When I asked a friend recently how she’s doing, she paused and answered, “I keep wondering if this is all there is.”
She, like me, is 50-something and like many 50-somethings we are empty-nesters or about to be empty-nesters; we’re either 20-something years into a marriage or divorced. We’re in the so-called “midlife crisis” years, a time when we question what we’ve done (and, more likely, haven’t done) and where to we want to be.
It was odd timing, coming just days after I read Monique Honaman’s provocative post in the Huffington Post, I Just Wish He Would Have an Affair, in which she details how many wives have confided in her that they just don’t want to be married anymore:
These women are done. They say they aren’t happy. They say they aren’t in love with their husbands (or any other man — they aren’t having affairs). They say they simply wish they were no longer married to him. They aren’t fulfilled. They wonder if this is how they are doomed to live the rest of their lives (and God-willing, most of them have another 40+ years ahead of them). … The common factor amongst all of these women is that they say that their husbands are really solid, good, nice men. … they just don’t want to be married to them anymore because they have fallen out of love.
That’s a curious place to be but not unusual. Ms. Honaman doesn’t say how old these women are or how long they’ve been married, but since she indicates they have another 40-plus years ahead of them, I don’t think I’m off in guessing they’re in their 40s, 50s and 60s — yep, midlife.
Why is midlife so wrought with angst for women? Well, beside the study that found that age 48 is the pivotal year for women’s unhappiness, women tend to be more prone to depression anyway. But at midlife we’re dealing with menopause, the loss of our role as nurturer, the loss of our youth and beauty, etc.
And I don’t doubt that some women have been inspired by the “Eat, Pray, Love” life or, what AskMen calls the Second-Act Syndrome: After raising a family and tending to the home and baking brownies for the Boy Scout fundraiser and volunteering to drive on who-knows-how-many field trips while doing paid or non-paid work (and, yes, being a stay-at-home parent is work), it’s finally “me” time. We want to stop nurturing others and start nurturing ourselves. We want to feel a little bit selfish instead of selfless.
But does that mean men are out of the picture or just husbands? Since, two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women and many women tend to do well after divorce, it’s a valid question to ask.
Blogger Dalrock has an interesting post titled, Are Women Done With Men After Age 55 in which he believes he dispels the myth that women “are wired to prefer to divorce and live alone later in life.”
I don’t believe we’re “wired” to that, but he’s missing an essential point: There are many women who do not divorce but live in loveless and sexless marriages for a variety of reasons (as do men) nonetheless. As Pamela Haag discovered while researching for her book “Marriage Confidential, “33 percent of respondents agreed that ‘even if you’re unhappy, you should stick it out for the children.’ That’s up from 20 percent in a 1970 survey.” And as Pamela Paul detailed in The Undivorced, many couples live together but have separate lives. So much for being married happily ever after.
So, where does that leave middle-aged divorced women? Are we done with men?
For some, yes. There are a number who put aside their all their needs, including sexual, to just focus on their kids. There are also many women who prefer the company of girlfriends to men, throw themselves into their career and travel, and relish their freedom. There are many women who want to find love again but give up, frustrated, unhappy or uncomfortable with the 50-plus dating scene. And then there are older women who are happily dating or in relationships — according to an AARP study, most divorced women in midlife do find someone new — 75 percent of women in their 50s reported enjoying serious, exclusive relationships after their divorces, often within two years, compared with 81 percent of men in their 50s (although more older men tend to marry again than older women).
All of which would indicate that, no, women in their 50s and beyond are not done with men.
We just may be done with marriage.
- Do you think middle-aged women want nothing more to do with men?
- Do middle-aged men feel the same way?