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.
See also: Divorce After 40
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, and 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.
- A culture absorbed by a “me-first” mentality.
- A culture with easy access to porn and prospective mates.
- 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 which adds to the spike in middle-aged divorce rates.
Why Are Middle-Aged Divorce Rates Rising?
Middle-aged divorce rates are rising for several reasons 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 their younger selves back.
Middle-Aged Divorce For Women
For women going through a divorce at midlife, almost everything in their 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 every day during and after divorce, which is a 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 workplace 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, and 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 affairs 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. (Read more about midlife crisis divorce.)
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:
- The debilitating loneliness
- The feeling that we’d better hurry up or we’ll be too old for anyone to love us
- Our family and friends urge us to “just move on” before we’re ready
For more information about dating, check out our tips for dating after 50 or our article on rules for dating after 60.
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 Midlife Divorce Recovery Crash Course.
After being in an abusive marriage for 15 yrs. And realizing that I’m now 43 and have let alot of years past by for a man I thought would change because I loved him and he never did finally getting enough nerve to get a divorce it was good to know that I could find a website that was able to ease the pain of the divorce and bring joy were there should have been. The post have eased a lot of pain. Thanks a Bunch
There are several parts of this article that don’t account for the pain of an empty heart. After many years of “I’m not happy” some people say “I don’t want to live anymore”. Rather than spending their entire lives paying for a mistake they made in their 20s, they should get divorced. Shaming them only drives them deeper into shame, alcoholism, and anger. Eventually some of them will kill themselves slowly, since there is no future that includes their happiest selves. More couples should asess whether staying together into old age is a good idea, especially if they’ve suffered a marriage that friends, family and society pressured them into in their 20s. They’ve paid their dues, why should they continue to grow old with someone when the chemistry died out years ago?
My husband and I had a beautiful 25-year marriage until suddenly one day he told me he wasn’t happy and he needed space then ran away to an expensive condo he had bought on the sly. I hired an attorney after he drained the bank accounts then made an appointment for my husband to see a neurologist.
My husband was diagnosed with a common but under-recognized terminal brain disease called frontotemporal dementia, which is often dismissed as a marital breakdown or “midlife crisis.” This form of dementia tends to strike at around age 50.
My husband does not realize he is ill and divorced me. I could not stop the divorce even though he is very ill.
He recently married a young escort. I wonder how long his 2nd marriage will last.
I can understand people finally giving up on a bad marriage, but if anyone reading this who thought they had a wonderful marriage until their spouse suddenly insisted they didn’t then starts behaving erratically and irrationally, please try to get your spouse to a doctor.
I lived with my partner for 23 years and I was
Devastated when he left me after having
4 kids with him! I believe it’s harder for
Women to move on after a husband or
Partner has left both emotionally and financially
He has met a woman younger than his
Daughter and this has done nothing
For my confidence
I think there is more divorce because society
Has made it easier for couples to leave!
i have read the article and nothing in
My experience has taken account of
The pain and emotional turmoil of a
Broken heart! This article never mentions
This! It mentions that women who separate
From their husbands are generally worse
Off financially compared to men but where
Is the evidence? It’s not just because women
Have to look after the family
Personally I think women suffer more after a divorce or separation because men find it easier
To move on and make new lives
Personally I think the idea of women suffer more than men when it comes to divorce is a stereotype. I suffer from severe autism, severe depression, anxiety, ADD, OCD, and sensory processing disorder. My wife cheated on me with a co-worker and hid it for a year before blindsiding me with the news on Christmas. She accused me of emotional abuse when it was the other way around and said she couldn’t deal with my mental disabilities anymore. For some stupid reason I let her stay in the apartment even after the lease was changed and I somehow got talked into letting her boyfriend move in. He doesn’t pay rent and eats a lot. When he doesn’t work he either sleeps or plays video games all day. My other half tells me that he moved in because he was concerned about me and cares. I have been in the psych ward several times and struggle just to get through each day. By the wsu, I am a 48 year old man.
I believe this might be wrong with my wife. Her family history is heavy dementia. I have done reading on this subject. I wonder if you spouse showed any other signs? Mine changed drastically – personality, morals, values, beliefs. And insisted on divorce, after what seemed to be to me, our family, and friends as a healthy marriage. Very sad stuff.
This article did not address abuse which is why I left after 30 years of control, porn addiction and emotional, sexual, physical, financial and psychological abuse. It is going to take many years to work through the trauma. It was not a matter of getting tired of him. Instead I left because of what he.did to my mental health and the mental health of my children. A lot of people make assumptions why a woman left a relationship but I have come in contact with hundreds, if not thousands of women who left because of what they were put through.
Did somebody from the dark ages write this article? It is so dated, jaded, and out of touch with most people that I’m embarrassed for the author. For the record, the largest growing group initiating divorce is women in their 50s because they can. And for the record, women have affairs too and some men are stay at home Dads – jeesh.
I am a journalist who stumbled upon this article while doing research, and I find the reporting extremely biased. I’ve never seen an author use the word “gag” in an article before, but that’s not the only problem. Many assumptions are made about men and midlife crises, and judgments are put on their reasons for leaving. And never is it mentioned that sometimes it’s the woman who wants to leave….After 30 years of a bad to mediocre relationship, sometimes someone wants to just move on with their life, and that’s not always a bad thing. We women are not always the victims.