Men in their 50s
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Virginia Sherborne MBACP (Accred.)
29th March, 20130 Comments
All kinds of pressures can seem to pile up on men in their 50s. Let’s start with work: in the current economic climate, there’s an ever-present threat of redundancy. If a man loses his job at this time of life, it can look as if his working life is over. He may think that employers are only looking for younger, ‘cutting-edge’, or cheaper workers. Or a man may have built up his own business successfully over the years, only to see it fail through no fault of his own. Or perhaps he is now looking towards the end point of his career and wondering what it will be like to retire.
Then there are family pressures. Perhaps he has children who need help financing their education, which suddenly seems so much more costly. Or children who can’t get work and have to return home, feeling depressed themselves. Maybe our man in his mid-fifties has a second family, with much younger children to care for. How does this affect him? And of course, there may be teenagers around, guaranteed to add exasperation. Alternatively, another man may be dealing with the fact that he has not had any children.
Next, what about his love-life? This stage in a man’s life can see his partner heading through the menopause, with all the potential for change and confusion this can entail. Does he feel that he’s not as attractive as he used to be? Possibly newly single, how can he feel confident about entering the dating game all over again? Some men experience increasing worries about their sex drive and about their health in general.
As men head towards later life, bereavements are going to happen more often. Sometimes we can take these in our stride, but sometimes grief gets complicated and hard to handle.
So, what are the options for men in their 50s to handle these sorts of pressures? Many choose to ignore them as much as they can, maybe opting for alcohol to blur them out. Some look for distractions, like a new younger partner, though this can sometimes increase stresses in the longer term. Others visit their GP and ask for anti-depressants to make the issues seem less obvious.
Another option is to go for counselling. This can seem daunting, particularly for men who grew up at a time when the stiff upper lip was the recommended method to deal with problems. Counselling can have an image of being all ‘touchy-feely’, where you are constantly asked ‘What are you feeling?’ It could all look very embarrassing and unhelpful.
But if we asked our mid-fifties man whether he would like someone unbiased to sit down with him in private and really analyse exactly what conflicting pressures are on him, where he doesn’t have to worry about what the other person’s going to think (because they’ve probably heard it all before), where he doesn’t have to worry if the other person’s going to get upset or angry or shocked, and where that person is not going to tell any of his mates or relatives anything, then maybe the reality of counselling would look more helpful.
Counsellors are trained not to judge. They are trained about confidentiality. They are trained in what really helps actual problems in real life. Any initial awkwardness can soon be turned into a solid working alliance, which our man in his 50s can use to find his best way forward.
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