Surviving Divorce After 50

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Surviving Divorce After 50

If our marriage has survived into our fifties, we think it should be smooth sailing after that.  That’s turning out not to be the case. Sadly, the results are that more divorces are happening after 50 (sometimes called Gray Divorces), affecting our children, our finances, our self esteem and sometimes our very survival.

At around 50 years old, many of us take a fresh look at a lot of things, including our marriages.  This is the time men have their famous “midlife crisis.”  They start asking “Is this all there is?”  

Women are also asking questions.  Mainly, “What’s happening to me?”  Menopause wreaks havoc on our body, our emotions and even our libido.  Our child-rearing work has possibly eased up, and our kids are needing us less.  But then, our parents may be needing us more.  

After children leave home, many couples have an identity crisis of their own.  This is the time that men may say, “I’ve been working all these years to take care of my family, buying the groceries, paying the mortgage, financing the braces and getting the kids off to college.  While the women may say, “I’ve endured this abuse, addiction, lack of respect for all these years.  Enough is enough.”

After 50 is when men seem to be most susceptible to that siren song of, “I want some new excitement!” As one bright, beautiful woman recently shared with me, her husband of more than three decades told her, “I want to explore!  I’ve done my part, now it’s time for me!  I don’t want to be tied down!”  He left with no discussion, no trying to fix things, no regard for their long years together. What kind of coward does that?!

When the man leaves the marriage for another woman, that is absolutely devastating to the woman who has invested many years of life and love into her family.  A man who has a midlife affair often doesn’t have the guts to come to us and tell us what is going on in his head.  They hardly ever say, “I’m not happy.  I need something different,” and try to fix things in the marriage before they sneak off with their secretary or their nurse or someone they met in a bar.

Coping With Divorce After 50

So what happens to a woman in her fifties, especially if the marriage ends after a long time together?  We think to ourselves: How do you cope with a divorce after 50?  How do you even survive a divorce after 50?  What kind of life is there after divorce when I’m fifty years old?  A divorce that wasn’t supposed to happen?

Coping with divorce after 50 usually means simply surviving at first.  You have to deal with the difficult grief period that many people don’t even recognize as “real” grief.  Early on it’s a victory if you can survive from morning ‘til night without falling apart completely.

Depression And Divorce After 50

Depression usually shows up somewhere on this trip regardless of how the divorce happens.  I had never taken an antidepressant in my life until my divorce when I was 53.  I took one pill prescribed by my physician, and I became so physically sick that I thought to myself, “If I don’t pull myself together, he might make me take another one of those pills, and I might die!” I never took another one.

Most of the time, there are other ways to handle the sadness and devastation we feel after our marriage dies.  Our first job is to take care of ourselves.  Divorce, especially after 50, creates so much change that it’s hard to process … and these are big major life changes like financial difficulty, empty nest, more responsibility for aging parents, moving, finding a way to support ourselves … all listed as major life stressors.

Simply doing basic physical self-care after divorce is the first step.  Try to get enough sleep (hard I know!). If you can’t face a big meal, just graze on healthy snacks throughout the day — a handful of nuts, an apple, a slice of cheese, some soup, or fiber-rich, high protein cereal.  Drink plenty of clear, healthy liquids.  If you’re drinking fruit juices, dilute them by at least half with water to cut down on the sugar.

Also, make sure you’re getting out in the sun a bit every day, and doing something that gets your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes, too.  And GET HELP!  Do not isolate yourself even though all you want to do, early on, is get in bed and cover your head until the pain stops.  We can connect you with women from all over the country and internationally who know how you’re feeling and are feeling those same things too.  

Feeling Alone After Midlife Divorce

Loneliness is another big issue in divorce after 50.  Many women in their fifties went to college, got married early, had children, and then just when things ease up a bit, our husband leaves.  It was the first time I had actually ever lived alone after my husband left, and soon after, our last child left for college.

After 50, divorce makes us wonder where we fit in.  Our friends don’t want to take sides.  They don’t want to interfere.  We become complicated.  We are the fifth wheel in groups of couples.  And no one really gets how hard this is after most of our adult life, we were part of a couple.  That’s why one of the first things we do is get you connected with other women on this road.

Feeling Inadequate Or Unattractive When Your Husband Leaves

I mean no disrespect for women whose husbands have died in midlife.  But having a spouse die is easier to deal with emotionally than if your-still-very-much-alive husband decides you’re not fun enough or smart enough or adventurous enough or whatever, and goes looking for a younger model more suited to his new view of himself.

The cruel thing is that instead of the couple working things out together and finding new adventure together, the man looks for someone new.  I’m sorry to say, there is no shortage of girlFIENDS out there.  (A girlFIEND is any woman who knowingly gets involved with a married man!)  Instead of the man rekindling the romance with his wife, he woos and tries to impress this sweet young thing who is usually much younger than he is, and is looking for someone to finance her life.

Often, the wife, who might also have been looking forward to the new freedom after the kids are gone, is left alone to pick up the pieces while he is getting his ego (and something else!) stroked by another woman. And most of the time, a midlife wife, no matter how much fun, bright or good looking she is, can never compete with someone much younger who makes the man feel young and sexually desirable again.

Divorce And Finances After 50

Finances are usually a huge issue during after 50 divorces.  Just when you both might be looking forward to retirement and more time and money to travel and do things together, suddenly your financial security is put at risk.  You may have to continue working for much longer than you planned.  You usually have to leave your family home and find an apartment or downsize to a much smaller house for yourself and any children still at home.

Retirement funds are affected too.  Divorce at any time is expensive.  A long-drawn out battle eats up a lot of money for both parties.  Some women end up with no retirement safety net at all. That’s especially true if the woman spent most of her married life staying home and taking care of the kids and things at home.  And often with a new woman in his life, the ex becomes less likely to “do right by you” financially, as he promised.

Recovery And Transformation

In the middle of all of this mess, we ask ourselves, “Will I ever get over this?”  “Will I ever really be happy again?

The answer is yes!  Absolutely!  

There definitely is life after divorce at 50, but, your recovery is up to you.  We have lots of ways to help, but you have to decide that you aren’t going to let one person, or this divorce, define you or destroy your future.

You definitely have grief work to do and healing work to do.  But after that time of coming to grips with your new reality, you can start figuring out what comes next.  And speaking from experience and from mentoring hundreds of women, your life can be amazing again – or maybe amazing for the very first time.  But it’s your choice.

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Learn the Survival Six  — things you must be doing every single day to get better.  Then we step you through that healing work you have to do.  But then we get to the fun part of re-discovering your most authentic and beautiful self.  We help you figure out who you really are, what you really want and how to create what you want now and in the future. (And, in time, we give you tips and rules for dating again after fifty.)

Let us help.  Don’t waste another minute.  Life is moving on.  You wasband (your ex) has already moved on.  You need to move on, too.  We know you want to, but you don’t know where to start.  We have a practical, energizing, structured system that works.  Why don’t you try it out?   

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About the Author:

Suzy developed Midlife Divorce Recovery as a safe refuge for people healing and surviving the overwhelm of divorce. Starting her first RADiCAL support group in 2003 she's been helping women navigate the journey of divorce ever since.

3 Comments

  1. Linda August 13, 2017 at 11:38 am - Reply

    This is a great article. This is what exactly happened to me…. he needed a younger gal… he’ll find out soon enough that she just wants someone to take care of her, and she’ll drain him dry…

  2. Lynda September 11, 2017 at 1:54 am - Reply

    I’m the one who wanted the divorce, not the other way around. I don’t regret the divorce, but the guilt is simply killing me.

  3. Fredrick Carter October 4, 2017 at 6:27 am - Reply

    Thank you for this much needed article. Getting divorced after 50 often means that you’ve spent long years with the spouse you are now separating from. The process is bound to be difficult. It is always advisable to seek professional help on all accounts, whether it is to know more about the laws in your state and your rights associated with divorce or coping strategies for the depression and feeling of loss that are inevitable.

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