Gray Divorce is a relatively new term that refers to the unusually high divorce rate among baby boomers. In fact, this phenomenon has become so common that they’ve come up with several terms for it like Silver Splitter, Diamond Divorcees and Mid-Wife Crisis. Catchy, right?
Statistically speaking, baby boomers have always had record breaking rates of divorce, even when we were younger. So it should be no surprise to anyone that we’ve continued this trend into our later lives. Over the past couple of decades, divorces among younger couples has actually declined, but for people over 50 it’s doubled. Apparently, we are breaking records in breaking each other’s hearts.
We can assume that the number of unhappy, but still married, couples over 50 is even more overwhelming. This is a quickly growing statistic, and yet this topic is not often discussed. There are many studies and theories as to why this is happening to our generation, including increased lifespans, more temptations, financial pressures, and becoming empty nesters.
There are probably more reasons for our sky-rocketing divorce rate then there are lawyers to represent us.
The internet and social media have opened the flood gates of infidelity. Many dating sites hook up married persons with temporary sexual partners. Old flames are reuniting on Facebook, giving second chances to long lost loves. Not to mention the explosion of online porn which has given more than a few men an alternative and sometimes addictive sexual option.
Thanks to face lifts, Botox, breast implants, lip implants, hair dye and spanx, older women are hotter than ever and often leave their husbands for younger men. These women are called “cougars.” And thanks to money, older men have always been attractive to younger women. They’re called “male cougars,” “rhinos” or “manthers.” Who comes up with these names, anyway?
I attribute the millennial mindset of “FOMO” and “living your best life” to why people over 50 are starting to view their lives and marriages differently.
Because of increased lifespans, baby boomers no longer think that it’s too late to start over again. In our 50s and 60s, we now feel we still have enough time left that it’s worth the effort to start over again. Many in our generation don’t even really find themselves, or begin to blossom, until they reach these ages. The scenario of a divorced or widowed man or woman realizing they are gay late in life is not an uncommon one. If you don’t believe me, just watch the first season of “Grace and Frankie.”
Financial problems have been the number one reason for divorce since the invention of money, but it is increasingly more of an issue for people facing retirement. For some, it could be the debt they’ve carried that has taken it’s toll over the years. For others, it could be the mounting anxiety over the fact that they will now be spending down whatever money they did manage to save. And for those who have no financial concerns…well, it must be nice.
Becoming empty nesters often forces couples to suddenly come to terms with a whole new lifestyle, and with each other. Without the constant distractions, challenges and pleasures of raising children, couples can feel at a loss for what to do when they’re left alone together. I suppose that could be a major upside to today’s generation of “boomerang kids.” Who knows how many marriages have been saved by adult children who never left home.
You are not alone.
If you are a baby boomer who is going through a divorce then know that you are not alone. Take comfort in knowing that this has actually become the norm. As upsetting as it may be, it is not unusual. Nothing you are going through is unique. So much so that you can find it all in a book somewhere.
Baby boomers are known to suppress their emotions and feelings, and that can cause a host of problems. Depression, midlife crisis, gray divorce, etc. can be very real and prominent for older men. It is crucial for guys to be in touch with their feelings and recognize when they might be having mental health issues. Talking to a professional is great for all people, but especially at this time. Just as importantly is having your own support group of friends and family, people who understand you and will stand by you.
Who knows what’s led to this “Gray Divorce” boom. Maybe it’s just that the institution of marriage was never meant to last this long. The first recorded evidence of a wedding ceremony was in 2350 B.C., when most people didn’t live past their 30s. And that was if they weren’t eaten by wild animals first. No generation before ours has ever lived this long, and we are an ever evolving species now entering uncharted territory. It’s natural for people to grow apart. Maybe it’s not realistic to expect any two people to stay together this long. Maybe it’s those who stay married – ’til death do them part – that are the weird ones.