What Life After Divorce For Men Over 40 Is Like
By: Corrina Horne
Updated November 24, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC
Life after divorce for men often falls into one of a few camps: there are those who feel liberated, those who feel abandoned, those who feel hope, and those who feel a vague sense of loss and confusion. Although some of these differences can be attributed to age, gender, and situation, there is no one right way to go about coping with divorce, or one right way to live after a divorce. For men over 40, though, life after a divorce might look a little bit different from their younger and older counterparts.
Men Over 40: Stations in Life
Although there is no single defining characteristic of a man over 40, there are a few likelihoods that may be at play in the life of a 40-year-old man. Most men of this age are established in some type of career. Most men of this age have children, if they wanted children, and are functioning as family breadwinners, perhaps in conjunction with their wives or girlfriends, or perhaps on their own.
In most cases, regardless of the particulars, men in their forties are established, to some degree. They usually have a set place to live, a set job, a set vehicle, and a set routine each day. Losing their partner can disrupt all of these aspects of their lives, and bouncing back and creating a new life is not quite as easy for someone who has lived one way for 15 years as it might be for someone who has only lived that way for a handful of months. How long does it take for a man to get over a divorce? The answer varies from person to person, and there is no right or wrong response.
Although life after divorce might often be portrayed as a series of one-night-stands, or an unending supply of young women looking for a distinguished older man with whom to engage in flirtatious banter and experienced sexual exploits, the reality of life after divorce is more often filled with relearning how to live alone, figuring out how to parent as a single father (if children are involved), and determining what might have gone wrong in your marriage in order to work on yourself and improve any future relationship prospects.
Learning New Patterns
In any divorce, learning new patterns is going to take precedence. Where you once slept beside your partner, you have to learn to sleep alone. This might be an easy task, or might be a long, painful, drawn-out process-only time and your unique makeup will tell. Where you once made decisions as a member of a partnership, you have to begin making decisions on your own, potentially without anyone else’s input.
Learning new patterns is just as much about the big picture as it is about the small. Big picture patterns include decision-making, working, dating, and engaging in lifestyle habits, while small picture patterns focus more on the nitty gritty, day-to-day details most people take for granted. Perhaps your partner cooked your breakfast for you each day, and you are forced to cook it yourself from now on. Perhaps your partner paid all of the bills, and you are left to figure out where the utilities are, and how to get hooked up for the Internet. Perhaps your partner planned your vacations, arranged your social life, and just generally managed your life, and you are left to figure out what you like and what you want to do with your time.
This is an important part and process of getting a divorce, but it can often be overwhelming for men in their forties, particularly if they were a part of a marriage involving traditional gender roles. Cleaning, cooking, and maintaining a home can prove extremely difficult, and can take months to get accustomed to, so giving yourself time to navigate all of these changes is important in processing your new life, and moving on from your old life.
Understanding your priorities is another important part of moving on after a divorce, and learning how to exist in the world as a freshly divorced, 40-year-old man. While your priorities in marriage were likely at least in part predicated on your partner’s priorities, your time is your own (save parenting and/or child support, if children are involved), and your priorities are wholly yours to figure out and implement. In this respect, some men might feel some amount of freedom; men who were previously encouraged to constantly complete house projects or otherwise fill their time might find that being able to create their own priorities is a freeing, wonderful experience.
Sorting priorities can involve making some significant life changes. Men might have chosen their career paths, homes, and even religious preferences based on what their wives wanted, or what their immediate peers were doing, rather than closely evaluating what they wanted or needed. In some cases, divorce can afford middle-aged men the opportunity to explore themselves a little more deeply and effectively, in order to create a life they feel excited about and fulfilled by.
Getting Back Out There
For many men, getting back out into the dating world is the cause of some amount of fear and apprehension, and can seem like an impossible task. Dating after a divorceshouldn’t be rushed; both partners in a marriage, regardless of who initiated the divorce, need time to process, heal, and move on from their marriage. Although men over 40 should not cave into pressure to begin dating again before they are ready, it can be cause for concern- healthily getting back into dating can take a long time, and should not be defaulted as a short term process.
That being said, getting back out there is largely a matter of being in tune with yourself, your wants, and your needs. If you are still mourning your marriage, pining after your wife, or wishing for the life you had, you are not ready for divorced dating, and bringing another person into your tumult will likely only hurt you both. Getting back out there does not have a definitive time stamp on it, and does not have to be an immediate, springboard-like part of your divorce. Instead, it can be seen as a distant goal, ready whenever you are.
Learning to Move On
Moving on is arguably the most difficult part of getting divorced after 40, be you male or female. Most men in their forties have been married for at least a decade, which means that at least one quarter of your life has been spent with your partner. Moving on cannot happen at a moment’s notice, and rarely comes easily. Instead, moving on is a regular, consistent series of behaviors that you actively hope for and work toward, in order to create a healthy, whole version of yourself, apart from your marriage and subsequent “failure” of your relationship.
Moving on from a decades-long marriage can be even more difficult, as most of your adult life was spent with someone, and you must then figure out how to navigate the world as an adult, without the partnership you likely came to rely on. Some people feel as if they lose their identity after divorce. In the case of a divorce after a 5-year marriage, or a 20-year marriage, the solution looks similar: learn yourself. Learn your likes and dislikes, learn where you went sour in your relationship, where you stumbled in your marriage, and learn what you need to do in order to live the life you hope for. You can never truly move on from your marriage until you are able to separate yourself from who you were as a partner, and who you are as a person.
Moving on is rarely a linear journey, and if you thought that you had found yourself a nice life, it may seem daunting to try to find a new one, perhaps rightfully so. There usually isn’t any one step or one space you reach, where you suddenly no longer feel the pain of your divorce, or the struggle created by it. Instead, moving on usually feels like taking a few steps forward, and a few steps back, until you feel as though you are ready to pursue another relationship, and live your life without the marriage you once held dear.
Divorce After 40: What It Is Really Like for Men
Life after divorce is rarely a party, even for men over 40. Although there are plenty of stereotypes surrounding divorced men and their behavior, very few men over the age of 40 actually lead playboy lives, marked by an unending stream of beautiful young women, and tons of cash. Instead, most divorced men over 40 are busy straddling the responsibilities of children, child support, alimony, and living their own distinct, separate lives, and learning how to successfully balance all of these cogs in order to create a functional, joyful life.
Many men who get divorced at 40 or older can benefit from some amount of therapy or counseling, as navigating the intense emotions following a divorce can be quite trying, and might prove far more than most people can handle. If you find yourself in the midst of a divorce, consider opting for visiting with a therapist, whether that means sitting in a psychiatrist’s office to be treated for depression, or consulting an online therapist, such as those on ReGain.Us, to work through the tangle of emotions inevitably following separating from and divorcing your spouse.
Divorces are messy and painful, no matter who is involved, and getting through a divorce at any age is trying. Divorcing in middle age, though, does present with its own unique set of challenges; most people divorcing at this age have children and, consequently, parental responsibilities, such as child custody and child support, that must be taken into account when deciding how to move forward, and how to navigate the life changes that have been handed to you. With consistency, dedication, and the will to heal and move forward, though, men over 40 can enjoy a life filled with health, vitality, and enjoyment, even after going through the pain of a divorce.
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