50 Things I Learned About Divorce In My 50s

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  1. Divorce; even if at times it is such a relief, it is still so, so sad.
  2. Sometimes you will feel wistful, even nostalgic for times you know were not good.
  3. You will feel guilty and sorry that your children are “children of divorce.”
  4. You will wake up crying at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., mourning what was and that something fundamental to your existence is over.
  5. Other times you will wake up unsettled at 4:00 a.m. mentally composing the consummate letter to your ex that will perfectly explain everything about what his part in the failure of the marriage was, in a way they he will completely hear, comprehend, and absorb.
  6. You will forget all of those perfectly eloquent 4:00 a.m. arguments and conclusions once it’s morning… only to remember them once again at 4:00 a.m. the next day.
  7. There is no discreet mourning period for a marriage. Mourning ebbs and flows and hits you back like a seismic wave.
  8. You will wonder how long it “takes” — if you will ever get “over it” and be “normal” again.
  9. Sometimes you will feel really, really lonely, and then you will also remember just how lonely you felt in the marriage.
  10. If you’ve always worn a wedding ring you will feel exposed without it.
  11. People will assume you are “over it” once you are officially separated.
  12. The first time you need to write or say “separated” for your marital status you will feel stigmatized, like it’s a branding.
  13. The first time you need to write “divorced” for your marital status it will feel worse than “separated” did.
  14. It will be really weird to think of yourself as a divorcee. They seem like other people.
  15. “Couple friends” will not ask you to join them for an evening activity. There are no social threesomes.
  16. None of your friends in a couple will make a plan with you on a Friday or Saturday night–those nights are for couples. Friday and Saturday nights are hard.
  17. It will bother you when women friends tell you that they would love to live alone — because, they say “that part of divorce sounds really good.” Just remember — they simply have no idea.
  18. And still, it does feel good to finally watch whatever you want on television, or do your crossword puzzles, or play your music loudly while you’re working, or stay at a party until you want to leave.
  19. Be pro-active in your healing — if you can, join a divorce support group, do mindfulness meditation, journal, exercise — it all does ameliorate the pain and helps make divorce bearable.
  20. Striving for “bearable” is a reasonable first step.
  21. You will get on obsessive thought loops — rehashing the past and worrying about the future. Instead heed this quote from the Dalai Lama; take it to heart, “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow.”
  22. Inspirational thoughts can be truly inspirational. Read them, write them down, turn to them during tough moments.
  23. For example: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” (Eleanor Roosevelt). Don’t let your ex or your divorce define you as “less than.”
  24. I gave this quote to my ex when we were not quite exes yet: “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” (Friedrich Nietzsche). Remember that friendship is one of the most important parts of marriage. If the friendship is not there, the marriage will not sustain itself. Love is not enough.
  25. Sometimes you will still feel love for your ex and this will be confusing — remember, again, that love is not enough.
  26. “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” (Mary Oliver). Have faith that you will come to the other side of all of this with greater awareness and understanding, and in a much better place. It just takes time.
  27. Or as the Dalai Lama said, “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” See your divorce as an opportunity to learn what you want and don’t want in life and from your significant other.
  28. Try to remember to smile every morning first thing when you awaken, or throughout the day when your thoughts are getting you down — it will make you happier because, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” (Thích Nhất Hạnh)
  29. Many of your friends will rarely ask you how you are doing.
  30. Other friends will listen and listen when you can’t help but vent, and not let you feel at all guilty for taking up that space.
  31. Some friends will say things like, “Divorce is really hard on the friends too.” — I swear. Would anyone ever say, “Your illness is really hard on me”?
  32. Other friends will actually disclose that, “I didn’t want to say anything at the time, but he was dating my friend, so and so.” — This happens more often than you may think possible.
  33. Tell your friends to tell you if your ex is dating one of their friends at the time it is happening so that you are not the only one who is not privy to this news.
  34. People who were once very important in your life, like ex in-laws, or his old friends, will eventually just turn-off your relationship and fade away. What you thought was real closeness will simply disappear. Yet you know that if you had in fact died instead of just divorcing they would have been devastated.
  35. People will tell you how much fun it will be to date again — not considering at all how fraught and anxiety provoking that prospect is in actuality.
  36. Some girlfriends (in their fifties) will say, ” You should totally go out with thirty and forty-year olds — you, know, just to have fun.” I can’t even comment on that — I don’t know where to begin.
  37. If you choose to date you still have to play those old “dating games” even if you are 50 and are so-done with games.
  38. When you’re in the “phone call meeting” stage of an on-line date, and you have a great conversation; you are both funny, charming, engaged — and he or she doesn’t email or call you back — it REALLY isn’t you. You are not being rejected — because they don’t know you.
  39. When you go on a date with a man that you don’t think is your type, or even actually like that much — it will still hurt your feelings if he doesn’t call you again.
  40. Try to recognize the relationship red flags that you ignored last time. For example, someone who doesn’t really listen or pay attention now will not do it better later.
  41. Don’t try to contort yourself into the person you think your date wants you to be. Be yourself now — save yourself wasted energy and future suffering.
  42. An ex who was an apathetic partner will not transform into a responsive and engaged one when you divorce. If there was not a good division of labor with your ex — household, children, family logistics, etc. — before the divorce, it will not improve with the divorce. Not by a long shot.
  43. He will still think of you as his assistant and “assign” you tasks.
  44. When he does take care of something he will act like he’s done you a favor.
  45. He will forget the kid’s birthdays, or parent teacher conferences, or graduation dates, and some people will tell you that you should still take responsibility and clue him in — but I don’t agree.
  46. Try to practice forgiveness towards your ex — but forgive yourself when it’s just not possible.
  47. You will try really, really, really hard not to put your children in the middle, and not let them know your honest feelings about their dad, but sometimes you will just fail.
  48. Sometimes you will be petty or spiteful — remember that just because you sometimes act this way you have not become that person.
  49. Give yourself the time that you need to mend. You don’t have to have “gotten over him”, or started dating again, or moved on, because other people have done it in a particular time frame.
  50. And lastly, back to that quote from the Dalai Lama, but the full version, “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do, and mostly Live.” Keep trying to make today a little better.

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