Coping with divorce after having been married or together for more (or less) than 25 years
Since you’ve landed here – you probably didn’t see the: “I’m divorcing you.” coming!
The two of you have been married for long enough to have waved off your adult children to lives of their own. Left with an empty nest, you’d started considering the rest of your lives together. You may have relinquished many of your own needs and wants over the last couple of decades for the sake of your family, particularly if you’re a woman.
This was meant to be the time that you and your spouse were free to finally bring some of your own dreams to life. Perhaps you anticipated finally being able to spend more quality time together. Maybe you were even hoping that that would help you rekindle some of the love you used to feel for each other.
Then – BOOM!
Out of the blue, your spouse told you that they want a divorce. Talk about a shock!
Turns out your spouse has clearly been planning their departure for some time. Probably while you were busy thinking about plans for your future together.
And now you’re left floundering. I soooo understand how you’re feeling, and I’ve got your back with this article right here.
How to survive divorce when you’ve been together for more than 25 years
Had the children still been dependent on you, you would at least have had to drag yourself out of bed in time to tend to their needs. But now that they’re adults, they don’t need you as much as you may feel you need them right now.
They probably have a thing or two to say about the divorce too, which might just add to your distress.
Doubtless you’re mourning the fact that your family will never be complete again. You’ve worked hard to hold it all together, but it seems to no avail. You’d never have wanted this – not for you and not for your children (or grandchildren).
Stick with me, here. I’m going to give you some purposeful direction in the midst of all this chaos.
We’ll start by talking about what to do and say when you open your front door, get questions at work or answer that call…
Coping with divorce: how to steel yourself against other people’s reactions
Let me help you prepare for some of the unhelpful reactions you may be exposed to, particularly as you’ve been together so long, e.g:
“Well, it did seem a bit like you weren’t ínto each other anymore.”
“Oh, I didn’t think that would ever happen to you.”
“Perhaps you should have….”
“If only you had…”
“Have you been to couples counselling?”
“I’ve always wondered what you saw in him/her.”
“I heard (s)he was being unfaithful.”
“You’re better off without him/her.”
And we haven’t even touched on the lengthy comparisons they’ll probably offer you about what happened to them, their auntie, their children or their neighbour!
There also tends to be a fear that divorce is somehow contagious. So it’s wise to prepare yourself for the platitudes when people don’t really know what to say…
“You’ll just have to let it go now.”
Great, but you’re nowhere near ready yet, and nor should you be.
“He or she’s an idiot.”
Well, maybe so, but you haven’t stopped loving them and this just isn’t helpful in any way.
“You’re such a lovely person, there’s bound to be someone waiting for you.”
As if that’s what you’re waiting for.
How are you trying to cope with the ending of your marriage?
How do you fend off that sense of having failed? That blow to your self-esteem and those depressive feeling lurking around the corner?
Let me reassure you straight away: all of the following are normal feelings and behaviours.
Trying hard but feeling like you’re failing to cope
If you’ve been together for much of your adult life, you may not be able to even begin to imagine what life might look like without your ‘other half’. That can be true whether or not you were fairly independent and separate as people throughout your marriage.
And even if you perhaps weren’t all that happy, that might feel irrelevant to you now.
It just might not have occurred to you that you’d ever separate and certainly not after 25 years of having seen it through! You were a couple and as far as you were concerned, that was meant to be for life. And now you’re on your own. You’re likely to be feeling rejected, humiliated, angry, hurt, betrayed and a multitude of other emotions and feelings.
Pretending all is well
“I’ve got this, I’m moving on with my life – it is what it is,” you might say.
But on the inside, you’re nursing a broken heart.
Searching for clues
“How could this have happened?” “What have I missed?” These kinds of questions are common.
You may feel crushed beyond belief, desperately trying to make sense of it all. Your soon-to-be ex is unlikely to be any help, and will probably be reluctant to hang on to the past (as they may see it). That rejection no doubt feels like a physical pain.
Dealing with friends and family
You’ll find that some friends just disappear altogether. After all, you were a couple and part of their circle as such. But they may not have the wish, capacity, patience or know-how to support and reintegrate a singleton, not least one who appears to have fallen apart.
You do need the support of friends, though, who’ll love you regardless of how and when you show up.
Factors that’ll affect how you survive a divorce
There’ll be much you have absolutely no control over. So to speed up your recovery, focus instead on this things that you do have control over.
Concentrate on the aspects where your input and the way in which you raise a subject or your concerns can potentially affect the outcome.
Go through this list slowly and think about how you can react and/or behave to pave the way for the best possible route forward. Realise and accept, though, that there are losses lurking around almost every corner. Be prepared for it, but also fight fairly to rescue what you can.
You can perhaps see that you can influence some of these points, but there’s much that you have very little choice about. So…
Moving on when you’re ready
There is no right time to do this, that or the other. You’re as unique as any star in the night-sky. You come with your own history, your own way of getting through tough times, and your own thoughts and feelings. Your spouse may have helped you through tough times in the past. But, regardless of the level of their support, advice and help, it’s understandable if you’re now feeling totally alone with it all.
The latter box is for when you’re a little way on the road to recovery. In the meantime, I’d like you to make sure you’re really looking after yourself.
Here’s a free worksheet to help you do just that…
Divorce is always heart-wrenching, difficult and often traumatic, but divorce after 25 years or more can make you feel as though the sky is falling down.
Remember, 25 years is a quarter of a century, so if you do only one thing today let it be this: go easy on yourself. Recovery will take plenty of time and involve plenty of tears, plenty of questions and a fair share of setbacks too.
But there’s no rush, and I promise you this: the sky is still where it should be. So take your time, lean on those that love you, be kind to yourself, and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You didn’t see this coming, but that doesn’t mean it won’t lead to something beautiful in the long run, whatever that might look like for you.