For much of the nation, divorce rates are down – except among the “50 and over” crowd. So-called “grey divorces,” which occur between older couples in long-standing marriages, are actually on the rise.
If you find yourself contemplating divorce right when you thought you’d be settled down for good, it helps to know that you’re not alone. In fact, one-fourth of all divorces now involve couples over 50 years of age – and one in 10 involves someone over 65.
What’s pushing the trend?
While every marriage situation is different, the rising divorce rate among older couples likely has its roots in the following things:
- Longer lifespans: People live (and stay healthier) longer, so the prospect of staying in an unfulfilling marriage for another 20 or 30 years may simply be unfathomable to someone who is in their 50s or 60s.
- Empty nest syndrome: Once their children are grown, many older couples find that they have somehow lost the underlying commonalities that used to make their marriage work.
- Different values: Sometimes people develop polarized viewpoints that no longer align with their spouse’s values, and that can happen at any age.
- Different goals: As couples age, their goals and priorities may shift, leading to disagreements over how to spend their time and resources. Splits happen when there’s no compromise that makes both parties feel satisfied.
- Changing gender roles: Society has changed, and gender roles have changed with them – but not all couples can adapt. If either half of a couple felt “trapped” into a traditional gender role, leaving the marriage may be the only way out.
- Increased individualism: There’s been a shift towards individualism in recent years that drives many people to prioritize their own needs and desires over the “group” needs, and that can make it harder to maintain relationships.
- Lower social stigma: Divorce used to be a somewhat scandalous event. Today, it’s very common. That fact alone has given some unhappily married couples the courage to split up.
It’s worth noting that gray divorces can be difficult for both partners. Even amicable grey divorces typically feature a lot of financial issues that have to be settled. However, many people find that divorce gives them a new lease on life and the opportunity to pursue new interests and truly fulfilling relationships well into their golden years.