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.