Posts

starting over after divorce at 50

Starting Over After Divorce at 50: Five Stories on Finding Yourself

Our relationships are powerful elements in our lives, which is a major reason why starting over after divorce at 50 (or any age!) can be such a pivotal moment. Realizing your marriage is no longer viable can make you feel that your entire life is over and that there is nothing to look forward to. But never fear—your life is still yours. There are chapters of your life yet to be written and new people you haven’t met yet waiting to adore you, whether platonically or romantically. You might also find yourself just truly enjoying being on your own after the compromise of a sub-par relationship.

But don’t take our word for it.

The women you are about to meet are living proof that you can still find yourself, even when divorcing in your 50s and beyond. Life after a gray divorce can actually help you recover your vital energy and wisdom, ensuring that you are restored to your true intended path. Let these women inspire you to take confident steps in your life and not waste a precious moment.

Lisa’s Story

One day, quite by accident, Lisa (64) found an email to her husband with a lease document for an apartment. They had been married for 32 years, but it seemed he was planning to leave. Soon after, she uncovered the proof of multiple affairs and infidelity. “I think he was a narcissist,” says Lisa, and she attributes the downfall of their marriage being a result of their combined focus on their son and their very busy career months after their divorce.

I asked Lisa, a retired Navy Jag living in Texas, what advice she has for other women facing divorce. “Get help,” Lisa said. “Divorce Care, a Christian organization, helped me heal. And I also saw a therapist.” She also adds that it’s important to “Get yourself a financial education and be firm about what you expect out of the divorce. Keep going—you can handle more than you expect.”

Lisa’s energy and good humor are clear as she admits that she is happier than she has been for many years. To hear her tell it, Lisa has found herself in starting over after divorce at 50+ and feels alive to the possibilities in her new life. Recently, she laughs, confidingly, she has met another man on an online dating site Zoosk—and they are in their six month together.


If you are looking for support as a mother, having been married to a narcissist, you will benefit from reading, “41 Things to Remember If You are Coparenting with a Narcissist.”


CJ’s Story

CJ is an emergency trauma nurse who married at the age of 21 and went on to have two daughters. Her marriage lasted 34 years until her divorce was finalized in 2019. CJ’s husband physically and psychologically abused their daughter, who finally disclosed the truth to her mother. The circumstances were difficult as her Ex was a police officer and she had to counter his angry threats by appealing to the Sheriff’s Office. Their friendship circle included police officers who all stuck by her husband.

CJ is now 61 and happily living alone. She kept working throughout the marriage breakdown and divorce. CJ relied on her close friends and a cousin who supported her through the trauma. She continues to live in the same small community in the upper Midwest, Wisconsin, where she resides in the house where her daughters grew up.

CJ says, “If we had divorced earlier and he had shared custody of my girls, he would have been alone with them,” she said. Her daughters have no contact with their father now, who retired from the police six years ago and so no longer wields such community influence.

CJ says she would consider another committed relationship if she could still have her own place and keep her autonomy. Like Lisa, however, trust is an issue for CJ after what happened. She too benefited from counseling and advises women to: “Be sure you have someone not directly involved (with the family) who you trust to talk with, someone who has your best interest in mind. A lawyer, therapist, advocate, or divorce coach, and take the time to work through all the decisions with them. They will have a perspective that will be invaluable.” CJ, an incredibly resilient woman, had to be so strong to stand her ground against immense pressure. Not only do her girls have a wonderful role model, CJ has found herself on her own terms. CJ’s story is proof that starting over after divorce at 50 can be transformative in many  ways.

Jill’s Story 

Jill’s story follows a different dynamic, with another set of circumstances and difficulties. Her divorce came when she was 47, after a year in a foreign country, with the pressures of work and increasing awareness that she and her husband were working abroad “together but alone.”

Jill and her husband had met at university and were married for 19 years. They were parents, colleagues, and best friends, but had “fallen out of love” and were “no longer compatible,” missing intimacy and the hobbies and activities they once had in common. Jill did some difficult soul searching and they discussed amicably what the future held for them. She leaned on friends and family and sought therapy.


Maybe you still love him as a friend. Perhaps he is your best friend. You trust him, you respect him… you just don’t want to be his wife anymore. Consider reading “How to Divorce a Nice Guy.”


She describes her “Aha!” moment when the therapist asked her: “Describe for me the place where you and your husband are happy together?” Jill’s mind went blank. She could not come up with an example. When she asked her Ex the same question, his reaction was similar. They both knew their time to part had come. She had six months of feeling the heavy loss of her partner and best friend after they separated amicably but found it gave her the possibility for a new lease of life at age 50. She has embraced this chapter as a time of recovery and discovery. She is now happier and more in control of her life—her role as a parent, her work in Europe, her friendships, and her love life—and feels better than she has in years. She stepped into the online dating world, and Jill now feels her “true bliss” with a new lover—they are several years into their relationship, and she celebrates her second love story. Jill’s story is a great example of how starting over after divorce at 50 can open new possibilities.

Jill is keen to say to women that the “Hollywood” version of divorce as a shameful, frightening, horrible event is unhelpful. Instead, divorce can be like pruning in winter, hard but necessary, leading to new growth for both of you, and a positive step in your life.

Ultimately, Jill listened to her inner voice, got help and stayed friends with her Ex. She is grateful and has perspective: she feels connected with her youthful self again in a new culture with a new partner. ¡Qué regalos!

Debby’s Story

The first person in her family to receive an education, Debby is a clinical social worker, teacher and ordained interfaith minister, living in New York City. She met her ex-husband as a 16-year-old and married at 19. Their marriage lasted 50 years. Debby is now 71 with two children and four grandsons.

She describes the main issues leading up to their divorce as relating to different parenting styles, his lifelong workaholic nature, and his diagnosis as being on the autism spectrum, which meant his emotional range was limited. Debby said they have a friendly relationship, live near each other in Manhattan, and get together with family but the marriage was always more a practical arrangement rather than a romantic union. If they were friends, she says, they would have remained married, but they were more like roommates. Debby feels they were never really suited to each other, and if she has one regret it is that she didn’t divorce earlier.

After their two-year legal separation, the couple converted their document into a no-fault divorce (they used a mediator). Debby is grateful that she is comfortable. She lives alone with her two dogs. Her independence was instilled in her throughout the marriage, as her ex-husband would spend long hours at work or away on business, so much that Debby felt she was a single parent. There was no infidelity nor abuse in Debby’s marriage, but she outgrew the relationship largely due to his real marriage being with his career in finance.

Debbie says “I did a lot of work on myself and I’m a lifelong learner,” and would say to other women contemplating divorce or going through one that it is never too late to start again,”there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Debby never pictured herself as a woman starting over after divorce at age 50+, but knows for sure that she is much happier to be on her own, answering to no one. There are, of course, moments of loneliness. But she reminds herself that she felt lonelier in the marriage without intimacy. She acknowledges that ultimately, her divorce was the “death of a fantasy,” and with this comes some sadness that she and her Ex could not grow old together.


For action steps, solid suggestions, and inspirational encouragement rebuilding your life, check out “100 Must Do’s for the Newly-Divorced, Independent Woman.”


Val’s Story

I’d like to share my personal family experience to further illustrate the point of this article: you can start over later in life. My mother, Val, separated from my Dad when she was 46 after almost 20 years of marriage. He was 66 at the time of divorce. Alcohol played its part as much as the age difference affecting their respective careers. She told me later she cried in the shower every morning for two years while gearing up to make the decision to leave.

She took me (14) and my brother (13) to Sydney, which was about 100kms away from where we were born. She left the government psychologist job she had held for years and stepped into private practice.

Over the years, moving through and beyond her own divorce recovery, Mum built a thriving business, had a Good Housekeeping magazine advice column, and appeared on television as resident psychologist. Mum was a family therapist and marriage therapist. She dealt with many divorces and separations.

As her daughter, I observed how Mum took the bull by the horns after her divorce.  She did meet another man, John, a jazz musician, who moved in to live with us. They traveled together, went to concerts, and generally had an amazing time for five years until he sadly died of cancer. Mum remained single until her death in 2017 at age 83.

Whenever I asked her if she fancied anyone, she said to me, over the years, she’d loved our father and John, and no other man would ever live up to those relationships. On her deathbed, she whispered to me that she loved my father. He had remarried in his late 60s and moved to Sydney to be nearer to us kids. Mum and Dad remained friends over the years until Dad passed at age 78. Mum visited him in his last days.

Starting Over After Divorce at Age 50: Endless Possibilities

If you need to end a marriage, don’t be afraid. You will likely have tried everything. Give it your best shot; that is all that you can do. Your life, God willing, will take a new path (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically) and your experience will matter down the line. Starting over after divorce at 50 is not only possible, but can be highly transformative.

Here are four important things I want to remind you of:

  • It is never too late to start again.
  • Trust yourself. You can handle anything, as Lisa says.
  • Your work and a good support group can be constants amongst the big changes.
  • Love never completely dies.

Notes

Sarah Newton-John is a copy editor and proofreader by trade and someone who also enjoys writing. She is an Australian living in Spain since 2018 with her partner, two dogs, three chooks, and a cat. You can connect with Sarah here: sarahnewtonjohn@hotmail.com.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Life After Divorce: Grief

Life After Divorce: The Grief You Didn’t Count On

There comes a stage in our life after divorce that we’re often not prepared for. It arrives after the legal issues are settled, most of the fighting is over, and we accept the fact of the divorce and its outcomes, they are what they are. At such a moment, we might be thinking we should be finding bliss now, but instead we feel sadness (again). Memories and dreams come back to haunt us at the same time “negative” emotions circle up. This may be a natural part of our life-after-divorce grief and healing.

Of course, holidays like Valentine’s Day don’t help.

It’s time to welcome your post-divorce grief.

Divorce is one of the top reasons for grief in virtually any conversation about loss. Divorce can cause us as much distress as the death of a loved one or a treasured pet. But with divorce, we very often lose multiple things at the same time: a partner, a friend, and a home. If we look at the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale that lists events that cause us to feel grief, we can appreciate that divorce gives us several stressors, not one. You are not crazy or weak if you feel sad or overwhelmed because these are indeed tough times.

Post-divorce grief can be aggravated by wrong expectations – namely, the idea that it should pass within 6 to 12 months after a divorce document is signed. That’s the general timeframe we expect close friends to be sensitive to us. After 12 months, it seems, we should be “getting on with it.” 

Another incorrect expectation is that the person who initiated the divorce should be happy and relieved rather than bereaved. That was my experience.

And there’s a term for this phenomenon, this experience of grieving the separation with a spouse who was abusive, or who was highly unpleasant for at least some of the time married. Such sadness is called “disenfranchised grief”, a term coined by Kenneth J. Doka. Disenfranchised grief is not openly acknowledged, socially validated, or publicly mourned. The danger of it is that “the lack of support you get during your grieving process can prolong emotional pain.”

Welcome your more difficult feelings

The inability to be open about our life-after-divorce grief can lead to shame, confusion, and feelings of guilt for letting yourself down. It can develop into depression with the sufferer not recognizing that they need to ask for help.


You are not alone. 

Check out our “How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce.”


However, there is good news. Once we look grief in the eye and process it, we can make room for a new life with new routines, rituals, and — if we want to and are ready for it — new partners.

To help ourselves through the tough times and process the loss, we should remind ourselves that however bad the end of the marriage was, there were always good things to grieve about.

Letting go of past love

Usually, when we are living through it, we see divorce as a sequence of legal, financial, and children-related processes and negotiations conducted in a lengthy and sterilized manner. It’s easy and even pleasant to demonize your Ex. For some of us, anger is necessary to give us the courage and energy to separate and break the system. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to get stuck in anger and hatred; they serve as a backdrop for our own self-righteousness. However, staying angry and blaming him* is not the path to closure, but a waste of our time and energy keeping us more often in a spin cycle of repeating and repeating the narrative we tell ourselves.

In the grander scheme of things, divorce is the loss of love. It’s broken promises. It’s the loss of companionship, the meals, the walks, the trips, the lifestyle. Overall, it’s the loss of sharing and an end to a valuable human connection. Without the support of the former structure, we can be left lonely and confused.

Admitting that love existed and died is harder than being angry. While the earlier stages of marital rift can make us think of a reconciliation, after divorce we definitely know that we can’t do more. We feel sad and helpless. 

For some people who like order and control, being helpless is the hardest feeling to endure.

However hard it may be, accepting the inevitable and our helplessness can take us to a new level. An English theologian Thomas Fuller said, “the night is darkest just before the dawn.” He added, “But keep your eyes open; if you avert your eyes from the dark, you’ll be blind to the rays of a new day.”

It’s only a dream

It often appears in relationship advice columns that what we are mourning is not the relationship itself, but the dream of a happier life. However, that doesn’t make sadness any easier. As Dr. Ann Gold Buscho writes in Psychology Today “the loss of the hopes and dreams you had on your wedding day is like a death. Allow yourself to feel that grief and trust that it will pass”.

The importance of hopes and dreams is that they cultivate our future. They give us the strength to carry on through hard times. Many of us dream of growing older with our man, seeing the kids off to college, downsizing, maybe moving to a different town, getting a bed-and-breakfast, or opening a café by the ocean. I did. Now that the person is no longer your partner, it may feel like there is no more future, nothing to work for. Even if a new man arrives, I will never have another chance to marry someone I met at 20. I will never have a chance to grow old with the father of my children, who loves my kids as much as I do.

Acknowledging the life-after-divorce grief is one step towards laying to rest the old dreams to make way for new ideas and hopes.

Goodbye, my friend

Divorce is highly likely to affect our circle of friends. Frankly, I was even looking forward to saying goodbye to a judgmental toxic woman or two. In reality, after divorce, we can pursue those who are more in sync with us. They may be especially funny, intellectual, or spiritual. Childhood friends may reappear or disappear. The loss of the familiar is worth acknowledging and grieving about. But it’s helpful to remember that with each loss comes a new space and opening for new people, experiences, and things.

Find a helping hand

Therapists suggest asking for help and accepting help during grieving. I’ve found it helpful to ask for support, whether it’s accepting invitations to dinners or watching a film together just to feel someone’s presence. But let’s remind ourselves of whom we are turning to for moral support and words. In my experience, it was exactly my poor understanding of my grief that drove me to hide from some friends. And elsewhere, I discovered that even some friends who had been through divorce themselves (and had the best of intentions) hurt me as they wanted me to get over my sadness or dark emotions quickly.


With all you’ve been through, do you wonder if happiness is even possible after divorce? 


Some cultures and social groups are better at managing negative feelings than others. If you are part of a culture where you are supposed to keep a stiff upper lip and get on with it, I encourage you to look outside your usual social circle for support.

Grief is personal and lonely

In our precious life after divorce, let’s do our best to steer clear of labels and boxes we put ourselves in. Let’s accept that grief is personal in the way we experience it, how it impacts us and how long it takes. It’s normal that it should make us feel very lonely —  like we are the only people in the world experiencing such pain. That is why joining groups of women in similar situations is so important. 

My personal divorce journey included learning to deal with loneliness, becoming my own companion, and learning not to fear being without a partner. I am very glad I took that journey. It gives me a feeling of strength and of heaving a choice whether to be on my own or with someone I chose.

Is it possible to grieve together with your Ex?

You can try it! I planned and offered to my former husband an invitation to gather and give ritual to the good things in our marriage, say our thank yous, and grieve together the breakup, but he wasn’t interested. This may be because we are in different places emotionally. I also discovered that my suggestion to grieve together could appear to be a reconciliation proposal.

Things will never be the same again

As we move forward with our life after divorce, one thing that will never be the same is us. We need to say goodbye to our old selves, mourning the choices we made, the sacrifices we undertook for the benefit of the marriage and our family.

As we say goodbye to the younger, more naïve version of self, we acknowledge how much we have been through, how much we had to lose, and how important these losses were. That self-care and respect may be something we have forgotten in the process of divorce. Now we are rediscovering it as we process life-after-divorce grief. And the good thing  is that this self-respect skill can now stay with us forever.

By letting go of the old structures and dreams we create space for new traditions, new rituals, and new versions of ourselves on the way to the future.

Notes

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is Russia-based communication and storytelling expert. She is rebuilding life after divorce and misses international travels. You can reach her at anna.i.galitsina@gmail.com

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

starting over after divorce at 50

The Truth About Starting Over After Divorce at 45

Starting over after divorce at 45 is something I never planned for. Like many women, I dreamt of being married to a loving partner and raising our children, and then playing with our grandchildren. When I thought about divorce in my 30’s, I still didn’t want to be divorced. The plan then was to remarry immediately and create an even more successful family. A newer, kinder, and richer man would share my burdens, handle the nasty divorce-related negotiations and shield me from shame and guilt. He would be a great stepdad and a father to more of my kids. That was my idea of a successful life for a woman starting over after divorce at 45.

The reality was different. I initiated my divorce without the prospect of a better husband at 43 and finalized it at 44 almost 2 years ago.

I think that my age gave me courage and motivation. In a way, I realized that “the rest of my life” was getting shorter with every year and this motivated me towards change. If I didn’t change my life, it would stay the same, if not worse. I realized that my Ex’s abusive tactics would never stop. And I was right. To illustrate, my Ex is already remarried and is verbally abusive to his new wife. I felt unsafe growing old with an abuser. My children turned into teenagers. I reckoned they needed a sane and hopefully happy mother to support them in their critical years.

Divorce as Part of a Midlife Crisis

For me, like for many other women, divorce came as part of a midlife crisis. It’s the time when we are forced to reassess our bodies, careers, relationships, let kids grow up. We let go of old patterns and look for new meanings. Divorce helps us transform in its brutal way. In my case, I got divorced, lost my job, lost my home, went into COVID lockdown, and saw my eldest son choose to stay with his father — all in a space of 6 months.

From a home-owner, a wife and a mother of two, a career-minded professional, I turned into a jobless divorced half-empty nester living with my parents.

There are lots of things to face in your life after divorce. At 45, I am looking for a job and even considering a new career. I haven’t rebuilt my finances and haven’t yet moved into my new apartment. I’ve had to reassess my relationship with my Ex. I am still working on healing my relationship with my children, looking to rebuild my connections with my friends, and when it comes to my parents, I am looking at them in a new light.

Maybe most importantly: I am looking at myself. Who am I after all? What do I like doing, eating, watching? Whom do I like being with?

These questions and practical issues invariably bring up feelings within me, and so I think it’s important to discuss what it’s like emotionally, now that I am starting over after divorce at 45.


If you’re recreating after divorce and looking for insights and traction, check out our “How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce


Divorce and Grief

The honest truth is that divorce at any age makes us feel grief and disappointment. Divorce takes everything we envisioned —like hearth and home, love and children, and long-term goals of golden years —and throws that dream out the window. As if that wasn’t enough, many of us have deeper-seeded emotions that come to the surface once we’re looking out that window, assessing the damage. It’s better to recognize these feelings and handle them with care. They are different for every woman and very much depend on core beliefs, culture, or religion. I live in Moscow, and certainly here in Russia, women who have been married for a long time especially with children likely did it out of fundamental faith in the institution of marriage. Some see God’s intention for us to live married. Others consider marriage as the only safe and respectable way to raise children.

I found myself deeply grieving and needing a longer, kinder adjustment time to my new reality. The transformation from a wife in a nuclear family to a single mom with just one of the kids choosing to live with me caused deep guilt, shame, and an escapable feeling of being a failure.

Motherhood In Midlife Divorce

Despite my journey, I am now finding that starting over after divorce at 45 as a mother is not as bad as I thought. I may not be a mom who provides her children with a classic family experience —but who does anymore? I may have put some of my interests ahead of theirs when I divorced. However, I am still concentrating on other motherly jobs like taking care of their education, their health, coordinating logistics, teaching them values and healthy habits, and demonstrating responsibility. I am doing my best to respect my sons’ choices and their need for a relationship with their father. I am learning how to continue their education with less money than we planned.

It seems like my motherhood style is working. My elder son recently gave me an unexpected hug and a kiss and said: “Thank you for being the way you are. You are such a great mom.” It brought tears to my eyes.

Whereas I planned for coparenting with a lot of coordinated decisions, I admit that I am happy with the parallel parenting with almost no contact and no arguing. Now, if I want my son to go to yoga, I just talk to my son. Previously I had to get approval from my Ex and argue for yoga versus boxing or football. Now, it’s the business of the kids to discuss with their father whatever they need to discuss. My current model saves me time and energy.

Responsibility: The one who decides and drinks all the wine

In my experience of starting over after divorce at 45, I want to single out a newfound responsibility. I am still getting used to being the sole decision-maker in many things. Now it’s me who has responsibility for the bills, the gadgets, the car maintenance, vacation destination, vaccine choices. Not only do I need to decide what to watch on TV but I also have to work out how to turn the damn thing on!

All this new responsibility and decision-making is stressful. The longer the marriage, the more stressful the new tasks. Many of us need to learn updated technology and computer skills, for example, if we hope to go out into the workforce. This means allocating resources and time for the new learning. The result, however, can be empowering!

I continue to make discoveries about my old way of life and my new one. For example, I am learning that while my Ex-husband pretended to share responsibility when we were married, he was in fact controlling my activities and my hobbies, and my beauty-related spending. He also pushed me to get jobs I didn’t want just so we would have more money. Realizing that I was controlled for a long time was sad but now I feel even more liberated.

Facing responsibility is empowering. I’ve learned about my own usage of resources and consumption. And, being the only adult in my family, I can no longer blame a husband for the empty wine bottle or the undone bed.

Financially Speaking

Divorce is a tough time financially. Moreover, high legal fees and multiple therapy sessions are only part of the problem. The bigger part of the problem is that divorce takes away the confidence and energy necessary for work. I still have days when all I can manage physically is to walk the dog and thank God for food delivery services. A recently divorced friend in a high-power job confessed that she is only staying employed because of her ability to delegate to subordinates.

Rebuilding finances can take even longer if you decide to change your career as part of the midlife crisis. Many women who were stay-at-home Moms are starting from scratch.

It can take a few years to rebuild your life financially and professionally after a divorce, and it takes longer to rebuild ourselves emotionally and personally. We need to recognize that, manage our ambitions, and maybe watch fewer films where women are left better off after a successful divorce from a millionaire!

On the positive side, I don’t feel financially insecure like I did in my marriage. I may not have a stable income now but I use it the way I see fit. And no one is forcing me into a job that I don’t like.

Recovering Socially and Romantically

I haven’t dated yet after my divorce. That’s 2 years. I never imagined it would be possible to not date for such a long time, but it is easy. There wasn’t much socializing due to COVID, no vacations where a holiday romance could have happened. At the moment I am horrified by Tinder and other dating apps. I might consider apps later, but at the moment I am embracing singlehood. Right now, I like the idea of self-partnering, taking myself out for lunch or a walk. I have made myself available for girly events and organized some myself like a trip to a gallery or museum or a live music event. And I am loving it.

While I am enjoying my new single status, some friends seem to have a problem with it. When I tell friends about embracing my singlehood, three different women replied with the same message: “Don’t despair, you may still meet a nice man.” I think culturally in Russia we still think that it’s safer and more respectable to be with a man than on your own.

A “single person” has a negative connotation in the Russian language and translates as “lonely” or “solitary”, one to be pitied. Another possibility is that my friends are just jealous that I have my freedom and the whole bed to myself!

Other Cultural Details About Midlife Divorce in Russia

The divorce experience and life after divorce can differ anywhere and within any country due to the difference between people, values, class specifics, or religious ideas. Getting divorced in Russia meant that I had to go beyond the information provided in Russia, and rely instead on English-language resources about divorce, abuse, narcissistic abuse, coparenting, and how to rebuild myself. Many such concepts and terms just don’t exist in my language. I am so grateful to have the skill of speaking different languages because it means I am not locked into one world.

Yet, while psychological or emotional advice in English was useful, I had to be careful with legal or financial information because of the differences with Russian law. I am sad to say that the Russian legal system does not protect women enough either through a welfare system or by recognizing the impact of abuse. As a single mother out of a job for ten months, I got next to nothing from the state in financial support. I have learned that in many countries, it can be similar; a woman needs to have sufficient savings and support of a family to live onward after divorce.

I have also noticed that men in Russia in my social circles remarry quickly or enter into a new long-term relationship almost immediately after their divorces. Conversely, women take time to rediscover who they really are and what it is they want. That discovery is precious and long overdue.

So, as I ask myself again: “What is starting over after divorce at 45 really like?” I must say, it’s not bad. Not bad at all. I am definitely happy I’ve done it. And as I look back at how much I have been through, I feel proud of myself. “Good for me, brave girl!”

Notes

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She has two teenage sons and a dog, and she is building a new happier life. You can reach out to her via e-mail for comments or discussion.

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected

Post Divorce

Is Happiness Even Possible Post-Divorce?

When a marriage is languishing in misery or the futility of irreconcilable differences, “happiness” may seem more conceptual than attainable. Sometimes not being unhappy makes the leap into the unknown worth the risk. But, at some point, either during or after the process, one question will become unavoidable: Is happiness even possible post-divorce?

The idea of post-divorce life actually being beautiful, let alone full of Under the Tuscan Sun movie-worthy transformation, may seem maddeningly out of reach. 

Sure, wouldn’t we all love to stumble across a decaying Italian villa and have the vision and lira to resurrect it?

Shaking down olives in late autumn, plucking basil from your window planter, spending all day preparing a Mediterranean feast for local friends… It all sounds so dreamy. 

And watching a divorcee go from non-functional to Florentine in under two hours—well, let’s face it, that makes anything seem possible.

Netflix, however, isn’t reality. And chances are you’re not going to become an ex-pat with your divorce settlement.

But you might. And that’s the point.

The Power of Post-Divorce Possibility

The question “Is happiness possible post-divorce?” isn’t a trick question or a test of your pragmatism.

Even if you hear it like a broken record, echoing from the dungeon of your shattered dreams, the answer is always yes!

But how? And when? How long does it take to get over a divorce, let alone to be happy?

While there is no foolproof formula for answering those questions, there are definitely factors that influence them. 

And one of the biggest factors is time. How long you were married and how old you are at the time of your divorce will affect your recovery.

If you’ve already raised your children, have your AARP card, and are a stone’s throw away from retirement, you’re probably in a gray divorce.

Divorcing after 50 or after a lengthy marriage means more baggage. It’s not necessarily bad baggage, but baggage nonetheless. 

Children, communication styles, habits, rituals, families, infidelity, vacations, jobs, memories, complicated assets and finances. It all gets mushed together into an identity that you now have to unravel. 

What do you keep? What do you throw away? What do you lug into counseling to understand? What do you use as a springboard to manifesting latent dreams and possibilities?

The longer you were married, the more likely it is that a big part of your identity became enmeshed in the care of others. 

Children, elderly relatives, your spouse—it can become almost impossible to tell where they end and you begin. After all, part of loving others is caring for them, sacrificing for them, compromising with them.

Redefining Your Happiness

You may not even know how to be happy if you’re not taking care of someone else. In that case, asking “Is happiness possible post-divorce?” is even more relevant…and possibly frightening.

Suddenly your dinner prep isn’t for a small army. It may not even require setting the table.

The only laundry you have to do is your own. 

And the only person who will be passing judgment on your housekeeping skills is you.

What’s the problem? those eager for freedom may ask.

The problem isn’t as much a problem as it is a challenge for those whose self-care has always taken a back seat to caring for others. 

All that outward focus, compounded over decades, may appear altruistic and mother-of-the-year responsible. But it can also become a shield that blocks you from the most important responsibility in your life: yourself.

So now you’re “stuck” with the one person you forgot about while you were making everyone else happy. And somewhere along the line, you lost the discernment that happiness within yourself is not selfish, but essential.

Getting through the divorce process is largely an exercise in discipline, resourcefulness, and compartmentalization. And, for all the calories burned, the exercise isn’t a fun one.

The reality of life in the wake of divorce is that it’s still a lot of discipline (especially financial) and resourcefulness. And grief and a medley of emotions can make a mess of even the most well-intended, organized calendar.

Learning to Slow Down and Focus Inward

The compartmentalization that allowed you to stay on course during the divorce process now has the freedom to open up. 

Yes, it’s still wise to put boundaries around your “divorce stuff.” But now is the time to start thinking expansively.

To be a bit cliche, it’s time to start coloring outside the lines, both literally and figuratively. 

(Seriously—pick up a cheap coloring book and some crayons and color a page. How do you instinctively color? Inside the lines? All over the page? With realistic color choices? Slowly? Quickly? Do you edit yourself? Do you add your own elements?

Put the picture into an envelope, write the date on the outside, and put it in a safe place. Make a mental note of how you felt as you colored. 

Repeat this simple exercise periodically, making the same mental notes.

After a year has passed, open your envelopes, pull out your pictures, and line them up. Do you see any differences as you journeyed through that first year? Do you remember differences in how you felt as you did something so simple and childlike?)

The point of doing such a rudimentary, seemingly nonsensical exercise is to help you connect to your own self-awareness. It’s a physical expression of what is so often locked inside and inaccessible for women after they are no longer sworn to the prioritization of others.

Visualize Happiness

The question now shifts from Is happiness possible post-divorce? to What would happiness look and feel like post-divorce?

Even as you reflect and grieve, it’s also time to meditate on who you are. Who is this magnificent person is with whom you are now spending so much time?

Who was she before she became a wife, mother, caregiver? What were her moonshot fantasies and superpower gifts? What did she always dream of doing if time, money, work, and family weren’t limiting factors?

Believe it or not, vision boards are still in vogue, even if they’re glued together on Pinterest. There is great power in seeing and writing what your mind repeatedly creates. 

Even if you are having to recreate yourself professionally and financially, opportunities abound for you to take classes in areas that interest you.

Even if all you do is watch how-to YouTube videos and TED Talks on subjects that stir your soul, you will be getting a free education. 

Keep a dedicated, unlined journal for taking notes and drawing pictures and diagrams. Allow it to be a testament of your journey to the life you only dreamed was possible.

Think of other women you hold in high esteem. If you can’t think of women you know personally, start with celebrities or influencers. 

Follow their social media pages and blogs. Interact in their comment streams. Make connections with other people who are inspired by the same women. 

And, again, take notes. You may not realize their worth today. But you most definitely will down the road when you marvel at how far you have come since your divorce.

Explore and Reconnect with the World

Begin to travel by yourself. Sound terrifying? Then start small and close. 

Take in farmers’ markets and art fairs. Rescue a senior dog so you have someone who is happy to go with you (and ecstatic to try samples).

Make one day a week your personal exploration day. Visit an art museum or specialty boutique, then take yourself to lunch. You’ll be amazed at how special that one day becomes to you. 

Commit to trying one new group or social event a month. There are Meetup groups, for example, for every interest under the sun (and then some). 

One of the best ways to help yourself and actually feel happy as you’re trying to “become” happy is to help others. 

Not only does stepping outside yourself to benefit another person do double-duty on the happiness front, but it builds your social network.

Build Your Social Connections

Divorce is one of the most isolating, lonely experiences you can go through in life. One reason women ask Is happiness possible post-divorce? is that they don’t know who “their people” are anymore. Whom can they trust? Who will like and love them for who and where they are? 

And the idea of braving a social scene that mostly centers around dating may be wrong-place, wrong-time.

So it makes perfect sense to involve yourself with others who have no agenda other than to bring goodness to people, animals, the community, and/or the environment.

In doing so, you will, without realizing it, build a new sacred circle of trusted friends who share your values…and possibly your place in life.

Finally, remember the importance of staying connected to women who support each other through the various stages of divorce and its recovery.

Happiness, after all, is found in relationships. And the most transformative relationships are those that encourage and strengthen the most important relationship of all: the one with yourself.

Notes

 
Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you — and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.
Life After Gray Haired Divorce

Life After Gray Divorce: What Women Must Know

The wisdom of aging tells us just that—that there is wisdom in aging. You come to know and like yourself, pursue your passions without apology, and cherish your “me” time without insecurity. You have filtered through all the charades of youthful and professional pursuits—“been there done that”—and you know what matters. But life after gray divorce—that late-in-life, upheaving reversal of expectations—can change all that.

It’s a humbling reality check that today’s younger generations seem to have a better grip on marriage than their predecessors.

They’re marrying later (or not at all), and they’re staying married at a higher rate than their parents’ generations.

Toss in second and third marriages and the divorce rates for those over 50 skyrockets.

The term “gray divorce” was first used to coin divorces between couples married over 40 years. 

It would make sense to assume that those people were at least in their 60’s. If they weren’t already showing their gray, they likely were needing some assistance in covering it.

But the term has come to apply more broadly to couples divorcing late in life, i.e., after 50, vs. earlier or in the prime of life.

If you are a woman going through a gray divorce, you may have a couple of standout concerns:

  • What will life after a gray divorce be like, especially if you have been married for most of your life?
  • What does a gray divorce mean for you in terms of how to proceed and what to expect in terms of settlement?

The Baby Boomer generation is still the age group most affected by gray divorce.

Several reasons for gray divorce come up time and time again, and they reflect as much on women’s divorce recovery as on their divorce motivation.

Keep in mind that women of this generation lived through the civil rights movement, Woodstock, and the legalization of birth control. These women spoke their minds, were politically active, and believed they could “have it all.”

They left their mothers’ hand-me-down aprons in the drawer and headed off to college in record numbers. They entered the workforce in swells, and not just to scribble shorthand dictation for male decision-makers.

And they laid the groundwork for the liberated, independent woman with the same rights and opportunities as her male counterpart.

Like the inspiring women in this portraiture and interview series, they helped create the empowered, influential woman we associate with the 21st century.

And that spirit of being unchained by conventional expectations shows up in both the reasons behind and life after gray divorce.

Some of the most common reasons for divorcing late in life include:

  • Empty-nest syndrome: The kids are gone, taking that natural focal point and buffer for parents with them.
  • Increased life expectancy: Sixty-five may signal a bunch of age-related markers like retirement and Medicare. But it may just as easily signal the threshold to another 30 years of life. And who wants to waste that kind of valuable time being unhappy and/or unsatisfied?
  • The marital drift: Whether inspired by an empty nest or a stark difference in activity, health, sex drive, or interests, couples often “drift apart.”

The challenge of getting divorced late in life, and especially after a long-term marriage, is that everything is more complex. Like it or not, your lives have been interwoven, and those vines don’t pull apart easily.

Financial Recovery in Gray Divorce

Financial and material assets, such as retirement funds, inheritances, life insurance, and social security, can be very complex.

You can’t ignore the time factor in creating a settlement. Life after a gray divorce isn’t going to be the same as life after a divorce in your younger years.

Consider, for example, the woman who tailored her career choices around raising children while her husband charted a steady, upward course in his. She will never be able to recapture the earning potential from all her years outside the workforce.

For the gray divorced woman, the plummet in financial security and lifestyle can be shocking, even if it comes as no surprise. Having to suddenly make do with far less, for example, takes its toll. This is tough enough for younger divorcees, but especially so for those who don’t have the time, energy, or job skills to make up for major losses.

This is why it is so important to collect a team of experts to help you through the divorce process. And an experienced financial expert should be near the top of the list.

It’s not enough to think about today. You have to consider how the past has predicted your future income and financial security. 

And you have to see the “equitable” division of assets in the context of your state’s laws and a bigger picture you may not have considered.

The Power of Connection After Divorce

When it comes to adjusting to life after a gray divorce, women prove to be remarkably resilient. 

To their advantage is the fact that they are more inclined to maintain social connections. They may have been the social planners in the family, and reaching out for friendship and support comes naturally.

Their inclination toward connection can be a lifeline during the adjustments of post-divorce life. 

The consequences of isolation, to which divorced men are especially prone, reach beyond “social” outcomes and affect activity levels, health, depression, and vulnerability to addictions.

The importance of forging new friendships and being open to new connections and activities, therefore, cannot be stressed enough. A 2015 study by the University of North Carolina looked at post-divorce satisfaction levels of men and women who divorced after age 50.

The study showed that while divorcees among this age range could experience negative side effects from prolonged stress and pressure, the presence of a new partner or love interest yielded positive outcomes. Even strong relationships with one’s children and especially the forging of new friendships had significantly beneficial effects.

So what’s the takeaway regarding life after a gray divorce?

  • Expect unique challenges. 
  • Prepare yourself ahead of time, even if you and your spouse plan to part ways amicably. Surround yourself with experts knowledgeable in this unique category of divorce, and get support at the start of your process.
  • Work on yourself. What is essential to your happiness? What can you learn to live without in order to have what truly matters?
  • Stay connected. Make new friends. And keep yourself open to new love or different forms of companionship.

Finally, know that life after a gray divorce has the potential to be an awakening to your best self. Your mindset, resilience, and perseverance will ultimately write this next chapter of your life.

Notes

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. Join us and other strong women for special invites to events, happenings, webinars, relevant articles & best of all, six free months of coaching delivered discreetly to your inbox.

Divorce survival strategies

35 Divorce Survival Strategies & Insights from Divorced Women

Divorce: it’s one of the most isolating, unraveling, confusing experiences you can go through. And the fact that millions of women have survived it or are going through it alongside you doesn’t make you feel less alone. But what if you could tap into the divorce survival strategies of these women? What if you could fortify your journey with the insight of those who have already traveled theirs?

In an effort to “help women help women,” we sent out a survey to 36 women who have survived divorce. We asked each woman to share her most important piece of advice for other women contemplating or going through a divorce.

Some of these divorce survival strategies will hit home for you. Some may even surprise you.

But all will give you experiential wisdom to contemplate as you navigate your path forward.

Hopefully, you will also recognize the desire and willingness of women to help hold each other up through the tough times.

That’s what SAS for Women is all about: support AND solutions for women.

And the contributors to this survey all carry that compassionate, supportive tribal gene.

They’ve been where you are—through every stage of it. And they want to help spare you any unnecessary pain they can. We know that when you’re in crisis you have limited bandwidth and need to hear the most important messages clearly distilled.

These are the things you must take in! Depending on where you are in your journey—thinking about divorce, in the throes of it, coming out of it—see if you can connect with at least one quote from each section.

Important things to remember before, during, and after divorce:

  1. “You deserve to be treated with respect, to be told the truth, and to live without fear in your marriage.
  2. “Do not ever lose your self-respect.”
  3. “Trust yourself.”
  4. “You are valuable and deserve to live the life you choose.”
  5. “You are right, and you deserve to be happy. Listen to your gut and then create a coalition of support.
  6. “Get organized, and take practical steps from the beginning.”
  7. Get affairs in order prior to filing.”
  8. “Find housing and get rid of belongings as best you can ahead of time.”
  9. “Remember while you are going through it, he* is no longer your partner, ally, or trusted friend. Verify everything.

If you are in the thinking stage, you may be sitting on the fence between leaving and saving your marriage.

You are not alone and no, you don’t have a monopoly on feeling crazy. These women have been there, too. So, which one of these divorce survival strategies stands out to you as a must-do if you are serious, too, about breaking the cycle of living in the crazy zone?

  1. “Don’t think about it for years. If there are problems, put in the work to resolve them or get out.
  2. “Get counseling and focus on yourself first.
  3. “Participate in Christian marital counseling before filing.”

(*SAS note: A religious approach to counseling may or may not be what you seek. If not, consider discernment counseling to find out if there is any hope left in your marriage.)

  1. “Make sure you gave your all to save your marriage so you won’t regret the decision you made to divorce.”
  2. “Arm yourself with information. I think I waited so long to say I wanted a divorce because I didn’t think I could financially make the break or raise my child on my own. The pre-divorce class I did helped so much to give me the validation and confidence I needed. Podcasts helped, too!”
  3. “Think about what’s best for you and your life. You deserve that.”
  4. “Just rip the bandage off and leave. Don’t sit with the unhappiness.”

Ahh, the finances….

Women statistically suffer financially more than men during and after divorce.

This area may be uncomfortable for you, especially if you weren’t in charge of the finances or didn’t work outside the home.

But there’s a reason that 20% of the respondents focused their divorce survival strategies on finances.

Please pay close attention to this section. The antsier a piece of advice makes you feel, the more relevant it probably is.

  1. “Be savvy about the finances.”
  2. “Be on top of your financial situation.”
  3. “Sort out your finances carefully and thoroughly. Make lists and tick them off.”
  4. “Make sure you have the financial means to get a divorce.”
  5. “Have enough money to survive for a year.”
  6. “Prepare financially if you can. If you can mitigate daily financial pressure, you can work on recovering after divorce.”
  7. “Never lie about the finances.”

Take care of YOU and get support!

Women have a hard time thinking about themselves first, or at all. More often, we put everyone else (the kids, our spouse, the dog, the work projects, the volunteer commitments) in front of our own needs. And yet if we don’t take care of ourselves, we are of no value to those we love. This is why it’s so important to have support, to remind you that you matter and that you deserve to honor your one precious life. Sometimes we need our friends or support team to remind us of our own value or to give us a smack and, to paraphrase Cher in Moonstruck, say “Snap out of it!” Whether you’re standing on the other side of divorce (or in a marriage you worked to save), you’ll recognize the lifeline that supports you once you have it. You’ll find it makes all the difference in the world.

  1. “Spend as much money as you need to create a support team. It’s worth every penny.”
  2. “Identify your mentor or coach. And don’t talk to everyone about your situation. Not everyone deserves to hear the gritty details.”
  3. “Find a support community. My Pals (short for Palomas) are my lifeline.”

Understand your feelings will ebb and flow.

Grief is a natural part of divorce. But all your other emotions (guilt, anger, sadness, hope, rejection, smallness, etc) will run the gamut, too, and not always in a predictable order.

  1. “Prepare your heart.”
  2. “Prepare for loneliness.”
  3. “Be prepared for the emotional swings.”
  4. “Go with your gut feelings.”
  5. “You will find a way, because you deserve to be happy.”

Look for the big picture, and stay committed to your future.

Be realistic about the challenges of divorce. But, just as importantly, be confident in your ability to overcome them. You have encountered difficult times before. Remember? There’s a survivor in you, and behind her is a champion.

  1. “Divorce is a long, yet worthwhile process.”
  2. “Be strong. Have the big picture in mind, and time will heal you.”
  3. Be happy no matter the outcome. Second-guessing once it’s over will only stress you out.”
  4. “Make the pain of tearing your family apart worth it. Don’t squander your second chance. Don’t be afraid to make your life meaningful, and don’t be afraid to connect with people again.”

In the vibe of saving the best for last, there’s one final point sent by one of the women:

36. Bonus! You will survive!

(And, just in case you need a little energy behind that mantra, Gloria Gaynor has you covered.)

Have a piece of wisdom or a divorce survival strategy to share with the SAS tribe? We invite you to share what’s gotten you through tough times in the comment box below. Why? Because we know firsthand, amazing things happen when women share with and support each other. 

 

Notes

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. 

SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*SAS supports same-sex marriage. For the sake of clarity and simplicity, we may refer to your spouse as “he” in this article.

credit: weheartit.com

Your 3 Most Important Financial Steps AFTER Divorce

Did you know that female senior citizens are 80 percent more likely to live in poverty than males? I found that sobering statistic and others about women, retirement, and money in a New York Times article. As a divorced (or divorcing) woman, wouldn’t you appreciate a road map so you don’t spend your “golden years” being broke?

My clients freak out at the thought that one day they might have to rely on their children or other family members for money. To avoid that, they want to know what they should be doing, what are the most important financial steps after divorce.

I’ll cut right to the chase: the most important practice is to create a plan for how not to run out of money. This practice involves three critical steps.

Step #1: Secure what’s yours and protect what you have

After your divorce is final, the last thing you feel like doing is more financial tasks, I know. But now that you are independent, there are important steps you must complete. Failure to do so could cost you a lot of money.

Case in point: I was managing a brokerage account for a divorced client who was waiting on her ex-husband to complete paperwork in order to transfer half of his retirement assets to her. Because it wasn’t his priority to meet his ex-wife at the Fidelity office to sign papers, it took over a year for those assets to transfer to her ownership. I calculated that the delay cost her over $12,000. Why? Because her ex-husband had his retirement plan sitting in a conservative portfolio that wasn’t growing much due to the large bond exposure. Had that money been invested in the same manner that I had managed her brokerage account, her individual retirement account (IRA) would have been worth $12,000 more!

Elsewhere, it’s important that you protect what you have by updating the beneficiaries on your accounts. If you were to die, you’d probably prefer your money go directly to your kids or siblings instead of your ex-husband, right?

You don’t necessarily need an attorney to help you with most post-divorce steps. You may want to consult with a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA) or follow a post-divorce checklist like the one I provide my clients and financial students. (More on that soon.)

Step #2: Pay your bills and pay yourself

The mortgage, property tax, utilities, Internet, cell phone …those darn, pesky bills! If we don’t have enough money each month to pay our bills in full, sometimes interest accrues on our credit cards. I teach women how to reverse that situation. Instead of paying income to the credit card companies, consider how you might pay income to yourself! That may sound strange, but each month you should have an expense line in your budget in which you are paying yourself, ideally in the form of contributions to a tax-deferred or tax-exempt retirement account. You want that money to be invested so it builds up over time to replace your child support or alimony (assuming you receive one or both) or your employment income when you are too old to work.

Is a budget really important? The short and long answer is YES. If you don’t know how much you spend, you don’t know how much it costs you to live now or in the future. And thus, you have no idea if you will or will not run out of money later on.

If you have never created a budget, don’t despair. You can search the web for various templates that you could use. I will also tell you about another resource in a moment.

Step #3: Invest your money now to create financial abundance later

Once you start building a nest egg for your future, you need to invest the money so it at least keeps up with inflation. We don’t like to think about it, but it will cost a heck of a lot more money to pay for necessities and luxuries in the future than it does today. That’s because the cost of goods and services rise over time. It’s called inflation.

You need to spend years building a nest egg that is large enough so you can withdraw money each month to pay your bills. Think social security will cover you? Please keep reading.

Many divorced women I encounter are overwhelmed by the choices they have when it comes to investing. There are robo-advisors on the Internet, people trying to sell you insurance as an investment, and financial advisors on every corner. If you don’t have a solid foundation of financial literacy, how are you going to evaluate which financial or investment advisor is right for you?

If all of this sounds complicated to you, it’s okay. It did for many, now high functioning, financially savvy women I know, too. What they did to turn their lives around was to frame this new chapter in their lives as a start over. And then they got educated.

You can do this too in a number of ways. You could buy a book. You could have a smart, patient friend teach you – if you are comfortable with that. You could also hire a professional to help you take responsibility for your financial empowerment. Or you can take my online course, for less cost than it is to visit a lawyer for an hour.

Based on what I know women need in their divorce recovery to become financially literate and to move forward to plan and protect their lives, I teach you the language of investing and the right actions involved.

Through more than 2 dozen educational modules (often done in easy to absorb videos), my course, How Not to Run Out of Money: Recently-Divorced Woman’s Guide to Financial Independence, is designed to show you how to do everything I’ve mentioned above, step by step:

  • Secure What’s Yours and Protect What You Have
  • Pay Your Bills and Pay Yourself
  • How to Invest Your Money Now for Abundance Later

In this course, you will learn how to create a budget (using a template I developed for women and considerate of women’s expenses and needs) and how to use it; you’ll learn if you can rely on social security in the future (I have a module helping you understand social security and what you must know). All this so that by the end of the course, you’ll know if you need to increase your income (and by how much) or cut your expenses. Or, if you are fortunate, you’ll conclude that your divorce settlement is large enough to cover your expenses throughout your lifetime.

Knowledge is power, isn’t it? Let’s put your growing knowledge and past experience to use protecting you and your future

Laurie Itkin is a financial advisor, certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA) and the Amazon bestselling author of “Every Woman Should Know Her Options.” In her comprehensive online course she provides affordable education for divorcing and divorced women. You can write Laurie or learn more about her by visiting TheOptionsLady.com.

Full disclosure: SAS for Women feels so strongly about this course, having tried it out and learned through it, that we officially endorse it and wish you to know that SAS receives a nominal fee if you purchase the class, too. Thank you for supporting the work of other women in your support of self. 

Life after divorce

How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce

People talk a lot about what it’s like to get a divorce, but those conversations don’t often extend to what life after divorce is like. Because, unless you’ve been divorced, you don’t quite get what this next phase is really all about.

During divorce, there’s a certain process: you have items to research, things to get educated about, decisions to make, meetings to attend, paperwork to file, and on and on—all of which are black and white steps you had to take to complete the business transaction of “dissolving” your marriage. And while those steps felt overwhelming, frightening, and generally all over the place (you may be or have been sad, in shock, mad as hell, disappointed, betrayed, in denial, or numb), the process, nevertheless, had a way of keeping you grounded. You had a goal. To get through a “negotiated” document, sign it, and obtain a divorce.

Now, as you look around in your new life after divorce, your sense of time — and what to do with it — is different. Even if you are struggling and fighting for survival, your mind and heart may be ruminating on the past and on “the who” you will become.

Yes, your life after divorce will be your juiciest stage if you are open to it

This is the “finding yourself” stage, and we urge you to have no shame about it.

Discovering and taking care of yourself will include preparing for what’s coming in your life where possible (implementing best practices that give you structure) and also learning to let go. This stage involves taking time to consider deeply your story so far, what brought you to the end of your marriage/relationship, and the good and bad roles you played.

Discovering who you are can get messy in a different way than where you’ve been. You can’t blame your husband for everything anymore. It’s time to pick up your baggage.

Based on our work coaching women, here are six of the hardest things about life after divorce—and more importantly, what you can do about them to make room for the good stuff. Okay, now deep breath…

1. It’s gone. Your life as you knew it

Sounds obvious, but a few of us are Resistors to Reality, women who spend months (years?) in denial about the fundamental impact divorce will have (or has had) on our lives.

A Resistor to Reality might strive to or blindly maintain the lifestyle she had when married—going on similar vacations, eating out at trendy, higher end restaurants, or placing groceries inside her cart without checking the price or quantity (so accustomed is she to buying “for everybody”). She might be paying the mortgage on an oversized and overpriced home because she either feels she is owed it, can’t face the prospect of change, or doesn’t want a move to “affect the kids.” She might be worried about downscaling for fear she’ll lose her friends or her social standing.

But now we all know, no matter how “amicable” the end of our marriages were, divorce has a way of turning our lives upside down. Divorce will take you outside your comfort zone. Divorce is about change.

Ideally, you started to metabolize these changes during the divorce process, and if you haven’t, your life after divorce is going to be harder—not just materially but psychologically and emotionally. The sooner you come to terms with your new reality the sooner you can adjust, redirect, and start shaping the future you want. Working with a divorce coach –during the divorce process, or as you rebuild your life — will help you understand what you can and cannot do as you actualize your best next chapter.

You may not feel it yet, but inside this vast unknown of Life After Divorce — there is a great, big beautiful life waiting for you.

2. Even when you do your best, your children will feel the effects of divorce

You’re a woman, not a robot. During and after divorce, your emotions may remain scattered, frayed, or short-wired. Everyday decisions may seem insurmountable. You try to be strong, to let it all roll off your back, because you want to be the best mother possible. You want your children to see you stand tall instead of falling apart. But you will have bad days, just like we all do. You slip. You might vent about your Ex to your children. Or they’ll overhear (eavesdrop?) you badmouthing him to a friend or family member in a moment of frustration or desperation.

No matter how old your children are—even if they are adults or not living at home anymore—divorce will impact them. It may affect their outlook and their ability to connect with others, including you and your Ex. Your splitting up will alter holidays and family functions. And although you may feel some closure with your Ex after the divorce document is signed or he’s no longer living in the same house, if you have children, he* will always be in your life.

Divorce may mean communicating with your ex-partner whom you never communicated well with before. You may be dealing with things like support orders and visitations, drop-offs and pick-ups. Your children’s lives will be disrupted, and afterward, each of you will have to figure out how to move forward and create a new life together.

According to the research, you can best support your children (and thus, yourself) through divorce, and life afterward, by being mindful of the ongoing conflict between you and your Ex. Children who suffer the most are those whose parents keep the hostility alive, who don’t aim to try to do things as amicably as possible. It is not, as you might guess, the history of your marriage when you all lived together in the same house, but how you two (you and your spouse) navigate the divorce.

When dealing with your children directly, among the best things you can do is to acknowledge their pain and perspective and not badmouth their father. Listen to them. Understand that while the reasons for your divorce might be obvious to you, they are less so to your children. You can help them feel less confused by being straight and honest and keeping the lines of communication open instead of shutting yourself off from the world. This does not mean treating your kids as an equal (even if they are “old souls” or “smart” or so-called “adults”) but being open about issues surrounding the divorce in an age-appropriate way.

Should you tell your kids you are leaving their dad because he cheated? Because he embezzled money? Because he’s an addict? We urge you not to share the gorier details until you and your children are out of the heat, down the road, when your kids are grown up.

If you wonder how to break the news to your kids, need support parenting as a single woman or coparenting with a challenging Ex, or would even like books that you could read aloud to your children, consider our post on the 35 best books on divorce.

3. Certain friends and family have “disappeared”

Divorce means change and you’re probably feeling this, socially and family-wise. It’s a huge awakening for many of us that friends we thought were so tried and true have disappeared or become mute. It’s as if they fear your divorce might be contagious.

Though we’ve come a long way culturally, lessening the stigma of divorce, meaningful people in our lives might still pick sides—whether they are forced to by your Ex, feel compelled to out of a sense of fierce loyalty, or have a preference to be with the “more fun” or more moneyed-spouse. This hurts. And it not only shocks, but it cuts to the bone, especially if you have little or no friendships outside of those you formed with your Ex during your marriage. You may be feeling bereft as you start off your new life.

When it comes to family, it’s clichéd but true: blood is often thicker than water. You may have had a great relationship with your Ex’s family, for instance. Maybe they’re a big clan and fun and tightknit—and you always had a particular connection with some of them. Getting a divorce, though, can cause them to draw a line and side with their blood relative. The wonderful relationship you had with them is no mas.

In the wake of the space left vacant by others, it’s important for you to touch in with yourself and find new hobbies and interests—this will help you discover new people. Push yourself to get outside so you shift your mindset, to take up an activity you’ve always wanted to but never “had the time” for before, to volunteer or travel. You can even join a support group with other divorced women who understand what you’re going through and who are committed to recreating their lives healthily — with intention — too.

4. An empty house

Coming home after work, making dinner for yourself, eating it alone, and not having someone to share your day with (if you’ve always had that) has a way of making you feel like you have no purpose. This is even the case with divorced women who didn’t have a lot to say to their Ex in the evening hours while married. But somehow watching Jeopardy in silence or a movie you both enjoyed now seems particularly enviable. At least you could hear another person breathing.

If you have children, the silence in your home when they are staying with their dad can be deafening at first. All the sounds children make means lives are being lived, and the emptiness left in their place can leave you feeling lonely and unanchored. Who are you if your children don’t need you?

But know that this is just a phase, new pains that you will overcome. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. You may not be able to change the former, but you can change your mindset and decide that you never have to be the latter.

Use this time to reflect, to read, or to enjoy a quiet activity. Maybe you’ll become vegan (ha! Your Ex was such a carnivore!). Or you’ll adopt a dog from the humane society. Or you’ll use this time in the evening to meditate, do yoga, or go to the gym.

This alone time is important to your divorce recovery. You must come to terms with yourself and rediscover who you are before you can rebuild your life in a meaningful way or even show up whole and healed in your next meaningful relationship.

5. The shock of being “replaced”

Your Ex might start dating right after the divorce. He may even begin to date during your divorce proceedings. In either case, this can feel like a punch to the gut. Did he ever really love you? How could he date so quickly? What does she have that you don’t? Even if you wanted the divorce, it’s not easy to keep the green-eyed monster of jealousy at bay when you see or hear that the man you’d thought you’d spend the rest of your life with is hooking up (or more) with someone else. It can feel like torture.

Take heart, it’s not uncommon for many spouses to appear like they are “moving on” immediately after divorce, and some begin to date and sometimes remarry fairly soon. Those who do are often responding to the feelings of loneliness and/or the conventional understanding of what happiness is (to be married). If this is your Ex, he may not be pausing to reflect and heal from what you and he have been through.

The odds that his next relationship will be any happier than yours with him are very low. Very low indeed. He is simply not doing the work you know you must do in the early phases of your life after divorce.

To help lessen your pain, make sure you avoid contact with your Ex when possible, or places that remind you of him for a healthy period of time. Tell your friends (the good ones you still have) that you do not want to be kept au courante to what he is doing socially. It will hurt you. You are trying to look in another direction, with a goal of caring for yourself and nourishing you.

Develop a new daily routine that cultivates you, strengthen bonds with your family and friends, and makes space for you to metabolize all you’ve been through. Which brings us to our critical number 6 on the list. Keep reading.

6. Learning to let go and adapting to the Unknown

When you were married, you had a certain vision of your future. You probably had dreams of how you would retire, where it might be, who your social circles would be, what you would do, and maybe how often your grandchildren would visit. Divorce has changed all that. In your life after divorce, one of the hardest things is accepting that you must let go … let go all the dreams that involved him and, yes, others.

You must grieve and take stock of all the losses you have lived through. And recognize that you may not be grieving your husband so much as you are grieving a way of being and the fantasy that was your marriage.

Letting go means letting go of the idea that we can control everything

Life after divorce can be a painful time—it can also be a crazy time—but it is not a static time. The journey is not over. It’s just reached a particular place where it’s time for you to process your grief and reconnect with you and who you want to be. This is your work now.

After divorce, your canvas is blank. The slate is wiped clean. And as you stare at it, wondering, you might not have a clue what you want to fill it with. But let us assure you, you have no clue the marvelous things awaiting you. The hardest part is just getting started. Dare to discover. Pick up the paintbrush and begin.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and recreation. Now you can learn the Art of Reinvention post-divorce. Secure female-centered support and wise next steps as you rebuild your life — practically, financially, romantically, smartly — with  Palomas Group, our virtual, post-divorce group coaching class, for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

Gray divorce

What Does a Gray Divorce Mean for You?

On the subject of gray divorce, it seems that there’s an elephant in the room.

The divorce rate is slowing for millennials and younger age groups largely because people are waiting longer to marry or not marrying at all. Fewer marriages mean fewer divorces, and the fact that both men and women now have jobs or careers outside the home contributes to this.

But for the 50-plus age group, divorce is “skyrocketing”. In 1990, divorce ended the marriages of one in ten couples age 50 or more. In 2013, that number had increased to one in four, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing.

It used to be that men were far more likely to have a life outside of their marriage. In fact, they had meaningful access to these other facets of personhood, a source of self-esteem, and venue for accomplishment. (By meaningful I’m referring to careers vs. jobs). Now, women also have the advantage of a professional context, a place where they have value beyond being a wife and mother. They, too, have a “work family,” and yes, they too could be on the hook for paying alimony. That is, if they are making more money than their spouse.

The True Costs of “Gray Divorce”

Most of the articles on “gray divorce”—the dissolution of marriages between people in their 50s or older (the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, and now Gen Xers)—talk about the negative financial impact that divorce has on this age group. Or that women are still likelier to initiate divorce, even given the negative financial impact.

There’s a lot of that, to be sure. It isn’t just the expense of divorce, which averages at about $11,000 for divorces with a lawyer involved. And it isn’t just the loss of retirement funds and savings accounts at a time when there are far fewer remaining years to regenerate that nest egg. It isn’t just that women more often bear the social, emotional, and financial burden of raising children after a divorce. And it isn’t the fact that the women of the “Betty Crocker Generation” were far more likely to be funneled en masse into stay-at-home mom (STAHM) roles to find their worth in home-making and child-rearing and basing their financial security in their ability to be with the right man.

In her 1993 University of Chicago Law Review article, Cynthia Starnes writes:

“Seriously at risk are the heroines of the Betty Crocker culture, women who have already devoted their most career-productive years to homemaking and who, if forced into the labor market after divorce, suddenly will be viewed as modern dinosaurs” (70).

Social Costs of Gray Divorce

But here’s the catch: financial assets aren’t the only assets that disappear with the end of a long-term marriage. There are physical assets as well. Physical attractiveness is the other currency involved in gray divorce that can cause women a disproportionate amount of depression, grief, and self-image issues.

We have come a long way, baby, it’s true. However, society still ties women’s currency to our physical attractiveness. Not to mention, global attention spans are even more camera-absorbed, image-driven, and youth-obsessed than ever. This is especially the case now that so many of our interactions are occurring over Zoom in order to comply with COVID restrictions.

The research puts it as plainly as a nose on a face. In 2017, the Pew Research Center published a study that focused on what qualities we value in men and women. While honesty, morality, and professional success are what we expect of men, the top qualities for women are physical attractiveness and being nurturing and empathetic. According to the article, large majorities say men face a lot of pressure to support their family financially (76%) and to be successful in their job or career (68%). At the same time, seven-in-ten or more say women face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent (77%) and be physically attractive (71%).

Society’s Unrealistic Beauty Standards

Girls and women feel enormous pressure to be attractive and stay that way regardless of the passage of time. Moreover, our culture of homogenized beauty standards is only just beginning to recognize women of varying sizes, skin colors, and ages as worthy of being called beautiful. It is still far too easy for us and our male counterparts to see the assets of our youth as diminished by gray hair and crows’ feet or to not see them at all.


If you are thinking about or beginning the divorce process, you owe it to yourself to consider Annie’s Group, our virtual group coaching program for women looking for support, structure, and community.


Until we fully embrace the idea that age brings about its own kind of sexiness and beauty, we will be functioning at a deficit.  And that doesn’t begin to touch on the amount of actual money women spend on anti-aging products. An October 2018 article published by InStyle puts that global estimate at $330 billion annually by the year 2021.

Financial Security in Gray Divorce

While no-fault divorces make it cheaper and simpler to divorce, they also leave women without the means to recover afterward. For gray divorcees re-entering the professional arena after working primarily in the home for 30 years, there isn’t enough financial leverage to recover the years spent.

To paraphrase one of my favorite New York Times best-selling authors Jennifer Crusie: we can’t get back the high and tight boobs or the perfect skin, but we can always make more money.

This may be poor comfort for those who are already coming out of the hen house of marriage as silver foxes, but if you are still in the process of divorce evaluation, get yourself squared away in the job market before you jump and keep in mind that—partnered or not—plot twists do come late, and we can always rewrite ourselves.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*SAS for Women is an all-women website. At SAS, we respect same-sex marriages.  For the sake of simplicity in this article, we refer to your spouse as a male.