Life after divorce – when you don’t remarry?
Put your pout on. And not for the reason you think!
Get ready to be judged, primarily by other women – as you find yourself the object of their sadness, their pity, occasionally their trepidation, and frequently, their assumption that you are somehow unworthy.
Sadness and pity?
Right. Surely you are lonely. Surely you would prefer a partner in life. Surely a “good provider” swooping in would make everything okay again – or at least help. (Some of that may be true. Some of it is patently false.)
Uh-huh. Divorced women are going to be cruising for a quick, no-strings lay… with someone else’s husband! Isn’t that how it goes? Isn’t that part of the surprisingly sticky stigma that persists among the married (former female) friends – that you may be flirting with their spouses?
The UNWORTHY designation. That one is the most irritating of all – galling, really. And especially when it comes from single women, married women, younger women, older women, our own mothers and sisters, our divorced friends. It’s as if the fact that each divorce situation is different is never even considered.
Do we realize the extent to which circumstances dictate our daily doings? That our responses to those circumstances vary – as we try to start over, refashion our lives, and do what’s best for our children?
For example, you may have 50-50 custody and therefore, more time to socialize – not to mention, to catch your breath. You may have 50-50 custody but non-stop conflict in your co-parenting. (Not so restful!) Or, like me, you may have conflict in the background while being a solo, working parent – in other words, basically you – and only you – raising a couple of kids on your own.
Divorce Circumstances: Never Assume
You may have no financial issues while I’m juggling two jobs and two kids. I may be 43 and you’re 53, with dramatically divergent demographic “opportunities” in the dating marketplace. Think starting over after 50 while still raising kids isn’t fraught with challenges? I may be in perfect health; you’re dealing with nagging medical issues, or a child with issues of concern.
Won’t our priorities and options differ based on these circumstances?
But none of the above is typically factored into the theoretical Date & Mate Equation.
Women judge other women. We know that. Women judge other women harshly. We know that, too. But the way we presume to size up and dismiss those women who don’t remarry in the years following divorce can be especially cruel.
Here are my observations and experience:
- We make assumptions about women who never marry. (Fewer, about men.)
- We make assumptions about women who never have children. (They’re selfish, right?)
- We make assumptions about women who have only one child. (They’re selfish too, aren’t they?)
We make assumptions about divorced women who are bitter, divorced women who are overweight, divorced women we do not like. (“Oh, their poor husbands,” we cluck to each other. “No wonder those women are alone. And no wonder they’ve never remarried.”)
Are we clucking and assuming about men who are on their own? The bald ones, the boring ones, the fat ones, the fifty-somethings?
Earth to Aliens…
I admit, I got more raised eyebrows and comments about five years after divorce. My ex had remarried (fairly quickly, which is not uncommon), I was essentially a solo mother (I had my kids 95% of the time), and my children were still relatively young – as was I. (Everything is relative, right?)
Surely, there must have been something “wrong with me” if I wasn’t seriously involved with someone new, engaged to someone new, or already on to Marriage Numéro Deux. Didn’t I want to remarry?
That was what people would ask.
Nice way to add a tacky touch to my feeling like a non-Earthling! I was already dwelling on a strange, surreal, crazed and stressed-out Lonely Planet. But frankly, it was far less lonely than you may think. I was too busy to ponder my emotional state – dealing with trailing issues with my ex that continued for a decade, two kids on my own and no 30-hour day despite begging the deities of all denominations, multiple gigs and jobs, driving Firstborn here and picking up Secondborn there, endless money worries… Hell, it was all I could do to remember to walk the dog!
Yet the fact that I wasn’t “seriously involved” or even desirous of a second stroll down the aisle seemed to set me apart from those who were trying to figure me out, when all I was trying to figure out was how to make it to the end of the month – and more often, the end of the week or the day.
Aging Changes the Picture
Will I admit that when we reach empty nest (at last), we may look up with a weary “holy shit” and realize we’re older? Much older?
Are the practical issues of wanting some sort of partner or community more pressing as the years accumulate?
For myself and a few friends who are also technically middle aged, that answer may be yes. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we need (or want) the conventional arrangement of another spouse. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t; maybe the answer is “that depends.”
These days, I get less of the pity – either because I’ve aged out of consideration as a “viable” (marketable) woman (by some) – or more likely, because I am in a relationship. While I get the “When are you two going to get married” question (followed by Don’t you want to remarry?), I don’t live at the end of the same diminishing or bewildered glances.
Your divorced friend, mother, sister-in-law or colleague may not have remarried for a hundred different reasons that include choice and circumstance. Be a caring and respectful friend, parent, sibling or colleague – but don’t be judgmental.
Julie Boyd Cole says
Great piece! Amen and excellent read. I am a divorced, unmarried by choice (turned down a post-divorce proposal), mom of two. But, I have to say, I’ve don’t experience anyone judge me to my face or ask me about my relationship status much, but I’m sure there must be some whispers. However, I’m too busy to stop and listen. I figure that in another decade, I’ll fit right in with the widows! Take care and thanks for writing.
I don’t know that I feel judged that much. I think I was probably more self conscience in the first few years after divorce. I do remember having the fantasy of being happly married by the time my children were choosing to get married. I don’t think that way now. I am in a relationship that I enjoy, but have no plans to marry or move-in. Take a look at the statistics and you will see that a lot more people are choosing to live solo. We are not alone.
Not sure when this was posted but boy did it resonate with me. I experienced all of the above. I never did remarry and I have gone from poster child of poor women whose husband left me and my very young babies to now poor woman who never remarried and now I’m too old to find love. God! Thank you for writing this. Didn’t know anyone else experienced this in the same way.