Differences Between Men and Women At Midlife

The quintessential midlife book was written about men. Daniel Levinson wrote “The Seasons of a Man’s Life” in 1978.  It got a lot of good press. Later, he dashed off a book about women (which I privately called “The Seasons of a Man’s Wife”) that showed none of the attention that he poured into his first book.  Since then, studies have examined the lives of both men and women and tried to sort out the differences, if any.

For men and women, the underlying dynamics are the same. It isn’t as if one sex ages and the other doesn’t.  Both men and women grow older, both have regrets, both want more chances to grow and try new ways to live.  But, because they may have already lived differently, they may want to travel on opposite paths now.  For example, (this is a bit stereotyped but it makes the point), if a man goes to work after school, marries, has children, and is the primary wage earner for the family, he may want to work less at 50, enjoy his kids (who might not want to spend any time with him), and travel.  Let’s say that his wife had the responsibility for raising the children and maintaining the family so her career has been slow. At 50, she may be thrilled to launch the kids and get to work in a serious way. They are now wanting different lives because of choices made earlier – it certainly can be frustrating. 

You can see that the dilemma is the same for everyone.  The basic dynamic of “time left” is the same for men and women; both men and women face mortality, but the actions that they want to take with the rest of their lives may look significantly different from each other because of they ways in which they have already spent their energy and time.  Midlife isn’t linked particularly to gender; it has more to do with social roles, personality and choices.

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