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Judy Smith Divorce Coach creating new life for divorced women over 50

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Divorce Over 50: The Challenges Are Different

After I stopped denying that my marriage of 37 years was not working, I chose to end my marriage to a man who loved me and to strike out on my own – to create the life I wanted.

My Reactions
Although my immediate reaction to the finalization of the divorce was a feeling of relief, I soon began to ask myself, “What have I done?”, “I am totally on my own (at this age); how in the world will I make it?”, “Am I crazy”???

Today I know that I did exactly what I needed to do; that I am indeed able to function successfully (at this age), and that I am not crazy. And, in case you were wondering, neither are those of you who are in my situation.

A Surprising Statistic
Right away, I joined a divorce support group for women. (Note: I highly recommend participation in a group like this!) Before I got to the initial meeting, I had convinced myself that I would be its oldest member. But, I kept urging myself to think positively, to assure myself that I would find a way to fit in anyhow. ……Boy, was I surprised: I discovered that I was not a ‘stand-out’, but that most of the group were women my age!

Now that I have engaged in more research on this topic and have coached numbers of divorced mature women, I learned that ending a marriage later in life is not unusual. In fact, divorce rates for those people who are 50- or even 60-plus are steadily on the rise. I think this statistic is due, in large part, to the fact that divorce - within the last ten years - is no longer the social disgrace it once was.

An Even More Surprising Statistic
In a recent article in the Canada Association for Retired Persons magazine, author Lisa Bendall supplies an additional point to the later-in-life divorce statistic. She says that – “although we often hear of men leaving longtime partners because they found younger women - more and more, these later-life divorces are led by women who want out. If women are unhappy with their husbands; if they find that he’s cheating or drinking, or that he just won’t pick up his socks, women are walking away. In the past, women turned a blind eye to all of that because they thought the costs were too great. “As women are becoming empowered now, they no longer put up with that stuff.”

‘Grey Divorces’ Are Simpler – Right?
Let me point out that even though I was ‘right there’- with women who wanted out- guilt almost overtook me at the time. I was leaving an older man to fend for himself, and in my case, a man who fended poorly. I worried about hurting my adult children. What would they think once they found out the family structure they had known all their lives was one that had actually been teetering on the brink of disaster: Would they be disillusioned? Angry? Worried that their own marriages might not survive? My children could answer, “Yes” to all those questions.

Since I was an older woman and my children were grown adults, I thought I would be spared the intensity of divorce agonies suffered by younger folks because I didn’t have to deal with such enormous issues like child support, custody, step-parenting, and the like. Not so. Even though I initiated the split, I still had to work through a myriad of feelings - grief, depression, anxiety, anger, fear, etc. – same as everyone else.

Compounded Fears
Those of you currently experiencing the emotions that accompany divorce, likely feel that, in this stage of life, those emotions are compounded by additional fears, such as “What will happen when I am sick?” “After all these years of being with someone else, will I be terribly lonely on my own?” “If I want to remarry, will the ‘good ones’ already be taken?”

In my case, I also experienced a great deal of anxiety over the financial challenges imposed on me by the divorce. I was unaware and totally unprepared. I had never handled any of the family’s finances. (I still have trouble balancing my checkbook!) Seemingly in a heartbeat, my life had shifted from financially comfortable to financially squeezed.

So, How Do You Deal?
Regardless of the agonies she describes, Bendall closes her article on an upbeat note – one that I wholeheartedly share. She writes, “Despite the many challenges of ‘grey divorce’, it does have a silver lining or two. Many divorced people over 50 look at the experience as an opportunity for personal growth. After all, they shape their own futures.”

The end of the CARP article offers some suggestions for moving on:

  • Reclaim your identity as an individual and pursue personal interests.
  • Explore personal growth: face your fears, remember your successes and boost your self-confidence.
  • Consider joining a support group.

Follow-up: You “Should”—— But I “Couldn’t”
The suggestions listed above are indeed behaviors you must acquire in order to move on successfully. I, for one, had great difficulty accomplishing all that on my own. I was too shocked by the trauma I was experiencing to even think about ‘reclaiming my individual identity, exploring personal growth, and boosting my self-confidence.’ I needed help, but help was not available.

After struggling through all the challenges on my own, I felt a great need to share what I learned - in the way of advice and support for those who want to thrive after divorce. Since completing my training as a life coach, I organize and facilitate divorce coaching groups for women over 50. I am proud to now be the one to offer help to mature women struggling to create their new lives.

To find out about Judy’s unique coaching program, click on LEARN MORE.

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About the author: Judy Smith, personal coach and founder of The Center for Planned Change, focuses her practice on helping women over 50 create a new life after divorce.

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