Divorce can happen at any stage of life, but no matter the age it’s an emotional and complicated road. “Gray divorce” refers to couples over 50 choosing to divorce and it’s at its highest rate ever. In the last 25 years, the divorce rate for people age 50-64 has doubled.
So, what’s behind this trend and why is it becoming more common? One researcher suggests that our expectations of marriage have changed over the years. Previously, a goal was to be a good provider or a good homemaker in a marriage, but now we are looking at how the marriage contributes to our happiness.
Factors that may contribute
There are a number of other factors that may contribute to the increase in gray divorce:
- Divorce has become more socially acceptable and there are fewer stigmas surrounding it.
- Americans are healthier and living longer and the thought of living with someone they can’t stand is unbearable.
- The marital issues most likely started many years earlier and one spouse is feeling like they’ve earned a new start.
- Older couples may feel more financially stable and prepared to divorce if both have been working, or they’ve been high wage earners.
- Second and third marriages are less stable and are more likely to end in gray divorce.
Negative health effects
Like in any divorce, gray divorce has some downsides, including negative financial and health implications:
- One spouse may have given up a career to raise kids and may not have financial resources or career prospects.
- If a couple divorces right before retirement, it could mean taking a financial hit or a monetary disparity between them – 80% of divorced women over 65 live in poverty.
- Later life divorce contributes to loneliness and lost social connections.
- Remembering happier times may cause grief that lasts well beyond the divorce – even though there is no desire to go back.
- Gray divorce can also have health implications such as anxiety, stress and depression.
While there are downsides to a later life divorce, leaving a toxic relationship can have its benefits too and some find that other opportunities bring them more happiness. The health risks still exist, but knowing and taking steps to prevent them can point you in the right direction.