'After 5 terrible years, I felt ready to give up. Then at 63, I fell in love.'

Twelve months ago, I probably didn't believe in miracles. I'd had a series of pretty horrible things happen to me and despite usually being a positive person, my belief in the world was a bit rocky. 

But a small miracle happened, and I thought I'd better tell you about it to restore your faith and so you know that the world hasn't entirely fallen off its axis, even after COVID.

Watch: Some common mindsets women have towards dating when coming out of a toxic relationship or divorce. Post continues after video.

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So, the miracle is that at 63 years old, I've found someone to love. And – another miracle - he loves me back! 

I can hear you thinking, 'That's not a miracle'. But it is to me, because the last five years have been rough, and I had just about given up hope of meeting that special person.

Background to a miracle.

One of the most horrible of the pretty horrible things, was that I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was a hell of a shock, and the surgery and chemo that followed was not fun. Not fun at all. At the time, there was a seven per cent five-year survival rate. Now the Australian five-year survival rate is 12 per cent, testimony to what research can do. From where I stand today, I count myself unbelievably lucky, so there's a miracle right there.


Controlling what my head was telling me, a superb medical team, support from a circle of magnificent friends, and my kids got me through. Too many lessons to list here, but cancer is a b*tch and a game changer.

The second most horrible of the pretty horrible things, was divorcing my narcissist husband, also not an easy or pleasant experience. There has been much written about living with a narcissist, coercive control and emotional abuse, so I won’t go into that here. But my point here is to acknowledge the degree of difficulty escaping that type of relationship, and to tell you that there IS life beyond it. 

As family lawyer Hayder Shkara says, "ending a marriage with a narcissistic spouse is significantly more exhausting and difficult then a regular divorce". And while it's hard work to not only leave one life but to rebuild another, I'm here to tell you it can be done. You need courage, a support network of great girlfriends and a good lawyer.

Throw both kids leaving home and living alone through COVID lockdowns into the mix, and I felt fresh out of miracles.

I know lots of people found lockdown tough, but I missed the kids terribly. Was I lonely? Hell yes! I just tried to focus on wellness and went for a walk every day, determined to come out of it fitter than when it began. I also reached out to people daily, so I didn't keep pestering the supermarket checkout kids for conversation. 

Both kids leaving home within three months of each other happened in a blink. It's a 'pinch me' moment known as Empty Nest Syndrome, and it refers to the grief many parents feel when their kids move out of home. Because an adult child moving out is seen as a normal, healthy event to be celebrated, parents like me who struggled with it find few sources of support or sympathy. Psychologists suggest some parents are more susceptible than others (e.g. if their marriage is unstable or unsatisfactory) and that adapting can take between 18 months to two years to make the transition from, say, "Mum" to something else. I felt bereft for about six months even while I simultaneously was proud of both kids' independence. It was a strange and confronting time. 


How I tackled all that.

Throughout that hot mess, I tried to focus on rebuilding a life that made me happy. I ditched work I didn't enjoy, learned how to say 'no' confidently, carefully let go of people who didn't respect me (I found this much tougher than I thought), found things I loved to do and just tried to make good, mindful decisions every single day. The big ones and the small ones. 

And to my surprise I arrived at a place where I was actually very happy in myself.

Then my girlfriend convinced me to start dating. 

What's dating later in life like?

At 59, to say that I was nervous as hell is an understatement. I found the mere idea of it confronting and challenging. One of my friends mentored me though the early days as I was very under-confident. But the truth is there are decent people out there who have similar reasons to you to be online. I was very clear about those reasons to myself and in my online interactions. I learned fast that it's less messy that way in the long run. One lovely man I'd been dating about a month actually cried when I told him I didn't want to see him anymore, and I really understood that and felt terrible. But my days of settling were over.


I was looking for a long-term partner and was clear what I wanted and didn't want. So I filtered ruthlessly, and I didn't spend a lot of time with anyone once I'd detected a red flag that I knew couldn't be fixed. This took courage, as two guys were lovely and close to what I wanted. The first was sweet, and we dated for a year. Right at the beginning he told me he was going to move closer to where I live as I'd said at the start long distance wasn't workable for me. But then he confessed he had no intention of moving. I don't think he lied, he just changed his mind and chose to stay close to family, and I respected that. Then I dated another guy also for about a year, who despite being utterly gorgeous and very kind, was emotionally and financially immature. So, I stuck to my wobbly little bit of belief that there was someone special out there for me, and suddenly a gift revealed itself. I met my forever guy.

He's someone I had gone on one date with well over a year ago. A walk and a coffee. We really clicked and talked for three hours. But his timing was off as he was busy selling his business in a move towards retirement. He decided to park the relationship. I won't lie and say I wasn't miffed! It had seemed good, but in hindsight his intuition was spot on to set it aside until he could bring his whole self to it. I told him when I met someone else, and he asked to stay in touch in case anything changed. I'd get a very occasional message saying things like, "Hope you're happy, well and enjoying life. Please let me know if your circumstances change." So I did.


How do I know he's the one? Because there's no struggle, no doubt or fear in my mind; nor his. In fact, I've never been surer of anything. We share similar values, are both good, emotionally articulate communicators so we get cut through on things very quickly. It's very refreshing!

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So, what's next?

The short answer is I don't know. I know not to count my chickens and I'm okay with that. But even though I've learned life can throw a curve ball, I feel pretty sure I can say the rest is history. We bring out the best in each other, and even though I don't feel the need to be perfect around him, he strangely thinks I am perfect. It all feels secure, stable and very grown up.

We're both in awe of what's happened – in our miracle – but we are thankful and entirely comfortable with it. 

Anyway, I wanted to share this story to give you hope about life after a big change. Pretty horrible things happen. But be tenacious and fearless about what you want and need and there is life beyond all that. 

I wish you all courage, tenacity (just keep swimming) and love in your life. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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