Midlife does not have to be a crisis for men

By Vision reporter

JUMA Opio, 46, did not understand his wife’s concern. He thought she was making a fuss about what she perceived as a sudden change in his life. He chewed a lot of gum, had acquired a back pack, wore baggy trousers and had a teen-like swagger.

By Maureen Nakatudde

JUMA Opio, 46, did not understand his wife’s concern. He thought she was making a fuss about what she perceived as a sudden change in his life. He chewed a lot of gum, had acquired a back pack, wore baggy trousers and had a teen-like swagger.

But away from the public, Opio had become depressed and short tempered. Mariam first related it to his waning sexual urge, then to infidelity and finally, convinced herself he was running mad. He refused to talk to counsellors but when his libido deserted him completely, he agreed to go see a doctor.

Dr. Kyarimpa of Mengo hospital says the symptoms usually affect men in midlife crisis. The man’s sexual prowess declines and the fact that he cannot perform devastates him. He tries to date younger and more exciting girls to fire up his libido, which increases his problems.

“It is important for a man to have an understanding wife,” the doctor says, “or else the man may even suffer from depression and anxiety.”

The man discovers that he is closer to death, yet he has not achieved much for his age. Some men seek superficial achievements to show off but others give up and become shabby, Kyarimpa explains. This might involve not shaving, bathing, and being shabby.

Opio was advised to join a peer group at their church where he discovered that his frustration was not unique.

“People rarely achieve 100% of what they set out to do,” he said. “In fact, more than 80% never achieve 80%. I appeal to men whose frustration boils down into their families to remember that all men experience that stage at one time and the majority overcome it.”

Just as puberty is the transition from childhood to adulthood, midlife is the transition from the ‘building stage’ to the ‘mature stage’ of adult life.

There are as many differences between these two halves of adult life as there are between childhood and adulthood, he adds.

The Rev. David Adams, Dean of Glad Tidings Bible College, Kampala, says midlife crisis basically requires social and psychological solutions.

“The common symptoms I have seen include chasing after girls, drinking, frequenting nightclubs, pornography and hanging out with the bad boys in town to fight the aging impression,” he says.

Men need understanding not condemnation, if you are to help them successfully. The man and the woman should understand support and be patient with each other till the period lasts. “If a man fails to perform in bed for example, the woman should not charge at him and call him names. She should try as much as possible to support him,” Kyarimpa says.

If the worst comes to the worst and the man is under tremendous pressure to perform sexually, for instance if he has a young bride who cannot live without sex, Kyarimpa recommends using sex enhancing drugs like viagra.

However, he advises against self medication. “Viagra requires a certain cardiovascular health and so it has to be recommended by a medical doctor,” he said.

He also advises men to try and keep fit. “Engage in physical exercises like aerobics, walking or jogging. This will keep you fit and at the same time change your general outlook towards things.”

Another prescription is a good diet that will not only provide vital nutrients to your body, but also improve your sexual performance. Remember to reduce the amount of fats and alcohol intake and also stress.

Adams particularly advises against pornography. “Since 90% of sexual temptation of men is through eyes, cut off the power of that sexual obsession if you don’t want to end up with the mess of cross-generational sex.

“Going with your daughter’s (or granddaughter’s) agemates devalues your status, family, marriage and yet it doesn’t solve your problem. As you grow older, your love should grow deeper,” Adams urges.

How to handle midlife crisis

  • Find better ways of tackling stress. Avoid the temptation to use alcohol, nicotine or other drugs to relieve it. Instead, use de-stressing treatments and exercises prescribed by a doctor. Complementary approaches, such as aromatherapy, meditation and yoga, can all have a powerful relaxing effect.

  • The journey from youth to middle age and into old age may seem frightening but it can be an opportunity to re-evaluate and the direction of your life. Talk about your problems to friends, peers or partner. Counselling can help some and an intermediary can also be effective in dealing with problems in relationships.

  • Be positive about your achievements, ageing and the way life is turning out. A crisis can be used as an opportunity to change your life for the better.

  • Eat well. Make sure you eat regular meals and avoid too many refined foods, saturated fats and those with high cholesterol. Also try to have enough rest.

  • Vitamin and nutritional supplements can promote better health. Vitamin B complex in particular, is thought to be helpful for stress.

  • Take regular exercise to avoid being a slob, when you’re feeling low. Keeping fit will relieve stress and mild depression. Try combining aerobics with other exercise, as running, cycling or swimming or weight training. Playing a team sport and/or joining a club is a powerful motivator, as you won’t want to let the lads down. It may allow you to meet other men, which can be refreshing and even therapeutic, because they may be experiencing similar problems.

  • Don’t fight the changes in your sex life. Just get used to it. Go for quality rather than quantity and explore the possibilities of real intimacy.

  • Don’t give up. At 60, you can still have time start something, broaden your interests, travel, return to school to improve your academic qualifications, learn new skills or take up a new sport.

  • See an expert (doctor, counsellor) if need be. Many symptoms need to be checked out for underlying physical causes. For example, you may think your impotence is a result of the midlife crisis, when it is actually a symptom of diabetes or heart disease that you need to check out fast.

  • In developed countries, men go for TRT (testosterone replacement therapy), which involves administering doses of extra testosterone through patches, injections, pills or creams to those suffering male-menopausal symptoms. However, TRT as a quick fix, may ignore the underlying cause of the problem, increase the risk of prostate cancer and increase the sex drive without doing anything for the ability to perform (which can cause even greater frustration).

  • Midlife does not have to be a crisis for men