While reading other blogs about divorce, I stumbled across a post written by a man in his fifties. He wrote about online dating, and about how surprisingly successful he'd been at meeting women. One pattern that revealed itself to him and that he found interesting was that some women "lied" about their ages, saying they were under 50 and using photographs taken when they were younger. The reason they "lied", I surmised, was because he (a man in his mid-fifties) was looking to date women younger than 50. The older women had 'fooled' him into going out with them.
His statement made me pause. Was I lying to my readers by using a photograph that a friend had taken during the throes of my divorce? The photo on my sidebar, I realized, was seven years old. I had to ask myself: Do I still look like that woman? Recent photos say I don't. My hair is grayer, and I have to dye it to keep it blonde. It isn't as shiny any more, and I am starting to develop slight, but visible bags under my eyes. In addition, I have gained weight, and the sweet doggie in the photo died about two years ago.
I didn't mean to "lie" to my readers. I simply chose that photo because it defined who I was when I was going through the trauma of divorce. I looked healthy and happy on the outside, yet inside I was bleeding.
Second, I changed my name to "Vic's Moving On." "Vic's Still Standing" seemed too static for the person I have become. Tonight my family commented again on how much the divorce has changed me. They have noticed my independence and eagerness to experience as much of life as I can while I can. This year I am taking classes in leadership, embarking on challenging projects at work, volunteering with a nonprofit organization, and joining a professional woman's organization to meet new people and network. All of these activities are new.
That man I mentioned earlier, is looking for someone much younger than me, even though is he only two years younger than I am. I surmise he wants the package to look a certain way on the outside. But what about the inside? Do 12, 24, or 36 calendar months really matter all that much in the great big scheme of things? I can empathize with a woman who is 51 or 52 years old and who wants to meet a man. What is she supposed to do when she joins an online dating service and sees that most of the men in her age range aren't interested in meeting a woman her age?
Those age cut-offs are one main reason that I don't bother to join an online dating service. Frankly, I'm looking for a man who wants to spend time with a mature, funny, dynamic, smart and talented woman, and who doesn't restrict himself from meeting a woman who happens to be a tad older than him. At this stage, I am willing to go out with men in their 40's, 50,s, 60's, and early 70's. Having said that, I will scour my photos to find a new one for my profile, one that shows me at my best as I look now.
Who knows, perhaps some nice 30 something hunk will chance to see it and be so entranced that he'll move heaven and earth to meet me.
Additional note: The blog post, Women Over 50 Dating by Susan Dunn, a clinical psychologist, assures women over 50 that there are plenty of men their age (or younger) who are searching for someone just like them. Middle aged men might try dating a younger woman once or twice, but the mature man will quickly start to look for someone closer to his age if he wants a lasting relationship. Click here to read it.
(Photo of a vibrant single woman over 50, Marianne Faithful, Mick Jagger's and Eric Clapton's former girlfriend, chanteuse, and actress.)
I purchase consumables for friends and older relatives: wines, fine cheeses and chocolates, exotic beers, energy efficient fluorescent bulbs, spring bulbs to put into the ground, blooming plants that brighten a room, memory sticks for computers or expensive memory cards for cameras, reams of printer paper and ink cartridges for computer printers, and the like. These gifts may not seem memorable, but they are useful and easy to accumulate at sales over the year. Chances are these gifts won't be regifted, as they are so useful. I 'wrap' all my presents in pretty gift bags that I purchased on sale the year before or at the dollar store.
What is happiness anyway? I find it to be an intense emotion that lasts only a few days or hours. Often, there is a feeling of letdown after one experiences happiness. Such an intense emotion simply cannot be sustained for long. These days I strive for the mellower, steadier feeling of contentment. This not only takes less energy to achieve, but in the long run contentment can be equally as satisfying as happiness. Click here to find some ways to achieve this gratifying state: Contentment.
I had reached a point where I was tired of casual acquaintances approaching me, their expressions full of concern, yet keeping their distance, and saying in an overly loud voice, "Aw, how are you?" as if I was deaf, or worse, had caught a fatal disease. My friends knew better than to bring the divorce up over and over. And I dreaded these encounters with 'almost strangers', and literally just shrank away. The last thing I needed during this celebratory time was a reminder over and over and over of my situation with questions like, "How are you? I am amazed to see you doing so well. How are you carrying on? You look so good." etc. etc. etc.
Giving my own holiday party for the first time also felt strange. There was no one to help me put up the decorations, no host to greet couples at the door as I puttered in the kitchen, and no one to help clean up afterwards. That first time around I had made the mistake of inviting our old couples friends, making Bob's absence even more glaring. Now I know to mix things up, and to arrange for a cleaning service to give my house a once a year cleaning AFTER I've had people over.
That first holiday alone, I had made arrangements to be with family, of course. And everyone was super solicitous and nice. But deep inside I grieved. I missed my familiar Christmas morning rituals at home in my robe, opening our stockings, sipping coffee, and listening to soft traditional music, while our tree lights glittered in the background. We had collected ornaments from every country and state we visited, and they hung on our tree like old friends. We would often loll in bed, savoring our time together, then pack up the car and visit one of the family, his side one year, my side the other year. As Bob walked out the door, he took all those rituals with him.
I didn't think things could get worse, and then New Year's arrived. There was no one to turn to first when the clock struck twelve. My mother turned to my father, my brother to his wife, and the kids turned to each other. Then they turned to me. Talk about feeling left out.
The pain of those first bewildering years is now largely gone. I still find New Year's difficult, and I recall crying last year as the two couples I was with danced slowly in each others' arms. My tears came unbidden, much to my chagrin, for I thought I had come to grips with my situation.
If you are reading this blog because you are in pain, and because it is the middle of the night and you can't sleep, then take heart and know that during divorce or the loss of a loved one we all go through this stage of enormous grief, loneliness, and pain. Sometimes you will literally not know what to do with yourself, because no matter how hard you try to put the divorce behind you and how loyally your follow the advice of your counselors, family, and friends, that deep physical pain remains inside of you, cutting you at the most unexpected times.
I savored the few moments when I could forget about the divorce, when I could laugh and be in the moment. Those small islands of happiness and contentment saved me. As time passed these islands grew larger, and that large sea of unhappiness shrank.
Below is my advice to you this holiday season. I wrote these tips last year, but they are worth revisiting:
If you are going through the first stages of raw grief:
- Do not spend the holidays alone.
- Do not spend the holidays with strangers.
- Spend your days with family.
- If you do not get along with your family, spend as much time as you can with close friends.
- If you cannot bear to stay home for the holiday, pick a place you've always wanted to visit, like Vermont or Italy or a local attraction.
- Do not go alone on a tour group.
- Bring along a close family member or friend.
- Do not resurrect a ritual that only you and your spouse shared.
- Start your own new rituals, like inviting close friends over for a tree decorating ceremony.
- If you cannot bear to be alone and can't afford to take a trip away, call a homeless shelter or church, and arrange to be among people who are helping others transition through grief or pain. By helping others, you will discover how strong you are. Every time I thought life couldn't get worse, I would encounter someone in worse pain and need. This did not alleviate my own pain, but such a person would bring me outside of myself. It was a powerful feeling to be wanted and needed at a time when I felt like discarded garbage.
- If you feel too vulnerable to do the above, fill a Christmas stocking for a poor child. The act of filling that stocking will take your mind off your grief.
- Or visit an elderly person who has no family close by at a nursing home. Bring them something special that they can use, like perfume or scented drawer liners.
- Help a nonprofit organization arrange their holiday party for their clients and volunteers.
- Or join a nature group and volunteer to count migrating birds.
If you are feeling strong:
- Sometimes, curling up with a good book, a lovely glass of wine, with your pet in your lap, and surrounded by the sound of beautiful music is more soothing than an evening spent among strangers.
- Or rent ten movies you've always wanted to see, and hold a mini movie fest at home.
- Surviving the holidays without a partner
- Alone in Canada, Celebrating the holidays
- Ten Tips for Enjoying the Holidays Alone
- Home Alone for the Holidays
- How To Enjoy Being Alone for the Holidays
Leaving a husband whose only vice is that he is boring seems a poor reason to renege on the mutual commitment and loyalty that led you to battle through life together for nearly 20 years.
Dullness is entirely subjective. What is interpreted as dullness in a man by one woman will be described by another as quiet charm. Is your husband dull, or are you just bored by him? Would you find your older lover equally boring if you had been with him every day for 20 years? By then, you would know all his jokes and stories by heart. Furthermore, within ten years, your older man will be a septuagenarian with a 50 per cent chance of being impotent, and no longer able to be the skilled, considerate lover. His physical and mental powers will be beyond their peak and the first signs of intellectual inflexibility, emotional blunting and forgetfulness may well be showing.
By then, you may remember your husband with some nostalgia.
So what's the point of this post? In my humble and lay opinion, sometimes it takes less energy to "fix" a boring marriage than it does to renege on one's promise to love and cherish one another in order to embark on a new relationship. If the pain, chaos and upheaval that result from a broken marriage are worth the effort, then leave. But if you are merely bored ... look inside. Nine times out of ten, that's where the true problem lies. Horses seeking excitement bring their problems with them to that greener pasture.
I should have known better than to run from my fears. My good friend Leslie offered to show me a picture of her years ago, knowing what I would find. But I couldn't let go of my worry that somehow Bob had traded me in for a better model. The new wife might not behave with much class or decorum, but I knew she had been successful in business and had made a considerable fortune. Bob had also gone through great pains to tell me that she "completed him." She was his "soul mate." I didn't want to find out what a completer looked like.
- She's a pale imitation of you.
- She's a piece of work.
- She walked into the room and I overheard her saying, "Watch me, I'll have them eating out of my hand in less than an hour." She didn't.
Well, now I know.
One day when the opportunity presented itself I looked. And paused. And looked again. And felt nothing but relief. It felt like I'd removed a yoke.
And then my funny bone took over and the laughter poured out of me. They looked like two plumb salt and pepper shakers. The image was simply too much, and I have been laughing ever since.
At all age levels, midlife divorcers did quite well on our survey's measure of contentment and expectations for their future. When compared with respondents to other recent surveys, they reported roughly the same measures of happiness as other single Americans their own age, and those who remarried also scored very high. This held true regardless of who made the decision to split or how long the marriage lasted. As for regrets, about 70 percent of those who initiated the divorce were confident they'd done the right thing.
Here's why I searched for his image. Last week a college friend came over to visit and inevitably the talk turned to those bygone days ... and Bob. Last Friday Animal House came on. That was our (Bob's and my) favorite movie in the 70's. In fact, when Bob's fraternity brothers would get together they would act out the parts. All felt that the movie portrayed their fraternity life in the house to a tee (I'm sure all partying fraternities from those days think the same thing), and I will always associate that movie with Bob and his friends. The guys had "adopted" my friend and I, the two blonds as they called us, as honorary fraternity members and we reveled in our special status.
Yesterday, talk at a women's lunch I attended turned to divorce and acceptance. Of the five women, two of us were divorced. We spoke of our exes without rancor, having made the decision to move on. One of the women asked if I still had contact with Bob, and I said "No, I don't care if I ever see him again. He's part of my past."
After lunch I thought about my statement and realized I was wrong. Bob still plays a huge part in my life. My relationship with him, which spanned over half my life, helped to make who I am today. Whenever I walk along the river and see a bicyclist whiz by, I think of him. Whenever I enter the garage, I see his handiwork. We chose some of the furniture I still use. And while I enjoy myself immensely when I am with old friends I haven't seen for a while, I feel like half of a whole. Something is missing in the chemical mix: Bob.
My memories of Bob fall in two categories. The old Bob who I loved with all my heart; and the Bob of the days of our divorce. Somehow, I am able to separate the two and recognize that my old life, filled with so many happy memories, had value. But that my present life, which has taken on such a different direction and tone, has meaning as well.
So, feeling nostalgic but not alone on a Saturday night, with my faithful pooch at my feet, I googled Bob's name and came up with two photos. One was taken of him when we were married, standing at a tourist spot with the Rockies in the background. The other must be a recent faculty photo. Before clicking on that photo I felt trepidation, but on seeing it I felt ... nothing. Nothing at all. He looks like some distant uncle I had never met, and a faint shadow of the Bob of my memories. Which is where he belongs.
Photos: Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary, then and now
I discovered as I worked through my grief and depression that I would forget the most obvious details at the most inconvenient times. So I learned to print out every email and save every note and scrap of paper.
I also learned that by jotting down my thoughts and feelings I could gain control of my emotions. In the middle of the night when I could not sleep, I would take pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard and pour my heart out. My brain could not tell the difference between my having had an actual conversation with a real person or an imaginary one. Once I got the words out on paper, I had relieved my mind of a problem and I was able to move on to the next step.
As you feel your life spinning out of control, take control of your life. Be organized. Save all scraps of paper. Write down your impressions of conversations. Take note of dates and times.
Take care to protect yourself. For if you don't, who will?
Here's a helpful blog: Write Out of Depression
This article talks about SPE, or single person energy. It seems we single women exude an exciting crackling energy that couples find a bit intimidating. We dress and groom a bit better, attend more exciting events, and keep our minds engaged.
Recalling my days as a hostess, I say that half the article is nothing but B.S. I always invited single people to my events, whether they were men or women, but frankly, I rarely noticed this so called SPE. Click here to read the article at CHOW: Singled Out.
Yeah, I feel sorry for her, as I do for all people who have lost their mates. But I had lost my husband too, and I had been married as long as the widow, yet when I bring my feelings of loss up among this group (and this is not often, believe me) I see their eyes glaze. Here's the difference between society's attitude towards a widow and divorcee: Society has accorded the widow all the dignity of her position - a solemn funeral and the rituals that accompany death, all of her husband's asset's, and all the sympathy and empathy she could ever wish for.
A divorcee's loss is generally devalued by society, the legal system, comedians, and yes, even friends and family. The reality is that while the widow is given every benefit of the doubt both legally, financially, and by society, the divorcee is generally viewed as a "loser" in marriage. The loss of a divorced mate, which is felt just as keenly as the loss of a dead mate, is swept aside as having less value on the "loss meter" scale than a widow's. As one friend told me, "Bob is still alive." Cold comfort, as he is completely out of my life in every sense of the word.
This same friend felt free to tell me a few weeks ago, "Bob was strange." Would she have made such a statement to a widow? I doubt it. At the time the widow dropped out of our discussion group a few years back, my wounds from losing my husband were just as raw as hers and I was struggling mightily to hold myself together for the sake of this group. Had I quit as she did, would I have received the same tender consideration? Looking back I think not.
I am tired of this disparity in treatment. Divorce is not a joke. It is as traumatic as the death of a loved one and loss of a child. It is that simple. Thank you for listening.
For my other post on the same topic, Death vs. Divorce, click here.
- embarked on a successful career
- found new friends
- discovered a sense of who I am and what I want to do when I grow up
- take pride in my accomplishments
- can go it alone
You may not ever be happy in the naive way that you once were. But as you reemerge from the ashes, your contentment will glow with the rich patina of experience, and you will find a deeper satisfaction than you've ever known before.
One quick step to independence is to become financially solvent:
- Click here for my post on the topic: Plan B: Always Have One
- And here for the MSN article, From Money to Emotions: Get Over Your Divorce
One day I made a breezy, off-hand remark, something like, but “You’re divorced, you wouldn’t understand.” I don’t recall my exact words or their context. I do recall the enormous look of hurt on her face and the tears filling her eyes. I had wounded her.
Flash forward to my own situation. The young marrieds surrounding me regard my relationship with my ex as a colossal failure. I know now how Marge felt. For twenty-one years my marriage was a success. Bob and I were wildly in love and happy, holding hands and not getting enough of each others’ company. Only when my husband became restless did our relationship begin to unravel. Frankly, I could have twisted myself into 3 pretzels, I believe now that nothing I did would have changed his mind. He wanted new pastures, a new woman, and to go in an entirely new direction than we had taken.
I feel awkward when my comments about marriage or my ex are discounted as meaningless. It feels like half of my life is being negated. Just this week an old friend of mine told me that a friend of hers had thought Bob strange. The words hurt. I didn't think Bob strange at the time I was married to him. What did her statement mean? I felt a distinct twinge of pain.
Oh, Marge, wherever you are, I apologize for my careless words all those years ago. If only I knew then what I know now - that thoughtless remarks not only hurt, they are demeaning.
Here are some interesting links:
- Context Makes Some Words so Hurtful: El Paso Times
One had been married three times. He tried his best to make his third marriage work. (He was married at 18 the first time, married on the rebound the second time, and fell head over heels in love with his third wife, who eventually "Done Him Wrong.") When we met, he was in his mid-forties. The third sentence out of his mouth after we had set up our first date was, "I don't ever intend to marry again." He was as good as his word. And even though I felt some hope when our relationship lasted, he pulled away when everyone but the minister expected us to get married. I couldn't fault him, though. He never promised permanence, and he said right from the start that he'd had enough. "Three strikes and you're out." Nine years after his third divorce, he's still single as far as I know.
Three months into dating man number two, he began sending me links to blogs that other men had written. The posts went something like this (and I paraphrase): I've got a good job, a great house, wonderful kids, as much sex as I like or need, no debt, no worries, I can do what I want when I want it, and there are no conflicts in my life. Why upset a good life?"
Why indeed. I received about three or four of these links, read them, laughed at the absurdity of some of the comments, and then ... it hit me. Man number two was sending me a message: A strong one. That Christmas I arrived at his house with a truly wonderful gift, but he had none for me. Instead, I received a comic little riff about women who bought useless presents for each other that cluttered the house. Oh, he was funny, but there was a stridency to his tone as he performed his little comic routine. He then commented on the nice manly relationship between Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady, and quoted these lines from "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?"
Women are irrational, that's all there is to that!
There heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
They're nothing but exasperating, irritating,
vacillating, calculating, agitating,
Maddening and infuriating hags!
He went on to quote,
Why can't a woman be more like a man?I recall plastering a smile on my face, trying to hide my incredible hurt. Then I looked at the gift I'd given him, and said lightly, "Well, if you find gifts women give useless, guess I'll take mine back."
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historic'ly fair;
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Well, why can't a woman be like that?
Why does ev'ryone do what the others do?
Can't a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do ev'rything their mothers do?
Why don't they grow up- well, like their father instead?
Why can't a woman take after a man?
Men are so pleasant, so easy to please;
Whenever you are with them, you're always at ease.
Would you be slighted if I didn't speak for hours?
Of course not!
Would you be livid if I had a drink or two?
Would you be wounded if I never sent you flowers?
Well, why can't a woman be like you?
"Oh, no," he said. "I like yours." (It was a gourmet wine opener.)
I left his house feeling deflated and a sense of disquiet. I cried again that Christmas. It was the third time in five years that my heart had been broken in December, and I was beginning to dread that time of year. In fact, I refuse to have another holiday ruined by a man.
Weeks later in one of our last phone conversations he told me how easy I was to get along with. Of course! He had made it plain that there was no future, so I held myself back. He's never realized how many tears I've cried over him, and I'll be damned if I'll ever tell him. Besides, I've been wrestling with the notion that I'm attracted to the wrong kind of man. How else can I explain my dismal record?
So, this is the lesson I gleaned from my former beaus:
All in all, both are quite content living alone. One is neat and tidy; the other's house is a mess. Both love to eat and can cook quite well. They drop everything to be with their children (as they should.) Both care a great deal for their parents. One visits his mother, who lives in a nursing home, two or three times per month in a city three hours away. The other renovated his house so that his father, who is legally blind, could move in with him. He now spends his spare time driving his father everywhere.
These two men are decent and honorable. Both will drop everything to help me if I should ever make the call. They just don't need a woman to make their lives complete. It isn't that I'm so undesirable to be with, or a pushover, (thank God I have no self doubt about myself or my conduct,) it's that every woman these two men have dated since their divorce have been dropped or left dangling. In my case, I lasted four years with one, and three months with the other.
I no longer date. It's too much of a bother. I've also decided I just cannot go through another heartache soon again. I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid. Besides, I have a dog, a lovely home, a career, and as much sex as I want. Sheez! Now I'm sounding just like them. Isn't this world simply crazy?
Here's an interesting article about Some Common Reasons Men Leave Relationships.
My former coworker had been married for only two years. I could tell from his demeanor that he was the one who left. He was embarrassed about his public failure and hadn't told many people. Despite his decision to leave, I imagine it was still a difficult one. Breaking up is never easy, especially after one has declared to the world, "'Till death us do part."
This news about my former coworker resulted in a conversation with my boss, a man who has been divorced for over 35 years. His one and only marriage lasted only a few months. "Unlike other peoples' responses," he said, "I congratulated him and told him I thought he was brave for leaving an impossible situation and for not attempting to fix something that couldn't be fixed."
Good point, I reluctantly thought, recalling all the pain I felt when my husband told me he was leaving. Then my boss continued, saying how he couldn't understand how marriage truly worked. How anyone could worry about another human's welfare in addition to their own. (Obviously he doesn't have children.) It was tough enough, he said, worrying about losing your own job or being able to pay taxes. Having to worry about a spouse as well doubled the pressure. He had no idea why anyone would want to put their faith and trust in another, open a joint checking account, or purchase joint property, etc. He loved living on his own.
"Living the selfish life," I added, "Doing what I want, when I want, and how I want it."
"Precisely," he said, perking up. "It's very satisfying." He then went on to say how it always irked him that society celebrated successful couples. "How about the single individual successfully living alone? Why aren't they rewarded with praise?"
Indeed, why not? I thought, knowing my boss shirked all parties and get-togethers, and spent most of his free time watching baseball with his two dogs and cats. I have no pat answers to this strange discussion. I was simply happy to get as much from this man as I did. In fact, from now on, quite a few of my posts will center around other middle-aged people's thoughts about divorce, marriage, and the single life. So stay tuned. Meanwhile, here are two links for a man going through divorce. No matter what sex you are, the process is tough.
- Here's an old interview by Bill Ritter, but current in thought and feeling. Men After Divorce/Walkaway Wives
All these events occurred during 2000. Interestingly, yesterday was my wedding anniversary. I was married on a Saturday on September 15, 1973. Like yesterday, the day started out with a drizzle and ended up clear, sunny, and warm. This was important, for we were married outdoors.
Thankfully I had made plans to be with my family yesterday. I shed no tears. My therapist told me it would take five years to completely heal, and she was right. Last year I had a similar cool response when I traveled with a girlfriend to Paris. So for those of you who think that the memories will haunt you forever, take heart. Time and distance do heal all wounds.
For Sister Links of Strength, I've tagged:
Mom of 3, who resides in Boston. She writes about Finding My Way, in which she embarks on a personal journey of growth and discovery as she and her husband are separating.
Iona Fiona: Tales from the post marital quagmire views the world in an unflinchingly honest way. I am always surprised when I visit Iona's blog, and in turn feel supported by her. Her site is well worth a visit!
...know it's all their fault.
...yearn for their daddies to come back.
...search for their daddies, sometimes all their lives.
...will do anything to get their daddies back.
...find substitute daddies, even in bad places.
...try to be good girls, even though they really think they are bad.
...have a hard time saying no.
...think they have a flaw that made their daddies leave.
...will do everything in their power to keep their new daddies (husbands.)
...will find fault with themselves over their daddies.
...might seem tough on the outside, but they are bruised on the inside.
...have a hard time trusting anyone.
...enter co-dependent relationships when they grow up.
I am a child of divorce. This was how I felt. This was how I reacted emotionally to men. Did I miss anything?
I was caught off guard by the sheer force of emotions, and I clung to my bewildered dog all night long, crying so hard and so long that my eyes and voice were raw for days. The next year (on what would have been my 28th anniversary) I was in a serious relationship. It didn't occur to me to protect myself. Inexplicably, I spent that day alone also, and once again my emotions overwhelmed me.
I was prepared the third year, and planned a weekend with friends. I've planned something on my anniversary every year since then. Last year, I flew to Paris. This year Mom and Dad will be joining me. We are going to tackle the rest of my garage, throwing out the last vestiges of Bob's possessions, and clearing out the clutter that represents my hanging on to old memories and the past. These possessions and memorabilia have been bogging me down, slowing my ability to store new things and using my house to the fullest.
Letting go. This has been my theme for a few months now. I am finally starting to cut all the connections that are holding me back. Some day I will regard the date of my anniversary as just another day.
This article, Coping With Tragedy from the National Empowerment Center, was written to help people cope with a traumatic event, such as after a hurricane. I found the advice to be pertinent to my situation as well.
First, I had to let go of material things.
Days after Bob moved out of the house, I stopped the lawn service, discontinued the wine of the month club, beer of the month club, and dinners out. I checked books and videos out of the library and joined Price Club. I waited for sales before making purchases, and for the first time I set foot in the Dollar Store and Tuesday Morning. I began to frequent Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, and scour yard sales. I even shopped at Wal*Mart regularly. Slowly but steadily I stopped paying retail and studied wholesale prices. I had no choice.
Second, I had to learn to let go of former dreams.
We had plans to build a lake house on some lake property we had just purchased. I had dreams of getting my novels published. A more immediate dream had been to visit Hawaii. All these had to be swept aside as I concentrated on emotional and financial survival.
Third, I had to let go of my former friendships.
Oh, I kept most of our friends, but the nature of those friendships changed. All of a sudden I found myself living in a largely female world. Where before Bob and I would go out as a couple, now I would meet my girlfriends for lunch. Since my divorce I've seen some of the men I used to see weekly only six or seven times. While those "couple" friends would invite single men to their parties, dinners, and get-togethers, I seldom got asked to attend them as a single woman. I had to let go of my anger and disappointment towards those friends. They were treating me in a different way. I could either accept this or move on and find a new, close circle of friends who were not intimidated by my single state. I chose to move on, connecting with old friends less often and concentrating on my new life.
Fourth, I needed to let go of the anger.
This has been the hardest task. I haven't completely forgiven Bob for giving up on "us" or forgotten some of the hateful things he said, but I have placed him far down the list of people who matter. Consequently, my anger about the divorce has lessened. I found this one thing to be true: It is impossible to love someone you don't respect. Once I lost my respect for Bob, my love for him disappeared. Once I stopped loving him, I could let go of him and most of my anger.
Fifth, I needed to stop thinking of myself as a failure.
Through 6 years of dating and 26 years of marriage I did my best. I loved Bob with all my heart. In my mind I was a good and devoted wife. Yes, my faults and actions contributed to the demise of the marriage, but I did the best I could given my background as a child of divorce and his seasonal depressions. Once I stopped thinking of myself as having failed at marriage, and once I stopped beating myself up, the healing started.
Read more on this topic:
Coping: Letting Go of Anger
Divorce Support Forum: Letting Go of Anger
Strategies to Cope With Anger After Divorce
I first talked to a friend who had been an attorney. She advised me to take out as much money as I could from our joint account, max out my credit cards, and open a new account. I ended the call horrified, knowing such actions would set Bob off. My second call resulted in the name and number of a divorce attorney. He'd been voted Richmond's best two years in a row. I called his office and made an appointment to see him the following week.
During my free one hour, this man gave me much sound advice, but I left feeling a sense of disquiet. His attitude had been cold and unwelcoming. Oh, he'd been friendly enough at the start, but when he sized up our meager assets, his friendliness disappeared. We were clearly not worth his time or effort. Coldly he told me my marriage was over. My husband had left the house, rented a new apartment, and taken half the furniture. "Those are not the actions of a man intending to come back." He also told me to take advantage of Bob's guilty feelings and to negotiate quickly and cleanly for 50% of the assets.
I was still in a state of disbelief. Combined with my hope of saving my marriage and my immediate dislike of this cold man, I decided to look for representation elsewhere. Besides, I calculated that his services would be expensive, and I wanted to preserve as much money as I could.
The second divorce attorney I consulted was more welcoming and seemed sincerely interested in me as a person. Unlike the first attorney, she encouraged me to talk about my feelings and emotions. At the end of an hour, she handed me 10 blank sheets of paper and gave me instructions to list every asset Bob and I had. She was going to go after him with all her cannons standing at the ready.
"But all I want is 50% and a fair share," I told her, bewildered. "I still love and respect my husband. I don't want to fight him for every nickel and dime." She, too, gave me sound advice, cautioning me not to date while we were dividing our possessions. But I felt that her position was too adversarial. Her parting words to me were that from her experience he would be hiding his assets from me and that I would never get my fair share. (It turned out she was right. Bob did indeed hide the money he'd inherited from his mother's estate, and he temporarily stopped his consulting business, which represented 50% of his income).
A good friend of mine, a defense lawyer, told me of the minefields to look out for as Bob and I hammered out our financial agreement. My friend had recently represented a client in a divorce. He was her second lawyer. Her first lawyer had eaten up $100,000 in legal fees in two years. Both sides had hunkered down and wouldn't give an inch. In fact, they had been fighting over a $5,000 item which prevented them from settling. Those legal fees represented her pension, investments, and college money for the kids. Her ex had spent a similar amount on lawyer's fees as well. This couple had spent $200,000 in two years and weren't even divorced!
I learned from that lesson. Bob and I consulted a mediator who helped to arbitrate our financial agreement. Even as my heart was breaking, I fought hard for my security. Bob wanted to pay to send me to graduate school and give me 5 years of alimony, making sure I would spend the money wisely. Somehow he had gotten it in his head (despite his buying a boat, $5,000 bike, and a motorcycle, that I was extravagant.) I held out for 50% of our divided assets, no more and no less. I did not want Bob to hold any sway over me in any way after the divorce. If he was so foolish as to let me go, then I wanted a clean break.
I learned to read legal mumbo jumbo, and although one or two things escaped me, we hammered out an agreement that I still find acceptable to this day. Towards the end of the process, both Bob and I consulted different attorneys to write up our divorce document. Each time I made a correction, the document had to be retyped (and I made quite a few corrections.) A lawyer I hired for the occasion read over the final settlement and made a few suggestions.
In rereading the final document he had approved, I caught a few more mistakes and missing items. I recall this lawyer saying to me, "You did well for yourself. Most women wouldn't have gotten half of what you're getting."
Even in my miserable state, I was haughty. "I'm not most women," I answered, feeling that I got exactly what I deserved. My point is this (and I've made it several times in this blog): shop around for a lawyer. If you don't like the first one you meet, keep looking. Cut your losses early and find one that is sympathetic towards the way you want to handle your case. Yes, you'll need legal advice, but in a "friendly" divorce, a mediator might be the best solution.
As you negotiate and pour over the list of your possessions, let go of the picky things. If there had been children involved, I would have definitely consulted a lawyer from the start, but I found that a mediator was the best solution for me. You aren't necessarily saving money, but you are saving yourself a lot of grief and anger. When the last paper was signed and initialed, I was ready to let Bob go. I'd found a full time job with benefits and had been paying the bills for 11 months. One nagging doubt had been silenced: I knew I could go it alone.
In the end, Bob and I had achieved what my lawyer friend said we would feel: That the other spouse had walked away with a slightly better deal.
Mediation: Why Consider Mediation?
Directory of Divorce Mediators
As I entered the house and the dog greeted me, I noted that all the doors to the living areas were closed. I entered the kitchen and saw dark spots splattered on the floor. The dog was in heat and my friend had not bothered to clean up the evidence. Dust lay thick on the kitchen counters. Wallpaper that the dog had torn of the walls lay in strips; Christmas decorations were still evident in July. As my friend answered the phone, I walked onto the deck. The chairs were dirty, the hot tub was empty, and an awning was ripped and faded.
I was reminded of Miss Havinsham's rotting wedding banquet. The jilted bride was unable to move on in her life. My dear friend, I realized, was as depressed as this character. He had 'disappeared' a few months ago. His emails had stopped suddenly, and all I could get out of him was that he was busy.
Single, divorced, a caretaker of his aged father, worried about the fluctuating stock market, getting his oldest child ready for college, and struggling to maintain his lifestyle while living in a house much too large for him, I finally saw with my own eyes how far life's events had spun out of his control. Seeing his house made me realize how far into depression he'd sunk.
I have a few occasional days like that. At times life seems overwhelming and all I want to do is sleep. In a blink of an eye my house will start to reflect my state of mind, with dishes lingering in the sink, my bed remaining unmade, and my grass growing too tall. Sometimes it is a struggle to remain happy and sane, especially when funds are tight and the old house needs lots of TLC. In addition, I loved being married. I loved coming home to my mate and sharing my day with him.These days my house is eerily silent.
So, yeah, at times I can relate to my male friend. Seeing his house made me feel strangely better. I'd been hurt because I hadn't heard from him in a while. When I saw his house I knew he meant what he said: he was busy, busy, busy. Knowing him, he'll snap out of this stage soon. At least, I hope so. All I can do is be there for him and support him whenever he needs me, and to keep a careful eye on him.
Links About Depression and Divorce
Men more prone to depression after divorce
After Divorce, Men Are Twice More Likely to Experience Depression
Overcoming Depression After Divorce
A number of my single divorced female friends don't care if they never have sex again. In talking to them I found that they settled into a contented single life much faster than me. I, on the other hand, am not willing to give up that aspect of my life. What's a single woman with few prospects of meeting eligible men to do in such a situation?
Find a friend who is single, attractive, and willing to, er, scratch a certain itch when it needs to be scratched. Thankfully, I found such a lovely friend about two years ago. After a failed marriage and a long-term relationship that led nowhere, this man has decided not to marry again. His children are his number one priority, then his job, then his immediate family, and then, far down the list, women.
I would be a fool to want him or to hope for anything else. (Oh, I did for three short months, but he made it clear that there would be no future in our relationship and I am no dummy.) Over time we've settled on an Alan-Alda-Ellen-Burstyn-Same-Time-Next-Year relationship. Only in my case it's Same Time Next Quarter.
When we're together things go well. The relationship is what it is. Nothing more and nothing less. Knowing he is as fastidious as I am gives me peace of mind. My close girlfriend (who has never met him) has inelegantly dubbed him my "f-buddy." For me, his infrequent visits work like a charm. It doesn't hurt that this man is funny, intelligent, and kind. I'm not saying that finding a lover will solve everyone's problems, but it certainly did mine. So far, despite busy schedules and living in different cities, we have managed to see each other about four times this year.
What will I do when I meet someone I'm interested in? I'm a one-man-at-a-time woman, and this lovely man will be the first one to understand when I call things off.
Fifty and Furthermore: Articles about sex over fifty
Fifty Great Things About Women Over Fifty
When I was married I did none of these things. These days, necessity has become the mother of invention. I cannot always depend on the kindness of strangers to help my with ordinary household tasks, so I learned to observe, ask questions, and read the instruction manual.
I ask for help only for the tasks that require strength. It's a brand new world, and frankly, I take pride in these small but essential accomplishments. It hasn't been easy though, and I thank my lucky stars for Henry, the young helpful geek who moved in next door.
Here are some other tips for handling life alone:
Learning to live alone
Making living alone rewarding
These days my 26-year-long marriage seems like a distant dream. I still know my ex intimately as I remember him during our marriage, but I wouldn’t recognize him easily today if I saw him walking down the street. I’ve only seen him twice since 2001. He’s aged, gained weight, and looks at me coldly. More than anything it’s those cold eyes that make him a stranger. (Believe me, I still wonder what I’ve done to deserve such censure.)
I've lived alone long enough to know that sharing my house with a new mate would take some mental adjustments. I like doing precisely what I want, when I want, and how I wamt. It would be hard to give up all my space and freedom. Then again, it would be nice to wake up with someone I love in my bed.
I doubt I’ll get married again unless I totally, completely fall for someone who's equally besotted with me. But what are the chances of this happening at my age? I’m 58 years old, though most of my young coworkers place me in my early 40’s. I know my worth, both as an intelligent, talented, and self-sufficient woman, and as a sexy, bright, fun-loving, and inventive lover. I refuse to dumb myself down, and I do not need a man to complete me. This attitude alone turns a lot of men off, and believe me, there aren't many eligible choices lying around.
To complicate matters, I am looking for someone who has been married, loved being married, adores women, and didn’t leave his wife for some obscure reason like “I want something more, Vic” – only to get married to an exact but younger duplicate of me. I want to find someone who has been married before and who values women, and who will love me for my mind, body, and soul. In turn, I will adore such a wonderful and beautiful partner. I have done so fervently before.
I love men. I love their minds, their bodies, and their uncomplicated way of tackling difficult tasks. I love the way they are always available to help me with a hard physical chore. I loved being someone’s mate. So where does this leave me? I don’t know. But I do know this: I intend to live my life to the fullest, love who I am, and be content with what fate has in store for me. Sound simple? No. It’s been a tough battle every step of the way.
There are so many legal pitfalls to be wary of as you go through this painful process. These links leads to important advice, including a previous post I wrote on this subject.
My new beau's presence masked much of the grieving I should have worked through. Instead of facing utter and total despair, I had a handsome man who was interested in me and wanted to take me out. The moment my divorce papers were signed, we began a full blown relationship. It was the strangest experience. At times I would cry on his chest and he would simply hold me. At other times I experienced the happiest moments of my life, for this man had children and I got a taste of what it was like to be a mother.
But rebound relationships rarely last. My beau was smart enough to notice that I had substituted him for Bob in many ways, especially when I threw parties and entertained friends. The more comfortable I became with him by my side during social get togethers, the more uncomfortable he became.
I should have known the end was near when all of a sudden my beau became "absent," as in no calls during the week and no emails. All of a sudden I saw him only at appointed times, and our dates became rushed because he always had someplace else to go. We spent a beautiful Christmas eve and morning together exchanging packages with his adult son before we separated to spend the holidays with our respective families out of town. I gave him a leather jacket and he gave me a DVD player. No alarm bells went off, just a small feeling of disappointment that there was no ring. When I returned from visiting my family, I saw a note from him in my mailbox. How sweet I thought, until I read the "Dear Vic ..."
I felt I was going to die. All the issues of my break up with Bob that I had been able to lay aside because of this new relationship came rushing at me. Along with having to face the loss of this wonderful man, I had to finally deal with the break up of my marriage, the loss of my father through divorce, and the loss of my son, who I gave up for adoption as an unwed teen mother. Once again I felt the stinging pain of divorce, only this time I was already divorced. Moreover, I felt the pain of all the losses in my life. I was 54 and felt like a useless piece of discarded garbage. One good friend made herself available morning, noon, and night. I called my mother endlessly. Both these loved ones saved me from sinking into a dark and deep depression.
Once again I lost a tremendous amount of weight. Once again I faced a birthday alone, feeling abandoned and discarded. I could not think. I could not work. I feared losing my job. I went to therapy again, only this time my therapist told me I was healed and that my reaction was normal. Feel the pain, she advised. Go with it. Let it all out. Write your feelings down (see post below.)
And I did. It took six months of agonized days and nights, and I had to fight to keep my sense of self-worth, but I emerged strong and healthy and more content than I had been in a long time. My friends had stood at the ready again, but not as intensely. This time I had to take the journey to self recovery largely alone.
In my third relationship, which occured last year, my new beau disappeared around Christmas. On January 3rd I gave him a call and told him what I needed. I could not face a third birthday feeling abandoned, so I asked him to let me go gently. A caring man, he allowed the relationship (a long distance one) to hobble along for another six months, which gave me ample time to get tired of our nonrelationship.
My therapist applauded my strength in taking positive action, although most self help articles will caution you against doing this. My beau was a good and gentle man and he did not play with my emotions. I felt I did what I needed to do to survive. A couple of friends told me I was nuts. Clean breaks are the best, they said. But this is my advice for you: Do what needs to be done for yourself. No one can tell you which actions are right and which ones are wrong. Only you know how you can best recover from a devastating hurt.
I am still friends with the two men I met after my marriage ended. The romance is over but the friendship remains. Of course, I am 58 years old, so this has a lot to do with our joint understanding. I have no connection or relationship with my ex, who has remarried, except for memories and through the objects and photos he left behind. Today I am as much in peace with my situation as I can be, given that I am a woman who loves being with a mate. I am proud of my career and ability to maintain my house, I love my friends and family, and I am often more content than I am not.
One of the best books I read that helped me understand why going through the stages of pain and grief are so important is called Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges. It's a business book, but it really describes what happens when you rush into beginnings and endings without dealing with the in-between transitions where change, acceptance, and recognition happen. William Bridges gives powerful, powerful advice which is applicable to life situations as well as the work place.
Here's a link that will also help you: Healing after Break Up or Divorce
Get up and write down your feelings. Set them down on paper! (I found that putting pen to paper felt more tactile and personal than using a computer.)
Here are the thoughts I wrote during my most turbulent times. Few are full sentences. Most are hastily written words.
taken for granted
like a burden
I am surrounded by...
people with children
I am isolated from....
my former social life
I yearn for ...
I have lost my rudder
I feel isolated
I am refusing invitations
I am reneging on promises
And then I wrote the qualities I liked about myself, such as:
I am a decent loving person
I am talented
I am smart
I am loyal
I am not saying that writing your thoughts down will give you an instant magic cure and that you will start to sleep better. But over time your need to write every fear down will lessen. As you tackle some seemingly insurmountable problems, the very act of writing down what you plan to do, and what you did and why, will empower you.
The important thing about jotting down your thoughts is that you are creating a dialogue with yourself. The terrified and sad person inside of you begins to communicate with the sane, decent, talented and loving side of you. Try to end your midnight ramblings with positive thoughts. Always allow the good, thinking, sensing person inside of you to have the last say.
I used this technique a lot, and over time it began to work in my favor. I jotted down my fears every day. Then I wrote down the nice things I did for people to counteract all the horrible things I was hearing from Bob during therapy.
I also wrote down my immediate goals and long terms goals; what would make me happy (keeping the house, finding a job with benefits, finding a new mate, becoming financially solvent, etc.); and the steps it would take to achieve those goals. The act of writing down my fears, and then tackling difficult problems by breaking them down into achievable goals turned my negative, self-defeating thoughts into positive action. Plus my daily affirmations gave me strength.
Six and a half years after my divorce I still encounter some of those sheets of paper filled with my grief-stricken thoughts, fears, and tentative plans, and I am amazed how far along I've come.
Good news. I kept the house after the divorce. Bad news. Maintenance costs are eating me alive.
Since my divorce I estimate I've put around $20,000 of maintenance costs into my house in cash. Notice I said maintenance, not improvements or redecorating. In the past 24 months I've replaced a worn out stove, refrigerator, washer, and dryer. I've had the ceilings fixed (cracks and water damage) and had the walls painted after 15 years of aging. A plumber has fixed old dripping faucets, and a handyman rescreened the porch and replaced rotting doors. I've had 4 dying, rotting trees removed (at $500 per tree), a driveway regraded so that rain pours away from the garage, and broken gutters mended. Tomorrow some men will come to replace my leaking roof. I estimate this will set me back around $5,000. I say estimate because the men always find something else that needs to be mended or done.
Future maintenance costs will include unclogging a drain pipe, fixing the phone line inside my house, and mending the water damage in my bedroom ceiling. Home improvement costs, such as tearing down walls of tiny rooms to create one large living space, adding built in shelves, and installing crown molding, have cost an additional $6,000.
In the six years since the house became mine, I have replaced almost all the 1950's electrical wiring and plugs, added sensor lights around my house, added kitchen lights in dark corners, added back up heating elements and a whole house fan, and created a practically maintenance free yard with fence and flower beds and large flagstoned areas. Realtors assure me that I will get my investment back in spades, but this is only after I sell my house!
I don't know how much the total renovations cost me - I think around $35,000. I paid cash because I cannot afford to pay interest on loans. I stash 25% of my earnings away in order to pay for taxes and upkeep. Having never seen the money, I don't miss it. I manage to do this on a salary that equals my niece's starting salary (she is 25 years old), and that represents 1/4 of the combined income I once enjoyed with my husband.
My next expenses? A new car to replace my '99 Ford Taurus (I want a Honda next) and a new whole house heat pump. It's time to start saving again! On top of the continual maintenance costs, I must save up for real estate and personal property taxes, not to mention insurance policies.
Whew. No wonder my wardrobe is skimpy and I no longer host great big parties. I can hardly afford my house! Look, I am not complaining. This is the reality of the situation. Just remember that as you divide your assets and fight for hearth and home, that you must account for these inevitable expenses. If you don't, your house will eat you alive.
I chucked the unit out yesterday, giving it to my special male friend. He was delighted to receive it and I was ecstatic to get rid of it. However, I had no idea how much stuff this unit held. Out came the books (all 500 of them), and photos I had stashed in the drawers below. Out tumbled a photo a friend had taken of Bob and me when we just got engaged. You could feel the heat and see the love in our eyes. Out tumbled another photo of Bob's graduation from High School, which was the way he looked when we first met.
Having to deal with those reminders was the bad news. The good news is that I felt no pangs of regret. I choose to remember those early good days, the love we felt for each other and the fondness I held for his parents, and in doing so I've reclaimed over half my life.
Still, I have new plans for my office, which will soon have an entirely different, more modern look. The next piece of furniture to go is the file cabinet, also made of oak. First I will have to delve into files that were labeled by Bob and still contain much of his memorabilia. But one step at a time. The day is coming closer when I will be completely over the divorce - and him.
She was talking about the future and things I should do, but I could not hear her. In fact, she was increasing my stress. Finally, I cut her short and told her I would be ready to talk another time.
I would call my mother every day, sometimes three times a day, for support. At the beginning she would tell me how much better off I was than other women in my position, and how I was better off without a husband who didn't want me. Did her statements help? No. They devalued my anguish and pain. I would beg her to stop and just listen. I needed to vent. I needed a way to release my pain in a safe environment. I needed - RELIEF!
After weeks of begging she finally understood me and began to listen - just listen. And I was able to let my anger out. I had a safe way to let off steam and say the most ridiculous and hateful things, and still be in the presence of a loving person.
Letting go of all my anger and rage helped me to move on. It was a vital and crucial step in my healing. Mom would remind me, "Five minutes on your pity pot and then you must get off." Those daily five minutes prevented me from saying harmful things to Bob as we negotiated the divorce settlement. Those daily five minutes saved my ASS.
Dealing with your anger during the pain of separating is crucial. Hiding your feelings and soldiering on with your chin up are self-defeating measures. At some point your attempts to hide your hurt and anger will come back to bite you. So get your rage out early. Get it out with someone you can trust. Deal with it.
But I caution you: Though letting go of your anger is crucial, you have only a limited window of time. There is nothing less attractive than a divorced person who bashes their ex spouse for years and years after the papers have been signed. Always bringing up your divorce and spewing vitriol is a sure fire way to lose friends and supporters. Let it go. Don't allow your ex to have such power over you that your life is filled with thoughts of hate and revenge. Move on. Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger should take my advice.
Here are a few other resources that will help you re-emerge from your divorce relatively unscathed:
That was the end of my budding career as a romance novelist. Back in those days I read a ton of romance novels, and I still have about 200-300 to dispose of. A girlfriend of mine is reading them as fast as she can, and each time she finishes a batch, I dump another couple of grocery bags filled with bodice rippers and chick lit at her doorstep.
I cannot stomach reading them any more. In fact, when I attended a wedding shortly after my divorce, it took all my willpower not to snort out loud and say, "Huh! How long will this marriage last?"
Why have I become so cynical? Because even though I believed in love ever after and in romance; even though my husband plied me with gifts and frequent romantic surprises; and even though we would walk in public holding hands, and sit on the couch in our den and smooch, and talk and laugh every time we went out to dinner, rarely getting bored of each others' thoughts, ideas, and conversation, my so called prince left.
As he dragged half of the furniture out of our house, he told me he would miss our conversations and cozy trips together, "But not much else, Vic."
That's when I turned from a hopeless romantic into a world class cynic. I did not smooch with my new beau. I didn't attempt to hold hands with hot date #3. And I no longer give surprise gifts or believe in any of the trappings of romance. I'm ready for a grown up relationship now - one of mutual respect, deep and loyal love, and promises that will be kept. I know I possess those qualities in spades, but the question is: "Will I ever trust a man enough to find out if he does?"
See more Ann Telnaes cartoons here.
Well, the situation could have been worse. We could have been living in the limbo of non divorce, and then I would have had to put up with his non interest.
Click here for the story.