Adjusting To Divorce After 50
Divorce is hard. But adjusting to divorce after 50 is really hard. Baby Boomers have the highest divorce rate among other generations at 34.9%.
What Adjusting To Divorce After 50 May Look Like:
It may proceed much like this: You go through all the paperwork and heartache of a divorce proceeding and the court grants you a divorce.
Unless you get the family home, you will have to scale down. Because as a woman, you typically don’t make as much money as your ex-husband.
He may look for a brand new condo close to his office. You may be looking for an apartment you can afford in a less enviable neighborhood. Your lifestyle may be changing rapidly. As well as your self-confidence, self-esteem, and possibly your mental health.
One or both of you may find a therapist to deal with the painful experience of ending the relationship. Or perhaps it’s a mediator who is trying to get the two of you on the right page of the divorce process in terms of assets.
Retirement accounts must be discussed and disclosed. As well as health insurance and life insurance policies.
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. If you’re over 50, it’s what’s referred to as a “gray divorce.”
Statistics say that a male born in the United States today has a life expectancy of 74.5 years old on average. On average, US women are 5.7 years older, reaching an age of 80.2.
You may have spent most of your adult life with this person who has now moved out and moved on. There may be kids involved who are torn and devastated over the split.
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 and you’re the one to leave.
Maybe he has been planning this and has cleaned out the bank accounts. He may have caught you completely unaware of the circumstances until it is too late. If you’re lucky, you live in a state that mandates a decent amount of alimony in the divorce settlement.
Like me, you will possibly be looking for an apartment in a complex where they all look alike. Less space, less storage, and very generic. Definitely a step down.
No, this is certainly not where you thought you’d be at this point in your life.
Do you keep that couch where you once cuddled with him and watched movies? Probably not. It doesn’t matter how expensive it was, the memories that come with it may cost you even more.
But life goes on. You may now be way out of your comfort zone with expenses and household finances. So you may need to make an appointment with a financial advisor.
Your new life may also mean making new friends since you are no longer part of a couple.
Where Do You Begin?
Get a good divorce lawyer and find out where you are financially.
You want to be in control of your own finances and future. Your husband has been in control long enough. It is important that you take the reins now.
Check out neighborhoods where you can afford to live. Make a list of what you must have and what you are willing to live without. Most of all, find the safest neighborhood you can afford.
If you have a job, find a place that is closer to your new home so you spend less money on gasoline or other transportation.
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 so you have a little cushion in your bank account to move forward.
What To Look For In A New Home/Apartment?
I needed a fenced outdoor space for my dogs. That was non-negotiable, as they were now not only my companions but also sort of my small scale support group.
In my price range, that basically boiled down to one apartment complex. I lived there for 8 years, then moved to a senior complex. Nothing fancy, but I feel safer here.
Create A Cozy Home For Yourself:
Please don’t put off creating a cozy and comfortable home for yourself. You’ll be surprised what you can do with a shabby piece of furniture. Just spend some time on Pinterest where the inspiration is endless.
You want to be able to look around you and say that you can have a pretty home without his money. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
You quickly learn that you don’t need “fancy.” It’s just another word for having all those pretty things in a beautiful home, but feeling lost inside it.
I went from a 2300 square foot garden home in a cul-de-sac to living in a one bedroom apartment. I moved from a home that had just been renovated to a 1960s apartment that had had virtually no updates in years.
However, smaller doesn’t equate to squalor. You can still lead a good life if you’re careful with your finances. The grief of adjusting to divorce after 50 recedes after a while.
I now get social security benefits and Medicare, so my situation isn’t as dire as it first seemed.
As for the ex, he died 4 years ago, making the new wife a widow after only a handful of years.
I know that most of my life is behind me rather than ahead of me.
It’s now been over 11 years of adjusting to divorce after 50. I don’t want another relationship. And I will never marry again.
I like living alone with a pet. My two beloved dogs have since died. But I adopted a beautiful cat named Ivy in 2018.
Scaling Down Your Belongings & Moving:
Scaling down just means a smaller puzzle with fewer pieces. And you have to find a way to make all those pieces fit. It may be a challenge. Embrace that challenge and let it be what motivates you in starting this new chapter of your life.
Change what the landlord will allow you to change in your new home. If they won’t do updates, maybe they will allow you to pay for updates yourself if you can afford it. Bargain with him/her, and say you’ll put everything back the way it was should you move some place else.
I advise adopting a pet if you don’t already have pets and the landlord will allow it. You will be less lonely and help you fight the depression that may ensue.
If you don’t have an outdoor space, focus on a few indoor 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.
In adjusting to divorce after 50, there will be unique challenges for you to face. Hold your head high and tell yourself you can face most anything now.
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.
My ex-husband left the courtroom with his girlfriend the day of our divorce, headed to a luxury apartment they’d moved into the night before. She sat in front of me the entire time we were in court.
I felt no jealousy. She could have him along with my blessing. I wanted to say “good luck with this one,” but I refrained. She’d quickly learn and I owed her nothing.
Divorced older men often date women much younger than they are. But the same doesn’t usually apply to divorced older women.
My ex liked to say: “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 Like Living Alone:
You may find that you really like living alone. I certainly do.
It doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely. It just means living in a one person home. There’s a vast difference between the two.
Isn’t it better to live alone than live with someone you no longer love? Isn’t it better to eat alone than sit across from someone and have absolutely nothing to say to him?
You deserve better. Listen to your instincts. Take control of the situation and move forward.
If you’re adjusting to divorce after 50, you’ll learn that older wings can still fly. And with the wisdom you have gained during this adjustment period, you may even begin to soar.
(Updated on March 12, 2023)
Well said, Brenda, spot on.
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!
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.
You are SO right! Whether we’re married or divorced or widowed or not, aging itself is difficult to adjust to.
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.
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.
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.
I agree with your mother’s attorney. Too many memories there too.
Great advice, Brenda. You truly are wise and have your priorities straight.
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.
Spot on! Great post.
I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.
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?
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.
Great advice. Wish I had known these ideas when I was young. Too dumb and trusting.
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.
I like to think of myself as someone who puts their experience to good use by helping others whenever I can.
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!
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.
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.
I so agree! Sometimes it’s much lonelier being with someone.
Just tuned 71 this fall
And you sound like you still have a lot of spirit, despite having gone through such a life change!
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. ♥️
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.
Sorry, didn’t think the first comment went through and did it again.
No worries. I deleted the second one.
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.
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.
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.
Lonely is when you’re with someone and you have nothing left to say to them.
Very true, Brenda!
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.
Yes Annette, you have been with me since just about the beginning. I cherish our friendship!
You are amazing!
Well thank you!
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!
What is that saying? Every woman needs a room of her own.
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.
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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