Happily Ever After The Divorce?

 By: Anne Uemura, Ph.D.
We have all grown up with dreams of the princess bride fairy tale. Every woman, no matter how sensible, has been indoctrinated since birth with Disney-esq. romantic notions about marrying Prince Charming and living happily ever after.

Many women who find themselves in the already turbulent and transition filled midlife years have to face another reality: the gradual decay of the marriage myth which seems to come to a head somewhere right around 50 years old. It seems that when midlife women begin to seek their power and independence, marriage becomes... optional.

Setting Them Up for Failure

There are two large factors that contribute to the steady rise of divorce rates among the long term marriages of people in their 50s. First of all, many when young succumbed to the popular myths about marriage such as:

- We expect the same things from a marriage. Instead there is often a huge clash when family cultures and expectations collide.

- The good will get better and the bad will disappear. Rather, one learns that you can't change him/her.

- He will complete me. Instead, what seemed like a complementary fit becomes annoying.

Unrealistic expectations and misguided beliefs about marriage constitute a recipe for dissatisfaction and frustration. The problem that really kicks this issue into high gear is that many women were raised to avoid conflict rather than to speak up when there is a problem. By midlife this has resulted in a mountain of resentments that have been harbored and nursed for years.

Why Women Leave

Midlife can be a time for serious re-evaluation and assessment of a woman's life. And it seems that many women in this age group find their marriages to be seriously lacking. According to a study commissioned by the AARP of people divorced in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, 66% of the divorces were initiated by women.

Fully a third of these women considered divorce for 2 years before mentioning it, and 10% gave it at least 10 years worth of thought. While you might think their husbands would be aware, 26% of these men claim they were completely blindsided by their wife's divorce request.

So why are these women leaving in such numbers? The top reason they give is the need for self-identity.

What Does This Mean for Women in Midlife?

Clearly there are huge gaps between our expectations of marriage and the realities. There is also a huge communication gap between women asking for what they want and men hearing them. Finally, there is the ever-present problem of women who give their heart and soul to the nurturing of everyone around them and have nothing left for themselves.

If you are women in midlife, you must learn what it means to take care of yourself. However, reversing a lifelong pattern is a huge challenge. Do you even know what you want? Can you clearly visualize the future you are trying to create?

Coaches for midlife women are very popular right now because there are thousands of women trying to figure out what they want and how to get it.

What Does This Mean for the Midlife Marriage?

Successful marriages involve partners who support each other in their growth and development. Your part in this equation is to make sure that you have realistic expectations, listen to your own needs and wants, speak your truth and treat yourself as kindly as those around you. Marriages that thrive usually have two partners who don't try to complete each other; rather they respect each other and their differences.

What Does it Mean if I'm Divorced?

First of all, studies show that divorced people go on to live as happy and fulfilling lives as those who have never experienced a divorce. Whether you are divorced or married, midlife can be a pivotal time for a woman to reinvent herself and create the life she really wants. And it's time to pay attention to the needs of her soul.

If you find yourself in these circumstances, surround yourself with supportive women friends. Stop looking and wishing for rescue. Rather find your own solutions. Create a life that is based on your authentic power rather than the myths of childhood.

75% of women who divorce in their 50s will find themselves in an exclusive relationship within two years. But many of these women will not choose to remarry. Neither marriage nor divorce is set up as happily-ever-after scenarios. However, whether it is marriage or divorce midlife presents an opportunity to learn, grow, and take steps to creating the life you really want. That part is no fairy tale and it is about creating your dreams.
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