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Thanks for this helping me think through some of the reasons I'm seeing so much of this. There are others too (not all involving divorce) and I've been trying to make sense of it. I'm going to delete some things from these first  as I've put out a lot of personal information. 

Edited by mom2scouts
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People chase dopamine.  And sometimes as you age stress, the loss of a parent, an illness, or early symptoms of dementia can radially change people's choices and behavior.

I think it's very common for people to change their religious beliefs as they age, especially devout people, and if the only reason they were married was religion they dismiss it.

The man who lost weight probably finally met someone who motivated him to grow up.

The woman who abandoned her children probably had some sort of narcissism going on.

In general many people who make choices out of obligation make much different choices when they feel the obligations are over- like if their children grew up or the wife that pushed for outward success leaves.

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I am in my 50s too and that hasn’t been my experience at all.  I know people who have made changes, but nothing like what you are talking about. I did have a friend who got a divorce that surprised me. But you never really know what is going on with folks at home. 

I am looking forward to a change like what you mention for yourself—more fun especially. I have ended up raising my kids in a not very fun place—everyone is very intense. I hope, when the kids are all in college, we can move somewhere more fun. Maybe to people here it will seem like I’ve changed, but I am really just getting back to the way I was “before.”

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People change. 

Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. 

I'm trying to return to a life, interrupted. Anyone who knew me 30 years ago would find me-now congruent. 

People who knew me superficially 10 yes ago? Not so much. 

I do sometimes feel I was under a hormonal spell for a good twenty years. Mid life changes that, if nothing else.

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I will say I've seen this 50's & 60's divorces a lot more in my religious friends parents than in the parents of my more secular friends.

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One issue with viewing things from the outside, is that you don't know what motivated the person to be thier old selves. Sometimes people live thier lives being funneled and shaped by those people around them, jobs, social groups, religious organizations, education etc. If you remove one or more of these constraining factors, the person can expand and seemingly become a different version of themselves. But.....sometimes, it is actually the same person, with just fewer restraints in place. 

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I turn 50 next month and I think I am very different from who I was in my 20s-early 30s. I’m still married to the same person but I have different political views, religious views, different ideals (for example, used to love being on a secluded lot with chickens and a big garden; now I would like to be in a walkable city center.) and many aspects of my public persona have changed. I do not see this as a mid-life crisis. I think it is healthy to change and I hope I am always open to other possibilities, though I don’t think that must mean leaving your spouse or changing your religion. 

I do know some people who changed very significantly around 40-50. One that springs to mind was a friend who never ate vegetables - literally the joke used to be, “If you see lettuce in the fridge don’t get excited; it’s for the pet rabbit” - is now a serious ethical vegan. She is also planning to move to a very different climate in the near future. And I am not sure if she is still the same religion. But she has not left her spouse. She and her husband are the most similar example to the OP’s examples. 

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, Tap said:

One issue with viewing things from the outside, is that you don't know what motivated the person to be thier old selves. Sometimes people live thier lives being funneled and shaped by those people around them, jobs, social groups, religious organizations, education etc. If you remove one or more of these constraining factors, the person can expand and seemingly become a different version of themselves. But.....sometimes, it is actually the same person, with just fewer restraints in place. 

But don't you think most people make those choices in life like who they marry, their friend groups, their jobs, their church? Or maybe not? Do most people just stay in the area where they grew up or where they got their first job, marry the first person who comes along, go to the school encouraged by parents or friends, make friends with whoever happens to be their neighbors or parents at their kids' activities? So when one of those things changes for whatever reason, maybe just season of life, they see many options that didn't seem available to them before?

We never planned to live our entire adult lives in this community. It was most convenient at the time, but then we bought a house here and had kids and met people and decades went by and we never left. Staying here for so long was never a conscious choice, but leaving never seemed to be an option. Now we're talking about moving away in a few years which is something I never would have imagined considering even a few years ago.

Edited by mom2scouts
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I  50 and have changed a lot over the past few years.  If you read my blog/know my story you will know why.

I was a stay at home mom, homeschooled for 15+ years, more of a homebody and person that loved reading.

Now I am working full time.  Sold the hobby farm and horses and moved to a small subdivision in town.  I am adventuring quite a bit now....skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, backpacking, etc.

Life forced some changes on me and now I have more time for some of these adventures.

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15 minutes ago, mom2scouts said:

But don't you think most people make those choices in life like who they marry, their friend groups, their jobs, their church? Or maybe not? Do most people just stay in the area where they grew up or where they got their first job, marry the first person who comes along, go to the school encouraged by parents or friends, make friends with whoever happens to be their neighbors or parents at their kids' activities? So when one of those things changes for whatever reason, maybe just season of life, they see many options that didn't seem available to them before?

We never planned to live our entire adult lives in this community. It was most convenient at the time, but then we bought a house here and had kids and met people and decades went by and we never left. Staying here for so long was never a concious choice, but leaving never seemed to be an option. Now we're talking about moving away in a few years which is something I never would have imagined considering even a few years ago.

Sure, many people live a life that follows the path of least resistance. It isn't necessarily a bad life, just what they chose to pursue at the time. Sometimes, people would rather give up on thier own desires, to makes someone else happier. A house in the suburbs so the kids have nearby friends vs. a mom's true love of wanting to live on a quiet mountainside. Or choosing public schools for kids, so one parent can afford to stay home. Choosing a cozy lifestyle may be great for a family, but can be hard on the stay at home parent's social life.  Or the opposite, putting the kids in private school, that may require the same parent to get a job outside the home. Narrowing job choices based on availability for the kids sports schedule, or team travel. Choosing to stay in a city close to family vs. moving a few states away to a nicer climate.  Once those same kids move out....what is keeping that person at home, in the same city, or at the same job?  If that person now takes another job, meets new people and can finally trade a minivan for a cute sports car....doesn't mean that the person changed all that much. It could just mean that they finally get to make some choices They want, without worrying about everyone else first. 

A very simple example. Dh used to talk over me all the time. To the extreme! It got to the point, that I barely spoke when we were together with other people. Those people probably thought I was a mousey, quiet person. But I am actually quite a chatterbox. I was embarrassed by how he treated me and it wasn't worth the battle to try to be a part of chit chat in a group. Someone who saw me years later would probably thought I was a very different person, but in actuality, I was just being quiet around him. 

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I guess I haven't seen that.  I HAVE seen people become more of who they were before...  I probably fall into that category, although my personality is pretty much the same.  I really can't think of anyone who has morphed into a whole different person!  

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I have one family member who significatnly changed views/beliefs in her 50s--from one of the most conservative people I knew (actually said that women working was a communist plot to overthrow the US government) to so liberal she is off the charts.  Foods she wouldn't eat before are now her favorites.  Places she wants to go totally different--couldn't stand the beach wanted to go to the mountains, but now wants to go to the beach...  She has been busily unfriending people on Facebook who do not share her current views.  She want even go back to her hometown because everyone there is backwards, conservative, racist, doesn't vote for the correct political candidate, her list goes on and on.

I know some other people who made significant job changes or divroced.  Usually there had been some long term issues and it wasn't simply a mid-life crisis whim.  The kids were grown so they didn't feel they needed to remain in a bad marriage for the kids sake.  They kids were grown and they had more time to devote to a job change.  They felt they had reached some financial security or inherited some money and had the opportunity to pursue a dream they had not been able to before.   One couple I know picked up and moved half-way around the world; their kids were out of college and on their own and they wanted to experience something very different while they were still in good health and physical condition.

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3 minutes ago, Tap said:

It could just mean that they finally get to make some choices They want, without worrying about everyone else first. 

This.   

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Some people make radical changes in middle age because they realize exactly that: they have lived half their life, and they want the second half to look different. Sometimes they have been conforming to external expectations, and there would be a price to pay if they defied those expectations. Sometimes it is more of a mix, both external and internal expectations, and they didn't necessarily take the time in their youth to really consider what they truly wanted. 

Your four examples all involve divorce and big life changes, but I don't see why they would all be examples of throwing away one's values and family. The second one seems closest to that, but outsiders only see the surface and generally only hear one side of the story; we can't really know what drove those decisions or what was going on behind the scenes. 

The first one? I can name several boardies offhand who homeschooled for a very long time, and then quit homeschooling and got a job. If she's pandemic schooling, then she must have primary physical custody, which seems proof enough that she's still actively parenting her kids. I don't think the Covid stuff is likely to have any relation to her other decisions. 

The third one sounds like . . . good for him? Extrovert/introvert tends to be more complicated than people imagine, but good on him for making changes and enjoying life. 

The fourth one sounds like . . . just a divorce? 

So three mostly sound like typical divorce and life changes, with no one throwing away their values or their family. I mean, if divorce is 100% against your values, and you thought it was against theirs, then I guess that's why you're shocked, but none of them seem terribly unusual. I'm not saying I would take no notice of it, I would definitely be the person going did you see that X put the kids in school and Y has a new girlfriend? but I'd put it in the category of interesting and surprising, not shocking or terrible. 

The second one does sound terrible, and maybe it is, but again, we don't know the whole story. But the others just sound like variations on people making changes and getting divorced, or getting divorced and making changes. 

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Something dh and I have talked about is that he and I will soon find ourselves at different vocational phases. I have served as family life manager for 25 years now. Next year I retire from that, and finally see time and opportunity opening up for me to pursue personal interests and even career goals that had to be shelved for over two decades;   the nature of dh’s career required me to be the full time stay at home parent, with no opportunity to concurrently pursue a career. I don’t regret it, but one of us had to make that sacrifice, that’s the facts. Add home schooling to that and it was an intensely child and home focused mission. And now I’m ready and excited to pursue new and different things for however many years good health and the Lord allow. These interests are not necessarily shared by dh, and I don’t believe I should be limited to only doing things we find mutually interesting and compelling; it’s ok for me to have a turn at my own thing. 
 

For dh, though, he’s nearing the end of a long career and looking forward to leisure time, he doesn’t really want a second career. His volunteer interests are different than mine. So we’re vocationally out of sync. Also, he’s been used to having a full time homemaker and all the amenities that come with that. Now that there isn’t a house full of kids to feed and care for, I don’t really wish to keep being servant to an adult who is as equally capable as I am of keeping up with his own surroundings. Does this sound selfish? Maybe. But surely not any more selfish than him expecting to be waited upon, kwim? My expectation is for things to return to a more mutual partnership arrangement as it was early marriage, prior to kids, when both of us worked, and we shared home tasks. He admits to that being fair, it’s the actual happening of it that might have us in choppy waters for a while as our routines rearrange.

I can imagine some couples reaching this stage of life and not weathering it well. I think it takes really talking through expectations and being intentional to navigate changes well as kids cease to be the focus. 

I also imagine there could be many underlying reasons why some people go off the rails as in the OP’s description. One can’t always know if there may be mental health issues, or emotional/physical abuse involved. It’s not likely always pure selfishness. 

 

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Tiny details often change big pictures, but you can’t always see those details from the outside.

My mom has been the same basic person on the inside in her 50s and 60s as she was In her 30s and 40s, but her life is a whole lot different in many ways. And I see another shift coming as she inches towards 70.  I would never expect a 70yo to be the same as their 30yo self, but the change doesn’t happen all at once. Time and individual events accrue. Pondering happens. Opportunities change. Goals shift. Relationships (of any type) evolve. Mortality sinks in. Serious obligations like keeping children alive go away.

I certainly don’t want to stay the same as I was at 30. I don’t want to implode my family or get involved with religion, but there’s a lot more out there than just what I’ve happily committed a couple of decades to.

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7 hours ago, mom2scouts said:

But don't you think most people make those choices in life like who they marry, their friend groups, their jobs, their church? Or maybe not? Do most people just stay in the area where they grew up or where they got their first job, marry the first person who comes along, go to the school encouraged by parents or friends, make friends with whoever happens to be their neighbors or parents at their kids' activities? So when one of those things changes for whatever reason, maybe just season of life, they see many options that didn't seem available to them before?

I actually do think most people marry “Mr. Right Now” - the person they are in a relationship at the time of life most likely to produce a marriage. It’s like the hilarious comedic song “If I Didn’t Have You, Somebody Else Would Do.” Because any relationship is going to have benefits and drawbacks; the potential spouse who is ambitious (a benefit) can also become the workaholic spouse who does not invest in the family (a drawback). I think the reason we often pair up with someone who is in some ways our opposite is because people want space to be the one in the relationship who does X. Two perfectionists drive each other nuts; two financial wizards constantly argue against the mate’s ideas. 

I think choices like where to live, what job to do and so on are also largely “accidental” and are not specifically chosen. 

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16 minutes ago, Quill said:

I actually do think most people marry “Mr. Right Now” - the person they are in a relationship at the time of life most likely to produce a marriage. It’s like the hilarious comedic song “If I Didn’t Have You, Somebody Else Would Do.” Because any relationship is going to have benefits and drawbacks; the potential spouse who is ambitious (a benefit) can also become the workaholic spouse who does not invest in the family (a drawback). I think the reason we often pair up with someone who is in some ways our opposite is because people want space to be the one in the relationship who does X. Two perfectionists drive each other nuts; two financial wizards constantly argue against the mate’s ideas. 

I think choices like where to live, what job to do and so on are also largely “accidental” and are not specifically chosen. 

I chose to marry a 23yo who just graduated college. Twenty years later, I’m glad I’m not married to a 23yo who just graduated college, lol. His career isn’t what he initially planned. Staying home isn’t what I initially planned. Living here wasn’t our long term plan. It’s all made for a very good life, but there were tons of little adaptations to reality that occurred.

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7 hours ago, klmama said:

It could just mean that they finally get to make some choices They want, without worrying about everyone else first. 

This is actually a quote from Tap.   Yes   this.  I am at this stage   I still do a great deal based on my kids....special needs young adults....but I am also doing more and more of what I want.

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I’m in my late 40s and in the past year I've realized a fairly significant side of myself that I’ve somehow suppressed for the past 30 years. What exploring that will look like within the confines of my happy marriage remains to be seen, but if I suddenly made a Big Announcement to friends they would probably be surprised. People who knew me 30 years ago, otoh, aren’t surprised at all. Lol

I think it’s normal to go through seasons throughout our lives. Child raising is a significant one and takes up a significant amount of years and energy. When we find ourselves on the other side (or nearly so), I think it’s natural and healthy to take a step back to reevaluate who *we* are— not just as mom or someone’s wife, but as a grow ass individual. 
 

When it comes down to it, we only know what other people choose to show us at any given time. You don’t really know if your friend examples were deeply religious, or content in their marriages, or what prompted to make the life choices they did. It seems clear there was a lot going on under the surface they chose to not share; their “radical” decisions may be nothing more than finally being able to live as their authentic selves. We should wish that for all of us, yes? 

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I don't know a lot of women that have made big changes but I can understand it. It is easy to lose yourself in your children, even more so as a SAHM. Even as adults it is easy to fall in with peer pressure and be how you are expected to be instead of what you want to be. It is at times hard to even know what you want when you are so busy thinking about the needs of everyone else. I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, no clue. I thought I wanted to go back to work for awhile but when circumstances put me in a place I thought I didn't have a choice I was deeply saddened and realized I didn't want to move on at all. Now, as my last 2 leave the nest, who knows. 

I've known many men to make career changes in midlife, a staggering amount. Often those changes leading to the once SAHP having to go back to work and then still keep the same responsibilities around the house. I see a lot of women getting screwed over at this age. My husband went back to college and I have more responsibilities around the house but am not as busy taking care of little ones and have 2 in school so it evens out. His was brought on by work instability and his dad passing.

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people change, but there are several reasons why change is particularly dramatic in middle age! First, life stage: for many folks, the kids are grown, the active parenting phase is over, and they can finally focus more on their own needs. They may have reached a dead end in their career, or may just start working out of the home. Second, the realization that time is marching on, and if they want to make a life change, they'd better do it soon. Third, for women, do not discount how perimenopause messes with the brain and may cause anything from severe depression to a change of sexual orientation.

I am a very different person now at 52 than I was fifteen years ago. I have learned things about myself I was unaware of, had time for introspection. I no longer identify through my day job as a physics professor, but through my passion as a poet.
And I am by no means done with the transition; I feel big change is about to come and just on hiatus because of Covid.

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I've known a few people who have gone through (what appear to me to be) crazy unexpected changes. Like a friend who seemed to have a wonderful marriage and suddenly (as it appears to me), she's moving out and they are divorcing. Or a very conservative religious person who seemingly one day dumped it all and became wildly different. 

But I didn't see all the things that made the changes happen. 

These people are also more visible because of their "sudden" changes. So if, say, 3 people in my circle seem to be making radical changes in their lives, it'll seem like "everyone" is, but in reality there are 15 people who are pretty much staying the course of their lives. They are just not noticeable. 

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One thing that happens at that age is also that people realize they dont have to give a rat's tail about what other people think of them.

They realize that many things they *thought * they wanted were actually things they were only supposed to want to satisfy societal norms, or their parents,  or their church.

Knowing what one *really * wants is very difficult. 

I recommend Erich Fromm's Escape from Freedom where he talks about that.

Edited by regentrude
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Sometimes there are things going on in the background that an outside observer has no idea are happening. I have a friend who until recently appeared to be in a happy marriage, perfect kids etc. Turns out that was just the public face she put on. While the kids are still great, the marriage was not. After 18 years she decided to get divorced.

Also, the base line for acceptable changes to you means staying with a spouse. What happens when the two people change in different directions? What happens when the wife no longer wants to be a conservative Christian in a male dominated family or life? I am not trying to be critical of anyone’s choices, but to point out that a choice doesn’t have to last a lifetime. I don’t think staying in an unhappy life is a great goal to have. The down side is the kids whose life has changed because of the people around them. That it a hard place to be in, but is it better for parents to put their lives on hold until the kids are a specific age deemed appropriate to adjust to the “selfish” choices of parents? 

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I'm in my 50s and very different than I was in my 30s. My seemingly happy marriage was behind the scenes one of control, financial abuse, and once I had an opportunity, I escaped - purposely using that term. Those that knew us in our 30s would have never guessed at half our issues because we had a public front - for me it was to hide embarrasement. I also walked away from organized religion because of some of the ways in which I or my family were treated were diatmetrically opposite from the teachings of Christ. 

I found time to rediscover my love of history- this is closer to my childhood self than my adult self- and have been a student for the last 8 years, trying to live intentionally instead of on eggshells. 

I'm in a committed relationship with a man but neither of us are at the point of considering marriage again. 

Covid has narrowed my focus in many ways and helped me figure out what is important to me.

I'm more true to the essence of myself than I was in my 30s. 

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2 hours ago, Soror said:

I don't know a lot of women that have made big changes but I can understand it. It is easy to lose yourself in your children, even more so as a SAHM. Even as adults it is easy to fall in with peer pressure and be how you are expected to be instead of what you want to be. It is at times hard to even know what you want when you are so busy thinking about the needs of everyone else. I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, no clue. I thought I wanted to go back to work for awhile but when circumstances put me in a place I thought I didn't have a choice I was deeply saddened and realized I didn't want to move on at all. Now, as my last 2 leave the nest, who knows. 

I've known many men to make career changes in midlife, a staggering amount. Often those changes leading to the once SAHP having to go back to work and then still keep the same responsibilities around the house. I see a lot of women getting screwed over at this age. My husband went back to college and I have more responsibilities around the house but am not as busy taking care of little ones and have 2 in school so it evens out. His was brought on by work instability and his dad passing.

Yes to the first, and definitely to the second. That’s what we are negotiating through here. There have been quite a few now wait a minute moments the past year. 

1 hour ago, regentrude said:

people change, but there are several reasons why change is particularly dramatic in middle age! First, life stage: for many folks, the kids are grown, the active parenting phase is over, and they can finally focus more on their own needs. They may have reached a dead end in their career, or may just start working out of the home. Second, the realization that time is marching on, and if they want to make a life change, they'd better do it soon. Third, for women, do not discount how perimenopause messes with the brain and may cause anything from severe depression to a change of sexual orientation.

I am a very different person now at 52 than I was fifteen years ago. I have learned things about myself I was unaware of, had time for introspection. I no longer identify through my day job as a physics professor, but through my passion as a poet.
And I am by no means done with the transition; I feel big change is about to come and just on hiatus because of Covid.

I am definitely feeling this!

31 minutes ago, regentrude said:

One thing that happens at that age is also that people realize they dont have to give a rat's tail about what other people think of them.

They realize that many things they *thought * they wanted were actually things they were only supposed to want to satisfy societal norms, or their parents,  or their church.

Knowing what one *really * wants is very difficult. 

I recommend Erich Fromm's Escape from Freedom where he talks about that.

Coming into this stage now. It is quite liberating!

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It sounds like (perhaps) part of what you're wondering about are the very large shifts these people made in a relatively short (or shorter) period of time.

I think pendulum shifts (like Bootsie described with her very-conservative-now-very-liberal friend) aren't really change at all. It's just the coin flipping over. IMHO, those people didn't so much truly grow into a new persona so much as they are either just reacting/rebelling to the old or just changing the externals w/o changing any internals.

I dunno.....yes, people grow and change through life & that's truly great, but I also think there are many people who basically lead pretty shallow, superficial lives (which does not make them bad or evil, just rather clueless) and I think when they get tired of one story, they just go live another story and there isn't necessarily any more to it than that (to them, anyway). I don't even try to judge which is which anymore, because unless one is privy to the particulars of the situation, it's pretty hard to make that judgment.

But, yeah, mid-life is.....mid-life, where it becomes *very* clear that this ride in this body has an endpoint. Pending mortality can force a number of things into clearer focus.

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Story number one is wowza!!

I'm 56. I read once that really big events offer people the opportunity to change for better or worse. I made a giant change in my life when I had my babies. I cleaned up my act so that the kids wouldn't have a goofball for a mom (I learned to get along better w/ others, I learned to chill, I learned to sleep when the babies slept!!) And I left my job as a social worker to be home w/ the kids. At that point I started writing.

I also had to make gargantuan changes in order to lose weight. (Where's the trudging up the mountain emoji?)

Edited by Alicia64
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I do know a few people who made significant changes in their lives when a parent died--then they did not have  to deal with disappointing a parent, being disowned for divorcing or changing churches, etc.  I also know some people who made significant changes when they found out things about the older generations that they were not aware of; I am thinking of the person I knew who was terribly unhappy in a bad marriage.  She could not figure out what was wrong with her given how happy, fulfilling, and easy marriage was for her parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles--when she learned the truth of what was going on behind closed doors in some of those situations she realized it wasn't that there was something wrong with her, there were decisions to be made, and she did not want to make some of the same decisions that othersin her family had made.  

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I keep pondering this post.  Like I said above, I think what people see of me right now (how I present) is not quite right.  I live in an upper middle class suburb. I, however, grew up and live my first 33 years in cities (4 different countries.) I am at heart a city dweller and would *love* to be back living in DC.  I am far more earthy crunchy than I appear.  I actually remember making choices along the way away from the "hippie" side of me.  Had we stayed in western Canada, that might not have happened.  Sometimes I do stop and think what life would be like if I/we had taken a different path.  I have been true to my ideals, but being a somewhat private person,not everyone knows my ideals.  So, I can completely see my post-children life being wildly different and those who think I am a *typical* suburban soccer mom might be shocked.  It's kind of how my dh presents as a quite book guy and folks are always really shocked that he is quite athletic, hunts, plays the electric guitar and has a black belt in TKD.  We are all so complicated.

When I was younger I used to be quite shocked by mothers of large families up and leaving.  Your story did surprise me until I thought about it.  I have had friends with families that large and there were points were I felt, from the outside, but close, that they were drowning and completely and totally overwhelmed.   It's one thing to have the idealized vision of a large family, but in reality it puts a tremendous strain on the mother.  Sometimes those ideals come with family systems where the father doesn't see himself as a partner in the running of the home. (That is not true to my situation btw)  I actually can see someone making choices based on ideals that the practice was much too hard, making changes, realizing you weren't the person you thought you would be within that ideal and then wanting to walk away, or even without a spouse who can flex to the change, actually walking away.  I would like to say I'd never have done that.  But so often I have found I'm not the mother/person I idealized myself to be when I was young.  My dh is very supportive of whatever I want and what is holding back change here is actually me not wanting to rock the boat while the kids are in a stable place they love.  When I'm ready, we will probably "leave" together.  But maybe not, right?

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I think women generally grow less accommodating with age. Once I read about a post-menopausal woman whose husband mourned the “former wife” he had; she said losing the hormones felt like becoming more herself. I’m in my early thirties so not near that point, but I gravitate to friendships with 60-year olds, and the description rings true to my experience. I imagine something similar happens to men with age; perhaps the two meeting causes a shift in marriages that can rupture at already-present fault lines.

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It’s been ages since I read it, but I think the book Passages by Gail Sheehy said switching into different identities is a common rite of passage for women in their 50’s.

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17 minutes ago, Thatboyofmine said:

Like @freesia, I think people just don't see the real 'us', so when a marriage ends or a spouse ends up becoming a crunchy vegan when she used to be paleo (I'm being a little light-hearted here), it's shocking to us, but to him/her it may be what they've felt all their life.  I had a best friend in the past, we were extremely close, she got divorced because her dh was physically abusive.  I knew them so incredibly well!  It was shocking to me.  How could that be happening and us be so close and me not know???  

Anyway, I know many people would meet me, even be around me quite a bit, and not see the real me.  I am very different from everyone around me and it's incredibly lonely.  I'm in my 40's and I will definitely not leave my husband or anything like that, he really is my best friend in every sense of the word, but as I've gotten older, I see just how different we are.   He is still the same person I met at 20 (that's a good thing, he was awesome then and is awesome now), but I am not the same person.   


Regarding women up and leaving their children, taking off with some guy from the internet...  Well, as much as we (as a society) talk about mental illnesses, I think there are a slew of people who are not getting the help they need.   Maybe their spouses won't 'allow' it, maybe they themselves look down on it, it could be that they live in a shitty society where politicians don't give a flying f about healthcare so they don't have access, it could be a hundred things, but whatever the reason, people are not getting the help they need and I think some of your examples could be chalked up to that.   🤷🏻‍♀️

And the paleo turned vegan could have been paleo bc of a spouse.  We ate much closer to vegetarian until I was diagnosed insulin resistant and I do better with meat than beans, so we eat much more paleo.  If I died, dh would be more vegetarian.  Also, my mother spends money in a much different way than when my dad, who was raised in a poor family during the depression, was alive.  They never fought about money, so I didn't know she was naturally more free spending.

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I haven’t seen any big changes in my friends lately.  I’m 48 and most of my friends range from 40-55ish. 

There are the little blips, like the woman who thought eating out was a huge waste of money and got judgy toward people with children who ate out, who now eats out a good 3 times a week. And not just because of covid. She made that change a couple of years ago.

Or the men who were couch potatoes when they got home from work who realized they needed to make changes for their health, so they changed their diets and started exercising (one now plays tennis a few times a week), and slimmed down.

I haven’t seen major life changes like running off with new lovers, though.

For myself, at 48, I feel like I’ve come full circle to become a mixture of the person I was before kids coupled with who I’ve grown into as I’ve matured.

For example, after trying on extroversion for about 25 years, I’m back to resting comfortably in the introversion of my teenaged self. And as I’ve matured, I no longer think that irreverent humor is the best quality a person can have and a requirement for friendship (a belief I clung to until my late-30s), and I now cherish genuine, gentle people who might not ever crack a single joke.  This means that the types of people I’m drawn to now are very different from the types I was drawn to in my 20s and 30s. I’m struggling to decide if I even like some of the friends I made when I was in my 30s anymore!

When the kids don’t live here anymore, I do know I’ll change most of my furniture and most of my eating habits. I might move to a new house. I feel like I’m in a stagnant place for creating the surroundings and meals that I want for myself and I can see a change coming in that area. I’m just so tired of my setting and the food that I eat. But that’s hardly leaving my husband to become a Vegas showgirl. 🙂

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2 hours ago, freesia said:

I keep pondering this post.  Like I said above, I think what people see of me right now (how I present) is not quite right.  I live in an upper middle class suburb. I, however, grew up and live my first 33 years in cities (4 different countries.) I am at heart a city dweller and would *love* to be back living in DC.  I am far more earthy crunchy than I appear.  I actually remember making choices along the way away from the "hippie" side of me.  Had we stayed in western Canada, that might not have happened.  Sometimes I do stop and think what life would be like if I/we had taken a different path.  I have been true to my ideals, but being a somewhat private person,not everyone knows my ideals.  So, I can completely see my post-children life being wildly different and those who think I am a *typical* suburban soccer mom might be shocked.  It's kind of how my dh presents as a quite book guy and folks are always really shocked that he is quite athletic, hunts, plays the electric guitar and has a black belt in TKD.  We are all so complicated.

When I was younger I used to be quite shocked by mothers of large families up and leaving.  Your story did surprise me until I thought about it.  I have had friends with families that large and there were points were I felt, from the outside, but close, that they were drowning and completely and totally overwhelmed.  Even with 4 I have felt that way and, on occasion,wondered if I'd made a mistake having that many and wanted out. (Don't quote that, I may delete)  It's one thing to have the idealized vision of a large family, but in reality it puts a tremendous strain on the mother.  Sometimes those ideals come with family systems where the father doesn't see himself as a partner in the running of the home. (That is not true to my situation btw)  I actually can see someone making choices based on ideals that the practice was much too hard, making changes, realizing you weren't the person you thought you would be within that ideal and then wanting to walk away, or even without a spouse who can flex to the change, actually walking away.  I would like to say I'd never have done that.  But so often I have found I'm not the mother/person I idealized myself to be when I was young.  My dh is very supportive of whatever I want and what is holding back change here is actually me not wanting to rock the boat while the kids are in a stable place they love.  When I'm ready, we will probably "leave" together.  But maybe not, right?

I won't lie, I think about moving out. Leave the teen and adult kid with the ex, find myself a little studio somewhere and live an unencumbered life. 

I won't do it, because I'd be too restrained by fear of judgement, but I absolutely understand why, after 20+ years of devoted motherhood, a woman might just up sticks and leave. 

The cost of raising a family, especially in a counter-cultural way, has the potential to be very high. 

Of course, anyone who knows me from that 20+ yr period would be quite surprised. All they see is the Good Mom. 

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16 hours ago, Tap said:

Sure, many people live a life that follows the path of least resistance. 

My mother described it as living life by accident. I saw how that worked up close and how miserable it ultimately made her and us and purposed to never be that way. Not everyone feels comfy, empowered, interested in being authentic all the time. It’s risky. Who you actually are won’t be right for everyone else.

 

14 hours ago, Seasider too said:

Something dh and I have talked about is that he and I will soon find ourselves at different vocational phases. I have served as family life manager for 25 years now. Next year I retire from that, and finally see time and opportunity opening up for me to pursue personal interests and even career goals that had to be shelved for over two decades;   the nature of dh’s career required me to be the full time stay at home parent, with no opportunity to concurrently pursue a career. I don’t regret it, but one of us had to make that sacrifice, that’s the facts. Add home schooling to that and it was an intensely child and home focused mission. And now I’m ready and excited to pursue new and different things for however many years good health and the Lord allow. These interests are not necessarily shared by dh, and I don’t believe I should be limited to only doing things we find mutually interesting and compelling; it’s ok for me to have a turn at my own thing. 
 

For dh, though, he’s nearing the end of a long career and looking forward to leisure time, he doesn’t really want a second career. His volunteer interests are different than mine. So we’re vocationally out of sync. Also, he’s been used to having a full time homemaker and all the amenities that come with that. Now that there isn’t a house full of kids to feed and care for, I don’t really wish to keep being servant to an adult who is as equally capable as I am of keeping up with his own surroundings. Does this sound selfish? Maybe. But surely not any more selfish than him expecting to be waited upon, kwim? My expectation is for things to return to a more mutual partnership arrangement as it was early marriage, prior to kids, when both of us worked, and we shared home tasks. He admits to that being fair, it’s the actual happening of it that might have us in choppy waters for a while as our routines rearrange.

I can imagine some couples reaching this stage of life and not weathering it well. I think it takes really talking through expectations and being intentional to navigate changes well as kids cease to be the focus. 

 

You are speaking my language. Intentionality is so important. DH is finally talking, seriously, about retirement but it turns out that ‘retirement’ for him means getting another job. We’ve had some serious discussions about that b/c I’m not gonna sit home while our kids fly the coop and he works. And *if* I go back to work I’m not gonna drop it to be around/available whenever he has down time. To outsiders, our marriage is charmed (mostly true) but so help me if he gets a job that doesn’t allow us to travel and spend more time doing the things we both like, it’s gonna get rough.

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To a certain degree, most people adopt a persona and play a role that is creating identity for them. We craft the persona we want to be and that we want to portray to the world, and we get really good at it. We are "the homeschool mom", "the crunchy vegan gardener", "the business executive", "the caring teacher". We add trimmings and attributes and perfect that role.

And then comes a point of realization: that is not who we are - it is merely the thing we do. And the world comes crashing down. It is incredibly hard to dismantle these personae and to excavate what being is hidden beneath the doing. And the findings are surprising and scary. (I wrote an entire book about that)

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Obviously, Covid has given me way too much time to ponder this. As I said, I'm in my mid 50's and only have one minor child left who will start (homeschool) high school next year. I left a job I loved to become a SAHM over 30 years ago and now I wonder what the next phase will be like. I don't want to ditch dh, although we've both changed a lot over the years and have spent a lot of time focused on different things in life. I'm ready for some changes and he likes things to just keep going as usual, so we'll have to navigate that. I'm looking at these people I know and their big changes and thinking some things are appealing like losing weight, more travel, new interests, and a social life that isn't based on kid activities. Then I look at the woman whose life changed so dramatically and think that I wouldn't be willing to trade all the exciting new things she has in her life for children who won't even talk to me and blame me for destroying the family (her ex has complete custody of most of the minor children), so maybe not TOO much change. TBH, I'm not even sure what I want to do after the mother and homeschooler years are over. Soror's first paragraph may best describe me and like Thatboyofmine, I often feel different that most of the people around me. Maybe Garga gave me an idea and I'll run away to become a Vegas showgirl!😂

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I distinctly remember when my mom made a significant life change, and she was around my current age (42). She went from beingi a 'good girl'  and trying to please her parents to finding herself. She stopped attending bible study and started drinking  a little wine. She left her teacher's aide job and  went to college and got first her bachelors degree, and then a masters in both computer technology and library science. She then had a successful career in both teaching and as a librarian. She went from a conservative to someone more liberal, who has grown more into that as she became more educated. It was fascinating to watch - and made me so very proud of her. She and my dad are still together, btw, though they got married at 18. They allowed each other to grow. 

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47 minutes ago, regentrude said:

To a certain degree, most people adopt a persona and play a role that is creating identity for them. We craft the persona we want to be and that we want to portray to the world, and we get really good at it. We are "the homeschool mom", "the crunchy vegan gardener", "the business executive", "the caring teacher". We add trimmings and attributes and perfect that role.

And then comes a point of realization: that is not who we are - it is merely the thing we do. And the world comes crashing down. It is incredibly hard to dismantle these personae and to excavate what being is hidden beneath the doing. And the findings are surprising and scary. (I wrote an entire book about that)

I would love to read the book.

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3 hours ago, Thatboyofmine said:

Regarding women up and leaving their children, taking off with some guy from the internet...  Well, as much as we (as a society) talk about mental illnesses, I think there are a slew of people who are not getting the help they need.   Maybe their spouses won't 'allow' it, maybe they themselves look down on it, it could be that they live in a shitty society where politicians don't give a flying f about healthcare so they don't have access, it could be a hundred things, but whatever the reason, people are not getting the help they need and I think some of your examples could be chalked up to that.   🤷🏻‍♀️

I’ve been thinking about this post all afternoon and I just can’t keep quiet. I *hope* you aren’t equating the tired trope that a woman who lives as and for herself must be mentally ill. This idea is steeped in the patriarchy as a way to keep us “in our place” and has no place in a serious discussion about rediscovering ourselves in middle age.

This entire thread is evidence that shifts are common and healthy after we fulfill our societal duties as caregivers and doting partners, and when the rhythms of life naturally evolve. None of the OP's examples seem extreme for all the reasons already stated, and to jump to mental illness as an explanation is to erase the myriad reasons we all make the decisions we do. 
 

eta: please don’t misunderstand. Mental illness is absolutely overlooked far too often, but I bristle when it becomes the default assumption, especially without context and most especially in this conversation about women learning and recognising more about themselves as we grow older. 
 

 

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On 3/1/2021 at 8:58 PM, mom2scouts said:

I'll address some specifics in the OP's post first, then I'll give my thoughts on this phenomenon in general.

 met a man of a different race on a dating site, quickly let him move in with her, and is now engaged. She doesn't seem to believe in either Covid or the vaccine and has been traveling and eating out often the past year....It's so far from the woman whose identity was a Christian homeschooling mom and rural wife!

I don't see the race issue or Covid and vaccines as a contrast to being a Christian homeschooler and rural wife.  I hang out in very theologically conservative circles and there are interracial couples and Covid and vaccine skeptics/deniers among them.

But I wouldn't be surprised if she got burnt out trying to add foster kids to 8 already.  My husband's employee has 7 bio kids and 2 medically fragile foster kids ages 15-3.  The parents were homeschooled and they're homeschooling the kids.  A year ago the mom announced that all the kids were going to public school because they weren't getting enough school done and she couldn't keep up.  The kids panicked and swore they would, so she relented. 

Then recently she decided she needed to keep her nursing degree current and work part time as a break from the kids.  It didn't sound like that would be giving her a break, it would add responsibilities on someone else's schedule,  but she didn't ask me, her husband told mine. So I hear about it 3rd hand. The dad works from home and neither he nor the mom are structured people at all, so it's chaos over there.  They have chickens, rabbits, quail, goats in an oversized suburban lot and the youngest foster kid has killed several animals, gotten into chemicals that should've been out of reach, and climbs the fence to roam the neighborhood so that CPS has been called twice.   It's chaos.

They're trying to buy a house near several of her family members for help out of state while renovating their own.  My guess is if she doesn't get there soon she's going to have a major breakdown and all those kids will be at public school for her mental health. I wouldn't blame her if she did.

 one of their teens had mental health problems, and he met a rich woman who could take him away from all the problems. He left the wife, who had always been a stay at home mother, with the mentally ill teen, the young child that she hadn't wanted to have (but he did), the large dog that he had adopted, the house, and no job. He honestly couldn't figure out why the adult child, who now felt responsible for his mother, wanted nothing to do with him!

Mental health issues can be significant and put a tremendous strain on a marriage.  Add in mid-life crises (people coming to terms about where they are in middle age and how they feel about where they are and if they don't like it making a drastic change while they still can) and it can destroy a marriage.  It almost destroyed mine. It becomes very obvious whether or not you respect your spouse's approach to dealing with your child's issues and when you have conflicting approaches for how to deal with it-especially head on vs. head in the sand-you not only add to additional conflict, you lose having a confidant by your side providing support when deeply disturbing things are going on with your child.

From what you describe in the description above, it seems like he brings into the marriage significant responsibilities (another child, a dog, etc.) yet he isn't shouldering those responsibilities, she is. He's like a little kid begging for a puppy but won't clean up dog poop or feed it. Things got really tough and he did what that kind of guy does in that situation-he bailed. Meanwhile the oldest kid has nothing but contempt for him because the KID is taking on the responsibility for mom.  Role reversal between parent and child is the quickest way to lose respect.

And who does that guy go for?  Of course it's a rich woman who can hire whatever help he should be offering.  She's been managing well without a man and frankly, she's still without a man.  She got Peter Pan who won't grow up, which is why he doesn't understand why his adult child wants nothing to do with him.

4 A couple with a shared professional interest, but who worked different places. The husband retired after the kids left home and they seemed excited about new opportunities. Then the couple broke up, the wife sold her business and moved away for another job, and the husband got remarried and took a low paying retail job.

Maybe he's experiencing burn out too. Or there was an affair and she went to be with the new man and he stayed and is depressed.

 

From a conservative Christian angle:

Remember that the last 30 years have brought significant social change. It used to be normative for most people to be self-labeled as Christians.  I think we have far more people 40+ in the pews because it's been the cultural norm than because of personal, inner transformation and  convictions.   Pleaser/conformist personality types who were simply raised in some version of Christian homes no longer have to do so to be considered a "good" or moral person.  Society is doing a better job of recognizing that there are different kinds of moral people-not just people from a Judeo-Christian ethic.  Now they're able to blend in with far more people who aren't at churches and living personally conservative lives and aren't apologetic about it or trying to hide it.  I think it's actually good for Christianity to not be the cultural norm-there's more of a filter keeping people prone to going along to get along out of the way and in a place that's a better fit for them.

Don't assume I mean that I take a theologically liberal position that everyone is right with God regardless of their beliefs or lifestyles and such. I don't.  I just mean that there are plenty of moral people out there who make for good society and good neighbors and good friends. They no longer have to feel pressure in most of America to conform to church affiliation and attendance and living by theologically and doctrinally conservative practices to be considered a good person.

Edited by Homeschool Mom in AZ
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Simply, yes, I believe people change.  It's partly hormonal, and partly situational.

Some people have been putting up with stuff for years, for the sake of the kids or their image or whatever.  As we get older, our kids don't need that so much any more, and we care less about what our community thinks of us.  We get less apologetic for having our own feelings, wants, and needs.

There might also be some "FOMO" as the young whippersnappers call it these days.  "Now or never."

I know so many people who played the good wife role despite knowing 100% that their husbands were cheating the whole time.  (Only their closest friends knew what they knew.)  What moms won't do for their kids!  It blows my mind sometimes.  I'm actually more surprised more women don't leave once their kids are past the needy stage.  But, maybe at that point there's no point for many of them?  I'm thinking of one whose rotten husband is bedridden and she takes care of him, but at least she gets to live in her house and run the rest of her life as she sees fit.  Her kids and grandkids adore her, so that is worth a lot.

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3 minutes ago, SKL said:

Simply, yes, I believe people change.  It's partly hormonal, and partly situational.

Some people have been putting up with stuff for years, for the sake of the kids or their image or whatever.  As we get older, our kids don't need that so much any more, and we care less about what our community thinks of us.  We get less apologetic for having our own feelings, wants, and needs.

There might also be some "FOMO" as the young whippersnappers call it these days.  "Now or never."

I know so many people who played the good wife role despite knowing 100% that their husbands were cheating the whole time.  (Only their closest friends knew what they knew.)  What moms won't do for their kids!  It blows my mind sometimes.  I'm actually more surprised more women don't leave once their kids are past the needy stage.  But, maybe at that point there's no point for many of them?  I'm thinking of one whose rotten husband is bedridden and she takes care of him, but at least she gets to live in her house and run the rest of her life as she sees fit.  Her kids and grandkids adore her, so that is worth a lot.

I think for many it’s financial. Being out of the work force for a couple of decades is a disadvantage and can leave one unable to get a full time professional job with a substantial enough paycheck to support a new and separate household. I hate to have to say it this way, but, they’re trapped. 

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12 minutes ago, Thatboyofmine said:

I was responding to the OP’s example number #1.   A woman who left her children, whose children don’t want to speak to her, who doesn’t believe covid is even real...  yes, sorry but that sounds like it might be a mental health issue.  
and if you read any part of my post and thought “patriarchy”, we’ll I don’t know what to say to that. 🤷🏻‍♀️
But thanks so much for assuming the worst about me.   

I didn’t assume the worst about you, not at all. We were all raised in a misogynistic, patriarchal society and yes, the feeling that there must be something wrong with an independent woman is definitely still a viewpoint held by many people, whether or not they are consciously aware of it. I’m not surprised to see it repeated here. Society naturally offers us all a lot to unpack.

Honestly, we know nothing about the woman you were responding to. Women leave their families all the time, for about a zillion different reasons. And several posters on this board didn’t believe in COVID when it first started, and held onto that belief despite all evidence to the contrary. I might have my own judgements but not for a moment would I jump to the conclusion that mental illness would play a role in either choice. Perhaps you have other reasons for feeling that way, though. 
 

I honestly didn’t mean to offend you. 

 

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I know of three different women who had been the leaders of homeschool organizations, pictures of religous, devoted wives and mothers, who left their husbands and had children with other men they were not married to. Three I knew personally in one small city. So I definitely have seen this and yes, it is more than a bit surprising.

In all of these cases these women had married very young to someone at least a few years older such that it was a man in his twenties marrying a teen. I think these women eventually grew into themselves as adults and found themselves in a situation that they wouldn't have chosen if they were older. Or they kept growing and the man didn't. Or the man had been treating them like a child and the woman grew up and the dynamic didn't work anymore. I don't really know, of course, other than the picture perfect outsides they projected were not exactly as everyone thought they were.

These women were in their thirties, though, not middle aged exactly. I have known women who got divorced after the kids grew up and I used to not understand that at all when I was younger. How could you make it 25 years but not longer? Now that I am in that life stage I totally get it. I'm not getting divorced but it makes alot more sense now than it did when I was in my twenties. 

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1 hour ago, Thatboyofmine said:

I’m sorry.  Honestly, the word “patriarchy” was what did it. 🤦🏻‍♀️   I am so NOT of the patriarchy mindset, it’s not even funny.    So I was shocked to hear that word mentioned wrt me.  Yuck.   Actually, you and I probably have the same thoughts on that!  😆  but yeah, that mindset sets me off. And the reason I mentioned mental health is because I have mental health problems and I know that if I was untreated, my actions would be totally not like me at all.  So, that’s why I mentioned that.  I obviously have no idea if that person has untreated mental illness, but I think it’s a valid idea to consider.   Mental illness is something that is on my mind a lot, so it probably enters the convo more than it should.  I’m just hyper-aware of it, I guess.  
anyway, I am sorry for snapping at you!   

No apology necessary! I get it, I would be stunned to hear that said about myself, too. 🙂 I’m sorry I made you feel like you needed to defend yourself. I didn’t intend for that at all.

I've been unpacking a lot recently and have been feeling extra bristly about the expectations still placed on women. I’m sure I’m spending too much time in my head right now. 🙂 

 

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