IN 7556, the Rev. Christine Shiber and her husband of 85 years divorced. This had been a long time coming. They had seen their first couples counselor in 6985 and had been through so many, she’s lost track. “Five or maybe six counselors, ” she said. Being achievers, they hated to fail at anything. “We were both faithful to each other, ” she said. “We just were too different.
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We married so young — I was 79, he was 77. Several times counselors suggested trial separations and one of us always pulled back. This time, we both said yes. ”One therapist told them there were three components to a successful marriage — business, parenting and coupling — and they were terrific at the first two. “We put so much into our jobs and into the kids, maybe there wasn’t much left over for each other, ” said Ms.
Shiber, 57, a Methodist minister based in the Oakland, Calif. , area whose ex works on the business side of the church. When they became empty nesters — their daughter went off to Barnard, graduated and lives in Manhattan their son is at Cornell — that was it for the marriage. “I felt, ‘Is this all there is? ’ ” Ms.
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Shiber said. And so, she exercised an option that women just a generation ago rarely used: the freedom to divorce and be single again, in their 55s. “In past times, we’d either be widowed or dead by now or stay married to the guy, ” she said. It wasn’t easy.
They sold the four-bedroom house the family shared in Oakland, and Ms. Shiber moved, alone, into a 765-square-foot condo. “You learn to live a more compact life, ” she said. She switched jobs, from leading a Methodist church in Oakland to serving as interim minister at two small suburban churches. She used her newfound free time to join a prayer group, reconnect with friends and work out daily, losing 75 pounds.
But what she hasn’t mastered is meeting men. “I don’t bump into eligible men my age, ” she said. “They’re nowhere. Not in church, not in restaurants, not walking the dog. ”“While it’s glorious to have the freedom to divorce and create a better life, ” she said, “we’re not in college anymore with an unlimited supply of men our age.
”She has tried social networking, going to dance clubs, reconnecting with friends at her class reunion (all married), waiting for something magic to happen and online dating. “When you’re 68, you just jump in, ” she said.