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How to Be a Grown-Up Through Your Midlife Divorce

How to Be a Grown-Up Through Your Midlife Divorce. If you’re going through midlife divorce — or have gone through it — you’re not alone.

Midlife divorce is skyrocketing. And the reasons for that are many. Chiefly, most of us are looking at longer lifespans than our ancestors and we’re not willing to live out those lives in complacent misery.

Many folks wait to divorce until their children are older or have already left the nest. Once those kids are gone or going, there are fewer and fewer reasons to stay. And, let’s face it, we look and feel better than any midlifers in history. Thanks to constant messages about eating right and exercising, many of us look and feel ten years younger than we are. Toss in some Botox, and you’ve got a recipe for a whole generation of people who are fending off aging with a vengeance.

By the time you go through midlife divorce, you’re a bona fide grown-up.

Chances are you’ve spent many years with your spouse — perhaps almost your entire adult life. If you have children, you may also be facing the empty nest. Women may be experiencing the symptoms of menopause. By middle age, if you haven’t already acknowledged it, you’re a grown up and you’re expected to behave like one. Midlife divorce challenges us to remain in grown-up mode even when it pushes us to feel like tantruming two-year-olds.

On the days when being your most mature self is a struggle, remember that you’re creating a divorce legacy for yourself and your children. Here are the ways to move through midlife divorce as gracefully as possible and with your self-respect intact.

Stay off social media.

You’re not a teenager who needs to post every thought, feeling or itch on Facebook. You don’t need to Tweet about your most recent squabble with your ex or about the hot date you’re on. Why give your estranged spouse more ammunition? And even if you’re not connected to your children or coworkers on social media, someone they know is connected to you. It’s this simple: If you don’t want your kids or your boss to see it or read it, don’t post it. By middle age, social media is best used for business promotion, connecting with old friends, and appropriate photographs. Your divorce is not for public consumption. Stop sharing the gory details.

Leave the kids out of it.

If you’re divorcing in midlife, you may have children in their teens or twenties. But, unlike you, they’re not grown-ups. And they’re not your friends or your therapist. Don’t involve them in the dirty details of the marriage or of the divorce. As mature as they may seem, they really don’t have the emotional capacity to interpret what’s transpired in your marriage. So please don’t expect them to support or comfort you during this time. And please don’t trash talk your ex, either. If your ex is really that big of a jerk, the kids will eventually figure that out on their own. Need someone to talk to? Get thee into counseling.

Spare your family and friends.

Even your BFFs have their limits. They may be your staunchest supporters but your divorce shouldn’t be a part-time job for them. Of course, there are times you really, really need them and that’s okay. But be aware of how much you’re asking of them. The specifics of your divorce may be consuming you but not every blockhead move by your ex needs to be deconstructed in excruciating detail. Know that these people love you and want to be there for you, but respect that they have busy lives and their own struggles to contend with.

Be prepared to be treated like a pariah.

I’ve been divorced for years and, to this day, I still run into people I’ve known for decades who have never acknowledged it. For me, it goes without saying that divorce is a huge life event. But divorce is icky and uncomfortable for a lot of people. When other folks are in functional but not necessarily happy marriages, divorce is even scarier. They see you divorce and they’re afraid, on some level, that a few bad months strung together could mean the end for them as well. So they stay away. They don’t want to be in the same airspace as you because they don’t want to catch whatever it is you caught that lead you to divorce. Crazy? Perhaps. But you need to accept this and move on.

Live for you…but be patient with those you love.

Now’s your chance. You may have been in an unhappy, suffocating marriage for years and you’re ready to bust out. Perhaps you want to explore same sex relationships or move across the country or join the Hare Krishnas. And kudos to you! But while you’re preparing for Act Two, remember your family and friends may need a little time to catch up. Even your nearest and dearest may need awhile to adjust to your newfound independence. Their hesitancy shouldn’t slow you down — heck, no! — but you may need to be patient as they transition to loving the new, improved — and happier — you.

23 replies
  1. Susan Mary Malone
    Susan Mary Malone says:

    What a thoughtful post, Abby. So true: “we’re not willing to live out those lives in complacent misery.” That reminds me of my best friend years ago, who stayed with a husband because she didn’t have that big thing to cause divorce. As she would say, “I’m not miserably unhappy.” Which we laugh about to this day. Of course, an “event” came to kick her rear in gear, as has happened to me as well.
    Great pitfalls to avoid here!

    Reply
    • Abby Rodman
      Abby Rodman says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Susan. Funny how people wait for that “big thing” that may or may not ever come. Hope both you and your friend have found happier pastures!

      Reply
  2. Sabrina Quairoli
    Sabrina Quairoli says:

    Great advice for such a stressful situation. It’s important that you are airing your concerns on social media. It can be a legal nightmare for not only you but your friends that receive the message. They can be called to testify. No one wants to put their friends through that.

    Reply
    • Abby Rodman
      Abby Rodman says:

      Yes, Sabrina! Sounds like you’ve heard the same social media “nightmares” that I have. Social media has its place but not when it drags others into a mess they had no hand in creating!

      Reply
    • Abby Rodman
      Abby Rodman says:

      Thanks, Renee. There’s so much good about social media but it always surprises me when folks use it to air their most personal grievances! And you’re right — it’s out there for all to see!

      Reply
  3. Tamuriua
    Tamuriua says:

    This is great advice for behaving maturely during any conflict or break up Abby. I don’t see divorce being an issue (though one never really knows I guess) for me, as I’m very happy in my relationship, but your advice works for conflicts with others as well. I think it’s great advice to keep your dirty laundry off social media and to not drag others into your personal issues.

    Reply
    • Abby Rodman
      Abby Rodman says:

      Thanks, Tamuriua! Happy to hear divorce isn’t in your future. But glad you found the article informative — and you’re so right about it applying to other situations!

      Reply
  4. Kristen Wilson
    Kristen Wilson says:

    All of these are super valid and very important.. but I have to say, getting a divorce, you just aren’t in your right mind and usually very hurt, it is hard to do all of these things, for sure… but great reminders!

    Reply
    • Abby Rodman
      Abby Rodman says:

      Thanks, Kristen! And you’re so very right…divorce challenges us in ways we can’t anticipate. Wishing you all the best!

      Reply
  5. Beverley Golden
    Beverley Golden says:

    Great tips for staying ‘grown-up’, even in the midst of a generally stressful life situation. Having gone through a not so amicable divorce in my forties, I do know how nasty it can get. And yes, it can impact the children. As someone who stands for peace at all costs, I know it does require that both parties are both on the same page. Social media did not exist during my divorce, so I really appreciate your very current tips on how to navigate it. The goal is to come out on the other side of it hopefully in a place where everyone wins. Thanks Abby!

    Reply
    • Abby Rodman
      Abby Rodman says:

      Great points, Beverley. Yes, it’s not easy and divorce can bring out the worst in everyone — even those with the best intentions! I hope you’ve found a happier and healthier post-divorce life!

      Reply
  6. Joan M Harrington
    Joan M Harrington says:

    Hi Abby 🙂

    Great post! Your tips are awesome for those going through a midlife divorce 🙂 It helps to know what to do during this very hard time….I know I went through one about 10 years ago and it was hard, yes, but the BEST thing for me 🙂

    Awesome share, as so many who are going through this will benefit from reading your post, thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • Abby Rodman
      Abby Rodman says:

      Thanks so much, Joan! So kind of you to say. Glad you found them helpful. Just wanted to add that living happier and healthier after divorce is always the goal — and it sounds like you’ve achieved that. So happy for you!

      Reply
  7. Joyce Hansen
    Joyce Hansen says:

    This is good advice and I will be passing this on to friends who are considering the possibility. For me, I’m still married and no divorce for either one of us is on the horizon. The best that I can say is that we built up a lot of trust and willingness to compromise over the years.

    Reply
  8. Lori English
    Lori English says:

    Abby,

    I thought this was a very good article and covered many of the important aspects of divorce and how to recover from it, and not include the children in it. I like the fact that you included the statistics and then later in the article continued to have tips to decrease further problems in the divorce. Great article!

    Lori English

    Reply
    • Abby Rodman
      Abby Rodman says:

      Hi Lori, It’s Abby Rodman. I wanted to reply to you personally and thank you for your kind comments. If there are any topics you’d be interested in reading more about, please let me know. I get my best ideas from my readers!

      Reply

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