Ending a marriage is a difficult time for anyone. It is a decision made after weeks or months of hard conversations and accepting that things have changed. But coming to that conclusion after decades of marriage can be even more life-changing.
If you have been married to someone for 30 or 40 years, it can take a lot to decide to end it.
While it seems unlikely that a couple would come to that point so late in life, divorces at 60 and over are more common today than ever. They are called gray divorces.
How can you survive the changes that come when facing a gray divorce?
Why Are Gray Divorces More Common?
In 2021, the US Census Department reported that nearly 35% of Americans who divorced the previous year were over 55.
These are people of the baby boomer generation, and more than ever, they are choosing to go into their golden years alone.
There are several reasons why one, or both, members of the relationship may seek to end it.
1. Age-Related Issues
Many people go through all kinds of crises before beginning the final third of their lives. They might have age-related issues that people usually don’t discuss.
They may have realized they married young and spent much of their life working and raising children.
The prospect of living the rest of their life experiencing new things can be attractive and cause them to want a change.
2. Declining Health
If one member of a marriage begins to experience a change in their health, it can cause the other to seek a way out.
While they are aware they may be looked upon poorly for leaving a relationship for those reasons, they do not want to become a caretaker.
The urge to leave may have been there for years, but they may see an illness as a reason to get out sooner rather than later.
3. Duties Have Been Met
People stay married even when they are unhappy because of an obligation to their children.
They may have come from broken homes themselves and do not want to do that to their families.
Once their children have all grown and left the nest, they can feel free to explore the idea of a new life.
4. Growing Apart
People have different things they want to focus on as they get older. Some retire from their careers and are content to work around the home and have a quiet life.
Others want to travel and have some excitement. If both of those personalities are in the same relationship, it can cause them to grow further apart until a divorce is the only option.
How To Survive a Gray Divorce
There are many emotions involved in a divorce at the age of 60. Whether you are the one who left, or if you had the news dropped on you, there can be a lot of sadness, anger, and regret.
Many people lose friends and family who choose to take sides in the divorce. That can leave you feeling unloved and alone. You wonder if any of the relationships you had in your life were ever real if they could all end so quickly.
A change in your life this significant can lead to a lot of bitterness, resentment, and depression. If you let it, the sadness can take over, and you could prevent yourself from moving on.
It is possible to emerge from a gray divorce stronger than ever. But it requires work and a conscious effort to survive.
1. Occupy Your Time
Sitting around your house looking at old pictures and watching home movies may seem right at the time. It does no good to anyone, especially you and your mental well-being.
To get through the pain, you have to get up and get out of the house.
Find a support group in your area made of others going through the same thing. Take a class on something you have always wanted to learn. Volunteer for a local charity that you are passionate about.
Do anything to keep from sitting and feeling sorry for yourself.
2. Take Care of Your Finances
Many divorces come from arguments about money. That is not always the case with gray divorces, but there may be a significant amount of assets involved in your case.
Do not let your former spouse take advantage of you just because your depression makes you not care what happens.
If you are 60 years old, there is no reason not to believe you may live another 40 years.
You do not want to lose everything you have worked for in your life because your divorce took the fight out of you. Be sure you see a lawyer about your rights when dividing your assets.
3. Reach Out
Children have a hard time processing their parents’ divorce. It is true for our adult children as well. They may feel like their whole world has changed and everything they knew is gone.
Be sure they know their feelings are valid, and encourage them to talk about anything they are thinking. Do not let the divorce cause your relationship with them to fall apart as well.
Some of your friends may have picked sides when the divorce happened. Many of them will not feel comfortable talking to you about things if they have been talking to your spouse as well. They do not want to be in the middle of your issues.
You should still feel free to reach out to them and find out where you stand. No matter what direction they choose, they should make it clear to you.
It is the only way for you to find out who you can count on as you move forward with your life.
The Bottom Line
Getting a divorce at 60 feels like a life-ending situation that you may never recover from. But with the help of good lawyers, caring for your mental health, and the love and support of your friends and family it does not have to be.
Many people are divorcing at 60 and moving on to fulfilling and active lives. That can be you if you decide to work for it.