Many women in our community have been forced to deal with a divorce after 60. These women are not alone. According to UK government statistics, divorce rates for women over 60 have increased significantly since 1991. This is despite the fact that overall divorce rates are down during the same period.
What’s driving this trend? Perhaps these couples were never really truly happy. Or, maybe they grew in different directions, were no longer meeting each other’s needs, or were waiting for their children to leave home.
Perhaps we simply have more time in our 60s, with fewer family and work commitments, to reevaluate our lives and the people in them. Or, it could be that we feel that we have less time to do all things that have been on hold in an unhappy marriage.
Regardless of the reasons, going through a divorce after 60 can be one of the most challenging experiences of your life. In a previous article, I wrote about how women go through 5 stages when recovering from a divorce.
Now I want to provide some practical advice for surviving a divorce after 60. It almost certainly won’t feel like it at the time, but, a divorce can be a gateway to a new beginning. I hope that these words help you on your journey to freedom.
Divorce conjures up a toxic brew of unwanted, and sometimes irrational, emotions. We suffer from fear – fear of the unknown, fear of loneliness, fear of losing friends or status in the community. We experience a sense of shock, sadness and loss. All of these emotions are understandable, but, left unchecked, they prevent us from moving forward.
If you’re going through a painful divorce, after a long marriage, keep in mind that your identity and self-worth are not defined by one man or one relationship.
Most women emerge from their divorce stronger than ever. You can’t control every aspect of the experience, but, you can choose the frame from which you view the situation.
Look for women in your circle of friends who went through a divorce over 5 years ago. Ask them about their experience. Did their worst fears come true?
Write down 3 ways that your divorce is an opportunity for you to live a better life. What has it freed you to do and what has it liberated you from? Most of all remind yourself that you are worthy of love and support. You have the power to build a wonderful life for yourself, regardless of whether you are married or not.
It’s common for women going through divorce after 60 to feel a sense of grief, guilt or even shame. While much of the cultural stigma surrounding divorce has diminished, it’s natural to feel some sadness and regret. The important thing is to not let these negative emotions define you or drag you down.
Spend time with people you love and trust. Participate in activities you enjoy. Stay active socially and in your career (if you are still working) or take up volunteering. The best way to avoid negative emotions is to fill your life with positive experiences. So, don’t shut yourself away, nursing regrets and feeling sorry for yourself.
An unhappy marriage, where communication was stressful or hurtful, can make you afraid to re-engage with people. You may not trust people, especially other men, but, this is the time to get out into the world and let your light shine!
Disagreements about money are a leading cause of divorce and, unfortunately, your financial stress does not always go away when your paperwork is signed. Whatever you do, don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to conversations about money.
When I went through my divorce, I remember the last thing I wanted to talk about was how to divide our assets. I remember thinking “I don’t want anything from him!” Fortunately, a good friend forced me to get professional support.
Don’t sell yourself short. Even if your husband was primarily responsible for earning and managing money, you still have rights. So, talk to a lawyer and take care of yourself. Think about the years you worked together to help your husband become financially successful and feel confident in asking for your share.
Getting professionals involved doesn’t mean that you are in for a “messy divorce” or that things will drag on. In many cases, the opposite is true. By having professional representation on both sides, you can separate the emotional issues that led to your separation from the practical considerations of your future.
Divorce can be hard for children, even when they’re adults. Ironically, your children may feel many of the same emotions that you do – sadness, shock and regret. They may also wonder how your separation will affect the family. For example, they may wonder what’s going to happen with family traditions. They may ask “where do we go for Christmas?” “How do we tell the grandkids?” or have a number of other questions.
Encourage them to share their feelings and empower them to move on. Remind them that they will continue to have a relationship with both you and your ex-spouse. Tell them that you don’t need or want them to “pick sides.” They can make their own decisions.
No matter how old they are, children really just want their mother to be happy and will usually give you their support as you move forward into a new and happier life.
Direct your children’s energy towards helping you to start the next amazing chapter of your life. Tell them about your dreams and aspirations. Share your fears, but, try to avoid blaming your ex-husband publically. With time, your family will be stronger than ever as you bring your passions to life.
Don’t punish yourself. It’s not your fault that things worked out the way that they did. Give yourself permission to do the activities that you enjoy. Go for long walks. Join a yoga class. Spend time with the people that you love. Remind yourself of the many things in life that you still enjoy. Reflect on the fact that love comes in many forms.
You probably won’t want to enter the dating world for some time, but, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the company of others, including men.
Beyond all else, remind yourself every day that you deserve to be happy. You are a good person, worthy of the affection of others, no matter the reasons for your separation.
Surviving a divorce is hard, but, you don’t have to do it alone. Maintaining social connections and making new friends is especially important for women who divorce after 60.
Don’t let yourself become isolated and don’t make the mistake of believing that you’re alone and no one cares. Reach out to your circle of friends. Talk with openness and vulnerability. Ask for help, and you shall receive.
A word of warning. In my experience, friends and family only have so much capacity for listening to our problems. No matter how strong your friendships, try to focus on positive experiences, rather than rehashing regrets.
If you approach the situation with optimism, energy and openness, surviving divorce can be the start of a whole new happier life.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you gone through a divorce or break-up after 60? What did you learn from the experience? What advice would you give for other women in the community who are going through a separation now? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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