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    mwd
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    Somewhere around 50, many of us rediscover ourselves, or is it redefine? For some, the change is imposed – we find ourselves single. Others confront life-threatening illness; some the death of a spouse; for others, the changes are imposed by retirement. While there are changes associated with menopause, the external changes in our lives are often more broad-reaching, challenging, and unexpected.

    Our intimate relationships take many forms, and if we are unexpectedly single, adjustment is key. Our generation was raised to expect marriage to be ‘happily ever after’ (or at least ‘tolerably-ever-after’). We weren’t given any preparation for this stage. It brings freedom,isolation, introspection, the questions asked by friends, and the social pressure to be part of a couple – any couple!

    Adolescence is a stage, and many of the awkward learning of teenagers is forgiven and supported by others. Yet the learning and discombobulation of being single unexpectedly at 50-something is suffered by most of us in solitude. How do we know what to do on a first date, when we’re independent adults and don’t NEED a life partner? It’s certainly different to High School dates in the 70’s and 80’s!Navigating this stage is similar to moving to a new country – the old rules don’t apply and most of it is trial and error.

    Friendships change at this stage of life. If you have been part of a couple, and now you’re not, your married/partnered friends will often treat you differently. My married friends don’t invite me to their homes. A male friend of mine (who is single) says he realised quickly after his divorce, that he is no longer welcome to drop in to his friends’ homes unless the man is home. Change is everywhere, and often where you least expect.

    If you are part of a marriage at 50-something, there are changes. One of you retires, someone loses a job, parents become dependent, illness strikes. As women, we continue to be the ‘glue’ that holds the family together. Yet you are stretched further – and you have more choices. We manage this growth stage along with family pressures, money matters, retirement concerns and physical changes. It can be overwhelming and we need to acknowledge the challenge.

    So you are part of a blended family. Excellent! Isn’t it? Who is expected to give away a bride at her wedding? Who stays at whose house at Christmas? We haven’t got guidelines for behaviour any more, except to be kind. Every family has its own way, but family events can be tricky, and usually Mum is the one who defines the way things are done.

    For many of us at 50-something, life is a new adventure. Our own retirement or our spouse’s retirement is a major adjustment. We redefine ourselves, and our relationships change – all while we have other demands. We must join forces and support one another, because nobody will understand like another woman in a similar situation. Her challenges will be the same but different!

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