Why Are Gray Divorce Rates Rising in the US?

The term gray divorce refers to the legal separation of couples who have attained many years of staying together, mainly more than three decades of life, but apparently find it difficult to stay in the union due to marital issues that have either been progressive over the years or are now noticeable at this age.            

There has been a high rise in divorce globally. The United States still tops the list with roughly about 45% of married couples divorcing. This increased divorce rate has contributed to many questions about what is really happening to marriages and mostly the older generation.

Regardless of the consequences of divorce, older couples are divorcing at alarming rates, which generally are leading to older single persons. 

Surprisingly, divorce rates of younger couples have decreased over the years, mainly attributed to the fact that they either marry at an older age or are not interested in marrying. The median age for first time married couples was 29.5 in men and 27.4 in women in 2016 compared to 1990, which was 26.1 in men and 23.9 in women

According to the national center of health statistics in 2015, there have been twice as many divorces for married couples of age 50 years and above, from 5 to 10 in 1000 marriages, and for couples over age 65 years, tripling from 2 to 6 in 1000 marriages.

The increased rate of divorce has been attributed to baby boomers. This age group had been involved with an overly increased rate of divorce which boomed in the ’70s and ’80s. The group was estimated to have been born between the time period of 1946- 1964, and in 2015 the individuals ranged between the ages of 51 to 69 years.

Why are gray divorce rates rising in the US? Here are some of the reasons why there is a high risk of divorce particularly divorce among women aged 50 years and above.

Table of Contents

Growing Apart

Married people have had a lot of differences in their marriages over the years. Such issues can be gender-based violence, unending arguments, infidelity, and these couples have had to fight their way to overcome all these differences. Over time some couples become tolerant of their partner’s behavior and without involving a family therapist it has led to later-life divorce.

This pattern is common especially among partners with young children. The desire to see their children raised with both parents causes them to hold on to the marriage and overlook issues affecting them. Eventually, after the children are independent, a lot more time is spent with the other partner. After the couple ages and spends a lot of time together due to retirement, they will be dealing with the same issues if previous habits have not changed. Some couples choose to leave the marriage. 

It can also be due to having nothing in common with the other partner. The baby boomer generation; ensured less time is spent between couples, who married due to either infatuation or even pregnancy, but even in love, couples who saw themselves living together till death realize much later that they don’t have anything in common. They don’t enjoy the same activities, they don’t believe in the same ideologies or have the same plans for themselves, but only realize in their 6th and 7th decade of life and finally make the big decision to have a divorce.

Gray Divorce Rates Rising

Finally, being continuously unsatisfied with life can cause significant steps in every individual’s life. Most gray divorcees realized that they were in an unhappy marriage and needed time to find themselves and know their purpose in life. Examples include:

  • Not achieving goals in life.
  • Spiritual journeys.
  • Even wanting to be vigorously valued by the other partner who doesn’t want to work it out at this stage of life.

Hence such issues can lead to marital dissolution.

Related: 10 Ways to Improve Your Self-Care During a Divorce

Financial Stability Among Couples

Women empowerment over the decades has vigorously been fought for, many women have had to fight hard to earn respect, especially in developing countries. In the united states, women have managed to have a say in many affairs, this also includes laws concerning divorce. In some states, couples don’t need to have legal grounds for divorce. 

Many married women have school degrees, full-time employment, and enjoy retirement benefits. In marriage, they can voice out their opinion in the same way. Women were afraid to leave their lifelong marriage and get started with the divorce process no matter how bad the domestic relations were at home due to limited financial resources, but according to a current investigation that has changed.

Due to the high risk of divorce among middle-aged women, most divorced women have visited certified divorce attorneys in El Paso County and financial advisers for advice concerning postnuptial agreements and mainly financial advice before they experience divorce. A certified divorce financial planner can advise an individual or give solutions for couples on the best financial plan after the incidence of divorce. 

This is not the case now. A majority of people now value their emotional individual health a bit more and are no longer willing to stay in a place where there is no marital stability due to financial insecurity but rather due to a level of happiness brought about by their partners. Hence when they are dissatisfied with their marriage, they have no other reason to stick to it and leave to find a more acceptable solution. 

The changing of family roles is also an issue. In the past, women’s roles were mainly based on housework and childcare, while men’s roles were based on the provision. Currently, roles have changed where women are working and are expected to chip in the family finances. In contrast, the men are expected to do house chores and even take care of the children. In some family dynamics, the woman is the sole provider, and the husband stays home to care for the children. 

After several decades of staying together and having children left, they have to redefine their roles from chores to provision. Some feel that the partner is taking advantage of them. They need a break to relax and build themselves, hence choose divorce as their alternative.

Related: Managing Your Finances After a Divorce

Higher Life Expectancy

The standard of living in the United States has increased exponentially, with the level of education being at its best, better health care, vacations and holidays, better terms of condition for workers prompting them to be at their best, all this causes a higher life expectancy, so meaning in simple words people live even longer than before. While this is a good thing, it also prompts people to think beyond. An example is that a 60-year-old man can roughly estimate 25 more years to live.

For older couples, this can actually become an issue. While every responsibility has been dealt with, such as children, the couple realizes that they have a long life ahead of them. Suppose they are not connected and have grown significantly apart in their long-term marriage. In that case, they may choose to avoid their conflict over the years and divorce.

In other cases, a couple can also want to explore life, find joy in the world. They have lost interest in each other and want to become completely independent and free. Hence an increase in divorced older couples, while an increase in older people dating sites, some wanting and believing that they can find love again. 

Remarrying Couples

About two-thirds of over 50 year old’s adult divorce attitudes have changed with time. There are more supportive divorce attitudes compared to the past. This is according to Matthew Wright of the Appalachian State University. They believe that if you can’t solve issues in a marriage, it would be better to get a divorce.

The stigma that came with the divorce experience has reduced over time. There is more acceptance of divorce among extended family members and society in the current age. Hence, couples are marrying, getting divorces, and remarrying again. The baby boom generation, which witnessed an increase in divorce trends and marriages in the 1970s, may have contributed to the decrease in stigma.

Contact our firm for help through your divorce.

Baby boomers’ age range is 57 and 75 years of age as of 2021. With a belief pattern that insists that there is no age where you can’t find love again, it’s been more compelling for middle-aged adults to end unsatisfying marriages and find new partners. This demographic trend and belief pattern contributes to a divorce rate increase in the family unit.

However, it’s been counted that approximately half of all grey divorcees are remarried middle-aged adults. Hence the question of why remarrying couples are divorcing at such alarming rates can largely be attributed to the fact that remarried couples have already gone through a divorce, unlike first-time couples who believe that it’s difficult to divorce either due to religious beliefs or even social stigma. Remarried couples have undergone the hardships of divorce and even enjoyed time by themselves as single persons. This becomes easier for today’s middle-aged and older adults to end a relationship when they feel unsatisfied since they can manage independently.

Related: Can I Date Once My Spouse and I Are Separated?

High Levels of Expectations

This could likely be the main reason why gray divorces are happening at a steady yet alarming rate. There has been an extremely high level of expectations with this new generation.

Roles of marriage have stopped being performance-based and currently are based on intimacy, friendship and self-satisfaction. Women who were expected to do household chores and take care of children while men gave provision are now looking for happiness and love more than ever before, while men are looking for stability and happiness. 

This changes the whole scope of marriage. It would be easier to say that not every single time will a couple have the joy and happiness of enjoying a lifelong institution. Still, when many couples have incredibly high expectations of their marriages and their partners it causes marital instability and the risk of divorce is high and marital success is low.

If you are going through a gray divorce you can contact a family lawyer in Colorado to help with your case. At Brighter Day℠ Law we represent clients through this major life transition and we would like to be there for you. Call us at (719) 225-4443 to get started.