Late-life divorce is becoming more common according to researchers at the National Center for Family and Marriage. Last year, people age 50 and above were twice as likely to go through a divorce than in 1990. The rate for those 65 and older was even higher.
Remarriage Not Always Rosy
Some older people are in a second marriage, which already carries a greater risk of failure. Stress factors such as blended families and the financial challenges encountered in a second marriage can tip the balance toward divorce. Just having experienced divorce previously may make it easier to consider another if a relationship sours.
Another reason older Americans are considering divorce later in life can be attributed to a greater life expectancy. People are living longer, and at age 50, may see the prospect of staying in a so-so marriage for another 30 years as intolerable. Men and women are opting out of marriage later in life to pursue other possibilities compliments of longevity.
After All, the Kids are Raised
Many couples possess an internal benchmark to at least tough it out for the kids – stability, financial resources and the mutual effort and commitment made on behalf of your children sometimes trumps personal happiness. After the kids are grown up, however, a reordering of priorities takes hold for many. A marriage that is no longer satisfying or loving can be difficult to maintain. Although children prefer their parents stay together forever, many couples are not inclined to stick it out after children reach adulthood.
Women Leading the Numbers
Sixty percent of divorce after age 40 is initiated by women. Some attribute this to the fact that women have higher emotional expectations in a relationship and, with the family raised, many explore more satisfying life options. This may be an alternative relationship or a desire to be on their own – these days women experience far less stigma when it comes to divorce and have greater opportunities for employment to gain independence.
Choosing Love of Life Over Fear
The down side of late-life divorce is that financial security can evaporate when ending a marriage. Two houses cost more than one, split retirement accounts go half as far and medical bills tend to creep higher as we age. Although these are valid concerns, particularly for women who still earn less than men and tend to live longer, many couples maintain that divorce was the right move for them. Some report having less financial security, but a far better life than they would have had if they remained married.
Source: New York Times, “After Full Lives Together, More Older Couples Are Divorcing”, by Abby Ellin, October 30, 2015.