The Truth About Middle-Aged Divorce, From Someone Who's Been There

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It happened quietly and almost imperceptibly, but at some point during her 14-year marriage, Nicole Chevrier says she and her husband became complacent in their marriage.

"We fell into the trap of living too small," she says.

At 46, Chevrier divorced her husband and began the process of rebuilding her life on her own terms. Today, the Ottawa, Canada resident is two years past her divorce and as she puts it, "single and finally thriving." Below, she tells us more about how the pain of divorce eventually gave way to positive change in her life.

I never expected to get divorced at the age of 46. Then again, I never expected that I would get married, either. It was never high on my list of priorities and I am sure it had something to do with being a child of divorced parents. But at the age of 31, I married the love of my life in a small civil ceremony at city hall. Only one other couple was on the docket that day and that wasn't exactly surprising. After it all, it was the first day of the Ice Storm of 1998, the beginning of one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history. On that first day of our marriage, the storm gently descended, dusting everything with a fine coat of ice and snow, and creating a dreamy backdrop for our celebrations. There's no way I could have known it then, but in a way, a natural disaster set the tone for the course of my 14-year marriage and my divorce.

At the age of 45, my marriage unraveled. What happened exactly? Looking back now, I realize that throughout my marriage, I had let my world get too small. I had become so focused on the "to-do" lists of life that I lost sight of a wider perspective. Juggling the long list of priorities of married life had somehow nudged out the simple joys of living. I had gotten so caught up in keeping everything going that I had completely lost any sense that I was out of balance. It wasn't just me; with both of us working so hard building our careers, my husband and I were both in the same rut. As a team, we somehow let our marriage slide into a dynamic that was very similar to that of running a business. We had become consumed with running the enterprise of “Our Lives Incorporated." Needless to say, that took a toll on our relationship. Our marriage was not the only casualty: our hopes and our goals for being our best selves got beaten down in the process, too.

After the divorce, there were days when I really wasn't certain I would survive. Somehow, I made it through. As gut-wrenchingly awful as it is, I learned that the process of divorce -- essentially the process of tearing up your roots and transplanting your life entirely -- can transform you for the better. Divorce tears down your defenses, your sense of self, your "truths" and all the deeply cherished unexamined beliefs you hold dearly. You're completely open to change.

Married or not, we are all vulnerable to slipping into habits, routines and sleepy complacency. We go through the motions, not realizing that we are cheating ourselves of so many opportunities.

For me, divorce was the catalyst that pushed me to the full realization of who I am. I have learned to truly believe in myself and to be authentic and brave. I finally learned to not give away my power by waiting for the approval of others. Taking responsibility for your own beliefs and actions frees you from the chains of letting others define you. It’s a monumental shift from “Why is this happening to me?” to “What choices have I made that led me here and what choices will I make now?”

Someone once told me they felt sorry about what had happened to me. What a shame it was that I would have to “start over” at my age, they said, since "divorce sets people back ten years, financially speaking...” For a moment I considered what they had said and felt a familiar sense of panic set in. But instead of giving myself over to fear and my lowest self, I stopped and reflected. Yes, when you looked at it that way, divorcing at mid-life was frightening: Here I was, having left behind all the trappings of my former married life, including a luxurious house, starting all over again. It certainly seemed like going backwards (and I’ll admit that in the first insanely hard months of separation, I thought the same thing). But now my days of self-pity are over. Now I know better. And while my life no longer looks perfect to some people, I've grown enough to appreciate the true beauty of living an imperfect life on your own terms.

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