Gray divorce is a term that researchers coined in a 2004 study centering on couples approaching or at retirement age who were facing the end of their marriage. By 2012, researchers had explored the full extent of the phenomenon in numerous studies. It was determined that the divorce rate among couples in their 50s and beyond had more than doubled in the past two decades.
Unfortunately, this phenomenon exists beyond the United States. Researchers in Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Europe and Asia are studying similar trends. In Japan, for example, the divorce rate among couples who have been married more than 30 years has quadrupled.
Why is this happening?
The research varies, but there are common theories surrounding the statistical explosion of gray divorce in the past few decades. The theories include:
- The couples have simply grown apart over the course of potentially decades of marriage.
- Advances in medicine are offering a longer life, and some couples would rather not stay trapped in an unsatisfying marriage.
- Internet and other technological advances are making it easier to meet people who share similar interests and life goals.
- The social stigma of divorce has largely been eradicated.
For many researchers, this final point is an interesting one. Historically, couples remained married “til death do you part,” with divorce only coming on the heels of domestic abuse or repeated infidelity. In recent decades, however, as divorce has become more common, children grow up in the reality that ending a marriage is an option – it is a possibility. The changing of societal mores has led to a revolution in thinking. If couples are unhappy in their marriage, it is okay to divorce and try again.
For those considering gray divorce, it is important to remember that the process involves numerous negotiations. From the division of retirement funds to separating a lifetime of asset acquisitions, the process can be cumbersome. However, starting a new, independent life is an exciting reward.