When it comes to divorces, there is a new term: “Grey divorce.” This refers to older, greying couples divorcing after years and decades of marriage. The divorce rate for couples over 50 has doubled over the past 20 years. Researchers are anticipating that this trend will continue.
This is happening in other countries, as well. Studies show that Europe, Australia, and Eastern countries have been experiencing a huge spike in the divorce rate of couples over 50.
Why Are Older Couples Divorcing?
This trend has many causes. However, what stands out is that people are focusing more on their happiness rather than remaining dutifully in an intolerable situation. With life expectancy on the rise, 50-year-olds anticipate spending their remaining decades in more fulfilling ways. Of course, with more and more women in the workforce, they, as a group, have become far more financially independent than they have ever been. They no longer need to endure an unhappy relationship.
After decades of marriage, many couples are willing to acknowledge their dissatisfaction. The children are gone, and the couple finds they have nothing left in common. Infidelity and dependency on drugs and alcohol can also figure in the decision to dissolve the marriage. People are seeking personal fulfillment as a right where once they would have settled for unhappy duty.
How Important Is Happiness?
Harvard University completed one of the most comprehensive studies on adult happiness. When it came to growing older, it was (not surprisingly) discovered that their health was not the main predictor of how they would age. The secret to aging well was in being in a satisfactory relationship. People in a good relationship enjoyed the best health. The study concluded that caring for one’s body is important but finding satisfaction in a relationship is considered vital self-care on which our health depends.
People Want More
At one time, being married was important and expected. The woman had that all-important ring on her finger and a home, while the man had someone to tend to his needs. Happiness was only a minor factor in the relationship, and if you found it, you were lucky. Some of these couples drifted through decades with conflicts and little love between them. But they stuck by the marriage, out of need or for appearance’s sake.
Things changed in the 1960s when fulfillment took on a more vital role in people’s lives. Those that were unhappy began to question their marriage and the reason for remaining married. They considered the possibility of starting over.
The old rules were being questioned. Suddenly, life after divorce loomed as a possibility. To many, it seemed like a second chance at life.
The baby boomers were the first generation to embrace “free love” and individuality. Happiness became more important than duty. They are now the generation that has its own dating sites for singles over 50.
The Baby Boomers
Baby boomers are asking the questions that prior generations avoided. Questions such as, “Am I happy?” “Why am I spending my life being miserable?” “What can I do to change things?” The marriage itself may not have specific problems, such as infidelity or abuse. It may simply lack anything positive, such as passion or common interests. To put it simply, baby boomers have developed higher expectations. They want more out of a relationship. And many are willing to risk a divorce to find it. Whether this includes a remarriage depends on the individual boomer.
People In Their Fifties
We might call being in one’s fifties the awkward age. These people are taking care of their children and their own parents at the same time. This is also the age when many are facing dreams about work or other life goals. Their children are ready to move out, and they will be left on their own.
It is also the time for menopause and sexual dysfunction. There is less physical closeness. They may not be a huge blow-up, but more like years of silent resentment and forsaken dreams. Middle-age crises are real. People long for more as they realize that this is their last chance. It is now or never.
For better or worse, people today have higher expectations in life than prior generations. That itself is a good shift.
When dissatisfaction sets into a relationship, the first move should be communication. Have an honest discussion with your spouse. Try a therapist. However, unless both parties are willing to work on the marriage, divorce may be the best answer. Couples today value happiness too much to remain in an unfulfilling relationship. Instead, they consider divorce a second chance at life.
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