"You will be happy again," my friends said when — at 40-something — I was suddenly alone. I had my doubts. My then-husband had announced one New Year's Day he wanted a divorce, and I went into a tailspin. The future looked bleak.
Now the good news: I remarried within two years to a man with who I am much more compatible. Though I went through terrible torment at the beginning, it was well worth it.
Divorce at middle age spells opportunity. You may be older, but you're also wiser and more self-aware than you were a decade or two ago. You're a real grown up. And now is a great time to go for what you really want!
Do you know why everyone says don't dwell on the past? Because you can't change it. But you can certainly control how you approach your future.
Put these tips into action today:
1. Be good to yourself. Make time for you — finally! This is the perfect opportunity to put yourself at the very top of your to-do list. Pamper yourself with a feel-good spa treatment after work. Put up your feet for an afternoon and read a trashy novel while the laundry piles up. Give in to your whims (at least the reasonable ones!) and treat yourself well.
2. Talk about your feelings. Find a good therapist. Within the first month of your separation, look for someone whose approach suits you. I suggest identifying one close to your age; you'll relate to each other a lot better. Personally, it took me three tries and two months before I found a psychologist who was right for me. So search until you are comfortable with the professional you choose. Don't worry about how you will know — believe me, you will know. You won't be instantly cured of that pain in your gut. Still, each time you go you should leave the office feeling a little stronger, and a little better about yourself and your future.
3. Socialize. Go out with friends often. But, except for your best friend, don't cry your heart out and rehash the nitty-gritty details over and over again as if doing so might change the outcome. Do your best to enjoy yourself and live in the moment.
4. Go solo sometimes. Venture out to some places by yourself, with a special focus on those activities your former spouse resisted. Was there a museum where you always wanted to spend a few hours? Do you like gardens? Sit down with a small notebook and write some thoughts about how you are feeling today. If you're angry, shout it on to the page. If you have a few moments of clarity or tranquility, write that down.
5. Don't keep hanging on. You may occasionally get mixed messages from your former spouse. It's not that you two will reconcile. Usually, it's just that he just wants to have his cake and eat it too. If your ex starts calling regularly to see how you are doing, do not consider this to be a sign that he might come back. What he wants is to find a new woman but still have his children and doting wife to visit. Let him talk to the children if they are available. Otherwise, cut him off pleasantly and get on with your life.
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