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5 reasons for the increase in gray divorces

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2024 | Divorce |

Gray divorces, or divorces that occur near or past the age of retirement between couples who have stayed together for decades, have increased substantially in the last few decades. Adults in their golden years are in some cases up to three times more likely now to divorce than they were in 1990.

Many people wrongfully assume that those who have remained married for years are more likely to stay married indefinitely. There are statistics showing that the opposite is currently true in the United States. It seems that the following factors have contributed to the increase in gray divorces in recent years.

Longer lifespans

It was easy to remain committed for life when people thought that marriage might only last for 30 or 40 years. However, people living longer into their golden years might make them question whether staying in a marriage is really in their best interests. People who realize when they retire that they likely have a decade or two to plan out may reach the conclusion that they would enjoy those years more after a divorce.

Empty nest syndrome

For many people, the main reason that they remain married isn’t a sense of devotion to their spouse so much as it is concerned for the stability of their children. Many people force themselves to accept miserable marriages until the children have become independent. Other times, being home without the children as a buffer might lead people to realize that they have grown apart over the years.

Increased financial independence

At one time, many couples had a single working adult while the other was completely financially dependent. Many more couples now have two financially independent wage-earning adults contributing to the household. People do not feel compelled to stay in a marriage out of concern for their financial stability.

Decreased social stigma

Social attitudes about divorce have changed dramatically in recent years. Even many traditionally conservative religions now accept divorce in certain circumstances. People may feel more comfortable about ending a long-term marriage when they know that they won’t lose their position in their faith community or their friends for making that decision.

Disparate life goals

Many older couples may have married with the same goals for the next few decades of their lives. They wanted to develop their careers and have families. Now that they have achieved those goals, spouses may find themselves disagreeing about the most important aspects of life. One spouse may want to travel, while the other may want to stay home and provide childcare for their grandchildren. This mismatch of personal goals and values can become more apparent when couples are home together all day, every day.

Gray divorce requires careful planning. Understanding why divorce later in life has become a much more common issue might help people evaluate whether a gray divorce might be a good option for them.



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