Could Gray Divorce Be an Act of Love?

What is a gray divorce?

Gray Divorce is not a new term and has been used in the United States since 2004. But gray divorce has been used more commonly in recent years as the divorce rate for those 55 and older has been on the rise. The term was originally coined “gray” divorce to signify a group of older adults who may have gray hair that are getting divorced.  

A True Act of Love

In a Facebook group that I am a part of, someone commented that people over 55 should not get divorced. They should just stay together for the rest of their lives since they are already middle aged. What’s the point of starting over at that age? The comment upset me as I don’t think people should simply stay together because of their age, and I have seen gray divorces where the couple is very respectful and loving toward one another. It’s a true act of love where the couple is setting each other free to live his/her best life!

I have worked with hundreds of people who are getting a divorce, and have found that those who are older are often more kind and loving throughout the process. They usually end up parting ways as friends and go on to successfully parent their adult children and enjoy being grandparents together. They often even still attend the same family functions and sometimes continue to see the same circle of friends together.

So why do couples 55 and older get divorced? 

Just like with a younger couple, there can be many different reasons, but here are some of the most common ones I see with my clients. 

“I’ve been unhappy for a long time.” Some couples in their 50s and 60s have experienced discontent and loneliness in their marriage for a long time, but they choose to stay together so they can provide a stable loving home life for their children. 

“We grew apart.” Some of my clients have said that they grew apart and don’t have anything in common anymore. Sometimes after the kids are grown and have left home, couples do not see themselves spending the rest of their lives together. Their interests have changed, and they don’t see each other in their plans for the future. 

“It’s more acceptable to get a divorce now.” For many generations divorce carried a stigma  so couples often stayed together just for that reason. Today, the stigma is not what it once was, so couples feel more comfortable getting divorced because they are unhappy or because they grew apart.

 “I have a lot of life left to live!” The average life expectancy for both men and women has increased. From 1966 to 2018, the life expectancy for men went from 66.7 years to 76.2 years, and for women, it went from 73.9 years to 81.2 years. If a person is only 55, that seems like a lot of time to live an unhappy life.

“Money issues are worse now that we are nearing retirement.” Money and finances is still one of the biggest issues for couples who are divorcing, and it applies to gray divorce as well. In middle age, people can be more set in their ways and can resist changing their spending habits even as their income changes in retirement. Different approaches to saving and spending can be the reason people want to divorce. 

Whatever the reason(s), if you’re unhappy in your marriage, know that couples have more options available to them than their parents had at middle age. There are many well-qualified marriage counselors and therapists, and this service is often covered by insurance. There is no longer a stigma attached to seeking outside help for your marriage.

What if it’s time to move on?

If you or your spouse has decided that your marriage is over, I suggest that you have a calm and open conversation with each other. It’s important to reflect on all of the good memories you have had together and some of the challenging times as well. In acknowledging the role you have played in each other’s lives, you can release each other to live the rest of your lives apart. This is a true act of love, and no one should stay in an unhappy marriage just because he or she is middle aged! 

I help with a lot of gray divorces in my practice. What I appreciate most about the older couples reaching out to work with me is that they are doing it from a place of respect for each other. They want to make sure that both parties will be financially secure, and they don't want to waste a ton of money on an unnecessary legal battle.

Related reading: 

Why Estate Planning after a Divorce Is a Must

4 Ways to Stay Organized Throughout the Divorce Process

How to Thrive after Divorce: Cut through the Noise and Prepare Well

Here’s how we can help you...

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After all, this is the reason Leah Hadley founded Great Lakes Divorce Financial Solutions in the first place. Helping couples overcome this challenge is why we do what we do. 

Whether you’ve never had to manage money before, or you’re a master at investing, we are here to support you as your financial expert before, during, and after your divorce. 

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