Tag Archives: baby boomers

Reasons for Boomer Divorce Spike, and How to Prevent Late-Life Divorces

This is part 2 of summarizing Wall Street Journal’s research on why we are currently seeing a spike in late-life divorces (and adding my two cents of course). I am interested in hearing your ideas and reaction as well. For background, read part 1—Is Divorce Booming for Boomers?

In addition to some of the risk factors discussed in the above post, professor and sociologist Susan Brown, the author of The Gray Divorce Revolution, says boomers had different marriage expectations than previous generations. The 70s began a period during which, for the first time, marriage was about “needing to make individuals happy,” explains Brown. Previous generations viewed marriage as an economic union, and then in the 1950s and 1960s as a companionate marriage, which was defined by how each spouse fulfilled his or her role. Individualized marriage became more about using marriage to meet personal needs.

For me, that sets up a red flag, because marriage isn’t intended to “make people happy” or to help them “meet their needs.” Individuals are responsible for their personal and spiritual journey towards joy. We can make that journey with our loved ones, but our loved ones can’t bring happiness to us or force us down a particular path. In addition, we’ve chatted here numerous times about how a spouse cannot be responsible for meeting all of our needs. Having that expectation is rather a recipe for disaster, in my humble opinion. (Read Don’t Expect Your Spouse to Meet All Your  Needs.)

Baby boomers were also focused on achieving self-fulfillment, rather than role fulfillment. “For boomers who have had trouble maintaining commitments in the past, hitting the empty nest phase seems to trigger thoughts of mortality—and of vanishing possibility for self-fulfillment,” according to the WSJ’s Susan Gregory Thomas.

They see their last phase of life as an opportunity to achieve self-fulfillment, but often don’t consider the disastrous economic financial implications (which hit women harder) and the consequences of child custody (which impact men harder).  In other words, they don’t anticipate a change in lifestyle or the loss of their children.

So, how do you avoid getting to this point? Marriage advice from The Gottman Institute is similar for this generation as for younger couples. Spouses need to actively respond to each other’s bids for reconnection and avoid criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. (Read that sentence again, please.) Turn toward one another, even if you’re busy. Make your spouse a priority. Don’t start over with someone new; start over with your spouse and bring your relationship to a higher level. Instead of looking to someone else to meet your needs, figure out what makes you excited and pursue that. Then share your excitement and positivity with your spouse.

I can empathize that adults in their 50s and 60s are looking at what kind of legacy they may be leaving this world. But honestly, what better legacy could there be than adding to the love in the world, leaving an unfractured family filled with love for you and for one another?  

Lori Lowe’s book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.  Lori and her husband of 16 years live in Indianapolis with their two children.

Photo by Photostock courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net.

Is Divorce Rate Booming for Boomers?

While overall U.S. divorce rates have declined in recent years, the divorce rates have spiked for baby boomers who are in the 50 to 60 age group. The Wall Street Journal calls this trend “gray divorce” and recently analyzed some of the factors contributing to the trend. (Read “The Gray Divorcés” for full details.)

Late in life divorces used to be unusual, but are now more common. In 1990, only one in ten people who got divorced were 50 or older. By 2009, the number was about one in four. More than 600,000 people aged 50 and older got divorced in 1009, according to the WSJ. Divorces in middle age can be financially devastating, says the paper, and those who remarry have to address issues over estates, inheritances, and children from previous marriages.

The WSJ reported on some of the risk factors behind these gray divorces, and says one of the best explanations for the rise in divorce rates for this age group is that more of them have already been divorced once. “Second and subsequent marriages have a 150 percent greater chance of ending in divorce than do first marriages.”

Another risk factor is a more recent marriage. Nearly half of divorced individuals were married fewer than 20 years, while three-fifths of those married more than 30 years stayed together.

Race also impacted boomer divorce rates, with blacks being 75 percent more likely to divorce after age 50, and Hispanics being 21 percent more likely than whites.

Those with a college education had a 17 percent lower probability of divorce than those with only a high school diploma.

In an AARP study asking older individuals about their reasons for divorce, 29 percent cited marital infidelity as a cause, which is similar to the rate in other age groups. Women also initiated 66 percent of the divorces, which is also similar to other age groups.

There have not been comprehensive national studies about other reasons for late divorces. “If there’s a silver lining to the rise in gray divorces, it’s that the rate may fall for subsequent generations,” says the WSJ article. The reason is that with divorce rates declining for those in their 20s, 30s or 40s, the biggest risk factor for divorce (a previous divorce) will be lessened. In addition, the newspaper cited GenXers as having “relatively stable marriages so far” and states they could stay married longer than generations before them.

Next time, I’ll follow up with a final post on this gray divorce trend, including what boomers’ focus on self-fulfillment–as opposed to previous generations’ focus on role fulfillment—may have to do with the increase in the divorce rate.

What do you think are the biggest reasons for the boomers’ booming divorce rate?

Lori Lowe’s book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.  Lori and her husband of 16 years live in Indianapolis with their two children.

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Check out this thought-provoking post from Corey Allan, PhD, called “Marriage is Easy.” He says, “If you want your marriage to keep getting better over time and lighten your load rather than add to your burden, you must take responsibility for both how you behave and for what behaviors you accept from your spouse.” Yes, I agree. Working through this kind of conflict may help you get to a better place.

Photo by Photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.