The Queen of My Self

By Brandon Kruse/The Palm Beach Post

After 40 years of marriage, Louise Cornet did something previous generations of women her age would have never contemplated, at least out loud.

At age 61, she divorced her husband.

He had changed so unforgivably, she said, in ways she doesn’t want made public, that staying in the marriage she entered at age 21 was unthinkable.

“I once thought we would grow old together,” said Cornet, who quit her job as a North Carolina math teacher and moved to suburban Lake Worth following her wrenching divorce two years ago. “But I just couldn’t stay.”

Today, Cornet has a hard-won contentment and a new live-in boyfriend, but no desire to re-marry.

“And I don’t know if I ever will,” she said.

Call it the mid-wife crisis, a new rite of passage for midlife marriages.

The kids go off to college, the dog dies and someone, increasingly the wife, wants a divorce.

While divorce among older couples was once rare, those over 50 are shedding their spouses at double the rate of two decades ago.

One in every four divorces is now a boomer couple untying the knot, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage, up from one in 10 in 1990.

And a majority of those “gray divorces” – 66 percent – are instigated by women, said the authors of a 2004 AARP survey.

Just as they shattered social mores around premarital sex, procreation and women’s rights decades earlier, baby boomer women are irrevocably altering the template of “till death do us part.”

Members of this sisterhood of divorced and divorcing midlife women (many of them not by choice) have been the majority of the near-sellout crowds recently at Divorce Party: The Musical, at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse.

“These women are coming in droves,” said the play’s co-author, Amy Botwinick of Boca Raton. “They come for a fun time but walk out feeling empowered.”

Financially buoyed by their own paychecks, many of this first generation of career women are approaching retirement with secret reveries. Can I leave my job and a marriage that feels like a second shift? When people are living longer, does marriage have a sell-by date?

In his new book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, author Eric Klinenberg says 28 percent of Americans now live alone, in part because women can leave a bad marriage and support themselves for the first time in history.

“There’s no doubt about it,” said Rosalind Sedacca, a Boynton Beach relationship coach and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. “This is the first generation of women to say, ‘I don’t have to sacrifice the rest of my life in a marriage that doesn’t make me happy.'”

To be continued… Read Part 2, Monday, October 24th


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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

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