Middle-aged man abruptly buys a red sportscar, becomes a gym rat and leaves his wife for his receptionist, all in a frenzied attempt to reverse the clock. We know this scenario well -- or do we?
Inspired by recent research suggesting that the so-called "midlife crisis" is a myth, NBC's "Today" show kicked off a new series April 18 called "Midlife Today," which asks whether hitting this chronological milestone -- typically defined as falling between the ages of 45 and 65 -- can be a cause for celebration rather than crisis.
To answer that question, "Today" host Matt Lauer sat down with Vivian Diller, Ph.D., a psychologist and co-author of "Face It: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change," and Ish Major, M.D., a psychiatrist and author of "Little White Whys: A Woman's Guide Through the Lies Men Tell and Why."
Diller, who has written about the midlife experience for The Huffington Post, believes that it is no longer characterized by a need to turn back time but by a desire to make life more satisfying. "The emphasis has shifted," she told Lauer. "Instead of it being about how little time we have left, we're actually thinking, 'We could have -- uh-oh -- 30, 40, 50 years ahead of us, and how do we want to make the adjustments in our life so that those years are more fulfilling?'"
Major asserts that the stereotypical crisis is more likely to strike those who don't plan for midlife's arrival. "It's worse for folks who have an avoidant type of personality," he said. "They haven't thought about or planned out that future transition well, and that crisis really hits them hard."
So how many midlifers actually find themselves in full-on crisis mode? Margie Lachman, Ph.D., a psychologist and the director of the Brandeis University Lifespan Initiative on Healthy Aging, has found that it affects a relatively small percentage of people. "From our national study of midlife in the United States, the estimates were between 10 and 20 percent," she told "Today."
For the rest, it seems, midlife is a welcome opportunity for self-enrichment.