Divorce after 50 can be one of the most stressful and jarring transitions in a woman’s life. This time in our lives is already stressful enough, with retirement, aging parents, and children moving out of the home. When another ball in thrown in the air for you to juggle—in this case the end of a decades long marriage—it can be enough for you to want to lock the door, throw away the key, and never come back.
Although mid-life divorce can seem overwhelming, with the right preparation, this process does not have to be as crazy and stressful as you fear. What is important to remember is that the more you know and the more you educate yourself and the more prepared you can be, the less of a pain it will be for your head… and your heart.
1) You will doubt and lie to yourself all the time, especially at the beginning.
You’ll be so afraid of the unknown that you’ll start to play the bargaining game. You know it well because you’ve played it before. It goes along the lines of “Yes, I’m miserable. And it’s been a while since I’ve been happy. But at least I’m comfortable.”
You will try to convince yourself that you can keep living like this, although in your heart of hearts you know it isn’t true. Know that you are bargaining with yourself and lying to yourself because you are scared. Know this is normal, but it is not an excuse to stay miserable.
2) The roller coaster you feel when the decision is made to separate is unlike anything you have experienced.
Do not despair—the may cause you anxiety, but they will not harm you. Even if you don’t know it yet, there is a weight that will slowly start to ease from your shoulders—the same weight that you denied was crushing you all this time when you tried to convince yourself that nothing was wrong.
3) Get ready for your self-esteem to shatter.
You will convince yourself that nobody will ever love or want you again. The temptation will be great to latch on to the first person who pays attention to you. Resist this trap, even if you if it’s been ages since you’ve felt romance and intimacy. You must work on yourself first and be okay with being alone so that you have a chance to heal.
4) You’ll get exhausted from putting on the happy face and telling yourself that you’re fine.
You need a support system: a therapist, a support group, or good friends. Whatever you choose, they must accomplish two things: creating a safe place for venting, while also teaching you how to cope in a healthy manner.
5) Get ready to feel like you’re getting sprayed with an industrial fire hose.
Your list of obligations regarding emotions, finances, legal issues, and other logistics will bury you and you will feel paralyzed.
The most important thing to remember is to that not everything has to be done all at once. Reach out to professionals such as Certified Divorce Financial Analysts, financial planners, divorce coaches, and lawyers who will work in your best interests.
Understand that splitting is a process, and you don’t have to do everything at once. Like any process, there are things for immediate attention, things for a little bit later, and things further down the road. Divorce is a marathon that will require patience and persistence. Save yourself ahead of time by accepting that this may take a while. And that’s okay.
6) You will have no control over your spouse’s behavior, no matter how angry they make you.
For serious offenses (threatening your safety and well-being), you must absolutely take action. Yet, there will be other things that won’t endanger you, but will enrage you. It may seem like the ex-to-be is doing whatever they can to make you miserable. Don’t play the game.
Although you cannot control his behavior, you control your reactions.
7) You may make decisions based on emotion rather than logic.
But you must remember that divorce is a business transaction—dividing the assets and debts and then continuing your life as an individual. Choose your battles wisely. You will need to learn when to fight and when to let go. Remember that nobody wins in divorce. Otherwise, you will find yourself robbed of time, money, and emotional energy—assets that are put to better use in your post-divorce life.
8) There will be times that you wallow in despair.
You will say to yourself, “my life was not supposed to be like this—we were close to retiring and now I have to start over with nothing” This is part of the grieving process. You will accept that circumstances changed, and you will learn how move on. You must learn that you are not a prisoner to those circumstances, and that you have the opportunity to emerge from this split a stronger person.
9) You will learn that your divorce presents you with a choice, even at this time in your life.
You can choose to let anger and fear control you, or you can choose the path that takes more work. You can choose to ask for assistance and support, educate yourself about the divorce process, and give yourself credit for having the ability to get through this, which you will. The choice is yours.