The grim reaper of grey divorce has robbed me of more than my original spouse. Yesterday, I said a final goodbye to Joe, my lover of seven years, a business colleague who listened and comforted me when I was so alone and scared after the gavel came down; a friend who morphed into lover after the first year; a man who inspired me to stand tall again. Yesterday, I buried him.
Remember Carol King’s song “Natural Woman”? Joe gave me back my womanhood. He taught me how to be sexual again, a treasure I had lost in all those lonely years in my marriage. He taught me how to play during intimacy – how to let go and trust. When our lovemaking couldn’t reach the pinnacle of bliss so easily obtained in younger years, we laughed out loud, held each other for a moment, then had a glass of wine to celebrate our valiant efforts to get there. In the process, we thoroughly enjoyed each other. Lovemaking was more than orgasm. It was closeness. True intimacy.
Hearts and Flowers – or Red Flags?
Lest I canonize him, I must tell you that our seven years weren’t all hearts and flowers. After the infatuation subsided, real life seeped in. Joe had no money. He asked to borrow from me. Sound familiar? It happens frequently. I see it in my own clients and I shout “red flag!” Yet there I was, classically in love with my transition man, providing a lifestyle for us that was draining my resources.
I considered the trade-off. After all, every one of us is a package full of good, bad, and ugly. Was it worth it to stay in a relationship with him? On one hand, I was supporting him financially and a small part of me felt miffed and wronged. Even my daughters raised concerns about him: “We like Joe, Mom, but we’re worried about the money.”
Grey Divorce: a New Love Cures the Pain of Loneliness
But then, on the other hand, in their youth, they had no idea how painful loneliness is at our age. I was happy having a new partner. Joe was a poet, a former opera bass-baritone, an intuitive, a sexy lover, and a fountain of inspiration when I needed uplifting. He was the single most powerful force pulling me out of the abyss of a grey divorce.
I decided the trade-off was worth it. I would stay with him. We moved to San Francisco together. He taught me to live in the moment. He introduced me to Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now. He gave me Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey. He taught me how to meditate. We “birded” in Golden Gate Park and Marin Headlands. And, after all the calm, quiet moments of nature, we returned home to continue our sexual exploits.
Eventually, la-la land ended. I could no longer support him in San Francisco. Our blissful life was replaced with endless exhausting relationship discussions, draining us both. Through tears and sadness, he moved back home, and I stayed in San Francisco.
Starting from Scratch After Grey Divorce
I started living my real life – starting from scratch with new friends, new work, new adventures.
My transition man had left me, but I had my sea legs. I no longer needed his scaffolding.
In the next few years, we would connect again, as lifelong friends. We were in an email string where he was describing a debilitating upper respiratory infection he couldn’t shake, when I got the call. Joe was too late getting to the hospital. He slipped into septicemia. Joe had died.
Yesterday, we held his memorial service. I felt his strength and his presence was palpable.
I was blessed that he came into my life and stood by me at my darkest hour. He taught me to have fun, and to be sexy, again. He catapulted me to new heights in my business with his loving needling and nudging.
Not everyone has a “transition person” after divorce, though it’s not uncommon. Some morph into new life partners. Some stay only briefly. Some prey on and take advantage of the newly divorced. Some are gentle souls who tenderly hand-hold you into a new life.
There are Still Plenty of Fish in the Sea – Even After Grey Divorce
In our later years, during “grey divorce”, the specter of isolation and loneliness looms large for some. The challenge is to keep eyes wide open with a transition person, and to recognize it for what it is. After it ends, find an understanding counselor and know that there are many other fish in the sea, still, in spite of common misconception that no new partners are out there, later in life.
Some divorced folks don’t want a new partner. Some do. For those who seek a new partner, understanding the function of a transition person is critical. Enjoy the bliss that person brings you. At the same time, recognize that there will be a time to let that person go. They will give you a gift of new life – and for that, you will be eternally grateful. Then, you must let them go.
As the Ecclesiastes verse 3: 1-8 says (made popular by The Byrds “Turn, Turn, Turn” in 1965) “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose unto Heaven”.
Goodbye, my dear Joe. I will always have a place in my heart for you. Thank you for all the lessons, kindness, gentleness, wonderful intimacy, and powerful pushes you gave me. I am strong today because of you.
Rest in peace, my dear lover. Your inspirations and life lessons will continue to live in me.