"If you don't second-guess yourself, then you are not trying to get better." ~ Don Mattingly
After listening to an excellent podcast featuring Diann Wingert, a psychotherapist and life coach in Pasadena, CA, discussing the challenges women face as they navigate midlife issues, I felt she raised an interesting question: Do women who've arrived at the crossroads of midlife necessarily have to divorce to get through this life-changing transition? Is it possible they can remake their lives and still stay in their marriages?
Wow. Great question.
About four years after my divorce, this question came up to me: Could I have gone through my metamorphosis in midlife, remained in my marriage, and been just as happy and content? I wondered how many other women had asked themselves the same. How many of us had second-guessed our decision? And why?
The answer to this question is far from simple, and divorce is much more complex. Midlife change can certainly be a catalyst for divorce, but I don't believe it's the reason we divorce.
Getting a divorce should never be taken lightly. Being deliberate before making a big, life-changing decision, such as divorce, is important advice. The decision to divorce changes the dynamic of one's life and relationships beyond what one can imagine. It has to be done for the right reasons – not based on unrealistic expectations or fantasy outcomes.
Is it true, though, that many women rush into making this decision at midlife? Or has it been years in the making? Did you love your partner, feel connected and invested, until, one day, midlife struck and, out of nowhere, you were compelled to leave? Or did you gain a newfound clarity, an intuition, courage, and a desire to finally give up on a loveless, disconnected, or perhaps abusive marriage?
This tendency to second-guess one's decision bubbles up in many women after divorce – sometimes as a result of other life challenges. Financial stressors, family strain, and a growing disenchantment with the dating pool all can lead one to second-guess, right? I totally get it!
If this happens to you, it's important that you stop and get really honest with yourself. Time and distance can put a soft-focus lens on the years of events that led to your decision to leave your marriage. Ask yourself, are new stressors in your life fueling this doubt? Are you spending too much time dwelling on the past when you would be better off problem-solving your present? Did you and do you trust and have faith in your intuition?
For those women who feel they rushed into a divorce at midlife for the wrong reasons, I have great compassion for you. For those of you who were compelled at midlife to make a decision that was a long time in the making, trust yourselves that you made the right one. Second-guessing can be a waste of time and energy. Instead, think of all the ways that your life has been made better for it. Be grateful for those little and big ways.
Remember: life is full of challenges and stressors. Your marriage certainly was. And who knows what it would look like today. It probably wouldn't be all rosy and perfect, but full of new stressors you couldn't have imagined. Second-guessing your decision to divorce is less than productive. Problem-solving your present, practicing gratitude, and focusing on your current goals is where it's at.
Brave Hearts. Honor Your Courage. Honor Your Knowing.
Jamie Daniel, MS, LMFT went into the field of clinical counseling with a heart to help others going through the journey of divorce recovery.