You’re 50-something, maybe even 60. You’re contemplating divorce and plagued by numerous dilemmas. You’re stuck in a marriage with no discernible future but you’re too frightened to venture out into the scary world of dating. Maybe you share too much history with your spouse and it’s almost impossible to think of yourself as being single. Perhaps you’re unsure whether or not you want to go from living off the income of two to relying on just your own income.
These feelings are not unique to older couples. In fact, people of all ages struggle with the same dilemmas. You may be of the opinion that the already negative stigma surrounding divorce is made even worse by your older age. But the reasons for divorce, whether or not it’s “gray divorce” (late-life divorce), vary from couple to couple. And divorce at the age of 50 or more is no longer looked upon any differently than divorce at a younger age.
But why does gray divorce happen, and why has it become more common in recent years? Here are some of the reasons given by experts for the boom in Boomer-divorce:
Longer life expectancy. In the past, people died at a much younger age. Reaching age 50 or 60 was less common. Today, many people are healthy and vibrant beyond their 70’s and 80’s. Since our life expectancy has increased so significantly, older couples are more frequently considering divorce because, now, age 50 or 60 is no longer too late to start a “new life.”
Change in women’s status. The increase in women’s rights brought with it a general shift to women feeling more liberated and empowered. Women today are less afraid to seek out what they want, rather than considering only what is best for their husbands and families.
Wear and tear. The process that leads to divorce often happens slowly over time. In other words, issues that started out as small may have slowly but surely eaten away at your relationship.
Age Difference. Perhaps a larger age difference did not matter at the beginning of your relationship, but has now emerged as an unavoidable issue. You or your spouse may also go through a “mid-life crisis,” which can break apart a previously stable relationship. One partner may desire more adventure, while the other may be happy as a home-body.
Boredom. Older couples are not the only ones who cite boredom as a factor in their divorces. Even younger couples who are around each other 24/7 can suffer from boredom. It, therefore, makes sense that older couples would be even more prone to this issue, having spent decades together performing the same routines and putting up with each other’s eccentricities.
Money habits. Arguing over how to distribute income may eventually lead to divorce. One spouse may prefer to save for the kids’ activities and college funds, while the other spouse may prefer to travel and spend on the couple itself. Couples with kids – even adult kids — are undoubtedly more prone to having financially centered arguments than those without.
Sex. With age comes hormonal changes, especially those related to sex drive. One partner may desire the same amount of sexual activity as when the couple was younger, while the other partner’s drive may have fallen. Another possibility is sexual incompatibility that existed at the beginning of the relationship may become more pronounced with age.
These are only a few of the many reasons why gray divorce happens. Our bodies may grow older, but in our minds we remain the same person we’ve always been – and we know that we deserve happiness. Older couples may be more reluctant to follow through with divorce because so many years of their lives have been invested in the relationship; or out of fear of an uncertain future. But the fact is that divorce, regardless of age, will be a tough process. The life-experience and enhanced financial stability that typically comes with older age may actually be an advantage for older couples and, ultimately, a tool to more smoothly navigate through a difficult process.
Gary Frank & Jacinda Chen
Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience in the areas of domestic relations, divorce, custody, division of property, support, modification and enforcement actions, Grandparents and non-parents rights, and all other matters pertaining to families and children. Mr. Frank’s experience includes acting in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court; and serving on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate to call our office at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com. We look forward to hearing from you.