Baby Boomers are the only age group in which divorce rates are rising. One reason is that Boomer women tend to be more financially independent. They’re saying, “I’m not putting up with this anymore. I only have one life. I want to be free.”
Why not? The kids are raised. It’s just her and the old man. Why stay in an unsatisfying marriage?
Speaking as a 61-year-old twice-divorced person, I think it’s different now that we’re older. Unless you’re dealing with domestic abuse or some other non-negotiable failing, consider these realities:
- Reality Check #1: Life is hard. Being half of a team can make old age easier.
- Reality Check #2: Your spouse has failings. Who doesn’t? Unless you’re planning to go looking for a 30-year-old, they all do, and at this point, change isn’t likely.
- Money: We used to stay together “for the sake of the children.” Now, it’s finances. Trading in the home you love, all the memories, and a neighborhood full of friends for a one-bedroom apartment somewhere–is that absolutely necessary?
- Compassion. Think about how your spouse will do on his own. Good? Not good? Part of the deciding.
- Broken connections: Do you want to divide up family and friends at this age? Or lose contact with people you love or like a whole lot?
- New connections: Do you want to learn the names and personalities of all the people in your new guy’s life? And hear about times gone by in which you played no part? Call me cynical, but–no.
A couple of my friends are dealing with serious problems within their marriages, and they’ve decided to stay, for now anyway. Their adult kids would prefer otherwise. It’s complicated. Stay or go, there’s loss. My friends are motivated by love, financial considerations, and personal matters. We’re quick to cry “codependency!” but it may not be that. At their age, it’s probably better to assume they’re being logical rather than pathological. It doesn’t mean they’re weak or stupid. Maybe they’re stronger than anybody can imagine.
In my own case, Bill and I have been together twenty years, and recently we’ve been doing some recalibrating. It started with a fight that lasted a month. Believe me, we considered all options.
However, as Rahm Emanuel famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
A good crisis makes people uncomfortable enough to try alternatives. If you’re fighting a lot, and you’re ready for serious, even painful, change, how about using the new instability to fashion a happier life without divorce?
One of the nice things about getting older is seeing things in new ways. For example, if you were going to get divorced, but due to finances you knew you’d need a roommate, how about the guy you already live with? You could divide up the rooms. It’s kind of a silly example, but practical.
Bill and I changed some routines and understandings to allow more independence within our relationship. (No, not that kind of independence.) It’s pretty exciting, and it beats starting over alone.
Who do you want to become in the years ahead? Is it possible to do that within a partnership? Nothing’s perfect, but staying together might just provide the foundation you need for finding yourself at this new age.