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5 Catalysts of Gray Divorce

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Divorce has to be the most uncertain parts of anyone’s life, but sometimes divorce can be unavoidable. The social shame of divorce has slowly decreased over time.  The stigma of divorce has decreased, and people over 50 are seeing a rise in divorce.  Divorces among people over 50 are commonly called “gray divorces.”  Reasons for gray divorce include:

1. Financial Management

Financial concerns can be a catalyst for a gray divorce.  Financial issues are sensitive for many people, and when one spouse struggles with finances, tension can arise.  Spouses who strain with debt or conflict around financial differences are at risk of divorce. At the same time, if one of the spouses is the sole breadwinner in the household, control issues around finances can develop.  For instance, the breadwinner may want to make all financial decisions.  Divorce can be the result of a partner’s overspending habits or poor management of funds. Reports have shown that marriages strengthen when a man’s earnings increase.  Marriage can statistically speaking, fail if the wife’s earnings increase. 

2. Growing Apart

If you ask a couple why they have decided to divorce, you will typically hear “it was just not working out” or “we’re just different people.”  Unpacking that simple explanation, there may be a lot of conflict behind the decision.  Sometimes couples facing a gray divorce see a change in chemistry or spark.  Because the stigma surrounding divorce is decreasing, divorce can become an option.  Empty nest spouses could divorce once their last child leaves the home.  You may know the term “empty nest syndrome.” Usually, parents will dedicate their lives to rearing their kids, and once the children have left, parents are left wondering, “what now?” They no longer recognize the person they married, and when conflict emerges after kids leave home, divorce seeds can be planted.

3. Infidelity

Some people in the “Baby Boomer” are mavericks, in that they took the initiative to place their own happiness and needs on a priority list.  While prioritizing self-care can be positive, as with any quality, it can also mean indulging unmet needs.  Infidelity can arise when needs are not being met in the marriage, and infidelity is among the instigators of gray divorce.  While cheating carries a stigma, the social contract with marital infidelity has changed.  This is reflected even in Arizona’s laws, which award community property “without regard to marital misconduct.”  When cheating doesn’t have the same blemish as it did in earlier times, and married couples have strayed.  Dating websites create the appearance (real or illusion) of many alternatives.  Some sites feature a connection outside of marriage with momentary sexual partners, thereby promoting infidelity.  May-December “romances” can arise for spouses of either gender. 

4. Better Health and Life Expectancy Rates

We are living longer than ever.  Life expectancy is a lot higher for Baby Boomers than it was for the Greatest Generation, their parents who often remained married no matter what the circumstances. Life spans have increased, and 50 years old can benchmark only the second half of life for many of us.  People feel like they have a second (or third or fourth) chance to figure out what can make a happy, stimulating marriage work.  Couples who would have been too old to consider other options only a few decades ago now think they can find happiness with new partners.  Access to health care, physical fitness, technology that streamlines our lives and frees our time, and daily stressors keep us mentally, physically, and psychologically active. As our options increase, so does it seem there are more available possible partners who can match our interests and views when it feels like a spouse is no longer trying to stay fit, healthy, and active.

5. Addictions

The first thing many people think of when a divorce is looming is infidelity. While a new partner can literally have the same addictive draw as the strongest illicit drug and lights up the same areas of our brain, there are real drugs that do tear couples apart. Addiction to pornography, alcohol, drugs or other substances (cigarettes, food) can feel like infidelity.   A dependency on alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography can derail a marriage.  A lot of marriages fall apart when a spouse appears to prioritize addictions above the family’s needs.  Addictions, like gambling, put financial tensions on the marriage and ultimately can lead to divorce. There are individuals who gamble and lose it all.  These people must start all over again financially, and some spouses don’t want to be in that financial picture with the gambler.  This is actually one area where legal separation may preserve legal rights and obligations while still allowing the addicted spouse to obtain help.  We deal with a lot of these issues in Collaborative Law.

It is interesting that the one thing that “gray divorce” couples can agree upon, even when they believe their marriage cannot be saved, is that they want to conserve their resources.  This is why “gray divorce” couples often seriously consider collaborative law as an alternative to litigation.  They can put their emotions and shock on a back burner, and focus on their long term futures.  The less money they pay lawyers, the more resources can be conserved for children, medical needs, and of course, writing the next chapter of their lives.

*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Moshier Family Law today to learn more about your personal legal needs.

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