“Gray” Divorce

Baby Boomers are divorcing at an alarming rate. Called “Gray Divorce,” this phenomenon will have huge implications for many issues, including retirement, parenting and grandparenting, and long-term care issues.

It’s one reasons why couples therapy is so important.

From 1990 to 2010, the number of couples securing a divorce over 50 doubled. Living and perhaps dying alone is looking good to a generation that has had the longest life expectancy in history.

Sadness, loneliness & quarreling elevate distance in long-term relationships.  This can be resolved.

But what about retirement savings in divorce?

Worked hard for years to save together?  Now that pile of money (if there is one)…the cash that was going to provide a retirement income for both of you, will now be divided in half. Gray divorce has not only emotional consequences but economic ones as well.  It often delays retirement.  It may even be economically devastating.

“If you have a financial plan for your marriage,” says Clinical Intern, Daniel Dashnaw, “you must also have an emotional plan…with someone you love. Think of it as “money in the bank” emotionally. Gottman calls that an “Emotional Bank Account.”  Spouses who learn to be supportive can get you through the tough times of declining health, cognitive impairment, and quality-of-aging issues. If you’ve not learned how to live together, time is literally running out. The hard facts are that the cost of retirement for two people is between 30 and 50% more than for a combined retirement portfolio.  No investment experts figure “divorce” into that retirement equation.”

GDP Sucks Out Your Wealth

Post-divorce, Boomers will vacation separately; drive not one, but two cars, and drive twice as many miles to visit the grandkids. A generation noted for their spending habits, Boomer, through the increase in divorce may be boosting our GDP (“Gross Domestic Product”) till the end.  And getting sick alone, when there is no one there to care for you, is awfully expensive as well.

Nevertheless, the statistics say that while divorce, in general, has gone down in the last three decades, Boomer divorces are on the rise.

“Gray divorce reflects a dynamic sea change in Boomer marriages,” says Dashnaw, “Add longer life-expectancy to a generation known for its individualism and we have a robust new trend. Unfortunately, Gray Divorce might create a new normal. But evidence-based couples therapy can help many couples recover from resentments and icy distance. Staying together, happily, in post-retirement, makes good sense all around…”

There are larger cultural concerns as well. The Federal government Community Survey of 2009 took a hard look at the demographics of divorce and found that in divorce cases of couples over 50 was the greatest among Black couples, then Hispanics, and white couples had the lowest rate. Couples that divorced after the age of 50 were also less educated overall than couples that stayed together.

What is the State of Your Union?

A “State of the Union” Couples Therapy Assessment we offer, can help highlight the resilience of your marriage in your 50’s. It can point out how to improve your relationship and keep you mindfully of the challenges of aging together. The “Big Big Book” encourages you to review the arc of your life, think deeply about your relationships, and develop the courage to mend old wounds. Your willingness to reach for a happier, more connected relationship is the key ingredient.

If he could say anything to boomers contemplating divorce, what would Daniel tell them?

I know what you’re thinking. You have very high expectations about what makes a good marriage, and what fulfills you in general. When you reach a crossroad with your partner at retirement age, you could be looking at several decades more with this same partner.  Should you tough it out?  Growing older together?  You might be asking yourself:  ‘Is my partner really going to be there for me?  Am I going to enjoy living with when I’m less able and in greater need?'”

Revitalizing a long-term marriage takes courage and commitment.

If you’re not quite sure of the answer, this might actually signal that you need a marital check up.

Participate in a “State of the Union.”  It’s a wise choice before you decide to leave.
Learn more by contacting Daniel at 844- 9 – COUPLE  x 2

That’s 844 – 926-8753 extension 2 or email us here.

About the Author Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. using EFT, Gottman Method, and the Developmental Model.

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