What I Discovered About Loneliness After Divorcing in My 40s

Tonyah Dee
6 min readAug 25, 2021

After an eight-year marriage where we were in therapy since the year before the marriage and throughout a two-year separation, I thought surely I had processed the ins and outs of this dysfunctional relationship.

My library of 15 journals was evidence of my graduation. I had no regrets about the way I showed up for those challenging years of facing weaknesses, childhood issues, and learning how to stand up for myself. I had been faithful, worked hard, and had no guilt. I believed I was now ready to move forward with my life.

For me, that included a new relationship, one I began immediately after finalizing my divorce and one that culminated in marriage three years after we first met.

For the entire time that I was going through the unpredictable aftermath of my divorce, he was there. Tom was the support system I felt had been missing from my life all along. It’s why I was excited to involve myself in this new relationship. I had been alone for years. It didn’t matter if I had a ring on my finger the entire time.

I wanted a new life — a new family. I desired a new ring, not just to replace the one I once wore on my finger but one that gave rise to a completely different tone from the marriage I was in before.

Tom was fun and had a lot of friends. My ex was not and did not like to socialize. Tom went to church; my ex stopped going long ago. Tom and his daughters needed me. My ex never needed me. Tom didn’t yell or call me names; my ex did. Tom had three girls; I had one boy. I was envisioning a life akin to the 70s sitcom, “The Partridge Family,” with good times, gentle conflicts, and lessons to be learned.

I could never have predicted the mess of blending a whole bunch of angry and hurt people in the aftermath of a traumatic event called divorce. To top it off, Tom, whose ex-wife was diagnosed brain dead after an aneurysm and a stroke, was given an experimental medicine that popped her out of her coma — and back into his life. With 24-hour support, she eventually comprehended she was disabled and now divorced.

Our circus had several sideshows going on at once, and it wasn’t easy to know where to put the attention first. I attempted to become the ring leader of a crowd of confused clowns, each of us trying to paint on a happy face. But it was a futile endeavor. Underneath, there was still too much pain.

Ultimately, the strain of my first marriage unraveling, which included constant interference from my ex that included many court battles, resistance from all four of our children, and an unwillingness on Tom’s part to get to work and stop drinking alcohol did us in. I filed for a divorce just a few years later.

I was devastated, but not because I was losing the love of my life. I was devastated because I wasn’t.

The years had somehow hidden the truth from me. I thought I was ready to embark on a new romance, fall in love, and build a life with someone new. But the reality was I had failed to fall in love with the person I needed to the most — myself.

Although I felt lonely throughout my first marriage and then soon after in the second, I was never actually alone. I wasn’t alone with my thoughts. I wasn’t alone with my anxiety and depression over being in an abusive marriage. And I wasn’t alone with my dreams and goals.

Instead, all of the noise in my adult life — college, becoming a registered dietitian, the excitement of getting married and then the turmoil of my divorce, problems in my new partner’s life, and unresolved issues stemming from my mother’s abandonment of me as a teen which I hadn’t fully dealt with yet — masked and distracted me from what I was feeling inside. And when wounds are left unattended, they fester and become infected. The toxicity from those infections clouded my mind and heart, affecting my ability to have discernment and allowing me to move forward at a pace way too fast to stay safe.

Once I asked Tom to leave my home, I decided to listen to the quiet rather than try to fill it. I created space by meditating and praying each morning. When I woke up, I spent time listening to what was going on inside me, not around me. I began to have a relationship with a higher power, one who was available to me and could comfort me.

Time was still passing at the same speed as when I got divorced from my first husband and then my second. But, somehow, it seemed that my little world had slowed down when I added in all the moments of silence.

I often took quiet naps or journaled outside on a lounge chair around the pool that was once full of clamoring children and now filled with the sounds of musical birds. Drinking a cup of tea at dusk in the lonely rocking chair that sat on the front porch as decoration became a part of my evening rhythm.

The quiet became filled with sounds of nature and soft ambient music always playing in the background. Unlike then, I was now using my time constructively to heal. And for the first time in my life, I felt alone but not lonely — because I finally had me.

Years passed, and little by little, as I became more peaceful and compassionate, I created a new me and a new life for myself and my son. I reimagined the space in my house, including a room designated for my daily meditation and prayer practice. I started a business.

I also began to date, this time slowly, carefully looking and listening before I ventured into the future. I never leaped again without stopping to check with my inner wisdom, my heart and mind now working together with the clarity of vision.

Today, when someone shares their thoughts or feelings with me — a friend, family, or a romantic partner — I listen to them. I listen with an inner ear. I listen from my heart to their heart, not just their words. I am careful what I say, what advice I give, if any. I’m able to see if what they’re saying is meant to manipulate me to take care of them.

Sometimes it is, and I understand now I don’t have to do anything. I’m OK right where I am and am confident those people will be OK, too. I know that maybe they just needed someone to listen and, through my listening, they got to listen to themselves and discover the truth of their words without me saying a thing.

They can then do for themselves what I cannot do for them as I sit quietly. We all need someone to listen to us as we try to find our way to our truth. I was lucky enough to discover that person right here in my heart.

Ironically, I’m still living alone. Yet, I’ve never felt stronger, happier, and, most importantly, connected because you can’t share with others if you don’t belong to yourself first.

I am looking forward to the day when sharing my space, my peace, and my true self will be appreciated by that special person who can sit quietly, listen, and share their truth. I imagine the musical tone of being with someone who can just be. And do it well.

Tonyah Dee has studied the Bible and wisdom traditions of the world for the last 30 years and teaches about finding ways to increase inner strength, stability, and confidence through practicing spiritual disciplines and healthy habits daily. Tonyah is a nutritionist, registered dietitian (R.D.), and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Loma Linda University. She also holds certifications in Christ-centered life coaching, equine therapy, and meditation. Tonyah has been published in Scary Mommy, MSN, The Mighty, CoveyClub, and Thrive Global. Follow Tonyah on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Medium.

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Tonyah Dee

Tonyah Dee teaches about finding ways to increase inner strength, stability, and confidence through practicing spiritual disciplines and healthy habits daily.