An MLCer needs both tender compassion and Tough Love that includes boundaries. In the beginning set personal boundaries such as regarding appropriate treatment of yourself and the children, but rule-boundaries dictating behaviors, such as curfews if he is still living at home, will serve only to alienate and anger him. Though anger is not to be feared, it is not necessary to incite it in this way at this time. In the beginning be soft, conciliatory, show tenderness and compassion. Tough Love with rule-boundaries in the beginning ensures he will run; he will likely leave or has already left anyway, but too strict and he may run farther than is beneficial for a future reconnection. Tough Love with rule-boundaries is vital later when your MLCer wants to return.
These are counter-intuitive. Most LBSs are angry and tough in the beginning or beg and plead; later when the MLCer wants to come home she is so overjoyed at his return and fears ruining a reconciliation that she loosens the rules and boundaries.
How do you know when to switch from being soft to being firm?
True, it is not as simple as being soft in the beginning and firm at the end. When is the end? If an MLCer returns four times, you may think that each attempt is the end and become firm only to find yourself seemingly back at the beginning where you need to be soft. Did you send him running away because you were firm before he was ready? PANIC! No. MLCers cycle. Instead of thinking of the beginning and end of the entire midlife crisis, think of beginning and endings of cycling phases--these are not stages or characteristics, but cycles that may be varying shifts in mood, over minutes, days, weeks or months, or they may be indicative of progress or of external events such as pressure from or fights with the OW.
Though MLCers need validation and affirmations, you can still tell him No.
But understand, the problems are not yours to fix; they are within him. And if you are in the first few months after Bomb Drop, focus on your Self and on Validating his feelings, challenging will come later; show tender compassion.