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Who IS This Woman?

A Friends and Family Guide to the Woman In Midlife Crisis

For S.P. and his children: Hopefully this will help someone else understand what youre going through.


10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America

Who IS This Woman? A Friends and Family Guide to the Woman in Midlife Crisis
You have (likely) been given this booklet by a man whose wife is in midlife crisis (MLC). He wants you someone important in his life, and likely in his wifes life to understand what she is going through and why she is doing what she is doingand how you can help both of them through this difficult time. According to research from the MacArthur Foundations Midlife in the United States database, of the 43 million American women ages 40 to 60, more than 15 million women are projected to have, or are having, what they regard as a midlife crisis (even if they cant describe it as such while theyre in the midst of it). A midlife transition is perfectly normal for both men and women. Wondering Who am I? What am I doing with my life? Where do I go from here? Is this all there is? Who am I doing this all for anyway? is a natural part of the aging process. But when these questions are compounded with certain typical triggers, the process spirals from midlife transition to midlife crisis. Midlife crisis almost always involves childhood issues and/or low self-esteem. The midlife crisis is characterized by deep unhappiness with life and where its going. It can also be associated with symptoms of depression. The woman in MLC will make it sound like there is a problem in the marriage (her husband), but its really about her. Even if there were problems in the marriage (what marriage is perfect?), the steps she is taking in response to the situation are drastic. She sees the changes she is making as freeing herself, but really she is running away. She wants her freedom thats what the comment about needing space and time is really all about. She is tired of being the caretaker. She thinks she can recapture her youth. This is a time in her life when she is less concerned with what others think. She says, Its my turn now. In her desire to rework her life, she will toss out her marriage, many of her old friends, and sometimes, her career. She says, Im not happy, and sees ending her marriage as a way to re-establish her independence and seek the happiness that has recently eluded her. The difficult thing for the men left behind is that they were often unaware of how much in crisis their spouse was. In some cases, it would almost be easier if their wife had died, because as one left-behind spouse (LBS) put it, I lost my spouse, but shes not dead. Its just as if Im dead to her. The ironic thing for a man with a wife in midlife crisis is that the best solution for him in this situation is to detach to focus on improving himself and keeping himself busy. But if the LBS starts to lose weight or improve his looks, people often assume hes dating someone else or that he is having an affair. Why is it that when a man has a midlife crisis, no one blames the wife, but when a woman has a MLC, they assume the husband did something wrong? People who have never gone through this dont realize how common it is, and how difficult it is on the LBS. Friends and family members of the couple may be as mystified as the spouse of the person in MLC about why this is happening. The person that they loved has changed suddenly expressing more dissatisfaction than before about things in general, perhaps changing their appearance (losing a lot of weight, trying new hairstyles or haircolors, dressing younger), and perhaps even complaining (or complaining more) about their spouses inadequacies. These complaints might include: He wasnt home enough / he worked too much He didnt provide financial stability He paid too much attention to other things (hobbies, sports) He didnt help out enough with the kids or around the house He cheated (an emotional affair, a physical affair, or just her suspicion that hes fooling around)


If the LBS confides in you, he may express bewilderment at the circumstances he finds himself in. What you may hear can be mystifying. You may be wondering, What isnt he (the LBS) telling me? because you cant believe that the person that you have known and loved the woman in MLC is suddenly acting so strangely. Surely, you think, there must be something else going on. When a formerly loving couple suddenly isnt anymore, many people are quick to blame the husband, believing he must have developed a wandering eye or otherwise broke the marital bond. More likely, the couple has, like so many others, become complacent in their roles. And, in time, some women become unhappy with the familiarity and wonder where Prince Charming went. (Not recognizing, of course, that theyre no Cinderella either.) All relationships go through stages. Some couples are able to move naturally through these transitions: getting married, having children, the children growing up and leaving the nest, changing work roles for him and her (and retirement). Others will struggle. Sometimes the reason for a marital separation or divorce will simply be growing apart but sometimes it will be a midlife crisis.

How Do You Know Its Midlife Crisis?

The woman in midlife crisis often exhibits some common behaviors (one LBS commented, Its almost like they read a manual on how to have a midlife crisis!), but theres usually not a shiny new, red BMW or hair transplants (like men in midlife crisis). Theres no blood test to help detect the low serotonin levels she likely has, no way to definitively show her changing hormone levels, and no test for MLC-carrying white blood cells, if there were such a thing. However, there are some commonalities: There is usually some trigger that precipitates the midlife crisis this can be the serious illness or death of a friend or family member, loss of a job or a job change, or a traumatic personal event (such as a health problem or a car accident). It can simply be the realization of the aging process and her own mortality. Prior to the midlife crisis, the individual may have expressed vague unhappiness with her relationship and/or her job, her family, or her life. The upcoming milestone birthday can create anxiety. The big Four-Oh is often significant but 45 and 50 can also loom large. She has likely been the caretaker of the family; many of the women in crisis have recently been, or currently are, stay-at-home moms or work part-time. These women are particularly vulnerable, as their identity is so closely tied to the roles of wife, mother, and homemaker all caretaker roles. The MLC spouse tries to escape the monotony of their lives and the aging process by creating a new life for herselfone that doesnt include her spouse (and frequently, also doesnt include her children). There are often unresolved childhood issues or low self-esteem in her past. Perhaps she was the chunky kid; maybe her mother was overbearing; she may have had to compete with an accomplished older sibling.

The Classic MLC and Its Variations

The textbook midlife crisis usually strikes between the ages of 35-55. These women are convinced their old life has made them unhappy, and they need to be single again to be happy. She may start to lose weight and dress differently. She engages in new interests and makes new friends. Its a time when old values and goals no longer make sense. If she is not happy, she is willing to try something completely new to find satisfaction. These are some of the signs and symptoms you or her husband will hear from her: She has told her husband, I love you, but Im not in love with you. (ILYBINILWY) She expresses interest in unusual things; the wallflower suddenly blossoms into the life of the party; or she suddenly starts listening to new/different genres of music (i.e., used to listen to rock, now likes country or rap; used to like rap or soul, now likes heavy metal or classical). 2 WHO IS THIS WOMAN? A FRIENDS AND FAMILY GUIDE TO THE WOMAN IN MIDLIFE CRISIS

She may say she hasnt loved her spouse for years (the amount of time will vary, and often increase over time its not uncommon for the MLC spouse to claim she never loved her spouse). Variations on the theme may have the person regretting marrying young, feeling they missed out on something, or maybe they had kids too soon. This can be confusing for family and friends too they wonder if they really were the golden couple they thought they knew. Indecision is another key trait of the MLC although sometimes she will simply be pretending to be indecisive in order to keep the peace or not make hard decisions. For example, the MLC spouse might agree to marriage counseling, but then wont commit to specific changes. When asked to recommit to the marriage relationship, the response will often be, I dont know. She may file for divorce, but then delay or postpone the proceedings. Another sign is new body modifications especially breast implants, Botox, tattoos, and belly or nose rings. This is especially a signal if she expressed opposition to body art or implants previously. She will look to her friends (and maybe even her family) for validation and support for getting rid of her spouse. Preferred sources of support are other women in MLC, or friends who are divorced, have never been married, or who are cheating on their husbands themselves. Shell gravitate towards anyone who agrees with what she is doing or encourages her new/different behavior. If her existing friends dont fit the bill to accept the new her, she will find new friends who will. Usually the new friends will be yes people who will tell her that: You should be happy, Lifes too short, He wasnt good enough for you, and Youll be better off without him.

In some ways, she may revert to being a 17-year-old. A teenager points fingers and blames everyone else for their actions. Emotion rules the day. There is no logic, no consequences. She only cares about herself and what makes her feel good. Christine Carter Schaap, author of Survive Your Wifes Midlife Crisis, puts it this way: I compare the midlife transition to the one that we go through as we move from childhood to young adulthood. We go through a similar type of identity crisis, trying to figure out who we want to be for the rest of our lives. Early on in the announcement phase (following the ILYBINILWY speech), the LBS will likely work on trying to repair the relationship issues raised by the MLC spouse, but if she has already emotionally or physically checked out of the relationship in particular by engaging in either an emotional affair or physical affair the work on the relationship isnt likely to be successful. If there is an affair partner, the key thing to remember is that there is no incentive for the MLC spouse to work on the relationship. Shes got a new guy, and he doesnt have any of the problems that her husband does. Remember, shes not the problem her spouse is. The previously honest and faithful spouse is gone, replaced by an indecisive, frequently dishonest stranger an alien in the wifes body. This person looks like the woman youve known, but shes not.

Family Values
What is most shocking and surprising is how many of the values that she once upheld, she now violates. She may have condemned her friend for cheating on her husband, and now shes doing the same thing. Many MLC spouses likely railed on people who had affairs how the kids suffer, how the person was being stupid and selfish and now she is the one doing it. She will also lie like youve never heard before even about the simplest things. Dont try to argue with the woman in midlife crisis she is feeling the feelings she is having! She is unhappy right now and will do whatever she can think of to try and make herself happy, no matter how irrational, or how it might conflict with the values she previously espoused.


The Role of the Affair

If you know the MLC partner is engaged in an affair (either an emotional affair, defined as Investing emotional energy and time with someone outside the marriage relationship through which the partner forms an emotional bond which interferes with the intimacy of the marriage relationship, or a physical affair), you arent doing anyone any favors by keeping it quiet. An affair is often a big part of the MLC spouses response to the crisis her life has become. An emotional affair generally begins as an innocent friendship or searching for a past friend (i.e., past/ former boyfriend/crush); however, they are often gateways to full-blown sexual infidelity. She didnt plan this she didnt go looking for a lover. It just happened. Women are often better at concealing affairs than men and are less likely to own up to them. If you run into her with the affair partner in public, she is likely to introduce him as a friend, someone from work, or even a cousin. If an affair partner is involved, the MLC spouse will often become secretive and lying becomes the new normal. She will disappear for hours at a time, not accounting for where shes been, what she was doing, or who she was with. She often will not answer her cell phone while away from home. She will become more secretive with her cell phone and e-mail accounts and passwords. Even when confronted with hard evidence cell phone records, credit card receipts, inappropriate emails, visual confirmation, or photographic evidence the woman in MLC will likely lie. She will deny the affair (Were just friends or Im just helping him through a difficult time). The affair partner is often a complete contrast to the left-behind spouse these individuals are frequently labeled losers or users because, as Dr. Frank Pittman, author of Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy writes, Wonderful people dont screw around with married people. And, as OnHoldAZ, a moderator on the Path Partners Forum writes, The Other Man (OM) is not your competition. Hes just a Band-Aid; no different than a shot for an alcoholic. According to Schaap, Women anguish over their affairsThey are willing to risk everything their marriage, their childrens well-being, even their careers for a person who makes them feel so happy, lovedand alive! The MLC woman often wants to keep the LBS spouse on the hook in case the relationship with the other man doesnt work out. The ideal situation for her is to have her husbands money and another mans attention. Why would she give that up? For the left-behind spouse, its important to know that while there is another man in the picture, there is nothing he (the LBS) can do to make a difference. He can make all the changes she complained were wrong in the marriage, but there is still another man meeting her needs. If the wife has engaged in an affair, she has emotionally checked out of the marriage and it can take a long time to extract those feelings (often six months or more after the affair ends). She may say that there are problems in her marriage, and thats why she strayed. That may well be true. But if the marriage was the problem, why did she need to take up with another man? Why not work on the marriage?

How You Can Help the Left-Behind Spouse Understand the Crisis It Isnt About the Relationship
One of the most devastating things for the left-behind spouse is that the betraying spouse has likely been planting the seeds for a while of her unhappiness, complaining to her friends and family about the spouses deficiencies. But the key to remember is that no one is perfect, and she is using these reasons as an excuse to detach from her husband and family, and to justify her behaviors and feelings.


Recognize the signs of the midlife crisis, and respond accordingly. Listen for the excuses from the woman in midlife crisis. These can include: My kids deserve to have a mom and dad that are happy. Happy to be alive, happy to wake up every day; happy to just be. (Kids) need to know that even if it does hurt for a while, it doesnt mean its wrong. They have to know that they have the right to be happy, whether they are 12 or 30. My husband isnt meeting my otional needs. He doesnt get me. I deserve a relationship with someone who really loves me. Dont engage in the blame game with her. The MLC spouse is looking for someone to blame for how they are now feeling. The spouse is the most frequently chosen target, but close family and friends can sometimes share in the blame. The friend that was supportive and helpful is now, in retrospect, controlling. The spouse is alternatively not here enough or smothering her. In the struggle to find happiness, almost anything associated with the old life is deemed wrong including many friends and family members. She may seek out new friends often ones she would never have associated with before. The husband, while never perfect before, is the problem. All the faults are identified and examined in great detail. The litany of You never and You always is a drumbeat to reinforce to the left-behind spouse that any problems are his fault. In response, the spouse will make the changes that were recently identified, but now the MLC spouse says its too little, too late or people dont change. (Although, obviously, she has!) The reality, of course, is that any marriage needs both partners working on it and in it to be successful. You may also find that the woman in MLC can become abusive towards the LBS not necessarily physically, but emotionally or mentally. They are projecting their hurt on the person that has been closest to them. When this happens, its important to support the LBS and validate that the things the MLC spouse is saying are not true. He may begin to question himself; to question reality. When interacting with the woman in MLC, point out the good things about her relationship dont reinforce her negatives. If she comes back to the relationship, you will have made it easier for her by not bashing the LBS, who she now needs to rebuild trust with. Encourage her to get help, stay in the marriage, and especially, see a doctor and pursue individual counseling with a therapist knowledgeable about midlife crisis. Depression is often not mentioned enough as part of this process but it is often a major contributing factor. Why else would she settle for such a lowlife? Because of her lower opinion of herself. But dont try to fix her either. It doesnt work. She had unmet emotional needs and she holds her husband accountable. Its not likely that you (her friends and family) will be able to undo that. The typical response to the midlife crisis is for the woman to run away either literally or figuratively. She may say that she just wants to get away from everything. One person who went through MLC said what turned her around was comparing her old life with her new life. Talk to someone who knew her as a teenager. Some of the same issues are likely to re-emerge. Remember, the spouse in MLC will have to live with the damage she has done. The earlier in the process the MLC can be identified, the less damage will be caused. Encourage the MLC spouse to pursue her dreams but in the context of her existing marriage. Make sure she is taking care of herself physically encourage her to get a physical (especially if she hasnt been to the doctor recently). Hopefully her physician will discuss anti-depressants, hormone replacement, and/ or vitamins with her.


Encourage Honesty.
Dont lie for her and dont cover for her. Appeasement does not work with the woman in midlife crisis. You may believe that she will get this out of her system if shes just allowed to go out and have some fun. But do not lie for her and dont help her cheat. Provide a safe place for her to talk about her feelings. She may make a pronouncement about the future, such as, I dont love him anymore. My feelings will never change. Challenge that sentiment, gently. But you did love him before, and now I hear you saying you dont. So things have changed beforecouldnt they change again? Schaap writes, If a woman says that shes miserable in her relationship and thats her reason for getting a divorce, shes very likely going to be miserable by herself or in her next relationship. Learn to be happy in your current circumsntances and then you can decide if you need to change (them). A big part of the crisis is allowing issues to build up without addressing them. She is fighting her responsibilities and her body aging helping her recognize that these are natural concerns can help ease her anxiety about facing these issues. Also, dont try to force her to break up with the Other Man (OM). This will just drive them closer together. Remember, he is the only person that really understands right now. This relationship isnt likely to last. Statistics show that 97 percent of relationships that begin as affairs do not last. It will likely burn itself out. And dont push her this will cause her to run further away. Remember: She cannot come back to the marriage fully until she finds herself. She will wake up one day in the wreckage of the life she created and she will know there is no one to blame but herself.

Keep an Eye Out for Her.

If you are in a position to, meet the Other Man and assess the relationship for signs of controlling behavior, abuse, or taking advantage of her vulnerability. She has lost her identity. She can hardly deal with herself right nowso it would be easy for her to be taken advantage of. Women are looking for a soulmate they really can fall in love with the OM. That makes her vulnerable to a predator. An emotional affair can be the beginning of a loser or user grooming his target into engaging in a physical affair. Emotional grooming comes first the predator engages the target (the woman in MLC) with a false sense of trust, using smooth words and phrases to make the woman feel special and desired. He will convince her to do something small perhaps go to lunch with him, but without telling her husband. He will tell her to keep our little secret hidden from others. When he calls, she will say it was a female friend calling. He will persuade her not to tell her husband about their calls, e-mails, or meeetings because he wont understand that were just friends, or he might get jealous. The groomer may be genuine or sincere at first he may not intentionally be leading her to an affair. He may just think he is rescuing her from a bad relationship, (especially if she complains about her husbands faults). He is her knight in shining armor. No matter the groomers faults, he will prove himself time and time again to her. There are a few grooming tactics the Other Man might use to snare the woman in midlife crisis. Watch for these signs: Flattery: Using exaggerated or insincere comments (not compliments) to get something in return. These may be sexaully suggestive, to see how she responds. Or he may flatter her mothering skills or how well she takes care of her husband. He is disarming her. Bribery: Giving to Get. These are material things with strings attached. For example, he may give her cash to buy something shes been wanting, but that she and/or her husband thought would be unnecessary or wasteful (i.e., a piece of jewelry).


Status: A woman in midlife crisis often gravitates towards someone older even just a little bit because these guys seem to have it all figured out, at least initially. Or he likes to party, and shes always been a bit inhibited, so he can show her how to have a good time. Jealousy: This is a grooming tactic when it is used to control or manipulate. He might say, You always dress so nicely. My ex never dressed up for me shed wear sweats everywhere. But you always look great. That puts pressure on her to live up to his expectations. Insecurity: Like jealousy, this is also a normal human emotion. Its a grooming tactic, however, when its used to manipulate the woman in midlife crisis. For example, the groomer may act insecure and ask for the reassurance of the targets love and loyalty. He may want pity and sympahy, and may even threaten self-harm. (I dont know how I could live without you as my friend.) Security: The groomer attempts to magnify the targets insecurities or create new insecurities not something that is difficult to do, given the womans low self-esteem to begin with. The groomer hopes the target will feel so bad that she will stay in a relationship with the groomer and be more reluctant to open up to others. Intimidation: Once she detaches from her spouse, she is on her own. But because she has been part of a couple for so long, she still needs help. He may give her money. He reminds her that she can only create this new life with him; that she wouldnt have been able to do it on her own. If she starts to have doubts, he threatens to expose the affair. He might also engage in intimidating physical actions loud/controlling voice, showing up and staring at her in public, faking a punch in her direction, etc. Control is the ultimate goal of the grooming process. The predator seeks to gain power or dominance of the woman in midlife crisis, and take control of the target and the relationship. Another way to do this is to break her down. He may keep her up at night calling, e-mailing, text messaging in what looks like connecting with her, but its really wearing her down. As a caretaker, she doesnt have the time or energy to recharge her batteries during the day, so she doesnt resist. (And besides, dont people in love always stay up late talking on the phone?) Another grooming tactic is attention. The groomer will give the woman in MLC his complete time and attention, even to the point of ridiculousness, like sleeping with the phone on his chest so hell be available to talk to her at any time of day or night. Even if she recognizes that the relationship is no longer healthy, she is worried she will get in trouble, and is ashamed of what she has done. She will wonder, Why did I let it get this far? She may convince herself that she needs to continue with this guy because she has already messed up. Or she may believe that she is in love when really shes just under the spell of a control freak.

Protect the Kids.

In the textbook MLC, the wife often abandons the children along with the marriage. That isnt to say that she will not continue to engage them, but her focus is entirely on herself and, if an affair partner is involved, with the Other Man. Even if she has custody, she isnt completely there or with it like she used to be, so try to stay engaged with the kids, especially during her parenting time. If she is the primary custodial parent, offer to watch the kids while she engages in a hobby, or takes classes. (But not while she goes out with the Other Man. You can have your boundaries too!) If the LBS has custody, help him out. Invite him to the normal friends and family events when she wont be present, especially when he has the kids. Or carve out special traditions to include him and the children to create a new normal for them. Mostly, just keep in touch with him. Staying in touch is one of the most powerful things you can do for him.


Dont Pile On.

Understand that the divorce due to midlife crisis is not because of the relationship. So providing comments to the MLC spouse that you think are being helpful can actually cause more harm for the left-behind spouse. These can include: Only you know what is best for you and your kids. You and the Mr. will never be the best parents you can be unless you both are happy. You deserve to be happy and you should do something about it now while youre still young enough to enjoy it. Life is too short to be unhappy. Just love yourself, and your kids and you will find your way. People do not change. I know you have your kids best interest at heart. Often these sentiments will come from her new friends, although they can also come from well-meaning friends and family, who dont understand that what she is going through is a midlife crisis.

Be There for the Left-Behind Spouse.

If the couple separates, reinforce that youre not taking sides in this matter. Instead, ask each party in the marriage what they need from you, and how you can help. Remember that the left-behind spouse is grieving the loss of the relationship as he knew it. It doesnt seem fair that the MLC spouse gets to party and the LBS is the one stuck cleaning up the mess she leaves behind. Remind him that the best thing he can do is to take care of himself and the kids, and wait her out. She may come around. The statistics bear this out: She probably will come around, but it will take time. It may take years, and the couple may even divorce. That doesnt mean he wont get another chance somewhere down the road. If divorce is inevitable, help him move on with his life. Invite him to participate in activities, especially on holidays and days when he doesnt have the kids. Just listen. Encourage him to take up a hobby or focus on something he deferred while he was in the relationship.

Now What?
Its estimated that the female midlife crisis takes approximately 2-5 years to work through, although this will vary significantly from woman to woman. Some may get it right away after their affair falls apart, while others will go on for years, going through with their divorces, and perhaps even remarrying, in their search for happiness. This is perhaps the cruelest fate for the LBS. The woman in MLC has been likened to a spinning tornado. The tornado may take a while to gather speed and strength, but when it gets going, watch out! It will likely destroy everything in its path. In some cases, it may be worthwhile for the friends and family members to just get out of the way, in order not to be sucked into the destructive vortex themselves. Help others (the children and LBS) to take cover and ride out the storm. In mild cases, men who are able to lay low (the equivalent of getting in that low-lying ditch talked about in tornado preparedness drills) and remove themselves emotionally as a target of the MLC wrath, can sometimes escape the most devastating effects of the storm. Setting boundaries for her behavior and not trying to work on the marriage/relationship issues, but simply being there may be enough. More information about this can be found in the Survive Your Wifes Midlife Crisis e-book and on the Men With Wives in Midlife Crisis on the Path Partners Forum ( [See the Resources page for more information.]


For the 10 percent of women who go into full crisis mode, family and friends should take cover. She is a teenager, hellbent on getting what she wants, and you better just get out of her way. The affair is exposed; it doesnt matter. The new man is the answer to all of her problems, and her new life is going to be just fabulous, thank-you-very-much. She is in love! Theres no time or thought given to pondering the consequences of her actions, and any repercussions are the fault of anyone foolish enough to get in her way or try to stop her. It is probably not useful to try and educate the MLC spouse about the midlife crisis process. She will likely deny that she is going through the crisis until she has come out the other side. And even then, it will only be in hindsight that she may be able to see that it was a midlife crisis, and not about the relationship. Bystander

Resources To Better Understand the MLC

ONLINE: Path Partners ( Forty-Sixty ( Women in MLC: The Dorothy Syndrome ( BOOKS/E-BOOKS: Survive Your Wifes Midlife Crisis e-book by Christine Carter Schaap ( Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy by Frank Pittman The Female Brain by Dr. Louann Brizendine Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman The Walk Out Woman by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray The Worn Out Woman by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray


Affirmations for the Left-Behind Spouse

Post this on your mirror or carry it in your wallet This is not about YOU; this is about HER. If it was about you, the changes you made after she said she was unhappy would have made a difference, and youd be working on your marriage and relationship together. If there is another man in picture (emotional affair or physical affair), there is nothing you can do until the affair burns itself out. She has no incentive to work on your relationship until the affair ends. Even when the affair ends, the midlife crisis is not over. It can take months or even years for her to understand that her unhappiness came from within. Detach, detach, detach! Not for her, but for you. If you dont take yourself out of the path of the tornado, it will destroy you too! Get out of the way, and wait for the storm to subside. Stop trying to fight the midlife crisis. This is something only SHE can solve. Trying to fix it is like trying to swim through a riptide to get to the shore. Instead, swim parallel to the riptide, and let the ocean current carry you to shore. Take up a new hobby. Get a part-time job. Go back to school. Get involved in your childrens lives. Volunteer. Dont try to convince her friends and family that you are the good guy and she is the bad guy in this. She is sick, and she doesnt know the damage she is doing. Dont force them to take sides, and dont keep score. Everyone wants what is best for her, for you, and for the children. Keep that in mind. Do not do anything that could be perceived as harassment or stalking. Stop giving her gifts. Dont try to win her back. The more you try to pull her closer, the harder she pushes you away. Right now, she is not the woman you married. Accept that and wait for the woman you knew to re-emerge. It will happen, but it will take a long time. Longer than you can even imagine it will. Set boundaries, but let her make her own choices. Dont put up gates or walls that will keep her from coming back eventually. Forgive her for what she is doing. Give her the time and space she says she needs. Dont push. Dont try to fix her. No matter what life throws your way, you can handle it!