What to to expect when you divorce after 50

Divorce is never easy and it can seem much more daunting after a certain age. Whether you are toying with the idea or are in the throes of a midlife split, here are a few facts about divorce after 50 that will help you survive your split.

What to to expect when you divorce after 50

You will reconsider
You will be so afraid of the unknown that you may reason with yourself that even though you are miserable, you at least are comfortable, and that you can endure your unhappy marriage.  You may reason with yourself that you shouldn’t split—for the finances, for the retirement accounts, etc. You will bargain with yourself because you are scared. Know that this is normal.

You will hurt
The rollercoaster and complexity of emotions you will feel when the decision is made to separate is unlike anything you´ve ever experienced. The grief, the pain, the confusion, the overwhelm, the fear, the desperation of wanting to be loved after your spouse is gone. All that will seem insurmountable. But even though you can´t fathom it, there is a weight that will slowly start to ease from your shoulders—the relief of a new beginning.

You will doubt yourself
Your self-esteem may shatter, and you will be desperate for love and validation. You will think that nobody will ever love you or want you again, and you may be tempted to start dating immediately. You may latch on to the first person who pays attention to you. Resist this urge to attach yourself, even if you have not had that romantic touch or intimacy for a long time. Trying to fill that void with another relationship right away, robs you of the chance to heal.

You will need help
Although you may tell yourself that you’re fine, you will need a support system: a therapist, a support group, good friends, the non-judgemental anonymity of online forums. Whatever combination of systems you choose should help you attain two objectives: creating a safe place for venting, and help you find constructive ways to cope with the divorce in a healthy manner.

Also read: Why do we stay in bad relationships?

What to to expect when you divorce after 50

You will feel overwhelmed
Once you and your spouse decide to split, you will feel like you are getting sprayed with an industrial fire hose. The number of  “to-do’s” and “should-do’s” regarding emotions, finances, legal issues, custody, and other logistics will come at you with incredible urgency; you will feel paralyzed and overwhelmed.  Understand that splitting is a process. Like any process, there are things to address immediately (safety, shelter, income), things to address a little bit later on (understanding legal issues, finding an emotional support system) and there are things to address longer-term (ensuring your separation agreement is something you can live with). You will need to remind yourself that divorce is like a marathon and it requires patience and persistence. Save yourself the stress by accepting that not everything has to be done right now.  

You will feel powerless
You will feel that you have no control over your spouse’s behavior. And in fact, you don´t!  For serious offenses (threatening harm, cleaning out your savings account or racking up debt on a joint credit card), you will absolutely need to take action. But there will also be annoyances that may not endanger you, but will anger you. It may seem like they are trying to make your life as miserable as they possibly can, which could result in a long, drawn-out, expensive, soul-sucking divorce for you, if you let it happen. You will need to remind yourself that although you can’t control their behavior, you can control how you react to it.  Your decision to take the high road despite how they act is entirely up to you. Like most things during the split, it will be easier said than done.

You will feel emotional
You will be tempted to make certain divorce decisions that are driven by emotion. You will constantly forget that divorce, is, in essence, a business transaction, a splitting of assets and incomes. The logical part of you will understand this, but the part of you that is hurt may spend months fighting over things that have nothing to do with business at all. During the legal process, you will be forced to choose your battles. Choose wisely. You will need to learn when to fight for the things that are rightfully yours, but also when to let other things go. You will need to learn that nobody wins in divorce. Otherwise, you will find yourself robbed of years of your life fighting in court, having spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees that could have been put to better use in your post-divorce life.

What to to expect when you divorce after 50

Also read: 7 Great things I learned from my divorce

You will feel uncomfortable
You will find yourself in new situations that make you uncomfortable, especially if you are close to retirement and thought, up until now, that your future was certain. You may be re-entering the workforce after years, or even decades. Your budget may be tight. If your social life revolved around other married couples, this dynamic may seem miserable for you. Understand that you are not alone in all of these struggles, and that whatever you need–career help, financial advice, counseling, new opportunities for socialization–are out there. You owe it to yourself to research those resources. Do not allow any of this discomfort to make you bitter, or drive you into hiding.

You will feel self-pity
In your times of despair, you will wallow in self-pity and say to yourself, “my life was not supposed to be like this. I made sacrifices all my life and thought I could finally relax.” You will feel ashamed. This is part of the grieving process, and you will need to learn how to balance it all: accepting that your circumstances changed and learning how to heal and move on. You will need to learn that you are not a prisoner to those circumstances, and it is you who has the power to come out of this whole ordeal a stronger person.

You will have a choice
You will learn that the split with your spouse has presented you with a choice and it is your decision alone how you handle it. You can choose to look at this split as something that will ruin your future, or you can choose the path that takes more work–the path where you ask for assistance, get the support you need, educate yourself about every aspect of the divorce (and there are many), and understand that you will have the power to get through it all. The choice is yours.

Martha Bodyfelt

Martha Bodyfelt is a divorce and recovery coach whose website, Surviving Your Split, helps readers navigate divorce with less stress and drama so they can move on with their lives. For your free DivorceSurvival Kit, stop by survivingyoursplit.com or say hello at martha@survivingyoursplit.com.