Run for the Drama-Free Zone
I am seeing more and more couples with long term marriages calling it “quits.” More often, one of the partners just suddenly walks out the door much to the surprise and shock of the other. Many clients are calling me because their long term marriages are ending, some in a traumatic way.
The scenario plays out like a script from a dramatic movie: spouse has just “flipped a switch” and moved out. There is no explanation other then, “I’m leaving.” As a trend, I see divorces from scenarios among older individuals like this surging. That’s saying something. Rather than working things out, people are walking out. Rarely, little is offered as an explanation to the shocked spouse left behind.
The reasons for the sudden and drastic change vary from individual to individual but there are a few repeating core issues I’ve noticed that are central to a decision to leave a long term relationship. One, they are approaching a significant birthday, a milestone age. This is usually a few years after 50 and a few years approaching 60. “Boomers.” I see this in a lot of people not only facing old age, but facing the very idea of being “old.” Two, they feel they have compromised their life away. They feel they made unwillingly, too many decisions to satisfy others and ignored themselves far too much. Three, they feel this may be the last time they can really have what they want in life, all “wants” centered around love, happiness and fun. They are also determined to get it anew rather than fix or repair anything they currently have.
Social trends are making this drastic move easier, as well: there are more older people in the population, greater social acceptance of divorce, rising female equality and financial independence, and baby boomers’ convictions that it is proper to pursue more satisfying lives even if it means leaving a long term partner. With baby boomers reaching a certain age and the kids being out of the house, it is a seed planted decades ago in self-centered thinking that has bloomed and come into many of our lives.
Marriage breakups are also difficult but when a long time spouse just up and leaves it is traumatic and shocking. If there are no reasons, discussions or communication it can be even more unsettling. It can feel as if you have suddenly found yourself in the middle of a swirling pool being pulled under against your will. What can you do if your spouse suddenly up and leaves? There are many things, but first and foremost, focus on YOU.
1. Take care of yourself. You are, in a lot of ways, in shock. Pain, anxiety, a sense of panic and betrayal and stress can overwhelm even the hardiest of people so focusing on yourself, what you need to survive day-by-day and what you have to do is number one. Focusing on them, what they are doing, where they are going will only add to your anxiety and pain. Focus on yourself. Stay centered, even if it’s in small packets of time. When you do this daily you can think more clearly, too. This calls for extra steps of care and kindness towards yourself and be extra diligence in keeping your mind occupied, positive and centered.
2. It is NOT you. More than likely they are and have been going through issues and not sharing them with you. This is their bad, not yours. There’s nothing about you that has caused this. You are not being punished. You are not being singled out. Remove the judgement about yourself in this. Also realize everything changes. Life is dynamic. Life changes. This situation could change again just as fast as it began. We may hate it, but it does.
3. Get help. Talk to friends. Talk with trusted advisers. Make sure you have expert advice from someone who has your best interests in mind and can be logical where you’re emotional. If it leads to divorce, get expert attorneys and financial experts on your side. Many times there are substantial assets involved with people in their 60’s and you want to make sure you are taken care of fairly.
Most of all, when a long term marriage ends, understand it is a new beginning for you as you move into a new phase of your life. You can also choose to make it fabulous for yourself as well as miserable. Make the best choice for yourself you can!