It used to be that if you made it through the first 20 or 30 years of your marriage, you and your spouse stuck it out to the end no matter how much you soured toward each other or grew apart. Divorcing over 50 was a major personal and financial upheaval that didn't seem worth the trouble once you and your other unhappily married friends really started to think about it.
But women in particular are bucking that trend these days by asking for a divorce at an unprecedented rate: One in every four divorces is now a baby boomer couple, up from one in 10 in 1990. According to an AARP survey, 66 percent of these divorces are instigated by women.
Often called "gray divorces," these late-middle-age breakups may be increasing because of changes in family dynamics. Female baby boomers are the first generation to be financially independent, unlike their predecessors who relied solely on their husband's income. For the first time in history, women can leave their marriages without worrying about supporting themselves because they've been earning their own paychecks.
Then there's personal independence. After decades of nurturing and cleaning up after a husband and children, many women are ready to live by and for themselves. They're looking for fulfillment after not finding it in their marriages anymore.
People are also living longer, which means that after the kids move out, there's still plenty of time for a fresh start on life. Neither spouse feels as compelled to endure an unhappy marriage with so many active years left ahead. For women in particular, their 50s are a time of rejuvenation. "Women are much more active as they get older, where men really slow down. All they want is the computer and TV," says one psychologist.
Once they strike out on their own, late-in-life divorcees often find they have more confidence and independence than they've experienced in ages. Many find themselves having a lot more fun. It's a consequence their parents' generation -- and even their younger selves -- might never have predicted.
Source: Palm Beach Post, "After age 50, women are divorcing at double the rate of 20 years ago," Barbara Marshall, Feb. 7, 2012