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The Divorced 50+ Doormat: 3 Ugly Truths That Probably Apply to You

By Martha Bodyfelt January 25, 2024 Family

It happens all the damn time and you’re probably not even aware of it. Or you are aware of it, but you’ve just accepted it as a way of life.

Your boss just ‘assumes’ you’re going to work late… even though you already made plans.

Your ex texts you, saying how sad he is, although you asked him to quit contacting you.

Your adult daughter hangs up on you when she gets a call from a friend.

At this point in your life, when you’re working to move on after your divorce, you may have just accepted the fact that people are going to walk all over you, treat you like a doormat, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Doormat? I Don’t Think So!

If you’re tired of being treated like a doormat, keep on reading. I’m going to show you how to easily stand up for yourself and show people how to treat you with the respect you deserve.

But first, we’ve got to talk about some ugly truths. They’re hard to read, but you need to know them.

Ugly Truth #1: We Were Conditioned to Be ‘Nice’ and to Not Make a Scene

During childhood, adolescence, and adulthood you were often told to play nice, to be ‘well-behaved,’ and to not make a big deal out of something. Society was conditioning you to be okay with not having your voice heard.

Little by little, you were taught to accept the fact that people could walk all over you and take advantage of you. You were being conditioned to think it was socially unacceptable or ‘bad’ to voice your opinion that something was wrong, or that you didn’t like something.

Now, looking back, many of us realize that being ‘nice’ and being ‘the good girl’ meant that we had our voice taken from us.

It’s infuriating, isn’t it?

Ugly Truth #2: We Were Not Raised to Establish Strong Boundaries

One consequence of being raised to be ‘nice’ and not make a scene is that plenty of people – whether it was your ex, your family, your kids, your friends, your coworkers – probably asked too much of you, intruded in personal business, or took advantage of you.

And since you were never given the tools to say, “No,” or “I’m not comfortable with that decision,” you never understood how to establish strong boundaries for yourself. It was like the concept never even existed.

Healthy boundaries are critical for establishing your confidence… but many of us were never taught that we had a right to boundaries and to say “no.”

Ugly Truth #3: Society Taught Us That Our Needs Didn’t Matter

Many of us over the age of 50 have felt this insidious pressure to be the perfect wife and the perfect mother. Even as early as elementary school, I remember teachers saying, “Well, you’re certainly a headstrong little girl, aren’t you? None of the boys will like you if you’re so stubborn and loud.”

This probably happened to you as well – whenever you proclaimed that something wasn’t fair or got angry that you didn’t get what you wanted.

But that constant failure to acknowledge the things you wanted, even when you were little, conditioned you to think that what you wanted – even what you needed – was never a priority.

This is why so many of us have a hard time advocating for ourselves. Then we go and blame ourselves for not knowing how to do it.

It usually takes some life-shattering event, like a divorce, to wake us up.

So, think of that divorce as a blessing in disguise, because now you’re presented with an opportunity to find your voice and reverse course on the disrespect.

I want you to take everything you’ve been taught about “not making a scene” and “being nice so that people don’t think you’re a witch…” and throw it in the trash. Because your newest challenge is here.

Take the “Not a Doormat” Challenge

The next time you sense that someone is about to walk all over you, do the following:

  • Ask yourself: Do I feel comfortable with doing this? Is this something that inconveniences me?
  • Ask yourself: What’s in it for me?
  • If there’s nothing in it for you, don’t do it.
  • Remind yourself that your needs matter, too.
  • Communicate your boundaries.
  • Communicate your expectations moving forward.

As a heads-up, the people who treat you like a doormat may push back a little when you stand up for yourself. They may call you selfish, whine, or ask, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you acting like this?”

When you get such a reaction, remember that it has nothing to do with you. This negativity simply manifests the fact that they cannot handle your new strength.

People who are worthy of your time and attention will adjust to your new voice. And if they cannot or will not, you don’t need them in your life. It’s as simple as that.

As you navigate the next chapter in your life, always remember: You deserve better. You deserve to have your voice heard. You deserve to have your needs communicated. Your voice matters. You matter. Don’t let anybody try to convince you otherwise.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What steps will you take to find your voice and communicate that you will no longer be treated like a doormat? Please share your stories and any tips that have worked for you.

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I think it’s about evaluating the situation. There are times where people woll take you for granted or actually be rude if you let them. Perhaps not everything has to have something in it for me though. There are times when, for me, I put aside my needs to help a friend, volunteer or take time to have a conversation with someone I know is lonely. It seems like there must be a balance.


For me the biggest lesson I learned and am still learning is to set boundaries.
It was very uncomfortable at first.
I would feel mean or guilty from establishing my personal boundaries.
But as time goes on, it has gotten much easier.

Thank you for such an informative article.


I am not divorced ( at least recently) but these same things apply as we age regardless. I cannot tell you how many times i have had bosses, or friends try to take advantage or power away from me. I have learned to stand up and say no! Yes you can do it. You have to get over what we perceive others think of us. For example if it is difficult to say say no to extra hours at work because my boss will get mad… so what? Their problem not mine. Take your power back!

Stephanie Bryant

I finally did that to 4 close family members, tired of constantly giving and never getting anything in return, but stress heartache, from 2/3 children/mother with dementia and abuse, from my ex-husband.
It’s time for me, even though I feel so sad. I wonder how I got here with no one loving me in my life except my older son.
Making friends and getting out but at my age, I know that no one will be able to give me the love I need.
Crazy online dating is horrible. Most times I just laugh.
My best years are behind me, I understand that now, and lucky to have had people who loved me, some who have passed away like my dad and grandma.


Stephanie, You’ll make it. The garbage we tolerated made us strong! We are invincible! Now your job is to learn to LOVE YOURSELF and be your own best friend. I too, had to ditch 4 family members. My daughter treats me like trash, and ex-husband is a narc. Now they will all miss my company and the wonderful gifts of being me that I bring to the table. Such a loss for them. Everything they used to depend on is no longer theirs, it’s mine. You keep being your own wonderful self, and spend the time and energy that used to go to others – on you! Have a wonderful day!


Listen to Ann. She’s right!


Hey Stephanie…. YOU have lots of good years ahead of you full of love and goodness. I divorced at 71 years of age. Was done with men in general. Never again, I said! I decided to go to a dancing class for ballroom dancing because it was something I always wanted to do. And, there I met a most wonderful, kind, and generous man. He is a widower. I told him up front that I have “man issues”… LOL! That did not deter him. I am so well loved I thought it would never be possible. So, don’t give up… keep your head up and smile. That is sexy and beautiful! Blessings to you!

Mary Anne Fakharzadeh

I almost skipped reading this article because it referred to “Divorce,” but the issue is also true for many of us who are still married or never married. Always good to remember and be reminded that we need to be our own advocate for what we want and need.


Thank you. As a never married, I especially need help dealing with the daughter of the man I am with. I hold onto him because of my age, knowing he doesn’t want to be married. I need courage to tell his adult daughter to knock off the snide comments. And to have courage period.

The Author

Martha Bodyfelt is a divorce recovery coach who helps professional divorced women over 50 overcome their divorce loneliness and break free from the patterns keeping them stuck so they can feel fulfilled, have more fun, and live fearlessly. To find out what's *really* keeping you stuck after divorce, take the 30-second quiz.

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