Dreams Dashed

Finding your ‘happily ever after’ on your own

By Gwenn Voelckers

I met Susan several years ago, when she attended one of my Alone and Content workshops. Below, she plaintively recalls the raw feelings she experienced following her divorce:

“I opted to end my unhappy marriage and initiate a divorce about three years ago. Since then, I’ve been on my own.

It wasn’t easy back then. I was surprised to discover that many married friends no longer wanted to socialize with me, fearing I might be a threat and attract the interest of their husbands.

Plus, I made my daughter the singular focus in my life, and lost contact with people. Over time, I developed the attitude that I had nothing to offer and slid into a minor depression.

Finances were another issue. I had stayed home to take care of my daughter but, after my split, found it necessary to get a job to make ends meet.”

Susan, like many divorced women and men, found herself bewildered and fearful of the future after her marriage ended. For many, the experience of having a marriage of many years unravel is not unlike becoming the victim of an unwelcome catastrophe.

No matter what, and even though more people are waiting longer to walk down the aisle, most still hold onto the dream of “happily ever after.” That dream is powerful. Letting go of it can seem next to impossible.

I know it was for me.

While getting and being divorced can feel overwhelming, most everyone presses on and, lo and behold, eventually experiences a change in attitude and perspective that ultimately enriches their lives and opens up possibilities — possibilities they couldn’t have imagined when they were in the throes of loss.

Susan continued:

“It’s taken me a long time to get it together. I went back to college and graduated with an advanced degree in nursing. It kept me busy, but now my daughter is preparing to leave for college.

Life will be very different (and a lot quieter) without her here, so I am being proactive. I’m walking with friends (six feet apart) and I’m an active member of Meetup.com (now virtual), the social networking program that gives members safe ways to find and connect with others who share common interests — things such as hiking, reading, food, pets, photography, hobbies, etc.

I also make a point of staying in touch with my colleagues at work, through email and Zoom meetings. And, I’m no longer waiting for an invitation; I’m initiating the contacts, which people appreciate. It feels good! 

Attending Gwenn’s workshop was the jump-start I needed to get moving. Listening to others made me realize that we were all struggling with similar issues. I no longer felt so alone and benefited from hearing how others have dealt with their challenges. 

When the workshop was over, I made several small, but meaningful changes at home. I now create a nice place-setting for dinner and put fresh flowers on my kitchen counter to welcome myself home. I cleaned up the clutter on my desk and am practicing meditation most mornings (it’s a work in progress).

I am also planning a solo travel adventure abroad, when it’s safe to lift off. That’s a huge leap for me!”

While few women and men consciously decide to live singly, more and more are finding themselves on their own in midlife. The good news? Like Susan, they are making healthy choices and finding joy on their own. While she acknowledges that there are trade-offs to being single, she has created a life that meets her needs and supports her new dreams:

“After my divorce, I had this dreaded thought that I would be alone for the rest of my life. I identified with Whistler’s Mother, in her dowdy dress and dour expression.

I now realize that just because I choose to live alone does not mean that I am alone: Fact is, I’m surrounded by family and friends who love me.

I am no longer frantically, desperately seeking a new relationship or the next big thing to ignite excitement in my life. I am content to spend time either at home alone or socializing safely with small groups of dear friends. I’ve even gone on a few ‘virtual’ dates.

As I’ve come into my own, I now know that I am fully responsible for making positive changes in my life. That realization is empowering. I’m engaged with others and am having fun and feeling like my old self again for the first time in a very long time.”

On her own, Susan has fashioned a life that works well for her. You can, too. Being single can give you the time you need (and deserve!) to sustain a diverse and interesting network of friends, to go new places, to pursue your professional or personal aspirations, and to experience adventures yet to be imagined.

My advice? Don’t close yourself off from people. It’s easy to stay home (especially these days), to dig a hole and furnish it — but that’s a big mistake. Be curious, Be courageous. Research things to do and show up. Go … even if it means going alone. Who knows what you might discover on the corner of happy and delight?!

Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women, and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com

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