Most of you are probably old enough to remember how divorced women over 40 were depicted in the 60s and 70s.
They were classified as fundamental failures in all things relating to femininity, family, stability, and morality. That is a long list of the most important things in life—or, at least, what society perceives it to be.
As a child, my first recollection of older, divorced women was from television. Even in the 70s, in the midst of the feminist movement, this was seldom spoken of as a phenomenon.
Although divorce was becoming more common, it was still considered tawdry and came with a stigma that was both humiliating and alienating.
The circumstances or chain of events that caused the end of marriage were not important. In many cases, the wives were characterized as the main culprit regardless of the circumstances.
When the husband cheated or left his wife for another woman, society still blamed the wife for the unraveling of the marriage.
Perhaps if she had lost 20 pounds or kept a cleaner home and had dinner on the table at exactly 6:00 p.m. every night, he wouldn’t have strayed.
When the wife chose to work outside of the home, she would often be blamed for the marriage’s demise. Not only due to the reasons mentioned above but because she was putting her own career and “selfish” needs over the betterment of her marriage and family.
The perception of divorced women back then was that they were somehow deeply flawed. Why else would her marriage not stay intact? She must be emotionally unbalanced, frigid, or just not “wife material.”
Not only did women go through financial devastation, but they found themselves being labeled by society—including their family and so-called friends. There was a huge price to pay that took years to recover from, including rebuilding their lives, reputation, and financial stability.
In many ways, the fallout for women today going through a divorce is the same now as it was then.
I left my husband about 10 years ago. I had more than enough reasons to do so, yet I took all of the blame. A friend tried to warn me that my children, family, and friends would view me as the bad guy if I left.
She recommended that I stay and make him so miserable that he will eventually leave. Then I could play the victim card, and he would be blamed for the end of our happy family.
In my naiveté, I couldn’t fathom any of that actually happening. After all, this wasn’t 1972, and I had good relationships with my daughters, family, and friends. Boy, was I ever wrong!
Even though my reasons for leaving were valid and there was never a third party involved in my marriage, I absolutely took the blame. I suffered insurmountable losses both financially and emotionally. In many ways, I went through exactly what the courageous women before me did, complete alimentation from my daughters, and family, and so-called friends.
More than most, I understand the fallout and pain that comes along with divorce later in life. It takes courage and blind faith that you will eventually come out the other side happier, wiser, and stronger. I believe that this is the most difficult time to face the process of divorce and the uncertainty that lies afterward.
In many ways, this goes against human development and societal expectations. This is supposed to be when, as a couple, you’re just starting to enjoy the empty nest. You have the time and desire to rekindle your relationship as you finally see retirement around the corner. Going through separation and divorce destroys all of that.
Many marriages fall apart during this time due to simply growing apart. Imagine someone with parents who had been married for almost 30 years. Maybe the father was an airline pilot—seldom home. The mother would probably joke that when her husband retired, she would have to leave. They would have maybe…four children at this point. I imagine she felt that the children were the only things they had in common anymore. Four months after his retirement, what do you think she would do? Leave!
At about this age, we realize that if we are going to pursue happiness, it needs to be now. We come to grips with the fact that we aren’t getting any younger, and that time stands still for no one. In today’s world, it is hard enough to be single in your 20s and 30s, let alone in your 50s and 60s.
Let’s face it: there is not a lot of good fish in a small, stagnant pond. Many of us decide that it’s not worth the effort and usual disappointment of trying to find love again. Once fishing in the small, underpopulated pond of good fish is exhausted, we turn our attention to other things.
We take up hobbies that we’ve always meant to but never quite found the time or desire. Suddenly we find ourselves with nothing but time. The adult children that we successfully launched into the world seem to be so entrenched in it that we seldom hear from them. All of the married friends we once had are suddenly busy and obviously sympathetic but only from a safe distance.
This leaves us with few options. We are forced to create new friends, preferably other single women our age who still have some fun left in them. Our goal is not to find members of the pity party of jaded and, at times, bitter divorced women. There are plenty of those to be found, but we need to avoid them at all costs for our sanity and spiritual well-being.
I want you to know that there is life after 50 years old and divorce.
It might not be the life we planned or dreamed of, but it is ours. I have more respect for the receiver of a rocky life journey—substantial highs and, at times, devastating lows—than the others who opt for a safe, joyless path.
I used to have a lot of friends who took the latter path. We all know the type: miserably married, sleeping in separate rooms for years, but neither one miserable enough to take action. Taking action like marriage counseling or separation would cost too much money or lower their social standing.
At times, I was envious and, at other times, bitterly jealous. I thought that they still had everything: a happy marriage, a big house, loving children, perfect future-grandchildren, and a future of nothing but exotic vacations and a second home for the extended family. All things I lost. And would probably never have.
For my sisters who are contemplating divorce or those who have already embarked on the journey, I want you to know that I see who and what you are. Even if the rest of the world or the people closest to you, like your children and friends, don’t understand you or the journey you’ve chosen, I do.
Please don’t forget that you are on the right path for you. I can promise that the strength, faith, and beauty we’ve shown not only ourselves but the world has made us stronger and wiser. By taking the path to find, love, and reinvent ourselves, we have inspired and empowered other women, including those brave enough to follow in our footsteps.
We should be thankful for the strong women who made the beaten path before us with their tears, resolve, and faith. We are a sisterhood, and we need to support each other with compassion, respect, and honesty. I will not tell you that the journey you’ve chosen will be an easy one because it won’t be.
But I am here to tell you that you are not alone. And, in the end, you will have self-respect, perhaps finally love yourself, and realize that you are far stronger than you ever imagined.
These accomplishments are what really matters in life, and sadly for most people, they will never achieve a single one.
We are the chosen few who have risked and lost so much to take the forged path by the amazing women before us.
I honestly think that we are the chosen ones, pushing ourselves to heal, grow, and eventually return to love.
I am a proud member of this club, and we welcome you in with loving, supportive arms.