How to Handle Single Life in the Forties

Our forties are often a time when many women find themselves newly single. “All the rules have changed,” exclaimed Christine, a year after ending her eighteen-year marriage in divorce. “I feel like Rip Van Winkle, coming awake in a different century.”

Women like Christine who face being single in their forties, whether they are widowed or divorced, may be terrified at the thought of dating again, let alone entering into a serious long-term relationship. When they dated as young women, the specter of AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases never entered their minds. They may fear that their opportunities for love are now limited because they are not as young as they used to be. And relationships can be much more complicated when shared custody of children and changes in financial status are part of them.

Man in Forties

“Take a few steps back, and think about your own needs now,” I suggested to Christine. “You have an opportunity to discover things about yourself at this time in your life that you may have ignored before, or not had the chance to develop.”

Her loneliness and feelings of insecurity, I suggested, are a natural outcome after ending a long marriage or relationship. “The company of friends can be very healing while you adjust to life without your ex-husband. Companionship and support are important for you now,” I said. “You’ll decide when the ground underneath you feels solid enough again to think about another relationship. You’ll be the only one who will know when that time has come.”

Christine’s marriage had been troubled for several years before she and her husband decided to divorce, so in the aftermath, shock wasn’t among the feelings she struggled with. Sarah, however, still finds herself stunned and disbelieving two years after her husband’s sudden death. “I never dreamed I would be by myself at forty-four. Of course I knew about all the things that can rock a marriage, but death at this time in my life? I was utterly unprepared.

“I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, ‘Don’t worry, you’re young, you can remarry.’ I know they meant well, but they have no idea what a stinging statement that is. I don’t want to remarry. I wanted to live out a long life with my husband and get very old with him.” She sighed. “Now I have friends trying to fix me up with single men.” “Do you meet them?” I asked her.

I did, a few times. Then I decided not to anymore because I always felt so depressed afterward. I’m not sure why, because a couple of them seemed perfectly nice.” “When you’re ready to go out again, perhaps you can consider meeting the men your friends suggest more as part of enlarging your circle,” I said. “See if you can just enjoy talking with someone new, telling him about yourself, solely for the purpose of having a good time. You don’t have to think beyond the moment if you don’t want to. It might feel less depressing that way, and less like every date is a poor stand-in for the husband you still miss so much.”

Christine and Sarah are single in their forties for very different reasons; one has some feelings of relief while the other is still struggling to get past devastation. Yet I made three similar suggestions to both of them: “First, be very protective of your physical health. I would tell you that even if you weren’t in the middle of adjusting to an enormous life change, but it’s doubly important now. Then, take the time you need to crystallize a very clear idea about what you want, not necessarily with respect to relationships but for your whole life, what you need for security, fulfillment, and happiness. Finally, remember that the keys to your fulfillment are within your own energy, creativity, and capacity for healing and renewal. When and if you’re ready, you can bring all those qualities to the type of relationship that will be right for you.”

Filed Under: Lifestyle & Personality


About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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