As I write this, I’m looking back on three years as a single woman who separated from her husband after 55 years. At the time I left my marriage, I thought I was unique. Turns out I was part of our society’s new demographic. More and more couples are going their separate ways after retirement. It’s sometimes called The Grey Divorce.
Picture the scene. I’d just moved from Toronto to Kingston with my newly retired husband. He’d worked right up to moving day. We’d sold the large Toronto house where we’d lived for 43 years and moved to Kingston to be near our young people. Somehow I was hoping our relationship would be different in our new perfect little bungalow. Add exhaustion and a lack of space for our worldly goods as well as personal space and you have a truly stressful situation. I was falling to pieces under the strain.
I’d wanted to leave the marriage before we left Toronto, but couldn’t get my lips to form the words. Now I was sick with a cold and desperate for peace. I did the unthinkable. I moved out into an apartment with Sammy the Poodle.
So…. how has it gone?
It’s true that I’ve had the freedom to travel wherever I wanted and to shape my life to suit myself. At the start of each day, I get to decide my priorities without having to consider a partner. That’s a big positive.
But I don’t want to leave you with the impression that being free to shape your life is all positive. Huge negatives go with the decision. First on my list of negatives is loneliness. I’d never experienced this terrible gut-wrenching illness. I call it an illness because it can sap your energy and render you sick and lethargic.
If you’re thinking of moving to a new community, consider how you’re going to deal with loneliness. You’ll be leaving behind your old friends and your places of belonging. Nobody will know the special contribution you make to friendships and neighbours. Remember this: older women, including you, are invisible in our society. My website has plenty of strategies and plans for beginning the process of belonging in your new community where you have no work family, colleagues or childhood friends. It’s a lot of work and, I find, takes a few years.
What do I miss the most? I miss old friends. Surprisingly, I yearn for my garden, even though I complained about pulling weeds. The loss of the summer cottage where I spent all my summers since our son was a toddler is a very painful loss. I love that place.
In view of my own experience, what would I advise other men and women?
Don’t have all your balls in the air at the same time. If you must leave your marriage, do so while you still have a stable base of old friends and familiar places (churches, workout clubs, organizations.) Hang onto places where you are recognized and greeted as one who belongs there.
Most importantly, heed the advice of John Medina who says in the final chapter of his amazing book, Brain Rules for Aging Well, don’t retire and don’t move away from people who have been your friends for life.
This is my final blog post on Aging and Staying in Charge of Your Life. Thanks for sharing my journey with me. Now it’s time for me to move onto my next life stage: the 80’s. I’m busy blogging locally, for seniors in the Kingston area and for those wanting to know more about Kingston’s wealth of historic sites. I’m also eager to get back to the novel I’ve been wanting to write for a long time.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I’ve been through some very hard times during the past year. I’m happy to say things are looking up. I’m finding a sense of belonging in my new community, my health is pretty good and my future looks promising.
I hope my insights into life after separation have been useful to you and I thank you for joining me in my journey.
I’d always be glad to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org