Gray Divorce: Divorce in The Senior Years

Over the past few years there has been a sudden rise of older adults getting divorce. In fact, the issue is often called gray divorce. It is estimated that one in four individuals getting divorced …

Over the past few years there has been a sudden rise of older adults getting divorce. In fact, the issue is often called gray divorce. It is estimated that one in four individuals getting divorced are senior citizens. A study by the National Library of Medicine, found that people over 50 are more inclined to support the idea of divorce now than in the past. The study looked at the attitude of individuals from 1994 through 2012. As far as those younger than 50, the divorce rates are actually falling. More younger adults are staying together longer, or at least making an effort to maintain their marriage. There could be a variety of reasons why gray divorce is becoming popular now than 20, or even 30 or 40 years ago. Below are some of the most common reasons that seniors over 50 are choosing divorce. 

Most common Reasons for Gray Divorce

Everyone has opinion on why they decided to divorce their spouse, and some can be legible reasons to do so. Here are eight of the most common reasons people in their 50s or beyond decide to leave a partner or spouse.


It is no secret that when money becomes a constant issue on the table, it can ruin a marriage. Money problems can happen at any time during the marriage; whether you are just getting started in the relationship or when you have been with your partner for several years. When only one person is involved in the monthly budget, the pressure to stay out of the red is much more difficult. Financial mistakes can sometimes be overlooked or cause havoc on any possible investments that you and your spouse put in action. If you plan to invest in any financial opportunities that can potentially brings in profits, make sure both of you are on board. That way one cannot blame the other if it fails. Financial problems can also rise between spouses when only one works or is the main breadwinner. The person making more may feel entitled to make more important decisions when involving money or the estate. Losing a job also puts financial pressure on the marriage, which can easily lead to unhappiness and eventually divorce. On the other hand, research does show that a marriage can grow stronger when a husband’s income increases. If a wife starts to earn about the same or more than her husband, the marriage tends to fail.


Cheating on a spouse has been around for centuries. In fact, it could be either the husband or the wife that have committed the adulterous act. Let’s face it, everyone has sexual needs to be fulfilled, and it can happen at any age throughout their marriage. For those who feel unsatisfied in the marriage, it is not hard to look elsewhere. However, cheating does not usually happen overnight. It is often built up over time. It may start as a quick glance at a more attractive person that is not your spouse. Many older adults that find themselves cheating once, tries to convince  themselves it is just a one-time thing. And for some, it may be. But unfortunately that is not always the case. In some cases, cheating is often just a symptom that something else might be wrong within the marriage. Also, there are those who believe that cheating is the “real reason” that they couple has broken up, even when it is not the case. Infidelity is not always the problem with older adults choosing gray divorce over staying together. Addictions can also cause a couple to seek divorce over sticking it out for the long haul. 


Stress of life’s problems can cause a person to turn to addictions, which inevitably can also destroy a marriage, even one that seems strong on the outside. There are many types of addictions that can cause a couple to lose faith in each other and divert to divorce. Especially one that could have been struggling already. Examples of addictions are drugs, alcohol, gambling, and even pornography. People that escape to these types of addictions can find it hard to crawl out of them without the support of a dedicated spouse and therapist. Sometimes, a spouse that has seen an addict over and over struggle for years with their addiction, may find it is time to call it quits. Addictions can also have financial repercussions, causing a couple to go bankrupt, in some cases.  Abuse can sometimes play a major role in those fighting addictions, which makes the choice to get divorce more likely to happen. If you or someone you know has an addiction problem, there are many recovery resources that are available. The American Addiction Center is one of these.

Empty Nest Syndrome

When the kids are young, there is so much action; PTA meetings, in-town/out-of-town games to attend, and possibly team tournaments. Whether you go alone or together, you are constantly busy. And for the most part, it’s all about the kids. But once the kids are all grown and out of the house, it’s just you and your spouse/partner. Things start to slow down and you realize there is now only one person to connect with on a daily basis. You now have an empty house, and many seniors fall into what is called the Empty-Nest Syndrome. The empty-nest syndrome is a home where seniors are either living alone or at least do not have the constant flow of children (including adult children) running through the house and keeping you on your toes. It can sometimes just affect one spouse in the relationship; however, it can also affect both parents. Your “buffers” are not present and the idea of getting involved in community events are not as appealing sometimes. Some may experience loss, grief, and find it difficult to adjust to new roles; from mother/child to grandparent/senior. For some, they may feel that they lost connection with the co-parent in the home. Instead of four or five around the dining table, it is now just the two of you. It is at this time when some seniors consider divorce.


Similar to the empty-nest syndrome, once a person or couples retires, things start to change within the marriage. Yes, it’s true that some couples may find retirement a chance to enlighten their relationship once the kids are gone; however, the opposite often happens as well. One spouse may feel that as a couple they are no longer compatible with each other, or they feel they don’t really know their spouse anymore. The fire has died out and either one, or both decide to move on. Some transition out of the relationship without too much problems. Unfortunately, for some, the idea of divorce can get messy, and possibly violent. Depression often affects the spouse that wants to work it out; however, it could also occur in the one that is making the decision to leave as well. Whichever is the reason for your choice to divorce while before or after retirement, make sure you both are happy with the decision.

Autonomy among women

It is no secret that being confident in your abilities can help anyone go far when it comes to careers. For women, it can bring on a new perspective for life’s challenges and successes, especially if they feel stuck in a relationship that has kept them from being their own person. Sometimes, a lousy or insignificant marriage can cause a woman to feel unwanted and so they seek to fulfill their passion of life by divorcing from the void that has pulled them down. This could be one of the main reason that the number of gray divorces are rising. 

Falling out of love and/or Falling in love with someone else

The longer you are with someone, the more you may find some differences you each have. Couples when they first get married are usually very much in love. It’s true that sometimes opposites attract; however, couples that stay married for over 20 or more years have learned to live or manage the differences that each bring into the marriage. Although, people do change as they get older, and in some cases, the things that may be minor when you first got married start to bother one person or both of you in the mix of things. Sometimes it starts out slowly. Or it could be just a bunch of small things, that when combined together, can damper or even kill a marriage. For whatever reason the marriage is suffering, chances are one or maybe both spouses haven’t been happy for quite some time.

One may also look for another for companionship, like someone else to talk to. Most of the time it just starts as a good friendship. Maybe even someone to talk about more intimate things. You may find that your interests match theirs, and want to spend more time with each other than staying home with your partner. The more you talk to this new person in your life, things can start to blossom and you can find yourself in love with them, instead of your own spouse.

Strengthening Romantic Relationships

Remember Why You Fell in Love With Your spouse in the first place

Sometimes it is hard to find something new about your spouse after being with them for a long time. Focusing on negative aspects or disappointment in your spouse can destroy a relationship fast. Remembering the qualities that attracted you to them can help rekindle the relationship and find excitement that may have been extinguished.

Communication is the Key

It is easy to lose your temper and say something that can be offensive to the other person. It is also easy to blame the other person when things don’t work out. Communicating how you feel is should be a priority. Try to avoid negative language. Be positive and uplifting when speaking to your spouse. Couples should also give undivided attention to your spouse. Sometimes, certain partner’s don’t know how truly the other feels about them. Sharing with them on how much they mean to you can help boost their self-image and self-esteem.  

Enjoy spending time together

Find new ways to enjoy each other’s company and places to go. Keep your relationship active and relevant. If you feel that you go to the same old hangouts, try a place where both of you haven’t been yet. Gather with other couples and have a game night. This gives you both a good opportunity to communicate with others about what’s going on in your life. It can also give you a chance to work as a team against the other couple. Senior couples should also avoid seeing the same couples they always are with when they go out. Even though, you and your spouse may love to go to the movies with your best friends, it is also good to hang out with other couples too. This can help keep your own relationship from getting stuck in a rut. Other fun things to do is taking a class together; whether it is yoga or a dance class. When you are home, cozy up near the fireplace together or on the loveseat while drinking a cup of coffee or tea. 

Support each other’s Independence

Although you are considered “one unity” when you are married, everyone has their own personal interests and needs, separate from their significant other. Providing support to each other by learning what each person likes to do and what bothers them can help you grow closer as a couple. Some senior couples spend too much time together. Just walk into a Walmart on a Sunday afternoon and you will see couples food shopping together. However, it is sometimes the wife doing all the shopping while the husband is sitting on a bench, and holding her purse. This is not to say that couples should not shop together, but if only one is actually shopping and the other seems bored, then why bother doing it “together”?  Couples should understand their partner’s goals and accept that you have differences. 

Independence is not necessarily a bad thing. However, when one of you crave more independence than the other, the marriage may not survive. Afterall, most couples get married to be with that one person that they love, the one that truly gets them, and the one who accepts them, even with their faults. So, being too independent may strain the marriage. Remember, no one is perfect. But that doesn’t mean you should just give up when things get difficult. Though, on the contrary, some people may be better off never getting married.