While we tend to think that couples who marry young are more prone to divorce due to their emotional immaturity and that couples with young children are also more likely to split owing to the stress of raising a family and pursuing a career, recent studies reveal that divorce rates among these groups have actually leveled off or even dropped in recent years.
In fact, research shows that the one age group that is now more likely to divorce than ever is the one that most people have traditionally associated with marital longevity: couples age 50 and over.
Indeed, the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University found that married couples age 50 and over were two times as likely to divorce in 2014 than they were in 1990.
This naturally begs the questions then as to why the number of marital dissolutions among older couples — frequently referred to as “gray divorces” — is on the rise.
According to researchers, there are a host of reasons behind this phenomenon:
- Second marriages: Not only are older people more likely to remarry, but statistics show that the divorce rate in second marriages is often two and a half times higher owing to such relationship stressors as financial issues and blended families.
- Life expectancy: People are now living much longer and, as such, they may be unwilling to live out their golden years — another two or even three decades — in an unhappy marriage.
- Social stigma: Given that social mores have evolved such that divorce no longer carries any stigma, older married couples now feel more comfortable with the notion of moving on from an unfulfilling relationship.
- Evolving status of women: Unlike in decades past, many women now have financial autonomy and careers of their own, such that they are ready, willing and able — perhaps even more than their husbands — to pursue that which will make them the most happy.
- Empty nest: Given that their children are now adults, many older couples no longer feel compelled to stay together “for the sake of the kids.”
As interesting as all of this is, it’s important to remember that when older couples decide to divorce, there are still a host of complex issues that must be resolved. Indeed, even though child custody and child support are not in play, there are often substantial assets to divide and the possibility of alimony.