Divorce is hard. But adjusting to divorce after 50 is really hard.

It pretty much goes like this. There’s a divorce. The woman, unless she gets the family home, will have to scale down. Because she typically doesn’t make as much money as her ex-husband.

He looks for a brand new condo close to his office. She looks for an apartment she can afford in a less enviable neighborhood.

White dishes in blue cupboard

The task is daunting, I won’t kid you. You never thought you’d be starting over at age 50 or 60 or even 70.

You Will Probably Be Scaling Down Instead Of Up:

He comes home one day and says he wants a divorce. Or you find out he’s been doing things behind your back that you can’t live with. Maybe he has been planning this and has cleaned you out financially.

Like me, you will possibly be looking for an apartment in a complex where they all look alike. Less space, less storage and generic looking.

No, this is certainly not where you thought you’d be at this point in your life.

But life goes on.

Where do you start?

Get a good lawyer and find out where you are financially.

Make a plan and file for divorce. You want to be in control. He has been in control long enough. It is important that you take the reins now.

Go look for a place to live. Make a list of what you can live with in a home and what you are willing to live without. Most of all, find a safe neighborhood. If you have a job, find a place that is closer to it so you can spend less money on gasoline.

Do you keep that couch where you once cuddled with him and watched movies? Well, maybe not. It doesn’t matter how expensive it was, the memories that come with it will cost you even more.

So my advice, from someone who has been there, is to keep things that are of great significance to you. Like family heirlooms and photos. Then sell what you legally have the right to sell.

Vintage bottles on shelf

What To Look For In A New Home/Apartment?

Well, it was pretty easy for me. It had to be one level. And it had to have a fenced outdoor space for my dogs.

In my price range, that basically boiled down to one apartment complex. I’m living in it now.

Please don’t put off creating a cozy and comfy home for yourself. You’ll be surprised what you can do to a shabby piece of furniture. Just get on Pinterest where the inspiration is endless.

You want to be able to look around you and see that you can have a pretty home without his money.

I went from a 2300 square foot garden home in a cul de sac to now living in a one bedroom apartment. From a home that had just been renovated to a 1960s apartment that had had virtually no updates.

Smaller doesn’t equate to squalor.

Scaling Down Your Belongings:

Scaling down just means a smaller puzzle with fewer pieces. And you have to make all those pieces fit. It may be a challenge. Embrace that challenge and let it be what motivates you.

Change what the landlord will allow you to change. If they won’t do updates, maybe they will allow you to pay for some of them yourself. Maybe you can bargain with him/her, say you’ll put everything back should you move. Or get a reduction in rent for updating it yourself.

I advise getting a pet if you don’t already have pets. It will be less lonely and you’ll have someone to talk to and bounce decor ideas off of.

It doesn’t matter that they have no idea what you’re talking about. The point is that they listen adoringly and don’t argue with you over what chair to buy.

If you don’t have an outdoor space, focus on house plants. Nature can come in small doses and enliven small spaces. You can have a potted herb garden on your kitchen window sill.

Maybe you were a wonderful cook and a great homemaker. Suddenly you feel adrift. But you can still be a wonderful cook and a great homemaker. Just on a smaller scale.

Vintage child's photo

Try New Things:

Learn a foreign language. Take college courses. Sign up for a yoga class. Volunteer to help others less fortunate.

You can date again once some time has passed. But I won’t kid you. The odds are against women our age.

Divorced older men often date women much younger. But the same doesn’t usually apply to divorced older women.

My ex had this saying: Men age like fine leather. Women just age.

That is of course sexist and disgusting. But it is unfortunately true that older women are not a hot commodity in our society.

You may find that you really like living alone. It doesn’t mean being lonely. It just means being alone. There’s a vast difference.

But isn’t it better to live alone than live with someone who doesn’t treat you right?

You deserve better. Listen to your instincts. Take control of the situation and move forward.

Older wings can still fly. And with the wisdom you have gained over time, you may even soar.

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41 Comments

  1. This is so encouraging for others Brenda. Divorce is so hard and emotionally draining. Everything we did and all the people will change. And you are right, inexpensive doesn’t mean living in squalor. Our homes can be decorated tastefully and beautifully regardless of the location or the size. You have done a beautiful job decorating your apartment and I love it! Hope you have a great evening! Love and hugs!

  2. You have begun an amazing discussion about a huge issue. Even if marital breakdown and divorce are not the issue, it is so important for every woman to know that she can take care of herself. For those who do not experience divorce, there may be widowhood, which can be emotionally, financially, physically, and socially devastating. And for all of us, married/divorced/unmarried/widowed, aging itself brings all sorts of challenges which can easily derail us.

  3. Brenda, what a wonderful post. Full of compassionate advice that I wish I had had when I was dealing with my husband having left me and the family. I was in shock, didn’t know what I would do without his income and so embarrassed. To me, at that time, I felt that divorce was somehow the result of a “tawdry” life. Can you believe it? I actually tho’t that my value as a human being dropped because now I would be a divorcee. I so wish I had had a blog like yours to read and gain strength and encouragement from. It’s a compassionate and much needed gift that you offer by reaching out to women the way you do on this blog. I can’t tell you how much it’s needed. Even though it’s been years since my divorce, there are still some issues that impinge on my present day life. It is comforting and helpful to hear how other women have faced similar issues and survived and flourished after divorce.

    Thanks you, again, Brenda for being open enough and brave enough to touch on these issues openly. I hope that we might hear more about how “Liz” is doing also, if that seems appropriate.

    1. I will follow up with “Liz” as much as I am able to. She told me last week that she got her attorney appointment bumped up to today. I think you all scared her into moving even faster.

  4. Brenda, this is such a wise post. My mothers’ divorce lawyer said the worst thing women do is try to keep the family home. Women think it is easier on the family to keep the house, often times they cannot afford it and it causes theme to go down a bad financial path.

    IT is difficult to have a breakdown of a relationship at any age, especially if you have been with the person for any length of time. It is scary to start over and make our way in the world, but I think it is worse to be in a relationship and to be treated badly, to be lonely or to have no life.

    You have made a beautiful home of your appartment and it is an inspiration to many.

    1. It took me getting by myself for some time to get my priorities straight. When you’re in a bad marriage, there is so much noise you can’t hear yourself think.

  5. This is why a woman should ALWAYS obtain as much education as she can and work experience, as well. She may need to go back to work one day either due to a spouse’s death or a separation/divorce. A woman should also have her own SECRET STASH OF CASH and build it up over time. Invest it in an IRA, inside of a Living Trust – consult an attorney. Trust me, it’s worth the money to do this because your account will be secured from being grabbed by creditors and/or a greedy spouse. Skim money off the grocery $$$ if need be. If you work, be sure you contribute the full amount you can afford to a 401(k) plan if your employer has one. It may hurt – like OUCH to stretch to get the maximum match your employer pays, if your employer pays a match, but you will be rewarded by seeing your balance grow monthly. Aim to contribute a MINIMUM of 10% of your paycheck each payday. If need be, in a desperate financial situation you can take out a low interest “loan” from your own 401(k) to help you pay expenses until your financial situation clears up if the husband has siphoned off all the marital assets. It is a sad truth these days of 50% of all marriages ending in divorce that you must first take care of yourself, because a spouse who is divorcing you may not once he walks away from the marriage. And he may not take care of any children you have, either. Sad facts of life that we need to teach our daughters. Really, why would any woman want to marry these days?

    1. If I had it to do over, I would never have married. But hindsight is 20/20. You have wonderful advice. I didn’t do any of those things but get an education. If I hadn’t had this blog, I’d have been in real trouble financially.

  6. I agree with Laura Lilly. You’ve done well, Brenda. Some of your life experiences could have soured you on people but instead you reach out to share experience and kindness. I’d say you are a very caring person who will not be held down and hopes to help others avoid the same.

  7. Very wise words.
    Brenda, I’ve been reading your blog for years now and I admire so much how you’ve made a whole new life for yourself after your divorce. It’s a very good life too with your lovely little apartment, sweet pets and patio garden. I am so happy for you!

    1. It is a good life. Losing Abi was the worst thing that’s happened since the divorce. And I’m very worried about Charlie. But I have a good life.

  8. I divorced at the age of 40. I did not know one person who was divorced but after a good friend went through her divorce I realized that even if you file, you can get child support and while the money can get tight, the peace you have with the removal of the stress is so worth it. There were times when I freaked out about home repairs but I quickly learned there are people you can hire to do the repairs and paying them is so much more rewarding than having to praise someone who reluctantly helps you. I could go on and on about the positives of singledom, but I’ll end with that. You will learn what you like, what makes you happy and have the calm and peacefulness that you probably never did. And let me tell you, I was a lot lonelier when I was married than when I was single. I am remarried now, but I love my alone time when I get it. I am able to stand up for myself, able to know that it’s not wrong to say what you want and find joy in being exactly who you are.

  9. I hope what you’ve written here becomes a source of empowerment for any woman who reads this, no matter her need or situation. The message is very encouraging and offers hope with a little how to on the side. I like it. ♥️

    1. I keep returning to read posts about your divorce and how you created a life for yourself.

      I left my husband of 28 years just 5 weeks ago. He wasn’t abusive but we couldn’t communicate.

      Even though I chose to leave, I am reeling from grief and fear. I’ll be 46 in September and was always a homemaker. Now I have health issues.

      I feel like my life is over. Your blog gives me hope. Thank you for sharing your story.

  10. I think this column could help women of all ages going through divorce —I would have benefitted by the sure, steady words when I went through a divorce in my 30s. I do hope this post reaches women who are feeling uncertain as they begin the journey of stepping out on their own. When you go through a divorce, a lot of people you talk to haven’t been through it themselves, or they are newly divorced too and still finding their way. But you have the divorce behind you and a number of years of living on your own so you know what you’re talking about. Thanks for helping.

    1. Yes, I’ve been through the tunnel and came out the other side. I have started a category on this blog for divorce and plan to write more about divorce and older women.

  11. What a fabulous post and very “on point”. I agree with Jo – every divorce lawyer needs to print this.

    You said something very thought provoking – living alone doesn’t mean you have to be or will be lonely. That is so true. Additionally, it’s also your safe zone.

    Thank you, Brenda for a wonderful post.

  12. I’ve been with you so long I remember when things started breaking down and how you moved into that one room to not have to deal with him all the while living in the same house. You had to leave behind the cats. Then your move to the little house and now to this smaller apartment that you have made look like a million bucks with a patio that would put any nursery owner to shame.

    I went thru a divorce when I was 20. Made the mistake of marrying my HS sweetheart and it soured. He gave me a black eye one night and I left. That was it. I was out of there. I wound up in a small studio with a Murphy bed but slept much better. I never looked back. Your advice is wonderful. I hope it reaches the right people. We just need to put on our big girl panties and take action.

  13. Every divorce lawyer in the world should print this post out and give it to women who arrive in tears at their office!
    No, I don’t have experience in this matter and probably never will, but I have to tell you, Brenda, that despite living in the midst of a happy family with attentive adult daughters, their wonderful husbands, my own kind and generous husband, 10 perfect grandchildren, and more than enough rescued pets to go around – all in a large beautiful home with no financial worries, I often long for the solitude you enjoy every day. I’m not sure what it is you have, but I want it! You make yourself happy – and share the resulting inner peace and strength with your pets. I will never actually do it, but my dream is to find a small place like yours, install a couple rescued cats, and decorate it as sweetly as you’ve done your own. It would be my little secret hide away. I’d go there often, sink down into a chair, pick up my quilting with cats in my lap, and just “be Brenda” for as long as I’d like! And somehow, I don’t think I’m the only one of your readers who’d like to do the same thing!

    1. You are right Jo. You are not the only one. I need to look up the Henry Thoreau quote that says something about the blissfulness of solitude. And we know that solitude does not mean the same as loneliness. Brenda lives in solitude every day with grace and joy. I have experienced loneliness on more than one occasion while being in the midst of a crowd. I love my husband, however, whenever I am alone I find that I wished a day held 1000 hours so that I could go on a decorating binge.

    2. you are so right. Since I was a kid, I wanted a little cottage all to myself, with no one to have to deal with. I still dream of it.

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