I had achieved "the dream we all dream of..." I had Prince Charming for a husband, four beautiful, well educated children, and a palace for a home. I had it all. Then my dream exploded.
My husband started drinking excessively, started staying out all night hitting casinos. Before I even knew what was happening, he had gambled all of our money away. The dream was over. And the nightmare was about to begin.
I tried to help. I got him into a world-renowned recovery center, thinking that would help. But instead, he hooked up with a girlfriend nearly half his age, quit his job, and asked me for a divorce so he could really start partying.
It really seemed as if my life was over. I was abandoned, penniless, and heartbroken. I felt so ashamed. How could I face anyone? The explosion of what I thought was our dream left pieces of my heart spread all over, and I was in too much pain to even begin to pick them up. I had to sell my house and wedding ring. I had to start legal proceedings to try to collect child support (funds I have be trying to get for years). Worst of all, I had no one to help me deal with the trauma created for the kids. I felt entirely alone as I tried desperately to accept that my happily-ever-after, 18-year romance and relationship had come to an end.
I remember laying in bed, depressed again on yet another beautiful day. My youngest daughter crawled into bed with me and said, "Mom, it's the morning, see the light." I knew at that moment, for my kids and for myself, I had to overcome this devastation.
But when I would reach out to others for comfort and support, I was often left feeling even more insecure and misunderstood. Some people were unsympathetic, and thought the best way to help was simply by being dismissive: "What a loser, good thing he is out of your life!" Others would panic: "What will you do? How will you take care of those kids? Will he take you back?" I was starting to think that talking to others was counterproductive at best, and I was settling on avoiding people for the rest of my life.
Then I met Maria, who gave me the simple gift I needed: hope. She had been in (almost) as bizarre a divorce as me. And she had successfully reconnected with herself, rebuilt her life, and even met her soul mate. When I realized it was possible to start over and even be in love again, my life began to quickly transform from the end of something hopeless (my previous relationship) to the start of something hopeful. Maria gave me practical, proven tools that she had applied to her life, tools that got me off to a running start.
I was able to rebuild my heart, find a new focus, and fill my life with love again. I was able to truly accept that my fairy tale—like all fairy tales—had come to an end. And that was a good thing, because it made me free to stop living for a fantasy, and start living the life I was meant to lead. I felt like I was becoming the woman I was meant to be. I intuitively knew that having faith in this process was the only chance I had at living the fulfilling life I desired. Now, my life is better than ever—in every aspect—especially my love life.
My first marriage. I thought I was living an American Dream but I was just going through the motions. Looking back now, I don't see a woman living any dreams, only a woman trapped in a life she didn't realize was falling apart. I spent my days playing the role of the perfect wife. I was not pursuing my passions. My self-confidence was all but gone, and my life journey was going down the wrong path. And then my sham of a marriage ended. I was broke, the sole parent of four kids, and I had not worked in 13 years. I was afraid to get out and meet friends, let alone men. I thought, at my age, I would surely end up alone forever. I remember clearly how I felt afraid to start up again. I was sure my love life was a life I had lived to its end. I thought I would grow old alone, and never again be loved by a man. I'm so glad I was wrong!
The end of my marriage may have left my heart shattered, but after time and effort and wonderful advice —I rebuilt my heart. I made it better, stronger, and healthier. My heart, which once felt as heavy as a cannon ball, had become a fresh heart, one able to love and be loved. Now, I'm living my life to the fullest. The fear that controlled my past is a distant memory. Knowing what I know now, I can't believe I was so scared to restart my life. Of course, at the time, I didn't know about online dating. Once I realized that there are plenty of wonderful, eligible men looking for endless love, I regretted waiting as long as I did to start dating again.
Not only did I start to enjoy life again, but I realized that the way I was approaching dating in midlife—looking for, and finding, chances for lasting love—was something I was good at, and something I had to share. So,Maria and I wrote a book and became Dating Experts for women in midlife. And I'm here to tell you, it is simply an amazing time to re-enter the dating scene!
For my mother, grandmothers, and great grandmothers, becoming single in midlife meant growing old alone. But for me—and for you, too— becoming single in midlife can mean finding intoxicating, overwhelming, everlasting, and oh-so real love for the first time, right smack in the middle of our lives! Do not be afraid of anything, because you have all the skills and techniques to be a confident dater. Soon, you will be cuddling by a fire, spending another romantic evening with your Mr. Right. You will probably be thinking what I'm often thinking... I never thought love could be this good, especially in midlife.
Best love life in midlife,
-- Cate Carson