Middle Aged Divorce

2018-03-16T14:36:22+00:00

There is no escaping the fact that more and more people in midlife, in their 40s – 60s, who have been together for 15, 20 or 33 years like we were, suddenly find themselves in divorce court.  

Usually one person unilaterally decides he or she “isn’t happy,” or “loves you but isn’t in love with you,” or “needs to find myself.” (Gag.)  All phrases for “I want out of our marriage,” or “I’m having an affair.”   Why is this happening at such an alarming rate in our middle years?

Every time you turn around, someone else you know is going through a middle aged divorce.  Maybe it’s your own parents.  Or maybe you’re in your 50s and your best friends are calling it quits.  Maybe someone at work is barely making it through the day because his wife wants out.  Or it could be your own husband who has come home and says he isn’t happy.

Causes, Reasons & Factors For Middle Aged Divorce

A couple gets married in their late teens, 20s or maybe even 30s. They go through college or graduate school, raise children, settle into their careers and are humming along when suddenly, one partner decides he or she wants something else.  

What causes a person to make that decision to destroy a good, strong, successful family, years in the making?  There are those “simple” answers like: infidelity, always looking for greener pastures, an unwillingness to work through normal life changes like menopause, kids leaving home, retirement.  Those are all things that happen in the life cycle of a family.  But suddenly one person in the relationship just wants out, or more likely is already out emotionally and in the middle of an affair already.

Those normal things that happen during your middle years make you rethink your life.  Your child rearing responsibilities may be easing up.  You may have more disposable income.  You may be rethinking your career.  You may want to be more independent.  

Instead of working things through these normal feelings with your spouse, more and more people in middle age are saying “I’m done! This isn’t any fun anymore. I’m getting older, I may not have another chance to be happy if I don’t take it now.”  Many reject counseling.

What kind of culture is suddenly embracing this disposable family mentality?  After doing divorce recovery work for almost 20 years, I see several realities that I believe play into these decisions.

  1. A culture absorbed by a “me-first” mentality.
  2. A culture with easy access to porn and prospective mates.
  3. A culture that has lost respect for honor, self-control and moral integrity.

Middle Aged Divorce Rates

When I started my Midlife Divorce Recovery work after my own divorce in 2000, this midlife divorce phenomena was in its beginnings.  Now it’s a full blown epidemic.  At first there were a few women I knew who were experiencing divorce at midlife.  Now, it’s absolutely everywhere.  Divorce is common in almost every neighborhood, spiritual congregation, workplace and in our own families.  

If you’re reading this article, you probably have some personal interest in the topic.  Either your own long-term marriage is falling apart, or maybe a friend or co-worker has admitted that their marriage is in trouble. Maybe it’s your parents.

If your own 50 or 60 something spouse has come to you to say they want a divorce, you’re probably experiencing a roller coaster of emotions you can’t even describe.  You’re most likely in a state of shock wondering how in the world you are going to survive as a middle aged divorced woman.

This isn’t much consolation, but you’re not alone.  Recent Pew research suggests that “the divorce rate for adults ages 50 and older has doubled in the past 25 years.  Among those ages 65 and older, the divorce rate has roughly tripled since 1990.”  That’s a societal tsunami.

Those are astonishing, devastating numbers.  And not only are first marriages failing, but divorce is more likely to happen in second and third marriages, so that adds to the spike in middle aged divorce rates.

Why Are Middle Aged Divorce Rates Rising?

Middle aged divorce rates are rising for several reason beyond those mentioned above.  

Midlife divorce happens more often simply because we are living longer.  We are healthier longer.  And the longer this boomer divorce trend goes on, there is more the feeling of “Why not?  Everyone’s doing it!”  

After my divorce, I was devastated that my children were going to be part of a “broken family.”  I worried about our youngest son who was in high school at the time.  He calmly said to me one day, “Mom, half of my friends at school are from divorced families.  It’s not that big a deal.”  That statement, even though it was true, broke my heart.  

If lots of people are “jumping ship,” it becomes easier to do it yourself at the slightest provocation.   Also, some women are more financially able to be comfortable after divorce and so they are less likely to settle for a marriage that is not as good as they want.  Men have more opportunities to cheat and get a taste of his younger self  back.

Middle Aged Divorce For Women

For women going through a divorce at midlife, almost everything in your life changes.  Especially if you were a stay-at-home mom and did not create a career of your own, divorce can be catastrophic financially.  In fact, statistics show that women are almost always worse off financially after divorce, and men are almost always better off after an adjustment stage after divorce.   

One reason that divorce for a woman in middle age is more of a challenge is that she often doesn’t have a job to continue to go to.  Men still go to work everyday during and after divorce, which is the major part of their identity.  They still do the same after-work activities as before. Their social connections are not as likely to be disrupted.

Women, on the other hand, often have to find a job to help support themselves. They often have to go back to school or get retrained if they have been out of the work place for any length of time. With changes in technology happening at such a rapid pace, women are almost always behind if they haven’t been working.

Women usually still have more responsibility for even older children which can mean additional child care which means even less time and money.  Women also have to take charge of things that their husbands might have done ….. car maintenance, home repairs, yard work which can all be an additional burden.

Middle Aged Divorce For Men

Men are often the ones who have the “midlife crisis” and worry about getting older and feeling like life is leaving them behind.  They are willing to throw away long term spouses to find something they think they might be missing. Plus, divorced middle aged men are often considered a great catch for many 30 something women who are looking for someone to take care of them financially.  Midlife men often find affair or marriage partners who are closer in age to their children than to their own age. The new women are usually below them in status as well.  

And it’s amazing how quickly men can move on if they have a sweet young thing waiting in the wings — all while their ex-wife is still in the fetal position wondering what happened.  I had a friend say to me, “It’s just amazing how after being married for 33 years he has moved on without missing a step.”  I thought that, too, as I was barely making it from morning ‘til night without falling apart completely.

Dating After Middle Aged Divorce

It’s a little early to be talking about dating if you are still in the process of divorce or recently divorced.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of doing the grief work and the healing work you must do before you even consider getting into another relationship.

We all are feeling pressured to find someone else as soon as possible because of the following things:

  1. The debilitating loneliness
  2. The feeling that we’d better hurry up or we’ll be too old for anyone to love us
  3. Our family and friends urge us to “just move on” before we’re ready

For  more information about dating, check out our rules for dating after 60.

In Conclusion

I know that it doesn’t help to realize that more and more people are facing divorce in your middle years.  There may be safety in numbers, but it doesn’t make the heartbreak and recovery any easier.  If middle aged divorce has blasted into your life, and you can’t do anything to change that reality; you need to get help to make the transition as easy as possible and to create the life that you desire and deserve moving forward.  You can start with our free 10-Day Midlife Divorce Recovery Crash Course.

About the Author:

Suzy developed Midlife Divorce Recovery as a safe refuge for people healing and surviving the overwhelm of divorce. Starting her first RADiCAL support group in 2003 she's been helping women navigate the journey of divorce ever since.

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