In late April, I offered users of DivorcedOver50.com a survey built around two simple questions: What are the best things about being a divorced person over 50, and what are the worst? (You can see, and take, the survey here).
Not surprisingly, the overwhelming winner for best was "freedom." And the winner for worst (you know what I mean) was "loneliness."
The whole survey is discussed in this previous post, which is aimed at Divorce Curious (or "Di-Curious") folks who are looking for insight into what they may experience if they do decide to divorce.
While the Di-Curious might be inspired by the thought of freedom, could they be scared off by the fear of loneliness? Will some opt to stay in their bad marriages simply because they're afraid of the loneliness they'll encounter?
And they'd be making a mistake.
Allowing fear of loneliness to sentence you to two or three decades of unhappiness, living in a situation you don't want or enjoy, is something you'll likely regret. Your decision should not be made based on that specific fear.
You have the power to fight your way out of loneliness. It's in your control.
For the Di-Curious, here are some thoughts that might reduce your trepidation about loneliness. And for those suffering loneliness in their current Gray Divorce, the following may help you move forward.
(These steps align with the three general stages of a Gray Divorce: Survive, Revive, and Thrive. Read more here).
The first step is to prepare for, and accept, the fact that you'll face loneliness early on in your divorce. Knowing it's coming could help lessen the impact. In fact, you probably felt a measure of loneliness as your marriage declined -- this is just a different version of what you've already experienced. So it won't be a shock, hitting you out of the blue.
And frankly, loneliness will be just one of the unpleasantries you'll experience. There's the grieving process most people endure, mourning the death of their plan to live out their days with their spouse. There will be the pressures and aggravations of the legal process, battles over financial matters, emotional issues dealing with children, the possible stress of moving and setting up a new place to live. In other words it's a horrible time, you're just trying to survive, and you might even enjoy some solitude.
But once you've made it through that (and you will!), it's time to start getting your life back on track. And part of your revival can be attacking loneliness head on. It'll require effort, and you may have to move out of your comfort zone, but there are any number of actions you can take. You can join a group or club, enroll in a class, or volunteer at a hospital, library, or school. Getting a dog can provide companionship, and help you meet people on walks or at the dog park. Joining a gym can be good for both your health and social life.
And remember, there's no stigma to going out solo. Take in a movie, hang out at Starbucks, order lunch at the counter of your local diner. You never know what can happen when you're out, but it's absolutely certain nothing will happen when you stay home.
Some folks have had success using meetup.com to connect with like-minded people. And don't forget to check Facebook for old pals to reconnect with in real life.
All of the above could help you find both friends and romantic partners, and of course every non-romantic friend you make could help lead to romance with someone he or she knows.
Online dating is another approach, skewing much more toward romance, though friendships do develop through it as well. Some Over 50s are reluctant to go online, but preparation could help you have a better experience. You'll also profit from an attitude of low expectations -- by staying relaxed and not putting pressure on yourself, you'll not only keep your sanity, you'll make a better impression on your dates, creating a win-win.
And now, as you begin to thrive, you've fought off the loneliness and overcome it. You can relish your newfound freedom and all the other positives of your single life. You know yourself better, you're back to being the person you want to be, embracing the opportunities now available.
It must be noted that a significant number of Divorced Over 50's didn't make the choice -- their spouse did. The loneliness they'll experience may be magnified by feelings of bitterness, loss, and betrayal. Their battle is tougher, but hopefully they can apply the same principles, attack the loneliness, and make their way through it.
To be clear, in an ideal world we all live out our days with our spouse in a happy, exciting, loving relationship. Reality, however, doesn't always play out that way. This leads to a difficult decision, in which many positive and negative factors must be weighed.
Don't let the fear of loneliness be the negative that stops you from acting.
Because you have the power to face it, conquer it, and throw open the door to the brighter future you deserve.
For more content of interest to anyone who is Divorced Over 50, or whose marriage is at a point where divorce is a possibility, please visit DivorcedOver50.com.
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