Surviving Divorce – and dating and remarriage – after 40 can be more challenging than at other times. You may be in the middle of career overload. If you have kids, they may be preteens and teenagers who need lots of emotional care and attention. There are often more stresses and complications during divorce in your 40s and in new after-divorce relationships, too.
Should I Divorce After 40?
Your 40s are often a time of craziness and exhaustion, especially if you have children. You may be trying to focus on your career. Plus, your kids are usually in non-stop activity mode. Then if you throw divorce into the mix, you have a tsunami of overwhelm, chaos and stress for everyone in the family.
When we are trying to decide whether to divorce, the thought of starting over after divorce at 40 creates a big lump in our chest. When I was 40, I had been married for 20 years, and we had four children who were 16, 14, 13 and 2. (Yes, all with the same father!) I could not imagine managing all of that on my own!
I loved those years. I loved being a bustling, joyous, complicated, wonderful, busy family at every stage. But as much fun as those years are in your 40s, they have their own unique challenges, especially if you find yourself alone and facing divorce after the big 40.
Coping with Divorce After 40
If we divorce in our 40s, we may for the first time realize that we are actually getting older. Our bodies are changing, and it takes more effort to stay in shape. Menopause definitely can send us for a loop temporarily. Even if it’s not horrible, it’s almost always inconvenient and annoying. And some days I just didn’t feel like myself.
Worst of all, even though we don’t change our eating habits, we start gaining a little weight, and I just felt frumpy. I always worked out, but it didn’t seem to make me look any better. After divorce at 40, all those insecurities are magnified.
So the thought of Over-40 dating sites, and actual dating after divorce at 40 both fill us with dread and fear and the worry that we are too imperfect for anyone to love! I definitely felt that when I started dating at 56! I thought I would never be truly happy again. THAT IS NOT TRUE!
Depression After Divorce
No matter what age we are, but definitely in our 40s, divorce brings feelings of sadness and even depression. One of my counselors, Dr. Barrie Arachtingi said that stress, hormone imbalance and lack of sleep can add to our wild mood swings Getting better sleep slows down that emotional roller coaster we’re on. Ask your doctor.
When you’ve been dealing with a husband who finds someone else or is addicted, abusive or emotionally disconnected, you may feel a sense of relief when you divorce. But still, you’ve got a big depressing ball of mess to deal with. Finding love again after 40 in the middle of all that chaos seems an impossible dream. (It’s not! But don’t rush!)
Loneliness is almost always one of the most debilitating parts of divorce. We may have activity and people all around us, but we feel like no one really understands how difficult it is to just keep ourselves from falling apart every day.
When we are trying to survive divorce after 40, we feel alone when we most need support. We are suddenly left emotionally and physically alone, holding the bag while our ex “finds himself,” whatever in the heck that means! (Hint: It usually means they are finding themselves with another woman, and that makes us feel even more lonely!)
Feeling Inadequate or Unattractive
Divorcing in your 40s is like a wrecking ball hitting an already shaky building. We’re probably extremely busy with all of our different roles. We feel like we aren’t doing a very good job with anything. Plus we’re exhausted, overwhelmed, desperately sad and angry all at the same time.
Many women trying to find life after divorce in their 40s feel like everyone else is managing life much better than they are. We don’t feel our best because we don’t look our best, and we don’t look our best because we don’t feel our best. Without help, day-to-day living can become a big vicious circle of feeling ugly, fat, lonely and incompetent with a little joy and laughter thrown in now and then.
What About The Kids?
Most children are very perceptive, even at a young age. Kids are often not so affected by the actual divorce as they are affected by conflict in their home. The more conflict, the worse it is for kids. So staying together if you and your spouse are constantly at open war or on a simmering burn is not good for anyone, especially our kids.
If divorce is going to happen in spite of our best efforts, kids in families where the parents are in their 40s may be in the hardest stage of all. Younger kids may adjust more easily and quickly. Older kids may already be more independent and more likely to be on their own.
Preteens and teens have enough drama and angst without divorce throwing a flaming torch into the mix. Kids mostly want to be with their friends at this age, and because of the divorce, that may be harder than ever. If you have dual/equal custody, parents being in fairly close proximity is usually best for the children.
Divorce is not easy to deal with as a child, but kids really are resilient. If we put them first and practice good parenting, we can teach them powerful lessons about relationships and dealing with the tough stuff of life. Or we can fall apart and not give them any tools for recovery at all. It’s our choice. The book The Resilient Self: How Survivors of Troubled Families Rise Above Adversity provides insight into kids who thrive in spite of facing extremely challenging family circumstances.
Grady’s “Parenting Through Divorce” Program is an amazing resource from an adult child’s point of view about what kids really need from parents going through divorce. In his video interviews with friends whose parents had gone through divorce in their 40s, he asked them to talk about what they wished their parents had known to help make divorce less traumatic. You can access the first section free.
Some of the most heart-wrenching issues of divorce in your 40s are custody issues. Most courts try to evenly split time between parents unless there has been serious misconduct on one parent’s part. I hated to share my kids. Kids have to slosh between one parent’s house and then the other. They spend every other weekend at Mom’s house or Dad’s house, and wonder, “Where is my house?”
All children tend to be forgetful and distracted in the best of circumstances, but during divorce exchanges, school work, permission slips, sports equipment, etc. can be left at the “wrong” house. One of the positives is that your kids have to learn more about personal responsibility and that’s a good thing.
If at all possible, when divorce happens in your 40s, it’s usually best if kids can stay in their same school. Adjusting to a new school on top of everything else creates all kinds of problems. I had to go make my case before the school board to allow our youngest child, Grady, to stay in his same high school for senior year, even though the house I bought was a few blocks out of the district.
Grady was 13 when all of the “fireworks,” as he calls it, started; and 17 when we finally divorced. One thing that really helped was that he was always very involved with sports and music in high school. He was a state champion distance runner in several events, and also was a swimmer and in the Chamber Choir. That’s a lot of practice and activity hours that he was not thinking about the divorce! He definitely worked out some of his anxiety, anger and sadness on the track or in the pool or singing with his school choir.
Being active and having a lot of different groups of friends was so important during divorce! Encourage your kids to get involved in whatever they are interested in (band, yearbook, cheer squad, theatre, chess club, art, etc.) The parents of school friends add another level of support at a very critical time in our family’s life.
Getting a small part-time job after school or on weekends can help kids focus on themselves and not on the problems at home and also can help the family budget. Church activities and volunteering are good options, too.
Career & Finances
How you financially survive divorce after 40 is a huge part of how your life unfolds going forward. Women usually have an easier time getting back into the workforce in their 40s than if they are in their 50s or 60s. But, especially if you have been a stay-at-home mom, finding a full-time job that can support you and your family is challenging.
As soon as you can, get some solid financial advice. If you can’t afford a financial advisor, many women’s centers and churches offer simple, straightforward financial direction. If nothing else, get some books at the library or bookstore. One that helped me was Prince Charming Isn’t Coming by Barbara Stanny.
The sooner you get your financial life on the right track, the more everything else will fall into place.
Dating After Divorce at 40
Parents who hurry into another relationship after divorce often make things more difficult for everyone. Give yourself and your kids the gift of a “break time” where you all adjust to your new family reality without being distracted by a new romantic relationship.
After 40 we may feel in a hurry to have the “security” of another relationship, but rebound relationships are usually bad for everyone involved. Hit the pause button and do your grieving and healing before you even think about going on after-40 dating sites or seriously looking for another partner.
Single parenting in your 40s is difficult, but please do not get into another relationship just because you think it will make your life easier. Sometimes just the opposite happens.
Divorce after 40 is an unexpected bomb dropped in the middle of your life. You’re trying to recover and repair what you can and find purpose and joy moving forward. I know. I’ve been there.
My advice: GET HELP! Start by signing up for our FREE 10-Day Divorce Recovery Crash Course. You’ll find encouragement in your inbox every day to give you hope and get you moving in the right direction. Don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help.