I was 45 when I married husband number 2 and 50 something when I left. Hardly front page news. But the fact that 66% of UK divorces in 2011 were initiated by women might be.
In a recent article I read a well-known woman novelist complained that women were always being asked how they feel, while men were asked how they think.
Here’s evidence that not only do women know how they feel – needing to leave a relationship and logically and rationally acting their way out of it. Nonetheless, whoever articulates ‘the end’, divorce is still a very painful process that comes with a heavy emotional price.
Once the legal complexities and the children’s needs are addressed, any relief is likely to be accompanied by contradictory feelings – sadness, guilt, anger, hurt alongside excitement and energy.
From my experience, divorce raises two broad themes: me-based thinking (self-focused) and them-based thinking (others-focused). And it brings a relentless inner voice, chastising you one minute and urging you on the next. How you respond will probably determine how you progress with your after-life!
Here are some things you might be saying to yourself.
Me – based thinking:
- ‘I’ve failed. I feel guilty. I should have tried harder to make it work.’
Answer: So you married the wrong person. You’re human. We make mistakes. Ask yourself a key but difficult question; ‘what can I learn from the experience’?
And do you remember the times you wished you weren’t married? And you weren’t alone there. Monique Honaman found married midlife women, who were dissatisfied, unfulfilled and wishing they were no longer married. Thinking back, do you think trying harder would have made you happy? Here’s the deal, people change; love dies; happy ever after doesn’t exist for most. And whether or not you initiated ‘the end’, being outside an unhappy marriage is always more fulfilling and healthier than being within.
Researchers at Kingston University found that women are much happier after divorce. And you can be too when you free yourself from that useless emotion called guilt.
2. ‘My partner left me for a younger woman. I’m so angry and hurt’.
Answer: Well, you’ll naturally feel hurt and angry. Rejection is painful. But how long will you hang on to those feelings? The longer you do, the more they can infect other relationships (with your kids, your friends and colleagues, for example) and can lead to ill health. So find a way of expressing your hurt and anger – to a counsellor, a coach, a trusted friend, perhaps, and get help to let go. To do this you’ll also have to consider your own role –which is why it may be difficult to do this honestly on your own. Once you’ve ‘let go’ you may also feel strong enough to initiate a productive and mutually beneficial conversation with your ex.
3. ‘I’m done with men. I’ll never remarry’.
That’s easy to say when you’re freshly divorced and view single status as extremely attractive.
That’s what I said after no 1 and then no 2. And guess what? I’ve done it again – maybe not married, but in a long-term relationship nevertheless.
You might prefer to throw yourself into your career, reinvent your life or stick with your mates right now.
In the long term, however, when loneliness and the desire for good sex and intimacy arise you might feel differently. Of course, marriage isn’t your only option. There are now different types of life-style choices – live together unmarried, live apart married (or ‘living apart together’ as it’s known, a growing phenomenon for 1 in 10 people such as Helena Bonham Carter and hubby, Tim Burton).
In fact, why not invent your own alternative to traditional marriage.
So figure out what it is specifically about marriage that’s an off-put. And when you’re ready for another long-term relationship, choose someone who’s up for doing it in a different way to avoid what puts you off.
Or: I’m on the scrap heap and will never find another partner
Midlife women have to contend with menopause, the loss of youth and a diminishing nurturing role. And we’re often not valued in the way that younger women are and can seem ‘invisible’.
However, an advantage of being older and more experienced – is that we’re more likely to accept who we are and know what we want and ask for it –something not enough women actually do.
This is an attractive package to a lot of men. And if you’re still doubtful, the American Association of Retired Persons has found that around 75% of 50-something divorced women go on to find someone new. If they can do it, why can’t you?
1. My kids have been affected by the break-up. What can I do?
Whether your kids are children or adults it’s devastating to watch their parents split up. It challenges their sense of stability and security. Of course, you’ll protect them as best as you can. But here are 2 things to avoid;
- Post-divorce acrimony. The marriage may have ended but it’s damaging to both younger and adult children. So quit arguing within earshot of the kids and rid yourself of any toxic energy that relates to feelings about your ex. Your kids will sense it if you don’t.
- Confiding in and leaning on your adult children. This can threaten their relationship with both you and their dad. Because they’re grown up, people tend to under-estimate the impact on adult children of parental divorce. But it can rock their world in unexpected ways and affect their own personal relationships.
The best divorces, if there’s any such thing, are those in which both parties are civil towards each other and keep the children out of any conflict.
2. What other issues might I face?
There’ll be financial issues, of course, so check out a good financial adviser.
Reading is always a reflective source. Try these, available from Amazon;
- ‘Co-parenting Survival Guide: Letting Go Of Conflict After Divorce’ Thayer and Zimmerman.
- ‘Transformational Tips For Letting Go And Moving On After Divorce’, Shelley Stile
- ‘Single Again: A Guide For Women Starting Over,’ Victoria Jaycox.
If you would like professional help, a coach specialising in women experiencing divorce will give you a supporting shoulder. She’ll help you figure out how to move on and create a fuller future by leaving your past behind –faster.