Your relationships

Divorce brain: How to put the “wise owl” back in control

The ‘fight or flight’ response has been with us as a species from our earliest beginnings. It’s a survival mechanism that causes our bodies to respond to perceived threat.  When you feel threatened, the brain starts preparing the body for action and it goes into a state of heightened alert. Those in the initial stages of divorce often experience the ‘fight or flight’ response. It may kick in when having a conversation with an ex, visiting the lawyer’s offices, going to court and is even triggered by painful memories.

What happens in the brain in ‘fight or flight’ mode?

  • Releases cortisol
  • Releases adrenaline
  • Releases glucose
  • Heart and lung action accelerates
  • Digestion slows down
  • Blood vessels to crucial muscles dilate

What do you experience when your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode?

Your heart rate goes up, your pupils dilate, you perspire and your mouth feels dry. Your neck and shoulders muscles tense up and your breathing becomes faster and shallower.

amygdala barking dogDeep in the center of the limbic brain is the amygdala, which acts like a guard dog. Its function for centuries has been to protect us when our lives are threatened.  The trouble is that in these modern times the guard dog is not so good at discerning whether you are really in a life or death situation.  It doesn’t know the difference between a fear that exists in your mind or a real event.  The “fight or flight” response is triggered even when you are not under any real threat.

When you react in response to the guard dog’s alarm, you may find yourself acting in ways you are ashamed of afterwards, lashing out at those around you and using language you have never used in your life before.  prefontal cortex or wise owl

The biggest part of your brain is the  “thinking” brain or the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is located right behind the forehead and is often described as the ‘wise old owl’. Planning, reasoning, problem solving, decision making and impulse control all take place in this part of the brain.

How do we put the “wise old owl” back in control?

You are not meant to stay in a “fight or flight” state for long periods of time. When stressors are constantly present, you are overexposed to cortisol and other stress hormones that can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes . Here are some well-known ways to help put the “wise old owl” part of your brain back in control.

  • Take a beat and breathe slowly. stop and breathe
    You need to slow down for your mind to realize that your situation may be stressful but you are not in mortal danger. Slow breathing sends this signal to your brain. As you take deep breaths, the “wise old owl” opens up her eyes and sees that the guard puppy is not barking at any real danger. She helps the guard puppy to calm down and stop barking.
  • Wait for the ‘wise owl’ to respond.
    alarm clock
    The amygdala triggers a response very speedily (30 milliseconds). The “thinking” response takes longer (250 milliseconds).   If you delay your response, you give  the ‘wise owl’ an opportunity to take control and you will avoid irrational decisions and actions.
  • Avoid the drama.
    howling dog
    Don’t get caught up in gossip about your ex and to avoid playing “what if …” scenarios in your own head.  Drama fires up the guard dog and you start to react without thinking.
  • Change how you think about stress.
    sleeping dog
    How you think about stress and react to it makes a difference. If the amygdala reads incoming information as safe, it relaxes and puts the prefrontal cortex back in control. Optimism causes the “barking dog” to relax and dopamine levels to rise. Walking in nature, exercising, painting, and listening to music are all activities that cause relaxation and allow this to happen.
    meditateMeditating and prayer are two age-old practices that can help to keep you grounded, peaceful and able to think more clearly. Find out what works best for you and incorporate these activities into your daily routine.
  • Compassion and gratitude
    compassion
    Compassion is a function of your pre-frontal cortex. If you are exercising compassion towards yourself and others, your thinking brain is in control. As a result you have more control over your emotions and your relationship with yourself and with others improves. Gratitude also increases positive emotions, allowing the pre-frontal cortex to function properly.
  • Find the right support
    When the body releases adrenaline, it also releases oxytocin. This is the hormone that drives you to seek out physical contact and support from others. When you have support, you are able to calm down and start thinking more rationally. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to surround yourself with supportive people. Giving and receiving hugs literally helps to soothe your brain as the calming peptides flow.
  • Welcome the challenge of new experiences
    overcome challenges
    New experiences, even if you don’t want them, help your brain to grow. Learning new information and engaging in challenging new activities fires off neurons in a good way. Your divorce forces you out of your old comfort zones and habits. It presents you with a situation in which you are forced to overcome obstacles.  As you overcome them and take on new challenges, you will find that instead of constantly feeling overwhelmed, you become much better at coping and making decisions.

Your divorce can have a negative impact on your mind and body, especially  if you remain stuck in ‘fight or flight’ mode and your body is constantly flooded with stress hormones. However, it can also be a catalyst for changing your old ways of reacting to stressful situations and offer you the opportunity to develop a stronger mental attitude.

 

 

 

Facing a gray divorce? You are not alone.

birch heart

You may not be aware of it but if you are in the throes of a late-life divorce, you are part of what is being called the “grey divorce phenomenon”.  Some of the main reasons for this phenomenon are reflected in the infographic below.

gray divorce phenomenon

Statistics show that gray divorce figures are rising at a time when other divorce figures are dropping.  However, statistics can only give us a general picture and the truth is often more nuanced than the statistics suggest. It is interesting to observe trends but I think that every marriage is unique and so the reasons for divorce may be different in each case too. In many cases, it’s more than just one factor that contributes to a divorce.

We also need to remember that people often marry again after divorce and subsequent marriages appear to have a lower success rate.  The statistics are influenced by the fact that the divorce rate for people over 50 who have been married more than once is higher than for those who have only been married once.

Some research has suggested that late-life divorce is not related to retirement, children leaving home, chronic illness or education. In 2016 researchers from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) reached these conclusions after studying  more than 5000 couples where one spouse was born before 1960. They also found that wealth, home ownership and the duration and quality of a marriage meant less likelihood of a gray divorce.

No matter what the reason for your gray divorce, perhaps you can take comfort from the fact that you are surrounded by many others experiencing it too. The increase in late-life divorce hasn’t escaped celebrities and they are also divorcing with increasing frequency after decades of marriage.  Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver married in 1986 and divorced in 2011. Mel and Robyn Gibson married in 1980 and divorced in 2011. Al and Tipper Gore married in 1970 and shocked family and friends when they separated in 2010, after forty years of being together.

One fortunate aspect of the media spotlight on the phenomenon has been the increase of resources aimed at those going through a late-life divorce. Here are some of the books I can recommend.

Co-dependent No More By Melody Beattie

This book may not be specifically directed at the over-50s but if, like so many others, you’ve lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to others, you may be co-dependent and you may find yourself in this book.

The Divorce Survival Guide for Women   By Leslye Kohl

This survival guide is written by a former happy married wife of 23 years who experienced the pitfalls of the divorce process first hand and wants to help others to avoid them.

DIVORCE: Think Financially, Not Emotionally By Jeffrey A. Landers

It is very important to understand the financial implications of your divorce and this book will help you to do this. The financial decisions you make at this time will affect you for the rest of your life so you need to be fully informed before making them.

Gray Divorce Stories: The Truth About Getting Divorced Over 50 From Men and Women Who’ve Done It By Barry Gold

In this book, you will read the stories of those who have been through a late-life divorce in their own words. They describe their good times and bad times, regrets and desires, successes and failures. Reading this book will really help you understand that you are not alone in what you are going through and you can learn from the journeys of others.

Last word

A shift seems to be occurring as more women in their fifties and sixties initiate divorce. This trend seems to indicate that women in this age range are more financially independent than in the past. However, whether the divorce is initiated by the woman or the man, and whether a marriage has ended with a whimper or a bang, it seems that it’s stability in later years has become increasingly critical. I can’t help wondering if gray divorce is here to stay and whether the millenials will experience the same trend.  What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Living alone does not mean you have to be lonely

alone

You’re not alone if you’re living alone. There are many people in the world today that live alone – some have never married, others are widowed or divorced. In  the United States alone there are approximately 95 million single adults. Although living life as a single person is more accepted than it was in the past, many people still see it as a way of life that’s lonely and even shameful in a way.

The media does not help as it continues to portray romantic love as the answer and without this, life is not worth living. So, are all those people living alone really doomed to a miserable existence? I can’t accept that. Perhaps living alone is not something we aspire to or the ideal lifestyle but it is indeed possible to live alone and create a full, rich and satisfying life. After all, plenty of couples are living a far from blissful existence and just because you have a partner does not guarantee you happiness.

The vicious cycle

If you are alone and you believe, either consciously or unconsciously, that “there must be something wrong with me because I am alone”, it will have a negative effect on how you see yourself and how you live your life. You may walk around feeling inferior and indulge in plenty of self-pity. Other people inevitably pick up on this and it starts a vicious cycle in your life. Your low self-esteem makes you tend to withdraw and cut yourself off. You’re so afraid of being judged that you avoid the very people and activities that could enhance your life.

If you feel bad about yourself, you’re less likely to take care of yourself too. You may eat unhealthily, do no exercise and sleep badly. You try to numb your feelings through distractions like working too much, compulsive shopping, overeating, drinking too much or other unhealthy habits. Everyone has different ways of coping if they live alone and some of these ways just make the situation worse.

Challenge your thought and behaviour patterns

The bottom line is that if you believe you can only be happy if you have a partner, you will always be waiting from someone to come and rescue you from your miserable existence. You will never live your life fully. It can be a challenge to break your habits of thought and behaviour that hold you back from living a full life on your own.

Look at aloneness differently

The first change you must make is to view your aloneness differently. Instead of associating being alone with pain, emptiness and loneliness, you have to start imagining it as an opportunity for growth. It is not easy if your thought patterns are deeply ingrained. If you have always thought about being alone as being lonely, it’s hard to separate the two.  The minute you are alone, you feel lonely and depressed instead of inspired and motivated. Your depression leads to apathy and you don’t feel like doing anything. Your attitude affects your behaviour and the cycle continues.

When my divorce came at the same time as my children flew the nest, I could no longer rely on anyone else for my happiness or my financial welfare. This was a very difficult challenge, and I haven’t completely conquered it yet. But I know without any shadow of doubt that my thinking influences all the other aspects of my life and so I have worked consistently and persistently to change the way I think. I began by focusing on opportunities, rather than the fact that I was approaching retirement age rapidly with no financial security. I started looking at making a living through working online and rejoiced at the opportunities this offered. I invested in a copywriting course and learned as much as I could about blogging, websites and affiliate marketing. This meant that I had something to get up for in the morning instead of wanting to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep.

A healthier relationship with yourself

With no romantic relationship or partner to distract you, you have the unique opportunity to focus on your own personal development. You learn more about who you are, the choices you’ve made and why, what you want out of life and what’s holding you back.  When you realize that no-one else is going to change your life for you, you reach a point where you can decide to do something about making a joyful life for yourself. You can focus on what interests you – your passions and goals. You can form relationships with people who are supportive and uplifting. You can find daily activities that motivate and inspire you.

Healthier relationships with others

When you improve your relationship with yourself, it changes the way you relate to others. You are no longer looking for someone else to make you whole. Your self-esteem is intact and that allows you to form relationships out of conscious choice rather than fear or neediness. When you are emotionally needy, you fight for closeness all the time and this put an unnatural pressure on your relationships. Such relationships are full of jealousy, resentment and insecurity.

You may have carried some of your responses with you from childhood into adulthood. It’s important to become aware if these are destructive so that you can work on them.  As you begin consciously aligning how you think, behave and relate to others with the results you want in your life, you will develop healthier relationships. You will become more skilled at communication, learn how to identify and set boundaries, and manage differences without resorting to verbal attacks. You won’t be relating to others out of some desperate need but simply see them as enhancing and enriching your already fulfilling life.

Last word

You are able to create the physical and emotional well-being, financial security, experiences, relationships and circumstances you want to have in your life. When you build a good, solid inner and outer foundation for your life, no-one can take that from you. You have created it and it will sustain you, whether you’re in a relationship or on your own.

 

The denial stage of divorce

denial

Most of us are familiar with the five stages of grief introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. As a psychiatrist who studied terminally ill patients, she was in a unique position to observe and document these stages.  She never meant for these stages to follow one another in a neat order. Grief is messy and does not fit into little boxes. It is also different for each individual but no-one can argue with the fact that many people go into denial when faced with grief.

Divorce literature suggests that in a large percentage of divorces, one spouse wants out of the marriage while the other does not.   “This can’t be happening to me” is what many of us feel when faced with the shock of an unwanted divorce. C.S. Lewis said “Denial is the shock absorber of the soul: it protects us until we are equipped to face with reality”. Kubler-Ross saw denial as nature’s way of letting in only so much as we could handle at the time.

She saw denial as allowing us to pace our feelings of grief. It’s a bit like getting into icy cold water. We tiptoe in and gradually become accustomed to the cold a little bit at a time.  People in denial may keep to their normal daily routines as it gives them a feeling of comfort and security. For a while they are able to protect themselves from the inevitable changes that are coming.  It helps them to function at a time when their feelings may otherwise be completely overwhelming.

Denial often means we do not have to deal with guilt either. It may be hard to accept that we had anything to do with what has happened to us. So, denial can be a useful coping mechanism – pretend that your little world is still intact while it is falling down around you.

Denial began for me long before my marriage ended. I couldn’t believe that I was unhappy in my marriage.  I held on to hope that it would get better. I hid from the facts to escape the pain that acknowledging them would bring. My parents celebrated their fiftieth anniversary before my dad passed away and I had grown up with the idea that divorce was taboo.  When I was finally confronted with the fact that my ex wanted a divorce, I had already been in denial for so long that it was almost a relief to face reality.

I know someone who has remained stuck in the denial stage. After her divorce she told no-one she was divorced for months. She held on to the idea that her husband would come back to her. She is still stuck in denial years later, believing that he will come back to her one day although he moved on long ago.

Denial may be a way of helping you cope but the problem comes when you stay in denial. Sometimes opening your eyes may be the most painful thing you ever have to do. Facing up to reality and the fact that your life will never be the same is never easy but you have to do it if you want to heal and move forward.

 

 

5 ways to protect yourself during a late-life divorce

late-life divorce

It may not occur to you that you need to protect yourself when going through a late-life divorce. The process of divorce can be brutal and it comes at a time when your emotions are all over the place, making you very vulnerable. You may expect to be treated fairly because of all the years you spent together but you cannot count on this. In some cases, your partner will want what’s best for you. In others, he or she may act more like a distant stranger or adversary than a former partner and you have to be prepared for this.

1. Educate yourself financially

If you are going through a late-life divorce, the financial implications are complex. It usually means having to divide up assets that have been accumulated over many years. You have limited years left in which you can still earn money and so those assets are all important.  If you have left financial affairs in the hands of your spouse during your marriage, you will need to go through a quick learning curve. You cannot afford to be clueless about your finances or you may just end up agreeing to a settlement that impacts you negatively for years to come.

2. Do what you can to avoid a protracted legal battle

Despite the fact that it was my ex who wanted the divorce, I realized that he was expecting me to initiate the process.  I didn’t see any point in delaying once the decision had been made, although neither of us had money for attorneys at this stage. What made it easier was that it was a no-contest divorce. I think my ex felt too guilty to contest what I proposed – and this meant that there was no protracted legal battle.

A protracted battle over assets should be avoided if at all possible. When you are already dealing with all the emotional fallout of the divorce, facing ongoing litigation just adds stress to the situation. When I worked for lawyers, I used to see just how much couples ended up paying on legal fees when their issues dragged out over years. Sometimes I had to resist the urge to shout at them and tell them that nobody was winning in the situation except my bosses.

In a late-life divorce, assets with sentimental rather than actual financial value have also been accumulated over the years.  Much time and money can be spent arguing over such items. They are just things and although it may be hard to let go of them, it’s better to do it if it is holding up the divorce process.

Perhaps you don’t realize it but every time you pick up the phone or email your attorney, your legal costs are steadily rising.  Your attorney’s time is valuable and you certainly don’t need to tell him or her all about your latest emotional drama.

3. Consider Mediation

Mediation can be extremely valuable when disagreements occur. A couple I know with many assets used a mediator when they could not agree over how they were to be divided.  She managed to help them reach a suitable compromise. This mediation process prevented them from going through a lengthy litigation process.

4. Don’t make rash decisions

You cannot afford to make rash decisions, just because you want the process to be over. You shouldn’t allow yourself to feel pressurized in any way or agree to something just to keep the peace.  You can’t afford to allow your emotions to get in the way because you need to be strong and to push back if you feel your interests are being threatened.

When speaking to your attorney you must convey the details of your situation as clearly and concisely as possible. This will help him or her to give you sound advice. It helps to make some notes ahead of time.  Don’t allow all the legal terminology to intimidate you and make sure that you understand what is said by asking as many questions as necessary. Your decisions at this time will have consequences for the rest of your life. If you feel you are not emotionally able to make the right decisions, you will have to rely on those you trust to help you to make them.

5. Don’t keep calling your ex

The person who was always there for you isn’t ‘your person’ anymore.  You can’t just pick up the phone and call him or her anymore.  It’s too easy to become emotional and you have no record of what’s been said. You have to have some clear boundaries when speaking to your ex and you have to be firm.

It’s hard to realize that you have to learn to rely completely on yourself when you may not have done so for many years. This does get easier as you go along and your confidence grows. In fact, it can do you good to move out of your comfort zones. The more obstacles you conquer, the more confidence you will gain. You may just find out that you are far stronger than you ever thought possible.

Living alone after a late-life divorce

living alone

With the rise in late-life divorce among baby boomers, many of us are facing living alone in the latter part of our lives, sometimes for the first time ever. Some of us may have gone straight from living with our parents to living with a husband and raising children. We are so accustomed to being part of a couple that we don’t even know what it feels like to live alone. But as Nora Ephron, well-known writer, says “A good thing about divorce is that it makes clear something that marriage obscures – that you’re on your own.”

It is certainly possible to be lonely even if you are married. Yes, you do have the physical presence of another adult in your life and some people settle for this because they are so afraid of living alone, even if the marriage is unhappy.

Some people love living alone and they choose to do so. Others live alone because they have no alternative. If you are facing living alone after a late-life divorce you may wonder if you will ever cope, especially if its an unknown and you’ve never lived alone before. We cannot always equate living alone with loneliness but it is easier to succumb to loneliness when you live alone. However, it depends largely on your attitude and your actions.

Enjoy your solitude

Introverts usually enjoy being alone. Extroverts, on the other hand, may have to overcome their reluctance to be on their own. They may need to learn to enjoy solitude, rather than run away from it.

Some people are so determined not to feel lonely after divorce that they take up all sorts of classes, go out all the time and try to fill every possible moment with activity.  It’s great to be positive and sociable but you need to allow yourself time to be on your own too.

Being on your own gives you time to process your grief. It also gives you time to reflect and find out more about yourself, what you want out of life and what kind of a future you want to build for yourself.

Time spent on your own if you are not happy in your own skin can be intolerable. You may need to work on building up your self-esteem. If you do not love and respect yourself, you have a void in your life that you are always looking for other people to fill. You rely on others to make you feel happy and valued. You rely on others to take away your fear and make you feel safe.

Rediscovering what you enjoyed before you got married can help you to enjoy your solitude. Perhaps you loved writing or crafting. If so, you will love the opportunity your solitude gives you to focus on these passions. It helps to fill your time on your own with activities you enjoy – whether it’s listening to music, crafting, reading or watching movies.

Build and maintain healthy relationships

In coping with an empty nest and a divorce, I realized just how important it was for me not to become completely isolated. I had to overcome my natural reluctance to socialize and achieve a balance between enjoying my solitude and finding new ways to connect with other people.

Relating to your ‘couple’ friends

In the last fifteen years of our married life, we socialized every weekend with the same group of ‘couple’ friends. This came to an end after my divorce and left a big gap in my life. Relating to couples is not as easy when you are single. Many people find that the relationship with their ‘couple’ friends is affected after a divorce.  I was fortunate enough to remain close to a few ‘couples’ who supported me more than I could possibly have imagined but there are others I don’t see much anymore. I soon realized that I would have to reach out and make some new friendships.

Meeting new people

When you have spent years socializing with other couples, it feels really strange to go out on your own at first.

One of the advantages of having internet access is that it is easier to find groups of people with the same interests and values as you. A simple search for activity groups in your area may give you a good place to start. You already have something in common with the other members and so it makes it easier to initiate conversations.

You may feel terrified when you have to attend a group activity for the first time. Fear and uncertainty are natural and they are the price you pay for moving forward. It’s the same principle that operates for most new things you attempt in your life, such as starting a new job or learning a new skill. As you take those steps and begin overcoming the obstacles one by one, you grow in confidence.

It may be worthwhile to get involved as a volunteer in projects designed to help others. It not only helps you to realize how fortunate you are, but it takes you out of your comfort zones and gives you another opportunity to meet new people.

Healing from divorce and getting to the place where you are moving forward is not a linear process. I have found that it’s unpredictable and seems to come in waves. For a while you might take great strides towards being sociable and making new friends and then you might find yourself wanting to retreat again. Don’t worry about this because it’s perfectly normal – as long as you don’t withdraw for too long.

Don’t compare yourself with others

One of the worst things you can do is compare your life with that of others. It’s easy to get caught up in jealousy and feel that your life as a single person is lacking in some way. This feeling is often reinforced by social media.

It’s also different for everyone so you cannot measure your progress against that of others. You have to learn to go with the flow and realize that it’s all part of the process of putting yourself back together again.

Find your own voice

When you’re so concerned with how other people feel about you and what they think about you, you do everything you can to make them happy.  You become who your partner wants you to be, or you do the things that your friends want you to do. You are always conscious of other people’s expectations and you are so busy reacting and responding to everyone else that you get lost in the process.

You can use the crisis of your divorce as a catalyst to grow and mature into who you really want to be.

Your divorce can force you to take stock of your life, look at your mistakes and take time to discover more about yourself. The process is not easy and you will need patience and dedication, but there will come a time when you can put your divorce behind you. You will have made the transition from being half of a couple to being single. If you’re patient, kind and loving towards yourself in the process, you may just find that your life as a single person is better than it was before.

 

 

 

 

 

Count your blessings in an empty nest

empty nest in hand

It may feel as if your life will never be the same after the years of hands-on parenting end. You are right – it won’t ever be the same. It will be quite, quite different. But although it’s different, there are ways in which it can be very rewarding.

You have spent years wiping away your children’s tears, being angry with them at times and immensely proud of them at others. You have spent hours in their company, nurturing them and trying to make sure they are developing into decent human beings. When they were toddlers, you were the center of their world. When they started school, you may have shed a sigh of relief but at the same time felt a sense of loss as you no longer had them around you all day. Each step forward in their lives was in some ways an ending for you.  For my children, getting a driver’s license was their ticket to freedom and adventure. For me, it marked the end of a very important era.

Enjoy your adult children

When your children leave home, you find that your role as a parent changes. You are still a parent and that will never change but the way you parent has to become less hands-on.

In the midst of your grief over them leaving, it doesn’t take long to realize that there are distinct benefits when they’re gone. The early school drop-off is over, you don’t have to make a family dinner every night, do loads of washing every week and feed their many friends. Your food and electricity bills drop. You can buy what you want to eat and make meals you enjoy without catering to all their likes and dislikes.

When they first leave home, you have to be sensitive to the fact that they also have mixed feelings. Some of them may act as if leaving means nothing to them, while others may be reluctant to leave.  When you call them don’t go on about how much you are missing them. Be grateful for the news they do tell you (even if it’s in broad strokes rather than details). Don’t keep pumping them for more information.

It may take them a few knocks along the way before they become more independent and mature but it does happen eventually.  As they mature, you often find that relating to them becomes easier and they may become more like best friends than children (although they are always your children, no matter how old they get!).  I love the deep conversations I can have with my children now that they are older.  I am always amazed at their insights about the world and love hearing their point of view on subjects. We can have talks that last for hours.

I love it when they come to visit. The atmosphere is far removed from the fraught one that reigned sometimes when they lived at home – over issues like dirty towels left in piles on the floor or music blaring late into the night.

Reconnect with your spouse

As someone who has gone through a divorce while facing an empty nest, I urge you to talk to your spouse and prepare for your empty nest together. Think about the fact that it will only be the two of you when the children leave and what that may look like.  It’s the perfect opportunity to reconnect and you can find out once again what made you get married in the first place.  You may even find that it’s like being on a second honeymoon.

Some couples go through a divorce when the children leave because one or the other party, or both, no longer want to grow old together. I believe that if you have been together for many years, it’s worth trying to save your marriage, even if you have drifted apart while bringing up your kids.  You may be looking forward to some of the best years of your marriage if you are both prepared to work on it.

Look after yourself

Now is the time to pay yourself some attention. It may feel strange to even contemplate this after the unselfishness of bringing up your kids.  You have happily made sacrifices over the years because you put your children first. But they will want you around for many years to come. If you haven’t had much time to exercise over the years, you have no excuse any longer. You can devote more attention to your nutrition as well.  You also have no excuse for putting off a general checkup with your doctor and taking care of any health problems. Become the best you can be so you can enjoy many more years of healthy living and inspire others to do so too.

Have fun with your free time

At first the fact that you have so much time after years of frantic activity can be daunting. There are huge gaps in your day you have to fill. But then you find out that your free time gives you the opportunity to do all those things you put on the back-burner – travel, theater, art galleries, writing that book or just not doing much of anything at all.

Changes to  your home

Without your children’s mess to worry about and with more time on your hands, you can make a few decisions about your home for the phase to come.

Decluttering  when your years of child-rearing are over is a simple step and it can help you move through your grief. I had kept books, baby clothes, drawings, school projects, reports and much more. I sorted through it all carefully, crying and laughing at the memories. I kept what I really didn’t want to part with, gave some of it away and threw out the rest.

Your home has functioned for years in a certain way and when your kids leave, you can reassess.  Certain rooms can be made into full-time guest rooms or converted into a home office or gym. Creating different ways of using the space can even add to the value of your home. Children like stability and if you suddenly start changing things, they may be resentful. It’s best to bring them on board with what you want to do and let them make suggestions, rather than just going ahead.

You can even consider renting out bedrooms through a site like Airbnb. This is what I am working towards as a have a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom and an outside entrance. I can do with the extra income and my privacy won’t be too compromised.

When the children leave home, it’s possible to downsize which will also help to reduce your expenses. You have to start looking towards your retirement and it makes sense to trade a big house you no longer need for a smaller one like a townhouse.

Last word

Once you have worked through the mixed emotions that come with your empty nest, you will see light at the end of the parenting tunnel. You will be able to re-evaluate your life and introduce some changes. These changes can make the difference between going speedily downhill or making the most of the years to come and living a very fulfilling life.

 

How to re-establish your independence post-divorce

woman on beach

As babies we are completely dependent on our mothers and growing up is a process of becoming more independent. When we get married, it can be a battle to surrender some of that independence for the sake of the relationship. Over the years of marriage, some of us maintain more independence than others but during the course of a long marriage, it’s inevitable that couples become interdependent to some degree. When a divorce occurs after a lengthy marriage, it can be difficult to become independent again.

Some marriages today are very individualistic with spouses having separate bank accounts and both earning their own salaries. These marriages are very different from those where the husband went out to work and the woman stayed at home to look after the children. Getting divorced and moving on is much easier when both parties have retained much of their independence. In marriages where the woman is dependent on the man, she takes a very hard knock if it ends.

Interdependence

Most of us regard being independent as a worthwhile goal. It is what we fight for as teenagers. However, in a marriage relationship,  I believe self-reliance has to be balanced with interdependence for it to work well. My marriage came with a good dose of interdependence –  we worked together in our own business, pooled our finances, cared for our children together, were equally responsible for household tasks and spent most of our leisure time together too. We didn’t make major decisions without sharing and coming to a mutual agreement.  Neither of us wanted to be too ‘needy’ or too ‘demanding’ but we saw relying on and helping one another as a sign of strength, rather than weakness.

Intertwined

When you have been together for many decades, the roots of your relationship grow deep. You become intertwined through the years. Your thinking and behavior have of necessity been tailored to accommodate one another. There has also been a division of tasks in most cases. My husband pretty much took care of most of the practical issues in our lives as this was his strength. However, I took care of all the paperwork, including managing our personal and business finances.

A divorce after many years of marriage means that all the old habits, routines and ways you may have developed to live your life together no longer exist. It’s pretty much like cutting off an arm or a leg. You wouldn’t do it unless you felt it was affecting your overall health.

Regaining independence

Unraveling a lifetime of togetherness is not easy.  But you have to do it or you get stuck. It’s a hard realization that your ex-spouse is no longer there for you. You may find, as I did, that you are stronger than you think. It may take some time for you to find your feet but each step you take towards independence builds your confidence.

divorce quote

Don’t be afraid of what you can’t do yet

Fixing mechanical objects was not in my wheelhouse when I was married. I was daunted when these objects began to give in one after the other – starting with my washing machine. As I fiddled around, trying to find out what was wrong I realized just how little attention I had paid over the years to any problems like this. I was very proud of myself when I managed to find the fault after extensive googling and I even managed to buy the right part. I did get help with the installation but I gave myself a good pat on the back once it was fixed. In the two years since the divorce, I have managed to build up a good list of contacts for just about every possible household emergency, from blocked drains to burst geysers. This was quite a challenge as I didn’t even have to change a light bulb when I was married. I have also learned that finding the right people to help you is important – you don’t have to do it all on your own.

Take small steps

The best advice I can give for becoming self-reliant once again after a divorce is to take small steps. Don’t set your expectations too high or you set yourself up for failure. You can keep challenging yourself more as you go along.  Every small step, no matter how small, should be a reason for celebration.  Going camping with friends was a milestone for me. We had camped frequently during our marriage and I loved it but I didn’t know whether I would handle all the practical aspects that had usually been taken care of for me. I felt very accomplished after I managed to put up my tent and stretcher all on my own. Now I am planning to go for a few more days.

Standing firmly on your own

As painful as the process of divorce can be, it is also an opportunity to see your life from a different perspective.  It takes time to re-adjust and learn to rely on yourself but it is possible. It may even be harder than you expect at first but the fruit will be sweeter too. You will find that along the way, have learned some skills that enable you to make the best life possible for yourself.

In addition to new practical skills, divorce has given me more emotional strength. In the areas where I was weak, I am becoming stronger. My wounds are healing and my self-acceptance  and self-confidence are growing daily.

It may not come easily or quickly but you will reach a place where you can stand on your own and know that you do not need someone else to hold you up.

 

 

 

 

How an affair impacts a long-term marriage

divorce quote

An affair can be catastrophic to any relationship. When it happens in a long-term marriage, the consequences can be devastating. I had been married to my husband for decades but I was blind to the signs that he was having an affair.  I was so firmly in denial that I managed to ignore all the well-known signs of infidelity. In hindsight, the truth stood out like white chalk on a blackboard.

It’s rather like a subconscious conspiracy between the two of you. Neither of you want to precipitate a crisis, so the one lies and the other one lives in denial.

There is no formula when it comes to finding out whether your partner is cheating. But there are definitely clues and I believe that if you pick up on a number of them, it’s better to address the situation than living in a fake bubble that’s bound to burst. Hiding an affair is almost impossible for any length of time, even though a cheating partner can become a very good liar, adept at covering up the truth.

An affair brings into sharp focus any underlying issues in a marriage, particularly in your sex life.  After many years of marriage, sex can become the least important aspect of your life together and when this happens, it is easier for one partner or the other to fall prey to the excitement of an affair.

When my husband broke off with the woman with whom he was having the affair, she spitefully posted photos of them on social media.  One of my friends had the unenviable task of telling me the truth when she realized I had not seen them. At this point, I  would still have sworn blind that he was not involved with another woman. I did want an explanation from him because I knew something was wrong but I felt that if we could just sit and talk, we could sort out all our problems. This is the way we had approached our differences over the years. We had many confrontations that would end in a huge fight,  after which all was forgiven and the air was cleared.

As devastated and shocked as I was when I found out the truth, I also felt an element of relief. Finally, I wasn’t just dealing with suspicions and uncertainties anymore. I had concrete facts.  All the dots finally added up and I could make sense of what I had been feeling for months.

It takes two

It’s never an easy conversation to have when you suspect your partner is being unfaithful – which is probably why many people avoid it.  A conversation about a possible affair can easily turn into an angry confrontation. If you are judgmental, your partner will inevitably become defensive and you will achieve nothing.

In our first encounter after I knew the truth, I was sure my husband would be sorry for what he did and I was prepared to try and save our marriage. I was completely blindsided when he told me he no longer loved me and he wanted his freedom.  I know that afterwards he regretted the defensive way in which he expressed himself but the words had been spoken and couldn’t be taken back.

The depth of the deception, the length of the affair, support systems available and religious beliefs are all factors that may determine whether people stay married after an affair. The decision to stay together rather than getting a divorce is never easy. The partner who has had the affair can’t just expect to carry on in the marriage as though nothing has changed.

An affair can be a wake up call – a realization for both of you that you have neglected your relationship. If you’re both committed to its restoration, couples counseling can make a difference. Once the veil of deception and lies has been ripped away, you may have a chance of experiencing true intimacy once again. You may even find that you start communicating better than you did before and are both more aware of maintaining the health of the relationship.

If you do decide to stay married, it does not help to stay for the wrong reasons. You can’t stay just because you are afraid of leaving and being on your own. You shouldn’t just stay married because it’s the safe option. It’s no good staying together if it’s done reluctantly as anger and resentment are likely to remain.

Irrational behavior

It is hard to think rationally when another person has come between you. Nothing can devastate you quite like being betrayed. Your irrational mind tends to take over and it can lead you into some crazy ‘acting out’. I have heard of women who destroyed all their husband’s clothing when they found out about an affair. Others give vent to their feelings by destroying cars and other expensive possessions.  Some turn their anger on the other woman.

Venting feelings and acting irrationally may feel great at first. You want to lash out and hurt your partner.  It’s perfectly understandable that you want him or her to feel the hurt you are feeling.  But if you give in to these intense feelings and allow them to control your behavior, you will probably regret it later.

Just being with the person who has betrayed you can be inflammatory at this stage. It’s better to keep some distance. When you have to communicate and find yourself ‘losing it’, rather make some excuse to terminate the conversation and continue with it when you are feeling more rational.

Broken trust

Broken trust is difficult to restore. It is a joint responsibility and you both need to be committed to the process. The person who has been deceived cannot give trust easily again – not after it has been abused. The deceiver has to be firmly committed to re-establishing trust once again, no matter what it takes. The one who has been deceived will take time to reach a point where trust is possible once again – it does not just happen without being reinforced by continued and consistent effort.

I knew that I would be able to forgive my ex for the affair. What I did not know was how I would deal with the fact that he had lied to me consistently. I believed our marriage was based on trust, friendship and mutual respect. This illusion had been destroyed. How would I ever know when he was being truthful if he had managed to lie to me so successfully for so long? I couldn’t imagine a life where I questioned his every move and kept looking for signs that he was being unfaithful again. Even if your partner submits to close scrutiny for a while after an affair, it does not build trust. I know someone who took her husband back after an affair and then proceeded to drive herself crazy by checking his cell phone constantly, screening his emails and trying to keep tabs on him at all times.

Trust is all about believing the other person unreservedly, without the need to check on him/her constantly.  When trust has been broken, building it again is a slow and challenging process. You have to be able to see evidence of change. If you start trusting again without any basis for it, you are highly likely to be disappointed.

Wallowing in the details

I desperately wanted to know all the details of the affair and I believe this is a common response to infidelity. I felt that just for starters I needed to know where he had met her, how long it had lasted and what he had told her about us.  You somehow imagine that if you just had all the little details, you would be able to make sense of what happened. I discovered it does not work that way.  Even if you know the ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’, it does not change what happened. You really don’t need to know more than that he/she betrayed you.

My ex was extremely reluctant to tell me anything. It’s hard to admit this but I hunted on Facebook until I found the woman’s profile and scrutinized her posts carefully for clues. I never saw the photos she posted after he dumped her because they were taken down quite quickly but she had left a vitriolic post tearing my my husband apart and accusing him of being a liar. I must say I did get some satisfaction out of seeing that he had lied to her too. A number of my friends had seen the photos and they all had their own opinions about the situation. My obsessive search for details did yield some answers but it made me feel as though I had sacrificed my dignity.

Torn apart

Many couples underestimate how intertwined they have become over time. They have shared responsibilities and made many adaptations to living together. They have a shared history with countless memories. An affair introduces another person into the equation and the marriage is never the same again. It can be better, if both parties are willing to address what happened, why it happened and they are both willing to work on restoring their relationship.

Those who want a divorce to be with a new partner are often focused on all the flaws in the marriage. They think that being with a new partner will help them achieve the happiness they are missing in their current relationship.  But they may be taken aback by the emotions they experience even when they are with a new partner.  They cannot simply pretend that the long-term partner never existed, no matter how hard they try. The new relationship is likely to have its own problems too.

Last word

I believe in marriage and that you should do all you can to make it work, especially if you have been married for many years. But you cannot do it on your own. Both parties have to be committed to the marriage for it to survive the impact of an affair.

 

Why forgiveness matters after a divorce

forgiveness

A divorce is one of those life events that’s a perfect breeding ground for feelings of hurt, guilt, resentment and anger. The natural response to being hurt is to want to hurt back. You want that person who has hurt you to feel the full weight of what you are feeling. In the face of the extreme emotions that come with divorce, the idea of forgiveness may seem impossible. It means embracing a way of thinking that’s contrary to the natural human reaction to hurt.

Misconceptions about forgiveness

There are several misconceptions that can prevent people from wanting to forgive.

  • If I forgive, it’s as though I am letting the person who hurt me off the hook and condoning what was done to me.
  • If I forgive, it means I have to try and erase from my mind what happened.
  • If I forgive, it means I have to reconcile with the person and trust him/her again.
  • The other person has to apologize before I can forgive him/her.

If you have any of these misconceptions about forgiveness, it’s worth exploring more about what it really means.

What does asking for and giving forgiveness really mean?

Asking for forgiveness is not as simple as saying “I’m sorry”.  Those words are used so often, they do not mean much anymore. It’s too easy to just say sorry but If you are truly sorry, it means that you understand exactly what you are sorry for. You take responsibility for any harm you have caused and in so doing you implicitly agree not to repeat the behavior.

When I think about someone who has been in an abusive marriage, I imagine that it must be extremely difficult to even think about forgiveness. Some psychologists believe that in such a situation, the victim should not feel pressure to forgive the abuser. They feel that they should not have to struggle through a process of forgiveness when they have already been hurt so much.

I can understand why they feel this way and I do believe that forgiveness cannot be forced or faked. However, I personally believe that forgiveness is not a burden but an essential part of the healing process.

Forgiving someone does not mean that you excuse the other person’s behavior or that you pretend it didn’t happen. C.S. Lewis says “…here also forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.)”

Forgiving someone does not mean that you trust them or that you have to reconcile with them.  Some people equate forgiving with having to go back into an abusive situation.  I overheard a woman at the divorce court say “My husband hits me all the time.  If I forgive him I have to go back to him. I don’t want to forgive him because I just can’t go back to him.”   Forgiveness may bring about reconciliation in some cases but it is not a necessary condition for forgiveness. In some cases, the offending party may be, for whatever reasons, unwilling to reconcile.  In other cases, it is practically impossible or doing so might expose you to additional psychological or physical damage. It’s possible to forgive a person and still not trust them in areas where you know they have a weakness, such as an addiction or a track record of being unfaithful.

Forgiving and forgetting is often coupled together but when you forgive someone, it does not mean that you automatically forget.   Just because you have chosen to forgive does not wipe out your memories, especially when you have spent years together making those memories.  When you’re faced with painful past memories, it does not mean you have not forgiven.  When you have forgiven the offending party, it does take some of the sting out of the painful memories but it takes time for memories to fade.

Your abusive ex is unlikely to ask for forgiveness but that does not take away your choice to forgive him or her. I believe that forgiving the one who has hurt you helps to release you.  This quote by Catherine Ponder describes this perfectly When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

I like the following quote too because it makes you realize that just because you forgive someone, does not mean you can expect forgiveness in return or that the other person will change.  “Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time – just like it does for you and me.” – Sara Paddison

How do I forgive?

Studies have been done by scientists where they monitored what happened in the brain when people imagined forgiving someone. The brain showed increased activity in the neural circuits responsible for empathy.

Forgiveness flows from insight and empathy which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.   Empathy enables you to see all your own flaws and limitations as well as those of the other person. You understand that both of you are human and fallible.  Few of us are altogether innocent of a need for forgiveness.

I believe that you have to make a choice to forgive. You decide to forgive, even if you are not asked for forgiveness, because it is the best choice to make for your own sake and the other person’s sake, even if the other person does not realize it.  I believe the offender will account for his or her behavior at some point but that has nothing to do with you.

The concept of forgiveness is at the core of the Christian faith, as can be seen in the following scripture. Ephesians 4:31-32  says “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you. 
The fact that you have been forgiven by God enables you to forgive others.

Forgiveness is never easy and it is not a once-off event. You can’t “hurry up” and forgive someone to try and ease the pain. It takes time to work through your emotional issues before you can truly forgive your ex spouse. Trying to forgive someone too soon because you feel that you have to do so does not result in true forgiveness and it can retard the healing process.

Complete forgiveness of someone who has deeply wounded you or abused you is not easy but it is possible.  Martin Luther King says “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude. Anger and pain have a way of coming back in waves and you have to maintain an attitude of forgiveness, even when you least felt like it.

Why should I forgive?

Studies have shown that people who do not want to forgive someone who has harmed them often start withdrawing.  They experience such a loss of trust that it affects all their relationships. Nelson Mandela said “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Forgiveness will also help to release your ex-spouse from the paralysis of guilt he or she may be feeling. This can lead to healthier interactions between you. As a result you will be a happier person,  a better parent. and the stress of having to communicate with your ex when necessary is reduced.

Forgiveness will help you to let go of feeling like a victim. In choosing to forgive, you are letting go of feelings of helplessness and taking back power. You are accepting the fact that bad things have happened to you but you have chosen to respond with love and grace.

Most of us are harder on ourselves than we are on others. We struggle to forgive ourselves, even if others have forgiven us. Letting go of your judgmental attitude towards yourself and others, can take you from feeling stuck and hurt to feeling relief and compassion. Your heart feels unblocked and you’re ready to be vulnerable again.

Last Word

Forgiving those who wrong us helps us move beyond strong negative emotions which, if allowed to fester, have a way of harming us psychologically and physically. Forgiveness also benefits those who hurt us, releasing them from blame and guilt so they can move forward in their lives too. As humans, we are all fallible and I believe we all need to be able to give and receive forgiveness.

Adjust to being single after a late-life divorce

beach hat

When you’ve been through a divorce and you are no longer a wife or husband, you have to learn how to be comfortable in your skin as a single person once again. After a long-term marriage, you probably don’t even remember what it’s like to be single.  It’s exciting to go through the process of finding out but daunting at the same time.

It takes guts to take those first shaky steps forward on your own, especially if you’re over 50. It’s easier to withdraw or attempt to escape in some way. I’ve seen how some people jump into an ill-considered second marriage simply because they cannot deal with being on their own.  But it is possible to be “happily single” and to revel in your freedom.

A new identity

If you are a woman going through a late-life divorce, you may have identified yourself as a wife and mother for decades. When the role of mothering is less hands-on and a divorce occurs, it’s no wonder that you go through an identity crisis. Moving on usually comes in fits and starts, but the more you heal, the more you are able to think about yourself in a different way and be open to new options.

For years you sacrificed and made adjustments because that is what you do when you are married with small children.  Now you are able to focus on yourself and what you want out of life without feeling guilty.

Living alone

Your lifestyle usually changes drastically after a divorce.  Loneliness may be one of the biggest problems you may have to face if you’re living alone. You are so accustomed to being part of a couple that it’s inevitable to feel some loneliness. There’s no-one on the other side of the double bed anymore and you may have to eat all your meals alone. Of course, many people experience loneliness within an unhappy marriage too but even in marriages where communication is superficial at best, there is at least still the physical presence of another adult.

When living alone after a divorce, you have to find a balance between enjoying your solitude and finding new ways to connect with other people.

As an introvert, I do not have a problem with solitude. I have always enjoyed being on my own and don’t often feel lonely.  However, with an empty nest and no husband around anymore, there was much too much silence, even for me. I realized just how important it was for me not to become completely isolated. I had to overcome my natural reluctance to socialize and achieve a balance between being alone and being with others. Extroverts, on the other hand, may have to overcome their reluctance to be on their own. They may need to learn to enjoy solitude, rather than run away from it.

Socializing as a single person

Ease into it gently

It helps to ease yourself gently into socializing as a single person after a divorce. You have probably spent years socializing with other couples and it can feel really strange to have to go out on your own.  At first, I didn’t commit myself to any occasions that I knew were going to be overwhelming for me. I also avoided occasions where I knew I would be the only single person.

You need to find ways to socialize that make you feel comfortable and fulfilled. While I was married we socialized with the same couples every weekend. With the divorce, this obviously ended and I felt a sneaky relief.  I still love my ‘couple’ friends but it was liberating to socialize with them on an individual basis, by going out for tea or breakfast.  I’ve always enjoyed relating to a few people at a time, rather than a large group.

Meeting new people

One of the advantages of having the internet is that it is easier to find groups of people with the same interests and values as you.  A simple search for activity groups in your area such as a walking or hiking group may give you a good place to start. You already have something in common with the other members and so it makes it easier to initiate conversations.  You may feel terrified when you have to attend a group activity for the first time. Fear and uncertainty are natural and they are the price you for moving forward. It’s the same principle that operates for most new things you attempt in your life, such as starting a new job or learning a new skill. As you take those steps and begin overcoming the obstacles one by one, you grow in confidence.

Volunteer work

It may be worthwhile to get involved in projects designed to help others.  It not only helps you to realize how fortunate you are, but it takes you out of your comfort zones and gives you the opportunity to meet new people too.

Picking up former passions

A place to start on your process of rediscovery may be to think about what was important to you before you were married. You do not necessarily want to go back to being that person, but it may be the perfect time to explore passions you shelved while you were bringing up your family. Picking up an old hobby or interest may just help you to rediscover facets of yourself that are undeveloped.

Taking up writing again has gone a long way towards helping me come to terms with my divorce and restoring my self-esteem. I have rediscovered a passion that I made little time for when I was raising my children.

One of my unexpected pleasures now is to jump on my bicycle and go for a ride (I was given the bicycle by good friends after the divorce). It helps me to recapture the sense of freedom I used to feel as a child.

Some people advocate writing in a journal as a way to find healing. I personally found that it was far too painful for me. I couldn’t face that systematic expression in written form of my emotions after my divorce. It was only when I was no longer completely raw that I was able to start putting the words on paper.

I did find artistic expression helpful when my emotions were all over the place. I bought myself a sketchpad and some basic supplies, including some oil pastels and started expressing my emotions through drawing. I found that expressing my emotions on paper relaxed me and made me feel calmer.

I have started a basic French course to brush up on what I learned at school.  My next step is to join a conversational French class. My sister has moved to France and I want to be able to hold a conversation in French when I visit her next year.

As you explore all avenues to rediscover yourself, whether it be finding a new job, making new friends, traveling etc. you will find that the biggest part of your journey is probably internal rather than external. It is what happens inside you that propels you forward.

Don’t be dismayed by the setbacks

When you are in this process of rediscovery, you will often find that you hit obstacles and setbacks along the road. Healing from divorce and getting to the place where you are moving forward is not linear. It comes in waves and it’s unpredictable. It’s also different for everyone so you cannot measure your progress against that of others. One day you might be ready to tackle the world and the next you may be huddled in a corner crying.  One day you may start thinking about taking a trip to another country and the next day you may find you do not even have the energy to go on your daily walk around the block. You have to learn to go with the flow and realize that it’s all part of the process of putting yourself back together again. What does happen with time is that you start to focus more on moving forwards, and look less and less in the rearview mirror.

Last Word

You can use the crisis of  your divorce as a catalyst to grow and mature into who you really want to be. It can force you to take stock of your life, look at your mistakes and take time to discover more about yourself.  The process is not easy and it requires patience and dedication, but there will come a time when you can put your divorce behind you. You will have made the transition from being half of a couple to being single.  If you’re patient, kind and loving towards yourself in the process, you may just find that you really enjoy being single.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help! I’m a divorced Christian

Christians and divorce

Divorce and Christian are two words that do not seem to belong together. As a Christian I went into my marriage with the belief that we were making a binding covenant with one another. I believed that we were equally yoked and that our mutual love of God would ensure we would be together forever. The possibility that I would be divorced one day did not even exist for me.

There are some well-meaning believers who think that because you are divorced, you have failed God. They believe that your only option is to pray for reconciliation and if you do get divorced, they believe you have committed the unforgivable sin.

In the past I myself assumed that divorce always showed a lack of faith or trust in God, no matter what the circumstances. I thought that if the couple just believed more or worked harder at their marriage, it could be always be salvaged. Then my own marriage fell apart.

What does the Bible say about divorce?

In Mal. 2:16 we read “For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel.”

In Matt. 19 Jesus responds to some Pharisees who ask Him whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all. He answers by saying that husband and wife are ‘one flesh’ and what God has joined together no man can separate. He then says in verse 8-9 “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.  And I say to you, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman, commits adultery.

It seems quite clear that God does not approve of divorce. Despite this, we see many divorced Christians. How is it possible to live with this contradiction?

What Jesus said to the Pharisees makes it clear that God saw a relationship between a man and a woman that was so close they were ‘one flesh’.  God compares a ‘one flesh’ marriage to the relationship between Christ, as the bridegroom and the church as the bride.  Divorce is the exact opposite of this kind of oneness.

Divorce is messy and hurtful. God does not want you to have to go through it. But we live in a less than perfect world.  Just because God sees divorce as the opposite of what He intended, does not mean that He no longer accepts you as a divorced person. You may feel, like I have at times, that you are wearing a big, shameful letter ‘D’ for divorce on your chest that brands you and sets you apart. But His unconditional, redeeming love for you means that when He looks at you, all He sees is the blood Christ shed for all sin.

God’s given us free choice

I wanted to blame God for my divorce. I felt He had let me down. He had to gently remind me that He has given us free choice. In doing so, He took the risk that some of our choices would be less than perfect.

Marriage was intended to be a glorious expression of oneness but because He gave us free choice, it does not always end up that way. However, His love for His children means He can still bring life and hope out of devastation.

Nothing can separate us from His love. Divorce cannot separate us from His love. Romans 8:38-39 says “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ our Lord
.”

I have seen in retrospect that He has provided for me spiritually, emotionally and physically, even at times when I had lost faith and didn’t believe He was there for me.

Maybe you don’t understand why you have to go on the journey you are on, but He can use it to do what He wants to do in your life anyway. Why would He abandon you when you are going through a divorce and need His love more than ever?  His love for you is unconditional which means that nothing you do can drive Him away.

If you apply the letter of the law to your situation, you are likely to feel condemned, judged and a failure. You have to reach in to the depth of God’s compassion instead. Believe that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3.

As a divorced Christian, this is what I have come to believe.

  • I believe that God sees marriage as a covenant that’s meant to last.
  • God sees a marriage relationship as loving and sacrificial, comparing it with Christ’s love for the church.  Ephesians 5:25-27 says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” 
  • I believe that God wanted my marriage to stay intact. But the fact that it didn’t, does not mean that I have to live with a feeling of failure and condemnation for the rest of my life.
  • I believe that when He gave me and my husband free will, He took a risk and relinquished control.
  • I believe that He offers His grace and love freely to those of us who mess up and ask for forgiveness when we have made bad choices.

What about remarriage?

Remarriage after divorce is a thorny issue amongst Christians. There are some who believe remarriage is never an option. Others believe it is only an option in the case of adultery. Some scholars say remarriage is always allowed because of God’s grace.

In the book Light in my Darkest Night, Catherine Marshall’s second husband Leonard LeSourd records how Catherine was faced with a dilemma when he asked her to marry him because he was a divorced man. She talked to many counselors and pastors who all had different opinions. Eventually she felt the Lord saying the following to her:

“The Lord is in the business of restoring broken homes and healing damaged families. He hates divorce, as He hates all sin, for the harm it does in every life it touches. But He does not lock us into our sins; He is the God of redemption and new beginnings.”

Last Word

I  believe that although divorce is the opposite of what God wants for us, He does not turn away from us because of it. He is the healer of broken hearts and creates beauty from ashes. He reaches out to those who cry out to Him from the ruins they have made of their lives, bringing restoration and healing.  His grace abounds in just such situations, and love triumphs over hatred and judgment.

 

Why is the over-50 divorce rate rising?

late life divorce

Why are so many couples who have been married for years getting divorced? ‘Gray divorce’ figures are rising at a time when other divorce figures are dropping.  In a survey done by the Office for National Statistics in the UK, it was found that the number of over-50s who separated or divorced had risen by 33% between 2002 and 2013. They were the only group whose divorce figures had increased. Studies in the United States have shown that the same trend is occurring there. The rate is continuing to rise and it is being referred to as “the gray divorce phenomenon.”

Silver Splitters

Those who are part of this phenomenon are referred to as “silver splitters”, a trendy term that does little to describe the impact of a late-life divorce on those going through it. I personally believe that even if you have been the initiator of a late-life divorce, the process of recovery is far from easy. Much untangling has to take place in every area of your life when you have lived together for many years.

The exact reasons for ending a long term marriage are hard to determine. Nobody knows what really goes on within the four walls of a home. However, a factor that seems to be playing a big part in these rising figures is that people are living longer. This means that once the children have left home, a couple may still have many years of life left.

A longer life

The idea of living together in an unhappy marriage for another 20 – 30 years after the children leave home may feel like an unbearable option for some. Perhaps the relationship has been in decline for many years already and it has been rather like a balloon leaking air a bit at a time. At some point it becomes totally flat.

My friend Karen said “We both just felt it was time to go our separate ways. There was no drama or tears.  I think we both realized that our time together was over and we wanted different things out of life in the future. We get along well now that we live apart.”

An empty nest

I envy those couples who love their empty nests because they have more time for one another and for enjoying life together. They often have the opportunity to travel, take up new hobbies and even embark on new business ventures. My ex and I often talked about taking a year off once our children left home. We would buy a caravan and stay for months at a time in caravan parks along the beautiful coastline of South Africa. It was not to be and I have had to find other dreams to take its place.

Some couples manage the transition to an empty nest very well but I have read enough to know that even if you face it as a couple, this does not mean you won’t feel bereft when your children leave home. When you are single or divorced, the impact tends to be more severe, however, because you are often left completely alone.

When you are raising your family, children become the focus of your life. As a couple, you overcome many obstacles together and set aside your differences for the sake of your children.

When you are older and your children leave home, issues that have been buried for years may rise to the surface.  The relationship may have gradually developed cracks over the years that have been hard to see because the children have been around as a buffer. Once the children leave, they become very visible and you may realize that you no longer have the same interests, goals or aspirations.

Divorce is viewed differently

My parent’s generation did not see divorce in the same way as it is seen today – they often stuck it out together, even if they were unhappy. My generation, with the focus on individual happiness, is not willing to do this.  Today many women are able to support themselves financially and no longer feel they need a man in the same way as previous generations of women.

Sue gradually accumulated qualifications over the years and became a very successful career woman. When she eventually asked for a divorce at the age of 65, her husband was horrified.  She says. “He would never have wanted a divorce because we lived together comfortably enough. But I wanted more out of life.”

Sexual problems and Infidelity

Sexual compatibility is also a factor that plays a part in divorces that occur in later life.   Incompatibility between partners can increase in later life for various reasons such as illness or hormonal changes. When one partner has a greater level of sexual desire than the other, it can spell trouble.
In the past, aging men had to accommodate to the changes they experienced due to age-related decreases in testosterone levels.  Now, with products like Viagra, many aging men think and act like men decades younger.  Infidelity often plays a part in a late-life divorce, as it did in mine.

Social Media

Social media has had some influence too. Some long term marriages have broken up as a result of romances that develop online. People may read posts about the lives of others and realize just how unhappy they are in comparison. The possibility of meeting another person online, especially one who is of the right age and with the same interests can be intriguing, especially if a marriage has become completely humdrum.

Last word

Whatever the reason for the decision to divorce in late life and even if it’s mutual, I believe people tend to underestimate the consequences. Issues that arise with any divorce such as loneliness, potential loss of social support networks, financial problems and reactions of family members are usually much worse after a long term marriage. Even if the children are adults, they often still experience much pain, contrary to what may be expected. No matter at what age it occurs, divorce is a tearing apart and when so many more years have gone into a life together, the severing is that much more complex.

How adult children respond to divorce

adult children and divorce

Your role as parents does not end when your children become adults.  When you go through a divorce, you may no longer be a husband or a wife but you are still a father or a mother.  Parents may feel that because their children are adults, they should be able to move on more easily after divorce than if they were small children. In fact, I believe that the effect of divorce on adult children has been hugely underestimated.  I believe that there is never a good time for them to face the divorce of their parents.  If you are staying together for the sake of your children and plan to get divorced when they are older because you think it will be easier for them, think again.

They will also grieve

Despite the fact that my children were already over 20, they were shell shocked by our divorce.  I watched them go through deep grief. After the divorce, both of them began to question what was true about their childhood and what wasn’t.  They wondered how much of what they thought was real had been based on lies. Were they mistaken in believing that we had truly loved one another?

Adult children have so many memories of family life together and remembering all the good times in their childhood makes my children sad now.   I don’t want their happy memories to be tainted. I hope that one day they will be able to think of them without seeing them through the lens of our divorce.

Discovering the impermanence of what they thought was forever shook them to the core. Their belief in marriage and ‘happily ever after’ took a real knock. So, not only are they dealing with past memories but with the way in which they think about their own relationships and their future too.

Caught in the middle

I think I gave my children too much detail and if I had to do it again, I would be more circumspect. They were so supportive that I didn’t spare them any of the gory details. On the other hand, they did ask for information and I wanted them to be able to make sense of what had happened. In hindsight I believe there is a fine distinction between confiding in them, giving them the facts they need, and overburdening them.

Sharing too much about your partner that they don’t need to know can make them more insecure and sad. Your child is not meant to be your therapist.

I found that for a while I was always asking my children questions about my ex. Was he healthy? What was he doing ? How was his job going? They were often quite vague in their answers and I backed off in shame, realizing that I was making them uncomfortable. Focusing on him  was making me unhappy anyway and decided I had to put all my energy into my own healing.

The worst thing any parent can do to their children is to expect them to take sides. I have seen situations where divorced parents use their children in the games they play with each other to inflict hurt.  Don’t think that just because your children are adults this no longer happens because you have less control over them. They can still feel seriously conflicted and drawn to support one parent over the other, to the extent that some break ties with one parent altogether.

They still need you to act as parents

Perhaps they don’t need you in exactly the same way as they did before.  Divorce when you’re older means they are probably already independent but you both still play a big part in their lives. Special occasions, birthdays and holidays can be a nightmare for them if you can’t even be in the same room as one another.

My daughter had to face her 21st birthday and her graduation soon after the divorce. Fortunately, both occasions went off smoothly, with her dad giving a speech at her 21st and flying in to attend her graduation. We did not want to spoil these very important occasions for her and so we both managed to set aside our personal feelings. I believe your children should be able to feel that they are more important to you than the difficulties you have with each other.

Be careful of criticizing

Just because your children are adults, does not mean they no longer want to feel that both parents are still there for them. Your children still love you both. It does not help them when you criticize each other.  You may think your subtle remarks about your ex go unnoticed but over time your words may affect and influence them.

I have tried my best to encourage my kids to continue having a strong, loving relationship with their father. Sometimes it’s really hard to do this, especially when holidays come up and they try to divide their time between us. I see more of them on a regular basis, so I reassure them that I am absolutely fine if they spend time with their father (even if it means I will be spending a holiday alone).

Find a way to communicate

A complete lack of communication between divorced parents is hard for the children, even when they are adults. What happens when they face a crisis in their lives? They want to know that you can still speak to each other about them. This is not easy when you are trying to recover from the divorce and any contact just brings back all the hurt. You have to try and put your love for your children ahead of your hurts and issues.

Your divorce impacts their future too

You may not realize it now but your divorce impacts your grown children’s future too. In their minds you would grow old together. You would be a support system for one another. Now, they feel more responsible for you. They are likely to imagine what will happen when one of you gets ill or when other problems occur. They assume they will need to step in and fear that this may become difficult for them as their own families grow.

My daughter has voiced her sadness about the fact that her children won’t have the example of happily married grandparents. My parents were deeply committed to one another and held their 50th wedding anniversary before my dad passed away. They also had a wonderful relationship with their grandchildren and she feels her children won’t experience that because of the divorce. She too has to go through a process of accepting her new reality and letting go of her past.

My son has taken on more responsibility for both of his parents since the divorce. I don’t know what I would have done without his support but I don’t ever want to use him as a crutch. I don’t ever want him to feel that he has to take sole responsibility for my welfare for the rest of his life. I have been forced out of my comfort zones and into learning how to live life on my own without his help.

Last word

Contrary to what some people may think, adult children suffer greatly when their parents go through a divorce. Their childhood memories and perception of their future are affected. Because they are adults, their parents tend to confide in them more, lean on them more and generally treat them like adults rather than like children who need to be protected. They are much more likely to be drawn into the whole divorce process which is often messy. The fall-out of an older divorce on adult children should not be underestimated. Your children need you to treat them with a great deal of sensitivity during your late-life divorce – from how you first tell them about it to helping them to deal with it and express their sense of loss.

 

 

My empty nest is the best of both worlds

letting go

I have the best of both worlds. I spend the week in my empty nest and my 21-year-old daughter comes home from university nearly every weekend. She has the attraction of a boyfriend who lives down the road from me but I don’t care why she comes – I just care that she comes.

In the week, I love the fact that I have the house to myself. I enjoy waking up to complete silence in the mornings. After my shower, I walk around draped in a towel and take leisurely sips of my first cup of tea as I get dressed. Later, as I sit working at my computer, the only noise I hear is the sound of the birds in the trees outside the window. When I take a mid-morning break for tea, I have a choice of a whole array of cups neatly lined up on the shelf. In the evening, I can eat breakfast cereal and watch The Bachelor if I feel like it. In the week, the dishes do not pile up in the sink, my hairdryer stays exactly where I left it and I don’t find half my wardrobe lying on the bed.

By the time Friday comes, the silence suddenly becomes oppressive. I am tired of my own company and I start to anticipate my daughter’s arrival. I hear her car pull up outside. She rings the bell and waits for me to come out and help her carry her load of washing into the house. She dumps her laptop, books and keys on the table and heads straight for the kitchen. “Mom, there’s nothing in the fridge” she says. She’s right – there’s nothing she likes to eat in the fridge. I now have the pleasure of choosing what I want to eat on a daily basis – even if that means opening a can of tuna or living on toast and tea. I feel like a bad mother and know I will soon be on my way down to the shops.

I treasure the time when she unpacks and tells me about her week. This week the news all seems to be bad. She says she and her friends are in shock because a girl was raped outside one of the residences. They are concerned about their safety. I want to know if she has been carrying her mace with her and she reassures me that she has. I don’t want to reveal too much concern and plant more fear in her mind. She is smart and I know she won’t take any unnecessary chances. She tells me that staff members protesting about low wages set a car alight and burned down part of one of the administration buildings on campus. She was in one of the adjoining buildings and watched as it went up in flames. She does not realize that my stomach is lurching at the idea of her being in such close proximity to danger.

Her supervisor has told her that her proposal for her thesis needs work. She is in her fourth year of studying and this is the first time she has received negative criticism. I can’t believe that my confident daughter has become so insecure overnight. I want to give her a little lecture about how to deal with the situation but I realize that she does not want my well-intentioned advice. She is emotionally drained and all she wants to do is watch a movie and eat comfort food.

We decide to watch Room. It’s not long before we are both shedding tears and reaching for tissues. We agree at the end that Brie Larson deserved her Oscar for her emotionally raw performance. This little slice of time watching a good movie, crying a little, and discussing it afterwards instantaneously draws us as close as though we have never been apart. However, my daughter is an adult now and our relationship has been going through some shifts. It’s not hard for me to treat her like an adult. She is a brave, compassionate human being whose point of view I respect. However, every now and then I slip back into ‘mother/child’ mode and she very quickly puts me in my place.

When she is at home I find myself arranging my life around her. She lives life at high velocity and with great intensity. This used to exhaust me. Now, I enjoy every minute I spend with her because I know I will have more than enough time to myself again once she leaves. She decides she will leave on Monday morning at 6am and on Sunday evening I help her fold her washing and pack. Once her car roars off early the next morning, I take stock and realize that I will have to spend some time cleaning up. The TV room is littered with crumbs, crisp packets,  water glasses and that’s just the beginning. However, once I have cleaned up, I know my empty nest will stay clean for the week without much further effort.

I feel elated as the silence settles around me once more. I look forward to being able to write without any distractions. She calls me several times during the week and I listen attentively. If she has a problem or is unhappy, I feel miserable too and do everything I can to ease her pain. However, my world no longer revolves entirely around her – and that’s a good thing. I know the days of her coming home for the weekend will soon be over too. It probably won’t be too long before she has her own children – my future grandchildren.

It has been a process for me to adjust to the empty nest phase. My daughter left home and I went through a divorce at the same time. My world as I knew it came to an end and I didn’t know how I was going to cope. I discovered that adversity can either crush you or create a determination in you to survive and even thrive. I am fortunate that I still see my daughter on a regular basis. I know many parents face not seeing their children for long periods of time. I am content with my current phase in life where I am able to make the most of the times when I do see my daughter and enjoy my solitary life when she’s not around. I know all too well that no phase in life is permanent, so I intend to enjoy this one while it lasts.

(This is a guest post I wrote that originally appeared on the Grown and Flown website http://grownandflown.com/empty-nest-best-both-worlds/  As I reread this post before posting it here on my website, I realized how rapidly life moves along and at the same time how some things never change. My daughter is now working but I still see her on weekends, we still cry over movies together and despite the fact that she is now an independent adult, we are still as close as ever).

My post-divorce manifesto

While going through my divorce, I read many helpful books and received plenty of advice from other divorced women. Not all of the advice was helpful but I distilled what really did help me down to five statements that I call my post-divorce manifesto. I continue to remind myself of the following facts every day:

post-divorce manifesto

1. I won’t wonder ‘what if’? or hope that my ex will change his mind

You need to accept the reality of your situation.  This is especially the case if you did not want the divorce. Once it has taken place, there is no point in imagining that your ex just needs to come to his senses.  It serves no useful purpose to keep longing for what was. Some people torture themselves for months after a divorce, asking themselves questions like, ‘Why did this happen to me? Could I have prevented it by doing something differently? When did he stop loving me? It’s natural to think this way at first but at some point you need to accept what has happened. I have a divorced friend who has never managed to reach that place of acceptance. She is still believing that one day she and her ex will get back together, although he moved on long ago. She always encourages me to expect my ex to come back to me but I know I can’t afford to think this way as it anchors me firmly in the past and prevents me from creating a new life for myself.  She is proof of the fact that acceptance does not necessarily come with time – it is a choice you have to make. Acceptance does not mean that are okay with what has happened to you. It simply means that you have accepted that it is a reality.

2. Just because he left me, does not mean I’m not ‘good enough’

It’s easy to battle with self-esteem when going through a divorce. Our marriage finally broke down when my ex had an affair. Recovering from the sense of rejection  and betrayal has not been easy. When he left me, it affected my sense of self worth, desirability and my capacity to trust.  I  constantly have to remind myself that I am worthy of love.

I have seen how feelings of inadequacy after divorce can make people do everything they can to try and improve their bodies, from going to gym to pursuing cosmetic surgery. They strive in every way possible to prove that they are thriving and are ‘over’ their ex. I have seen how some immediately fall into another relationship to prove that they are still desirable. Unfortunately, these new relationships often don’t work because they have not taken time to work properly through the grief and pain. They have not really searched within themselves and experienced ‘wholeness’ as a single person. This means that they often enter the new relationship with the wrong motivations and expectations.

The pain of divorce can crush you or you can drive through it and discover who you really are. You may just find that you are stronger than you thought possible.

3. I choose to be grateful

I have made a decision to be grateful for what I have instead of longing for what I do not have. This is not always easy when you are going through dark days. However, I have found that even on the darkest of days, I can always find something to be grateful for. Before I even get out of bed in the morning, I try to think of at least five things I am grateful for – my children, my mother, a roof over my head, the air I breathe, food to eat  ….  There were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed because I felt there was no reason to do so. Now, when I start with my list of things I’m grateful for as soon as I open my eyes, it seems to give me the impetus I need to get out of bed and start the day. When you’re in a grateful frame of mind, you feel chinks of light in the darkness. I haven’t  reached the place yet where the darkness has been dispelled but at least I have more control over my state of mind. There are many things that happen to us in life that we have no absolutely control over but we can choose how we respond.

You can choose to be bitter and trap yourself for years in a negative spiral or you can choose to take steps towards creating a good life for yourself. I have found that bitterness towards my ex ends up souring my life and I have been ruthless with myself in my attempts to avoid it. Sometimes this meant avoiding certain people who brought this out in me. When I first got divorced, I would get together with some other divorcees and we would trash our exes.  I must admit that it did make me feel better for a while. There is inevitably anger and resentment that comes with divorce and getting it off your chest can feel good. After a while I realized, however, that my resentment towards my ex would spiral after such a session and before I knew it I was devoting all my energy to thinking about how much he had hurt me. I realized that devoting my attention to my ex kept me connected to him. I decided to devote my energy towards making a happy, healthy life for myself instead.

4. I do not need someone to complete me

Romantic novels and movies often suggest that you need a ‘soulmate’ to complete you. I always felt that my ex and I were a team. With the divorce, it was easy to feel that I was not as good on my own. Two ‘halves’ made a ‘whole’ and together we were a ‘whole’ so I was now a ‘half’. It took work to get over that hurdle. For years I had largely defined myself as a wife and a mother.  I had to reach back to a time before marriage and children to rediscover parts of myself that had been buried for years. I cannot blame anyone else for the fact that I surrendered so much of myself and perhaps this  contributed towards the eventual break up of my relationship. I now believe that it’s not two ‘halves’ that make a ‘whole’ in a relationship. Each individual in a partnership should be ‘whole’, without the need for someone to complete them, fix them or rescue them. If you are happy with who you are, the other person will simply enhance your already good life.

5. I choose to be a victor, not a victim

Divorce is a painful experience, even if both partners desire it. It is an experience you would not choose to go through if you had any other option. It’s proof that something went badly wrong in your life and can easily make you feel like a failure.  Nobody gets married thinking that it won’t work out. You have to find a way to forgive yourself if it doesn’t work out and know that you did what you thought was best at the time. You also have to believe that you are not condemned to feeling unhappy for the rest of your life. Even though you may feel like a victim, it’s up to you not to let your divorce define who you are. Mourn your loss, take a day at a time, be gentle on yourself but at the same time, take full responsibility for your life and your happiness.

 

 

 

Dating when you’re over 50 and divorced

dating

It’s very hard to go from being in a long-term committed relationship to dating someone else. Just the idea of it is often so nerve-wracking that you don’t even attempt it.  However, conquering any fears and taking the plunge may be just what’s needed.  That’s what I’m telling myself at any rate. I know that if I don’t do it soon, I’ll never do it. Of course dating when you’re over 50 and divorced comes with its own set of challenges.  I recently took a tentative first step by browsing through some of the sites out there.

Using internet dating sites

For those of us who grew up without the internet, using it for dating feels very strange. Research has shown, however, that a large and growing number of people over 50 are using dating sites now. Any stigma attached to it appears to have disappeared. When my children flew the nest, my social network became a little smaller and with my divorce it shrank even more.  I’m unlikely to meet someone unless I step outside of my close circle of friends and this is why, despite my initial reluctance, I have been looking at internet dating sites. Of course I am terrified but it’s all about taking my life off autopilot at this point.

I read this advert on Craig’s List recently:

“As a single parent with a couple of grown children my hope is that I can find someone who is in a similar position. I’m hoping to build a relationship with a mature, aware, evolved woman. I am looking for someone who can be open and honest, reliable and spontaneous, not too serious, knows how to have fun. I am intelligent, adventurous, honest, good sense of humor, reasonably attractive, and romantic.”

This is the type of advert that every woman is looking for but the truth is that we cannot afford to believe everything we read. When getting involved in online dating, we cannot afford to be naive. There are many unscrupulous individuals out there but there are also many people genuinely looking to meet and date. Finding the right dating site is a step in the right direction.

Choose the right dating site

The overwhelming number of dating sites makes choosing one difficult. Some sites, like Tinder, are used mainly by younger people. Both my son and daughter have used the Tinder app.  You sign in via Facebook and photos of men or women in your area ping on to your screen. You then press a green heart or a red cross in response. It’s totally superficial as far as I can see because it appears to be based on attractiveness but apparently it’s quite addictive.  Despite the fact that my son and daughter have suggested I use Tinder, it is definitely not a site for me – too many young, attractive users! Match.com is one of the most popular dating sites with plenty of users over 50. It’s useful features, easy navigation and many success stories have led to a large and varied user base and you receive suggested matches daily. However, local and city based sites are probably better than Match.com if you’re looking for someone who lives in your area. Such a site won’t have as many users but your potential matches may not even live too far away from you.

Many sites are dedicated specifically to over 50s. This immediately introduces you to a pool of potential partners of the right age in your area who share your interests. Some sites are more niche and dedicated to those with a specific interest or background. For example, if you are a Christian, you could join a Christian dating site.

At over 50, when it’s already intimidating to join a dating site, it’s helpful to find one that is quite easy to use. You can browse sites without having to complete a profile or pay a subscription and this will usually help you to decide whether you want to join or not.

How internet dating sites work

I discovered from looking at a number of sites for over 50s that most of them work in a similar way. You set up your profile and upload a photo. You will usually complete questions about your looks, lifestyle, beliefs, education and your ideal match.  Some sites require more detailed personality tests than others. You need to give yourself a user name.  Before you can communicate, you have to pay a subscription fee and most sites charge a monthly fee. Before you send an email to someone, you usually have to ‘wink’ at them or give some other indication that you would like to make contact. If they ‘wink’ back at you, you know that you’re chatting to someone who’s interested.  Once you start communicating, you can find out more about what the other person is expecting. All interaction usually takes place on the site and emailing directly is not encouraged. Many safeguards are usually put in place on the best dating sites to protect your privacy as far as possible.

Some dating ‘don’ts’ once you’ve landed a date

1. Don’t even go on a date unless you’re ready to face rejection.

You need to be in a healthy emotional state before you start dating again. Dating inevitably brings with it the risk of rejection and you have to feel strong enough to deal with it. You’re unlikely to meet a new partner right away. You may have to go on many dates where you will just not be attracted to the other person or vice versa.

2. Don’t talk about your ex.

If you aren’t yet over your ex and constantly talk about him, this can quickly put off a potential new partner. Sharing all the details of your divorce too early on will probably push someone away. Bonding over your baggage is a bad place to start. Focus on the present and the person you are with.

3. Don’t talk about your health issues.

He doesn’t want to know that you’re having a hot flush and she doesn’t want to know about your prostate or bladder problems.

4. Don’t cling to the first man who comes along.

If you cling onto the first man who takes an interest in you and asks you out on a date, you’re making a mistake. This is especially true if you were married for a long time. Don’t try to recreate the life you had before. If it doesn’t work out with someone after a few dates, don’t try to force it. Don’t keep calling the person who doesn’t call you.

If you’re looking for someone because you’re needy and lonely, the other person can become an emotional crutch. You should be in a place where you would like to have a partner but don’t need one. You will carry all your past problems into a new relationship if you haven’t devoted time to grieving  and finding your own strength again after your divorce.

5. Don’t be in a hurry to find ‘Mr Right’.

Getting back into dating can be frightening when your body is ageing and you don’t even remember how to go about it anymore. It’s probably best to start by seeing it as a way of meeting new people and increasing your friendship circle. Making new friends is a first step. It’s possible that one of these friendships will eventually become something more. You will feel far more comfortable at the idea of finding new friends rather than looking for ‘Mr Right’.

Last word

You may think that it’s too late for you to find another person. I have thought this myself for quite some time now. I have also been content to be on my own and rediscover myself and what I really want out of life. However, I realize that I probably have quite a number of years left  and at times I think it would be nice to share it with someone.  The way I see it is that there’s nothing to lose by registering on a dating site. So, that’s my first little baby step. Whether I would have the guts to go on a date is another story altogether. I’m very good at giving advice to others that I don’t apply myself!

Ending the shame of divorce

shame

Shame is an emotion that many people live with their entire lives. It prevents them from living life fully. A divorce is a life event that often leaves you feeling raw and exposed. You don’t realize how much the burden of shame is weighing you down until you start trying to move on.

It’s ironic that it’s often the partner who has been rejected who feels ashamed. You have internalized that pain of abandonment. And when shame hits, it makes you crawl into your shell like a snail under threat. You try to make yourself as invisible as possible.  You feel as though all eyes are on you and you hide away to escape their scrutiny. Your self-esteem suffers a severe blow and it’s easy to buy into the idea that you are a complete failure. Throwing off the shame is harder but carrying its weight around for the rest of your life is an impossible burden to bear.

The stigma of divorce

In a survey of 1000 divorced people in the UK, 46% of divorcees felt they were judged daily because their marriages had failed.  In our society, we have many preconceived notions about marriage and divorce. We marry our ‘soulmate’ and when he or she no longer wants to be with us, we consider ourselves seriously flawed. Why is it that we feel this way even if the end of the relationship is hardly our fault?  Is it because of the way society looks at marriage and divorce? A book called Sacred Cows: The Truth About Divorce and Marriage, by Danielle Teller, MD, and Astro Teller, PhD reveals different responses to divorce in our society. The authors talk about seven of these sacred cows. ‘The Holy Cow’ is that righteous person to whom marriage is always good and divorce is always bad. ‘The expert cow’ says that every problem can be fixed and if you are divorced it’s because you haven’t tried hard enough. ‘The selfish cow’ says that you didn’t sacrifice or compromise enough to make the marriage work. ‘The defective cow’ says that there’s something wrong with you. ‘The innocent victim cow’ focuses on the children and says that you should have stayed together for them because they are irrevocably harmed by divorce. ‘The one true cow’ gives rise to endless self doubt when the romantic ideal that there’s one person who’s right for you ends. ‘The other cow’ states that no one should ever leave a marriage for another person.  The common thread between these attitudes is that they are all judgemental and based on assumptions.  No-one else can really know the intricacies of your relationship except you. I have personally found empathy and support from my closest friends but it’s still hard to deal with assumptions about divorce made by society in general that cling to me like a mangy coat.

The influence of social media

The end of my marriage was played out on social media where a comment and photographs put a swift end to my illusions. Suddenly the whole world was involved in my marriage and its ugly demise.  My children were subjected to all the sordid details without any chance for me to protect them.

Social media has added an extra layer of complication to the end of relationships. I am not against social media and feel, like any other media, it can be used for positive and negative purposes. Unfortunately, when a relationship ends and the fallout occurs on social media, it adds hurt to an already difficult situation.

What shameful beliefs do you need to ditch?

The rules and values you attempt to live by are your core beliefs. They determine what you expect from yourself, from others and from the world around you. With divorce, your core beliefs may take a knock and become distorted. You may think that:

  • your divorce is due to a flaw in your character.
  • you are to blame for every bad thing that has happened.
  • your life ahead is not worth living because it’s not what you imagined for yourself.
  • you may as well overeat, drink too much etc. because no one will ever love you again.

These are just a few of the beliefs that cause you to shrink away and hide in a corner. You’re afraid to put yourself out there because you feel undesirable, unwanted, unloved and ashamed. Because someone who may have once loved you deeply was the source of your hurt and pain, the cut is really deep. There is nothing that compares with pain inflicted by a loved one.

Why you must leave shame behind

Cynicism, despair and hopelessness are part of a life of shame. This is why shame has a way of morphing into a whole slew of addictive, irresponsible, compulsive and demoralizing attitudes and behaviours.  Strong feelings of shame warp your perspective on life. Before you know it, your deep sense of inadequacy and shame may explode in anger. This can result in bitter fights over children and other issues of divorce. Your hostility may even drive away the people closest to you. Your shame may lead to deep depression which makes you feel completely powerless. You no longer believe that you can do anything positive to improve your life.  Sadly, you may also become self-destructive and your self-destructive behaviour only creates more shame.

Your feeling of being defective in some way affects what you think and how you behave. Living with shame is isolating and it makes you push others away. Intimacy is difficult because being too close to others is just too scary. You imagine they will hurt you in the same way that you were hurt before.

When you’re full of shame, you lack of energy, you feel immobilized and it takes tremendous energy just to continue living. Your motivation is sapped and you no longer have the ability to take positive risks. If you feel trapped and unable to move forward, it could be because of your shame. Shame can be behind many of your choices that keep you from experiencing a full life.

Leaving shame behind

The first step towards becoming free of shame is to understand what it is and how it affects you in your daily life. When you begin to identify your shame, it can feel overwhelming and depressing. It is not an easy task because you have to rewrite the script you have been living by and you are the only one that can do it.

Think about how you speak to yourself. What does that inner voice say? Does it tell you that you’re no good, a loser, and that you’re incapable of being on your own?  When you have created a habit of talking negatively to yourself, it needs to be addressed.  Commit to taking note every time you hear this voice. The truth is that it often voices lies and deceptions. When you begin to realize that, you take away its power.

Recognise your tendency to isolate yourself. On occasions when you feel separate and alone,  question why you are pushing others away. Slowly, as you begin to work on being more open,  you will find that people respond to you.

It important to write a new story that will propel you towards a life you love. Your story is about who you really are inside and who you want to be. It is only when you begin to believe and live your new story that you gain new emotional strength and experience new possibilities. It helps to write down your story and go over it frequently in your mind so that the old negative story has no place anymore.

Last word

Shame makes you hold back, keep yourself separate and close yourself off. Shame loves secrecy. When you experience the shame of divorce, it’s like a blanket of protection that you wear to prevent further hurt. You have to choose to live without that blanket.  Before long, you will a start feeling more fully alive. You will feel the lightness of having shed an intolerable burden and your shame will no longer define you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are the signs of infidelity in marriage?

hand and ring

What are the signs of infidelity in marriage? This is a question that crosses the mind of anyone who suspects a spouse might be having an affair. The reason I am writing about this topic is that I was blind to the signs. If I had identified them earlier, perhaps the outcome would have been different. Unfortunately, there is no formula when it comes to finding out whether a spouse is cheating. However, if any of the following five signs are evident, I suggest it is better to address the situation than to live in ignorance. You are living in a fake bubble that is bound to burst at some point anyway.

There are always clues

There is an assumption that a cheating husband will always leave some clues. If you do not pick up on them, you are thought to be naïve or that you are turning a blind eye. The fact is that some partners are very good at concealing an affair. They become very good liars.  You may also subconsciously ignore the signs because you don’t want to believe what is happening. Few spouses will come home with obvious signs of having been with another person, like a lipstick smear on a shirt. The clues are usually far more subtle.  However, hiding an affair is not that easy, particularly for any length of time. There are always clues.

1. Emotional distance

One of the strongest clues is when a partner becomes emotionally distant or distracted. It’s very difficult to maintain emotional intimacy with someone you are busy betraying. People who cheat feel guilty. They are trying to keep something from you so they can’t afford to let their guard drop. They are afraid that you will guess their secret so they have to keep their distance.

My ex was working away from home for a long period and I asked one day “Are we still okay?” He insisted that we were fine. I then jokingly threw in “… as long as there isn’t another woman”. He immediately said he had to go and pretended he hadn’t heard. I must have really been in denial as I still didn’t believe he was having an affair. As we had been physically apart for some time, I hadn’t realized how emotionally distant he had become.

2. Secretive behavior

Unexplained, secretive behaviour or changes to normal routines could mean there is something to hide. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there occasions when your spouse works long hours, has to go on business trips, often goes to see male friends or suddenly starts going to gym every day?
  • Does your partner terminate a session or close open windows on the computer when you come into the room?  Does he/she regularly delete browser history? Does he or she suddenly have new passwords unknown to you for devices?
  • Does your partner keep a cell phone close at hand at all times and often go outside to take calls? Of course, your partner may even have a second cell phone to communicate with the other person.
  • Is your partner’s phone turned off at times when you should have been able to get through? There are periods where you don’t know where your spouse is and you don’t get a proper explanation of why there has been no response to a call or a text.
  • Have you found a secret credit card or a receipt for unexplained items?  Your partner may come up with an explanation if confronted but it cannot always be believed.

3. Attitude changes

When your significant other is overly defensive, and it’s out of character, this could be an indicator of guilt.   Remarks like “I was playing squash with John and you can call him if you don’t believe me” are typical.  When a spouse who has always been patient and understanding becomes critical of you or angry with you, this is another telltale sign.  A silly example in my case was that I have always read in bed at night before falling asleep. I did this for years and my ex was always tolerant of this because he understood that it helped me to fall asleep.  Suddenly, he started voicing his irritation, saying that the light was bothering him.  If your spouse is criticizing you over issues that were previously unimportant, he/she is probably focusing on your flaws to justify the cheating.

4. Physical intimacy changes

Has your spouse stopped showing you those small signs of affection that may have been common before? If these gestures have disappeared, it could be a sign of deeper issues. Have there been any changes in your sex life? Of course It is possible to have physical intimacy while emotional intimacy is lacking. However, your routines and other aspects of your sex life may be different. For example, your spouse may suddenly want to have more sex, less sex or none at all.

5. Physical appearance changes

Changes to physical appearance are a possible sign that another person is in the picture. Has your partner suddenly lost weight, bought new clothes or developed new grooming habits?

Trust your instincts

You will often realize intuitively when a spouse is having an affair. You will probably pick up on subtle signals even if you are not consciously aware of them.  Maybe you just have a gut feeling. Obviously, you don’t just want to come out and accuse your partner. A few of the above signs does not necessarily mean that your partner is having an affair. A change in weight and exercising habits could be entirely innocent. However, if you have noticed a combination of signs and instinctively feel that something is going on, it’s time to talk.

Have the talk

If you are convinced that your partner is having an affair, you must try to talk about it. Being upfront about it is not easy. However, honesty and openness paves the way to easing your fears or confirming your suspicions.  It is better to face it head on. Too many partners of cheating spouses are unwilling to face up to the unwelcome truth.

This is not an easy conversation to have so you need to choose the right time and place. You don’t want it to turn into an angry confrontation. Try not to start off by being judgemental or your partner will immediately become defensive. You can voice your concerns about your relationship and see if your partner is willing to talk about them. Couples counseling may be helpful if your partner still wants to work on the relationship.

My philosophy is that it’s always better to know the truth. Even if it is shattering, at least it rips away the veil of lies and deception. You deserve true intimacy with your partner. When that has gone, you have to both have a desire to work hard to restore it.  If a partner is no longer committed to working on the relationship, a divorce may be the only option. If a partner feels remorse about an affair and truly wants to work on the marriage, it still has a chance of survival.

Recovering from rejection after divorce

rejection

After a divorce, feelings of rejection are common. When a long-term relationship comes to an end, the pain of rejection is often severe for the person who has been left.  It may be unreasonable for the person to feel this sense of rejection but it is severely debilitating none the less.

Warning Signs

When my husband of 32 years betrayed me and lied to me, a sense of rejection was one of the hardest emotions to overcome.  The warning signs had been there for some time – subconsciously I was aware that our marriage was in trouble. I remember waking up one morning and thinking “I’m in an unhappy marriage”. My father and mother were a perfect example of a happily married couple and the idea of divorce was foreign to me. Even admitting to myself that I was not happy felt taboo. I quickly brushed the thought aside. Financial difficulties had put a great strain on our relationship and when my husband moved away from home to take up a job, the cracks started to show.

The shock of discovery

The day inevitably came when I had to face the fact that he was having an affair. My humiliation was public as photos taken by the other woman appeared on Facebook. My friends saw them before I did and had the unenviable job of breaking the bad news. What I had subconsciously suspected was now a reality and my body went into shock as it absorbed the truth. This was not way our story was supposed to end.

Rejection sets in

Once the initial feelings of shock and disbelief wore off, the relentless sense of rejection set in. I did not think I would battle so much with this feeling but it was more insidious than I imagined. If someone who had once loved me so much did not love me anymore, there had to be a good reason.  Where had I gone wrong?  Could I have done anything different? Was I unlovable?

Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who has studied the chemistry of romantic love says “We humans are soft-wired to suffer terribly when we are rejected by someone we adore – for good evolutionary reasons.”  Scans of heartbroken individuals show activity in the same area that’s active when a person experiences other forms of physical pain – like toothache. Evolutionary psychologists believe that experiencing rejection as physical pain gave our ancestors an evolutionary advantage.  If they experienced pain on rejection, they were more likely to modify their behavior and remain in the tribe where they were safer.

Finding ways to cope

1. Accept what has happened

I lived with a sense of unreality for some time after my divorce. However, I was also determined not to remain stuck and I knew I had to accept my new reality. A friend of mine went through a divorce years ago and she still thinks her husband will come back to her although he has moved on long ago. I needed to accept that my plans for the future were irrevocably altered and would not include my ex-husband.

2. Realize that it’s normal

Rejection is a perfectly normal feeling following a divorce. It may not be reasonable but it is normal. Certain social experiments have shown that when people are rejected by others who don’t even know them, they still feel pain. This pain becomes overwhelming when it’s someone you know and love.

3. Recognize that you need to go through it

You can’t just wave a magic wand and expect the feeling of rejection to disappear. It will eventually fade but you need to go through it to move beyond it.  You may try to distract yourself from your pain with food, alcohol, drugs or medication but it does not disappear.  If you recognize that you have to go through it, this is a step towards your personal growth.

4. Don’t feel that it’s all your fault

You have to realize that your marriage involved two people and you cannot take the full responsibility for your divorce. The person who has rejected you is influenced by his past, his present circumstances, his values and his world view. Just because your relationship has come to an end does not mean it’s your fault.  Before you end up criticizing and blaming yourself, consider that it is as much about what is going on in your ex-spouse’s life as it is about you.

5. Embark on a process of self-discoveryrecovering from rejection

You are a unique person with your own purpose and talents. Just because your marriage is over does not mean you are inferior or inadequate. You are worthwhile in your own right. Your self-esteem has taken a knock and much of your energy is being used to process all the emotions. That’s why you question yourself and why it’s so important to rediscover what you love about yourself.

It helps to pursue interests you may have enjoyed before you were married that you gave up because your partner did not enjoy them. Picking up an old hobby may help you to rediscover facets of yourself that are undeveloped.  Enjoying new experiences is another way to overcome the negative emotions, like rejection, associated with divorce. One of my unexpected pleasures now is to jump on my bicycle and go for a ride (I was given the bicycle by good friends after the divorce). It helps me to recapture the sense of freedom I used to feel as a child. Taking up writing again has gone a long way to helping me rediscover myself and come to terms with my divorce.

6. Share your feelings

Speak to someone you trust about how you feel. It is easy to start thinking irrationally when thoughts are continually churning around in your mind.  When we share our feelings with someone else, perspective tends to return. If you don’t feel free to share your thoughts with family or friends, go for counseling or join a support group. If you have no-one with whom you can share your feelings, it will be more difficult to find healing.

7. Find supportive relationships

We all have a need to belong. When we get rejected, this need becomes destabilized. Friendships change when a marriage breaks up and you may lose some of your ‘couple’ friends. I kept most of my ‘couple’ friends but the relationships did go through a shift. We used to all get together on Saturday nights and although I was still invited, I was now the odd one out and it made me very conscious of how different my life had become from theirs.  I found other ways of being with them that were easier for me – I would visit them individually for tea or go out for breakfast with them.

Fortunately I have a supportive family and I am lucky enough to still have my children close by.  Being with those who accept and support me really helps to ease the feelings of rejection.

Some divorced people start dating to boost their self-confidence. It does work for some, but for others it makes things worst.  If you do start dating, just be sure you are ready to accept more rejection.

Don’t be defined by your divorce

You don’t have to be defined by your divorce. Don’t develop a victim mentality. Focus on what you can control and what you can change. Get a new haircut, buy some new clothes, set some new goals – not because you want to get your ex back but because you believe you are worth it.