Whether you’re 16 or 60, breaking up, frankly, sucks. You’ve invested time and energy into this other person, you came to care deeply for her or him, and you dread the thought of having to get out there and do it all over again. But onward you must go.
There are many sources of advice on how to survive a breakup. The general guidelines on how to break up apply to everyone, no matter your age. However, for older women and older men, there are a few additional issues and potential problems. For instance, you’ve likely grown close to your ex’s children and/or grandchildren. Must you just walk away from them, too?
Here’s our breakup guide for older singles.
First, let’s review the basic rules for breaking up.
1. Make a clean break. That means no contact for at least three months. Move on, and let your ex do the same.
2. Give yourself time and space to heal. Let yourself progress through the basic stages of grief.
3. When you’re ready, do a post-mortem on what went wrong in the relationship so you won’t repeat those same mistakes.
4. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Do talk about the failed relationship, but try not to monopolize the conversation and overwhelm the listener.
5. If you were the dumpee, do not dwell on what you lost (look at photos from happier times, stalk the ex on Facebook, bug mutual friends for news about him/her, etc.).
6. Avoid places and activities that you did as a couple until you’re strong enough to handle it emotionally.
7. Work on yourself. Take up a new hobby; start a new fitness program; join a class; strike up a new friendship.
8. Start dating again only when you’re truly ready to find a new relationship.
And now, let’s take a look at concerns specific to seniors and Baby Boomers.
First, there’s the question of keeping in touch with the ex’s kids and grandkids. Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule on this. It all depends on how long you’ve known them, how old they are, how close you’ve grown, and whether or not they are open to continuing a relationship with you.
This applies to other relatives and friends of your ex, too. For instance, I grew fond of a former boyfriend’s brother and sister-in-law, and reached out to them after the breakup, inquiring whether they’d be open to seeing me next time they visited the area. But they were not comfortable with that, so I had to honor their wishes.
However, if you do continue to see an ex’s relative, be careful not to make your get-togethers all about the ex. Resist the urge to inquire after him or her. Focus on your friendship with this person, not his/her link to the ex. Try to set up new traditions just for the two of you, such a regular lunch date at a new bistro.
Second is the inescapable fact that older men and women lack the flexibility and rebound capacities of younger people. This applies not only physically, but also emotionally. It’s likely to take us longer to recover from a failed relationship, and thus make us more reluctant to get out there and try again.
Take your time! There’s nothing more detrimental than rushing back onto the dating scene and boring all your dates with tales from your ex-files. It might salve your bruised ego to know that someone else is attracted to you, but it won’t get you any closer to finding a new partner.
Third is the question of sex. For those still in post-breakup mode, jumping into bed with someone new could be much more harmful than helpful to your recovery. Consider this carefully before you go there.
The good news is that, as older and wiser folks, we’re much more self-reliant and less needy. We can be perfectly happy as older singles, enjoy our lives as they are, keep ourselves open to the possibilities, and be ready when that new lover walks into our life!