Five or six decades ago, a marriage was seen as a means to an end, a way to fulfill traditional roles. If a husband and wife performed those roles well, the marriage was considered to be a success. But then the 1970s hit, bringing with it a shift toward more personal fulfillment and happiness in life and marriage. As a result, the divorce rate began to rise as both men and women realized that they wanted more out of life than their current marriage could provide.
Although the divorce rate has stabilized in recent years, there is one interesting trend that has surprised some family law attorneys and analysts: the increase in divorce filings made by people in their 50s, 60s and beyond. Studies show that the divorce rate for people over the age of 50 has doubled in the last 20 years, and sociologists expect the trend to continue in the coming years.
There are many reasons for the increase in ‘gray divorce.’ First, people are healthier, living longer, and looking and feeling younger. As a result, the shift to an ’empty nest’ household no longer means that they are nearing the end of their lives. On the contrary, after the last child leaves home, spouses are looking around and realizing that they do not want to spend the next 20 or years with this person, in this marriage.
In addition, the increase may also be attributed to a shift in social norms. Women are increasingly financially independent, and divorce on the whole is more socially accepted, giving spouses of both genders the freedom to leave an unhappy marriage.