Moving on from Divorce after 20 or More Years of Marriage

If you’ve been married a long time, you may have spent more years as part of a couple than you did as a single person. 

Marriage is like muscle memory. You may forget what it’s like to be single because you’re so accustomed to having your spouse by your side. But now you’re single again – or contemplating it. In your new life, an exciting future awaits.

Getting divorced after a long marriage

Moving on after a divorce can be challenging, especially after a long marriage. Whether you initiated the divorce or your ex-spouse did, it can send you reeling. As a long-term spouse, you may have put aside your own needs for years to take care of your family. 

Gray divorce is common

Gray divorce” has become common. While divorce in general has declined over the last few years, nearly a quarter of people filing for divorce today are over 50. Why? Here are just a couple of theories:

  • Older couples are more aware of their own mortality. They may see the door closing to living a full life of true happiness, and they may see divorce as a solution.
  • Older adults have experienced many life changes: the ups and downs of marriage, finances, and careers. They’ve watched their kids grow up and leave home. Now, life feels too predictable, and excitement and intimacy are no more.
  • Older adults, particularly women, have the resources to support themselves without the help of a partner. This is a change from how things were in decades past.

For couples who have spent decades together, divorce can be exhilarating or devastating. If you’re in the latter camp, make sure you’re dealing with it in healthy ways. Try physical activity and leaning on your support system. It may also be a good idea to get some professional help.

Addressing your top concerns after divorce

If you’re getting divorced after 20 years of marriage or more, you undoubtedly have questions. Where will you live? How will you take care of yourself? Will you live the rest of your life alone? Will you find someone new?

Your emotional, financial, and spiritual health should now be some of your top concerns. Let’s take a closer look.

Your emotional health

If you are not the one who filed for divorce, you may be wondering how your spouse could do this to you. Divorce after a long marriage will push all your vulnerability buttons, often at the same time. You may feel hollow, rejected, sad, and angry. 

A divorce after so many years of marriage is a genuine loss and will need to be grieved like one. Anger, blame, and guilt are all valid feelings. After a certain point, however, they can be detrimental to your emotional and mental well-being. 

It’s in your best interest to work toward finding peace, and maybe even forgiveness, for your spouse. You’re not doing this for your ex; you’re doing it for you. But it’s hard, and the work you may need to do cannot be summed up in a short article here. Finding a therapist who can help you work through all of your feelings can be priceless.

And what about your kids? Your marriage was part of their life, too. Many of their memories are wrapped up in the life you and your spouse created. Give them plenty of time to accept what has happened. 

Read: What Are the Emotional Stages of Divorce?

Your financial security

The financial impact of divorce after 20 or more years of marriage can be considerable. As a couple, the two of you may have accumulated a home or two, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, life insurance, and other assets that will have to be divided. 

A spouse who stayed home, sacrificing their career while the other spouse worked, may face their own unique questions at this time. How can you take care of yourself financially if you don't foresee yourself being marketable in today’s career landscape?

State family laws provide for these kinds of scenarios. You and your spouse will divide your marital assets, and, in some cases, that division will not necessarily be 50/50 but what the law considers “equitable.” If you stayed home to take care of your family while your spouse climbed the corporate ladder, this can be accounted for in your property settlement. You may even be entitled to spousal maintenance, also called spousal support or alimony. 

If you want to get a better sense of your financial picture, you may benefit from some time with a financial advisor who can suss out the financial implications of your divorce. Hello Divorce offers flat-rate sessions with a certified financial divorce analyst, which you can read about here.

Your future

Thinking about your future as a single person after a long marriage can be challenging. But your next chapter may even be better than the one before. You might make new friends, have more free time, and capitalize on this new beginning.

Consider this:

  • You will no longer have to settle for an unhappy marriage or unhappy partner.
  • People are healthier and living longer than before, and there is no better time to begin a self-care plan.
  • There is no longer a stigma surrounding divorce.
  • There are many options for single adults in midlife to spend time traveling, pursuing new hobbies, and enjoying life.
  • Many people in midlife are reinventing themselves and beginning “second act” careers that are more aligned with their values and interests than financial necessity.
  • Getting back out into the world is good for you, socially and emotionally.
  • Are you dating or considering a new relationship? You are older, wiser, and no longer plagued by the insecurities you had before you married.

Free downloadable worksheet: Dating after Divorce

Seeing the light at the end of your marriage can be particularly hard if marriage is all you’re known for a long, long time. A divorce coach is someone who can walk you through the divorce process and support you from a logistical and emotional standpoint. It is like having a knowledgeable and supportive ally in your corner each step of the way. 

Give yourself permission to make your post-divorce life the best life possible. Let us help. At Hello Divorce, we are committed to helping people navigate divorce without drama. We offer services, online divorce plans, and an extensive library of resources that can help you understand all aspects of the divorce process and move into your next chapter with self-confidence and optimism.

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