So, a funny thing happened on the way to a lifetime of marital bliss: I got divorced.
At 54 years of age, after 27 years of marriage.
Interested in what I was going through, I did some research (okay, I read an article), and discovered it actually has a name: Gray Divorce.
I also discovered that Gray Divorce is booming. While divorce in all other demographics is decreasing, over-50 splits have doubled in the last 20 years, with one-quarter of all U.S. divorces involving people over 50. Who knew I was so trendy...
My continuing interest in this area led me to start a website, DivorcedOver50.com, aggregating and writing original content about the topic.
And my work on the site, as well as my own experience, led me to develop a philosophy about going through a Divorce Over 50:
- It wasn't the plan, and it isn't ideal. But a Divorce Over 50 can let you hit the reset button, be the person you want to be, and move forward into a bright, exciting future.
Sounds pretty good, huh? Lemonade out of lemons, and all that...
But, like so much in life, easier said than done.
More research (a lot, really...), talking to fellow DO50s, and some analysis helped me develop a roadmap for turning that aspirational statement into a true one.
The roadmap covers the three stages a Divorced Over 50 goes through:
First you Survive... Then you Revive... and finally you Thrive.
Each of these stages is made up of several steps. The steps range from practical and quantifiable actions like "Deal with the legal aspects of your divorce" (Survive); to on-going and spiritual concepts such as "Practice forgiveness" (Revive); and onto more physical and fun like "Get out there and have sex" (Thrive).
Like a roadmap, it offers possible routes a divorced person could take. Because we're all different, of course, we'll all follow our own paths. The Roadmap may also provide insight for someone currently married but considering divorce -- see this post regarding the "Divorce-Curious".
Here's a rundown covering some of the steps in each of the three stages:
This first part of the journey is about putting your head down and pushing through.
Because it really sucks. It's painful, it's lonely, it's frustrating. No matter how bad your marriage was, or how much you wanted out, you still have suffered a huge loss. It can even be seen as a death -- the death of your dreams, your plans, your hopes.
So you need to grieve it.
Grief is a natural reaction to loss. And you need to experience it. You need to feel that pain, as the hurt helps you let go of the old relationship, and move forward.
Another important part of the Survive stage is dealing with legal and financial matters. You need to either divorce or get a legal separation, and have complete knowledge of your overall financial situation.
It's also important to monitor your children's feelings. Your kids may be older, but don't assume it's easier on them than it would be if they were younger.
The Revive stage is all about you -- it's your chance to begin putting your life back together, and making the adjustments you want to make.
Start by recognizing your marriage wasn't a failure, it just ran its course. Good things did result (for instance, your children), and both the relationship and its demise helped you learn about yourself. Adapting the old saying, your divorce didn't kill you, so it made you stronger.
It may be difficult, but practice forgiveness. If your ex wronged you, you never have to forget, but you'll be so much better off if you forgive. Forgiveness strips the power from him or her, and gives it to you. Holding on to anger is only hurting you -- your ex could not care less about your feelings.
Perhaps the most important step in the entire process occurs in the Revive stage: Speak in your own voice again.
During your marriage, you naturally made adjustments to better mesh with your spouse. But now, on your own, you have the chance to either get back to who you used to be, or reinvent yourself to become the you you want to be now.
It's your opportunity to wipe the slate clean. You can move forward with the personality that's truly you, while pursuing the interests that are truly yours. You've gone from being a survivor to someone who embraces the situation, and recognizes there's a brighter future ahead.
For some, thriving may continue to be all about you. It could simply mean being the person you rediscovered during your Revival, as you follow your path of choice. In other words, you'll thrive just fine without a new romantic partner, and should never feel pressured -- whether internally or externally -- to "get out there."
But others will seek new romance. And for many, that will be via a method none of us could have foreseen way back when: online dating. Because it's a whole new world, you'll likely have better results if you do some preparation beforehand.
Dating will, hopefully, lead to sex. Since you stayed loyal during your marriage (right?), this experience could be like losing your virginity all over again. So you may want to scour the internet to refresh your sexual education (by reading articles -- get your mind out of the gutter!).
And when it comes to finding "The One," this is where you can really thrive. Unlike when you first got married, you won't be evaluating potential partners on who they might become; instead, you get to judge based on who they actually turned out to be. They've got a lifelong track record, positioning you perfectly to make the choice that's right for you.
These are just some of the steps you may go through. But no matter what path you eventually travel, you can come through your Gray Divorce a stronger, more insightful, happier person, ready to enjoy whatever comes next.
The full Roadmap Through a Divorce Over 50 contains many more steps in each stage, as well as over 70 links to posts containing more detailed information.
It's available as a FREE DOWNLOAD here.
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.