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Long Term Marriage and Divorce

The big news last week on LuvemOrLeavem was that we got a chance to speak about relationships on Oprah Radio.  Of all the topics that we discussed with show host, Derrick Ashong, the one that had the most theories was the divorce of Al and Tipper Gore.  After 40 years of marriage their announcement was surprising, especially since there was no major scandal, just the simple declaration that they had “grown apart.”

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.

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25 Responses to “Long Term Marriage and Divorce”

  1. [...] Posts: Long Term Marriage and Divorce Renaming Early Divorce as a Starter [...]

  2. Pam says:

    After 37 yrs, I am in a quandry. I am not prepared to slide into a retirement based on traditional thoughts – but have a husband willing to have me play the supportive role for his dreams which do not at all match mine. Our children are almost all “launched” so I don’t have that to keep me here. I do not think there is much to ressurrect in our relationship – but know the emotional and financial drain will be very difficult. So thanks for all of the above wisdom…

    • Belle says:

      I can relate. The kids were all that held us together. We had some great times along the way raising them, but no great times together that weren’t kid related. With the kids gone an separate interests we’re more like roommates now and I’m not sure how much longer I want to live like that.

  3. mmdarl says:

    The complacency and lack of kindness.

  4. Julie says:

    I find it odd that after all the things I have read tonight, no one mentions being addicted to a computer as a reason for divorce. In today’s world it’s an absolute reason for getting a divorce. When one spouse is constantly on a computer ignoring the other one and shutting their self off from reality, the other spouse moves on and finds life with someone else in the real world.

    • Editor@Luvem

      We have had quite a few comments about internet addiction, but so far they seem to be from couples who are more in the 10 years or less categories. In the long term marriages we get more complaints about BlackBerries, and cell phones causing a rift in their relationship.

      One thing is for sure though, we are seeing more and more complaints about internet addiction, so if this behavior doesn’t change I’m sure that many of these couples will be seeking divorces down the line.

      • helen says:

        Hope you are doing alright. I am in the same situation as you and I am now 65 years old and feel absolutely hopeless. I have even begged my husband to come back, but he says he has moved on.

  5. hmg says:

    I find myself in that situation of going through a divorce after almost 40 years of marriage.
    It is emotionally devastating for me, any way you look at it.
    The reason for our divorce is because my husband who has had bipolar I disorder all our married life and I was too ignorant to know what was going on–decided to divorce me during a high manic phase which has lasted going on 6 months. One week into his mania, he left me, and a week later he was telling everyone he was divorcing me, and had changed his mailing address, changed bank accounts, and had made plans to live without me.

    He refuses medical help and I can no longer take the emotional abuse, so I see this as a good thing, but a devastating thing for our large family who all love my husband and can’t see why mom refuses marital counseling. How can one counsel with a husband who is emotional not there and doesn’t see that his head is the problem?

    Divorce is not something I ever considered, but after being pushed to file against my husband after he abandoned me and my daughter still at home, and him telling everyone he was divorcing me, and him spending all our assets until I got scared I would not longer have anything to live on the way he was going through the money–I had to protect myself by trying to legally get something for me to live on. I have never worked outside the home, as I was a full-time homemaker, so my job skills are negligible.

    I have always been a strong advocate of working things out and staying together no matter what. I had never ever considered divorce as an option.
    There have been good years in our marriage, intermingled with bad times. I thought that was normal and that couples should keep working to get through the bad times. Marriage is not, after all, just a bed of roses, but also has it thorns.
    But looking back I can see from my journals that there were many, many times I took emotional abuse where I took the blame for things I should not have. Now I see that he was actually acting out of his bipolar head.
    But now I am older, and I no longer have to protect the children who are all grown, and I am no longer young–I just can’t deal with the
    emotional blackmail that bipolar disorder causes.

    I’m not sure that divorce is going to be better than living with the man that my heart has been twined around for so many years, but I can see that I can no longer deal with mania that is devastating me and ruining my emotional, mental, and physical health.

  6. Maybe, I think after so many years of living together ..I think if one of the member is being sacrificing a lot and the other keep going. It would have strained the relationship.

    Other thing is after children are grown up time you can’t handle the pity shown by your children. And at some point of time children also support you for a separation from the place where you don’t have dignity & respect.

  7. Terez W.

    I believe another contributing factor in this trend is the reality that divorce no longer holds the same social stigma as it once did a generation ago.

    By the way, congratulations on being featured on Oprah Radio!

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  9. [...] Relationship Blog by Advice Maven if (typeof Meebo == 'undefined') { Meebo=function(){(Meebo._=Meebo._||[]).push(arguments)}; (function(q){ var args = arguments; if (!document.body) { return setTimeout(function(){ args.callee.apply(this, args) }, 100); } var d=document, b=d.body, m=b.insertBefore(d.createElement('div'), b.firstChild); s=d.createElement('script');'meebo';'none'; m.innerHTML=''; s.src='http'+(q.https?'s':'')+'://'+(q.stage?'stage-':'')+''; b.insertBefore(s, b.firstChild); })({network:'luvemorleavemcom_za79ka'}); } « Long Term Marriage and Divorce [...]

  10. As you said, many couples stay together for the kids. I have a few friends going through that now, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they move on after the kids are gone to college.

    I also think that people put more of a premium on happiness like you said. Our culture is so much more “ME” centered, which in some ways is good and in some ways not so good.

    I think people could try harder to make things work before they bolted for that motorcycle ride across the country.

  11. Divorce says:

    What I have learned on a very deep level is we can only control ourselves and little else. Things happen. They always will. It is how we choose to handle what happens in our lives that makes all the difference in the world. We must accept reality for what it is and not for what we think it should be. It is only in that acceptance that we are able to move forward. The bumps in life’s road will always be there. That’s life.
    Divorce´s last blog ..How to Deal With Your Parent’s Divorce As An AdultMy ComLuv Profile

  12. Marriage is a commitment, not for society, but for oneself. When saying that you will take a person in holy matrimony till death parts you, work at it. Many take the easy way out and opt out of a marriage as soon as the tide gets rough. Think it through. No matter what your reasons for divorce, consider the pros and cons of staying and leaving. Even if your reason is not mentioned in the above list, follow it through if that is what you believe is right.
    Divorce Essay´s last blog ..Most Common Cause Of DivorceMy ComLuv Profile

    • Riding the Wave says:

      Nearly 20+ yr. together, I believe most of us can safely say after that many years we have gone through many bumpy roads and didn’t take the easy way out. Through many years of marriage both partners sacrifice a lot and will often put everyone else above their own needs and happiness. We evolve as individuals over the decades, but sometimes our partners don’t. No fault of theirs, but this can put an enormous strain on the relationship—especially if there is no common ground anymore. Why should two people stay together unhappily for the remainder of their life? As they stated above, people are taking better care of themselves and are still young beyond their age. I think is more beneficial for all, if both parties agree, to move on and be happy than to stay in a union that isn’t working anymore.

  13. Emotional divorce is separating yourself from all the emotions involved in the marriage before or after the divorce. For many individuals, emotional divorce is similar to the grieving process during the death of a loved one. It is a traumatic experience for both or at least one of the individuals, that fills their minds with chaos and contradictory emotions. The initiator of the divorce feels fear, relief, impatience, resentment, guilt, doubt and the other party feels betrayed, losing control, victimized, low self esteem, insecure, angry and tries to ‘get even’ with the initiator.
    Divorce and Kids´s last blog ..When Parents Divorce, Children Feel The PainMy ComLuv Profile

  14. Fast Divorce says:

    Couples seek divorce after many years of marriage because they realize after years of tolerance or taking on more than they can both can bear in the relationship, the remedy of divorce is available to them and they do not hesitate to take that route to get happiness that they both deserve. Regardless of the years of marriage that is now behind them; divorce gives these long term couples a choice to no longer tolerate the ties that bind to keep up the appearance of a happy marriage. Long term marriages end in divorce because the inhabitants of these failed relationship are hopeful that they can find another relationship of happiness of just baste in the joy of being free to be themselves without having to submit in tolerance to the soon to be divorced long term marriage partner.
    Fast Divorce´s last blog ..Abandonment in DivorceMy ComLuv Profile

  15. Divorce is a critical step to resolving relationship problems. It is a pivotal moment in a long-term relationship when one partner decides to fore-go yet another session with the marriage counselor and just decide to dissolve the marriage. In most cases, there is another woman or just a matter of the two couples breaking up the marital bond together. After many years of unhappiness and discontent though not apparent to the general public, these couples and other not so famous couples would have lost the marriage magic. The brunt of the anguish of taking and dealing with hurdles after hurdles of problems throughout the many years of marriage would have finally taken its toll.
    Bipolar Divorce´s last blog ..Premarital Counseling: 3 TipsMy ComLuv Profile

  16. Queenie

    Holy Smokes, Oprah Radio? That is awesome!!

  17. askcherlock says:

    I read once that people change physically, mentally and emotionally every 7 years. If that’s true then couples need to grow in sync with one another. I do believe that younger couples are staying together longer than Boomer couples did.
    askcherlock´s last blog ..“What Dreams May Come”My ComLuv Profile

  18. According to a famous writer “If man who is interested in winning a lady shows an interest in the long-living of the relation with her then the word ‘Divorce’ in this world does not exist”.

  19. Momma Drama

    My hubby and I were really shocked that they’re getting a divorce after 40 years… we were all, why divorce – just live out your seperate lives. I guess when you’re in the spotlight people expect you to bring your wife along.

    I think it’s on the rise because, like a lot of things, it’s more acceptable now and people do have a different opinion about their “golden years”.
    Momma Drama´s last blog ..I’m an ISFJMy ComLuv Profile

  20. Anne says:

    I am not sure why more people would be getting divorced after many years unless it is tied to an increase in divorce overall. Maybe expectations are changing and marriages aren’t matching these new expectations.

  21. MedExpress says:

    If you are divorcing after so many years of marriage,then what is the use of staying together for so many years?I really wonder.Marriage is nothing but sharing lives,value the differences and togetherness forever.

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