Move over, 7-year itch. Couples married for 20-plus years are now more likely to divorce than any other age group. According to a 2017 Pew Research study, the divorce rate among this demographic has doubled since the 1990s and is predicted to triple by 2030! Here are some reasons behind this growing divorce trend.
Emotional distance after kids leave
Some couples function extremely well as parents but neglect to nurture their own bond. Once children – the glue that held the marriage together – fly the coop, child-centered parents may look at each other and wonder: “who the heck are you and why and I am with you?” Often people spend years burying the pain of emotional disconnection with their spouse by deriving all their satisfaction from their bonds with their children. After decades of neglecting their primary relationship, there simply may be too much distance to rebuild and redirect.
Different goals for the future
Values and interests tend to evolve as people age and transition through developmental stages. One person may look forward to an empty nest when there’s more freedom to travel and embark on grown-up adventures. If one spouse feels adrift once children leave, or reacts to their golden years by slowing down when the other is full of energy and renewed purpose, the couple may not be able to align their visions for their final life stages.
Studies have shown that problems with physical intimacy account for a whopping 20% of divorces. The reasons for marital sexual dysfunction are many. Some midlife couples realize they were never sexually compatible to begin with. Some experienced a rich sex life in the early years, but other factors, such as aging, health problems, career and child-rearing pressures, leeched the eroticism out of the relationship. And individual responses to menopause and age-related ED may cause more drift. These issues often contribute to infidelity in the marriage, or simply cause one person to “close up shop” while the other feels sexually vital.
Personal growth differences
Yes, the “we’ve grown apart” divorce is really a thing! When people marry young, they may not have spent enough time determining their identity and core values. As they evolve through cycles of life, they realize they’ve spent decades sublimating their own desires and needs to avoid conflict. Or, one spouse will embark on a deeper, existential journey that their partner has no desire to join.
Attitudes about marriage are changing
Marrying for life is no longer seen as the pinnacle of successful adulthood – especially in more progressive areas of the country. Those who have adequate financial resources to flourish solo may feel more freedom to uncouple. With less societal pressure to stay together no matter what, “gray divorcees” have more “permission” to unshackle themselves from unhappy marriages and make the best of their golden years.
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