Marital dissolutions involving couples over 50 were once the exception and not the rule. Over time, the dynamic has changed. People are living longer and are more willing to start the next chapters of their lives at a more advanced age.
What has become well known as “Gray Divorce” has doubled over the past thirty-plus years. Predictions by researchers could see the divorce demographic triple by the next decade. Fifty-something divorces are increasing at a record rate, while the younger demographic is witnessing a decline in break-ups.
A significant trend
The first hints of this trend occurred in 2012 when Bowling Green State University researchers uncovered what they termed the”gray divorce revolution” Those over fifty doubled their divorces over two decades, as did couples over 65.
The phenomenon is not exclusive to the United States. Countries from the United Kingdom to Japan – where it is referred to as “Retired Husband Syndrome” – are also seeing an uptick in gray divorces.
In addition to people living longer, the idea that marriage is “for life” has evolved into an outdated concept. Women were populating more workplaces and began to enjoy financial autonomy. The seventies saw the debut of television shows where divorced women were at the forefront. Ending a marriage represented a sense of independence.
“Empty nesters” helped light the spark that started the fire of gray divorces. Years of unhappiness and countless differences over money and emotional needs surfaced as children were no longer part of the household. Some dealt it infidelity, while others endured various forms of abuse.
“Gray divorce” has become more about the freedom to start a new chapter rather than a failure to make things work with their spouse, which only prolongs the inevitable.