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What If I End Up Alone After My Divorce?


Studies show that there’s a noteworthy trend when it comes to mid-life and divorce. Since 1990, the rate of divorce for those over 50 years old has increased from 1 in 10 to 1 in every 4 people. It’s become so common that it has its own term called “gray divorce.” According to a study done by Bowling Green University in 2019, ten years after divorcing, 69% of mid-life divorcees were not cohabitating or remarried.(1) So what does this mean for you? Well, if you are alone, then you’re in good company, and maybe there’s an opportunity for you to reconsider what being alone means to you, and what you really want to do about it.

 

I see many clients that feel an overwhelming sense of shame and failure that they either never married or haven’t been able to find love again, after their marriage ended. They spend a lot of time and energy focused on trying to figure out what’s “wrong” with them, and they have a hard time talking about what’s “right” with them. I like to help these clients to remove their blinders and to become open to new possibilities for connection – beyond traditional romantic partnerships. It’s difficult, especially at middle age and beyond, to make new friends and to expand our idea of community, but if you’re alone, and you’re unhappy about this, then making new connections is necessary. When I broach the idea of this with clients that are struggling with aloneness, I often get a blank stare, or a comment like “I wouldn’t even know where to start.” So, let’s consider where to begin making new connections.

 

Any good journey begins with a plan of some sort, and this one starts by looking within. It’s helpful to become an observer of your life. What do you do each day? Think about your routine. Get granular about this. Do you set yourself up for success in meeting new people, or do you tend to minimize your interactions with others? If your answer is to minimize interactions, then you’ll need to step into your discomfort zone, and make some serious effort to do something different. Creating a new routine might look like getting up earlier, being more thoughtful about the “you” you’re presenting when you leave your home, and about how you relate to the world when you’re out and about. It’s a great start to go out for your morning coffee instead of making that at home – but if you spend your time at the coffee shop scrolling your phone, then you’re not likely to make eye contact and conversation with anyone. Challenge yourself to put your phone away and take notice of your surroundings. Initiate dialogue with at least one person, beyond the barista! Another great way to start your day is to hit the gym – but if you’re doing your own solitary workout, maybe it’s time to mix it up by adding a class and challenging yourself to get there a little early so you can talk to the person next to you. Where do you go after the gym? If it’s back home to work remotely, then you’ll need to figure out how to integrate other outings in your day. Go to the library instead of ordering a book online. Skip the grocery delivery this week and spend an hour at the farmer’s market. Take your dog to the dog park instead of letting your fury friend out into the backyard. Challenge yourself to make conversation wherever you go. Get into the habit of just talking to people.     

 

As we age, we sometimes let go of the hobbies and interests that we had when we were younger. Take a self-inventory of how you have fun these days. Is there room in your weekly calendar to add an activity that used to bring you joy along with interactions? Are most of your nights and weekends spent streaming shows and movies alone? Given the data, there’s a real possibility that you won’t end up in a committed relationship – but you certainly won’t, if you choose to spend all of your free time byyourself. Get off the couch and get involved! Find a meet-up or a class or a community service project that you can relate to. Volunteering is a great way to spend a few hours – and to meet like-minded people, with values that might mirror your own. For those of you who have tried some of this, don’t give up. It’s hard not to become discouraged when you’re making efforts to be more outgoing, but change is possible, and connection is vital to warding off depression. Life is better with a friend, and you never know where a new friendship might lead.      

        

Source

1.     Psychology Today

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