‘My husband and I are both in our 60s. Are we too old to separate?’

We have nothing in common but the financial situation is holding us back

PROBLEM: My husband and I are both in our mid-60s. Unfortunately, we have nothing in common, we do everything separately – holidays etc. Are we too old to separate? I know he definitely wants to separate, but the financial situation is holding us back. I have two grandchildren, as I was married previously. It’s a very lonely sad existence.

ADVICE: As people in your mid-60s you still have a lot of living to do and planning on keeping a bad relationship going will do nothing to add to your happiness. One thing seems clear from your letter and that is that both of you agree that separation is a good option except for financial worries. Some immediate possibilities exist here: MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) may be able to offer advice and you can access this by calling their helpline (1818 072 000) or book an appointment at one of their many offices around the country.

You and your husband could also consider tackling the desire to separate and the associated financial issues by booking mediation sessions with citizensinformation.ie. These are free and offer expert advice. By doing this you offer yourselves the opportunity to discuss the options for separation, the means by which this might happen and the outcomes you both need. It usually takes a number of sessions which are spread over time so that all issues can be given due consideration.

It sounds that what is holding you back is fear. Fear that you are too old to change, fear of being worse off and fear of being even more lonely than you are at present. Of course, your daily sadness and isolation are making it more difficult to believe that you could have a different existence and perhaps your past knowledge of a marriage breakup is adding to the grief and loss you have accumulated. Yet, you have a spark of refusal to sink under all this as you ask if you are too old, and this is followed up by bringing up your two grandchildren. Your grandchildren would benefit from a happy and functioning adult role model and indeed your responsibility now is to your own life and making it one worth living. How we tackle fear and how we tackle huge obstacles is always one step at a time. This is because taking on the whole is often too overwhelming for us.

We often find that we get discouraged by what seems like impossible things and this is why you need someone to support you during the period ahead

When we succeed in taking one step, we get enough encouragement and energy that we can take the next and so-on. As you take small actions, your confidence grows as does your ability to take on the bigger issues. One way of making a plan for what is ahead; imagine what advice you would give to your best friend if they came to you for help regarding a situation very similar to yours.

Then write down six steps that you would advise and take the first of those steps this week. Of course, we often find that we get discouraged by what seems like impossible things and this is why you need someone to support you during the period ahead. Can you take the six steps you identify to a close friend or relative to discuss them? With your friend checking up on you, and giving you a nudge when you are feeling low, you should find that you begin making progress.

Your husband is a huge part of this decision and he too will need to feel encouragement to make the break. Can you support him in this?

You may need to approach someone he trusts and ask them to get closer to him, and then not interfere with the process. The starting point however is a conversation between the two of you and this can be difficult when there has been little in the way of true communication between you for such a long time. If you can summon up some genuine care for him this would be the best emotional ground with which to approach a discussion about ending your relationship. It may take him some time to get to agree to mediation, do not expect a single conversation to lead to action. Take your time and be determined and confident that a good life awaits you both if you have the courage to see out the process.

For you, the separation will also be a new beginning and the fortitude you will have grown during the dissolution of your first marriage will be needed in order to engage again in creating a new social life with new possibilities for connection. This requires you to have faith in your own value and worth and to put actions and behaviour behind this sentiment. Confidence grows with each action even if it ends in failure, as it demonstrates your willingness to put substance behind your development and that you are not afraid of setbacks.

You are not too old to enjoy your life, it is what you are here to pursue so get going.