Over the past few decades, the divorce rate for couples beyond their 50s has seen a dramatic increase. While this is a world-wide phenomenon, retirement-age couples in the United States have seen the divorce rate more than double. Even though the decision to end a marriage is uniquely personal to each relationship, there are numerous factors that combine, resulting in this dramatic increase in divorce rates.
Three factors in particular could contribute to the rate of gray divorce, including:
- Shared drama: After decades of marriage, a couple will have experienced their fair share of family drama. Whether this means dramatic occurrences such as a house fire or job loss, or consistent disagreements about household chores or vacation destinations, sociologists caution that these events can pile up. Eventually, the couple might decide that enough is enough. They realize they can’t change each other’s habits and prefer not to be reminded of past failures. Shared drama can lead to the couple deciding it’s time to finally move on to new experiences.
- Evaporating stigma: Whether it is societal or religious in nature, must of the historic negative stigma surrounding divorce has evaporated. Additionally, couples in the later stages of life might already be on their second marriages, have friends who have divorced or have even seen their children end a marriage. Whatever the case, divorce has become a more accepted option for those facing retirement age.
- Longer life expectancy: It seems that each year medical science makes strides that extend both the quality of life and life expectancy. Coupled with the ease of meeting people online who share interests, individuals in their 50s and 60s no longer feel the pressure to stay married to someone if they are not happy.
After decades of marriage, many retirement-age couples are calling it quits. Numerous factors play into this decision but there are some overlapping elements in the choice. Experts refer to this phenomenon as gray divorce and researchers are studying it in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Europe, and Asia. For those nearing retirement age, divorce is now a more acceptable option that allows them to pursue a new, independent future.