Surviving Divorce After 50

2018-08-14T14:56:33+00:00

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, more divorces are happening after 50 (often called Gray Divorces) than you might expect, affecting everything from our children, our finances, our self esteem and sometimes our very survival.

See also: Divorce After 60

At around 50 years old, many people take a fresh look at a lot of things in their lives, including marriages.  This is the time men (and women) 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 face this same identity crisis.  You might hear statements like, “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.”  Or… “I’ve endured this abuse, addiction, lack of respect for all these years.  Enough is enough.”

After 50, many seem easily susceptible to that siren song … “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. 

If you can’t tell, I have strong opinions about that!

Divorce after 50 can be painful.
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Coping With Divorce After 50

I’ve never really liked the sound of that phrase…”coping with divorce”… like it’s some new disease that I’ll never get rid of or something. Right off the bat I want to recognize, divorce sucks and it’s probably going to be painful for longer than you want. When I divorced in my fifties it took me longer than I care to admit to get through it. But I want to be the first to tell you, even a divorce after 50, can be just the upheaval you need to create an amazing next act in your life.

Yes, there are definitely some unique challenges as your start to get into this age range and there are key areas you’re gonna have to cope with.

Here are some of the major thoughts that ran through my head as I dealt with my divorce in my fifties.

  • “What kind of life is there for me now? I’m already fifty years old!”
  • “Who will want to be with me?”
  • “How am I going to survive financially?”
  • “This wasn’t supposed to happen to us…what happened to the perfect marriage I had dreamed of?”

On top of that, you have to deal with all the normal things that happen to all women in their fifties.

So where to start – 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.

So what can you do? How do you navigate the sadness and devastation caused by this divorce.

Your first job is to take care of yourself.  You must do the basics of simple self-care.

Try to get enough sleep (hard, almost impossible I know!) – My best advice, move to step 2!

Exercise! Yes even 50 year olds need to exercise. I rode my bicycle like crazy when I got divorced. I would get way out into rural areas and scream and cry as I rode. Find anything you can do to get your heart rate up and keep it up. This single handedly can improve your depression.

Eat something healthy – I personally couldn’t stomach a big meal early on, and found the best thing for me was to graze on healthy snacks all day long. A handful of nuts here, an apple there, a slice of cheese, a can of soup, or fiber-rich, high protein cereal.

Drink plenty of clear, healthy liquids. I found myself drinking a lot of fruit juices, but would 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.  

Finally, 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.  

Surviving Divorce After 50: Feeling Alone

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 at home, 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, and if surviving divorce after 50 is possible.  Often 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 I recommend you do is connect with other women on this road. Once I found a group of women I could talk to, women who were going through the same thing…which again was much farther into the divorce than I care to admit… but once I did that I felt my recovery make turn in the right direction.

I wasn’t the only one out there. Women in their fifties and lots of them were doing things they had only dreamed of doing in their marriages. I finally felt a bit of hope!

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Feeling Inadequate Or Unattractive When Your Husband Leaves

I mean no disrespect for women whose husbands have died in midlife.  But I believe, and there is evidence to prove this, 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. 

So what do you do?

The first thing I recommend is taking advantage of this opportunity to, potentially for the first time, look forward and ask…

  • Who do I want to be now?
  • What do I want to do now that I don’t have to worry about my ex anymore?
  • What do I want to do that I never felt comfortable doing or didn’t feel able to do with my ex around?

For the first time in probably a long time, you can do really whatever you want without having to “impress someone” or make your husband feel special or for your husband.

Take advantage of this opportunity to be yourself OR figure out who you are with out the other person!

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.

There’s a ton to think about here – take a look at our article How To Get Through A Divorce Financially.

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?”  “Is surviving divorce after 50 possible?” 

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.

Get the resources, tools and services that can move you from how you’re feeling right now to creating a fun, good, adventurous life of your own.  And it can be better than you can even imagine!

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? 

Join women from all over the world taking their lives back and getting RADiCAL. Creating your best life is the best revenge!

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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.

24 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…

    • Lisa February 14, 2018 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      My ex left the family and married a single mom of three kids… foolish foolish foolish

      • Suzy Brown March 7, 2018 at 9:42 pm - Reply

        It’s amazing that they make these, as you put it, FOOLISH choices. I like two pieces of advice I heard: (1) If he is dumb enough to leave, we have to be smart enough to let him go. and (2) Don’t die of someone else’s misery. You just keep moving forward to the life you deserve.

  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.

  4. Maria October 31, 2017 at 7:10 am - Reply

    My wasband found a young bar girl in Phuket 35 years his junior. So, after being married for 32 years, he divorces me, gets her pregnant and now they’re having a beach wedding this Saturday 4th November 2017.
    He is 60 and she is 25, younger than our two children. After building up our finances for three decades, this young thing just walks in and enjoys financial freedom and I am left to look for full time work to continue supporting myself. Please tell me I will recover from this

    • Angela October 31, 2017 at 2:54 pm - Reply

      Maria, words can not express my anger over this. You will recover and can’t say when. I guess you may want to release it and take one day at a time. I am sorry !

      • Maria October 31, 2017 at 7:20 pm - Reply

        Thank you Angela. It’s a roller coaster ride at the moment. Mutual friends are going to the wedding to celebrate this marriage born out of adultery while I’m grieving. I also realised betrayal by friends can be devastating too.
        I just pray i will have the strength to take one day at a time with dignity and grace.

      • Lisa Stein January 20, 2018 at 12:40 pm - Reply

        Maria, I know this reply is well after you left the message but I just read it. To an outsider what you describe sounds absolutely ridiculous and pathetic, although I understand that for you it is extremely painful. I am 51, divorced for a few years, and nothing sounds more horrible than starting over with a baby spouse and actual baby. I am so much enjoying my freedom, empty nest and involvement with a loving mature man also in his 50s. Do not despair, there is so much out there to explore I promise. I am not minimizing your pain and anger, just want to share a story of hope.

  5. Suzy Brown November 1, 2017 at 2:21 am - Reply

    Never give up. Go ahead and let them have their weak little pathetic lives. You deserve someone and something better. Just keep asking yourself every day, “What can I do today to get closer to the life I desire?” Then do something positive to move in the right direction. Just remember this:”If he is dumb enough to leave. We have to be smart enough to let him go.” Remember that your life can be better than you can even imagine because you can make it so!

  6. Gail rosen February 2, 2018 at 5:52 am - Reply

    Interested in women’s relationship with divorce lawyers, especially communications, time frames and costs. After 40+ years of marriage I don’t know anyone who’s gone through divorce at this stage. Am I being treated fairly?

    • Sharon Aldrine March 6, 2018 at 2:02 am - Reply

      I got divorced after 40 years. I was 70 years old.

      • Suzy Brown March 7, 2018 at 9:36 pm - Reply

        I was divorced after 33 years ….. but we’re a lot younger at 70 than people used to be. If you get and keep yourself in shape, you have lots of great years left. I was definitely not going to let one dumb person destroy me or define my future. Getting help will help you create the future you deserve!

  7. Numila Parker April 15, 2018 at 4:00 pm - Reply

    Excellent article ! Covers all issues and good advise towards not just surviving mid life divorce, but flourishing . So relevant ! Thank you once again !

  8. Laura May 31, 2018 at 3:49 am - Reply

    Love this article and all of the others women’s comments! I was married 43 years and 63 years old when he just left for a younger women! I could never afford to take Susie’s class, but I have followed all her blogs and they always help me, even still today! It’s taken me over 6 years to work through all of my feelings , sadness, anger, etc!
    Thank you Susie for all your help❣️

  9. Debbie June 19, 2018 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    My husband of 32 years at the time did not leave for another woman but he told me he felt cheated out of the last 30 years of his life, he said it was always about me and the kids. He was a wonderful husband and father but became resentful of being so. He had actually been preparing to leave for about a year before he did. Setting it up so that I was the bad guy. All the while I was there for him knowing he was going through something, holding him, kissing him, making love to him. I basically helped him through his process of leaving me.

    • Ang July 23, 2018 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      I think this is what has happened tonme but im in great denial.. we had everything such a lovly lovly llife then he just left leaving me with some horrendous things to copr with alone

    • Jamie August 5, 2018 at 5:33 pm - Reply

      Debbie, my experience was similar, except he had been preparing for several years. While I supported him, he was online making new “friends” and building the new life he wanted. He denies there was ever anyone else, but too many details and years of lying make me believe he just didn’t want to look like the bad guy. I hope you’re healing and doing better. Every day is a struggle, but some days are better than others.

  10. Connie June 26, 2018 at 9:58 am - Reply

    My husband of 23 years had and affair while I was fighting breast cancer then left me for her. I am soon to be 52, have not worked outside the home in a decade. My divorce was final 3 mo the ago and I got the house but hVe yo sell it. I never had to worry about money and now am completely wiped out .( he unloaded our accounts before he left ). I feel alone, scared and unloveable. I tried match but they all seem to want a younger slender professional woman and I am older curvy and had lived my life for my husband and children . This has ruined my life and he is living with his girlfriend happy as can be. This is the first time I have ever been alone and it is to much to bear.

    • Angela July 10, 2018 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      Hang in there Connie, it must be such a shock after your illness and being together for so long. Here’s a virtual hug and a hope that you will find an opportunity to do some things that you want to do even if you have to sell your home. Work is hard to come by but once you find something the routine of going in and being around other people can be really comforting. It isn’t you, it’s him, honest.

  11. Sarah Smith July 3, 2018 at 12:59 am - Reply

    What gets me is not the divorce but the fact that as a divorcee even one’s closest friends tend to demote you socially and stop inviting you to dinner and stuff like that, instead it’s supper with the kids, lunch or coffee.

  12. Pamela K Hiltzman July 5, 2018 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    This group sounds like something I seriously could use in my life right now

  13. Kim Shively July 25, 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Ladie’s the one thing we all have in common is pain. I didn’t think I saw this coming however, looking back how did I miss it. We never had children
    He fulfilled his dream “Navy” as I followed. At 24 I was so in love and believed it until 1/2018 he walked in and announced he wanted a divorce. No talking or answers. It would be later I found out there was someone else. He did move out, but nothing decided in courts yet except temporary spousal support. He left like a thief in the night. It would be 1pm the next day before I knew. He still has a key to the house so legally he can barge in at anytime. Legally owning half of the house, that’s how it works in my state until final court decisions. I rarely leave as I don’t know what could happen. i.e. belongings,etc. It’s been 7 months but I still breakdown when least expected. i would pray I could give anyone an easy answer: it just doesn’t exist. Can you mend a broken, lonely heart?? Kim

  14. Coley August 13, 2018 at 12:52 am - Reply

    I’m 57 years old…my husband stopped talking to me the last 5 months of our marriage. We’ve been married for 27 years. We’re in process of divorce but my husband wants to go to trial. I moved out a year ago. My husband hasn’t had relations with me in 10 years. I work part-time and make very little money and my husband feels he shouldn’t have to give me anything. Thank goodness for temporary spousal support. I still live him very much!!! How do you get through this unbearable pain?

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