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The Challenges of Gray Divorce

The Challenges of Gray Divorce

While studies show that divorce rates across the United States have begun to decline, the rate of "gray divorces" (couples 50 and older and long-term marriages) and the demographics of divorce rates continue to increase. One of the main reasons for the increase is the generation gap. Many couples endured years of unhappiness rather than stigmatizing divorce until the baby boomer generation. Still, as baby boomers got older, the social stigma of divorce faded, and baby boomers began a wave of divorces in the '70s, which has not decreased as they turned 50 or older. It is also true that many couples hang in there and don't divorce until their children leave home and live independently. In addition, people live longer than in previous generations: a 65-year-old man today can expect to live, on average, to be 84.3 years old, and a 65-year-old woman, on average, up to 86.6 years old. Many older people tend to be less tolerant of staying in an unsatisfying relationship for so long. Another essential factor is that more women have developed a professional life outside the home and are better prepared to adapt to being without a partner.

Although the separation process, especially if an older couple is mediating their separation, may seem less daunting at first than if minor children were involved, the reality, both emotionally and financially, can still be overwhelmingly challenging. According to a study by a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University and co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Investigation, people who have gone through gray divorces reported higher levels of sadness and depression than those whose spouses had died. 

So what can couples in a long-term marriage and facing divorce do to escape the stress and deal with the challenges of not living together as a couple?


Minimize emotional impact:

A person going through a gray divorce may have been planning on leaving for a while, may have already overcome the emotional issues necessary for separation, and may find it easier to get through it. However, especially if you are the one who did not initiate the divorce, you should consider the stress of the divorce. If you tend to withdraw, become depressed, or feel your activity level is decreasing, you may need to seek outside support (a support group, a singles group, or a therapist) to deal with the challenges. While finding a new spouse has the biggest positive impact in helping someone through the pain of a divorce, speeding up the process before you come to terms with your loss can cause even more heartbreak. As with the death of a spouse, there are often stages to go through (anger, bargaining, depression) before you can move on.

It can be useful to leave married life behind you. It can be helpful to keep memories from your past life that cause you pain. You can also connect with old friends and family and pursue interests that you probably never had time for. At 50 and above, you've probably spent much of your life with other people and outside of obligations. It may be time to get a little more "self-centered" and protect your emotional and mental health. Permit yourself to be kind to yourself. Keep in mind that obsessing over your ex-spouse, isolating yourself, or immersing yourself in a restorative relationship may also not be good for you, but sticking to healthy routines, starting new ones that you enjoy, and talking to a professional or people who are going through or have been through divorce proceedings are probably healthier options.


Financial challenges:

It is also important that you understand the professionals you are calling to help you understand the realities of your particular financial situation. You need to understand how your divorce will affect your finances, taxes, and budget and what steps you will need to take to prepare for the next phase of your life. The impact of divorce on earnings is particularly severe for older women who, according to research, are twice as financially disadvantaged as younger divorced women. However, many older men also struggle with the financial impact of gray divorce. While previous studies have shown that divorce has had a minor impact on younger men, recent studies prove that older men see their standard of living drop by around 21%.

You must understand that the prospect of living with less money can lead to an amicable divorce hostile. A high earner often doesn't have to share hard-earned retirement assets with a spouse who hasn't worked as much or earned significantly less. And suppose the other spouse, usually, the wife, has taken the time to raise children or supported their career development. In that case, she may be upset that the husband does not recognize these contributions. Additionally, the determination of each party's premarital and marital property may also be less clear in a long marriage. It may lead to significant conflict over what belongs to each party.

Even if the divorce remains amicable, it is necessary to consider possible financial difficulties. Many seniors have a strong desire to keep their old family home and the fond memories they have, and they may be willing to give up part of their spouse's pension to continue living in the home, regardless of the cost of the life: taxes, medical expenses or lack of money. Social security benefits and health insurance are also issues that need to be understood and discussed. A mediator, litigator, or financial advisor with financial experience is an essential ally.


Last words

This does not mean that gray divorce is a bad decision. Many people believe that ending a tumultuous relationship is a positive end in itself or that they are much healthier and happier in their new life. Or that even though healing takes time, they can use the wisdom gained over a longer life to overcome the challenges they face. But you must be well prepared for the challenges when you start your new life later.


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