Journalists and social researchers have dubbed divorces that occur later in life, often after decades of marriage, gray divorces. These gray divorces are often different than divorces that occur earlier in life because they take place between a couple that may have already raised the family together and could have been married for more than half of their life.
While it used to be relatively rare for older couples to divorce, it has now become a common occurrence. In fact, research shows that older couples currently divorce at higher rates than younger couples in the United States. What factors have led to this surprising increase in divorce among retirement-age couples?
The social stigma around divorce has decreased substantially
Even just two decades ago, possibly when a couple may have had children moving out of the house or finishing school, there was still a lot of stigma attached to divorce. It could impact someone’s career and their social relationships, to say nothing of the potential religious implications.
These days, most modern churches allow for divorce in certain circumstances. Additionally, divorce has become so commonplace that almost no one expresses derision or even surprise when they learn that someone has divorced. Someone who wouldn’t have dreamed of getting a divorce in their 30s might now feel comfortable pursuing one in their 60s or even 70s.
People want to enjoy their golden years
Spending your retirement trapped in an unhappy marriage sounds like a nightmare to most people. After retirement, you and your spouse won’t leave the house as much, meaning you have to spend more time together.
You also won’t have children to serve as a buffer in your relationship because your children have moved out and may have families of their own. Instead, you will have to endure day after day with someone who doesn’t respect you or with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye because you have grown apart over the years.
While a gray divorce can have adverse effects on the overall financial stability of individuals approaching or past retirement age, reducing their expectations for retirement, such as eliminating travel plans, may seem like a much better compromise than choosing to live indefinitely with someone who makes them feel miserable, who can’t manage their own money or who has a history of cheating.
If you want to divorce after decades of marriage, knowing your rights, including your potential right to ask for a share of your retirement fund or even alimony, can help you make more informed decisions that prioritize your health and happiness.