It is not uncommon for men to feel trapped in their own life, especially not when it comes to either identifying or discovering new aspects in their sexuality. And getting out of the trap may not always be easy, especially not if your spouse is not open to this. Simply because getting out of the trap - which is not (although frequently identified as) the same as a mid-life crisis - may bring about some drastic shifts in your life. For both of you, actually.
The most blatent example is the situation where a married men “suddenly” discovers he is either gay or bisxual. This is neither sudden, nor a discovery, but in fact the men in question making room in his head for other, new ideas that he may have suppressed (conciously or not) for a long time. And this does not exactly happen in the area of sexual inclination - but also in other sexually related areas, such as discovering or identifying BDSM-emotions, crossdressing or simply discovering that there are other women as well and that there may be room in your life (and heart) for more than one.
This “life trap” - which is a very typical MALE thing - is something that has not attracted a lot of attention yet. However, it is fair to say that it can be compared to the situationof the woman who, after having raised children, wants to return to an active economic or social life and finds she's way behind in many developments and may not be able to do what she actually wants as a result of previous choices in life (this has as little to do with the meno-pause as the male trap has to do with mid-life crisis, even though all these events may happen more or less in the same period in your life). Both men and women will not be able to escape the trap without dramatic choices in their lives.
It doesn't always have to be dramatic - largely depending on your personal situation. Quite a few people “escape” the trap as a result of other changes in their lives, such as finding a new role and destiny in life though being grandparents, or picking up the study you always wanted to do, or career changes, which - especially for men - are likely to happen between 40 and 50. If you are eligeable for a top-management or board position, it will be around that age. To others however it will be a problem, especially if the trap either is directly related to your sexuality or has a large impact on it.
The strong defense wall
From the male point of view - which is what we are talking about here - the first thing you are likely to run into, is the HUGE defense wall your partner will build up, especially when the “trap” has sexual implecations. Most men, even trying to discuss such subjects, at some point, will have heard the “I am not good enough” argument at some point - and frequently more than once. In lots of cases that and the sound of a slamming front door will also be the last thing they hear, because that is where the relationship ends.
While the men feels he's (trying to be) honest about himself, his partner will feel betrayed and frequently “dumped” and communication is difficult if not entirely impossibe - for a long while and possibly forever. And since the “trap” is not something that has so far been identified very well, finding help or solutions is next to impossible. The two of you will have to sort it out by yourself, one way or another.
This is the time when “affairs” start to happen or when “the internet” comes in - secret virtual meetings in chat rooms, in Internet clubs and many other fora. No, we emphasize it again, THIS IS NOT MID-LIFE CRISIS! It is feeling trapped in your own choices that may not always have been your own and it has nothing to do with hormonal changes or the fact that you are losing hair or virility - even though all that may happen at the same time. The life of most men simply is a long chain of compromizes and choices hat were right at the time but that may turn against him later. Carreer choices, partner choices, financial choices and many others. His prime - self-imposed as a result of social programming - responsibility has always been making money, building and - even more importantly - supporting his family and now that he has done all that he feels he has lost old friends and missed opportunities and discovers that there is more to life than a carreer, financial security and a family to support. His first girlfriend starts to haunt his dreams again, together with old ideas, fishing or hiking trips, the good old sports days and frequently (if he has such a background) the “happy days with his buddies in the army”). All of that of course in a happy and rosy-red perspective.
Looking for footholds
What he is doing is looking for footholds. A combination of three - very important - things:
1. (re)assurance of his choices
2. openings for new possibilities
3. (re)inventing himself
And while he feels alone (since probably no-one will (re)assure him when it comes to his life choices), he feels trapped by the situation he is in - unable to leave his relationship (because he BOTH cannot without severe consequences and probably does not want to), unable to leave his carreer (again because of servere personal and economic consequences and probably not just for himself), physically unable to pick things he used to do (because he's out of condition) and unable to make room for himself (because of the many social, economical and family obligations AND the defense wall).
So, what to do? He'll look for footholds. He eventually probably WILL make room for himself and to him that neither feels like betrayal nor as weakness. In fact, it is very likely he will feel this as an important achievement (in other words the “room” may be cheating on his wife, but it doesn't feel like cheating, it feels like well-deserved personal space).
It doesn't make any sense - if the “trap” is sexually related, regardless in what way - to come up with solutions like: take up a hobby, find an education or go have a beer with your friends. And he isn't exactly Al Bundy either. He feels trapped and wants himself and the trap(s) to be taken seriously, quite often regardless the consequences (in other words: divorce).
The long and painful road
But it gets worse. The trap will become a trap by itself. Hardly any man WANTS a divorce, because it goes against everything he has been taught, everything that has been implanted and as a result anything he (thinks he) stands for. To the vast majority of men divorce equals (self)betrayal. So now that he identified the fact that he feels trapped and tries to find a way out or at least discuss it and find understanding, the trap in itself becomes a new, extra trap.
The only way out - except for the drastic methods, such as divorce - is through a long and painful process of communication. A process that is painful and difficult for both partners - however, also inevitable. If he feels trapped, there will be pain (either the pain of the divorce, the pain of a drastic carreer change or the pain of the communication itself). There is no way to avoid it - if the trap is there: face it!
Is there any general advice? No, not much - except maybe the assumption that the one-on-one, ever lasting, happy couple situation is probably not for everybody. In fact, modern divorce statistics show that the “happily ever after” are in fact a minority and may soon be reduced to a “happy few”. On top of that - a lot of aspects of modern society (technological changes, the economic rat race, double income families, the information-overflow and such) only come on top of that and the 1960-slogan “Stop the world, I want to get off” is probably more accurate than ever before.
At the same time: the “traditional relationship” (which in fact isn't that “traditional” at all, but merely an invention that is only 100 years old) is rapidly replaced by a multitude of relationships: gay, lesbian, non-married couples, poly-armory, living groups, deliberate singles, you name it. Meaning that when it comes to the view of what “a relationship” should be is probably (quite rapidly) changing. Some sociologists even argue that the baby-boomers and former hippies only now start to build the type of relationships the stood for back in the 1960s and 70s. Only history will tell if they are right or wrong. Fact is that there are changes and that, if you feel trapped, you'll probably have to do something about it.
©2007 Hans Meijer
Hans Meijer is 54, a Dutch former journalist and government spokesmen, webmaster and filmmaker, active in the sexual and erotic information realm. He is the chairman of powerotics Foundation (now closed). This organization is dedicated to provide quality information about alternative lifestyles. His 5 e-book series “Shibari Fumo Ryu” about the Japanese erotic Shibari technique and art is considered groundbreaking. Reproduced with permission.