5 reasons for the surge in baby boomer divorce

John and Melinda were in their early 50s with two teenage children, aged 13 and 16. The couple appeared to be content
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John and Melinda were in their early 50s with two teenage children, aged 13 and 16. The couple appeared to be content with their lives. The reality was that they were slowly drifting apart though they were not consciously aware of it.

John was into golf and he also loved to surf. Being a company executive, he enjoyed flexibility in his work hours and could pursue his sporting passions. Melinda, on the other hand, had been an athletic person in her earlier years, but now she focused mainly on her children’s schooling and activities.

One day, John announced he was leaving – he had found another woman, Sharon, with whom he had been having an affair for five months. Melinda was devastated by the news. Sharon was a member of the same golf club as John and was into sports herself, so she and John shared common interests. Once John connected to Sharon, it didn’t take him long to appreciate that they had shared common values along with sexual attraction.

This story is not unusual. While the overall divorce rate has declined the past two decades, for the over 50s it has almost doubled these last 25 years. Women are driving most of the increase in divorce rates. The result is often emotional and financial distress.

Many divorced senior women have either lost faith in ever having another relationship or, alternatively, feel desperate to find another man. Men are more likely to find a new partner more quickly than women. It’s culturally acceptable for an older man to be with a younger woman, but not for an older woman to be with a younger man. That broadens the base of potential partners for older men whose wives have died or divorced them, but the base is not correspondingly widened for older women.

There are several reasons for the surge in divorce:

  1. Mismatched values

During the early and middle years of marriage, people get caught up in the day-to-day chores of married life: work, finances and raising kids. When the children grow up, each partner may suddenly realise that they have nothing in common. They have slowly drifted apart and realise that their values are entirely different.

Everyone has their own unique set of values and when couples initially get together, they may find that they have enough shared values to make the relationship compatible. Our values do, however, change over time. Unless we seriously identify the change in our values and those of our partner, it can spell trouble for a marriage. We need to find a way of linking them, once the children have grown up,

  1. Communication confusion

In its simplest form, communication is a two-way transmission, with a sender who broadcasts a message and a receiver who responds to it.

But we have many filters that we use to alter the messages and also to change what we allow to come through to us as receivers. These filters are the result of our life experiences. They are influenced by our gender and our personal and cultural experiences. To an observer, a couple may look like they’re conversing in two entirely different languages, neither of which the other understands. What is intended by the sender is often not what is understood by the receiver. Understandably, this causes a great deal of frustration and distress.

In many relationships once the children have left the nest and the man and wife actually have to speak to each other. This may have been absent for many years. Conflict may arise when the focus is on each other. Messages get mixed or are not heard.

An important tool to use is called Active Listening whereby the listener repeats back to the speaker what he or she thought they heard. The speaker can then acknowledge it or correct any misinterpretation.

  1. Sexual incompatibility

A satisfying sexual relationship with a partner is like icing on the cake. It adds zest and excitement, and can provide the adhesive that binds a couple. In a Sunday Telegraph Stella Magazine survey, it was found that 29 per cent of retirees had sex more than 11 times per month, compared with 24 per cent of people with full-time jobs.

As we age, however, sexually frequency does tend to decline for most people, more so for men. For women, it is more variable. It may be due to illness or hormonal changes such as a decline in testosterone in men and menopausal changes in women. Men who feel that there are no longer virile and suffering impotence issues may resort to Viagra and for validation may resort to an affair. For a woman, if her sexual needs are not met and the man is disinterested and refuses to do anything about it, the result is that she may seek out a sexual partner elsewhere.

Sexual incompatibility can be a real problem but if the love, respect, and trust in the relationship are sound, then professional help in the area of sexuality can be a great help.

  1. Discounting

When we discount someone we are putting them down. We are indicating that they are not important. In other words, we are minimizing them. Typically, one or other of the partners are in “bully mode”. While this is more prevalent with man discounting their wives, women can also engage in this action. The individual who is discounted is often “walking on eggshells”.

In this sort of a relationship, one is playing a persecutor role while the other is a victim. It is not a recipe for a happy and loving relationship. For relationships to function successfully it is important that both parties are on an equal footing as to their position in marriage. We all bring different skills and talents to a relationship. When we respect one another, we share in those skills and bring a synergy to the relationship.

  1. Boredom

Let’s face it; anything over time can become mundane and stale if we let it. We often hear of women complaining that since their husbands are retired, they don’t want to do much and just sit around, either watching television or feeling sorry for themselves.

Many aspects of a relationship can be boring. It could be the sex, socialising, lack of passion and emotional connection, or just doing the same thing every day.

This often results in either partner engaging in an affair which spices up their life. Or, they indicate that they are no longer in love with that person and may leave the marriage. The reality is that they have often been disengaged emotionally for some time from their partner. The relationship may have been in its death throes for some years.

If any of these five issues is going on in a relationship, it is imperative to seek out professional help, sooner rather than later.

Share your thoughts about divorce below.

  1. Can’t live on a couple pension. Get divorced. Two single pensions and you pay one rent. An extra $120 rent assistance

    • We have been married 38 years and 28 of those have been on a married pension. We have bought our own home and raised three kids so don’t see why anyone cant manage on a married pension.

      • Christine Holt, I just struggle to believe that, I do not believe that is possible, not without all kinds of other hidden financial assistance.

    • And we complain about the so called Dole Bludgers, looks like the oldies are at it as well.

    • And we complain about the so called Dole Bludgers, looks like the oldies are at it as well.

      • I think Lynn and Anne, that you will find that Gwenda’s comment is “tongue in cheek”, however, it does illustrate a system which seems to be hell bent on destroying marriage generally. In this case, people who are living together are treated as a couple, not as individuals, with their own separate individual needs.Say one is working and the other is on the pension and an opportunity arises, for the working one to work longer hours, and thus make some extra money, then the one on the pension has their pension reduced, by half the other’s increased earnings.

    • You’d better hope that someone from Centrelink doesn’t read your post Gwenda Darling. It’s called fraud!

    • Susanne Ruedin. I didn’t say I approve of it. I am not doing it. Not that it’s any of your business but I live alone in a one bedroom villa. However, it was a tongue in cheek remark about the disparity between single and married pension. I don’t care if someone from Centrelink reads my remark. Many people do this though

  2. #1a. No shared Vision. Means two separate lives and no future. That is the Coup De Grace.

  3. This sounds like my next door neighbour. She was focused on her daughter and two grand-daughters and spending her husband’s hard earned money. He, on the other hand, decided to take a job offer which meant he would be away for 2 years on excellent money. Not sure whether he was having an affair but he certainly left his wife and married another woman.

      • Yes, Victoria, it generally is, joint monies, however, it shouldn’t be compulsorily so. I’m sure the younger generation wouldn’t be too receptive toward sacrificing their individuality, and isn’t it a shame to have to work longer hours, or move out to where the work is at such a late time in life, especially for such a blighted return. Still I guess that’s the fact of life today.

    • Yes, money is joint. He went away so that they could have a nice retirement nest egg and this lady spent it on massive renovations costing a fortune. Not that the house wasn’t lovely as it was. She used him. He was nothing more than a baby provider and whatever else she needed. She drove him away.

    • Yes, money is joint. He went away so that they could have a nice retirement nest egg and this lady spent it on massive renovations costing a fortune. Not that the house wasn’t lovely as it was. She used him. He was nothing more than a baby provider and whatever else she needed. She drove him away.

    • Maureen Toy I saw a lot that went on from the inside, and it does take two to make a marriage and two to break a marriage. I think they both did things wrong.

    • Victoria Alexandra D’Arienzo I guess if you are not happy in a marriage, then there becomes 3 sides to a story.

  4. i think you get to a point where you know what you DONT want and make plans to not be any where you dont want to be, and as an adult’s we can make that happen. i learnt that in my 30’s… either be happy or not!

  5. I can see why this does happen to a lot of the older people who have been together for such a long time.❗️

    • I think some stay together because the alternative is to hard who to tell the kids and friends so stay together unhappy, I had friends who did that, but finally split and there was hell to pay, adult children became kids, were pretty nasty. Sad

  6. The article totally ignored the fact that divorce is easier to obtain these days with no fault required by either party. There isn’t the same pressure to stick with it and try to make it work as in our parents’ days.

  7. Because the support is there now, and the stigma isn’t. Women, like myself, have simply said “enough about you, let’s live my life for me”. Then tere is the flip sign, men wanting a newer model, or saying “enough about you, let me live my life for a change”. The upside is, the spouse can change with you, or leave. Everything seems to boil down to two choices.

  8. Because the support is there now, and the stigma isn’t. Women, like myself, have simply said “enough about you, let’s live my life for me”. Then tere is the flip sign, men wanting a newer model, or saying “enough about you, let me live my life for a change”. The upside is, the spouse can change with you, or leave. Everything seems to boil down to two choices.

    • Debbie Bingham  

      My parents were deeply in love for the 60 yrs they were married. Their “secret”? The other one comes first…enough said.

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