Positively Midlife Podcast

Shedding Light on the Growing Trend of Gray Divorce: A Conversation with Danielle Blumenberg - Ep. 70

October 04, 2023 Tish & Ellen Season 2 Episode 70
Positively Midlife Podcast
Shedding Light on the Growing Trend of Gray Divorce: A Conversation with Danielle Blumenberg - Ep. 70
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What if the road to financial stability and self-discovery was paved with the insights of experts? That's exactly what we promise this week as we delve into the often-overlooked world of 'silver divorces' - a terrain dominated by couples over 50 deciding to part ways. We have the privilege of welcoming divorce coach Danielle Blumenberg to share her expertise on why this is a growing trend and how it demands a different approach from the divorces of younger couples.

Danielle helps us unravel the complexities of silver divorces, tackling the unique challenges these couples face, from the division of substantial assets to the emotional turmoil. But the journey doesn't stop there. We throw light on the crucial role of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), who can guide individuals through the financial labyrinth of a gray divorce. From drawing up a realistic budget to making better financial decisions, we explore how a CDFA can help you build a strong economic foundation for the future.

But what about life after divorce? We take a deep dive into assisting women to find a new purpose post-divorce and how to uncover their core values and passions from past accomplishments. We also tackle the issue of sudden divorce syndrome and walkaway wife syndrome, providing valuable resources and coping strategies. Remember, the end of a marriage is also the beginning of a new journey. It's about being the driver in your divorce decisions and allowing yourself to grieve. So join us, as we navigate through the ups and downs of silver divorces and help you find your footing amidst the inevitable change.

Obsessions:
Tish: Bluesky Cam - birdfeeder with solar panel and camera!
Ellen: Wilifidom dog water bottle - filter and folding dispenser.

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Ellen:

Tish, I've been reading about the great divorce in the news a lot lately and this week we are going to take a deep dive into this topic and to level set for our listeners. A great divorce refers to a divorce of older people, typically those 50 and above, that are getting divorced later in life.

Tish:

Now and almost 50% of all marriages in the US end in divorce or separation, and over a third of those are divorced after 50 years old. It's a staggering statistic, ellen, but do you know why you are hearing about it in the news? That's because they are all realizing that divorce and midlife differs greatly from going through a divorce when we are younger. But for the best outcome, we need to maneuver through this process differently.

Ellen:

And today we are having divorce coach Danielle Blumenberg on the show. She's going to share why this is just an exploding phenomenon and how we need to approach great divorce differently than, say, a divorce in our 20s or 30s. And great divorces can have unique challenges and considerations. Compared to divorces that occur earlier in life Under couples, I think they may have accumulated more significant assets, including retirement funds and property, and the division of these assets can be really complex.

Tish:

Additionally, issues related to spousal support and healthcare can be more predominant due to the great age-related health and financial concerns that arise and, in addition, the emotional impact of divorcing after many years of marriage can also be particularly profound.

Ellen:

I agree with you there, tish. But before we get to Danielle and this exciting topic of great divorce, let's talk about our obsessions. You know I love this part of the show. I say that every single day. What do you got for me?

Tish:

Oh no, I've got a real fun one for bird lovers, right. So I have some friends that absolutely love bird watching, and there is this cool product called Blue Sky Cam, and it's actually a little birdhouse that has a solar panel powered camera. It has night vision, it notifies you when birds show up at your feeder and it captures pictures of the birds up very up close, because the camera's right there in front of their feeder, and so if you're starting to think about gifts to get for that person that has everything, this Blue Sky Cam may just be the perfect one. It sounds amazing and I'm sure you would find a few squirrels kind of upside down One there as well, that could be some really fun photos that you share on Facebook maybe, but yes, I'm sure there will be. But what about you, ellen? What is your obsession for this week?

Ellen:

Well, I know all our listeners know that I'm a recent empty nester and my little dog, gigi, is in shock that this just happened to be in the house. I'm taking her out and about with me a lot more and I realized I did not have a water bottle or a way to drink her water. So my obsession this week is the Wipe Dumb Dog Water Bottle, and what's really cool about this is you fill it up. It has a carbon filter, so your cup is only getting the freshest water, and there's a plastic top that makes a little gondola and if your dog doesn't finish the water you head up and then the water goes back into the bottle. So you are always prepared. It has a strap you can put on, maybe a fanny pack or a backpack or a crossbody bag. So Gigi is a proud recipient of a new portable water bottle.

Tish:

Well, I am going to rest easier tonight, knowing that Gigi does not have to drink out of puddles on your walks, but I do. I love taking water bottles and different dishes. I have one that clips onto my belt and it goes flat, but when you're out you can't always find a good source of water for them, so I think that's a very cool product. So love that for our people who take their dogs everywhere you dog everywhere, all right.

Ellen:

So today we're welcoming back Danielle to the podcast, and last Danielle was with us in 2022. She shared with us why a divorce coach would be one of the best decisions a midlife woman could make. Get the best possible outcome from your divorce, from their divorce Great episode. We'll put a link in the show notes.

Tish:

And this time Danielle is going to specifically share strategies for approaching gray divorce. Welcome, danielle. It's so good to have you back with us, and I would love it if you could share your background with our listeners and a little bit about what a divorce coach is and who might actually need one.

Danielle:

Hi Ellen and Tish, it's a pleasure to be here. I've been practicing as a family mediator for about nine years and a few years ago became a divorce coach as an extension of my mediation practice. As a family mediator, I work as a neutral third party with both spouses, helping couples to negotiate an agreement that best serves their family, but as a divorce coach, I provide the emotional support one specific client needs to effectively navigate the divorce process to achieve the outcome that serves best serves themselves, not just their family after divorce. The stakes are so high for divorce and the process can be very overwhelming, especially if you don't have support, and a divorce coach is your divorce thinking partner and a supportive resource that can help guide you to make optimal decisions before, during and after divorce. So they really can help be helpful to almost everyone experiencing divorce, whether you need help deciding how to divorce at the beginning of the process or creating your best life after divorce.

Tish:

I think it so differs from like confiding in a friend. You know this is. You're going to come at it with a non emotional because you don't, you don't have a vested interest in this couple. So you come at it at a much more practical perspective and instead of either minimizing or over exciting somebody going through a divorce like friends might do right. They might stoke the fires or or, you know, not really appreciate the little intercourse, I think what you do really kind of helps. You know, according to todaycom, divorce rates are highest amongst people that are between 55 and 64 years old. So, in a time when the overall divorce rates are decreasing, why are the rates of grade divorce increasing and what are some of the biggest reasons for great divorce?

Danielle:

What great questions. Everyone gets divorced for different reasons. For a great divorce, what I've seen most in my practice are empty nesters. After the children have moved out of the house, the couple realizes that they've grown apart and feel more like roommates than life partners. I think most often it wasn't a conscious decision, to quote stay together for the kids it was more of a realization that what they had in most, most in common was that there was their children and raising their children. And now one or both spouses aren't fulfilled or happy. There are other common reasons. I hear from my clients One of-.

Tish:

What would be the top two reasons that you hear from your clients?

Danielle:

One with great divorce couples struggling with retirement. For some people, that sudden constant togetherness can present some insurmountable challenges when we're used to having some time alone to ourselves. Retirement also in and of itself can be a big source of a lot of financial disagreements, whether it's how we're gonna spend our retirement or continue to invest, and how they're gonna live their life in retirement. Some people wanna travel, some people just wanna be home, and those challenges can be really big. Another issue that we see in my practice are the physical life transitions, like menopause or sometimes health issues like prostate cancer, that can cause shifts in levels of desire that make the couple start feeling less connected and become incompatible. A lack of intimacy, either emotional or physical, can lead to feelings of rejection and, often timely, to divorce.

Tish:

Do you think those intimacy issues, when they come into play, make all the other issues seem bigger?

Danielle:

I do, I do. I think that is an excellent point. It's that feeling of disconnection that comes from a lack of intimacy that, I think, exacerbates other issues and make them feel less worthwhile to work out.

Ellen:

Right that there just isn't enough there there to really work on it after a number of years. You know, I think this is a demographic trend that I first recognized with Tipper and Al Gore. Remember that, guys, way back in 20s. Oh yeah, I mean it was kind of they seem so together and then so amiable in their parting of ways. And now Justin Thoreau, the Prime Minister of Canada, and his wife, recently Hugh Jackman and his wife, bill and Melinda Gates and a number of my friends, couples that I've known for years, have gone through this for both intimacy issues, and you know even where to live in retirement. So this is definitely on the rise in this age group.

Tish:

You know, I read that some people are calling these silver splitters, you know, rather than gray divorce, because there's a silver lining which can be the achieving of happiness right, and that's why some of these splits are amicable. I agree with you.

Danielle:

Tash? Absolutely. That's what I see in my practice. Often it because I do mediation it's a much. It can be. People who seek mediation can become a gentler and kinder divorce and ultimately become friends, especially when they intend to grandparent together and they've got lots of life events ahead of them. And think about it with people living to over 100 now, there's still 30 or 40 years of life to live. That's a long time to be unfulfilled in a relationship, so more and more people are choosing to seek happiness.

Ellen:

You know, danielle, that is an amazing statistic to really take a look at. You know, back in the day when people stayed together, they were near the end of their life, right at this stage. But I think struggling for 30 more years when you're in your 50s is something that women just aren't willing and men to do these days. But can you share with our listeners what are some of the key social and emotional impacts of this gray divorce or silver splitting? I like that silver splitting. It sounds a little sexier if you ask me. What makes this kind of divorce different from the divorce when we were younger?

Danielle:

Well, gray divorce can be a really tough emotional adjustment for some. After decades of marriage, some find it difficult to adjust to the loss of companionship and living alone. That's a big part of it. Most often, the primary difference between gray divorce and people divorcing in their 20s, 30s or 40s are the level of complexity with regard to financial issues, and also there are usually not co-parenting issues. That's not always true, because people, especially in our generation, did start having children later in life, but for the most often those children are. Even if there are co-parenting issues, the children are late teenagers and, interestingly, sometimes the financial complexity of gray divorce relates to the adult children, like how you're going to divide and contribute to the cost of higher education or other important life event expenses, like wedding costs and things like that.

Tish:

You know it's interesting. I had read this article in aacflcom and they cite that men actually become richer after getting divorced and what some of the financial considerations that women need to consider during a gray divorce. And is there time for someone to quote unquote financially recover after a gray divorce?

Ellen:

You know what I agree with that, tish. And before Daniel, you get to this, I just have to interject that I read and I know this from a number of women that poverty levels of women who are age eligible for social security, so 62 and over, are nearly twice as high as women who divorced. Those after 50 is twice as high to those divorcing prior to 50. And this is shocking. So many women in this age group are living in poverty after a divorce really diminished financial situations.

Danielle:

The statistics are staggering, and it's true that gray divorce can be especially financially detrimental for women. According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, women who experience gray divorce see a decrease in their standard of living by 45%, whereas men see a decrease of only 21%. And I will also say, though, that the best way to financially recover is to make sure that you put in the time to make the best financial decisions during your divorce and to structure your settlement in a way that you don't have to financially recover, and that's a really important thing to keep in mind.

Tish:

And that's why somebody like you who does this type of mediation, with the knowledge of how it differs so greatly from getting divorced earlier, but really for this segment of society, this gray divorce, the silver splitting, to be as educated as possible to make sure you come out of the other end in as good a shape as you can.

Ellen:

Oh, yeah, let me get one chance. You know, danielle, I remember from the last time you were with us that a lot of women just get to the point where they're like, whatever, okay, I want this over with. They throw in the towel, and I think, having a resource like you to counsel a woman from that or a lot of women just are so freaked out by it and these changes that they just want it to be done. So what are three things that we need to do? Anyone going through a gray divorce or a woman to get the most successful outcome?

Danielle:

Another great question. First, be kind to yourself and engage in self-care. That is the number one priority. Give yourself the grace to end the time to take care of yourself. A divorce can be an especially rough journey on every level Emotionally, financially, legally. Be realistic about the process and your needs, and education is a big part of that. The best advice I can give your great divorce listeners is to educate themselves about their finances and consider hiring a CDFA as part of their divorce team. A CDFA is a certified divorce financial analyst and advisor. It is a strict certification that a financial advisor has, and you can find certified divorce financial advisors online. There are some great resources for them. Often, people can't stomach the thought of paying for one more divorce professional, especially when they're already paying an attorney and maybe a coach, but the cost of a good CDFA will more than pay for itself in benefits. Most CDFAs charge between only $200 and $500 per hour, but most don't need more than a few hours to make a huge difference in your life.

Ellen:

That is so powerful. I have two friends going through divorce right now that have no idea really what their financial situation is. That can seem incredible to some, but in other marriages women had plenty and they didn't really dig into it. Just share a few more ways a CDFA can help someone.

Danielle:

Happy to To piggyback on that, ellen. In most marriages there is one person who takes care of the bills and all of that. It can create inequity in not just understanding your finances and handling finances, but it can create inequity in your ability to negotiate during your divorce settlement because you just don't know. Cdfas can help in so many ways. They can help you gain a clear understanding of all the long term and short term financial ramifications of divorce. Sorry, my puppy is having a little bit of a moment.

Tish:

That's okay, we love dogs.

Danielle:

CDFAs can help you set goals and make better financial decisions during your divorce. They can help you develop realistic expectations about what your financial life will look like post-course and help you to ensure a stable economic future, and also help you create a realistic monthly budget for long term and short term, taking into account really important things that most don't realize they need to consider, like taxes, health insurance, social security and life insurance all which are things that need to be considered in great divorce.

Ellen:

You know I think that's so important Danielle and Tish and I were just chatting about this that social security, life insurance, medical insurance into retirement is something that women really need to understand. So I think working with a CDFA could be great and I know, tish, you would agree with that.

Tish:

Oh, absolutely, you know. Again, I like the point you made, Danielle, where you were saying that, yes, it is another investment, but this is an investment that could pay off just in your financial and emotional piece of mind.

Ellen:

Right. Knowing that you made the best negotiation or put yourself in that best situation as possible, I think you know. Knowing that's a long term thing, I would say $200 to $500 as well worth it. Danielle, you know having a divorce coach at midlife I think we talked about that before. In your practice, do you give more emotional or financial support to your clients?

Danielle:

I don't provide financial advice. I, because I'm a mediator, I can provide guidance, but I really leave the financial parts, especially the complexity during great divorce, to people who can better serve you. I can provide guidelines and help you to efficiently use the other professionals you hire by helping you organize documents and find ways you know, help you develop ways to best communicate with them. But what? As a divorce coach, I primarily provide emotional and motivational support, along with a thorough understanding of what the process looks like. So a good divorce coach helps you through all phases in the divorce coach, the coaching experience is tailored to the individual needs of the client, so the type of support is really dependent and focused on the unique individual During the process. I act as a thinking partner for the myriad of important decisions that have to be made throughout the divorce process, helping you to avoid a lot of the complicated and costly mistakes that can result from emotionally charged decision making. I also will work with you on communication and negotiation skills to improve the effectiveness of your meetings with your divorce professionals, like your attorney, your mediator, but also when you have interactions with your spouse.

Ellen:

Great. Those could be very heated, I think, even in a, in a great divorce. And I really like this last point I know that you've made before is to develop that roadmap of actionable steps. I think for a lot of us we really need to understand the and then what are all of the small steps to get us from from one point to the other point and not get stuck.

Tish:

Absolutely so, danielle. I want to allow talk about our kids, you know, since the kids are usually grown, usually during a great divorce, you know. But what are some of the pieces of advice that you would give to women to set up the most positive co parenting or co grand parenting arrangements, and what are a couple of things that you know that you can lay the best foundation for this much more positive family environment?

Danielle:

There is a common myth that just because your children are adults, your parents, divorce shouldn't affect you. But by its very nature, divorce creates challenging dynamics in all the relationships among all the family members. So whether your children are five or 50, their relationships are going to shift and change. An important thing we can do for our kids, adult or otherwise, is to recognize this and not minimize it. And the other issue that I've encountered is parents over sharing with their children or turning to their children.

Tish:

Oh God, yes, that is one of my biggest pet peeves ever. Your children are not your emotional partners. Explanation point.

Ellen:

You're not your friends. You have girlfriends and guy friends. You have a lot of other people to talk to other than your children. I think that's spot on.

Tish:

Yes, continue with that thought, danielle. You can tell we're passionate about that.

Danielle:

I must say I am very passionate about this and I have seen it over and over again and it breaks my heart when I see a especially a mother, a woman who never would want to intentionally put their children in that position, and they're struggling and they are unintentionally damaging their relationships with their kids and it's heartbreaking. So I understand your passion and I share it. A really helpful resource that I recommend is a book by Carol Hughes called Home Will Never Be the Same Again A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce. It is powerful, it goes through all of these issues and it really helps you as a parent to continue to navigate that adult parent to child relationship.

Ellen:

We'll definitely put a link in our show notes to that, danielle, because I think a lot of our listeners will be interested. Because you know keeping that great strong relationship with your children, even if they're in their 40s, 30s, 40s, 50s right, it could even be in their 50s. But you know, let's pivot and talk a little bit now about, you know, rebuilding your life after a gray divorce. You're in midlife or beyond. You know how can your divorce coach help you, help a midlife woman, be in the best place to move forward post-divorce.

Danielle:

As a divorce coach, I work with women to envision their best life post-divorce and help them, as we talked about before, develop a roadmap of actionable steps to help them get to where they want to be after divorce. I work with them to clarify and set goals that align with their post-divorce life vision, and frequently this vision can help them plan and even influence their divorce negotiations. An example of this is, let's say, you are going through a gray divorce and you want or need education to enhance your job opportunities or to get raises or bonuses. This is an issue that you can include and negotiate as part of your divorce settlement that can really help you move forward and realize your dreams.

Ellen:

Wow, I never even thought of that, that there could be those type of things incorporated into the divorce process, so really glad that you mentioned that.

Tish:

You know, based on an article from divorcenetcom, they were saying that two-thirds of gray divorce are initiated by women. What do you feel is driving that statistic?

Danielle:

First, I think women seem to be the ones. Regardless of who initiates the divorce or wants the divorce, I think women are the ones who actually follow through and do the paperwork. That is the reality, but in my opinion there are a lot of reasons for that, I think. Compared to generations past, I think there's a lot less social pressure to stay married today for women. I think women have better job opportunities, more financial independence and security, which makes divorce a little less risky for them. A consequence of having this financial independence and security and job opportunities is that women are becoming less accepting of the unequal workload they frequently find in the home.

Ellen:

It's true, danielle. When Tish asked this question, what do you think is driving the statistics? I was going to say underwear on the floor. I think a lot of women at this point don't want to be a caregiver. They're done with that part and looking to move on. Maybe you can talk about this a little bit. Does your approach change depending upon the length of time a woman has been married, or, if it was like a first marriage, a second marriage? Many of us had a few marriages.

Danielle:

It doesn't matter as much whether it's first, second, third, fourth, fifth marriage, so much except there are some caveats to that, because any previous settlement is altered by a new marriage. The length of marriage definitely impacts a lot of issues. Length is what is really key here, especially with grade divorce. When approaching retirement. Grade divorce isn't just typically over 50, people over 50 divorcing it also are generally viewed as long-term marriages that lasted the majority of their adult life. Some of the financial issues and entitlements are directly tied to the duration of a marriage. A good example of this are social security benefits. If you are divorced, you can receive benefits based on the record of your ex-spouse under a few conditions. First, your marriage had to be at least 10 years or longer. You are not currently remarried. So for people who are first or second or third marriages, if you are not currently married but you had remarried, you are still entitled to either take your own benefits or take your ex-spouse's benefits if those benefits exceed yours, or you can take their benefits from 62 to 65 and then take yours at 65. You do have to be at least 62 years or older to tap those benefits.

Ellen:

This is fascinating, danielle, and something I only learned about because my sister-in-law sent me a TikTok that somebody had put up about this. Surprisingly, tish and I talked about this just a few months ago. I think this is something that a lot of women really need to know more about and educate themselves on, because I had no idea you could take some benefits from 62 to 65 and others. We'll put some links in our show notes for that.

Tish:

Ellen, I definitely think we need to soon put a whole show together about this in particular, because when I have brought it up to other women, they don't know. No, they don't know, they don't know. It's like a huge secret. I don't know.

Ellen:

At the beginning of the show we said there's a heck of a lot of divorces out there these days. Tish, you and I love the stats and we love citing places that we've read about the stats In an August 2020 article in Divorce Magazine. Yes, there is something called Divorce Magazine Finding yourself again after the divorce is really about rediscovering the self-identity and we talk about this a lot on the show. Understanding your strengths and priorities, danielle. How do you help midlife women really rediscover their identity and whether it's a changed identity and how does this really affect their feeling process?

Danielle:

It's been my experience that, prior to divorce, many women, as a wife or as a mother, have prioritized other people's wants and needs and desires, but they rarely consider their own, because they're always putting other people first. As a divorce coach, I encourage my clients to spend a lot of time focusing only on themselves and reflecting on the life they really want. With the right support, the struggle of going through the divorce, and even the pain, can help women realize how much strength and courage they really have and use that strength and courage to view the past as a learning tool in order to make new life decisions. If we let it gray, divorce can offer the freedom to explore all the things that interested us that we never had time for before. Tish, when I think of you, I think of how you discovered the joy of beekeeping and pickleball and Ellen, you discovered taking and yoga. You both structured and prioritized your lives and time to better satisfy yourselves and who you are. This refocus on opportunity can be extremely healing for people.

Tish:

You started the episode out with self-care. I think that goes hand in hand. When you start taking care of yourself, you can get in touch with what these interests are. You start to not become selfish but become self-reliant. We have all heard the horrible adage that maybe the best way to get over someone is to get under someone new. All right, so how do you advise women to approach dating post-divorce and what is the difference for them at midlife?

Danielle:

Well, as we just talked about, we spend so much of our lives prior to midlife focused on other people's wants and desires and needs. Because of this, I strongly advise women to first develop a strong, loving relationship with themselves before dating. This can absolutely be profound, especially after ending a relationship that's lasted decades. Initially, though, I think it's paramount for women to prioritize self-care, get involved in the community, focus on companionship over romance. Really, the only romance I encourage women to pursue immediately after divorce is romancing themselves.

Tish:

So no developing into a cougar right away. Is that what you're saying?

Danielle:

Give yourself a few months. Women actually statistic. I know you guys love your statistics but, women who date younger men have statistically happier relationships and more satisfying relationships, just saying.

Ellen:

We're going to have to keep that one forward Definitely. And you know what I do think it's really profound to just try and be alone for a while Not lonely, but alone with yourself and I think that's a really hard thing to do but a great skill to have. We've seen time and time again, once someone finds their purpose with capital P I love saying that in life their path forward becomes so clear and has fewer roadblocks. What are some ways, danielle, that you assist women to find a new purpose? Post-debord Wow.

Danielle:

That's a big one. Finding a purpose is a core identity need, but it looks so different for each of us. I encourage women to begin by reflecting on their past accomplishments and times when they felt fulfilled or contentment. We underrate contentment, I think, in search of what we perceive as happiness. I really want them to think about what their accomplishments or fulfillment or contentment really look like for them. What was the underlying driver or passion of that fulfillment or accomplishment? Because sometimes we discover those core values by really taking a deep dive and distilling those things down with the right thinking partner. I also encourage women to stay engaged in their community, try tons of new experiences. I didn't start skydiving until after I was 40. I know bizarre. Another thing that seems to be helpful is when we help other people face struggles that we've successfully overcome. Women can provide a tremendous amount of meaning and purpose and fulfillment. I think an important thing to remember, though, is to keep in mind that we grow and change. What gives us purpose or fulfillment today can be very different tomorrow, and that's okay.

Tish:

Yeah, there are two different syndromes I want to talk about. Right, I have read a little bit about. One is the sudden divorce syndrome. One is called walkaway wife syndrome. Let's first talk about sudden divorce syndrome, where one spouse is taken by surprise and doesn't see this divorce coming. How can this impact the proceedings in a divorce? Okay, that was something I wanted to start with. You have to start thinking of how I do have some sort of. Are you sure about that?

Danielle:

That's what I'm wondering A major impact I've seen of sudden divorce syndrome is dealing with those feelings of betrayal and the challenges they create to emotional healing. It's important, though, that we work really hard on not letting those emotions get in the way of the important decisions we need to make to have the positive outcome we desire Do you see, oh, hang on, tish.

Ellen:

I just wanted to mention here you know I've seen it time and time again where the person who doesn't initiate the divorce really has such a harder time. You know it's the I don't want to say dumping someone or getting dumped, but I think it really sets that person up at such an emotional disadvantage where I can see a divorce coach really can come in here and play a big role.

Tish:

Now, with this sudden divorce syndrome, danielle, do you see the person being surprised, in most cases to be the woman or the man?

Danielle:

That's a good question. That is a great question. I don't know that there are really any statistics that describe it. I would say it seems that in my practice it's about 50-50. There are a lot of women that I've seen that are usually surprised by infidelity, but the surprise for the divorce has generally come from men. I don't know if that makes sense, but it seems like surprise from divorce I seem to see more often in men and the surprise and the difficulty in healing for women that I've worked with has generally come from infidelity.

Tish:

So that kind of leads into the second part of. So let's talk a little bit about this walk away wife syndrome. You know instances where spouses are often women who have felt alone or neglected or resentful inside what they see as a failing marriage and then they decided to end the marriage in what feels like very spur of the moment act. But in fact it usually comes for them after long periods of unresolved conflicts. The husband thinks all as well, but the wife is planning her exit strategy all along.

Danielle:

That's a really interesting. I find a walk away wife syndrome to be really interesting. Usually, women who file for divorce have thought about it for seven years before they actually file in great force. So I can't remember where I heard that statistic, but I thought it was a very interesting statistic, probably on another podcast, but you're right. Often, though that there has, there have been numerous signs of problems that were unintentionally ignored and efforts that have gone unrecognized before a woman leaves. One thing I've heard more than once is I wasn't being heard and I felt like I had no choice but to file.

Ellen:

You know, danielle, I think that's so true and this one really resonates with me the walk away wife, because I think a lot of women feel unheard in their marriages it's just my opinion here and that a lot of times they're like I'll just wait, I'll wait it out until the kids grow and flown and then separate. And so I think a lot of times the men don't see it coming because they just think the woman's going to keep going forever with the same bad situation going on.

Danielle:

I agree, and I don't think for men that it's necessarily conscious. I think that they have different things that fulfill them and give them contentment, and, as women are generally the caretakers, men may just not see that and see the struggle, or don't recognize the struggle because it's been something that's been going on for so long. I don't ever think it's intentional. I do believe an emptiness, though, causes many women to reevaluate what they want and some ultimately choose divorce.

Tish:

I couldn't agree more. I do think you know it's that when you take away all the busy activity that come with kids and what you have left is the couple. And if the couple isn't strong going into that, they could be in trouble. They could be headed for this great divorce.

Ellen:

Yeah, because there is that void. It's just the two of them at that point. Tish, I completely agree there. So an article in Prospect Therapycom. They reported that women tend to be happier after divorce than men, which I think is interesting. I can share that. I am happy to be on my own and divorced. At this point I can't speak for my ex-spouse, but would you agree with that assessment, danielle?

Danielle:

Absolutely, ellen. I think women are very adaptable, and after divorce they seek to enrich their lives. They often have very strong support networks and choose to spend time with family and friends who lift them up and empower them, rather than to isolate themselves. Statistics show that men see a significant loss of social connection after divorce, since it's often women who organize a couple's social life, and so some women have even told me they felt empowered or liberated after divorce.

Tish:

Danielle, would you agree that while the number one reason for divorce when we are younger is lack of commitment, but maybe for great divorce it happens to start shifting over to financial disputes? And I say this because of an article that I was reading that talked about that the main reason for great divorce is financial disputes, but whether or not and it really kind of focuses I know I'm going all over the place here, but it really kind of focuses over arguments over budgets, investments, how to spend their retirement funds. What approach do you use in counseling your clients when the reason is specifically financial?

Danielle:

Well, as we get older, our finances have grown, they've accumulated and they've become very complex. As a result, they have a greater impact on our lives. We've become really hyper aware at this point in our lives, in our 50s and 60s and 70s, that our finances are finite and a primary resource for the way we want to live our lives. As we discussed earlier, I always strongly encourage my clients whether it is coaching clients or mediation clients for all parties to educate themselves about their finances and consider working with the CDFA.

Ellen:

You know it's funny. I mean for me. I think sometimes, danielle, people stay together because they don't want to split their finances. I can't afford to divorce you kind of thing. Some people rather have the full amount of money than the divorce. But for me, what I see with a lot of my friends is that it's more about the other person hasn't grown with them, they just haven't evolved. The woman or the man. At this midlife stage they really don't have anything to talk about, nothing in common. Or the spouse doesn't want to do anything like go to the theater or the opera or take a pickleball. So what do you have left? So at least it is that growth or lack of growing together.

Tish:

Yeah, Danielle, what do you see are some of the future trends with great divorce? Do you see the numbers continuing to increase? Do you see ways midlifers could avoid the divorce? Great question, Tess.

Danielle:

Well, that is a great question and, ellen, I think, to circle back, I think that you hit the nail squarely on the head and what you describe is what I hear most. Of course, the finances are always going to be entangled and when there are other issues, especially a lack of commonalities, finances may become the thing that we fight about when there are really other issues that are underlying. With regard to divorce trends, it's really tough to say, especially with how divorce may be being impacted by the current economic conditions, like inflation and higher interest rates. There are so many factors that contribute to divorce trends.

Tish:

Are you saying it's going to become more financially difficult to become divorced because of the bad economic situation?

Danielle:

Recession. I hate to use the R word, but recession does impact divorce, especially later in life. Because, think about it, we just had this continuing resolution just pass and while it does in, social security is already funded and is not impacted necessarily right now by our government budgets. Those things can't help but impact, because they do impact our finances, whether we're divorced or married. The stock market is more volatile, people are looking for safer ways to invest things like that and those do absolutely contribute to divorce trends. How? I mean, maybe they create some financial hardships for some people. That creates more arguments and more divorce, but it also can have the reverse impact With regard to a hundred-.

Tish:

I was going to say what about avoiding divorce? What would be one or two key things that you could say to somebody to avoid even entering into this?

Danielle:

With regard to avoiding divorce, I don't think I have any secrets to share, but I do believe that open and non-judgmental communication is the key to all positive, fulfilling relationships.

Ellen:

Your spot on. Communication across every kind of relationship is really the most foundational piece and, a lot of times, the most difficult. So, danielle, we're coming towards the end of the podcast here and we'd really like to know what advice for our listeners that you have that could be in this situation that we just talked about. If you could give us one or two pieces.

Danielle:

Sure. My first piece of advice is don't go it alone. Get the right support for yourself and be kind to yourself. Most importantly, as hard as it is, during the divorce process, it is a finite period of time. Make sure to be the driver, not the passenger, in the decisions that will impact the rest of your life.

Tish:

I love that too. I think it's so many times we let other people drive because it's so emotionally overwhelming, but this is not the time to be the passenger. I love that advice. Now, Danielle, what resources do you have that you could share with us for women considering a divorce at midlife?

Danielle:

There are some amazing resources available online. One I highly recommend all the time is SavvyLadiesorg. That's S-A-V-V-Y-L-A-D-I-E-Sorg. Savvyladiesorg is a nonprofit organization that offers free financial resources and education programs for women that are just critical. Lsvgov is another resource that may provide legal assistance for people who are low income. Another good resource is that most states offer divorce self-help centers and information and forms on their court websites Great.

Ellen:

We'll put all of those in the show notes.

Tish:

Great, Danielle, we always have our favorite question is what is your superpower? Wow.

Danielle:

Well, I have kryptonite, just like everybody. There are certain things that cut through that superpower, but I'd like to think that I have X-ray vision. What I mean by that is I work really hard to try and see people and accept people for who they are. We're all imperfectly perfect. We are all messy, and no one is more messy than I am.

Tish:

I don't know about that, but I like that. I love that outlook that you have. I have to say, because I've known you for more years than I'm willing to admit here, that accepting people for who they are is truly your gift. You see the best in everyone around you and you pull the best out of people that are around you. X-ray vision, I would say that. Your superpower, yes.

Danielle:

That is the best compliment I think I've ever received. Thank you.

Ellen:

You said it though, danielle. I think it's really. It's like we're all imperfect and just going into it with that as the level playing field, I think, just makes for a happier and better relationship. As we wrap up today's podcast, I think we really need everyone to remember that every divorce, each divorce, is unique. What works for one person may not work for the other person. So, as Danielle said a few times today, seek advice for professionals who can help you navigate your specific situation. Put together your team, your community, your group, and ultimately, the goal is to emerge with a better sense of empowerment and that brighter look on the future. Tish and I both know that's hard as women who've been through divorce, but I think Danielle's words are really wisdom.

Tish:

You know, healing and adjusting to life post divorce is a process and it's going to take time. I think what I need to say to people is be patient with yourself and allow yourself to grieve. Even if you were the one that wants this marriage to end, you still have to grieve the end of this marriage.

Ellen:

Good words there to you, tish. All right, danielle, thank you so much for being here with us today and for this informative discussion. We really appreciate you coming back on the show.

Tish:

All of our resources will be in the show notes as well.

Ellen:

Hey, till next week, midlife. First.

Navigating Gray Divorce
Navigating Gray Divorce
Purpose, Divorce, Financial Disputes
Divorce Trends and Coping Strategies