Adjusting to Life Transitions: midlife, quarterlife and family life

We're all so familiar with the term "midlife crisis" it's become a cliché. But there's nothing funny about a midlife crisis when you're in the midst of one. And they don't just happen when you turn 40 or 50 or when your kids leave the "nest." Life crises are also common at quarterlife and with the start of a new family. Each of these periods marks a time of reflection and reassessment. Each creates an opportunity to learn more about who you really are and what gives your life meaning and importance. It's an honor to help clients through these rites of passage.

Midlife Crisis

A midlife crisis can hit you unexpectedly, triggered by a birthday, kids moving out, the death of a loved one, job loss or career change. Or a midlife crisis can sneak up on you, moments of discontent that you push away until you can't push any longer. Midlife crises brings up difficult questions. You may be wondering, "Who am I now?" If you're in a relationship, that question may become "Who are we as a couple?"

A midlife crisis can be confusing. You've come to that point in your life where you've reached your goals. You have a great career, a family you love, a comfortable lifestyle, and yet somehow, you feel unsatisfied. You're realizing that "having it all" isn't really what it's all about.

Meaning and fulfillment are really what it's all about, but in our culture there are so many distractions, that we may not be able to hear our own internal voices. Therapy provides a haven away from external pressures, so you can find your true inner voice and get the support you need to pursue what you really love - even if its not what you thought it would be.

I believe that midlife is one of the most powerful and important transitions we experience. Aware that the Chinese symbol for crisis also means opportunity, I feel honored to provide an understanding and accepting place where you can "re-draw" the lines of your life, your career, your relationships with friends and families, living the second half of life in alignment with your truest self.

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Quarter-life crisis

For most of us, college is the first time in our lives where we have freedom. We're encouraged to think critically, to question authority, to be creative. Though we may be good students and work hard, there is usually plenty of time and lots of energy for a social life. While we have more responsibilities than before, they tend to be manageable. And many of us are fortunate enough to have an emotional and financial safety net in our families.

For many of us, college is a time of expanded social networks. Our friends and romantic partners are a primary focus. This is as it should be. But leaving behind the camaraderie and connections is hard.

As we leave college and move into the next stage of adulthood, the responsibilities take over. We may be leaving behind a life of creativity for a job that is fairly routine, or one that is highly stressful. There's loss - even grief for the college years. Plus, you're new at everything, on a constant learning curve and "paying dues" in time, mistakes, and starting wages. Work life may not measure up to the dreams you had - especially when so much of your paycheck goes into your gas tank!

With today's economy, it may be hard to find a job at all - let alone one in your field of study. You may be sending out resumes without getting feedback, going on interviews to discover you are one of 20, 50 or more applying for the same position. It's really discouraging. If you've moved back home, you may feel embarrassed, frustrated or even guilty that you're still depending on your parents. And as much as they love you, they may be adding to the pressure, not understanding why this is such a hard time for you.

In therapy you can talk about how hard it is - without worrying about pressure or judgment. You can grieve the good times you had, the friends who've gone off to other jobs, maybe in other parts of the world. With support, encouragement and understanding, it's easier to keep pushing forward, to take small steps toward developing the life you want for yourself. Therapy is a place to learn skills like communicating with difficult people, overcoming anxiety or shyness, and taking on new challenges in small increments - setting yourself up for success.

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Adjusting to life with a new/young family

Our culture makes having a family seem like a big happy fairy tale. And while nothing else can match the intensity of love you feel for your kids, being a parent is the hardest job you will ever have. Once you have a baby your life no longer belongs to you. This little person depends on you for everything. Your first priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of someone who can't even lift their own head! (yet).

The responsibility can be overwhelming, even frightening. It doesn't help that you're sleep deprived. And if you're not 100% happy all the time, you may feel guilt on top of it all. You may miss those carefree days before baby, yet feel horrible for missing them when you've got this precious little one.

As that little one get's bigger (and learns the word "no"), it's not uncommon for new parents to feel frustration, even resentment. Parents often say, "I didn't realize I would become a maid, cook, chauffer and referee."

It's essential to have a safe place to talk about all of your feelings - positive and negative - so you don't accidentally let them spill out onto your kids or your spouse. Becoming aware of your feelings and needs at this critical time will allow you to take better care of yourself - even if "better care" simply means acknowledging how hard it is to soothe a colicky baby when you're sleep deprived, the house is a mess, and you can't even take a shower.

Therapy provides a quiet space where you can hear yourself think, get your own emotional tank refilled, and consider options for getting support during this time of intensive care-giving.

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You might also be interested in infidelity or divorce questions.

For more information or to book a session,
contact Heather Marchman, Marriage and Family Therapist.

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