Divorce & Widowhood · Emotional Health

More Older Women Are Choosing Divorce

Women, with their greater talent for forming emotional connections outside of marriage, are in some ways better equipped emotionally than men to strike out on their own. According to Dr. Schwartz, they also have “higher expectations for their emotional life.” Yet some of the women she interviewed were reconciled to the idea that they might never find another partner (“remarriage is not a high priority,” said one, for example).

Divorced women do not always long for male companionship, especially if they have been in a relationship with a self-centered man whose needs have been dominant. Some imagine a future with a new husband requiring attention to his “emotional, sexual, and medical needs (and doing his laundry!)” without getting much in return. “Why should I want another man to take care of, “ says Suzanne, “when I can have a great life with my female friends and my grandchildren?”

For other women, the world of Internet dating has opened possibilities for making connections with men who want to meet women that were not available to them in the past. Many women start new jobs or develop new interests, particularly after a divorce. All kinds of business and travel sites cater to people over 50 knowing this to be a fast growing demographic that controls a lot of cash. ( The dark underside of this issue is that may women older women still live in poverty and that number is getting bigger not smaller.)

On the end of the spectrum are couples who stayed together during the rocky years (sometimes for external reasons, such as the children, or finances) and are glad, in the end, that they did. If divorce had been possible, or easier at the time, Pamela told me, she would have probably chosen it then, but she and her husband stuck it out and now things are much better. In her case, some of the external stressors, such as financial pressures, midlife crises, etc. have settled down, the kids are gone now and their friendship has been renewed.

But if a couple has been married for decades and the unhappiness has persisted throughout these changes of circumstances and efforts at resolution (such as marriage therapy), staying married may not be healthy, as these studies suggest. One thing that age affords us is wisdom. By midlife a woman should know if she is the kind of person who can cope with the challenge and flexibility associated with a change of this magnitude. But women have fought hard for their rights, and choosing happiness should be among them.





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