Midlife “Snipers”

I recently watched a documentary about the history of military snipers. The narrator mentioned that enemy snipers considered the officers as high value targets to snipers because to take down a leader not only caused confusion among the ranks of the other soldiers but also was a blow to the fighting morale to the troops under that fallen officer’s leadership.

It soon occurred to me after watching this documentary that there was parallel story that could be drawn middle aged men and women. By the time someone “arrives” in the years considered middle age, they have already lived a considerable amount of life, had a lot of experiences, learned a lot of lessons, made a few friends, added a few family members to their household, made a little (or a lot) of money, and gained some influence and expertise in their chosen vocations or professions. In other words, men and women hold many seats of leadership and influence in society during their middle age years.

Understanding those positions of responsibility and privilege that they hold, it should not come as any surprise that when a middle age man or woman for whatever reason “goes down,” the results are more far reaching and devastating than just the life of that individual. Take for example this story about a hypothetical woman named Amy:

Amy is in her late forties, she’s happily married and the mother of two children. Amy is also well educated and she has worked hard to amass enough professional experience in the corporate world to where she finally felt confident enough to strike out on her own and start her own business venture. Because of Amy’s hard work ethic, it came as no surprise that her business quickly flourished. Soon Amy employed 30 people and had a steady flow of customers from around the world.

As her business grew, so did the need for her to travel out of town to meet with her clients. The business trips sometimes kept her away from home for a couple of weeks at a time. While on the road, she would call home every night to make sure that her husband was holding down the fort with the kids. Her husband also had his own job, and for while he kept a good attitude about the added responsibilities he had at home by himself, but after a few too many of the long business trips, the only thing Amy and her husband did when they spoke on the phone was argue. Both had valid points; they both felt tired, stressed, lonely, and underappreciated. They both felt trapped, the business was flourishing but they both knew their marriage was floundering, it was as if Amy and her husband didn’t even know each other anymore. When Amy came home from a trip it was like returning home to strangers. The stress and long distance relationship sucked the love and intimacy from their marriage. And then one day during a following business trip, one of Amy’s clients invited her to dinner. It was just like a thousand other business dinners she had, only this time this man made romantic advances towards her. Amy truly loved her husband, but that last fight was a doozy, and they hadn’t been intimate with each other in a couple of months with the traveling and then the quarreling when they were together. In an uncharacteristic fit of clouded reasoning and emotion, Amy gives in to her client’s romantic advances.

Here are some of the possible “snipers” in this hypothetical story:

  1. Too much time away from Amy’s loved ones.
  2. Amy having dinner alone with another man while on the road.
  3. Putting the business in front of the relationship.
  4. Amy’s husband not getting help around the house to eliminate some of the building stress that contributed to the quarreling.
  5. Lack of communication between Amy and her husband about how to preserve their relationship while building the business.

And here is a short list of some of the potential “casualties”:

  1. Amy loses her husband who finds out about her affair and files for a divorce.
  2. Amy’s children are separated from one of their parents because of the divorce which adds more stress to their already stressful teenage experience.
  3. Amy has to downsize her company when her husband sues her for half of her business assets in order to raise their two children now as a single parent.
  4. Amy liquidates a portion of the business and lays off half of her employees in order to fulfill the court order.
  5. Amy’s former employees and their own families suffer financially due to the layoff.
  6. Amy’s affair was just a one night stand, and now there is really no one to come home to after a long business trip.

When a middle age man or woman falls for whatever reason (infidelity, sexual abuse, substance abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, addictions, boredom, the reasons to fall are many) he or she takes many other people down with them. Just like a sniper who looks to put an officer in his cross hairs, the middle age man and woman has so much more to lose now than they ever did before during this phase of life. With that in mind, they must be more vigilant than ever to safeguard themselves and their loved ones from the fall.

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