Gray Divorce: Why More Older Couples Are Ending Their Marriage

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It is surprising when two people, who have been together for decades and, for the most part, have been living in harmony, get a divorce. Everyone assumes that a long-standing marriage will last forever. After all those years they spent together, they most likely already know their partners to the core. They know their habits and routines, experiences, fears and dreams, and good and bad sides. So, why divorce?

The Rising Number of Gray Divorces

In 2021, billionaire power couple Bill and Melinda Gates shocked the world when they announced that their nearly three decades of marriage are coming to an end. They did not disclose the reason behind the divorce in the short statement that they released to the public via Twitter.

They also did not show any signs that their marriage is on the rocks. They assured that they would continue working together on the charity they built together, the Bill and  Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest non-profit in the world and has distributed $54 billion worth of grants.

The Gates divorce is part of the ongoing trend. There has been an increase in the number of older couples severing their union with their spouse in the past several years.

According to past research, about one in four people getting divorced across the United States is over 50. More than half of all those divorces happened after the couple has been married for 20 years.

The data collected by Pew Research also revealed that the divorce rate among Americans over the age of 50 nearly doubled between 1990 and 2015.

The trend is striking if compared with the rate of divorce among younger people. A 2019 research revealed that fewer couples under the age of 45 are ending their marriage. The decrease is greatest among the youngest age group, those who are between the ages of 15 and 24.

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The Factors Influencing the Trend

There is no solid data that can explain why divorce rates are higher among older couples. However, money can be part of the reason why.

In the present, more women are economically independent and can afford to call a divorce lawyer to sever their marriage with their spouse. Knowing that they can live comfortably after leaving their spouse gives them the courage to get out of their unhappy and unsatisfying marriage.

Previous generations did not have that privilege. Therefore, they were financially dependent on their husbands and could not leave even if the relationship is toxic.

The times are also changing, and the definition of a good marriage is different. If the marriage no longer makes a person happy or fulfilled, it is time to terminate it.

People are Living Longer

But, one reason that experts see as behind the rising divorce rates among older couples is their longer lives. People are living longer now than at any point in history. The advancements in technology, the development of new life-saving drugs, and better awareness of health lead to a longer lifespan.

Over time, people change. They develop new habits and routines. They pursue other interests and activities. Their personality becomes different.

A psychologist who has spoken to many older couples wrote in an article published by CNN that many people want to “re-invent themselves” in middle age. They want to explore other career options, go on adventures, meet other people, and so on. They want to do these things while they still have the time and strength to do so.

There are too many seniors in their 70s and 80s who regret taking the chance to pursue their dreams because they stayed in the marriage.

This is true among most women who initiate the separation. They want to change their lives while they still feel young. They tend to seek new careers, move to another part of the world, or get in shape. Anything that will give them the adventure they crave.

On the other hand, men tend to walk out of a marriage because they have fallen out of love. The divorce allows them to fall in love again while there is still time. Many pursue a relationship with another person.

The rising trend in divorce is not a bad thing. People get married to have a stable, consistent, supportive, and loving relationship but, if their partner cannot provide that, they should have the freedom to walk out of it. No matter how young or old they may be, people deserve to pursue a life where they can be happy.


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