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.
The key to handling it well is, like so many things in life, preparation. Paris suggests developing an “elevator speech,” a term from the business/networking world, which means a quick, organized, presentation — but instead of pitching yourself or your product, you’re describing your Divorce. And she offers some steps to creating a good one, among them:
Define the Divorce. Position your splitin a way that gives you more strength, not less. If it’s amicable, say so. If it’s not, say you’re working toward amicability. Avoid, or at least limit, criticisms of your ex. This is about you. Accentuate the positive.
Issue a call to action. Keep in mind that most people will be thinking “How does this affect me?” So, depending on who they are, give them a task. From a good friend, you may ask for support. From an acquaintance, perhaps a set-up when you’re ready to date again. This call to action turns the conversation from “why” to “what’s next.”
Always be closing. Be ready to shift topics once you’ve finished saying what you want.
If you’re Di-Curious, have you thought about how you’ll tell your husband or wife you want out, if in fact you decide to Divorce?
And for those who’ve already been through it, how’d you handle the situation, whether you were the giver or receiver of the news? Did that initial statement/conversation get your process off to a reasonable start, or did it dial up the anger and set a negative tone that lasted the entire process?
People going through a Divorce Over 50 have a wide variety of issues to deal with, but among the most important, and trickiest, is their finances.
To get some help on that subject, I sat down with Steven Pompan, a Senior Vice President and Financial Advisor with Morgan Stanley. Full disclosure, Steve’s a long-time friend, and handles my investments. He’s also been Divorced Over 50, and has made tremendous progress in finding his brighter future. Steve specializes in working with people in our demographic, and I’m confident you’ll find value in the interview that follows:
Divorced Over 50: First off, your philosophy regarding relationships sounds very similar to what we say here at Divorced Over 50.
Steve Pompan: Yes. Ideally, everybody should have a happy marriage. We all went into our marriages thinking they would be successful. However, things happen in life and directions change. Everyone deserves happiness. The Divorced Over 50 (DO50) network for both personal and business has helped my progress in adjusting to a new life.
Susan Brown co-wrote a very influential academic paper about Divorce Over 50 entitled “The Gray Divorce Revolution: Rising Divorce among Middle-Aged and Older Adults, 1990-2-10.” You can read it here.
If you’re not into dry, dense documents that include phrases like “The present study also attends to heterogeneity in the divorce experience of today’s middle- aged and older adults by estimating divorce rates across sociodemographic subgroups and examining key correlates of divorce,” maybe you’d like to listen to Dr. Brown in this interview with NPR. (There’s also a transcript of the interview if you’d prefer to read it).
And it does contain lots of great advice for surviving and recovering from your Divorce. But my problem is, I don’t believe anyone would believe all 24 of the “Ridiculous Divorce Lies” that form the premise of her piece. In fact, I don’t believe that most people — no matter their marital status — would believe even half of them. And we Over 50’s, with our life experience and worldliness, would likely believe way fewer.
Seriously, at any point in your life would you have believed “All divorces are basically the same”? Or “Everyone going through a divorce goes through the same emotions in the same order”? Or how about “You should start dating right away”?
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?
Remember that book from back when we were so much younger, The Joy of Sex? Published in 1972, it seemed incredibly explicit for a mainstream book, which is probably why it spent 70 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List and has sold over 12 million copies. I’ll admit to looking through my parents’ copy, and I’m confident a whole bunch of you did the same.
A lot’s changed since those days, as significantly more explicit material (remember the book’s simple sketches of that very normal looking couple?) is just a click or two away. Much of the current stuff, however, is more about titillation (and another four-syllable word that ends with “…tion”) than instruction.
Back at the end of April, I offered Divorced Over 50 users a quick survey. It asked respondents their gender and how long they’ve been divorced, and then presented two open ended questions: “What are the BEST things about being a divorced person over 50,” and “What are the WORST things about being a divorced person over 50.”
I summarized the responses into an article which started running at Huffington Post on May 4th. The article was aimed at those who are Divorce Curious, or Di-Curious as we call them around here. And its point was to offer additional information to that Di-Curious man or woman, hopefully helping him or her better understand how life may go if they choose divorce, or one is forced on them.
For the users of this site who are already divorced, I thought you might be interested to compare your experiences to the survey results. And for you Di-Curious who missed the article on Huffington, here’s a look at what you may experience if it comes to a Divorce Over 50. (A quick note — the HP article offered readers a chance to take the survey, too, so many additional responses have come in and are reflected in what follows…)