ I saw it with my father. First, it was the stereotypical red sports car, then it was the stereotypical affair with a much younger woman at the office. Having said that, I don’t think it’s necessarily a foregone conclusion that things will happen this way. My husband seemed to worry about turning 40 a few years ago, but he channeled his fears of getting older into something positive, and is now in the best shape of his life and doing triathlons. It depends on the individual. I think all you really can do is work on “keeping yourself up’’ (I know, this is not very feministic thinking, but I think both partners should always work to stay attractive to each other), maintain communication, and stop worrying about things you can’t control. Enjoy what you have while you have it, and stop sabotaging things by worrying about losing them.

AFLYONTHEWALL

My guess is that when men (or women) cheat, it’s because life (including sex and romance) has become routine and dull. You have three kids, so I’m sure it’s difficult to schedule couple time, but if you’re not already having a date night every month, try to incorporate that. I think ultimately it’s about keeping the connection strong and intimate — continuing to share deep thoughts and discussing dreams/hopes/fears like you did at the beginning of the relationship; things like asking about their day, meeting for lunch sometimes if it’s possible, walking hand-in-hand maybe after dinner; and, even with the kids, doing new activities together. BKLYNMOM

October 21 [the new rapture date], your marriage is over.

TANK-HANKEROUS

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.