I have been hearing a very common refrain from divorced women over 50 as they try to move on:
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
“I’m over 50 and it’s too late to start over.”
“We were supposed to grow old together.”
“I was supposed to retire in a few years, but now I have to go back to work because of the divorce.”
“I was supposed to be on his health insurance, but now I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
I should be….
Ah, the language of expectations. Or rather, unmet expectations that now haunt you after 50.
It’s these expectations we had about our lives and marriages and how things “were supposed to be” that are now keeping us stuck. It’s those unmet expectations that are holding us back and maybe making us feel angry or resentful.
But here’s a truth bomb for you, my friends.
We have a hard time recovering because we can’t let go of what we expected or assumed about how our life would be.
Here’s a hard truth: Even at 50 and beyond, you subconsciously think of our marriage and other relationships as a vending machine.
We assume that if we put X amount of time into a relationship, or make X amount of sacrifices over the course of a decades-long marriage, we are entitled and guaranteed a certain output, a certain “Y.”
But guess what?
That’s not how it works.
Here’s what you need to know. The idea that if we make sacrifices we’ll be rewarded is untrue. But as women 50 and better, we drank that Kool-Aid because that’s what our misguided puritanical society told us.
From an early age, we’re fed the lie that if we are good, work hard enough, and make the sacrifices; if we do all those things that good girls do, and check off the list of putting our spouse’s needs before our own; if we focus on his goals and not our own goals, and we define ourselves as a couple and not as an individual, then that means we get the payout of a comfortable retirement, financial security, and a stable and comfortable marriage where we’ll grow old with that person.
But seeing that you’re reading this, you KNOW that’s not how your algebra equation worked out.
You KNOW that regardless of how many coins you put into the office vending machine, and no matter how many times you pushed the E3 button for that Snickers, and no matter how many times you pounded the machine when the little whirly thing got stuck on the candy bar that wouldn’t drop, and no matter how many times you stuck your hand in that little door at the bottom of the machine… you didn’t get what you put into it.
Your investment did not pay off.
The algebra equation did not turn out.
You were not rewarded for your sacrifices.
Ta-Da! Your expectations were not met.
And how does that make you feel?
Does it make you angry? Bitter? Does it make you feel like you got the short end of the stick? Or perhaps you feel like you were the latest victim in a Ponzi scheme and you’re too old to start over?
Have you caught yourself saying, “I did everything in that relationship and now I’m the one who has to start over, while that SOB is with his new girlfriend, or taking trips to Mexico, and I’m here alone just struggling to get by. I feel like I wasted the best years of my life. And I’m left with nothing at 50 and beyond.”
And you know what? All of it is true. And all of your feelings are valid.
Great, you’re right. But now what? What do you do now?
When your expectations haven’t been met, you’ve got two choices, and two choices ONLY.
And no, I’m not saying you need to just put on a happy face and fake that everything is fine.
But here’s how you can start doing something about it.
Do you have interests or hobbies you would love to pursue but haven’t had a chance to? Do you have goals and aspirations and dreams that are yours alone that nobody can take from you? Write it all down.
Where you would like to be in the areas you feel are lacking? Write that down without any mention of your ex.
For example, if you were expecting that you’d be on your ex’s health insurance and you’re not, what can you do now to make sure you’re covered? To whom can you reach out to help you figure that out?
If you were expecting to stay in your house, where you’ve lived for the past 20 years, but you can’t swing the mortgage, what can you do to find a housing situation that you can afford?
If you are going to have to go back to work when you thought you’d retire in five years, what financial changes can you make (taking on a second job, cutting down on expenses, etc.) to make sure you’ll still be okay?
Here’s what we’re doing here. We’re shifting the mind frame from “not getting what we expected,” to “taking ACTION and making sure that we’ll be okay, regardless of age.” Doing so accomplishes a ton of good for us.
It’s shaking us out of our learned helplessness, where we think we’re going to be stuck and miserable because our life circumstances changed.
It’s forcing us to get up and empower ourselves and let us be in charge of our own future.
It doesn’t matter if your life is now different than you expected. That point is completely moot so it’s not even worth wasting your time thinking about. You have too much work to do to keep ruminating on how thing didn’t go.
It’s building the resilience we deserve and showing us how strong we really are, even if we don’t know it yet.
By shifting the focus on YOU, defining your future for yourself, and no longer relying on somebody who obviously wasn’t that dependable anyway, you get to take matters into your own hands.
Because like it or not, you don’t have a choice.
What expectations for life and marriage did you have before you divorced? How do you feel about them now? What can you do to move on? Please share with our community using the box below.
Tags Divorce After 60