Recently Divorced? Get Over It!!
You just separated or divorced. You are not feeling the greatest. Your world has come tumbling down. Suddenly, the hopes and dreams you have been building over the years have disappeared in a puff of smoke and you need to create a new future. All you can see ahead is a blank screen, a void, and you cannot seem to fill it with anything meaningful at this point in your life. This is where I stood eight years or nine years ago. At that point in my life, I never would have imagined the new world that was about to open before me over the next few years. My future had been shattered as far as I was concerned.
I still vividly remember the details of that evening. It is one of those images that has faded into the background over the years but has not totally disappeared. As with any loss, the feelings linger for a long time but never completely dissipate. You may be able to relate to my personal experience, or you may have a picture of your own that still remains intact.
Nothing to warn me of what was to come in the next few moments had occurred within the last twenty-four hours. As far as I remember, it had been a normal day in a normal month. I was lying in bed waiting for my wife to join me after a busy day as we had done so many times before. However, instead of climbing in beside me as she had done for the past twenty years, she poked her head in the doorway and softly said, “I’m not going to be sleeping in here tonight.”
What the hell! This was my initial knowledge of her desire to leave. All of you who have gone through a divorce have probably experienced this “defining moment” somewhere along the way. For a few of you it may have been a slow death that you knew was inevitable; for others it may have been an “out of the blue” comment as I experienced that night. For all of us, the world turns upside down from that point forward. And according to the statistics, over 40% of couples who marry end up in the same situation eventually!
In hindsight, it was easy to see where things had begun to break down. Raising two kids is never easy, life became routine and often revolved around the kids and their interests, most trips were to family and relatives, quality time spent together as a couple became less and less, and sex was difficult to fit into our busy lives. These are all classic relationship problems that you read about after it is all over. I suppose we were no different from many other middle-aged couples after fifteen or twenty years of family life. And apparently I was not the only man with an unhappy wife who had been planning her escape for a few years! “Walk away wife” syndrome is a current epidemic that I read about while I was drowning in my sorrows for those few months
For now, let’s look at some other commonalities among divorced couples in their later years. These numbers have been well documented and researched. According to a recent study by the American Association of Retired Persons on divorcees between the ages of 40 and 79, you are more than likely to fall under the following criteria:
• You are in your fifties or sixties
• You probably divorced in your 40s
• You have a decent job
• You live in a metropolitan area
• You have children, and probably they are teenagers
• There’s a 50:50 chance this is your first divorce. If you have been divorced before it probably occurred while you were in your 20s
• You are well-educated
• You have been married for at least 10 years
• You blame your spouse for what happened
I had to laugh as I read this since I fit every criteria mentioned above except for the living in a metropolitan area part. I was living in a very small town at the time.
If you are a divorced person, maybe the tears are already over and you are ready to move ahead. If not, you are probably still searching for answers. There are enough “bleeding heart” books and websites already. All I could find when I went looking for support four years ago was the same old, same old. I read through the stages of the grieving process. Yep, that really boosted my spirits. I checked out the websites…moan, moan, whine, whine. If you want a place to cry in your beer, you’ll be able to find it somewhere on the Internet. If you want a book to read to cry asleep at night with, it’s out there along with a million psychological experts explaining how to do it without damaging your self-esteem.
My layman’s first word of advice is “Get over it!” Life is too short. So you’ve been married for years. In the big scheme of things, it is a blip in time. So you’re worried about your children. They are resilient; they will bounce back. Your relatives and friends may be making you feel guilty about everything that has happened and analyzing the last years of your marriage to death. Boo hoo. The parents and relatives and any real friends will still be there when all is said and done. Everyone will survive. Just remember that half the married people in the world are going through the same thing as you are right now at any given moment.
After my wife walked out on me, I searched for anything I could get my hands on that would explain or help me to understand where to go from where I found myself at that time. Of course, I had to do the looking while she was still in the house because she left me but didn’t leave the house for another six months. But that is another story. I had no idea at the time what had been transpiring behind my back for the last three years of my marriage, but that is also unimportant now. Suffice it to say that even in a small town where everybody knows everybody’s business, it is still possible to have an ongoing affair. It’s called a “long-distance relationship”!
There were lots of books and information available on finding new lovers, on dealing with the pain of separation, of the grief involved with divorce (in fact, many books compared divorce or separation with the death of a family member. For many divorces, I’m sure the death occurred long before the marriage ended). However, there was little positive information available on starting over in midlife. I was not interested in “The Ten Best Pick-up Lines”, or “How to Meet the Woman of Your Dreams Online”, or “101 Ways to Find the Ideal Mate”. I just wanted to read about others in similar situations and how they dealt with it. I had no interest in meeting anyone at that point.
I cried in my suds for the minimum amount of time, I listened to the sappy music and had many sleepless nights replaying the last few years over and over and over in my mind. You have probably done the same thing. Every minute of your married life tends to amplify itself in your mind. I never believed in “stress leave” before I went through those few months of living hell. Luckily I had a job that I loved and was able to continue working despite the lack of sleep and endless thought processes. But I can now understand how others in more “pressure cooker” careers would need days or weeks off to deal with these times.
Convincing my ex to go to counseling was a last resort in mending our doomed marriage. She willingly agreed, not telling me that the reason she probably cried her way through the sessions was because she was still seeing someone behind my back and didn’t have the guts to say anything. And all along, there was a hope in my mind that things could go back to the way they were. But I finally came to the conclusion that it was not meant to be. I had to change my outlook for the future and the time to begin was then. Life is too short to waste it mulling over what could have been.
I have since discovered there is life after fifty, and life after separation and divorce. I had no idea at the time what the next ten years held in store for me. And I really would not have believed that I would be living in China at this point in my life. In fact, if anyone had forecast that future I would have laughed them off. However, life has a way of turning and twisting and I still believe that fate determines a lot of where you end up. Since that nightmare of a day almost a decade ago many things have transpired. I bought a motorcycle for the first time in my life and have cruised over 40,000 km around various parts of North America with my present wife. We have been together for the last seven years and married for the last five.
Four years ago, in the middle of a cold British Columbia winter, I received a phone call from an international school representative looking for a new science teacher for China. I already had a great job in Canada but jumped at the chance to work in a foreign country again. Within three weeks we had sold everything we owned and moved to China. I haven’t looked back! I have had the opportunity to travel to many countries on this side of the globe, work with some wonderful students and have many great new friends. I could even go so far to say at this point that divorce is one of the best things that ever happened to me!
If you disregard most of what has been written about starting over, you just might actually have fun for the next fifty years. Or you can follow the advice of the experts; play it safe, let your children run your life, give up sex, and wait a few years to start a new relationship.
It has not been an easy road but it has been an exciting one. I am not rich, I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist, I am not a hunk, I am financially irresponsible and I am definitely not mature. But life is good and I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow for another crazy day in this crazy country!!
So my parting words to those of you that have recently divorced, whether it is early or late in life, “Get over it…..as quickly as you can.”