As we approach the end of September, fall is setting in. The days are getting shorter and in many areas the leaves are changing color. This is often recognized as Healthy Aging Month.
In 2018, life expectancy is higher than ever before. Americans are celebrating their longevity, and questioning how they want to live their lives. The depth of this personal inquiry often results in questions about relationships.
Many unhappily married baby boomers are choosing divorce over staying in marriages that are emotionally annihilating. Faced with maintaining a partnership fraught with unmet desire, boomers become freedom seekers.
In their choice to take on life without a partner, most discover that there are pros and cons to their decision.
The adage used to be that 60 is the new 40. But is 70 the new 50? The folks of the 1970s “Me Decade” were powerful change agents. Losing sight of their power, many have gotten waylaid in partnerships that are no longer fulfilling, ultimately causing many to opt-out of marriage.
Hungering for a life that reflects the promise of their earlier years, many are now faced with the prospect of tackling the unknown as they enter the winter of their lives with an exciting and terrifying sense of mystery.
The pros: They acquire greater autonomy, which enables exploration of new dreams and desires. New friendships are developed and perhaps old friendships even reinvented. Self-esteem is enhanced. They may learn how to create a sense of calm through that shift in relationship status.
The cons: Leaving a relationship can foster a sense of regret. The fantasy of what life would be like without their partner may have been more idealized than the reality. People who find themselves in this dilemma may have assumed the discomfort they were feeling was caused by their partner.
But when alone, they realize that they are partially to blame of the issue. That’s often a hard thing to recognize and to reconcile.
With this uncertainty comes confusion, as well as a kind of identity crisis. People find themselves with no one else to blame for their unhappiness.
And for women who leave their husbands, financial strain can be a more significant issue than for their male counterparts. So if you’re planning to leave, think about the new financial picture and be prepared for the sticker shock. It may be a costly decision with significant financial repercussions.
They also need to be aware that family and friends may not understand the choice to leave. They might even side with the partner who was left behind.
Grief and fear can accompany making the big change to leave a longtime relationship or marriage. But the bottom line is that leaving does not necessarily make everything better, as you may have dreamed it would.
If you were an angry or anxious person in the partnership, there’s a good
chance those emotions will follow you if you haven’t worked them out in therapy or a support group.
As the film character Buckaroo Banzai famously said, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Big decisions create transformation. If you are a baby boomers on the move and you’ve been thinking about leaving for a long time, it’s important to reflect upon the following steps before making that decision:
• Plan for the disengagement from your partner.
• Make sure you have resources to support the decision to leave.
• Set an intention to take the time necessary to decide where you will live, who your support team will be, and if this is really the correct choice for you.
• Prior to leaving, couples’ counseling can help you make the break with integrity.
When you prepare properly for leave-taking, successful reconstruction of the life you want to live is possible.
Edy Nathan’s new book is called It’s Grief: The Dance of Self-Discovery Through Trauma and Loss.
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