Facing My Future as An Older, Divorced Worker

I've reached a point in my life where all I want is some distance from emotional turmoil and financial want, but as a single, divorced, and childless person who has entered her 60s I am confronted with so many new issues, that at times I am almost paralyzed with fear and indecision.

In my 20's I used to sing the Beatles' "When I'm 64" to my young husband:
"Will you still need me?
Will you still feed me?
When I'm 64?"
Need me, feed me, indeed. Those words have come to haunt me this past decade, for it is clear that I have become my own nurturer and will be my sole source of support as I enter my golden years. My savings have been eroded by our nation's terrible economic downturn, and the nest egg I had saved has been reduced substantially.

I had a serious discussion recently with my geriatric parents about my fears for the future. They are still married and living in an addition built onto my brothers' house. My brother, bless his generous heart, looks after them daily. He is still married, surrounded in the same city by his three children, their spouses, and their families. His plans for his old age are solid and he is certain that he will bask in the support of his children and their offspring. My parents bask in my brothers' support and mine.

But what about me?

As I reminded my parents, I am childless and live in a distant city. Oh, I am not complaining, for it is the reality of my life and a consequence of the decisions I made. While I am loved by my nieces and nephew, they would probably not put themselves out for their auntie as much as for their parents. That's just the way it is.

When it comes time for me to retire, sell my house, and move into assisted living, I will largely be alone. Most of my single friends will also be facing the same situation. The prospect of losing control of my life as I age fills me with dread and a great deal of uncertainty.

Many of us who have been through divorce in our mature years are faced with a future that we had not planned on. I was optimistic in my youth, thinking that I would travel extensively with my husband in our retirement and reap the benefits of our hard work. Instead, I was forced to embark on a serious career in my 50s. While my ex has retired with his new wife, I am still working 9-5.

While I am able to compete intellectually with my young co-workers, it has been at great physical and emotional expense. It takes me all weekend to recover from my high-stress job. I no longer party on Friday and Saturday nights, but choose to nurture myself on Saturday and Sundays, taking frequent naps and resting.

There are times when I simply can't envision my future. The thought of being alone in my 70's without sufficient retirement funds is too much contemplate.


Supporting Someone Going Through Divorce

Have you landed on this blog because you are looking for ways to help a friend or relative who is going through a divorce? Here's what helped me:

  • 100% acceptance - give your friend a safe non-judgmental environment to vent. But don't participate in the blame game. That only makes things worse.
  • Be someone who understands that your friend's pain is real - do not bring up individuals who have had it worse, like widows or burn victims, or say "at least you have your children", or "thank goodness you don't have children," or "you have your looks and health, you will find someone soon again." Those phrases diminish the real pain that your friend is experiencing at that moment.
  • Promise secrecy - what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Private matters that have been disclosed to you should not be shared with others, not even your spouse.
  • Provide your friend with a shoulder to cry on - let them talk; sometimes that is all they need, but place a time limit on their pity pot talk. Change the subject if your friend starts to rehash familiar territory. They need to grieve first and then let their anger out, but it is not good for them to mull over the same set of offenses over and over again.
  • Give them hugs - remember that someone going through divorce has lost physical contact with their life's mate, and that hugs are better than medicine.
  • Provide your friend with your logic and ability to think straight - depression affects the brain. Remember, your friend is filled with anxiety and there are times when he or she can't plan strategically at all. Refer your friend to experts and self-help groups, or help them sort through the myriad of bewildering topics they will need to address - lawyers, realtors, job searches.
  • Include your friend in fun outings and invite them to parties and events - even if they don't feel like going. This especially holds true for women, who are often dumped from the party circuit for reasons that are mystifying.
  • Keep in touch with regular calls, text messages, and via Facebook, Twitter, and cards - your friend may not respond, but these evidences of caring help. They'll come round and respond eventually.
  • Be an honest friend - this takes diplomacy, but if you see self-destructive behavior, have the courage to step in and stop it.
  • Give them a way to pay you back - your friend will feel such a sense of gratitude for your support that they will want to thank you in a significant way. Let them, or ask them to pay it forward.
  • Drive them or their children - many separated people are unable to share the load of driving, which becomes evident as time passes. Offer to drive when you go on a shared outing, or to take their children to their events. It's the little details that count and provide relief.
Do you have other tips on how to help a friend going through divorce or separation? Please leave a comment!


Why Brad Pitt's Comments About His Marriage to Jennifer Aniston Are Crass

During and after a divorce, the less said about one's former spouse the better. I am sure that at this point Brad Pitt would agree with me and wished that he had taken the high road when it came to commenting on his relationship with his ex.

Ever since my divorce I've acquired two new habits that I can't seem to shake: I can no longer watch Divorce Court, yet at the same time I am eerily attracted to articles about divorced couples, especially celebrities. Tom Cruise left Nicole Kidman around the time that my husband deserted our marriage, and thus I probably know as many details about their split as were printed in the press. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston separated at the same time that my post-divorce relationship broke up. My guy left me for someone else, and thus I felt great empathy for Aniston.

Since their divorce neither Cruise, Kidman, nor Aniston have had much to say about their defunct marriages and rightly so. What went on in their private lives is really none of our business. Somehow Pitt and Jolie have felt no such restraint, prompting Aniston to say at one point that a sensitivity chip was missing.

In July 2005, before his divorce to Aniston was finalized the following October, Pitt was photographed with Jolie for a glossy magazine spread for W magazine as an ideal couple in Domestic Bliss. (See image.) They were seen spartling on a South African beach with her adopted children even as they denied having an affair. A few years later, Jolie was quoted as saying that she felt great joy knowing that her children would someday learn that their parents fell in love while filming Mr. and Mrs. Smith (debunking her own denial about breaking up Pitt's and Aniston's marriage).

Recently Pitt made public statements about how boring his life was during his marriage to Aniston, and how he's found fulfillment with Jolie. Aniston has wisely not responded, but the public outcry on her behalf forced Pitt to backtrack and explain that he considered himself boring at the time, not Aniston.

I find it fascinating that these two lovers, whose lives are presumably filled with children and new found happiness, still find it necessary to make comments about an event that occurred in their lives seven years ago. The lesson, if Pitt and Jolie are willing to learn it, is to simply keep their mouths shut and move on.

In my own life I have discovered that the less I say about my marriage or divorce, the more comfortable people are around me. If someone asks a question, I will answer it without revealing personal details that are no one's business but my ex's and my own. The moment I step over that boundary (and I have at times, I am human after all) I can sense a change in my listeners. They feel either uncomfortable or titillated, neither of which are good reactions.

It is hard for friends to remain neutral and give good advice if they are told all the sordid details of a broken relationship. Usually such information is one-sided and slanted towards making the teller seem sympathetic. The listener can commiserate only so long before beating a hasty retreat, for even the best of friends becomes tired of hearing the same rehashed story over and over. Most of us know that the truth lies somewhere in-between, and while we want to help our friends through rough times, this can only be accomplished by respecting the boundaries of love and friendship.

That Pitt was willing to step over those boundaries and reveal such highly personal information to strangers for the sake of publicity was absolutely wrong.