You did what you believed you were supposed to do. Maybe you even followed your heart, just like the Disney movies told you to. You got married and you tried to be an upstanding married person according to rules which were written by….someone. You worked hard — multidimensionally hard, if you had kids (I had 4) and you came back for more every Monday morning. You honestly tried.
I know I did.
Then came the divorce.
It failed. You can spin it as you like, but…I prefer using the “F” word: Failure.
Nationally, amongst those over age 50, the divorce rate has doubled since the 1990’s.
My world exploded in minutes — even though it took decades for the fuse to fully ignite. Divorcing after age 50 lands you in a surreal set of social and emotional adjustments. Everything from “dealing with the children” (who are now often young adults) to returning to square one with retirement planning, sharing access to members of a newly-fractured family at holiday time, to housing changes, lingering upsets and resentments, the prospect of dating again (decades after you last did)….it all comes at you like a 105 mile per hour fastball.
It only takes one person to declare a marriage over and done with. The era of having some sort of romantic, shared, narrative is replaced by phrases like “conscious uncoupling, and “effective co-parenting” as envelopes with lawyers’ return addresses accumulate on the furniture.
We expect far different things from marriage than our parents and grandparents did. We long for more than financial security; we want emotionally expressive, fully intimate partners, adventures, not just socially-convenient economic place-holders, But we haven’t been taught any of the relational skills we’d need to make that happen. (See our RLT Relationship Boot Camp weekends for more!)
I chose to tough my divorce out alone. (I don’t recommend it.) Hardly anyone who saw my ex and I sitting there at the kids’ band concerts or dance recitals could tell we were divorced. We were still sitting near each other looking neutral, just like before. At the time I remember wishing there was something I could connect with, some group of people that would understand. And would offer some hope. Because I had very, very little. After 28 years together and 21 years married, and four children, starting over didn’t sound the slightest bit appealing (or even possible).
I decided years later, to create (along with my co-presenter, Kristy Gaisford — who has also been through divorce) a weekend gathering for those going through it. Both Kristy and I are happily remarried now (to others) and this is an offering from the heart: of perspective, grounding, support, educational insight and sheer hope.
We’ll be gathering Saturday and Sunday, August 21 and 22, online.
Come join us, if this applies to you. Or pass it along to someone who could truly use it.
by Jerry Sander, LCSW
Jerry Sander, LCSW, is a graduate of New York University’s School of Social Work. He is a father of four and has been in private practice for 35 years. He has trained extensively in couples therapy through the Relational Life Institute with Terry Real, is a certified RLT therapist, and is an adjunct instructor for NYU in their MSW program in Westchester. Read more, click here.