RECOVERING AFTER MIDLIFE DIVORCE
by Fiona Eckersley
If I really sat down to analyze it I suppose I was (at that point in time) feeling stressed out and walking on eggshells. Wondering what was going to be the thing that I had done this time to disappoint, anger or upset him. Things had been feeling strange for a few days and as he walked into the bedroom I thought that I was finally going to find out what it was. Only the words that came out of his mouth were so not the words that I had been expecting to hear. Never in a million years would I have thought that he would say something like that. I thought we had the perfect family and life. Yes, I suppose there were quite a few things that I was holding back that I was not really happy about. That is how a marriage is though, right? I couldn’t expect to be blissfully happy, that was a myth for the movies. Putting up with the things that bothered me was just the way it went, I thought. This is as it would always be. “I don’t love you anymore and I’m filing for divorce,” he said. He said that and I was suddenly numb.
That was the moment that I found out that things were radically going to change for me and my children. After twenty-two years together, seventeen years of marriage and four children, that was the moment that I learned my marriage was over.
I grew up in an industrial town in the North of England. I went to college. I was the first and only person in my family to do that. To be truthful about it, I went, not because I was encouraged and pushed to do so by my family, but because it was the only way I could see to get out of my childhood home. I became a teacher and after graduation went to teach for a charity organization in Sierra Leone, in West Africa. I met my husband there because he was in the peace corps. I was teaching in the same village in as he was. I moved to New York to be with him when that was done. My parents were dead and I had really not been very close to them truthfully. My siblings were in the U.K. The family I had been close to for 20 years were actually my in laws. Suddenly, they were not my family any more. Many of the friends we had as a couple were people he had grown up with or went to college with. The friends I did have left were all part of a couple. I had lately gone back to work as a part time teacher in a private school. Not exactly the foundation for financial security.
As time went on I moved from numbness, to sadness, to absolutely terrified of what was going to be next for me in this new life. Which is kind of crazy when I look back on it. I was the girl who “got out”. I took all the initiative, and no crap from anyone. College, Africa, New York- I took them all in stride and had no doubts about my ability to conquer all. Yet here I was after so much time learning to believe that I wasn’t capable of figuring out what to do now or looking after myself, spinning in fear and doubt about my future. Oh and I did mess up so so much in those first few years. From insane relationships, massive partying, to financial recklessness, I pretty much covered the gamut of what not to do. Then finally, after lawsuits with my ex., a relationship that had to be ended with the local police warning him off, and having no real job came the realization that I needed to stop the downward spiral I was heading in and get a handle on my life. The more I avoided, the more I felt bad about it, the more I berated myself, the more I felt incapable of making any decent decisions.
Using the excuse of divorce and kids to stay stagnant was convenient, but not solving any of my problems.
That was the start of my own journey which has been about 10 years so far. The more I looked into ideas and concepts about emotional healing and mindset, the more I got fascinated by everything that went along with it. I sought out people that spent their lives studying and teaching these ideas and I practiced, studied, read and got to know who I was. More importantly, who it was I wanted to be.
Every story of life before marriage, life during marriage and the experience of the divorce is different. Whole life experience is what brings us all to this place at this time. A common theme that comes up over and over after midlife divorce, however, is the feeling that we are in a place that we didn’t think we would ever be. Add to that the fear that we have no idea how to positively move on to get stability and control over life as it is now. It is overwhelming when thinking about where to start and trusting that we can make the correct decisions even if we have an inkling of a goal. What brings together the women that I have spoken to and those that I have been been privileged to work with, is the decision to make a commitment to change from within. That is what ultimately led them to change and have the life that they live now and the fabulous future that they can see for themselves.
Being able to make one small step and have a commitment to changing the place that you are in is the first step. It can be terrifying, yet if you break it down like that, it is manageable.
One of the biggest game changers is learning to let go of the past and stop the blame game by learning to forgive. Not only to forgive the others in your life that you believe have wronged you, but look into where you believe you need to forgive yourself. You are not letting them off the hook, you are freeing up space in your own life to allow positive emotions in instead. Chances are that you actually haven’t done anything “wrong”, but you may be holding on to guilt about not being able to fix him, or the marriage, or even the fact that you didn’t get out sooner. If you are able to do this, life will immediately open up so much more for you. Living with anger, guilt, regret and sadness can become your uncomfortable comfort zone. It is your mind’s way of keeping you safe from venturing out past the fear barrier to what may be next. Learning to respond rather than react to what others are doing will help you feel calm and in control of the situation.
Gratitude for what you have right now can help to put everything into perspective. If you can start here, everything else will fall into place much more easily.
Once you can release the negative emotions, so that you are in control of them rather than the other way around, recognizing the way that you think about yourself and that view that you project out into the world is the next big step. How you view yourself will impact the way that others view you. The boundaries that you have and the confidence with which you approach anything, from relationships to job performance, will change everything for the better. More confidence follows. This is a never ending process because you can build on that to choose who it is you want to be going forward. There is life - a fabulous life - to be had after midlife divorce.
Fiona Eckersley is a Confidence Coach, Author and Divorce Recovery Expert who has utilized her own journey through midlife divorce to help clients in their 40’s and beyond gain confidence and blast through their own fears and challenges. Fiona is a mother of four children and two extremely spoiled dogs. Although originally from the North of England, she has lived in America for almost 30 years.