It can happen in your twenties. It can happen in your seventies.
“Divorce doesn’t discriminate,” says author Nathy Gaffney.
Getting through divorce and rebuilding your life isn’t easy. There’s no guide that can tell you what to do.
But there is a path laid down by women who’ve gone through it. Their stories can help you feel less alone, and maybe even help you smile through the pain.
That’s where Nathy’s memoir The Gap Year(s) comes in.
It’s a brutally honest look at divorce and all that comes with it … with a large helping of Nathy’s signature Australian humor.
In this week’s YBTV interview, Nathy reveals why it’s not easy to “consciously uncouple.” She offers a new way to see those transitional years between the end of one relationship and the beginning of another. She shares how it feels to be on the dating market again and her favorite dating app (this one will surprise you!).
And she gives us hope. “Everything in life,” she says, “is only for now.”
What You’ll Learn
2011 was the year that everything changed for Nathy Gaffney.
She and her husband of 16 years officially separated.
She was happy to be out of an unhappy situation, but there were a lot of logistics to deal with. She and her ex had a young son. They wanted to to protect him as much as possible from the fallout of the divorce.
They were inspired by the example of celebrity couple Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, but they soon found that “consciously uncoupling” wasn’t as easy as it looked.
“As much as Gwyneth made it look great,” Nathy says, “when you don’t have the millions, and you don’t have the houses, and you don’t have the au-pair, and you don’t have the personal trainers … it’s a bit of a different story.”
This is the story of what life really looks like after divorce.
It’s a story about facing reality, rocky times, and reinvention.
Taking a Gap Year
For Nathy, divorce was the right thing to do. Not just for herself and her husband, but also for their son. The tension and arguing was hard on all of them.
Even though it was tough to make the decision to end the marriage, life got easier once that decision was made. Nathy was able to work with her ex to ease the transition. She felt excited about her future. “I was actually free, and free to be who I wanted to be, who I hadn’t been able to be,” she says.
She also had a sense that it was now or never.
“For me in my late 40s, I had this real sense of urgency. I’m like, ‘I have a finite number of days left on the planet, and I do not want to waste them.'”
She decided to envision this new stage of her life as a “gap year.”
A gap year, she explains, “is that 12-month period students typically take between finishing high school and starting university…. It’s that year to go and find yourself personally, spiritually. To go out and experience the world.”
That’s the feeling Nathy wanted to have.
She wanted to take at least a year to explore life and reconnect with who she was before she entered into another relationship.
That year ended up being four. And it would prove to be quite an adventure.
Socially, Nathy slid into life as a divorcée without any changes in her social circle. “I was happy to be free and solo, and I felt power in that, because I had power to have choices.”
But one area of life proved harder to handle.
Divorce “makes you wake up real quick if you’ve been dozing with your financial personal responsibility,” Nathy says.
If any of you are out there are thinking, ‘Yeah, my marriage might [be] past its use-by date,’ and you are not financially educated, get on it, sister! Because that was the big rude awakening for me.”
Nathy had been an actor, so her income had always been feast or famine. She lived off credit, she’d never learned to budget, and she didn’t know how to manage her money.
“The statistics in Australia—and I do believe that they’re probably similar in in the States—is that the biggest expansion of homelessness at the moment is in women over 55,” she says.
“Women suffer financially because they’ve taken time out of the workforce, so they don’t have super[annuation]. They’ve minimized or compromised their career opportunities while they’ve been rearing children.”
All that makes women vulnerable when they suffer a financial blow like ending a marriage. Without savings or a steady income, it can be hard to stay afloat.
Dating after Divorce
When I finally put my head up and looked out at the pool of men in my age around me, half of them were married to my friends … and the other half were married to each other.”
Another wake-up call came once Nathy was ready to start thinking about dating again.
There weren’t many prospects in her social circle. The men she knew were gay and/or married.
She didn’t want to do the whole bar scene thing. As the full-time mother of a young child, she needed a way to meet men that worked with her life.
She tried the big online dating sites, but it was “soul-destroying.” Between sorting out her profile and answering the questionnaires, she felt like she was applying for a job.
At this stage in her life, what Nathy wanted was pretty simple. “I didn’t have a list of the things I wanted in a man. I did have a very short and concise list of what I didn’t want.”
She didn’t want someone mean. She didn’t want something who didn’t have a humanitarian view of the world. And she didn’t want someone cheap (frugal was okay!).
“So that was kind of a bit of a shortlist,” she says. “Kind, humanitarian, and not a cheapskate.”
She went on a few dates but wasn’t impressed. “I felt like everyone out there was still just a bit broken—and I was a bit broken! So to me it seemed like this really weird construct of trying to fit broken pieces together.”
She wasn’t worried about not being able to find a match because of her age. “The body’s not as firm as it used to be, but then again … I’m in my late 40s—it can’t be expected to be!”
She gave up on online dating. But 18 months later, a friend waved her phone in front of Nathy’s nose, saying, “Look at this app! This is really good fun!”
That app was Tinder.
Finding Love Again
Tinder put Nathy back on the road to love again.
“Tinder helped me flex and exercise my dating muscles,” Nathy says. “I went on dates with absolutely no expectations.”
She wanted to know what it was like to go out and meet a man and have a conversation that might not go anywhere. “I looked at it as practice. It was bootcamp.”
And then she struck gold.
Today, she’s in a committed relationship with a man she met on Tinder, and she’s never been happier.
Her gap years had ended. She’d discovered herself, rebuilt her life, and learned lessons along the way.
Writing a Memoir
There is a lot that is not said about women approaching menopause and dating and sex, and how you feel about your body, and how you’re going to reconcile that with a new partner who you don’t know, and I just felt like I needed to do the sisters a favor and share my story.”
Nathy had survived her divorce. She’d found happiness and a life she loved. Perhaps it was time to share the lessons she’d learned.
“I thought, ‘Well, if I’m going through this, maybe there are other people who would benefit from hearing how I did it: the mistakes I made, the trouble I found myself in, and how I got myself out of it.'”
Nathy couldn’t have written her memoir The Gap Year(s) without her partner’s love and support. It took her to emotional places. But through it all she found the humor in what she’d been through.
She has a tattoo on her wrist that says, “Solo por ahora,” which means Only for Now.
She explains that when she was going through her divorce and crying every day, a girlfriend of hers sent her a song from the music Avenue Q. The song was called, “For Now,” and the lyrics go:
“Except for death and paying taxes
everything in life is only for now.”
“And that’s what got me through,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how painful it was, or how high you go or how low you go. Everything in life—it’s only for now. If you can remember that when you’re going through the tough stuff, it will get better.”
Get The Gap Year(s) on Amazon.
Jump to Topics of Interest
1:58 Nathy’s divorce
3:44 How it felt to be divorced at last
5:10 The “gap year”
6:31 The stigma of divorce
7:57 The financial impact of divorce on women
10:31 Nathy’s shortlist of what she wanted – er, didn’t want! – in partner
11:59 How Nathy found Tinder
14:11 Conscious uncoupling
15:17 Why Nathy went public with her story
16:20 Only for now
17:49 It starts with you
Nathy has had what can be politely termed a “diverse portfolio career.” A professional actor and comedy/cabaret performer for over 20 years, she’s also spent time working behind bars (and drinking in them), waiting on tables (and dancing on them), being a nightclub door bitch, barista and celebrity impersonator. These days she’s traded treading the boards for the boardroom, working as a facilitator and executive coach with Phuel Australia, where she still enjoys a captive audience—albeit minus the feathers and sequins. Learn more about Nathy.