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6 Tips to Find Happiness and Avoid a Mid-life Crisis

Updated: 3/5/24

Original Post: 6/11/22

6 Tips to Find Happiness and Avoid a Mid-life Crisis

Tip 1: Stay away from the Joneses. They make you miserable.

When people are not content with life, they can feel unhappy about being unhappy, which is the beginning of a downward spiral. We tend to compare ourselves to our peers. Our career successes, our homes, and the cars we drive. 

These are rat races in which none of the participants win. There is strong evidence that materialism and marriage quality are at odds, even when spouses are aligned in their value systems. 

Remember that some differences with your spouse and how you see this could originate from different class backgrounds. As shared by Dr. Streib in our Modern Husbands podcast episode Opposites Attract, folks from working-class backgrounds are more likely to outwardly display wealth because, subconsciously, it is how they've proven they've made it.

Tip 2: Be Happier with Balance

6 Tips to Find Happiness and Avoid a Mid-life Crisis

The ages of 30-50 are the most unhappy periods of our lives. The Gallup Global Happiness Center is the origin of the data used to recreate the image above, commonly called the U-shaped Happiness Curve. 

During the middle ages, we teeter-totter with how we spend our time. We bounce between earning enough to live our desired lifestyles and spending quality time with friends and family. 

Striving for professional success often means more time away from home, a math problem that doesn’t always add up to make us happier. Studies have shown that when an individual’s basic needs are met, the additional income related to happiness is weak.

Tip 3: Happiness and Financial Health

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created this free interactive tool to assess your financial well-being (financial health), and they define financial well-being as follows:

6 Tips to Find Happiness and Avoid a Mid-life Crisis

Being financially healthy is easier said than done, particularly as our financial world becomes more complex and when you manage money with a partner. The stakes are high. Couples who disagree about financial matters are twice as likely to divorce as those who don't, so I am creating a series of online courses devoted to helping partners manage money together.

A good place to start to become more financially healthy is our 10 part budgeting series.

Tip 4: Focus on Your Marriage

Most people who stay married are more satisfied with their lives than their non-married peers. As decades have passed, married couples' home management challenges have become more complicated. "Stay-at-home moms" are now far from the norm. 

Families are full of dual-income earners, and as the gender pay gap has been rightfully narrowing, it is becoming more common for women to be the breadwinners at home. 

An ever-increasing number of dual-income homes where both partners are professionally ambitious has changed the calculus of career choices. The days of men being the only spouse making these choices are over, and pragmatism looks different now. 

Sometimes, your best career choice is to support your spouse's career ambitions. According to developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, we must focus on what age gives us, not what it has taken away. 

Tip 5: Hang Out with Friends

Robert Waldinger is the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the world's longest studies of adult life. They found that relationships and how happy we are in our relationships have a powerful influence on our health. 

"Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too... Loneliness kills. It's as powerful as smoking or alcoholism." — Robert Waldinger

Dr. John Barry at University College London surveyed 5,000 men to identify American men's values and priorities and the factors contributing to their emotional, physical, and mental health and well-being.

Like Dr. Waldinger's findings, men who value friendship, family, sports, and leisure have greater well-being. So don't feel guilty about taking the time to play in the Wednesday night sports league and having a beer with your buddies after the game.

Tip 6: Care for Yourself

Physical and mental health was the second-highest predictor of positivity across the US (interestingly, in the UK, it was in a stable relationship: the more committed the man, the happier he typically is). 

Perhaps surprisingly, grooming – taking care of our appearance - was the most vital driver of positivity. Across every age group, American men placed greater importance on their mental health than even their physical health. 

The Spousal Relative Income and Male Psychological Distress study examined 6,000 American heterosexual married couples over 15 years to see how this shift has impacted people's physical and mental health, life satisfaction, and relationships. 

Male psychological distress is at its lowest when wives make 40% of total household income and then increases to reach the highest level when men are entirely economically dependent on their wives, but there is a caveat. The relationship between a wife's relative income and a husband's psychological distress is not found among couples where wives out-earn their husbands at the beginning of their marriage. But more is needed to help men who have changed their roles in the household.

As the financial makeup of modern couples and families continues to change, we must acknowledge and proactively address the gaps between our households and the ones we grew up with or were taught about. 

"The bottom line is that our net worth should never equal our self worth."


Learn More

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Winning ideas from experts to manage money and the home as a team. 2023 Plutus Award Finalist: Best Couples or Family Content

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Everything you need to know about transitioning to marriage. The first gift you will receive is a guide to tackle the seven most asked questions about budgeting as a couple.


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