Gray Divorce: What Is It and What Causes It?

Gray divorce, or “silver splitting,” refers to a growing demographic trend where couples 50 years of age or older who have been married a long time are filing for divorce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, adults ages 55 to 64 are seeing the highest number of divorces among married adults over the age of 20. 

What causes gray divorce?

While many personal reasons can contribute to any divorce, the reasons many people choose to part ways in their 50s and beyond are becoming clearer. As gray divorce rates continue to rise, below are some of the most commonly cited reasons people are getting divorced at older ages: 

1. Empty Nest Syndrome

After a couple becomes empty nesters and realizes that raising children was the only thing keeping them together, they may choose to pursue a divorce. It’s not uncommon for couples who have been married for 20, 25, or even 30 years to realize they are no longer the people they were when they first married. 

2. Changing Stigmas

Baby boomers realize the stigmas surrounding divorce that made their parents stay together in unhappy marriages no longer exist. Divorce is so prevalent, so there is no reason to stick it out if the marriage isn’t bringing joy. 

3. Increased Life Expectancy

Couples are finding themselves in their 50s and 60s with 20 or even 30 more years left to live. An increased life expectancy gives them hope for the future and might make them realize they want to start living life on their terms. This hope for the future can often lead to a divide in their relationship, and pursuing happiness wins out over staying in a long-term marriage for convenience. 

4. Financial Differences

Money-related issues are one of the leading causes of divorce for any age group. But especially for seniors nearing retirement, it’s not uncommon for couples to struggle to agree on budgets, investments, or how to spend their money. 

5. Lack of Intimacy

After 25 years of marriage, many older couples settle into a routine. Doing the same things day in and day out can be draining. And frequently, this predictability leads to a lack of physical and emotional intimacy. If either spouse feels trapped or unseen in the marriage, it might make them consider the idea of a gray divorce. 

How is Gray Divorce Different Than Divorce at a Younger Age? 

Gray divorces can be more complex than divorces involving younger couples for various reasons. Many older couples have been together for decades, complicating the division of finances and property. Some unique financial concerns couples in a gray divorce face include: 

  • Division of pension plans or retirement accounts
  • Loss of health insurance through a spouse’s employer
  • Alimony payments, especially in retirement
  • Community residency issues 

Moving On With Life After a Gray Divorce 

For many couples, divorce might be the right option due to differences that they can’t work out. After so many years together, it can be difficult to think about the idea of starting over, but it offers an opportunity to explore what makes you happy. Moving forward with life after divorce gives you a chance to try new things, make new friends, and form relationships, and provides you time to prioritize your mental and physical health. If a fresh start is what you need after going through a gray divorce, Upside can help. Learn how our team can help you start over in a perfectly curated apartment almost anywhere in the U.S. Talk with an Upside team member today to learn more.

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