If this is your first one since your Divorce Over 50, chances are good you’re at least somewhat anxious about it. Your world has changed — what used to be the most wonderful time of the year could be anything but. There may be Holiday traditions you’ve practiced for three decades… but won’t be doing this year. It’s easy, as a newly Divorced person, to dread the upcoming Holiday Season.
But, with a little preparation, and by getting ahead of the situation, you should be able to not only survive the Holidays, but also find plenty of joy during them.
A Divorce Over 50 not only impacts the couple, it also affects their adult children. We’ve addressed the Adult Children of Divorce (ACOD) a few times before (for example, here and here), always from the point of the view of the parent. Those takeaways include:
Never assume it’s easy on adult children because they’re older — they may not have “little kid” issues with your Divorce, but it can still cause tremendous disruption for them.
You can set an important example for your children by moving through your DO50 and finding a brighter future. They’ll see that unwanted, unexpected things can happen in life, but it’s possible to overcome them and get to a better place.
Writing for Divorce Magazine, therapist Terry Gaspard offers a piece aimed at those adult children, “8 Ways to Move on From Your Parents’ Grey Divorce.” Though tailored for your kids, it’s well worth reading to better understand what may be going on with them, and to help avoid potential problems. Moreover, I’d encourage you to forward them either this post, or the article itself.
Here’s a summary of the eight points Gaspard makes to the ACOD’s:
Set and maintain healthy boundaries.
Resist playing mediator, parent, or friend.
Express your feelings honestly and calmly.
Share enjoyable experiences with your parents.
Maintain bonds with both extended families.
Face your fear of intimacy and commitment if it exists.
Take your time dating someone.
Respect your grief.
Gaspard does point out a silver lining: ACOD’s may be more careful about their own choice of a spouse, as they understand the fragility of love. Along those same lines, please check our post from August of 2016, “5 Pre-Marital Tips From a Divorced Parent.” If you find it worthy, perhaps you’ll forward it to your kids, as well.
Having to tell your family and friends you’re getting Divorced can be a surprisingly difficult part of the process. At a really awful time in your life, when you’re already dealing with all the turmoil and fear and uncertainty, one of the last things you may want is to run into a friend at Starbucks who asks, “So what’s new?”
Author Wendy Paris, writing for Psychology Today’s website, believes that the act of telling others about your split is actually a great opportunity. She explains that marriages exist within communities, and members of those communities can be confused by a Divorce. So the way you break the news helps the community see how you’re viewing it, and lets them know what to expect.
As parents, we all want to set good examples for our children. If, for instance, they see us treating everyone we encounter with respect, chances are good they’ll do the same. Personally, I’m always gratified when one of my sons orders by asking the waiter if he can “please have the filet mignon,” and then thanks him when it arrives (perhaps not as happy when the bill comes, but whatever…).
I’m sure all of us had hoped to model marriage-lasts-a-lifetime-behavior for our kids, too, but as we know, life doesn’t always work out as we expected. In my case, their mom and I went through a basically mutual, fairly amicable split after 27 years; though it was nice to show them how to have a civilized divorce, that still wasn’t the ideal.
There was, however, a positive to be gained from the negative. I believe going through my divorce gave me insight into why the marriage was what it was, and went where it went. I’ve come to more clearly comprehend the thoughts and choices I made, and the assumptions I held, concerning getting married. And I discovered that some of them were, shall we say, less than correct.
Some couples go through a Divorce Over 50 and are able to stay quite amicable. Occasionally you even hear about a couple that gets along beautifully after their Divorce, functioning better as friends than they did as spouses.
Others, however, want nothing to do with their ex once the Divorce is final, preferring to never set eyes upon him or her again. That might be possible if the couple never had children, but once kids are involved, the see-no-ex approach becomes almost impossible. Events such as a graduation, wedding, or the birth of a grandchild mean the formerly married partners will be thrown together, no matter how much one or both don’t want it.
And if one or both spouses still have anger, bitterness, or other negative feelings toward the other, it’s going to be an uncomfortable situation. The question becomes, will it be uncomfortable for just the parents, or will it affect the child as well?
It hurts to realize your plan for the future won’t come true. It hurts to realize your spouse is not who you thought he or she was (and maybe you aren’t, either). It hurts to leave your family home, and to divide the possessions you shared there.
Much of the pain tends to hit both men and women equally.
There is, however, a divorce aspect that’s unequal: In a gray divorce, with a marriage that lasted two decades or more, when it comes to the friends you shared as a couple, the man is going to get hurt.
Did you stay in your marriage longer than you wanted to “because of the children”? Did you just grit your teeth and stick it out until reaching some milestone, like your youngest leaving for college?
Lots of Divorced Over 50’s did. Whether it was the right thing or not, it’s done. You’re Divorced.
But your concern for your children is as strong as ever. And one of your top priorities for them is, very likely, that they make good relationship choices. After all, they saw your relationship end — you want them to do better.
If you’re making progress in a new relationship, at some point you’re likely to meet his or her children. But just because they may be adults, don’t assume that dealing with them will be easier than if they were younger.