Divorce After Forty: Four Steps to Thriving in Your New Life

by Melissa Provence


I have never really liked the sound of that phrase ”coping with divorce”… like it is a chronic illness one never escapes. There is no doubt, divorce is tough and the road to recovering can take time. When I divorced in my forties it took me longer than I had anticipated to move past it.  That said, I want to be the first to tell you, even after forty, it can be just the upheaval you need to create an amazing next chapter in your life.

We see so many people walking through divorce and many have similar questions and concerns.  Some major worries I hear from clients are:

  • “What kind of life is there for me now?”
  • “Who will want to be with me?
  • Do I want to be in a relationship again?”
  • “How am I going to survive financially?”
  • “This wasn’t supposed to happen to us. How could I not see that my spouse was that unhappy?”

So where to start – coping with divorce mid-life usually means just surviving at first.  If our marriage has lasted into our forties and fifties, we think it should be smooth sailing after that.

Around the mid-life mark, it’s normal to take stock of our accomplishments, including marriages.  This can be a time of “mid-life crisis” or simple reflection on where we have been and what is next in our lives.

In what seems like a blink of the eye we went from parenting small children to preparing our now grown children to figure out their future.  Many couples face this same identity crisis.  We often hear, “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…now what?”

After 50, many seem easily lured to that siren song … “I want some new excitement!” I know from my own personal divorce experience that relationships can end with zero warning. He left with no discussion, no trying to fix things, no regard for the life we had built together.


The Darkest Hour Before Dawn

Depression usually shows up somewhere in the recovery process, regardless of how the divorce happens.  No one likes to talk about it but avoiding it or pretending it is not there will only make it worse. There is no shame in seeking professional help from therapist. I needed someone to talk to who didn’t take sides or judge the situation. Friends and family make wonderful support systems, but I really needed an unbiased person to listen and help me walk through my emotions.

Depression is not the only psychological issue that may arise after divorce. We work with many women who realize after decades of marriage, they have been in a relationship with a narcissist. They deal with an ingrained sense of self-doubt and low self-confidence. Again, these are all issues that your therapist or a qualified life coach can help with.

My divorce consumed my life in the beginning. It was all I wanted to talk about.  It was surreal and I was in shock.   So how did I navigate the sadness and devastation caused by the collapse of my marriage? Hiring a professional was the key to my success. I was given great advice, taught how to heal, and it kept me from burdening my friends with my problems.


Self-imposed Solitude

Loneliness is a big deal.  Our first survival instinct is self-preservation, and we isolate ourselves from the world. I felt ashamed and embarrassed because my marriage had failed and I did not even see it coming.   Not wanting to burden friends or family, I chose to close myself off instead of accepting the support they offered.

Often, divorce makes us question where we fit in, and if we are worthy of love from others.  Often our friends don’t want to take sides or interfere. Have you heard that divorce is contagious?  Friends will act like it is.   It can be a very isolating time in your life.  This is when it’s a great time to look into support groups like Divorce Care.  Do not give into the temptation to hide away until the pain stops.  Support groups can connect you with women from all over the country who know how you’re feeling and are feeling those same things too.  Once I found a group of women I could talk to, women who were going through the same thing, I felt understood and validated.  It was a huge help for me.


Retirement Reality Check

Finances are important in any divorce but particularly in a later in life divorce.  Just when you may be looking forward to future retirement plans, empty nesting and living out the sunset of your lives together, now your financial security is at risk. Will you be able to retire? You may have to continue working for much longer than you planned.  You may have to sell your family home and downsize to a much smaller house for yourself.

If you are only in your 40’s it may seem like you have a way to go before retiring. This is not the case. If you were a stay-at-home mother like I was, you may have no retirement savings at all. When it comes to investing, time is money and your time horizon at this age is incredibly important. If you did not have the assistance of a financial planner during your divorce, it’s time to hire one.

We help our understand their assets and what those assets can do for them either today or in the future.  We also help walk through investment options as well as annuities and life insurance. Retirement funds are one of the most important negotiations in your divorce settlement.  Does your husband have a 401k, pension plan, or other retirement benefits? Will you need a QDRO to get the assets you were awarded in your divorce? These are all topics that we discuss with our clients to make sure they are on the right path to financial peace post-divorce.


Recovery and Transformation

In the middle of all of this mess, you may ask yourself, “Will I ever get over this?”  “Can I ever be happy again?”  “Can I survive my divorce?” These are questions I’ve asked myself in the past and because of my own divorce recovery, I can confidently say “Absolutely. Yes!”

You must take time to grieve, heal, and come to grips with your new reality. Then it’s time to move forward on your new journey. There is life after divorce but, your recovery is up to you. My hope for every client at Divorce Recovery for Women, is that we are able to give them the tools and confidence to rebuild their lives as they see fit.   We have the experience and knowledge to help women thrive in their newly single lives. Call us today or schedule a free phone consultation to see how we can help you.