Couple’s ‘mid-life’ crisis: how to face and overcome it

The long-sought stability has long since been achieved and is now made up of large and small routines that sometimes have the bitter taste of monotony.

The children are now grown up and autonomous, in some cases they no longer even live with us; the space that we as a couple used to complain about not having, but which we now do not know exactly what to do with, has finally opened up.

We ourselves, as individuals, feel changed and begin to wonder whether the relationship we started years before still reflects us.

These are some of the issues that any mature couple may face at some point.

By maturity here we do not mean the partners' ability to behave in an adult and balanced way towards each other, but we are referring to a certain phase in the couple's life cycle, that of stability and consolidation achieved after many years.

A phase that often coincides with the attainment of the so-called ‘middle age’, i.e. the period between 50 and 60, by both partners.

The couple's ‘mid-life’ crisis

As we know, middle age is a period of life that even common sense associates with crisis, life reviews and the difficulties that can be experienced in that border zone between what has been and what can and can no longer be. And, as for the individual, middle age can be an equally critical phase for the couple.

One of the most frequent elements of the crisis is often linked to the process of autonomisation of the children.

The maturity of the couple, in fact, often coincides with the moment when the children are now grown up, autonomous and, in certain cases, out of the house. The two partners thus, who up to that moment had focused on, if not even identified with, their parental role, suddenly ‘return’ to being members of the couple.

This opens up new spaces that one does not quite know how to fill, one wonders whether up to that point it was more the dimension of duty that acted as the glue, and now that such a significant purpose as raising children has disappeared, one may begin to feel the full weight of established routines and habits.

Another aspect is related to the physical and biological changes of this phase of life, which entail a whole series of changes in the body and mind that need to be processed and which may inevitably also affect our sense of identity.

These changes also occur in the sexual sphere (menopause, andropause, decreased libido,

Tackling the crisis is possible

The profound changes a couple experiences can open up a crisis phase.

At the same time, however, it is important not to necessarily equate this term with negative scenarios or inevitable break-ups.

Etymologically, in fact, the term crisis derives from the Greek krino, which means to separate, but also with the meaning of distinguishing, evaluating carefully.

The crisis, therefore, if faced consciously, can become an opportunity for the couple to rethink themselves in the light of the new elements at play and try to let go of those that no longer make sense to hold back.

But how is it possible for the mature couple to get through the crisis in this way?

Here are some tips:

Allow yourself the crisis: first of all, it is essential for the couple to allow themselves the opportunity to experience this phase. Feeling in crisis, questioning oneself or the relationship does not constitute a judgement on the relationship itself or on our role as partners, but is a physiological response of our psyche to changes it perceives around it and needs to process. Trying to open a constructive dialogue about the crisis can enable us to deal with it as a couple, rather than exclusively as individuals.


Let go of the past: the fact that ‘things are not the same as they used to be’ is not a merciless judgement, but a statement of a natural fact: our micro-world is constantly changing, and we with them. And so do the relationships we entertain, including that of a couple.

Things are no longer the same because they simply cannot be. Abandoning the belief that we have to re-establish an idyllic past allows us to approach the present and the future with a more realistic and purposeful attitude.


Give each other the right amount of time: we have said that for the mature couple new spaces may suddenly open up, such as those left over from the end of parental duties.

Try to think about these spaces together: devote them to dialogue, to rethink what has been and imagine the future, plan new activities that you can do together.


Do not neglect sexuality: if you experience difficulties in this sphere too, do not close yourselves off and try to deal with them as a couple. Sex is in fact a relational act and the way in which the couple lives it can give valuable information about and to the couple itself.

This can be an opportunity to discover each other and to discover old and new needs, fears, desires.

If the difficulties are associated with the physical condition of one of the partners, he or she can be accompanied on the path with a professional.

In conclusion

In conclusion, the mature phase of a couple's life can bring with it the questioning of established balances.

The profound changes experienced both on a relational and individual level can in fact shake the sense of personal identity and have repercussions on the couple's stability.

The crisis, however, if faced openly and consciously, can be an opportunity to re-design the relationship on new premises.


Edited by
Marco Florio,
Psychologist and Team Coordinator
Stimulus Italy