Stigmas from the past
For most of you reading this, you are old enough to remember how divorced women
over forty were depicted in the ’60s and ’70s. They were classified as failures
relating to femininity, family, stability, and morality. That is a long list of the most
important things in life or what society perceived them to be. As a child, my first
recollection of older, divorced women was from television. Even in the ’70s, in the
midst of the feminist movement, this was seldom spoken of as a phenomenon.
Although divorce was becoming more and more common by then, it was still
considered tawdry and came with a stigma that was both humiliating and alienating.
The blame game
The circumstances or chain of events that caused the end of a marriage were not
important. In many cases, the wives were characterized as the main culprit
regardless of the circumstances. When the husband cheated or left his wife for
another woman, society still blamed the wife for the marriage’s unraveling. Perhaps
if she had lost 20 pounds, kept a cleaner home or had dinner on the table at exactly
6:00 every night, he wouldn’t have strayed. When the wife chose to work outside of
the home, society would often blame that for the marriage’s demise. Due to the
above-mentioned reasons, she was putting her own career and selfish needs over
the betterment of her marriage and family.
The perception of divorced women back then was that they were somehow deeply
flawed. Why else would her marriage not stay intact? She must be emotionally
unbalanced, frigid, or just not wife material. Not only did women go through
financial devastation, but also they found themselves being labeled by society,
including their family and so-called friends. There was a huge price to pay that took
years to recover from, including rebuilding their lives, reputation, and financial
The high price of leaving
In many ways, the fallout for women today going through a divorce is the same now
as it was then. I left my husband about 10 years ago; I had more than enough
reasons to do so, yet I took all of the blame. A friend tried to warn me that my
children, family, and friends would view me as the bad guy if I left. She
recommended that I stay and make him so miserable that he will eventually leave.
Then I can play the victim card, and my husband will be blamed for the break up of
our happy family. In my naiveté, I couldn’t fathom this actually happening. After all,
this wasn’t 1972, and I had good relationships with my daughters, family, and
Boy, was I ever wrong. Even though my reasons for leaving were valid and there
was never a third party involved, I absolutely took the blame. I suffered
insurmountable losses both financially and emotionally. In many ways, I went
through exactly what the courageous women before me did, complete alienation
from my daughters, family, and so-called friends. Ultimately, I was blamed and most
of my relationships did not withstand the divorce.
I understand more than most the fallout and pain that comes along with divorce
later in life. It takes courage and blind faith that you will eventually come out the
other side happier, wiser, and stronger. Over fifty is a difficult age to face the
process of divorce and the uncertainty that lies ahead. In many ways, this goes
against human development and societal expectations. This is supposed to be when
you’re just starting to enjoy the empty nest, have the time and desire to rekindle
your relationship and you can finally see retirement around the corner.
Unfortunately, going through separation and divorce destroys all of that.
Many marriages fall apart during this time due to simply growing apart. I had a
friend years ago whose parents had been married for almost 30 years. Her father
was an airline pilot and therefore was seldom home. Her mother always joked that
when her husband retired that she would have to leave. They had 4 children, and
she felt that the children were the only things they had in common anymore. Sure
enough, he retired, and she up and left about four months later.
The perils of dating
At about this age, we realize that if we are going to pursue happiness, it needs to be
now. We come to grips that we aren’t getting any younger and that time stands still
for no one. In today’s world, it is hard enough to be single when you’re young yet
alone in your 50’s and 60’s. Let’s face it; when it comes to dating at our age there
are not many good fish left in the sea. So many of us decide after fishing for a while
that it’s not worth the effort or disappointment of trying to catch a keeper.
Let’s face it, we all come with baggage and a passport full of stamps from life’s
experiences both good and bad. The hard part is finding someone whose baggage
can coincide or compliment ours. At this stage in life we need to accept each other’s
past, appreciate what we have and find the courage to try it again. It is possible to
find love, and for many couples this last love is by far their greatest.
Finding your new tribe
After a failed attempt at fishing some turn their attention to other things. We take
up hobbies that we’ve always meant to but never quite found the time or desire.
Suddenly we find ourselves with nothing but time. The adult children that we
successfully launched into the world seem to be so entrenched in it that we seldom
hear from them. All of the married friends we once had are suddenly busy and
obviously sympathetic but only from a safe distance. This leaves us with few
options. The reality is that we need to make new friends, preferably with other
single women our age that still know how to have fun. Our goal is not to form a pity
party consisting of jaded, bitter divorced women. There are plenty of those to be
found, but we need to avoid them at all costs for our sanity and spiritual well being.
I want you to know that there is life after fifty and divorce. It might not be the life
we planned or dreamed of, but it is ours. None of us saw this coming and after going
through it, wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I have more respect for the brave women
that reach out for happiness than those that hold back from fear. I used to have a lot
of friends that took the latter path. Some were miserably married, sleeping in
separate rooms, but neither one miserable enough to take action. Taking action like
marriage counseling or separation would be embarrassing, expensive and messy.
And they are right but it is the only way to come back to yourself and if you’re lucky
to each other.
Your own path
For my sisters who are contemplating divorce or for those who have already
embarked on the journey, I want you to know that I see who and what you are. Even
if the rest of the world or even the people closest to you can’t I do. Please don’t
forget that if you are on the right path for yourself that is reason enough. I promise
that the strength, faith, and resilliance you’ve proven not only to yourself but others
have made a difference. By taking the path to find self-love, happiness and
reinventing our lives, we have inspired and empowered other women especially
those brave enough to follow in our footsteps.
Coming back to you
We should be thankful for the women who made the beaten path before us with
their tears, resolve, and hope. We are a sisterhood, and we need to support each
other with compassion, respect, and honesty. I will not tell you that the journey
you’ve chosen will be an easy one because it won’t be. But I am here to tell you that
you are not alone and that in the end, you will have self-respect, perhaps finally love
yourself and realize that you are far stronger than you ever imagined. These
accomplishments are what really matter in life, and sadly for most people, they will
never achieve a single one. I honestly think that we are the chosen ones to push
ourselves to heal, grow and eventually come back to love. I am a proud member of
this club, and we welcome you with loving, and supportive arms.