I Didn’t Become a Romantic Until I Got Divorced: Midlife Reflections
Did you come of age in the 1980s? What kinds of messages did you internalize having to do with gender roles? Have you thought about how those messages may have shown up as limited beliefs that stand in the way of fully expressing yourself in midlife?
Only now can I appreciate the complexity of my own coming of age experience.
It was a time of great progress in many ways. But the price of admission to the cold professional world was detaching from any sense of feminine or focus on relationship.
The excitement of new possibilities was matched by an almost equal amount of intense anger that found righteous validation in political movements couched in religious belief. The impact on women of being constantly demonized as family wreckers and sexual deviants cannot be overstated, especially when the chorus included other women.
Any of this sound familiar?
In this post, I share a little bit about how I came to find and begin healing my wounds related to the feminine, masculine, sexuality and spirituality. Then I offer an exercise you can try to strengthen the relationship with your feminine through your body.
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Respect Before Love
“Don’t buy me flowers.”
“I don’t need any help!”
“Let me hold the door open for you.”
“Nah, Valentine’s Day is just another way for Hallmark to sell stuff.”
“Let me buy this one.”
“I dress for me, not for guys.”
My desire for independence eclipsed any admission of vulnerability. It had to be that way though. All part of that arc of justice. I was playing a role that comes naturally for me, that of rebel. Denying a part of myself though would leave a scar.
First comes love,
Then comes marriage,
Then comes a baby in a baby carriage.
Nope. That could wait. I was after respect. A kind of inner respect that would come from self-determination. Respect from others would be an added benefit.
A note about men.
Not to say that changing gender roles has been smooth sailing for men. I cringe sometimes when I think about how I responded to simple acts of kindness shown by my ex-husband. He was a great sport though. He understood – as much as he could. The dismantling of male privilege is I’m sure a huge blow to the ego. Only men who do not rely on validation through being ranked over others (like what patriarchy thrives on) are not threatened by women taking their rightful place as equals.
Reconnecting with the Feminine Requires Reconnecting with the Body and Sexuality
The ultimate price of detaching from a huge part of what it means to be human are a wounded and sometimes angry feminine and an overworked and resentful masculine.
How does this show up in your life?
The feminine of course isn’t female or woman. The feminine is the partner to the masculine, which exists in every human being. The feminine and masculine are styles of consciousness, approaches to living, which when out of balance, result in real sickness – emotional, physical, economic, environmental, and spiritual.
It wasn’t until the moment when the force of knowing my marriage would indeed be ending in divorce hit me, a buried feminine snuck out of my shadow. The emotional safety net of my 24-year marriage was now gone, and up out of my unconscious came an unleashed and child-like feminine.
First, intense and uncomfortable events that unleashed buried shame and humiliation related to men and sex.
Then, bursts of the kind of pure joy children embody before people begin molding them into what they think is proper. Cartwheels on the beach, skipping down the sidewalk, impulses to draw with crayons while sitting at the bar, a manic excitement about my job, and losing the ten extra pounds I had gained before I gave myself permission to get divorced.
“Oh, there’s that . . . romance stuff,” I said to my sister when I noticed a twinge of arousal in my body after the much younger man walked away from the tiki bar. She laughed. Next came a six-month obsession with online dating.
“You have the body of a thirty-year old woman.” I knew I didn’t.
“What?” Honestly, I wasn’t being a cougar. I was genuinely intrigued by why so many millennial aged men were attracted to me. It was as if I was reliving a younger sexual version of me, but without the shame. I was attracting what I felt.
Sexual Attraction as an Invitation from God
I took a break from online dating.
I was caught off guard when when Aphrodite, known as the Greek Goddess of love and beauty, took up residence in my body on a summer day down at the beach.
Is he looking at me? I quickly looked down. Just my imagination probably.
Is he looking at me? I wondered again, after casually sneaking another peek at the tan man with curly light brown hair, who was dressed in white shorts and a jade color shirt. My body became excited with anticipation. I could feel his stare through his aviator style sunglasses. But I couldn’t see his eyes to know for sure. I felt both excited and exposed.
“I just had to find out what you’re reading,” he said.
What? There he was, squatting down in front of my chair.
How long as he been watching me? I can’t move!
“I’m reading about psychological types,” I innocently and truthfully blurted out. Then I smiled back at him.
Looking back, I realize I was done for during this first interaction. So was the young man. He had been kidnapped by Hermes, the Greek God known as a guide of souls. He shows up as a trickster and sends messages through synchronicities. The many ironies of the relationship guaranteed it would be transformative (much more about that in my coming memoir, When Sex Meets God: One Woman's Experience of Inner Reconciliation).
“Is it weird that I love it when you dig the crab meat out of the shells for me?” I asked my new boyfriend. He smiled.
“Sometimes, I just want to be a girl,” my friend would say over wine.
“Yes! Not because I need someone, but because it’s just nice to be tended to,” I would add.
Looking back, I can see that the psychic forces of sexuality and spirituality had an agenda all their own and orchestrated the event that plunged me into what became my first post-divorce relationship and a two-and-a-half-year journey of dramatic sexual and spiritual growth.
By the way, the child born of Aphrodite’s union with Hermes was the bisexual god Hermaphroditus, who inherited the beauty of both parents, bore both their names, and had the sexual characteristics of both. Coming into relationship with feminine and taking the load off my masculine was the real purpose of my first post-divorce relationship.
That new balance led to the unleashing of a buried creative urge that is beginning to take shape now.
Imagine what creative forces could be unleashed from the collective once humanity transcends the dominator model of social organization called patriarchy.
You Can Do This Too! Try This.
Do you have sexual wounds? Maybe that’s too harsh a word. Do you have sexual hang ups? Are you afraid of your own desires? Do you feel shame when you feel attracted to a man or woman who is not your partner? Even as you claim your sexuality, do you still feel shame? Do you have spiritual wounds? Is your religious dogma in conflict with your personal experience of God and truth?
C.G. Jung suggested that there are no stronger human instincts than those of sexuality and spirituality. They are intertwined, and they are too powerful to be contained within and constrained by any words written by fallible human beings.
You can’t really think your way out of limited beliefs, especially when it comes to the feminine, sexuality, and the body. The wounds live in your body.
Try this elevator exercise. If you feel awkward or dismissive, all the more powerful it will be in bringing some insights that just can’t come from your intellect.
Find a comfortable position and close your eyes.
Take a few moments to notice your breathing and relax parts of your body that feel tense.
Is there a part of your body you have a difficult relationship with? Pain, disgust, disability. Mine is my stomach. I’m a perfectionist about my weight. If you don’t, just go to the next step.
Keep your eyes closed. Now imagine you are getting into an elevator. You push the button that will take you to that part of your body you are focused on or that your unconscious wants you to visit. Is the elevator going up or down? What does the ride feel like?
When the doors open, walk out of the elevator. What do you see? How do you feel? Walk around, explore, touch. What associations occur to you? What memories come up for you?
When you’re ready, take the elevator back up or down to where you started.
Keep your eyes closed and let the experience stay with you.
Journal about your experience. Don’t judge it, don’t force anything. Any ah-ha's?
When I did this exercise, I realized my stomach, my womb, was a place of great power that flowed slowly like hot lava, growing in intensity. When I got out of the elevator I said aloud, “There’s a lot going on in there.” During my midlife journey, as I reconciled the tension between my sexuality and spirituality, the result has been bursts of creativity and the courage to express myself in new ways.
Thanks for being brave enough to try this. If you like, share your experience and new insights in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading my post. Liking it and sharing it will help me get it to more people who will be entertained and/or receive healing from my writing.
Thank you to Tirza van Dijk for the beautiful rose photo.
Thank you to Samantha Sophia for the wonderful photo of men supporting women's rights.
Thank you to Pawel Czerwiński for the lava image.
Two of my most popular posts have to do with the feminine, masculine, patriarchy and God.
Here are links: