By midlife, many single adults are disillusioned about the dating games and would rather sit home with a good book or movie, some nachos and a bold Cabernet. And who wouldn't? But it's also nice to share time with someone special. Based upon my experience of finding sweet love after a sour midlife divorce, I have a few tips for how to cope with being single after age 40.
1. Have a sense of humor and a sassy attitude. Confidence is essential if you want to survive. A divorced woman often feels like a lone loser in a world full of happy, laughing couples. When I was invited to a New Year's Eve party several years ago, I did what 45-year-old divorced woman would do. I rented a costume complete with velvet gown, a jeweled crown and ornate scepter and went as "The Queen of Everything." There was that awkward moment at midnight when couples were kissing, and I dug into the artichoke dip with a vengeance, but otherwise it was a grand celebration of independence and a fresh beginning.
2. Channel your inner drill sergeant. My priorities then were to take care of my children and myself. Dating soon after the divorce was not a priority, mainly because I was too busy learning how to climb two ladders: one to clean out the rain gutters and the other to advance my career as I managed household finances and monitored my son's teenage parties in the basement.
3. Stop being a victim and learn to laugh again. To put it bluntly: Divorce sucks. I'm not proud to have joined the 50 percent of U.S. married couples that are divorced, but I'm sassier and stronger because of it. With personal trauma and drama, I turn to humor to keep me from causing great harm to people or objects. Some people use inspirational quotes to sustain them; I use comedy.
"Marriage is probably the chief cause of divorce," according to Larry Gelbart, the wonderful comedy writer who developed the hit television show M*A*S*H.
Another astute comedienne, Rita Rudner, often says, "Whenever I date a guy, I think, 'is this the man I want my children to spend their weekends with?'"
And one more quip for the middle-age crowd: These days, parents pray the youngest child will get married and move out before the oldest one gets divorced and moves back in.
4. Don't divorce the entire gang. One major negative of divorce is how quickly a person comes into and goes out of a family. I miss my ex-sisters-in-law; it's too bad the in-law package is lawfully attached to the marriage. We communicate through social media, and I appreciate the ability to keep in touch. My children remain cousins with nieces and nephews of my ex-husband, and I encourage their friendships. I advocate anything that reduces drama.
5. Accept the realities of age. It's more comfortable to share love and life if you find someone who also has a few wrinkles and has earned noticeable laugh lines.
6. Stay healthy and exercise regularly. You don't want a middle-aged partner who's a lazy, smelly slob, so don't be one either.
7. Keep busy. Find activities you enjoy and groups that appreciate your talents. Hang out with positive people and avoid crabby people at pity parties.
8. Avoid the temptation to settle. Make a list of your nonnegotiable requirements in a partner. Include politics, religion, money management, in-laws and if they sleep with their pets. The less critical issues, such as chores and hobbies, can be mitigated if your prospective lover has a delightful sense of humor. (If many of us had made the list the first time, maybe the divorces could have been avoided.)
9. Wear sexy panties every day. (Optional for men.) No one else will see them, but you'll feel like a woman who's comfortable in her own skin and refuses to be frumpy. Even though now I'm a proud grandma, I still love silky, lacy underwear.
10. Believe in yourself. Maybe you won't find true love for years, but remember that a long marriage doesn't necessarily mean success. Watch older couples together, and you'll see many who don't communicate and others who look bitter. Choose to emulate the couples who still hold hands, make regular eye contact and enjoy public displays of affection. Assume they're married to each other. Finally, as you should know by now, it's okay to be independent all by yourself.
If you're divorced, you realize something went wrong with your failed marriage. You can learn from the painful experience, get up again, adjust your crown and take another chance on finding midlife romance. Why not?