‘Doing’ separation in contemporary Ireland: the experiences of women who separate in midlife

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Hyland, Lucy
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University College Cork
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This study explores the experiences of fourteen Irish women who separated in midlife. The rationale for choosing to study this age group of women is because they are the first generation of Irish women to publically separate in midlife in such large numbers. All of them entered marriage at a time when divorce was not possible in Ireland and as such they are broadly without a cultural ‘script’ for how to ‘do’ separation. An exploratory study was conducted to try to capture the processes and events that are part of the lived experiences of separation for women in midlife. In-depth interviews were conducted with fourteen women who were recruited following their attendance at post-separation courses. The participants came from predominantly middle class backgrounds. Narrative interviews were conducted which covered topics such as the attitudes to separation internalised during childhood, the genesis of the marital problems, the events that triggered the separations, the women’s emotional reactions at the time of separating and their social, housing and financial outcomes of having separated. A theoretical framework using concepts related to connectedness and fragmentation was used to analyse the data. Significant diversity was found in the experiences of the interviewees. Most of the women retained connectedness to their children, to their families of origin and to friends who were not joint friends. Significant fragmentation was found in relationships with ex-husbands, with in-laws and with joint friends. All of the women were worse off financially than if they had remained married. They felt socially isolated in the aftermath of separation. Many of the women were struggling to establish positive identities as separated women. While a few of them were very relieved that their marriages had ended, for most, separation was experienced as a painful episode in their lives.
Marital separation , Women in midlife , Ireland
Hyland, L. 2013. ‘Doing’ separation in contemporary Ireland: the experiences of women who separate in midlife. D.Soc.Sc Thesis, University College Cork.
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