Parting After a Long Marriage
Statistics abound for everything under the sun, and there’s no shortage of statistics when it comes to the topic of people ending a marriage after many years. For example, the Pew Research Center reported in 2017 that the number of married couples age 50 and over parting ways has doubled since 1990. For people age 65 and older, though, the rate is even higher, tripling since 1990.
A Few Reasons Grey Divorces Happen
While there is no single main reason that couples divorce later in life, the decision is rarely ever made in a spur-of-the-moment manner. Sometimes, years have been spent reasoning and thinking about the potential outcome of parting ways. A good way to picture the scenario is like a balloon full of air that slowly experiences a little air loss over and over again until it is completely deflated.
A common reason given for divorce is that one of the spouses wants freedom. Perhaps it is to pursue a dream or interest, or it could be to simply enjoy independence during the remaining years. When a relationship becomes such that one person dominates or attempts to control the other, the one being oppressed may eventually choose to leave such a negative environment.
Facts About Divorce After a Long Marriage
- Life transitions such as an empty nest are not as big a risk factor as an individual’s marital past. If a person has previously gotten divorced, the chances are higher that the person will do it again. Baby Boomers are now in the older, senior age group and are more likely to have been divorced when they were younger. Additionally, when a person is over 50, there is statistically a higher possibility of dissolving the bond if this is a remarriage, not a first one.
- The seeds of a failed marital bond may likely have been sown years and years ago. If there was infidelity in the past or some other issue that created a festering resentment, a parting of the ways may occur decades later. After dealing with a serious unresolved issue for a long time, one partner may decide to file for divorce and live out the remaining years far removed from the source of the hurt.
- Children can struggle with the situation no matter their age. Often, couples remain together until their children are grown. Regardless of whether the kids are young or adults, the breakup can hit some of them very hard and adversely affect the parent and child relationship. Unfortunately, some adult children find themselves strapped with the need to watch over and financially help parents whose marital relationship failed in their older years.
- Grief may last longer for an older spouse after a marital breakup. There may be a great deal of anger and bitterness associated with the ending of a marital relationship. Eventually, though, grief may set in as memories of bygone times surface. Even if there is no desire to go back, grieving over what is now gone is normal. If the mourning lasts indefinitely, the grieving one may want to seek professional help to learn how to cope.
- One’s financial well being must be attended. Monetary upheaval may take place during and/or after a divorce later in life. Assets are usually divided. One party may be required to pay alimony and possibly child support. One of the spouses may have to find a job if he or she has been the homemaker much of the time during the former years. A budget may be required to help a struggling individual through rough waters for a while.
- Job hunting may be necessary. While job hunting at any age is not an easy venture, it can be particularly challenging for anyone over age 50. The task can be even more difficult if the job seeker has been out of the work force for many years. Couple this with the emotional upheaval already being experienced due to the marital divide, and it becomes obvious that this individual may need to seek help from an agency that offers job training assistance.
- New living arrangements must be made. When older married couples part ways after many years, the house could be the largest single asset that must be divided. For one of the spouses to stay in the house, it may require a trade of sorts. For example, to keep the house, one partner may need to forsake a portion of a pension and allow the other spouse to have that portion in exchange for the house. Sometimes, it may be better to move from the family home in order to avoid the emotional baggage that may remain there.
- Set realistic expectations for the future. Change is rarely an easy thing to handle. When a long-term marital relationship ends, the unknowns can be especially difficult. The party who did not file for divorce may have been somewhat blindsided by the whole thing, but there is no need to sink in utter despair. Perhaps finding a support system will be beneficial, with others who know what it’s like to enter a new phase of life.
- Positives can still occur late in life, even after a heartbreak. Baby Boomers who now fall into the category of older adults have lived through a variety of changes in their lifetime. If they find themselves in the position of going from being married people to being divorced, they need to know that the change does not have to be devastating emotionally. A fresh start may be just what they need.