As regular readers of my blog know, I am going through a divorce whilst also re – adjusting to an empty nest as my youngest daughter has recently left for University in Manchester.
For the new generation of empty-nesters apparently divorce is increasingly common. Among people ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has doubled over the past two decades, according to new research by sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin of Bowling Green State University.
Click on the link to read the article in The Wall Street Journal
The trend defies any simple explanation, but it springs at least in part from baby boomers’ status as the first generation to enter into marriage with goals largely focused on self-fulfillment. As they look around their empty nests and toward decades more of healthy life, they are increasingly deciding that they’ve done their parental duty and now want out.
“Some of those marriages that in previous generations would have ended in death now end in divorce,” says Betsey Stevenson, assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies marriage and divorce. In the past, many people simply didn’t live long enough to reach the 40-year itch !”
I found this research fascinating but this is not the whole story, given that the bulk of the increase in late-in-life divorce has come among people ages 50-64. As a generation, baby boomers have changed the notions of marriage—and in the process, they have possibly sown the seeds of their own discontent.
Most sociologists argue that baby boomers entered marriage with expectations very different from those of previous generations. “In the 1970s, there was, for the first time, a focus on marriage needing to make individuals happy, rather than on how well each individual fulfilled their marital roles,” says Prof. Brown, author of the grey marriage paper.
According to Prof. Brown, over the past century there have been three “phases” of views of marriage.
Firstly, there was the “institutional” phase, in the decades before World War II, when marriage was seen largely as an economic union.
This was succeeded in the 1950s and ’60s by the “companionate” phase, in which a successful marriage was defined by the degree to which each spouse could fulfil his or her role. Husbands were measured by their prowess as providers and wives by their skills in homemaking and motherhood.
In the 1970s, the boomers initiated what Prof. Brown calls the “individualised” phase, with an emphasis on the satisfaction of personal needs. “Individualised marriage is more egocentric… Before the 1970s, no one would have thought to separate out the self as being distinct from the roles of good wife and mother.”
None of this is especially surprising for the “Me Generation,” but today’s grey divorces include a generational twist: For many baby boomers, it is not their first marital split. Fifty-three percent of the people over 50 now getting divorced have done so at least once before.
Hitting the empty-nest phase seems to trigger thoughts of mortality—and of vanishing possibilities for self-fulfilment.
“With the children out of the house, boomers in unhappy marriages often look at each other and think, ‘I may have another 25 to 35 years to live. Do I want to spend it with this person?’ ” says Deirdre Bair, author of the book, “Calling It Quits: Late-Life Divorce and Starting Over,” a chronicle of nearly 400 interviews with people splitting in midlife. “There is an overwhelming, urgent feeling among them of, ‘I have to strike out now, or I’ll never have the chance again,’ ” says Ms. Bair.
Many of those now opting for grey divorces, however, fail to foresee its complications in today’s bleak economic landscape. This is especially true of women.
I work with lots of women going through a divorce using my One Page Profile Process and it certainly is a process not an event in my own personal experience, but it’s vital for people to find emotional, financial, and legal advice despite the circumstances and to remember that the decisions you make today really do impact on your future.
If you’d like to find out more about my transformational and empowering One Page Profile Process call me on 01342 833355 or click here