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Marie talks about why it is so important to understand what you like and want in life as you transition from being part of a couple to being single.
Why it is important to let go of your past life and plans as a couple.
How to identify new interests and passions.
Letting go of past routines and habits.
Setting your own goals and living your own dreams
Full Episode Transcript
Fab after Fifty Podcast with Marie Fraser: Divorce over 50 getting to know yourself
[00:00:01] I’m Ceri Wheeldon. Welcome to the Fab after Fifty podcast. Leading the pro-age conversation, talking about all things life after 50.
[00:00:17] Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the Fab after Fifty podcast. I’m really delighted today to have with me as my guest. Marie Fraser. Marie is a therapist and coach who supports and guides women in rebuilding their lives following divorce and breakups. Hello Marie and welcome to Fab after Fifty.
[00:00:33] Hi, Ceri. Thanks for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
[00:00:38] Now, as my guest today, I’m thrilled to have you on this particular show. We’re going to be doing a series of episodes, aren’t we, on on divorce and breakup and rebuilding your life. And you’re also going to be a regular contributor to Fab after Fifty. So I’m delighted that the listeners and readers can get to know you a little bit better now. So what are we going to be talking about on this episode?
[00:01:02] I thought it would be a good idea to talk about getting to know yourself following a breakup because we can after so many years in a relationship, lose our identity because we have various roles in the relationship. And all of a sudden when when you are alone following the breakup, you can lose the sense of who you are. I mean, I remember myself personally thinking, oh, my God. Where did that 24 year old go? And it you know, I wasn’t that obviously the same person I was at 24. But because I, from my personal situation, was in a relationship which was very dominated by my ex-husband. I followed along more or less with what he he wanted, you know, it was his friends, what he said, et cetera, et cetera. And I just didn’t know who I was, what I wanted and where I wanted to be and where I wanted to go, where I could see the next part of my life going. And so that was a huge shock for me personally.
[00:02:21] I mean, I’m sure lots of women in their 50s who’ve been in a long relationship and have split up. I’ve had similar experiences. And, you know, it can be quite difficult to actually, I think, look to the future because it makes you uncertain of where your next part of your life is going. Does that make sense? Oh, absolutely.
[00:02:48] Because, I mean, there are more and more women out there who are getting divorced in the 50s, but it’s their choice or their partner’s choice or indeed now even later in their 60s, silver divorces are on the rise. I’ve also gone through a divorce in my 50s so we’re both speaking from personal experience here as well, aren’t we?
[00:03:07] Oh, sure. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:03:09] And like you say, it’s very difficult to get used to thinking, okay, so who am I now? Because like you, I was in a relationship which was fair to say my interests were very contained within that relationship, to put it lightly, where we only really did the things that were on his list. And all of a sudden you have the opportunity to do things that are on your list and you think, well, what do I want on that list now?
[00:03:33] Exactly. And it seems a crazy thing, but nothing immediately comes to mind because you’ve been in this relationship where because of the repetition of being side lined from, you know, for the ex partners interests. You really do forget, actually, what is it that I want to do? What do I like doing? Because you’ve just gone along for to keep the peace piece or, you know, for the sake of it, it was , you know, it was easy. I mean, I personally and I’m sure lots of other women can relate to that. You know, it was always my husband’s friends that we socialised with. You know, very few of my friends were entertained by my ex-husband. So, again, it was sort of creating a new friendships at the end of the day.
[00:04:30] And I think also, I mean, when you come out of a relationship. If it wasn’t perhaps the worst case scenario. A very controlling one. Being on your own for the first time is you don’t have that normal couples routine anymore, do you? Whereas when you were a couple, you get into a pattern of what time you have dinner. What you have to. I mean, I know that was a big thing. Besides, I could just eat what I liked. It didn’t have to consider somebody else’s requirements when it came to meal times. And you do get into that routine, don’t you? What day you do your grocery shop or what day the garden gets done, whatever. And then I guess when you find yourself on your own, it’s hard. I want to shape that routine for me.
[00:05:12] Exactly. Exactly. And I think it’s something things that when you’re sort of saying, for example, you normally go to the supermarket on a Monday, you will do it automatically because it’s sort of hardwired into your neural pathways. But it’s only by doing what you used to do and actually really being aware of what you used to do and then think, no, hang on a minute, I need to change this, because, you know, this is this is my new life. My old life. We did it that way. But, you know, it’s not serving me to do it how I used to do it, because, you know, I only have to think about me now.
[00:05:56] You know, if your if you’re single on your own, you have no children at home with you, for example.
[00:06:04] So it’s almost as though you are re educating yourself into a new routine to suit you, as you say.
[00:06:14] And I think also, I mean, if you’ve been in a situation where perhaps you had interest when you were younger, where I used to love going to the theatre, for example, my ex didn’t want to go to the theatre. Consequently, we didn’t go. And it was almost, it’s a sense of freedom. I could just go online and see what was on at the theatre locally and book tickets.
[00:06:36] Yes, absolutely. And also, I think it’s really useful to look at what you used to do when you were younger.
[00:06:48] Before the relationship. What were the things that really lit you up? And also the things that you did when you were together that you really didn’t like but you put up with and then perhaps things that you have now got an interest in? Because my experience says, you know, we do change. So, yes, of course, I wasn’t that 24 year old at all. You know, I was the 50 odd year old, but there were new things that I wanted to explore. Does that does that make sense?
[00:07:20] Oh, absolutely. I mean, in terms of getting to know yourself again from a I guess from a therapist point of view, what steps can we take to get to know ourselves?
[00:07:33] Well, one of the most important things I think is to actually, what is it, to sort of look at or decide what is it that you’re really, really passionate about?
[00:07:48] What are your sources of you, your dreams and your wishes and desires? Is it to go off and do a hike around Peru, you know, Machu Picchu or things like that?
[00:08:00] Is it travel? Is it um.. What is it that really makes your heart sing, sets you on fire? What are your values? You know what’s really important to you and also your interests? You know, I mean, as you get older and certainly from a single person’s point of view, I think it’s really important to set boundaries of what is acceptable, what is not acceptable, because invariably in the relationship, you will have, you know, not being true to yourself. That’s what I find. Most of my clients, that boundary slipped so that there’s sort of it’s almost like being taken advantage of, you know. Right. You what? You aren’t considered. I think, you know, we’ve had similar situations where we, you know, all of our issues, et cetera, played second choice to to our partners. But, you know, if I go into a new relationship now, my boundaries are very, very secure in that. What I’m w not prepared to compromise on. Does that make sense? Absolutely. It’s so important. And it’s not a question of being selfish or something, your feel, et cetera. It’s about knowing who you are and what you are prepared to deal with and what you’re, you know, what’s a non-negotiable for you. And it’s only by sort of doing what I call, you know, deep work with yourself and understanding what is, as I say, acceptable, what’s not acceptable. Also, you know, what are you curious about? They can be very initially. It’s very hard when especially if you weren’t expecting the break.
[00:10:05] Although I think there are very few times when it’s not expected because, you know, there’s always sorts of signs that things aren’t actually right.
[00:10:17] But even even when you’ve had signs when there is a break, you know, it is. It is a shock. And so initially, be kind to yourself by, you know, just taking one day at a time, you know, you don’t have to eat the whole elephant. Just do what you can on a daily basis so long as you are moving forward. Then just do what you can to, you know, get a plan together of how you would like the next part of your life to be, and I suppose a lot of times when we’re making these plans, it’s perhaps why we haven’t got much energy.
[00:11:00] And I know certainly my own situation, my divorce was incredibly acrimonious and dragged on and on. And I was exhausted by the time it happened. I mean, I thought that by the time that the paperwork was filed I would be so relieved, I’d be raring to go. But about all I wanted to do was sleep for a week. I was shattered. And then, you know, just having gone through that process than it was then sorting out what I wanted to do when I was free and able to do so. But from a place of very little in reserve in terms of the energy that I had to to get things done.
[00:11:32] All right. I totally agree. I mean, just the just the the the shock of the breakup initially is incredibly debilitating.
[00:11:44] And then there is all the paper work that goes with the divorce, which is absolutely exhausting. Also, the fact that you are going over the last X number of years of your life. And, you know, there’s a lot of emotion involved in just going through all that. And, you know, that invariably does a lot of negative self talk. You know, I know for myself personally know, I remember saying to myself, you know, why didn’t you see this? Why did you allow this? You know, and beating myself up. And I can honestly say and this is what I tell my clients all the time. This is one of the most important times when you need to be kind to yourself big time. And a lot of a lot of self care. I can remember myself. Fortunately, I was self-employed. It’s much more difficult if you are your employee. But there’d be times when, like you say, I was so exhausted, I had to go and lie down.
[00:12:53] And that might have been at 10:00 in the morning, you know, I can relate to that or about two o’clock in the afternoon.
[00:13:02] And, you know, if you’re in a position where you’re able to do that, then you do, because that is your body’s way of saying, whoa, hang on. You know, if you don’t stop paying attention to me, then you know, you’re going to be in real trouble. The most important person is you when you’re going through that.
[00:13:22] And you need to do everything that you possibly can to actually keep. Well, you know, I know my situation the timing was quite fortunate.
[00:13:33] The neighbor needed their dog walking. And and it was actually very therapeutic. I would just go out with Dog.
[00:13:41] Yes. Yes. Well, but yeah, that was that was very lucky. But yes, fine.
[00:13:46] Things like you say that are going to, you know, distract you for, you know, for a few hours a day.
[00:13:54] I mean, one of the things that I did and I do, I have sort of a very warped sense of humor, you know, sort of black humour, like things like Blackadder and what have you. But watching comedy was a great relief to me.
[00:14:10] I thought I’d watch box sets of comedy. Just to sort of, you know, put my mind into a different, different place.
[00:14:20] And it’s quite interesting. If you if you’re laughing, you cannot be miserable. I mean, it might some day may prove me wrong, but I’ve not had a client yet who has actually said, oh, well, watching some comedy hasn’t worked, you know, just not from a therapeutic point of view, but just to sort of take your mind, because, you know, there’s nothing worse than saying don’t think about it and your mind will automatically think that, you know, it’s a bit like I said, if I say to you, don’t think about the pink elephant in the yellow field, you’re automatically going to think about that. So it’s almost as though you don’t want to keep telling yourself, don’t think about it because you will do it’s just having a distraction that automatically distract you from, you know, going through all all these sorts of negative stuff.
[00:15:13] I mean, also going back to some of the things that I encourage about getting to know yourself, you know, look at what you’ve done in your life that you’re really proud of. What was it that you did that excite, you know, that you were excited about?
[00:15:31] And you know, all those areas that you want to explore again or something new, something new that you you wanted you wanted to do.
[00:15:41] My eldest son, for example, who was just 15 at the time. He he gave me his old camera and I started photography. And I was really, really hot. And that was one of the things that took me out of myself. I would just go off and photograph anything and everything for, you know, for a few hours a week. So finding something, you know, it’s like you say, like you walk in your neighbour’s dog or me doing photography or what have you. Just doing things to push it, especially in the in the beginning when there’s lots of stuff going on. You just take yourself out of it.
[00:16:23] I know another thing which my own identity in the past was which I was caught up in was what I wore. And certainly during the period of my marriage, my ex-husband hated my clothes and was very sort of almost dictatorial in terms of what was acceptable for me to wear. And I took great delight once he was out of my life in resurrecting my love of clothes. I didn’t have to go out and buy all new. I had so many clothes in my wardrobe that I haven’t worn for so long that I still loved, in the fact there is a whole article,on my website about a pink leather jacket which he would never let me wear out and about with him. And that pink leather jacket I think got worn for a month afterwards because it meant something to me. It was kind of my personal representation of freedom. Yeah.
[00:17:14] And I think that’s really, really interesting. I can’t relate to that personally because I had no attention paid to me at all. I could have walked in naked with, you know, of a shopping bag over my head.
[00:17:36] And I would have had absolutely zero reaction. But I think it’s really important. You know, I remember reading that series about the pink leather jacket, which I thought was brilliant. But again, it was giving you your identity back, wasn’t it?
[00:17:52] Exactly. It was it wasn’t about the leather jacket per se. It was just the fact that I didn’t have to think about what somebody else thought it was acceptable for me to wear.
[00:18:01] No, exactly. Because you might choice to wear it. And yes. Whoop. Right. Well, if nobody had ever seen a pink cow in their lives. That’s fine. You know, I could still choose to wear the pink jacket.
[00:18:13] Yes, absolutely. And it was your choice and you were in control rather than it being somebody else’s choice. And they’re controlling you. Exactly. That’s very powerful. Very powerful. And and again, these are these are situations that, you know, we don’t realise until after the event. No. You know, we just put up with it, it’s a bit, what happens is it’s like water on a rock. At first, nothing. You know, you don’t realise that, you know, the rock doesn’t realise that it will eventually get worn away. But this is what happens in relationships when you know that it’s like a niggling the whole time. And then all of a sudden, you know, when you think when you go back and think about what you’ve put up with or how you’ve been treated over those periods, it’s almost like a sense of disbelief. But also, it’s one of those situations where you can. It’s like resurrection, you know, the Phoenix from the ashes. You can just get up and say, no, this is me now. And, you know, which is exactly what you did with your, you know, just wearing the jacket for a month.
[00:19:30] Yes. Not if it rained, though. Didn’t want to get it spoiled. Only on sunny days. But there you go.
[00:19:38] So I mean, what advice What three top tips that you would give to women looking to find their sense of self again that they should address? Is there’s an order of things that people should do?
[00:19:52] No, I don’t think there’s an order. But what I think is really important is that, first of all, to be able to get to know yourself is you really have to let go of what’s gone, right, and that’s you know, that can be easier said than done. But if you’re hanging on to you know, I’ve known and I did it myself in the early days, I’ll be honest with you, so I can speak from experience because you’re thinking of what’s gone on as soon as you wake up. You’re thinking about it during the day and you’re thinking about it when you go to bed at night. And there’s all sorts of questions that, you know, you’ve put you continually asking yourself. And so when you’re in that stage, it’s really difficult to sort of think about yourself. So one of you know, I think it’s really important to try and let go. It’s impossible to, you know, initially to let go of everything, but to remove remove that sort of past as quickly as possible. And there are, you know, all sorts of ways of doing this.
[00:21:12] But it might be having a coach, it might be talking to a therapist. You know, there’s lots of modalities out there that help with that. And then the other thing, the third thing. The second thing is to, you know, have a, what is it that really, really floats your boat? What what is it that you’re interested in? Are you you know, are you a creative, therefore, you know, more academically inclined, et cetera. Was this something that you always wanted to do that you’d never got to do? And, you know, dont make sort of, you know, crazy decisions just because you can’t think, you know, of, if anything, to do. I mean, the worst thing to do is to sort of not look after yourself because you can’t be bothered. Because, you know, you’re going through all of this grieving process. The most important thing is to find things to sort of uplift you.
[00:22:16] And then the third thing for me, which is really important, is this is the self care. Initially the self, Ceri, looking after yourself really, really important, because at the end of the day, the only person who’s responsible for you is you in every single way for your health, for your happiness and everything else. You know, when when we actually give other people control for our own happiness or responsibility for our happiness, we’re also giving them the control to make us unhappy.
[00:22:56] Yeah. But you said it really is taking that control back, isn’t it? And link it to yourself, which can be scary cant it?
[00:23:03] Oh, for sure. For sure. Because, you know, when you’ve you know, when you when you’ve not been what I term independent, i.e. as a single person for a very long time, suddenly walking that path is very scary.
[00:23:23] Right. So, I mean, you mentioned that sometimes it’s good to have the help of a coach or a therapist. How would you go about choosing one of those?
[00:23:33] Oh, that’s really important because some of what I recommend is that the most important thing is rapport. So, you know, you can have friends who’ve said, I’ve seen x. They were fantastic. You know, by all means have a conversation with that person. And, you know, if you feel like you gel, then, you know, certainly use them.
[00:24:00] If you know, if you’re not getting a good reaction, then don’t.
[00:24:03] Even though they may have worked for a friend or or what have you. Doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to work for you.
[00:24:11] And rapport is so, so important, because especially when you’re going through the actual rollercoaster of a divorce, there’s going to be a lot of personal things that you may want to talk about. And, you know, you want to talk to somebody about that who you you know, you feel like you can trust totally. And also, you feel comfortable talking about, you know, talking about those personal things, too. So I would interview certainly, you know, one, two, three therapists or coaches certainly yes. It’s always good to have recommendations. But as I say, the fact that they the coach or therapist works for one person doesn’t mean to say they’re going to work for you.
[00:25:05] And I know that certainly in my local area the GP will also help to recommend people.
[00:25:13] Yes, yes. GPs, very good because a lot of a lot of people, people will go to their GP because the stress and anxiety of this emotional roller, you can have all sorts of physical and psychological effects. So from anxiety to stress, it’s leading to insomnia and all all you know, I have clients who’ve all of a sudden have migraines have started or I had one lady, unfortunately, who had a hernia and there was no reason for it. And, you know, I. That’s another thing that, you know, I talk about with with clients is the physiological effects of stress and anxiety. But, yes, I know there are quite a lot of doctors surgeries who are now because, you know, I think stress and anxiety are probably in the top five of conditions that people go and see their GP. They’re now aligning themselves with complementary therapists and coaches to be able to help their patients without, you know, being on medication, which I’m sure most of you are not an advocate of.
[00:26:43] And also some workplaces, larger companies, they also have well-being programmes where they have coaches and therapists to support people as well.
[00:26:52] Yes. Yeah. I mean, I think it’s fantastic that in inverted commas, mental health is not as taboo a subject as it was. And, you know, good employers are really, really active in looking after their employees. I mean, it’s it’s it’s in the employer’s interest at the end of the day. But the fact is, much, so much more employers now or have got their wellness centres. And, of course, you know, you can always go and I’m sure it would be confidential. I mean, I haven’t been in the workplace as such as an employee for over 20 years. So I’m sort of not really up to speed with what the majority of employers are offering. But certainly if that’s available, then why not make that the first port of call. And you offer services.
[00:27:50] And your services Marie. Are they all one to one or do you offer things online. Or is it feasible to do online support for something like this?
[00:27:58] Yeah, online support.
[00:28:00] Works really, really well. And most of the time mine are in group programs. What I do is offer, you know, various group programs and. So why I like about the group programs, is the small and intimate groups, and the members of the group can then make friends if you know they gel and they can support one another. So I know when I was there was a couple this year where they live fairly close to one another. And, you know, they are now friends and they’ll go out for dinner or what have you. But even one to one online works works really well. So, you know, I think in this day and age, a very fe coaches or therapists are location based. So if people wanted to get in touch with you and in fact, the last.
[00:29:07] The last point you made works very well with our next episode. We’re going to talk about what we hope to make friends and combat loneliness following divorce. But in the meantime, if people wanted to contact you direct, how would they find you?
[00:29:20] The best place to find these on my Web site, which is MarieFraser.com. So it’s the usual www Marie Fraser dot com and there is a contact page there, or they can contact me via email at Marie@MarieFraser.com.
[00:29:42] That’s great. Thanks so much for sharing all these tips in terms of getting to know yourself following divorce. And I hope that people will join us in the next episode, which is overcoming loneliness, which is again as it is a big thing, isn’t it?When you’re used to doing things as a couple. Yes. But thank you for joining me today. I’ve really enjoyed our chat and looking forward to the next one.
[00:30:07] Thank you. Ceri, I’ve really, really enjoyed today.
[00:30:14] Thank you for joining us today. Please do subscribe and also send the link to friends and be part of the pro age conversation. Life really is meant to be fabulous at every age, but especially after 50.