Divorce After 50: A Guest Post by Alan Brady

Posted on April 9, 2013

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When I received an inquiry from someone named Alan Brady, about being a guest poster on my blog, I immediately flashed back to the character of Alan Brady on the Dick Van Dyke Show. That Alan Brady was pompous, had a lot of hairpieces and made a lot of bad decisions.  He was a guy we loved to laugh at. This Alan Brady is a writer who uses personal experience as inspiration to write about family, the law, and business practices. He currently writes for Attorneys.com, which locates local child custody lawyers. We need to carefully read this Alan Brady.

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The way we view divorce has changed drastically over the last few decades. The intense social stigma that used to surround someone who left a marriage has faded to an ugly memory in our cultural consciousness, and younger Americans have never even heard the word ‘divorcee.’

The freedom to walk away from an unhappy relationship led to a bit of a divorce binge in the 1970s and 80s, when more than half of all married couples were calling it quits. Those numbers have been steadily dropping ever since, with one notable exception. Divorce rates for people above the age of 50 have doubled in the last twenty years, leading commentators to coin the term ‘gray divorce.’

Why now?

Observers discussing this trend have offered several possible explanations as to why divorce has become so common. The fact that the children have moved out, that more women work and earn enough money to be self-sufficient, and that the emergence of the Internet gives people hope of being able to find another partner in the future are the favored answers.

Perhaps to better understand these reasons it would be wise to ask why these couples waited so long to leave unhappy or unfulfilling marriages. In the 1980s, when the last of these couples would have been beginning their marriages, we as a nation were still referring to the children of divorced couples as being from ‘broken homes.’ The feeling that we must ‘stay together for the kids’ was born out of this stigma, which has largely faded among most Americans.

Just a few decades ago, we as a culture were sure that a divorce was a scandal and a divorced woman in particular should be ashamed of herself. Research has shown that the majority of gray divorces are initiated by the woman, which would suggest that this manufactured shame has finally been put aside.

Although women still make only a fraction of men in the same field, their financial independence has become a more plausible reality than it was when these couples embarked on their marriages. For many women this has given them their ticket to leave a marriage that is unfulfilling or unhappy.

Unique challenges

Ending a marriage is always full of challenges, but those hurdles are different for people who divorce later in life. While there aren’t likely to be child support or custody issues, and step-parenthood is less of a concern with adult children, the emotional stresses of leaving a long-term partner are the same. Add to that the fear of being ‘single at this age,’ or being alone for the first time in many years and you have some very real sources of stress.

There are also financial concerns that are unique to gray divorces, largely because of the fact that there is less time to recover financially. This may be a part of why fewer retired people are getting divorced, since they’re already living on a fixed income and won’t have an opportunity to earn more for their future. Working with a qualified financial planner can help you to be more secure and make leaving your unfulfilling relationship easier.

The joy of independence

Still, being alone after many years of marriage is an opportunity to reintroduce yourself to yourself. Take some time to explore new hobbies or forgotten interests. During a lifetime as a spouse and/or parent, it is easy to let the demands of others crowd out your own needs. Remember some things that made you happy, or made you feel good when you had time to focus on your own needs. If you can’t live for yourself now, when will you? Take up a hobby, join a book club or other interest oriented group, or do some volunteer work. Getting out, meeting new people, and trying new things are some of the biggest perks of independence.

For anyone struggling with the natural emotional turbulence that drastic changes like divorce bring on, find an effective support system to help you work through those issues. There are many support groups in existence, some even geared toward specific age groups. These offer a place for people to talk openly about the challenges they face and the different ways they’ve successfully overcome them.

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