The number of people getting a divorce after 50 has doubled in the past 20 years, made even more alarming by the fact that divorce rates in other age groups are falling. The trend has even gained its own terms, ‘silver splitters’ and ‘grey divorce’.
As explained in Psychology Today,
“Grey divorce” is the term used to refer to those who divorce after age fifty. In 2009 this included over 600,000 people. Some researchers call it a divorce revolution. And the numbers are growing while divorce rates of other age groups is falling.”
A reason for the trend is the fact that we’re living older and healthier lives, staying mobile and working for longer. We’re more financially independent and can support ourselves outside marriage.
We are living longer than ever before, at 50 we can expect three to four more decades of life. With good health, financial independence and children leaving home, there’s no reason to stay in an unfulfilling and unhappy marriage.
But what else are the reasons for such a significant trend?
1. We grow apart – life outlook changes
With children leaving home at this time, reaching an established role in your career, pursuing new hobbies and interests can all change your perspective on life.
This is one of the components that causes us to grow apart. Our attitudes, opinions and philosophies are never static, we change as we age and we can change into people no longer suitable for each other.
2. Emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is an unfortunate reality in marriage, with 53% of women said they divorced their spouses because of emotional or psychological abuse. And although less well-documented in men, a significant proportion are victims to emotional abuse too, naming it as the reason for ending a marriage.
What is emotional abuse? Abby Rodman writing for BetterAfter50 concisely defines it as, “The systematic manipulation of one person by another — through intimidation, bullying and criticism— in order to gain control. Emotionally abusive partners do this by making their spouses feel inadequate, stupid, guilty, lazy or ugly.”
The issue, although can be fixed when addressed in the early stages, can accumulate over the years and go past a point where it cannot be fixed, leading couples to part ways.
3. Changing goals and ambitions
People want more from their life post 50.
Over 50s are the most powerful demographic in the UK, they’re collectively the wealthiest who lead full lifestyles of adventure, investment and learning.
It’s a stage where many of us are in the best position we ever have been to follow new dreams and aspirations.
“People are looking very much at the latter third of their life and what they want to do with it.” explains Karen Walker, solicitor of law firm KGW Family Law.
Karen continues, “Certainly clients I’ve had say they want to take up a pastime they’ve not done before – perhaps cycling or travelling. And very often their spouse isn’t keen to participate in that, and that can cause friction and a parting of ways.”
The same goes for ventures and other pursuits, which if not supported by a spouse, can be detrimental towards marriage.
4. We live longer
Research has shown that longer life expectancy is a significant reason for the rise of silver splitters.
Life expectancy is growing by a rate of two and a half years per decade and we’re staying healthier for longer.
More people are working over aged 60 than ever before, so it’s likely people can sustain themselves outside of marriage.
Additionally, ONS figures showed older people are increasingly using the internet with 78 per cent of those aged 65 to 74 having ‘recently’ used it in 2017.
With online dating, our health and wellness getting better and careers continuing to prosper, we have more choice than ever towards the way we live our lives and if a marriage is unhappy we don’t have to settle.
On the surface everything seems fine, you’re both in good jobs, have a nice house and children, but internally you feel something’s not right.
We’re not talking about the ‘boredom rut’, which can be fixed through hard work and a bit of TLC on both sides. Something more significant, where the person doesn’t feel they are leading a fulfilling life and they long for something more.
With divorce no longer the taboo it was decades ago, feelings of unfulfillment and a longing for ‘something more’ are becoming more common cases in divorce.
As the writer, Fay Weldon remarks, “Women in their fifties instigate divorce because they are bored and want to be free and single again, not because they want the emotional and sexual excitement of another man.” The same often occurs for men who do so for similar motives.
Perceptions towards divorce are changing
These are some of the top reasons for such a surge in the ‘silver splitters’. We’re healthier, living longer and more financially independent while the way we view post-50 life has transformed.
This being said, divorce is an incredibly painful and emotionally draining process for both parties and should never be done on a whim.
Danielle Sollee, a marriage educator explains, “There will be times when one or both [people in a relationship] want out and can barely stand the sight of each other.”
It’s all a natural part of marriage, but overcoming these issues is what develops the qualities of a successful and long-lasting marriage.
Although for many people, life after 50 is a new a new phase, they’re empty nesters and ready to start a brand new chapter of life exploring and divorce is sometimes needed to facilitate this.
Attitudes towards divorce are changing. It’s seen as a change people are ready to embrace, a move which brings new freedom. People want to explore new things and not necessarily look for new partners, just enjoy the period of change without commitment.
What are your experiences of divorce? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!