I Learned What 'Happily Ever After' Really Meant After Divorce

Rear view of mother and sisters watching sunset.
Rear view of mother and sisters watching sunset.

"This Is Divorce At..." is a HuffPost Divorce series delving into divorce at every stage of life. Want to share your experience of divorcing at a certain age? Email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com or tweet @HuffPost Divorce.

As writer Nancy Lay-King tells it, divorce at 56 has its own unique challenges.

"It's just a matter of moving forward," said Lay-King, who split from her husband just a few weeks shy of their 26th wedding anniversary. Still, as she's discovered firsthand, recovering from divorce after 50 means you lack the timeline of younger divorcés.

"At my age, the reality is there are far fewer years in front of me to recover emotionally and financially," she told The Huffington Post. "I sometimes envy those who are divorcing in their thirties and forties; they have the luxury of time which is not something I have."

Slowly but surely, Lay-King has picked up the pieces and started anew. Below, the DivorcedMoms.com writer tells us more about the ongoing process of moving on.

Divorce is devastating at any age. In my case, I was 56. The relationship had existed for half of my life. If I had read every book on the subject prior to pulling the plug on my marriage 10 months ago, I still would not have believed or been ready for the depth of pain I experienced.

But slowly I realized divorce meant there was room for new happiness. I quickly purged the stuff that slowed me down, starting with anything that reminded me of him, from his clothes, to his favorite cooking utensils. I moved out and decorated my place the way I wanted to. I redecorated myself in a way as well, replacing my old uniform of stretchy pants and tees with business clothes and ridiculously high, sexy heels -- and some good hiking boots. And I went back to doing things I’d loved, but had put on the back-burner while focusing on the needs of my family, like horseback riding, dancing and enjoying live music in hole-in-the-wall jazz clubs.

nancy layking
The author on a recent horseback ride.

I have a long list of regrets from my marriage including focusing on his career over my own. Workers over fifty are low on most recruiter's "call back" list so needless to say, recovering a career at 56 was very, very hard. I lost count of how many rejections I received as I sought an opportunity to fill not only my empty bank account, but refill my sense of worth in the working world. I've been relentless in my pursuit, determined to not only get a job, but the job and after some fits and starts, I did just that. I'm working now. I will always be competing with younger, ambitious peers (hey, who isn't?) but I bring some things to the table that others cannot -- namely, the proven ability to fly without a net! At this point, I'm not afraid of anything.

My family and friends often tell me how impressed they are by what I've accomplished in this horrible divorce year but the reality is, I didn't have a choice. The sadness still overtakes me at times, like when I'm driving home from work and realize no one is home wondering what time I'll get back. But it isn't as emotionally staggering as it was a few months ago. (And I look on the bright side: I no longer have to cook or watch football or basketball ever again. Talk about a win!)

The best advice I've received -- and by far the most difficult to follow -- was when someone told me to create new memories to replace the old ones. When you were married for over 25 years, everything represents a memory. You have to close your heart to memories with your ex and look forward to creating new ones with your family.

Divorce wasn't the end for me. Instead of looking at my life as empty now, I see it as room to grow. My life can be centered around whatever I want -- and as far as I'm concerned, that's what "happily ever after" really means.

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Susan Sarandon
"[Single life] life been a lot of different things,” Susan Sarandon said. “It's traumatic and exhilarating. The one thing that's been really clear to me is that you have to think of your own life and your relationship and everything as a living organism. It's constantly moving, changing, growing."
Stevie Nicks
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"People say to you, ‘Well, what do you mean you don’t have a boyfriend? You don’t want to have one? You don’t want to be married?," Stevie Nicks said. "And you’re like, ‘Well, no, I don’t, actually. I’m fine.’ And they find a lot of reasons why you’re not fine. But it just seems to be coming back. Being able to take care of myself is something that my mom really instilled in me. I can remember her always saying, ‘If nothing else, I will teach you to be independent.’
Meghan McCain
"I can do whatever the hell I want all the time. I have no one to check in with," Meghan McCain said. "When you're in a serious relationship, you kind of have to check in before you go out with your friends or do whatever. I think I'm a bit of a commitment-phobe. Or maybe it's just that I haven't met the right guy. Dating's okay, but guys can be weird. They think if they Google you and talk about stuff you've said, they get to make out with you at the end of the first date."
Diane Keaton
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"I remember when I was young I honestly believed in some ridiculous way that you would find someone who would be the person you lived with until you died," Diane Keaton said. "I don't think that because I'm not married it's made my life any less. That old maid myth is garbage."
Elisabeth Moss
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"It's fun to go out at night and not know what's going to happen," Elisabeth Moss said after her 2010 divorce. "I'm addicted and obsessed with my freedom in that sense. I'm having fun!"
Nora Ephron
"It seemed to me that the desire to get married – which, I regret to say, I believe is fundamental and primal in women – is followed almost immediately by an equally fundamental and primal urge, which is to be single again," Nora Ephron wrote.
Julie Delpy
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"Too many women throw themselves into romance because they’re afraid of being single, then start making compromises and losing their identity. I won’t do that," Julie Delpy said.
Taylor Swift
"I'm perpetually single," Taylor Swift said. "Being alone is not the same as being lonely. I like to do things that glorify being alone. I buy a candle that smells pretty, turn down the lights, and make a playlist of low-key songs. If you don't act like you've been hit by the plague when you're alone on a Friday night, and just see it as a chance to have fun by yourself, it's not a bad day."
Sophia Bush
"Being on my own has been amazing," Sophia Bush said. "I don't know if it's coming into my thirties or what it is, but I'm such a sucker for love and I believe in it and I always want it to win. By nature, I think as women we are nurturers, we're caretakers, and me in particular. . . I want to take care of everybody else. And to have spent so long now just taking care of myself and my girlfriends and enjoying that, it's so good. I think it's so important."
Hayden Panettiere
"Right now, I'm just enjoying having fun," Hayden Panettiere said when she was single. "It's when you're not looking for anything that something winds up coming along. It's about learning how to be just with yourself and that you don't need to be in a relationship. You don't need anyone around to fulfill you."

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