12/06/2013 07:08 am ET Updated Feb 05, 2014

Divorce Over 50: Was Your First Marriage Really a Dress Rehearsal?

Almost everybody I've come across who's over 50 and was going through their first divorce said adamantly, "I will never get married again." A few years later, I've been to the weddings of many of those people. After you've been through a divorce, it takes a lot of soul searching to make any post-divorce relationship a permanent one. However, many people seem to be willing to take that step. Having been married once before, you gain a lot of experience and, hopefully, spent some time working on yourself to find out what went wrong so that you can make the new marriage positive. By the way, when I got divorced I said I would never marry again. The second time has been the charm for me!

Many people over 50 stay in a marriage even though they're not happy. It's too frightening to think about leaving and moving on. Being happy is really important, so it's much better to get your first marriage out of the way. You could consider it a dress rehearsal for the next one. First marriages or "starter marriages" can last as long as 30 years or as short as two. My first marriage lasted 25 years. I know a couple who were married for 60 years. When they had a chance to be apart for a few weeks, the wife decided she did not want him back. She filed for divorce and has never been happier. I am not an advocate for divorce if you can work things out. However, if it's impossible to make it work, you get to a certain point in life that no matter how old you are and how scary it might appear to be alone, you just have to take that leap.

If you were married for a number of years and it didn't work out, you shouldn't feel like you've failed. Here are five positive things that you can bring into your next marriage that you may have learned from the first one.

1. You Have a Better Sense of Self-Worth

Many marriages work at the beginning and then people change. You sort of get used to making adjustments that really don't work for you to please your spouse, but they are not making the same adjustments for you. After you mature and feel more comfortable in your skin, you realize that this isn't how you want to spend the rest of your life and want to be in a relationship that is more satisfying on all levels.

2. You Learn the Values That Are Important to You

We hope that we know everything that is important to us before we get married, but years later you may have a different set of values as you mature. Life experience helps you realize what's going to make you happy.

3. You Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

You may have felt pushed into marriage because everyone else you knew was getting married. Maybe all your friends got married after graduation. You may have felt like a loser or just plain left out if you didn't follow the crowd.

4. You Become More Responsible

The experience of divorce will really cause you to look at yourself and try to figure out why you made the wrong choice in such a crucial area of your life. The reflection you go through during and after a divorce will enable you to see your shortcomings as well as those of your ex. It will also help you to make more responsible choices. And by responsible, I mean choices that are better for you and your future.

5. You Realize What You Want

You may have thought that you knew what you wanted prior to your wedding, but now you probably have a more realistic picture of what's right for you. This doesn't only have to do with finding a new mate. It also has to do with being comfortable with yourself.

For more post-divorce tips, pick up Lois Tarter's new book The Divorce Ritual: Get Up, Get Out and Get On With Your Life by clicking here.

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