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midlife crisis | The Naked Divorce
Later life divorce…

Later life divorce…

Congratulations!

You made it all the way through to retirement together. You survived all those early fights, the nappy duties, the teenager tantrums, the little jealousies and resentments, the financial strains, the never-ending couple conflicts, and now…

Now you’ve decided enough is enough. You don’t want to grow old together, after all. You’re getting divorced.

Average age of divorce

In fact, the average age for divorce has been rising steadily since the mid-80s. Three decades ago, people tended to wed younger and hit that crisis point in their marriage by their mid to late 30s.

Traumatic as divorce is at any age, that’s well and truly young enough to bounce back. After all, you’re less than half way through your working life. You might have split everything you own straight down the middle, but you have years and years to pay off a mortgage on your own, to build a new home and a new life. To meet someone else and lay down a history with them.

After all, life begins at 40, as a million fridge magnets will attest.

But shift that divorce to your late 50s, 60s, or even later, and the situation can feel very, very different.

Big changes are coming

No matter whether you are male or female, whether you are the primary caregiver for your kids, whether you paid the bulk of the mortgage – going through a divorce means that you are highly likely to lose your home, your current standard of living, or both.

Unless one of you has the funds to buy out the other outright, it is highly likely that you will need to sell your house and split the money. Minus, of course, the formidable legal and admin costs that come with this process.

If you were lucky enough to be living in house that’s worth a fortune, or you’re willing to move away and start again somewhere a lot cheaper, you might still be able to buy a home of similar proportions by yourself. Far more likely, you’ll downsize dramatically.

After all, these days, it’s hard enough for two relatively young people working full time on a decent wage to get onto the property ladder. Trying to get a mortgage when you’re nearing retirement is seriously tough, regardless of your financial situation.

This particular sacrifice can come as an unexpected blow to many people who decide to divorce late in life.

Yes, you may have come to the painful decision that you do not want to spent your golden retirement years with the person you’ve lived with all this time. Yes, you might be terrified of loneliness after so many years of sharing your home with someone. Yes, you might have prepared yourself for the emotional punch of breaking the news to your children and/or grandchildren, who may have assumed, always, that you would be married for life.

But you might not have seriously considered the practicalities of separation. When you’ve spent years and years feathering your nest in exactly in the way you love, it’s easy to be caught out by the pain of walking away from a home that has become an expression of who you are.

Don’t forget the kids (even if they are parents too)

You may be caught out, too, by how traumatic your kids find the loss of the house. Even if they grew up and left home years ago, this house probably still represents their childhood to them. It’s an enduring thing in their lives, a trove of memories, and they may be far more sentimental about this than you could have expected.

I’m not saying this because you ought to feel guilty about your divorce. Far from it.

I’m simply saying this because many people who divorce late have become so comfortable and complacent in their lifestyles that they simply aren’t mentally prepared for how strong they need to be.

They assume, deep down, that getting divorced means continuing their lives in the same way, minus their spouse.

To put it bluntly, they often assume that the only thing that will change is that they no longer have to put up with this person.

That they will be able to do away with a relationship that they find hurtful, or a hindrance, or that no longer gives them what they need emotionally – but that all other elements of their lives will magically remain intact.

Divorce changes everything

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Divorce changes everything.

You don’t only decide to divorce your husband or wife. You decide, in the same breath, that you are willing to be financially and emotionally independent. That you will start again. That you will, in all likelihood, give up your home. That emotions will run high and you will fight with your family. That you will have to divide up your friends.

That, ultimately, you will shelve a lifetime’s worth of shared memories and plans and accept that, now, you are responsible for your own happiness – there’s no one else’s failures to pin it on.

Survive

This is scary. It’s terrifying. You can only survive it if you are willing to let go of everything you assumed would be a constant before.

Clinging to your past existence, resenting your partner for taking this away from you, turning the breakup into a bitter war over the scraps, forcing your children to take sides, chastising yourself for throwing away the “good” life you enjoyed before – these are the emotions that will drag out your suffering and make it impossible to heal.

Divorce doesn’t mean cutting a person out of your life. It means embarking on an entirely new, different life. It’s essential to go into this with your eyes open, and to focus on healing and rebuilding. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to weather the loss, and create a new home of your own.

 

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Compromising who you are?

Compromising who you are?

Midlife crisis alert!

Relationships are about compromise. Right? I mean, we hear that a hundred times a day. It’s drilled into us non-stop. If you want to make your marriage work, you have to be willing to compromise.

Compromise?

But what does “compromise” actually mean?

There’s a huge difference between accepting that you won’t always get your way and feeling you have to crush a piece of who you are to please your other half. 

world of difference between letting your partner pick tonight’s film on Netflix, or dropping a pointless argument because it’s not worth the drama, and letting your partner tell you that your feelings, interests, beliefs, passions or needs are invalid.

… Between letting go of the things that don’t matter and putting up with things that chip away slowly at your soul.

Common mistake

This is a mistake that so many couples make, and it can be fatal to a relationship in the long run. If one of you always has to be right about everything, if one of you feels like you had to settle for something that wasn’t right, if you were pressured to give up a career, a dream, a friendship group or a part of your personality (or you pressured your other half to do so) – beware.

Because that battle isn’t over. That sense of loss is still there, simmering under the surface.

You might ignore it for years. Decades.

But it hasn’t gone away.

And if “compromising” in your relationship makes you feel genuinely diminished, there is only so long you’ll be able to cope with this. Essentially, you’re a ticking time bomb.

Midlife crisis time-bomb

You’re a midlife crisis waiting to happen. When we talk about midlife crises, what we’re really talking about is this time bomb finally going off. A midlife crisis is the inevitable outcome of a lifetime of compromising on who we are – turning parts ourselves off, brushing over things that really matter to us, saying that these things are ok when really, they’re not.

Perhaps you’ve come to just accept your partner’s rudeness or bad behaviour, even though it cuts you and slowly erodes your confidence and self-respect. Perhaps you find yourself justifying a vanilla sex life that bores you to tears as an evitable part of a long-term relationship. Perhaps your parents and your other half hate each other and you’ve never managed to resolve it, even though it brings you out in hives every time there’s a family dinner. Perhaps you act as if you’re perfectly happy to sacrifice things that matter deeply, be they career opportunities or personal passions, just to keep the peace back home.

Eventually, you’re going to crack

Eventually, you’re going to crack. You’re going to make a crazy grab for your freedom or to take back control of your life or resuscitate that part of an identity you thought you’d lost forever.

Midlife crises are the butt of many a joke. Often, we see them as superficial or pathetic in some way – an unseemly grab at a youth that’s starting to fade away. But downplaying their emotional significance is a mistake; these crises are symptoms of a genuinely traumatic time in many people’s lives, a time when they are suddenly deeply aware of their own mortality and petrified that they have failed to live the life or be the person they’d hoped.

It’s an experience which is often exacerbated by years of feeling demeaned or belittled by the person you’re facing the rest of your life with – and if that person responds by dismissing your fears just as you feel most vulnerable, that reservoir of resentment can break its banks.

For many people, the fallout is enormous, leading to a reassessment of your relationship, or even divorce.

As divorce support expert Cathy Meyer explains, a midlife crisis can manifest as:

  • Unhappiness with life and the lifestyle that may have provided you with happiness for many years
  • Boredom with people and things that may have been of interest to you before.
  • Feeling a need for adventure and change
  • Questioning the choices you made in your life and the validity of decisions made years before
  • Confusion about who you are and where you are going
  • Anger at your spouse and blame for feeling tied down
  • Inability to make decisions about where you want to go with your life
  • Doubt that you ever loved your spouse and resentment over the marriage
  • A desire for a new and passionate, intimate relationship.

These are big, painful, scary emotions, for you and your spouse. It’s no wonder that so many midlife crises lead to the breakdown of a relationship.

What’s more, a lot of people whose partners are heading for a midlife crisis don’t even realise it’s happening. Later, they say that their partner seemed to change overnight, switching from a seemingly content person to a stubborn, selfish a**hole who no longer cared about anyone else, including them.

The worst thing is when everyone can see it coming – except you

What they don’t realise is that this unhappiness has been building for years. It’s just that their partner failed to assert their identity in meaningful ways sooner and/or they failed to realise that they were pushing them too hard to change.

The worst thing is when everyone can see it coming – except you.

Case study

Take my friend Harry.

He’s an awesome, outgoing guy that met and fell in love with a vivacious, larger-than-life woman who the thought was the one. She was desperate to have kids straightaway and even though he wasn’t ready, he went along with it. Then, once the baby was born, she started demanding more and more “compromises” – she became increasingly controlling, as well as cold and bitchy to his friends and family.

In little stages, Harry’s ended up agreeing to compromise so many little pieces of who he is, what he wants and the kind of relationship he was looking for that there’s hardly any of him left. These days, he looks like a shell of himself. Already he books himself on every work trip he can, as a chance to escape from a home life he feels trapped by and blow off steam. Each time, it becomes harder and harder to return. Each time, he’s more and more resentful of having to push himself back into that little box called “compromising your personality”. You can just tell that eventually, he’s going to snap like a twig, and I hate to imagine what ill-advised or self-destructive cry for help will constitute his personal mid-life crisis.

Because the trouble is, your midlife crisis isn’t genuinely tackling the problem; it’s superficial.

Buying a flashy car, pursuing an extra-marital affair or experimenting with drugs (or all three, if you’re Kevin Spacey’s character from American Beauty) might give you a temporary sense of reclaiming your youth, but it’s not going to help you feel at peace you are in any real way.

To do that, you need to actually reassess what’s been lost. What parts of you that have been compromised.

Did you use to…

Did you used to have the confidence to speak your mind? Were you once spontaneous and open to trying new things? Did you always dream of being able to travel and have an adventure but somehow ended up going on the same package holiday every year? Do you resent your other half for talking down to you, for acting as if everything you say is nonsense, for refusing to recognise your needs?

These feelings and frustrations won’t evaporate now that you’re the proud owner of a Harley Davison or tattoo.

You might have a nice shiny distraction, but it’s your relationship dynamic that you need to address. Rather than escaping into a fantasy world where your partner can’t dictate your behaviour, the important thing is to start setting boundaries in the realworld. Getting used to asserting yourself, calmly and rationally – and breaking out of the cycles of behaviour that see you ceding too much ground on the things that really matter to you.

Otherwise, what are you doing except lashing out at your other half? Having a teenage tantrum at the tender age of 50? This is not going to give you the peace and happiness you’ve missed out on all these years. It is not going to give you the tools you need to establish a healthier dynamic in your current relationship, or in your next one.

Too late?

Of course, if you’ve left it too late, it might not be possible to fix things with your partner. This feeling that “Enough is enough, I’ve lost too much of myself already” is a common enough reason to go through a divorce.

But like any midlife crisis or reassertion of independence, divorce itself is not the cure

But like any midlife crisis or reassertion of independence, divorce itself is not the cure.

Once that person is out of your life, you won’t have someone to resent or blame anymore for your failure to be yourself. Suddenly, you’re exposed and vulnerable, and it’s all down to you.

You now need to find your way back to that person you were before and re-learn how to live in their skin. You need to figure out how you hold on to your principles or the things you value the most, even when someone pushes you to drop them. Otherwise, you’ll soon find yourself making the same compromises again and again – and there are only so many times you can go through a crisis and survive.
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Know someone who you think might be heading for a midlife crisis? Or have you been through this process with your own partner? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Midlife Crisis Divorce - image

Compromising Who You Are? Look Forward to that Midlife Crisis Divorce

Relationships are about compromise. Right?

I mean, we hear that a hundred times a day. It’s drilled into us non-stop. If you want to make your marriage work (and avoid divorce), you have to be willing to compromise.

But what does “compromise” actually mean?

There’s a huge difference between accepting that you won’t always get your way and feeling you have to crush a piece of who you are to please your other half.

There’s a huge difference between accepting that you won’t always get your way and feeling you have to crush a piece of who you are to please your other half.

A world of difference between letting your partner pick tonight’s film on Netflix, or dropping a pointless argument because it’s not worth the drama, and letting your partner tell you that your feelings, interests, beliefs, passions or needs are invalid.

… Between letting go of the things that don’t matter and putting up with things that chip away slowly at your soul.

This is a mistake that so many couples make, and it can be fatal to a relationship in the long run. If one of you always has to be right about everything, if one of you feels like you had to settle for something that wasn’t right, if you were pressured to give up a career, a dream, a friendship group or a part of your personality (or you pressured your other half to do so) – beware.

Because that battle isn’t over. That sense of loss is still there, simmering under the surface.

You might ignore it for years. Decades.

But it hasn’t gone away.

And if “compromising” in your relationship makes you feel genuinely diminished, there is only so long you’ll be able to cope with this. Essentially, you’re a ticking time bomb. And your midlife crisis might be heading your way.

You’re a midlife crisis divorce waiting to happen.

When we talk about midlife crises divorce, what we’re really talking about is this time bomb finally going off. A midlife crisis divorce is the inevitable outcome of a lifetime of compromising on who we are – turning parts ourselves off, brushing over things that really matter to us, saying that these things are ok when really, they’re not.

Perhaps you’ve come to just accept your partner’s rudeness or bad behaviour, even though it cuts you and slowly erodes your confidence and self-respect. Perhaps you find yourself justifying a vanilla sex life that bores you to tears as an evitable part of a long-term relationship. Perhaps your parents and your other half hate each other and you’ve never managed to resolve it, even though it brings you out in hives every time there’s a family dinner. Perhaps you act as if you’re perfectly happy to sacrifice things that matter deeply, be they career opportunities or personal passions, just to keep the peace back home.

Eventually, you’re going to crack. You’re going to make a crazy grab for your freedom or to take back control of your life or resuscitate that part of an identity you thought you’d lost forever.

Midlife crises divorce’s are the butt of many a joke. Often, we see them as superficial or pathetic in some way – an unseemly grab at a youth that’s starting to fade away. But downplaying their emotional significance is a mistake; these midlife crises are symptoms of a genuinely traumatic time in many people’s lives, a time when they are suddenly deeply aware of their own mortality and petrified that they have failed to live the life or be the person they’d hoped.

It’s an experience which is often exacerbated by years of feeling demeaned or belittled by the person you’re facing the rest of your life with – and if that person responds by dismissing your fears just as you feel most vulnerable, that reservoir of resentment can break its banks.

For many people, the fallout is enormous, leading to a reassessment of your relationship, or the dreaded midlife crisis divorce.

As divorce support expert Cathy Meyer explains, a midlife crisis divorce can manifest as:

  • Unhappiness with life and the lifestyle that may have provided you with happiness for many years
  • Boredom with people and things that may have been of interest to you before.
  • Feeling a need for adventure and change
  • Questioning the choices you made in your life and the validity of decisions made years before
  • Confusion about who you are and where you are going
  • Anger at your spouse and blame for feeling tied down
  • Inability to make decisions about where you want to go with your life
  • Doubt that you ever loved your spouse and resentment over the marriage
  • A desire for a new and passionate, intimate relationship.

These are big, painful, scary emotions, for you and your spouse. It’s no wonder that so many midlife crises lead to the breakdown of a relationship and divorce.

What’s more, a lot of people whose partners are heading for a midlife crisis don’t even realise it’s happening. Later, they say that their partner seemed to change overnight, switching from a seemingly content person to a stubborn, selfish a**hole who no longer cared about anyone else, including them.

What they don’t realise is that this unhappiness has been building for years. It’s just that their partner failed to assert their identity in meaningful ways sooner and/or they failed to realise that they were pushing them too hard to change.

The worst thing is when everyone can see divorce coming – except you.

Take my friend Harry…

He’s an awesome, outgoing guy that met and fell in love with a vivacious, larger-than-life woman who the thought was the one. She was desperate to have kids straightaway and even though he wasn’t ready, he went along with it. Then, once the baby was born, she started demanding more and more “compromises” – she became increasingly controlling, as well as cold and bitchy to his friends and family.

In little stages, Harry’s ended up agreeing to compromise so many little pieces of who he is, what he wants and the kind of relationship he was looking for that there’s hardly any of him left. These days, he looks like a shell of himself. Already he books himself on every work trip he can, as a chance to escape from a home life he feels trapped by and blow off steam. Each time, it becomes harder and harder to return. Each time, he’s more and more resentful of having to push himself back into that little box called “compromising your personality”. You can just tell that eventually, he’s going to snap like a twig, and I hate to imagine what ill-advised or self-destructive cry for help will constitute his personal mid-life crisis.

Because the trouble is, your midlife crisis isn’t genuinely tackling the problem; it’s superficial.

Buying a flashy car, pursuing an extra-marital affair or experimenting with drugs (or all three, if you’re Kevin Spacey’s character from American Beauty) might give you a temporary sense of reclaiming your youth, but it’s not going to help you feel at peace you are in any real way.

To do that, you need to actually reassess what’s been lost. What parts of you that have been compromised.

Did you used to have the confidence to speak your mind? Were you once spontaneous and open to trying new things? Did you always dream of being able to travel and have an adventure but somehow ended up going on the same package holiday every year? Do you resent your other half for talking down to you, for acting as if everything you say is nonsense, for refusing to recognise your needs?

These feelings and frustrations won’t evaporate now that you’re the proud owner of a Harley Davison or tattoo.

You might have a nice shiny distraction, but it’s your relationship dynamic that you need to address. Rather than escaping into a fantasy world where your partner can’t dictate your behaviour, the important thing is to start setting boundaries in the real world. Getting used to asserting yourself, calmly and rationally – and breaking out of the cycles of behaviour that see you ceding too much ground on the things that really matter to you.

Otherwise, what are you doing except lashing out at your other half? Having a teenage tantrum at the tender age of 50? This is not going to give you the peace and happiness you’ve missed out on all these years. It is not going to give you the tools you need to establish a healthier dynamic in your current relationship, or in your next one.

Of course, if you’ve left it too late, it might not be possible to fix things with your partner. This feeling that “Enough is enough, I’ve lost too much of myself already” is a common enough reason to go through a midlife crisis divorce.

But like any midlife crisis or reassertion of independence, divorce itself is not the cure.

Once that person is out of your life, you won’t have someone to resent or blame anymore for your failure to be yourself. Suddenly, you’re exposed and vulnerable, and it’s all down to you.

You now need to find your way back to that person you were before and re-learn how to live in their skin. You need to figure out how you hold on to your principles or the things you value the most, even when someone pushes you to drop them. Otherwise, you’ll soon find yourself making the same compromises again and again – and there are only so many times you can go through a crisis and survive.

Know someone who you think might be heading for a midlife crisis divorce? Or have you been through this process with your own partner? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Why people drift apart when married…

Far from running from the idea of relationships during my divorce, I found myself fascinated by the dynamics of successful relationships. I wanted to learn everything I could about relationships and what makes them successful. This model from world-renowned life coach and self-help author Antony Robbins made an enormous difference to my life. Essentially, he moves through the cycles of how we communicate with each other in a romantic relationship and how, if we’re not vigilant, intimacy and love can break down. The 5 R’s are:
 Resistance
 Resentment
 Rejection
 Resignation
 Repression

Initially, you start out your married life with some kind of hope for a prosperous relationship. You’re in love, your partner is amazing and everything is perfect. One day, something happens. He says something unkind or does something that elicits resistance in you. You get that “Whoa! Hold on, that was not OK!” feeling. This initial resistance is a completely normal reaction to learning new things about your partner and also normal for any behavior he displays that is not OK with you. As women, we often assume that men will know when they’ve done or said something wrong. So we wait for them to acknowledge this by sulking or withdrawing into silence.

Some men are very perceptive and will know something’s up, others won’t have a clue that their behavior has made their partner unhappy. When we keep quiet about our resistance, the feeling can shift into resentment. Many people in unhealthy relationships simply avoid facing reality. Sometimes this can be because the people involved may be trying to make themselves appear superior. Or perhaps they don’t want to face the fact that their mates really aren’t who they say they are, or that they’ve fallen from the ‘perfect mate’ perch.

For example, Anne B covers up and makes excuses for her mate, Ben B, who is always late from work and almost always misses family functions. She might be trying to avoid the truth: that he’s a workaholic, or having an affair. She does so because she doesn’t want to destroy their ‘perfect couple’ image in everyone’s eyes – and perhaps even in her own eyes.

It’s like ignoring that broken handle on a door in your home or not replacing that light bulb. If you don’t address the resentment, other resistances and other resentments will begin to build up. Once there is some momentum with your resentment, then you or your partner may begin to experience rejection within the relationship.

Once rejection creeps into a relationship, it becomes overwhelming and makes it difficult to create or sustain an intimate sexual relationship. Those of us who have been married a long time know that once the relationship feels strained, the regularity of sex is affected, and things can spiral downhill very quickly. The bed becomes divided into ‘his’ and ‘hers’ zones and intimacy suffers. Even the smallest things he says or does are irritating and more resistance, resentment and rejection builds up. If you don’t discuss your feelings of rejection, then your relationship can shift into the place of resignation.

This is when you can so easily slip into co-habitation; operating as housemates or mere friends. Passion, love and chemistry, and all the elements needed to maintain the spark and fire within the relationship, exit through the window. You can end up with an amicable friendship.

This is dangerous! Contentment and harmony are wonderful hallmarks of a marriage, but be sure they’re not camouflaging deep resignation in a relationship. When left too long, resignation can lead to repression. We’ve all been out to dinner and watched the married couple opposite sitting in complete silence. They’re courteous to one another and exchange pleasantries, but perhaps they have succumbed to resignation or repression and no longer actively discuss their relationship.

Repression completely kills the passion and chemistry in a relationship. At this point you may begin to question your commitment to the relationship. You may wonder if your partner was ever right for you. You may begin to spend hours day-dreaming about escaping from the relationship. When we’re not claimed as women by our men in a relationship, we can become obsessed with romance and escapism, daydreaming about being rescued from the disappointing reality of life and marriage.

When you’re removed from the reality of your relationship and your life and escape into a fantasy world, then you’re in real danger of seeking fulfillment outside your relationship and marriage. This is fertile ground for cheating. This is when the ‘midlife crisis’ happens. This is when we start eating for comfort.

Because we didn’t communicate openly, vulnerably and humanly about all the little resentments, in the moment, they built up and killed the relationship.

So I here is an exercise which I want you to do together with your partner every day to defuse some of the stress you both have. Once you have de-stressed then start focusing on managing the 5 R’s in your relationship.

Every evening when you have put the kids to bed, I want you to do the following:

BUCKET YOUR FRUSTRATIONS

  • Go fetch a bucket (a real one) and sit together with no TV or chaos in the background with the bucket between you both
  • You start by vomitting your frustrations into the bucket – it’s not allowed to be aimed at him or aimed at fighting with him – he is not allowed to respond except to acknowledge that he hears what you are saying – aim it into the bucket and vent everything that is pissing you off about life, how life should be, what your finances should be like not like etc.
  • The job is – JUST LISTEN
  • He will ask if you are done – if not, keep going until the bucket is full and you can think of nothing else annoying you
  • THEN he will ask again if you are done, if you are – you both pick up the bucket and throw out these frustrations out of the window or door
  • Now it’s his turn
  • You also are not allowed to engage in conversation – he simply will vent his frustrations into this bucket – everything will go into it
  • You need to listen only and not argue or speak – just allow him to vent and encourage him to vent so he learns to speak more about how he feels about life
  • You will ask if he is done – if not, encourage him to keep going until the bucket is full and he can think of nothing else annoying him
  • THEN you will ask again if he is done, if he is – you both pick up the bucket and throw out these frustrations out of the window or door

GRATITUDE

Now you both take turns to say what you are grateful for about your life. Your lives are actually very rich and amazing BUT because you dont focus on that, you dont see this. I want you both to come up with at least 5 things you are grateful for

CREATE TOMORROW

Now you both take turns to say what you will accomplish tomorrow. This is important because at the moment, life is happening to both of you – neither of you say how you want your life to go or feel like you have any control over your lives. Examples include: I will finish the filing tomorrow, I will take a nap in the afternoon and find someone to take care of the kids etc. It will also be good for your husband to share with you more about his job.

The goal for the next week is to do this exercise daily. Once we have you both calmer and in a place where you can defuse the stress, we will move onto next steps!

Till next time!

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