You’ve seen the pictures of folks smiling happily into the camera for pictures to be posted at once on Facebook. It makes me very pleased to see how some marriages have been strengthened by the virus and the forced togetherness. If this is a time of great joy for some couples, that’s superb.
But I had a chat recently with a pastor friend of mine and he was telling me that, in the midst of all this togetherness, there is a darker side. He informed me that incidents of martial violence have skyrocketed. I mentioned in an earlier blog posting that divorce lawyers have found their business increased by 50% but that doesn’t account for the marriages that are coming apart at the seams due to violence.
Some other friends told me that they have watched their parents’ marriages fall apart in front of their eyes, again as a result of too much time together and stress over losing jobs and financial pressure. Young people have lost their jobs by the thousands, but some older people have also become unemployed and businesses are failing.
So what can you and I do? Actually, there are several things that would be helpful. First, pray for these families. It is, indeed, families that are being affected by this fallout, not just the couples themselves. They need to know that they aren’t forgotten, so send a note of encouragement and support. Don’t take sides. That won’t help.
A note doesn’t interfere with crazy schedules that may include home schooling, cleaning, cooking three meals a day, juggling what is left of work, and then trying to deal with the disintegration of what might have been a long-term marriage.
What do you write? Hello. I’m thinking of you. This, too, shall pass. Praying for better days. I’m here for you. You aren’t alone in this. I’m your friend….
You know your friend or family member better than I do. The important thing is that you have written a personal, handwritten note to uplift and encourage, not a text. That can make a huge difference.
Next, wait a few days and follow up with a phone call. Again, be there for the person. Listen. Devote your entire attention to the person. Pray for him or her. Make sure that you are contacting a person of the same sex. This is not the time to get involved with someone other than your own spouse (who my Suddenly Single folks no longer have)! You are not a home wrecker; you are there to be an encouragement to your friend.
Pray without ceasing. Encourage without judging. Be there without fail.
Let me tell you a little secret: If you forget to change your filing status with your employer after you become single, your taxes can be a real shocker when tax time comes. Voice of experience here. Today.
So, my ex and I split up last year. He always did our taxes. I would nod and smile as we went through the documents, not really paying attention. After a few minutes of explanation, I would sign on the numerous proverbial dotted lines and everything was fine. The refunds would arrive like clockwork.
My accountant got my full attention this morning when he told me what my tax liability was for not telling my employer I was no longer married. The fact that I hadn’t known I needed to tell my employer will bring further blessings next year, since we are so far into this year. I have spent a lot of time today, scrambling to inform my HR department. They apparently aren’t working right now, due to the COVID19 fun, which will make my joy even greater next year since I can’t get a hold of them.
My attention was so grabbed this morning that I went weak in my knees. The number that my accountant gave me was more than half what I paid for my first house. I kid you not. A lot more than half, truth be told. And I wasn’t getting a house out of the deal. And the money was due by when??????
So, here’s the takeaway for all of my suddenly single friends: Inform your employer IMMEDIATELY when you are no longer married. If you know that you will be unexpectedly unmarried soon, go ahead and change your status now, so that the taxes will not come as a surprise next April. And so you won’t get lulled into thinking you are taking home more money that you are.
So where’s my house?
I heard an interesting news flash this past week. As you all know, the virus has been taking quite a toll on the world. The stress of not knowing if your best buddy or nearest neighbor is harboring the virus is getting hard on relationships.
But one of the greatest pitfalls of this whole Coronavirus outbreak is the strain on less-than-perfect marriages. It seems that, according to a news story I heard, divorce lawyers are finding their business is swelling by 50%. All that togetherness has brought out some hidden dissatisfaction for some couples.
Apparently, some marriages are “for better, for worse” but not for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And all the hours in between.
I saw a couple of nearby-but-different-street neighbors on a walk this afternoon. They were sitting on their porch, as far apart as they could get. They were silent and only moved enough to scowl at each other and greet me when I said “hello.” I wondered how long they had been married and if they would be one of the couples that would be needing my website soon.
The U.S. Census Bureau statistics that I regularly cite say that 1.6 million people are projected to lose their spouse to death or divorce this year, but that was before the virus showed up. I wonder just how far those statistics will soar but the time everything is said and done. Let’s do some figuring here. Of the 1.6 million people factored in here, 813,000 will get divorced. If the lawyers are saying their numbers are up by 50%, then that is roughly 400,000 more people. Wow, that’s 1.2 million people who will be spouse-less by New Year’s Eve.
If you know anyone in this sad state, encourage them to get counselling. That’s a lot of happy divorce attorneys but a huge hunk of people saying “I Don’t.” And that would be a sad refrain to an even sadder illness.
My great aunt was my maiden great aunt, meaning that she never married. At some point in her later years, she realized the importance of having friends who knew she was sill among the living, on a daily basis.
So she started a twice-daily phone chain where she and her single, widowed, and divorced friends would call each other the first thing in the morning and again at night. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Or as neurotic.
A good friend of mine had a single gal who she had known for many years. One day, some mutual friends realized that they hadn’t heard from the single woman for several days. They went over to her house, where they found her car in the driveway, the newspapers piling up, and no answer when they knocked on the door.
The police responded to their call and they found their friend lying on the floor of the shower. She had fallen several days before and couldn’t get up (this was before the days of those chains older folks wear around their necks). The lady was dehydrated and not in her right mind.
They transported her to the hospital, where they were able to restore her health but she was never quite the same again.
Instead of taking a chance that this might happen to you, it’s important that you establish a regular group of contacts you make. Have an arrangement where you call at about the same time every day. Make sure that a couple of trusted friends have a key to your house, with permission to come in and check on you if they don’t hear from you.
What stories can you share about folks who live alone? It’s better to have a plan in place than to end up ….badly off, if you get my drift.
I heard a story some time ago about bad decisions and thought I would pass it on to you today. This story was told to me by one of my students. He knew a man, who we will call “the Colonial,” as a patient at a home for veterans. My student realized that the man never had any visitors, in spite of his having been a man of considerable influence during the span of his career.
The Colonial shared his story in small parts, over a period of time. He had been married three times, ditching each of his first two wives after they hit the ripe old age of forty, saying “they just kind of lose something around that age, you know?”
He had children with his first two wives, and now has a boatload of grandchildren, who he no longer sees. His third wife (who is now in her mid-forties) was “the best darn divorce lawyer in town.” She now lives comfortably in the house the Colonial paid for, using money from his investments to support her lifestyle.
Wife number three does not come to see him, preferring the company of younger men to that of her bitter, chronically ill, late-eighties husband. His kids and grandkids hate him; his current wife ignores him. He did not make very good plans for his own future, placing great importance on having a trophy wife, but not understanding what would happen to him if he became institutionalized.
The Colonial might have been a very important man, but he did not make good decisions and it is costing him plenty now. He seemed to think that the grass was greener elsewhere, but that was probably because it was over the septic tank.
You may know the Helpful Harry type- with apologies to everyone named Harry. He tries to do a good deed but it misfires and you end up with the problem. Let me tell you a story.
I recently bought a lovely home. I went through the pre-inspection one hour before settlement and discovered something shocking: The previous owner, in some sort of misguided attempt to be helpful, had covered every nail hole on every wall in the new house with spackling compound.
Now this might have been deemed “helpful,” except that every wall in the house was painted brown. (Imagine here for a moment that you are living inside a wet cardboard box. That’s the color he had painted all of the walls during his pre-spackling extravaganza.)
Now, I knew I would need to repaint, not being fond of wet-cardboard-box brown, but I didn’t realize that it would need to be done immediately (the man apparently had a bunch of pictures that had previously graced his walls, so there were huge patches of spackle on every single wall. Some walls had as many as six or seven splotches!) “Heavens to Betsy,” as my mother would say. Shoot, this was even worth her “goodness, gracious, mercy Maude” and my father’s beloved expression, “Gosh!”
While I was busy “Betsying,” “Mauding,” and “goshing” my way through the house, I also realized that, because the walls were textured and because he had sanded them, I now had white smooth sections of brown, textured walls.
The end of the story, however, is really quite wonderful. A very dear and new friend and her family came over to my house and painted my entire house. The horrid brown with white spackle has now been replaced with gorgeous light blue, light mint green, and pink (not in the same room or even on the same floor). It looks great, not thanks to Helpful Harry.
I have a two-month old washer that has been incredibly persnickety. Sometimes it will spin the clothes and sometimes it simply rinses them five or six times and then declares itself finished. (It has also claimed to be spinning when I can clearly hear it filling and refilling with water.)
It seems there is a computer in the workings of the machine (computers are everywhere these days…I remember my grandmother’s old washer that required you to put clothing literally through the wringer….but I digress). Said computer has many likes and dislikes and apparently one of those peculiarities is that it is not overly fond of a hose that is too long.
You know that hose that goes from your washer to the drain line in your wall? Well, apparently, the washer doesn’t like a six foot hose; it prefers a six-inch one. When my washer was originally delivered, it came with a three-inch hose that you couldn’t do anything with, especially not drain any pressurized water, without risking the possibility that your laundry room would soon be swathed in dirty rinse water.
So, on the advice of the washer deliverers, I made a trek to my local Home Depot and bought a longer one. A much longer one. Six feet longer, to be more precise. Nobody told me that it would need to be trimmed and my friend who kindly installed the new, longer hose didn’t know to trim it, either.
So, the technician met me at my house today, and it took him all of ten minutes to realize the challenge that was confronting my washer. You see, when the hose is too long, it is longer than the washer, the water backs up as it is draining, and the computer inside the machine says there isn’t any water in the washer and it keeps refilling the machine. Hence, the five or six rinse cycles, sans the spin cycle.
So, before you get ready to deep six your washer or hang around the house waiting for the washer technician, take a look at that hose. The length might be the problem. Make sure you keep enough length so that it doesn’t come out of the wall when it’s under pressure (which would lead to an impromptu bubble bath or a spur of the moment baptismal service) but not so long that it doesn’t confuse your washer. Where’s a wringer washer when you need it?
When going over some statistics on mortality lately, I learned that women living in the United States who are over 65 years of age have an excellent chance of finishing life’s journey alone. The numbers stated that she has a 40% chance she will be a widow, a 40% chance that she will be divorced, and only a 20% chance that she will be married.
To those of you who are over 65 and still living in marital bliss, I congratulate you. So far, you have beaten the odds. However, unless you and your husband, God forbid, are in a car accident that kills you both, the chances are excellent that you will spend at least part of your life as a single. You will be a single in a couples’ world.
Here are some more statistics, since we are on a roll here. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 800,000 people will lose their spouse this year to death. Another 813,000 will lose their spouse to divorce. This means that some 1.6 million folks in the USA who were living with their spouse on January 1, 2020, will be living without that person by New Year’s Eve.
The good news is that you can be better prepared for the inevitable. Read some of the 320+ blog postings I have here; they explain the next steps to take. If there is a topic that I haven’t covered, pick a topic and comment on it, asking the question that you have in mind. I will do research on it, and will use that information for a future blog posting.
The saga of new home ownership continues. Okay, so I bought two new metal bookcases, to put inside my office closet. They weren’t the plastic ones that used to be available at my new home-away-from-home, The Home Depot (now I understand why folks go there….it’s entertaining and fun! But perhaps I have become more easily amused these days….But I digress….).
Back to the story at hand. Okay, so these metal thingamabobs looked pretty easy to put together. I looked at the instructions for two days before attempting this feat of construction. (Have I mentioned that they aren’t the plastic snap-together ones I had before at the old house and really, really liked, but gave away when I moved?)
Three shelves couldn’t be that hard to figure out, right? Be still my soul. First, you screw the bottom metal rod into the top metal rod and repeat three more times for the other legs of the shelves. Easy peazy, Roger that. We are launched. Oops, I’m single now. I am launched.
Now you put the black plastic things around the rods, marking where you want the bottom shelf to be. (They neglected to include the fact that, if you put them too low on the rods, they pop back off and then you are on a fruitless search for the blasted popped off black thingy which, by the way, seems to be without a logical name. This must happen a lot because they included two extra black thingies in the package. Either that or my construction of these shelves is in serious trouble.)
Place the bottom shelf on the rods and …oh no! A sledgehammer is needed? Where did that come from? I don’t have a sledgehammer and the nearest Home Depot is 20 minutes away….And I might not be able to lift a sledgehammer anyway and….and… and. Perhaps brute force, albeit a feminine version of said brute force, will work. Okay, so that wasn’t ideal but I digress.
Repeat with the next shelf and the top shelf. Well, the shelving unit looks okay. I mean, it’s slightly askew but aren’t we all? Maybe if I jam it in the back of the closet and lean it against two walls…. There. I only planned on putting office supplies on it anyway. How much could pens and file folders and copy machine paper and stuff like that weigh, anyway?
Hurry up and put the second one together while I have this shelf construction memorized. The instructions can take a hike. The second one was much easier, now that I know how…wait a minute- what are these little black round things? Where are those blasted directions? Nope, they are nameless just like their predecessors and these treasures aren’t even pictured. Where in the world do they belong???? Oh, the trash, of course. Circular file…..
Oh, my. What was that noise? It seems to be coming from my closet. Nope false alarm. I shut the closet doors quickly and headed downstairs. Any reconstruction will simply have to wait for another day. Or never, which ever one comes first.
Dr. Sheri, Handywoman Extraordinaire
Welcome to your new life. Whether you are divorced or widowed, you have a new “normal” and a new life. It’s up to you to embrace it and literally “find out what you want to be when you grow up.”
Perhaps you chose this new beginning or maybe it was forced on you through the death of someone you loved very much. Perchance your spouse told you verbally that he or she did not want to be married to you anymore or perhaps it was much more subtle. Here’s the news: You can make it. You can survive and even thrive in this new season of life.
As you visit my website, take a look at a few of the topics I cover, everything from whether or not to move, how to pack, and how to select your new location to (if you are male) how to put together a new wardrobe (assuming that your mother dressed you and then your wife took over the role when you married).
You might be one of my readers whose wife always took care of maintaining the household or you might be a gal whose hubby always handled the bill paying. There’s help for you both here, as well.
If you would like me to address a specific topic, just comment on any of my blog postings and I would be happy to oblige. If I don’t know the answer, I will go to an expert and get back to you.
The bottom line here is: You can make it. You can get through these difficulties, and who knows what the future will bring? I’ve known people who were “alone” for years who found love in their mid-70s. I’ve also known people who were widowed in their 40s and still have a very good life without a spouse. Hang in there, friends.