The Most Common Question Unhappily Married People Ask Is, Why Didn’t I Leave My Husband Or Wife Sooner?
They Are Almost Immediately Happier Once They Do.
It is no surprise that after 31 years of marriage, 66 year old, Anne from California had that experience.
“My father was in the Navy, so I grew up all over the country,” she says. “I went to high school in Illinois and college in Michigan. I quit college midway through my junior year and moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico with my first husband, Steve who was offered a job there. We lived there for about six years, then moved to New Hampshire and got divorced on our 7th anniversary (really, the court hearing was held on our anniversary!) I finished college at the University of New Hampshire and at age 32, joined the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer.
I met my second husband, Rolando in Costa Rica, which was my first overseas posting. I was a Vice-Consul at the Embassy and he was one of the security guards. He spoke no English, but I spoke Spanish fluently. We began dating towards the end of my time there. I was about 33 at the time. I was transferred to the Embassy in Bogota, Colombia and after phone calls, letters and visits, he decided to join me in Colombia.
We were married in September 1989 when I was 34 (almost 35) and he was 27. Yes, I robbed the cradle.
I was a Foreign Service Officer until my retirement in 2009. While in Colombia, I did counternarcotics work (NOT DEA, not interdiction). After Colombia, I was posted back in Washington (where our first son was born) and then to Bridgetown, Barbados (where our second son was born). My husband studied English while in Colombia and Washington and then in Barbados, he studied culinary arts and competed in bicycle events. We moved to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and my husband worked as a Vice-Consul there for the last three of our four years’ posting. We then went to Lima, Peru. Again, I did counternarcotics work. From Lima we returned to Washington.
While we were living in Washington and before my retirement, I did a one-year, unaccompanied tour at the Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
I retired in 2009, but kept working for contracting companies on projects linked to the Department of State. I am still working for a small contracting company that has a contract with the Department of State.
My sons are now 26 and 30. My oldest son lives near me and is a computer/desktop technician for a small company. My youngest son lives in Florida and is an intelligence officer for the US Air Force. They are both single, so no grandkids for me yet.
My husband and I formally separated in November; I filed for divorce in June and the divorce was final in July. We were married for 31 years. I also filed for a name change back to my maiden name, which I gave up when I married my first husband in 1975, so it’s taking some getting used to!
Since my divorce, I’ve kind of gone back to the way I was before my marriage. During my marriage, I “hid” myself so that my husband wouldn’t be upset. I found that I had to keep my light under a bushel, as they used to say.
What I notice most is that I’m wearing more flamboyant colors. I’m wearing more jewelry (mostly costume jewelry, but fun stuff). I read more; I laugh more at what I’m reading. I am reaching out more to my friends and family via phone and messages. I’m going out more — given COVID restrictions, of course). I have started traveling alone. I do more work around the house that normally my husband would have done (or I hire someone!) Basically I have become more relaxed, make choices for myself, and have become much more independent. I am spending money on what I want, not on what he wants. So, new art! New clothes! I contribute to more charities of my own liking. It’s all incredibly freeing.
Being single at this age can be scary, but I am NOT dating and don’t know if I ever will be ready for that. I am so happy with my freedom that I just don’t know if I want to play that game again — the courtship dance, trying to impress someone else, etc. I am more focused on self-love. I say “no” when I don’t want to do something. I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I am I am blessed with many, many friends and of course my sons and my extended family. I’m still friends with nearly all of my ex-husband’s family as well!
I remember a joke where the old man says to his wife “When I die, give all my tools away.” She asks why. He says “I don’t want some other jerk using my tools if you get married again.” She says “What makes you think I’m going to marry another jerk?” That’s how I feel. Maybe I will change my mind. I had a LOT of major health issues during the last few years of my marriage, and — to give him credit — my husband took great care of me. And maybe I will miss that companionship should I run into more health problems. But for now, I am content.
My ex-husband is a narcissist, so he emotionally abused me for years. I shriveled from the fun, outgoing, confident person I used to be down to someone who spent my whole day walking on egg shells and hoping that he wouldn’t get mad or blow up. I felt trapped because of my health and my age and because after 30 years, who wants to make a change? I felt as if my public persona as a happily married woman would be destroyed. While I maintained an outward persona as being fun and confident, I did not feel that way AT ALL. But when my he cheated on me (in a horrific, horrific way, but that is another story), I was initially devastated. As time went by and I began therapy, I began to see him for what he was and understand how toxic our relationship really was.
I began to feel free. I got a cat; I got a gorgeous tattoo; I dyed my hair back to a more natural color (he wanted me to be blonde); I lost weight; my health improved; I stopped taking anti-depressants; my libido came rushing back (gulp). It was as if I was a dying plant that had suddenly been rained upon. I blossomed.
I am celebrating me now, not him. I don’t have to feed his ego. I don’t have to do anything. And while I may not be making another career change, my life is so different. My life motto is the same as my blood type: B+.
The biggest challenge has been not allowing myself to fall back into the relationship with my ex-husband and finding ways to do things for myself. Simple things like cleaning off the roof (I pay someone) and making minor repairs around the house. And, frankly, not missing him on a day-to-day level. Living with someone and then suddenly being alone is hard. I was scared. When I found out my husband was having an on-line affair I was terrified. Terrified of being alone and wondering who would ever love me again? I had the same thoughts when my first husband and I split up. I think it’s natural. Looking back on it, I wonder now why I stayed with him so long. He had had “brushes” with infidelity before — flirtations that never led to anything physical. Why didn’t I see the handwriting on the wall? Why didn’t I leave sooner? I had a great job and it would have given me the opportunity to find someone else. Now I fear it’s “too late” for another romance. But I’m not closing that door entirely.
Advice to other women going through the same thing? DON’T WAIT!! The longer you wait, the harder it is. And you CAN do this yourself. If you have a good support system, use it — i.e. family, friends, colleagues. If you don’t, start building one now. I was shocked at how many people came to my side and reached out, via phone, text, etc. once I made it known that I was separated. People do want to help. You are more loved than you may realize. They say in Spanish “Better to be alone than in bad company.” And it’s true. I am extremely lucky that I am financially able to be alone. But NOTHING is worth more than peace of mind and soul.”
Anne spent a year in Baghdad from July 2006- 2007 and created a blog chronicling how the year progressed. We highly recommend your checking out her year’s worth of and random thoughts about life at the American Embassy in Baghdad: http://www.baghdadanne.com.
In the Spring of 2022 Anne will be part of a US exhibit called 50 Women Over 50 which features a diverse group of interesting women over 50 sharing their stories. Follow Old Cow to hear more about the project and exhibit, more about Anne and to meet more of the women featured in the exhibit.