In April of last year, our then deputy prime minister and leader of the National party, Barnaby Joyce, turned 50.
Within weeks of his birthday, it was rumoured that his wife of 24 years, Natalie Joyce, confronted the woman her husband was having an affair with, his media adviser Vikki Campion, in their hometown of Tamworth.
Reportedly Campion was moved to minister Matt Canavan’s office.
The following month, Joyce attended a Nationals conference in Broken Hill, and colleagues described him as “a mess”.
At home, Joyce was said to be working on his marriage. It is believed Natalie Joyce sought help from Catholic priest, Father Frank Brennan, to counsel her husband.
In October, Campion reportedly went on stress leave.
By December, Joyce announced during the same-sex marriage debate that he was now separated from his wife. It was then that he moved in with Campion.
Before his 51st birthday, it was publicised that Campion was pregnant with Joyce’s child and that he would be resigning as deputy prime minister and leader of the National party.
In 12 months, Barnaby Joyce blew up his life.
On Monday night’s episode of Q&A, politician Jacqui Lambie said: “Look, I’m going to be brutally honest and I have been about this all the way through.
“This is beyond a midlife crisis. This is not the Barnaby Joyce I know. I am concerned about his mental welfare.”
But is it actually beyond a midlife crisis? Or is that the perfect explanation?
In all the coverage of the Joyce saga – particularly his decision to accept $150,000 for an interview with Seven Network’s Sunday Night – the subject of his ‘mental welfare’ has not been seriously broached.
We discussed the Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion interview on today’s episode of Mamamia Out Loud…
It’s not difficult to see why. There are a number of victims in this story; his ex-wife, his four daughters, his son who never asked to be thrust into a media storm, and even his former staffer who had images of her splashed across every newspaper in the country. Joyce certainly isn’t anywhere near the top of that list.
But could his age – or a recent milestone birthday – go some way in explaining perhaps the most eventful 12 months of his life?
The jury is out on whether or not the midlife crisis is a true psychological phenomenon, but last year two economists claimed to have statistical proof that such a life stage exists.
After surveying 1.3 million people across 51 countries, the economists identified a dip in happiness between the ages of 30 and 50, though they found it impossible to measure exactly how it affects people’s jobs, marriage or economic activity.
In 1978, the New York Times ran a story on a psychologist who claimed midlife crises always happen within three years of a significant birthday, like 30, 40, or 50.
Carl Jung theorised that midlife is an intense period of self-actualisation and self-awareness, with many asking questions about who they are and why they are here.
It can also be a time where an individual is desperate to return to their youth, without the constraints and limitations of adulthood.
Grace Gedeon, an international life coach who specialises in addiction, trauma, self esteem, relationships and financial issues, told Mamamia that in her practice, she’s found midlife crises occur much earlier than 50.
“The midlife crisis tends to happen in your early 40s,” she said, “when you’ve been going down a road in your life based on duty and shoulds and beliefs and structures set up by society, and then you get to basically half your life span and you go ‘OK, is the way I’m living my life the way I want to be living my life?'”
If anything, Gedeon wonders if it’s an existential crisis driving Joyce’s odd behaviour, epitomised by the question: “What is the meaning of my life?”
Gedeon was also clear that infidelity is an act that takes place at all ages, through all life stages.
But after having a family, and once children grow into adults, “many people feel torn between a family that they love and care for and a desire to discover themselves.”
Did something about turning 50, entering a new decade, perhaps surpassing his (estimated) midlife point and realising he’d been married for half of that, fill Joyce with existential dread?
Though we don’t know the reason why, we do know that in 12 months, one of our most prominent politicians blew up his life.
And he will be left to pick up the pieces.