Happy New Year! Or is it? For many, the strains of Christmas might be the breaking point in a fragile relationship. January sees more divorce inquiries than any other month, and the first working Monday is known by family lawyers as Divorce Day or D Day.
Generally, divorce rates are falling. However, the divorce rate in the over 50 age group has doubled in the last 10 years. Why is this?
For some, it can be a result from the empty nest syndrome. The empty nest syndrome is when the last child has left the home, and the couple realizes that the person sitting opposite of them has become a stranger. They either are not as in love as they used to be, lack common interests or the habits that were once funny, they now find annoying. For others, it could be involuntary, with one spouse finding someone else.
Older divorcees should try to embrace change and learn to recognize a great opportunity for a new start. Divorce means you might need to roll with some changes. Since you’re likely to have to change up your current lifestyle and make compromises in some way, acknowledge that it’s never too late to begin the life you that you have always wanted.
Divorce is an opportunity to reinvent yourself. I did!
The “D” Word
In 2001, at the age of 50, after 25 years of marriage, I embarked on the biggest, scariest journey of my life. I had been a stay-at-home mum until the youngest child started school. Then I worked part-time to support my husband in his career aspirations.
Even though I was painfully shy, I decided to do a distance learning psychology degree. Then when I finished that, I had the opportunity to acquire my PhD. I loved the stimulation of studying, but I was now seen to be overshadowing my husband. His ego took a hit, so he took a girlfriend.
After that, I was offered a full-time junior lecturing position. I loved it, but he said I was neglecting him. I was determined I wasn’t going to give up my new-found independence so, in the end, the only thing left was for us to separate then divorce.
Experiences of a Lifetime
When we got married in 1976, we made solemn promises that didn’t include till death or midlife do us part! However, looking back now 17 years later, I am grateful for my divorce.
I am not the same person I was. I have discovered, developed and grown my ambition. In the five years after my divorce, I went from a junior lecturer to senior manager. I had become self-confident, self-assured and had high self-esteem, none of which I had in my marriage.
Later, I went on an around the world lecture tour, overcoming all sorts of personal challenges. I spent New Year’s Day on Santa Monica Beach then took a cab up to Hollywood Heights. I swam with dolphins in the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii where I also learned to surf and walked on a live volcano.
In New Zealand, I went black water rafting in Waitomo Caves with glow worms as the only source of light. In Sydney, I crewed on an ocean yacht lying out on a cradle with other crew members. I even climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
In Cairns, I learned how to play the didgeridoo, learned how to use an Aborigine woomera (spear thrower), shocking the village elders as women “can’t throw”! I even learned how to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef.
Not bad for someone who suffered from claustrophobia, vertigo and didn’t like swimming in the sea.
Financial Tips for Divorce
If like thousands of others around the globe, you are facing a marriage break up, these tips are for you. Here are my top five financial tips you can implement so you can thrive as an independent woman.
- Make an inventory of all assets – that includes bank accounts, retirement investments, and life insurance policies. The more you know, the better but don’t try to hide your assets.
- Think long and hard about the family home – it may be your refuge and not moving may seem less disruptive for any children still living at home, but as the only one paying for its upkeep, it can be a money pit. Can you really afford it?
- Make sure you know what you and your ex owe – get a full credit report on you and your spouse and make sure you unlink your accounts.
- Don’t ignore the tax man – think carefully about whether to take alimony or a lump sum. What are the tax implications?
- Make sure you are covered by health and life insurance.
Self-Improvement Tips for After Divorce
Once you’ve taken care of the finances, start thinking about your new and exciting life. Start small by developing some habits that will form the basis of your transformation from surviving as someone’s other half to thriving as a strong independent woman.
- Make your physical health and emotional well-being your priority – look after yourself physically, emotionally, psychologically and also spiritually. You have to take care of yourself before you can look after others.
- Take ownership of what you can control and let go what you can’t control – don’t allow yourself to get distracted by whatever your ex is doing these days – or by what he isn’t doing or saying either. Let him lead his life so that you, in return, can focus on living your own life.
- Challenge yourself by reading some great books, taking online classes or creating new experiences – dive into some things that will make you feel inspired and will excite you to continue living your best life.
- Make each day count – work on getting pure joy out of every single day. Keep a gratitude diary to help you feel more positive every day.
- Work on your to-do list each night – your mornings will go more smoothly if you do, and if your morning runs smoothly, the rest of your day will be easier.
- Let go of feelings of failure, blame, regret and guilt – replace them with feelings of compassion, forgiveness and gratitude.
And finally, celebrate the start of a new adventure. Throw a party or plan a holiday. Do something you would never have been able to do previously!! Dare to be daring.
About the Author:
Dr Sue Palmer-Conn, Divorce Recovery Coach. I founded Empowering Confidence to help women over 50 who find themselves facing divorce to transform themselves from surviving as someone’s other half to thriving as an empowered, confident, independent woman. My signature system, is ‘Activate the Greatness that Resides in You’.