Sadly, many marriages in this country do not end well. For the last several years, the divorce rate has hovered over fifty percent for first marriages, and even higher for second marriages. And if you are among the divorced, Joanna Romer writes in her new book, “you are probably raw and hurting — especially if you are the abandoned one.”
In Divorced! Survival Techniques for Single over Forty, Romer draws upon her own experience as a twice-divorced woman, as well as the experiences of others. While readers who prefer an evidence-based approach with solid research will be disappointed, Romer does offer some practical tips.
Feeling lost, betrayed, or abandoned is typical if you are the person who has been told you are no longer necessary, Romer writes. You may also feel fear — including the fear that you will never find anyone else.
Romer encourages the reader to change their thinking and identity from “I am abandoned” to “I’m starting over.” She also suggests work as the number one antidote for divorce, after god. Indeed, Romer relies heavily on god to counter negative feelings. “We are never separated from God,” she writes, “and because of this, we can never be abandoned.” Her message may alienate readers who are not as religious as she is or do not believe in god.
“The most important thing to do after a divorce is for both partners to get on with your lives,” Romer writes. She encourages the reader to give love to themselves, remind themselves what they are good at at work and with friends, and treat themselves to rest and rejuvenation. She relies on several clichés, such as buying a new bottle of perfume or getting a haircut or personal trainer, but also suggests meditation. And she encourages readers to reconnect with old friends, join a singles club, or return to a favorite activity.
While you may be tempted to wallow in grief, Romer writes, “the cure for wallowing is love.” Romer gives us character studies of several people, including a man named Doc Roberts who has been divorced three times, and Kanani Lee, a woman who has been through a whopping ten marriages. Both, Romer writes, found solace in helping others. Roberts found ways to help those around him, and also took on two dogs that he cares for, and Lee returned home to care for her aging mother.
As Romer introduces each of the many stories of the successfully divorced, she offers their advice. Roberts, for instance, suggests being grateful, realizing you have a choice, and appreciating the little things. Lee encourages readers to become “best friends” with yourself, look at your marriages philosophically, and recognize patterns in your relationships — such as picking “needy partners.”
But Romer herself gives some advice that seems off-base. To combat heartache, she suggests that we “enliven our senses with a whirlpool bath at the gym.” And as for the loneliness readers might feel, Romer writes that it “isn’t a real thing. It’s just a cloud over happiness that can be warded off by providing yourself with thoughtful diversions.”
Divorce is likely to bring up unsettling feelings. For the person suffering from heartache or loneliness, these suggestions — especially that loneliness is not real — sound quite misguided.
What may be more useful to some readers is Romer’s notion that the best way to start over is to embrace a mission. She tells us that, different from a pastime or hobby, a mission is an ongoing commitment to a concept so inspiring that it goes beyond our normal, everyday life. And to know that we have begun again and made peace with our divorce, Romer offers fifteen signs to look for. These include going the whole day without thinking about your ex, having no urge to call him or her, not panicking about the upcoming holidays, being able to listen to certain songs without needing to change the radio station, and contemplating a major change in your life.
Though Romer does not offer in-depth analysis of the healing and recovery that may be necessary in divorce, readers may find some solace in the stories she shares of the successfully divorced. That said, this is not a research-based book, and readers who are looking for either evidence or a non-religious read will want to look elsewhere.
Divorced! Survival Techniques for Singles over Forty
MSI Press, June 2015
Paperback, 140 pages