Gray Divorce: Why Many Couples Over 50 Divorce!

There's been a lot of discussions lately about the rise in divorce after 50, a.ka. "Gray Divorce." 

Many couples that make up these populations are members of the Baby Boomer generation. And, often, these couples have been married for 30 years or more. That's a long time! So, why now? And what can be done to rescue these marriages? And how can you avoid becoming one of them (good news — you can start now, no matter how young your marriage is!). 

The reason why divorce after 50 has become more common is simple: at some point, they just stopped trying. As a psychotherapist, I've met many couples in this stage of life. Although every marriage is different, this is the common cause behind the erosion of these relationships. It doesn't happen overnight. As the days and years pass, partners begin taking each other for granted and don't put forth the energy or effort to nurture the relationship.

At 50 years old, this stage of life is often filled with transitions and adjustments that cause you to redefine yourself, your roles, and your relationships. You may be in the midst of empty nesting and no longer needed as much by your children. And if you're approaching 60, you may be thinking about retirement plans and feeling uncertain about what will come next. In a long-term marriage, many events can have a major impact on your identity and emotions.
Gray Divorce: Why Many Couples Over 50 Divorce!
Gray Divorce: Why Many Couples Over 50 Divorce! 

When it becomes just the two of you spending all this time together after decades of raising a family and building a career, it can be a huge adjustment. Despite your long-term marriage, you may look across the table and see a total stranger. You may feel like you have nothing to talk about and that there's very little keeping you together anymore.

But take heart. In a large majority of cases, a marriage that's flat-lining can be revived if both spouses are willing to put forth some renewed effort. Even better, you can start now — even if you've only been married for one, five, or fifteen years.

Fortunately, you can prevent a divorce after 50 by starting now with these tips:

1. Improve your communication.

It's important to keep the lines of communication open and to know that you're sharing in a "judgment-free zone" so you can speak openly about your feelings and needs without fear of criticism.

If something is bothering you, it's never healthy to sweep it under the carpet. Remember to communicate to your spouse about your positive feelings as well.

2. Move past old resentments and bad memories.

As a couple who has been together for so long, you may have a laundry list of offenses that your spouse has committed over the years and the painful memories that go along with that.

Dredging up past resentments as a weapon is very damaging to the relationship and doesn’t allow you to heal and move forward.

3. Treat each other with kindness.

Did you ever notice how you can be so kind to strangers and then dump all of your anger and frustrations onto your spouse? Take a beat before you speak and let your words be kind rather than short or dismissive.

4. Support each other emotionally.

When your partner is hurting, perhaps about a parent who's ill, or a situation at work, really open your heart and listen. Ask how you can help.

5. Have fun together.

To avoid the rut of everyday life, having something to look forward to can really be a boost. Plan a weekly dinner date, a movie night with popcorn, or take some day trips to interesting locales.

Discover a new hobby together. Make each other laugh!

6. Strike up interesting conversations.

After so many years together, you may feel that there's nothing new to learn about each other. But, you’d be surprised!

Turn off the T.V. and ask some open-ended questions about their day. Discuss something you read, a movie you watched, or what's trending in current events.
Gray Divorce: Why Many Couples Over 50 Divorce!
Gray Divorce: Why Many Couples Over 50 Divorce! 

7. Remember the little things.

Occasional surprises can really lift your partner’s spirits and build a bond of affection.

Bring home flowers or a favorite dessert, wash their car, leave a playful note or text. And, definitely do something romantic on your anniversary.

8. Give compliments.

Unfortunately, these tend to decrease over the years. Take notice of your partner’s new haircut or outfit, express appreciation for cleaning up the yard.

Those small gestures don’t cost a thing and they can have such a positive impact.

9. Remember why you fell in love.

Over time, it's easy to focus on annoying habits and perceived inadequacies.

Instead, think about what you found appealing and attractive at the beginning of your relationship and respond accordingly.

10. Consider couples counseling.

If you feel that you've tried everything and still can’t rekindle a spark or even a friendship, a qualified therapist can help you sort things out.

They will offer support, encouragement, and tools to help you rebuild your relationship.

Before you give up on your marriage after 50 years and do something you may regret, consider some of these tips so you can avoid a gray divorce.

Just as your garden needs maintenance and nurturing to flourish and grow, the same holds true for your marriage.

With some extra and ongoing effort, creativity, and energy you may discover a wonderful new beginning together!

Babita Spinelli is a psychotherapist and CEO of Opening the Doors Psychotherapy and Embrace Coaching. To learn more about how she can help you accomplish your goals, visit her website.

God bless you.

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