Statistics show that most divorces happen within the first ten years of marriage, so we often have the impression that long term marriages are “divorce proof.” Even though divorce after 40 years of marriage is a rare occurrence statistically, recent trends suggest that the number of couples getting divorced after 20, 30 and even 40 years of marriage is on the rise.
There isn’t anywhere near the amount of data for long term marriages that end in divorce as there is for couples who divorce in the early years of marriage. However, there is some data emerging based on interviews with couples divorcing after more than 25 years of marriage. Here are three of the major findings that are emerging from this research to help explain why the number of couples who are divorcing after more than 25 years of marriage is steadily increasing.
Staying Together for the Children - It is certainly not a new concept to avoid divorce for the sake of a couple’s children, but it does present a difficult situation once these children are grown. Marriage researchers report that even couples who claim to have been happy throughout their marriage need to put forth extra effort to rediscover each other once their children grow up and leave home. For those couples who were merely hanging in there for the children, divorce is usually the next step rather than embarking on this path of rediscovery.
Redefining the Golden Years - It used to be that when people were in their late 50’s and early 60’s they were expected to start planning for a relaxing retirement. These days, people in this age group are more active than ever. Some have no plans to retire, some are embarking on second careers, while others enjoy hobbies like riding motorcycles or rock climbing that they would have been considered “too old to do” a generation ago.
Changing Expectations of Marriage - Going hand in hand with our redefining of these so called golden years, are the personal expectations that people have regarding their relationships and their happiness. Love and intimacy are now viewed as crucial aspects of a marriage at any stage of life, not just in the younger years. Those that no longer find their marriages providing the happiness that they have come to expect, are more likely to leave a marriage than couples in the past who did not have these same expectations.
So at this point, the research is still coming in as to why couples are getting divorced later in life than they ever have in the past. Some people have merely chalked up the increase in these divorces to increasing life spans, but there seems to be a lot more at work than that. The findings listed here were based on studies conducted on hundreds of couples divorcing after many years. As these numbers increase and more couples are interviewed, there will be more information to shed some light on this growing trend of divorcing after many years of marriage.
What do you think about couples divorcing after so many years of marriage? What are your theories on why this trend is on the rise? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.