In between threatening to make his opponent his girlfriend and to eat his rivals’ children, Mike Tyson uttered some wise words in his time. This particular quote has a certain resonance with the divorced middle-aged man looking to pick up the pieces of his life and start again. Well, with this one at least. Except for the punch in the face bit, in a literal sense anyway. Metaphorically speaking, well, that’s a different story.
You see, we grow up and life, for most of us, has a certain shape to it; we get a job, maybe play the field a bit before meeting a partner that we think about settling down with, we date, we live together, we marry, we have kids and we live happily ever after.
Until we get punched in the mouth.
Actually, when it comes divorce feels more like a punch in the stomach or a kick in the knackers but for the purposes of this piece I’ll let the analogy stand. When the hit comes we can throw all plans out of the window.
So, what next? Where’s the roadmap for the divorced middle-aged man?
Well, anyone that’s read any of my posts on divorce and dating will know that it’s not been the straightest of roads nor the easiest of journeys. Building a new life, and hopefully a new relationship, amidst the rubble of a broken marriage takes levels of construction skill and degrees of planning permission scarcely conceivable from a comfy armchair in the leafy suburbs of matrimonial bliss.
That great job you’ve got, how does it fit around the life of a single parent? How does it support running a home and paying the bills alone?
Meeting someone and dating? “Well, you just go out like used to happen in the good old days and get chatting to someone and let nature and magic take its course don’t you?” Yeah, good luck with that one when you’re juggling work, being a single parent, keeping house and you don’t have any single mates with the same schedule as you. And if you brave the shark-infested waters of online dating and emerge from amongst the terminal debris with both your sanity and a good catch, well, what next?
Living together? Well, I’m not there yet but it’s something I’ve obviously thought about on those long, dark and lonely nights. When each of you have children that you are responsible for then, to paraphrase Chief Brody in Jaws, “You’re going to need a bigger house.” And, from wondering back in the olden days whether you and your partner would find it possible to live together in peace and harmony (or at least, for making-up to be enough fun to compensate), you are now faced with wondering whether you, your partner and a joint brood of little and not so little people are going to be able to gel together as a family unit.
(Quick aside – remember when you were younger and met a girl and had that bit of dread about meeting the parents and wondering whether they would like you? Well, that’s nothing next to the prospect of having to introduce yourself to a teenager, an age at which biological hard-wiring is rerouted around any capacity to be impressed by anything that a 40 something bloke can say or do).
Re-marriage? Now you know that marriage isn’t always for life is it a vow either of you are prepared to take again? The spectre of divorce that wasn’t allowed anywhere near your first nuptial celebrations is far more likely to hover around the perimeter of your second. When carrying scars it’s only natural to be wary of the wound being opened again. Personally I’d like to think that I will marry again one day but I’m in no hurry to divorce again thank you very much.
The patter of (more) tiny feet? The older you get the more of a deal-breaker this becomes (unless you’re Rod Stewart or Mick Jagger, but I’m guessing that if you’re reading this then you’re not). For many, when dating this is such an important consideration that your intentions regarding whether or not to have children can be subject to scrutiny within the first few exploratory messages (free tip: “I’m undecided right now but I’m prepared to put in plenty of practice in the meantime” is not likely to win many hearts). To snip or not to snip? To reverse or not to reverse? How will I feel about spending Sunday afternoons at soft play in my 50s? These are the questions.
You know what? It isn’t that bad. Yes, life can be a whole lot more complicated as a divorced single parent looking for fireworks, but it’s also a time of great personal growth, discovery and other such self-help cliches. And there’s not many better feelings in life than meeting somebody in your middle-age that makes you feel like a teenager again (but with a little more experience and wisdom to counterbalance the hormones. Maybe).
For all the pitfalls, for all the challenges, I maintain a faith that everything will fall into place, that there is a person I was supposed to find that will take my life in a new direction leading to the destination of home.
And when that happens, whatever obstacles that appear will be overcome and everything will feel just as it ought to.
Absolute Beginners – David Bowie