Divorced After 44 Years

I talked with my mother this morning. (I am so blessed to still have her and treasure each of our conversations.) She told me about a couple from high school. “Did I remember them?” she asked.

“Yes, but not clearly,” I said.

“He’s left her for a 57-year-old woman he met during scuba diving lessons. They were both taking the same class.”

“How long were they married?”

“Forty-four years.”

That’s all I needed to know. My heart goes out to this woman who married her high school sweetheart, raised children with him, and saw his business grow to the point where they owned four houses–their main residence and three vacation homes.

I met them once shortly after my own divorce. They were a good-looking couple who lived the American Dream and were enjoying all the good things they had worked so hard to acquire. When he decided to take scuba diving lessons I doubt that she had reason to worry. She wasn’t into it (neither am I–even snorkeling gives me an awful sense of the ocean closing in on me). She had always encouraged her husband’s need for adventure, and the scuba lessons were just another phase. When you love your spouse, you encourage them to pursue their interests. I believe this wholeheartedly. (Interestingly, my brother’s reaction was that if the wife had taken those lessons with her husband, then this bad thing wouldn’t have happened to her.)

The cheating husband fell in love with his paramour, liking her sense of adventure, and left his wife and grown children in favor of a new life and woman. He left despite knowing that his children loathed him for leaving their mother and won’t have anything to do with him as long as he is with HER.

My mom didn’t have to tell me anything about the abandoned wife’s emotional state. I know. We all know, don’t we? She’s experiencing horrific emotional pain. She’s in the depths of despair and mourning. Almost everything in her life has changed. She’s feeling betrayed and as if she’s walking on quicksand. Nothing feels solid. Her self-confidence is gone, she’s probably depressed, and all the joy has been sucked out of her.

Mom told me she was an old-fashioned woman, meaning that she has never had to work. Mom’s first worry was: “How will she find a job?”

I reminded her that with four houses on the market she would probably be financially well off (better off than most of us). I am sure her grown children are there to support her, and will help her find a lawyer and secure her finances. But at the end of the day she will be alone in bed, consumed with fear for the future, feeling abandoned, and wondering “Was it my fault?” “What could I have done?”

And the answer is, nothing really. While it takes two to make a marriage, and while no one in a divorce is completely blameless, there is absolutely nothing one can do, short of blackmail or other desperate measures, to prevent a spouse from deserting the marriage once their mind is definitely made up.

I hope she isn’t kicking herself and blaming herself for not taking those scuba lessons with him. This is no time for recrimination. More than anything, she needs to be kind to herself, as if she is her own best friend. Regrets, “what ifs,” and “shoulds” must be set aside– subjecting yourself to such circular thoughts prevents clear thinking and slows down the process of healing. (My mom, bless her, allowed me to get on my pity pot for 15 minutes per day, then she would bluntly tell me to get off. This gave me an opportunity to vent my feelings– which ranged from anger, to fear, to grief–without dwelling too long on the negative. Negative emotions, my wise mother believes, are poisonous and prevent healthy healing from taking hold.)

During the first month of our separation I was hopeful, thinking initially that marriage counseling would help my situation. All it did was convince my ex that his decision to abandon me was the right one. One lawyer advised me: “Once a spouse leaves with furniture (my ex had taken the guest room furniture, all his clothes, and the contents of his office), the chances of his returning are close to zero.” This very astute individual gave me this advice when, in desperation, I was seeking a legal way to slow down the divorce. I simply wasn’t ready to deal with all these rapid changes.

“Too bad,” he said. Instead of holding my hand and sympathizing with me, he coolly told me to assess my situation and salvage what I could financially. Looking back, his advice was sound. But at the time, during the height my grieving phase, I thought him callous and cold.

My advice to my old high school chum, if she were to ask, would be to choose your friends wisely. You’ll need a positive, clear-thinking support system to help you get through the worst months. Choose your lawyer coolly. Make sure this individual has the expertise and know-how to advocate for you in the manner that reflects your philosophy.

I did not choose the first lawyer who crossed my path. The first one, a casual friend, advised me to withdraw all the money from our joint account and stash it away. I knew this would be a declaration of war and I did not seek her advice again. (Interestingly, my ex closed our joint account a month later, leaving me with nothing but $2,000. He paid the mortgage and utility bills, but I worked three part-time jobs at $7-$8 an hour so I could eat, buy work clothes, purchase gas, and the like.)

The second lawyer gave me excellent advice, but I could not afford him.

A third lawyer handed me wads of tissues as I cried, and a folder with a stash of papers 1/2″ thick. I was to ferret out all the financials so that I could take my ex to the cleaners. All I wanted was what I was due, which was a 50-50 split. So I left.

We (my ex and I) then both opted for a mediator who helped to divide our assets. Another lawyer friend told me: “The time to draw up the documents is when you are both slightly unhappy with your agreement. There will NEVER be a time when both of you will feel content. Some divorces are drawn out (and become prohibitively costly) over emotional issues that will never be resolved by the things you own. Don’t put your equity at risk because you are angry or hurt, and want to win at all cost.” That was such good advice. Letting go is the hardest but the most mature thing to do. When I reached a point were I was slightly unhappy, I stopped negotiating.

I then turned to a lawyer to draw up the legal documents and make sure that everything we agreed upon was included. He said to me: “You’ve got a good deal. Most women would never get this much.” I took umbrage and said, “I am getting 50% after 26 years. How is that a good deal? It is a FAIR deal.”

As I was fighting for my financial security and trying to think logically, I cried. I cried in the car. Cried in the lawyer’s office. Cried quietly at my desk at work. Cried in the movie theater and while grocery shopping. Cried in the bathrooms of my friends’ houses, so they wouldn’t see me sad.

I began wearing dark sunglasses so people would not notice my puffy eyes. I cried so much at home that my poor rescue dog’s emotional stability was seriously affected. He was going through his own issues of abandonment, and here he had the bad luck to get a mistress who was miserable most of the time. It took him two years to feel comfortable in my home, poor doggie, but in the end we loved each other so much that all was forgiven.

I imagine that my former high school acquaintance is going through a similar miserable phase just now. I will tell her, if she ever asks me, that this phase is temporary. Oh, it will feel like it will never end, but (unbelievable as it may seem) it will.

I would tell her to find something to be passionate about, something that will take her outside of herself and that will fill her life with meaning. For me it was writing this blog and opening my house to two Lost Boys from the Sudan. For another friend it was buying an old farm house and raising chickens, I kid you not. For my divorced sister-in-law it was cultivating her love for books and becoming a librarian.

My last piece of advice to her would be this: Keep yourself open to all the possibilities. Don’t put road blocks in place and don’t hide behind a wall of fear. Don’t let anger rule you. Follow your passions. Use your talent. Find a way to move on, and trust that something new will emerge. Life will go on. It will just be different.

  20 comments for “Divorced After 44 Years

  1. Still at It
    September 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Thank you for your post. My husband left after 27 years of marraige and I can relate to finding myself crying in bed, in the car, at church, and you have given me some hope that things will get better. Bless you, your high school friend, and your mother.

  2. Chris
    September 26, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Thanks for the encouraging post. Any clues as to why some cheating men insist on staying married, while others leave?

  3. Irene Madrid
    September 26, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I also was with a covert narc for 44 yrs and knw exactly how she felt. I also got 50/50 but my heart is empty.

  4. September 26, 2012 at 10:42 am

    My story is similar. Surprised with divorce papers after 36 years of marriage. It’s been over 4 years now and I am enjoying my “alone” status. Involved with my children and grandchildren and loving it all.

    I, too, started a blog and found that it helped meeting others in the same situation.

  5. patsy johnson
    September 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    This article gave me some much needed peace after 42 yrs of marriage to be along is just to much some times. It is good to read that there will be a light at the end of this tunnel.

  6. Jane Robinson
    September 28, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Thank you for such a wonderful article. I was an “old-fashioned woman” who gave up a career to raise my chilren. When the time came to return to work, I wanted to, but was discouraged and called “ungrateful” for not wanting to remain at home. I gave up job after job out of guilt.
    When I got divorced, my ex-husband remarried. I lost my health insurance. I could not find work, due to my nearly blank resume. Each job interview I went on I was told I was overqualified, and why would I want to be a secretary if I were an attorney? I was told upon the divorce that my settlement was good. I got alimony. It was tied into my ex’s bonus. He promptly changed jobs, and opted for no bonus, which I has assured my atty. would happen. I am contesting it, but will need to spend more to get it back than I can win.
    My ex has new car, a new home, and has held onto our vaction home. He is an executive. I can’t get hired for anything other than a minimum wage job. It has been hard.My daughter had a sleep over and my credit card was declined by the pizza delivery man. My front door was broken. I could not afford to fix it, and I had to accept a sheriff’s subpoena through a window. I cried on the phone to the trash pick up man who confronted me about a late bill, and made him cry. I am surviving, and when I look back some day, this may actually be funny. But, not yet. I am glad it is not just me- and that is why this article and website are so terrific.
    Alimony is just as essential now as it was when the laws were drafted. Ironically, it is being wiped out by legislatures everywhere- despite the economy and the fact that women are still giving up careers to raise children. We need to reverse what is happening, or be vocal about the effects such changes are causing, both to us and our children. I know the alimony I was getting was not going to jewelry or vacations. It was additional child support.
    Though motherhood is a blessing, and I still would decide to stay home, though maybe not for as long, I will be proactive when raising my daughter. I intend to make sure she knows the consequences of choices to stay home. Divorce is unforseeable. As long as young women do not lose sight of their other worth outside of the home, and they do not take on the guilt, then the chances of them being financially destroyed as well as emotionally devastated will be reduced.
    Most of all, though divorce is often unbearable, it is a chance to restart our lives in the way we once may have wanted to live. Goals long abandoned are once again achieveable. We may be lonely, sad, and so on, but we are also free.

  7. parks
    October 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    I needed to read this. Maybe one day I will feel as you do now. I exhibit all the emotions you described, and more. I am 6 months into a separation after 32 years of marriage. I am allowing myself my own private pity party since life really sucks right now.

    • Gina
      July 4, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      I too am married 32 years and husband is ready to leave for 2nd and final time. He has a girlfriend whom he says has nothing to do with decision. Yea right. I feel like life is over and so lost. How can I begin again and trust anyone whom I love

  8. Dani
    November 16, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Great article! I too was blind sided after 25 years of marriage…I never dreamed my world would get better..but it has…and I know see he did me a favor!!! I was forced to focus on all of the positive things in my life..my kids, my family and wonderful friends, my job and my health…5 years later I couldn’t be happier…and a bonus…a wonderful new man in my life…I know it is very hard to see past today but it really will get better!!!!

  9. Janet
    November 19, 2012 at 1:26 am

    This story mirrors mine! My husband got involved in running after suffering with psoriatic arthritis and finding a “cure” in embrel. He not only found a cure for his physical ailment, he met up with a woman 20 years my junior. And left me for her. He has tried 3 or 4 times to tell me he loves me and to try and put it back together. I forgave him each time. But the bottom line is he kept going back to her and a 38 year marriage to someone who was my lover, and best friend, has been dying a slow, painful death. Thank you for sharing your story. I happened on this website through an article in the Windsor Star. I have hope, after 20 months, that I may actually live through this and become a better person!

  10. Miss chloe myles
    May 3, 2013 at 3:25 am

    After being in relationship with him for 3 years,he broke up with me, I did everything possible to bring him back but all was in vain, I wanted him back so much because of the love I have for him, I begged him with everything, I made promises but he refused. I explained my problem to someone online and she suggested that I should rather contact a spell caster that could help me cast a spell to bring him back but I am the type that never believed in spell, I had no choice than to try it, I mailed the spell caster, and he told me there was no problem that everything will be okay before three days, that my ex will return to me before three days, he cast the spell and surprisingly in the second day, it was around 4pm. My ex called me, I was so surprised, I answered the call and all he said was that he was so sorry for everything that happened, that he wanted me to return to him, that he loves me so much. I was so happy and went to him, that was how we started living together happily again. Since then, I have made promise that anybody I know that have a relationship problem, I would be of help to such person by referring him or her to the only real and powerful spell caster who helped me with my own problem and who is different from
    all the fake ones out there. Anybody could need the help of the spell caster, his email is kpekpetukpesure@gmail.com you can email him if you need his assistance.

  11. Raven
    July 16, 2013 at 5:48 am

    It’s been 14 months since my husband said he had moved on, which felt like I had been punched in the gut. 7 1/2 months since divorce and I still cry everyday, every night. I cannot bear to return to what was my community, my friends, and now, the old friends don’t return my texts, phone calls, or emails. Even my children from another exhusband are not as supportive as they lived thru our arguments and as adults, tried to patch things up between us. He was wealthy, handsome, and well known, and so was I. We were the perfect couple. Wrong. I try to just live day to day now. Only part time jobs, though I am luckier than most as I was able to find a home and begin remodeling, which is what I used to do before my marriage. The consistent pain led me to look online for a line to grab hold of in the depths of this emotional ocean. I’ve read the books, I know I should “move on” to heal, but would rather stay in the remodeling depths of a structure, and attempt to remodel myself in the meantime. Discovering your blog was the first real connection that I related to! You drew me in and related all the same emotional torment that I have been living. Thank you, and thank your mom! Mine passed a few years ago, my ex never helped me thru the process, and only came to the funeral after meeting my mom once! I now have a picture of my mom in my new(old) kitchen. She would not like the state I’m in, and I can just see her shaking her head. I hope I get out of this grief state as I see its toll on me. The initial weight loss looked good. Now it has redistributed as I have not exercised as I have my entire life. My hair is breaking and I am losing it! I do not have the thick tresses, and I know its because I am not eating well and the stress has taken the luster out of my hair and skin. Tomorrow is another day. Thank you

    • Hc
      December 4, 2013 at 3:35 am

      I know how you feel! I was divorced in may and I still cry all the time. It seems like my community abandoned me as well. I don’t understand this but I feel like this has only added salt to my deep wounds. I never thought that friends would disappear after my divorce, but I guess they were not real friends after all. I hope that you feel better! Best wishes, H

  12. Vane
    September 10, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Thank you for posting this article. I know it’s been some time since you posted but I wondered if you could give us an update on what happened to the woman whose husband left after 44 years. Did she manage to move on and regain some happiness?

  13. September 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I rang a friend recently I knew in my area she had moved to somewhere near Chichester Sussex with her husband.
    a few years ago. I hadn’t heard from her for ages and wondered why. She told me on the phone when I spoke to her that she had got a divorce from her husband 6 months ago and he had moved back into my area again. I was very shocked as they had been married for 44 years just like the woman on this site who posted a comment. yes I agree with Vane it would be nice to know how she is doing now. My friend said she got a divorce because her husband had done things ( I won’t mention what they were) she didn’t like and could not trust him anymore. She is now in the process of selling the property and buying a flat in the Chichester area. I recently saw her husband in our local high street he mentioned their divorce to me I said I was sorry to hear it had happened he said he would like to get back with my friend but unfortunately she has flatly refused. She must have her reasons after so long a marriage.

    • Sue
      November 28, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      My husband has left me after 38 years of marriage. I live near Chichester and would love to meet up with someone who has gone through this terrible time. Would you or your friend consider contacting me.

      • Carole Heath
        October 6, 2014 at 2:05 pm

        Sorry Sue I can’t help regarding your meeting up with my friend she previously lived in the Chichester area. She got a divorce after years of marriage. She has now moved out of the area and gone to live in Wales. She has now made a good life with new friends and has turned her life around. I do hope that your life improves after such a terrible time lets hope that like her you find peace and happiness you deserve it after such an ordeal.

  14. Dee
    August 31, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Hello Ladies, After 41 years of marriage, my husband left me for another women that he works with. Although this has been one of the toughest things that have ever happened to me, I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason. Yes, I feel abandoned, etc, but life goes on. I will find a new love in my life and move on if that is what I desire ! But for right now, I am focusing on myself !

    When I think back on 41 years of marriage, I remind myself that I have been living with a man who manipulated me, intimidated me, who was jealous of me, who always wanted to compete with me, etc. which caused so much friction in our marriage. And if I didn’t always agree with everything he said, he would make my life living hell.

    I have been researching so much and all I hear is how we could have treated our man better, how they need sex, and how much their feelings get hurt, etc. What about us women ? I mean really. We have needs and wants too ! If our men had treated us better, our relationship would have been better. I spoiled my husband for 41 years, making his life the best it could be, but never got that in return. Our sex life wasn’t the best, but then again, he never considered my sexual needs, only himself, so for me, what was the point in having sex with him. It works both ways.

    Do I have some regrets ? Yes, some. But I know in my heart that I have been a good wife and took very good care of my husband, who apparently, didn’t appreciate me at all.

    Life goes on and as I said, everything happens for a reason. So for me, I will stay positive ! Good things are yet to come !! This is probably the best thing that could ever happen to me !!

    Wishing you all the best !
    Dee

  15. Rich
    September 17, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Hi , wife left after 36 years of marriage devastated num for months met some one else on line loverly lady had a few encounters after her divorce we get on well but can’t stop thinking about my wife ! House and business up for sale but can’t make any plans untill there sold ! In no mans land at moment . Feel drained on small wage till sold so restricted to a social too .

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