After World War II ended and our soldiers came home, the birth rates across
the United States and the world spiked in what’s become romantically
referred to as the baby boom. Between 1946 and 1964, nearly 77 million
babies were born in the U.S., making up a 40 percent of our population.
Today’s Baby Boomers are between 52 and 70 years-of-age, and much
has changed in the American family since Baby Boomers were growing up.
Societal views about family and divorce have changed significantly over
the past 50 years, especially since more women are college-educated and
financially independent than they were in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.
divorce was uncommon in the 1950s, it’s become socially acceptable and “normal”
in the 21st Century. Older couples face the same marital issues as younger
couples. They too struggle with intimacy issues, and having different
likes and interests just like everyone else.
Often, unhappy spouses thought about divorce from time to time while their
children were growing up, but they decided to stay together “for
the sake of the children.” Now that children are heading off to
college or starting their own families, Baby Boomers are finding themselves
alone with their spouse for the first time in years.
Some of these “empty nesters” are realizing that they don’t
have anything in common with their spouse, that they’re like passing
ships in the night. They’re more like roommates or friends than
romantic, lifelong partners. For some, it’s a lonely existence.
What Health Has to do With Gray Divorce
With advances in modern medicine and technology, today’s elderly
are living longer than ever before. Many Boomers’ parents lived
well into their 80s or 90s and now they are thinking, “I’m
in good health, do I want to spend the next 20 or 30 years of my life
in a hollow marriage?”
Up until recently, a lot of people assumed that older married couples (55
and older) ended their marriages when one of the spouses passed away,
but it turns out that is a common misconception.
According to a study, The Gray Divorce Revolution: Rising Divorce among
Middle-aged and Older Adults by Susan L. Brown of Bowling Green State
- The divorce rate for adults 50 years-of-age and older doubled between 1990 and 2010,
- In 2010, roughly 1 in 4 divorces occurred between spouses who were 50 and older,
- The divorce rate was 2.5 times higher for remarriages than it was for first
- In 2010, over 600,000 people 50 and older obtained a divorce in America.
While much attention has been given to people who divorce in their 20s,
30s, and 40s, apparently there has been sweeping changes in marital climate
for older couples. If you are over 52 and considering a “Gray Divorce”
after being married for 20 or more years, you are NOT alone.
We’ve all heard that “50 is the new 40” and with the
popularity of gym memberships, eating right, Botox and facelifts, the
older generation is healthier and more vibrant than ever before. In fact,
a lot of Baby Boomers in their 50s and 60s are in the best shape of their
lives thanks to living an active and healthy lifestyle, and maybe a little
plastic surgery (for the ladies).
As Evergreen State University Professor Stephanie Coontz put it, “If
you are a healthy 65, you can expect a pretty healthy 20 years. So with
the kids gone, it seems more burdensome for parents to stay in a bad relationship,
or even one that has gone stale.”
As millions of spouses can attest, divorce is often sparked by rushing
into marriage with someone a spouse does not know well, infidelity, financial
problems, and buckling under the strain of raising children. When a couple
passes the child-rearing years and are no longer concerned about breaking
up the family, they are “in the clear” to file for divorce.
Experts and divorce attorneys tend to agree that the rise in gray divorce
has a lot to do with gender equality, women becoming financially independent,
and the fact that divorce is widely accepted across all generations. So,
as Generation X and Millennials, many of whom are children from divorce,
grow older, the number of Americans that file for divorce is expected to rise.
Why has gray divorce doubled in recent years? Older couples are youthful
and with so many of their friends and co-workers finding true love and
happiness after getting divorced, they’re realizing that they don’t
have to stay in an unsatisfying marriage. Al and Tipper Gore are perfect
examples – they were high school sweethearts who filed for divorce
after four children and 40 years of marriage.
Gray divorce is not just for politicians and celebrities, regular folks
from Los Angeles to Dallas, to Buffalo and everywhere in between are following
suit. Many older couples are untying the knot after realizing that they
no longer make each other happy. Thousands of couples are agreeing that
it’s best to go their separate ways and in the meantime some of
their adult children are saying, “It’s about time!”
Economics plays a key role in gray divorce. Today’s women are more
educated and economically independent than their mothers’ generation,
so they are not nearly as financially dependent on their husbands for
financial support as previous generations of women.
Whatever the reason for initiating a “late life” divorce, older
spouses need to know that there’s nothing wrong with their decision
and that they are not unusual, or being selfish. Many gray divorcées
will discover that their adult children will actually be relieved because
they want to see their parents happier, and not stuck in a loveless marriage.
If you’re getting a gray divorce, you have unique challenges, especially
financially. For the professional legal advice you need, please
contact our firm today!