Dreams Dashed: Finding Your ‘Happily-ever-after’ On Your Own

By Gwenn Voelckers

I met Lauren several years ago, when she attended one of my “Live Alone and Thrive” workshops. Below, she plaintively recalls the raw feelings she experienced following her divorce:

“I opted to end my unhappy marriage and initiate a divorce about five years ago. Since then, I’ve been on my own.

It wasn’t easy back then. I was surprised to discover that many married friends no longer wanted me around, fearing I might be interested in their husbands. Plus, I made my daughter the singular focus in my life, and lost contact with people. Over time, I developed the attitude that I had nothing to offer and slid into a very deep rut. Finances were another issue. I had stayed home to take care of my daughter but, after my split, found it necessary to get a job to make ends meet.”

– Lauren

Lauren, like many divorced men and women, found herself bewildered and fearful of the future after her marriage ended. For many, the experience of having a marriage of many years unravel is not unlike becoming the victim of an unwelcome catastrophe.

No matter what, and even though more Americans are waiting longer to walk down the aisle, most of us still hold on to the dream of “happily ever after.” That dream is powerful. Letting go of it can seem next to impossible.

While getting and being divorced can feel overwhelming, most women and men press on and, lo and behold, experience a change in attitude and perspective that ultimately enriches their lives and opens up possibilities — possibilities they couldn’t imagine when they were in pain and the throes of loss.

Lauren continued:

“It’s taken me a long time to get it together. I went back to college and graduated with an advanced degree in nursing. It keeps me busy, but now my only child is preparing to leave for college. Life will be very different (and a lot quieter) without her here, so I am being proactive. I’m running, I joined a rowing club, and I’m an active member of Meetup, the online social networking program that gives members a chance to find and join others who share common interests — things such as hiking, reading, food, movies, pets, photography, hobbies …well, you get the idea.

I also make a point of getting out more with my colleagues at work. And, I’m no longer waiting for an invitation; I’m initiating the get-togethers. That feels good!

Attending Gwenn’s Living Alone workshop was the jump-start I needed to get moving. Listening to others made me realize that we were all struggling with the same issues. I no longer felt so alone and benefited from hearing how others dealt with similar problems. 

When the workshop was over, I made several small, but meaningful changes at home. I now create a nice place setting for dinner, indulged my long-standing desire for flat screen TV, and put fresh flowers in my foyer to welcome me home. I cleaned up my ever-present junk pile on the kitchen counter and made myself a quiet reading corner in my bedroom. These small changes made the house much more of a home, rather than simply a house.”

While few women and men consciously decide to live singly, more and more are finding themselves on their own in midlife. The good news? Like Lauren, they are making healthy choices and learning to like it. While she acknowledges that there are trade-offs to being single, she has created a life that meets her needs and supports her new dreams.

“After my divorce, I had this dreaded thought that I would be alone for the rest of my life. I identified with Whistler’s Mother, in a dowdy dress and rocker. I now realize that just because I choose to live alone does not mean that I am alone: I have many people around me, and I am very content. I am no longer frantically seeking the next relationship or the next big thing that will cause excitement in my life. I am happy to spend time at home alone, or to go out with friends. I even date from time to time.

As I’ve discovered my contentedness, I have also realized that I am responsible for the positive changes in my life. That realization is empowering. I’m active, and I’m having fun for the first time in many years.”

On her own, Lauren has fashioned a life that works well for her. You can, too. Being single can give you the time you need to sustain a diverse and interesting network of friends, to date, to pursue your professional or personal aspirations, and to experience adventures yet to be imagined.

Some final words from Lauren:

“My advice? Don’t close yourself off from people. It’s so easy to stay home, dig a rut and furnish it — but that’s a big mistake. Grab the weekend section of the newspaper and pick out something to do. Go … even if you have to go alone. Who knows what you might discover?!”

Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of “Live Alone and Thrive,” empowerment workshops for women held throughout the year in Mendon, NY. For information or to contact Voelckers, call 585-624-7887 or email: gvoelckers@rochester.rr.com.