The rising phenomenon of the ‘Silver Splitters’: getting divorced in middle age

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hand removing wedding ring

Britain has seen a steady decline in divorce rates, but curiously, a rise in couples getting divorced in later life. Today men and women in their 50s and 60s are walking out on marriages and there seems to be a few reasons for that.

This is not to say that all couples who had previously stayed together were blissfully happy or that there is something wrong with this generation, merely to point out that if you are unwillingly married, more and more people are looking for ways out of the “Til death us do part”

1. Forever ever? Forever ever?!
The truth is that we’re living longer and old age isn’t inevitable at 50 as it once was. 50, 60-year-olds aren’t just sitting on rocking chairs looking after their grand-babies any more. If you’re eating healthily, keeping in good shape, and still have a mind sharpened by work or a vocation, suddenly the idea of another 30 years with this person (which can easily happen in this day and age), is no longer as acceptable as it used to be and is actually very depressing.

Ellen Ector, 63 y/o mother, grandmother, and fitness expert
Ellen Ector, 63 y/o mother, grandmother, and fitness expert

2. Financial freedom
You’ve worked all your adult life, your pension is attractive, the mortgage is paid off, the kids are grown and are paying their own way in the world. All of this equates to options, choices, and decisions that were previously deemed impossible.

3. We. Want. More.
Time was we didn’t want much. Grow up, make some babies, watch our babies making babies, invest in some nice cardigans, and then wait for death. Today, 60-year-olds are taking up new hobbies; indeed, new careers. They are embarking on new love affairs. They’re writing that book they always said they would write, climbing that mountain they always said they would. Parting from anything that brings pain and misery can also be seen as part of making life-affirming decisions.

A new love affair in your 50s? Why not if not?
A new love affair in your 50s? Why not if not?

4. Reduced stigma
No matter how you look at it, divorce is simply not the scandal it once was. You can leave a previous marriage and remarry without being excommunicated from your community regardless of age, creed, colour or religious affiliation. More mature individuals who understand that life is indeed truly short may wonder as to why they need to stay married when the only person they’re hurting is themselves?

5. Healthcare commitment
It sounds terrible, but sometimes a wide age gap might put some strain on the marriage and spur a decision to leave. Let’s say there’s a 15 year age-gap between the couple. 35 to 50 is cute and understandable. When you’re 65 and your partner is 80, however, it may seem like you will spend the rest of your life being a sole carer. If this comes on top of a loveless marriage, a way out might look very tempting indeed.

middle aged couple having a disagreement

All this freedom isn’t free of its own problems, however. Certainly older people coming out of a long-term marriage feel a lot of guilt. Guilt that they couldn’t hang in there, that they couldn’t make it work, that they couldn’t fulfil the “for better or for worse, until death do us part” aspect of their marriage.

Older divorcees also tend to deal with a lot more confusion and hurt from family. Children, peers and extended family have all accepted them as an unshakeable unit; one doesn’t exist without the other. So when you willingly break that illusion, it leaves the nearest and dearest questioning everything they previously took for granted. this can lead to a lot of bitterness and hurt, sometimes with lifelong consequences.

Whatever the case, happiness is a very important thing. Certainly worth trying for, worth fighting for.

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