In decades past, it was almost unheard of for an older couple to get divorced. Now, however, more and more gray couples are choosing to end their marriage later in life. In fact, since 1995 the divorce rate for Americans over the age of 50 has more than doubled.
Sociologists have researched this phenomenon and have identified several factors that may be contributing to this increased divorce rate in older adults.
- Shared drama: While every married couple has suffered the ups and downs of life together, those married for 20 or 30 years are now carrying a great deal of emotional baggage. However, sociologists caution, this isn’t generally about significant life events such as a house fire or a bankruptcy in your past. This is more about the years of built-up frustration over how your husband slurps his soup or how your wife leaves her dirty dishes on the table. Older couples realize they can’t change each other, and they don’t have to remain in the relationship any longer.
- Evaporating stigma: Simply put, the stigma of divorce is disappearing. It is common for couples to reevaluate the direction of their lives and decide to end a marriage to live independently or try again with a different spouse. Society is more accepting of divorce as a realistic decision. Even certain religious groups have been known to relax their stance on divorce in recent years.
- Longer life expectancy: Firmly tied to the first point, people are simply living longer. The prospect of living for decades in an empty marriage does not bode well for many people.
- Economic independence: Decades ago, women might have felt pressured to stay in an empty marriage for fear of personal poverty. Perhaps she had been a homemaker or had a part time job and worried about making ends meet on her own. Now, women have a much stronger financial outlook with many marriages relying on dual incomes. Additionally, these women have likely built up their own credit rating and retirement funds.
- Meeting new people: It is no secret that many people simply do not like to be alone. The prospect of staying in a bad marriage outweighed the fear of living a lonely life. Now, however, the ease of online dating has softened that fear. With so many clubs, groups and dating services to choose from, older individuals can choose to divorce and explore new relationships soon thereafter.
It is not uncommon for older adults to fall out of love. The accumulated life history shared between two people might be enough to convince them to start over. If you are considering divorce, it is wise to discuss your options and the process with an experienced divorce lawyer.