“Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.” (Mark Twain 1835 –1910)
One way to overcome loneliness is to try and find a soulmate with whom to share the rest of life. I observe my girlfriends, some young and others not so young in their quests. Having become very independent and self-sufficient myself since my own divorce I wonder maybe somewhat cynically, if it’s worth the hassle! Let’s face it; now that you babyboomers (those born immediately after World War 2) and older have reached this stage of life most will have acquired baggage. Many will have acquired so much baggage along the way, both emotional baggage, financial and family baggage. From the prevalence of dating agencies we know how difficult it can be for single women to meet suitable men in the first place, so it stands to reason that it will be even more of a problem for single women who have the addition of baggage. Single men who are attractive enough propositions to risk everything for – baggage or no baggage – seem pretty elusive. Making comparisons with past partners is the kiss of death, one must never look back, but forward with an open mind to what might be. Of course we do hear of success stories, of mature women who do meet their “Mr Right” in their quest for love the second time around. Perhaps for them, the best is yet to come?
But many discover themselves caught up in a complex situation, which they had not bargained for. Relationships are far from simple the second – or third – time round. All too soon a woman is likely to realise there are more than just she and her new partner playing their game. She may also discovers new and unfamiliar rules. Unlike young love the first time around, the couple may find they need more than just a parent’s approval of their new liaison. Forming new relationships later in life often entails vetting by committee. The couple have to run the gauntlet of family and friends before there’s any hope of their relationship progressing, or of it ever becoming permanent! This can apply to both parties with the added complications of either partner’s children, or young adults, or even elderly dependant parent’s already living in the existing nest. Offspring and other family relations have the ability to very quickly freeze out a prospective mate if they feel so inclined. Indeed some family members may feel jealous of the intended, and display a need to compete for love. There is no guarantee that offspring from one family will happily co-exist with offspring from the opposing camp. The resulting emotional turmoil and blackmail can create divided loyalties for all concerned and makes choices regarding everyone’s future happiness very difficult indeed.
There are no easy solutions, and the second or subsequent partnerships will usually throw up individual problems, which will need to be overcome if the new relationship is to survive at all. But it takes diplomacy and sensitivity to keep everyone happy in these delicate situations. After the initial bitterness following separation or divorce has subsided, it is essential where children are involved and whenever possible, to maintain some form of contact. Guilt is a strong emotion, particularly the guilt felt by a parent who leaves behind children when they make their break. Christmas time and a child’s birthday affect all but the most insensitive, and many become aware of the void and unhappiness felt by their offspring. These are difficult moments. Inevitably there will be times when one or both former partners feel very alone, at family gatherings such as the weddings, christenings, or funerals. Some women find themselves emotionally torn between an ex partner who needs support and a new partner who feels jealous and rejected if it is offered. Over a period of time many divorced and separated couples do eventually work out a formula, which is acceptable to most involved. However, they need to be aware that some occasions will always be difficult for the ex or new partner, as well as the children. Someone will invariably get hurt, but in order to prevent further distress to the family; many ex partners manage to put on a united front, even though emotionally things can never be the same again. I often wonder how many of these people who experience this emotional distress might be tempted to turn back the clock if they could? It is part of being a human being to make mistakes and have failures, even so we must move on and not allow ourselves to become obsessive or dwell on them.
Happily, some couples will be lucky and find a new partner and despite all odds many make a go of their new relationships. Other women slowly come to terms with life on their own, and over the years gradually accept being alone, and recognise the benefits of their new-found freedom. They observe close friends in difficult circumstances, coping with bad relationships, abuse, cruelty and the constraints of a permanent, unsatisfactory partnership. Many heave a sigh of relief that it’s not them who are going through the trauma of an affair, and realise that at the drop of a hat they have the advantage of being able to happily do what they want to do without having to consider someone else.
These women have no constraints and nobody else to consider or please but themselves. Work schedules and finances permitting, they can travel anytime, anywhere and are free to visit family and friends scattered around the country, or even the world, either alone or with a loyal girlfriend. Being a good friend, they are able to answer the call of help from others in distress, and can soon be on hand, to care and console. With only themselves to consider the world can be their oyster, and although they are alone in life, if they are well enough and enjoy travelling they need never to be lonely. That is, so long as they can overcome the stigma that some older women still feel, a reticence or a regret, for not being part of a twosome any more. But they need to realise that convention is a thing of the past, and there is no stigma whatsoever attached to a woman being alone, dining alone, or travelling alone. In fact there can be a great deal more satisfaction and flexibility for those who find themselves on their own. With the freedom and choice they are able to do whatever they think is right for them, and them alone, without any form of compromise.
Compatible couples who have been in long term marriages or partnerships are totally satisfied with their mates that they hate be apart from one another for a minute. But in truth not many people have perfect partnerships and to co-exist a lot of couples make compromises. Women in more constricting relationships often envy their single friends the opportunity to just be themselves. We are all unique and would prefer to be able to do what is important to us personally if we are to be happy and fulfilled human beings. It’s not enjoyable and is often frustrating to always be making compromises as one of a couple. Being on one’s own again in later life can, by taking advantage of the circumstances, and with the right attitude, be very satisfying.
It is all a question of attitude. We cannot remove the past, nor can we change the way people have treated us, neither can we change our destiny. But what we can change is our attitude to life. To my mind a positive attitude, the ability to turn a bad situation around into a good one, to our advantage, is one of the secrets of growing old successfully. It’s part of coming to terms with yourself, getting to like and respect yourself. It develops when you spend time alone, and you give yourself space. These quiet times, undisturbed by the hurly burly of everyday life, are when you are free to explore your own tastes and talents, music, literature, painting. It’s quality time, when you have the opportunity to get to know yourself better to become confidence in yourself and of your abilities. Self-respect and self-esteem are your rewards. But to achieve this end we have first to believe in ourselves to recognise our worth and not be dependent on others for our happiness.
As Martha Washington, First Lady (1731-1802) said…
”The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.”