Get answers to your divorce questions from author Erica Manfred.
Editor’s Note: Erica Manfred, author of He’s History, You’re Not: Surviving Divorce After 40, is answering your questions about divorce — from how to deal with betrayal, to surviving the first year, to dating again, to finding a new career. Our “Divorce Doctor” looks forward to hearing from you. Leave your questions for Erica in the comments below or e-mail submit@wowOwow.com. For more advice from Erica, visit www.heshistory.com.
Sally R. asks:
“Imagine my thrill at the prospect of starting over in my 60s. I have been married for 42 years and I’m now dealing with a somewhat different situation. My husband left me almost two years ago, and when I finally got fed up with being in financial limbo, I filed for divorce late last year. He says he doesn’t want a divorce — but he won’t offer a single reason to not get one. He tells his lawyer that unless I rescind the petition, he won’t do anything to reconcile. Although I still love him, I no longer like him and don’t see him in my future. I have wanted us to go to counseling all along but now I think it would be a waste of time. At this point, I want him to “cut me loose,” so I can move on. But the prospect of trying to find someone to date is overwhelming. I miss having someone close to cook for and with, watch movies and travel. As much as I enjoy the company of women, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life only with them.”
Erica Answers: Sally, it sounds like you’re between a rock and a hard place. He’s the one who left, but he’s the one who doesn’t want a divorce. His threat about refusing to reconcile unless you rescind the petition sounds like financial manipulation. He’s made no attempt at reconciliation for the last two years – why do you think he’s serious about it now? I think you should go ahead with your petition. He’s the one who abandoned you, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting a divorce and, hopefully, a fair settlement.
Your second problem — missing couple activities like cooking for him and having a traveling companion — is a different issue. Once you put your marriage behind you, living alone will seem much less bleak. You will look around and start noticing new ways of reinventing your life. Until then you’ll be in limbo.
I can reassure you that even though you may not find another life mate, you will find men to date and even to love. Two years after divorce, 75 percent of over-55 divorcees have been in a serious relationship. Men are out there if you’re really interested in finding one. And what’s wrong with hanging out with girlfriends? I think it’s great fun.
Linda F. asks:
“How do you stop the bitterness and pain? It’s been five years and I am still lost and hurt. I was shocked one day by a call from the other woman (a convicted prostitute, with a drug addiction, criminal record and several aliases). Before this, everyone (including me) thought this was the perfect relationship. Now, I can’t deal. I don’t want him anymore, but I can’t look at anyone else. It’s really lonely. All of my couple friends have left me. Thankfully I have some strong girlfriends and a great family with two grown children. But it doesn’t help that I lost two good jobs in this terrible economy and now I can’t find work. Do you have any ideas, support or similar feelings?”
Erica Answers: Sounds like you could use a heart-to-heart with Silda Spitzer. Are you in therapy? I would start there. What helped me the most was self-reflection and figuring out my own role in my failed marriage. No, you’re not responsible for his betrayal or sleazy behavior, but there are always red flags that we ignore and denial that we use to protect ourselves.
Ironically, the more responsibility you take for the failure of your marriage, the better you will feel. Taking responsibility is empowering. You move from victim to active participant … which feels a whole lot better.
Another crucial piece is figuring out what happened. Who were you when you got married? Why did you marry this man? What changed over the years? What did you overlook to pretend you had a happy marriage? And, yes, you did overlook a lot. I guarantee it. The more you understand, the better you’ll feel. It helps to read books about divorce. Start with mine of course. I have a good list of other divorce books in my book. As far as looking at anyone else – after betrayal – it’s very hard to trust again. But is there a choice?
Love means taking a leap into the unknown. If you don’t do it, if you don’t risk your heart, you never get the rewards of intimacy. I wish I could help with the job situation, but I’m counting on President Obama to do that.
Have a question for me? I’d love to hear your questions and answer them in my column. Please ask me anything that relates to divorce, either before, during or after. I’m the girlfriend who’s been there, done that and wants to save you a lot of anguish … and a lot of cash. Keep in mind that I’m not a lawyer and can’t answer legal questions, but I’ve interviewed many lawyers and will tell you what I’ve learned if it’s relevant. I also may consult with lawyers and other experts on issues that come up a lot. OK, shoot … Leave your questions in the comment box below or e-mail submit@wowOwow.com (with “divorce doctor” in the subject line). For more information, visit www.heshistory.com or He’s History, You’re Not: Surviving Divorce After 40.
Note: Questions may be edited for length and clarity.