As I sit here, sipping my coffee, I reflect over the past couple of weeks and wonder how many couples in their late (or mid) 40’s are feeling the pressures and pains of becoming older. Over the course of this year, my partner in crime, and in life, has been nearing his 50th birthday. This has lead me to writing this article.
What exactly is a “mid life crisis” and at what point does it typically hit you, that you require something or someone to complete you, because you are getting older?
Let’s start from the beginning. My guy, who I share my life with, has over the past 4 years, decided that he wants a motorcycle. He has no experience, and has never ridden on a bike on highways, back roads, or even dirt roads. Every February he drags me out to the “Motorcycle Show” that is typically held in the dark days of winter, giving riders and potential riders opportunities to wander through large halls filled with every brand and make of motorcycles, ATV’s, and scooters known to man. As you browse through the Harleys and the BMW’s, dreams of summer freedom spark you to talk with the dealers and get the details on the promotions and the specials they hold while the motorcycle show is on. Over the past 4 years, my partner has been eyeing a Spyder. If you aren’t familiar with these particular bikes, they are the ones that have the two wheels in front, and one in the back. They are very fast, sporty and the type of motorcycle that you either love, or hate. Avid riders, with years of experience will sometimes mock the Spyder because it has training wheels in the front.
During the past 4 Motorcycle Shows that we have attended, he looks for the Can-Am sign, spots the Spyder and sits on it, posing for a photo. I have always referred to this as “petting his Spyder”. Every year, its the same thing, he brings home stacks of flyers, gets the price of the one he wants, and all of these promotion papers go into a drawer and eventually into the garbage. The craving for freedom and the noise of the bike goes away for another year, just like the flyers and business cards.
That is, until this year. This year, he turns 50. This year, he bought the Spyder. It now takes up a space in our garage, and looks shiny and new, and candy apple red. I drive into the garage every day and the Spyder stares me down like I am its next meal. Its like his trophy for “I’M 50”.
I am not upset that he purchased the bike of his dreams, or that he bought the bike without telling me first, or even that he made the decision to get the bike after he sold the camper that we have both been enjoying for the past 7 years. In fact, I am not angry at all. Anymore.
He came home after a long day at work, a week after we went to the Motorcycle Show, and quietly informed me that he bought his Spyder that day. I didn’t know how to respond to this news. I basically just looked at him, poured my freshly made coffee down the drain, and reached for a bottle of red wine and a glass. I took a few moments of sipping the delicious grape nectar, not speaking to him and all, and pondered what my next move would be. I knew that this day would come, probably, but thought it would be more of a discussion. I thought it would be a pros and cons talk about reasons he should or shouldn’t make this purchase.
I, myself spent two entire decades with bike riders. I tried to ride myself, but had no interest in it, so I spent summers with a sore butt, with bugs all over my clothing, cold some days, hot others, watching the world go by in “real time” chilling out on the back of a Harley. I spent those days with someone who had been riding motorcycles his entire life, before he even learned how to drive a car! And, now, my love, with no experience and who is 50 years old, wants me to partake in his newfound freedom on the road, on the back of his new toy.
After I downed about half a glass of my wine, I looked at him and all I said was one word “why?”. His response? “I don’t know, lets call it my midlife crisis”. AND THERE IT IS.
Why must we “reward” ourselves for getting old? Why do we feel the need to punctuate a milestone birthday with a purchase or an event to mark the occasion? I think of all the proverbial older men with the trophy wives and the tiny, little, very uncomfortable convertible cars, and I think to myself again, “Why?”
I suppose that making a milestone of walking the earth for half a century does warrant an acknowledgment of some sort. Perhaps people believe that if they have a tangible object, or extravagant gift, that it shows what you have worked for your whole life. I can identify with that. However, taking on the responsibility of learning a new skill, educating yourself in a whole new concept of driving, putting up with wind and rain, and bugs and every other challenge that comes along with being on the open road on a motorcycle, well that just terrifies me! He is a very smart man, in fact he is one of my all time heroes! I think he will probably be stubborn enough to ace the motorcycle tests and will most likely be on the road before the first day of summer. Will I be happy about this ? Probably not.
However, with all of this being said, I have come to a new realization. Relationships are a funny, fickle institution. Some people live and breath through their mates. Some couples simply co-exist and share all costs and responsibilities of the household, like a well oiled machine. Some duos fight over everything, including money, kids, stress of life, but still lay beside each other at night and have unconditional love. This new “Mid life crisis” situation has taught me this about our relationship: We are a couple but we are also individuals. It doesn’t matter that I am not happy with his purchase. It makes him happy. He looks at that bike every day, and has a grin from ear to ear. He itches to drive it with our neighbor in tow, learning the ins and outs of open road touring. He sits on it every day, and starts it up. Although there is still ice on the roads, he yearns to drive it every day. It is his focus right now, and I have to be okay with that, as his life partner. If you sincerely want happiness in a relationship, I am a believer in living through your partner’s happiness, and enjoying it with them, even though it is not something that you would choose. There will come a time when you want to make a decision on your own, that you believe will make you happy. Maybe on your 50th you will decide to go sky diving, or go on a cruise, or even make your debut in a shiny red convertible. Wouldn’t it be nice if your partner/spouse/love would support you and ensure that you are enjoying life with them?
So, I guess the lesson of this whole event, is that the person you are with, is just that, a person. That person has wants and desires and needs that only they understand. It is not your job to understand them. Your ideas of a mid life crisis purchase may be completely different, or even opposite. Your individual ideas of what brings happiness may not always jive. BUT, stepping back and watching your loved one grin from ear to ear over a ridiculous toy, or giving them the space to make individual decisions, is part of enjoying life. I feel like I am not ready to climb on board and ride on his bike with him anytime soon, however, I will support him in his success, enjoy his happiness and excitement, and wait for MY mid life crisis to come.