The General and I were having our usual Sunday morning coffee discussion group today (only 2 people permitted, dressing gowns required) and listening to a superb documentary about “grey divorce” which caused us to sit exchanging (sometimes worried glances) as women discussed either having to leave their partners of many decades or being left themselves, each terrifying for different reasons. Of course, for the person who leaves, that ‘terror’ could often be called excitement; the beginning of something new; or a totally fresh start sponged clean of predictability, routine and those little pyramids of toenail clippings in the tub. (Editor’s Note).
What struck me with many stories was the punch-in-the-face shock of it all, that it seemed to literally happen overnight; yesterday they might have been preparing dinner as usual and the next day a few phone calls had been made and they were packing, ready to move.
Although The General and I both experienced being “The Dump-ee” late in life, it’s not what binds us together because that would be desperately practical and definitely unwanted by both of us; I can be happy with very simple things independently (and that has always been true, I think it’s something most women excel at) but I do believe that I am much happier still with him.
After all, he’s clever-funny, interesting and hard-to-resist handsome in equal parts. Perfect cups of tea and watching-whatever-I-want-on-TV are not replicating this, no matter how good.
What I don’t enjoy is the constant, almost daily, reassessment my mind and heart seem to now demand on that score and for me, that is the worst legacy of a “grey divorce.” Possibly forever, I must live with an emotional barometer which has been re-set so dramatically that I can never really, fully uncoil again and feel secure and at peace.
(And I should not say forever. I do believe I will manage this better as time goes on, but it requires a kind of military vigilance).
Of course, having a husband who comes out in midlife is a different scenario from most grey divorces and I think it may have a slightly longer shelf life for misery, since there are so many haunting, unanswered questions and the absolute conviction that having them answered, would not be helpful anyway.
I once read a very powerful personal story of a woman whose husband came out, suddenly, and she likened the mood of his departure to someone pushing open the heavy door of a prison and running towards the chink of light ahead, falteringly at first, but gradually gaining joyous speed. She doesn’t mention the glint of a revolving disco ball but I can say with some certainty that this was definitely the guiding light for my own husband.
He seems very happy, unfettered and authentic now and in a completely different way – so am I.