Awhile back, Chump Lady discovered a link from The Hero’s Spouse a support forum for folks whose spouses had a “midlife crisis” (MLC) and cheated. On this blog people attribute having affairs in middle age to depression and faulty, aging neurotransmitters. Damn, I knew my knees were gonna go… but my neurotransmitters and morals too?
Cheating on someone is a matter of character, I posted over there, but was told I am mistaken. No, their spouse was terrific, giving, loving, a model parent, but one day they were essentially abducted by aliens and replaced with some shitty spouse who cheats.
Cheating, they told me, is a “symptom” of the “disease” that is a MLC. The affair is just part of a larger “syndrome.” (I suppose Mazda Miatas and Life Time gym memberships are the other signs.) The site divides itself between those who are “standing” for their marriage (refusing to divorce and/or waiting for the cheating spouse to come to their senses) and those who are not standing. (These are the quitters, or those whose crafty MLC spouses got a divorce without their consent.)
It seems a very odd site to me, one modeled around reconciliation in which the cheating person doesn’t even have to consent to reconcile! The betrayed person is going to “stand” whether the cheater likes it or not. Nobly enduring the other’s cake eating, convinced that really that this isn’t “the real person” committing these acts, but some misbegotten soul afflicted with a syndrome.
I poked around gently over there, but if anyone from that site is reading me here — I’m going to give you an unvarnished take on the Midlife Crisis as an excuse to fuck around — that’s some crazy codependent shit you’re smoking.
In no particular order, Argument for Why I Don’t Buy This as an Excuse for Infidelity are as follows:
1) The Midlife Crisis is a myth.
I’m sorry, but the consensus among researchers seems to be it’s some psychobabble remnant from the 1960s. And Scientific American concurs. If anything, personality appears to become more constant and unvarying in middle age. Crisis (and bad decisions) can happen at any age.
2) The Midlife Crisis is not a valid excuse for cheating.
The dopamine made me do it?
Presumably your spouse is aging with you. How come their neurotransmitters didn’t go wiggy and they didn’t cheat? If depression is an excuse for losing your marbles and fucking people you aren’t married to, well few things are more depressing than being cheated on. The devastation completely alters your well-being, and presumably your neurotransmitters too. But how do you explain that person’s decision to “stand for the marriage” when their mind is so addled by depression and bad brain chemistry? How can they stand on character in the face of such a neurological onslaught?
3) The MLC brain chemistry theory contradicts itself.
If this is all the fault of our neurotransmitters, they make us cheat — why should we assume they get better? What is there to work with for reconciliation? What if the cheating neurotransmitters get worse as you age? Or is there some follow up syndrome — Old Age Reckoning — in which the cheater gets a clue and returns to their family?
Do you see how nutty this is? Cheating is about CHOICE, people! The saddest thing about that site is that it is full of people who have all this false hope. That there really is some syndrome that ate the cheater’s brain and that those decisions don’t reflect on the person they love. And they’re going to wait like the Lady of Shalott, doomed with unrequited love, forbidden from looking at reality and endlessly needlepointing until their beloved returns.
I’m sorry Left Behind Spouses of the MLC — you were betrayed. Those cheaters chose to cheat on you and destroy your world. Don’t sugar coat it with a MLC. Don’t waste your life waiting for them to come back. They knew what they were doing and they DIDN’T CARE. Nope. Not enough.
Go reinvent yourself. Stop enabling cake eating. You cannot save a marriage by yourself. Don’t spend one New York minute with someone who doesn’t honor the commitment they made to you. You’re BETTER than that! I say so, and the dopamine in my head agrees with me.
This is an updated post.