A new U.S. study shows that one in four divorces occurred among people age 50 and above – that’s a 200% spike in splits in the same age group in 1990.
But why do couples break up after so much time together? And how can you prevent this from happening in your marriage?
There are five big reasons why couples divorce after decades of marriage:
1. They Grow Apart
The process that leads to grey divorce isn’t typically a sudden event or trigger, says Stan Tatkin, author of Wired For Love. “It’s like an unbreakable plate you drop repeatedly,” he says. “The relationship develops micro-cracks inside the structure you can’t see. Then it finally reaches a critical mass and shatters.”
An undercurrent of dissatisfaction can happen for a number of reasons, but several dominant themes crop up regularly, says Stan. “Often one person – usually the woman – feels she’s given up too much.”
2. They’re Bored
Steve Siebold, a psychological performance and mental toughness coach and author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class, cites boredom as a factor. “Being around the same person 24/7, depending on the relationship, can lead to boredom,” he says. In other cases, people stop trying. “You work hard, play hard and take care of business, but you’ve stopped being the attentive, attractive spouse. You’ve allowed yourself to become complacent.”
3. Their Money Issues
Differences in spending habits and financial difficulties may finally come to a head cause a break-up. One spouse may be a big spender while the other likes to save, Steve Siebold says.
4. Their Age
Other times age is a factor. A big age difference that was not an issue at the beginning of a relationship may become a problem later in life. Or people may hit middle-age and crave a reboot. Stan Tatkin says that people go through physiological and biological “brain upgrades” at certain times in their lives, including at age 15 and again at 40. “Every time you experience one you want to go back [in time],” he says.
Sexual incompatibility can become more pronounced, says Jessica O’Reilly, author of The New Sex Bible and Astroglide’s resident sexologist. “Hormonal changes that arise with age can cause significant shifts in sex drive. And though every couple of every age experiences differentials in desire, these can become more pronounced with age.”
Steps to take to prevent divorce:
1. Take Care of Yourself
Gaining weight, not exercising and dressing slovenly sends a message to your spouse that you don’t care anymore, says Steve Siebold. “Try cutting the carbs, trimming the fat and heading to the gym,” he advises.
2. Put the Relationship First
You should be about protecting each other in harsh environments and have each other’s back, says Stan Tatkin. “You must become experts for each other and protect each other in private and public — and never threaten the relationship.”
3. Assess Your Role in the Problem
Before you give up on your marriage, look in the mirror, adds Steve. “If there’s a boring person staring back at you, you may be the problem.”
4. Talk About Sex
Couples who talk about their sexual expectations, changing needs and vulnerabilities can manage their differences, Jessica O’Reilly says. “Communication is essential.
5. Talk About Everything Else, Too
Lastly, Stan Tatkin says you both need to tell each other everything. That’s the only way to work out your problems.