Gray Divorce

Gray Divorce On The Rise


Recently the New York Times discussed a new phenomena known as “Gray Divorce”. Gray Divorce is a trend being seen of people over 50 getting divorced. And seemingly correlating with “empty nests” (after the children leave the home) and a variety of other factors.

The gray divorce trend seems to indicate that divorce rates generally are decreasing. However, among “boomers” and older folks, the divorce rates are increasing. Gray divorce means that long-term marriages of decades and are now divorcing at higher rates than expected.

The issues faced by this age group getting divorced overlap with reasons the general populations divorces. However, the impact is different. If you divorce younger, the financial and social impacts can be different.


Social and Financial Impacts

In divorces where people are older, we are seeing really challenging financial and social experiences.

Financially, many people at this stage in life are close to or in retirement. Which is making it extremely difficult to divide assets and can drastically shift plans people have to retire. If the couple has already retired, a divorce during retirement reverberates into a some really difficult and significant changes in each partner’s standard of living. Some people have to return to work or grieve what they anticipated retirement to look like for them.

The social impact is also unique in gray divorce as couple’s often have an established social network or already experiencing a reduction of socialization. Either of which can create some difficult circumstances for navigating a divorce. Often couples divorcing end up having friends and family choosing sides which can reduce social contact. And connection for each partner in the process. And increase tension and conflict at gatherings and functions where both parties are there.


Retirement and “The Empty Nest”

Retirement and the “empty nest” can create a significant change within the relationship. Both things individually are monumental shifts in people’s lives.

For years, work and family have been the focus in the relationship and when both those things shift couple’s are finding less satisfaction and less in common. This can the experience of “falling out of love” or wanting to different futures as it comes to their “golden years.”

Often, we see that the couple has focused much of their resources on work and family and over the years did not grow and change together. As children moved out and they retired this becomes more noticeable as there is less “distraction” from the couple’s relationship themselves.

Couple’s report that they have become more disconnected and their life became much more quiet or calm, leaving the relationship and marriage feeling quiet and disconnected.


New Relationships – Partnering / Re-partnering

Whether the new relationship is the catalyst for the divorce (engaging in emotional or physical infidelity). Or if the new relationship comes after the divorce there is quite a bit of challenges. If one or both people have new relationships, because of the long term nature of the previous relationship (or marriage) it is often more difficult for the family and friends to adjust to new partners. Often times, we see further conflict or tension in the family and community system as people engage in new relationships.

In the event of infidelity, the partner who engaged in the infidelity has the most difficulty, as they are blamed for “breaking up the family”. Unfortunately, this results in children, family, and friends that may refuse to be part of the relationship if they continue to see affair partner.

For the partner who did not engage in the affair, there is often varying levels of trauma that occur. They often received a lot of support. However, they may struggle with the emotional and relational components moving forward.

Regardless of how the new relationships started, this is extremely difficult in the event of a “gray divorce.”


Trauma and Grief

As you age, grief becomes an ever present part of life. Grief is the process of loss and could be a divorce, death, unemployment, and / or loss of connection.

In the case of gray divorce, it is the loss of what you expected in the “golden years”. Sometimes, loneliness is a common feeling for those grieving.

This grief and depression may be symptoms of greater trauma in life transitions. For example, when you are over 50 and getting divorced, there may be fear. That fear, in addition to the massive shifting, can create levels of trauma and difficulty. People going through divorce are recommended to seek therapy, and this population is no exception.

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