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Statistics show us that the gray divorce rate is actually rising among people over the age of fifty.  Couples that are heading into retirement age (referred to as the gray divorce age) are now throwing in the towel and calling it quits on their long term marriages.  Children of gray divorce age parents have grown and moved out of the family home leaving mom and dad to face their golden years alone.  Often the children and their activities have been the glue that have held the family together.  Now mom and dad may suddenly find they have nothing left in common.  Worst of all they have grown apart and are no longer the same people that spoke those wedding vows that promised to love until death do us part.

People grow up and they change.  Over time there beliefs, goals, and personalities change.  It can be extremely frightening to wake up next to someone you know longer recognize.  It is even scarier to think of spending the rest of your life in a loveless relationship. Therefore more people are deciding they would be better off living alone then be in a relationship with someone who makes them feel alone.

None the less the gray divorce is something that should be thoroughly thought through and should not be rushed into. Divorce is difficult and it is very stressful under the best of circumstances.  Having gone through a gray divorce myself at the age of fifty five I am all too familiar with the pros and cons one may experience when divorce happens later in life.

The heart break and pain of divorce can be excruciating.  Especially when there is infidelity and betrayal involved.  It can feel like someone has reaped your heart right out of your chest.  There is just this raw empty pain that’s hard to explain unless you have experienced it first-hand.

You will mourn the loss of life time hopes, dreams, and goals.  You may go through anxiety, depression, stress, and your overall health may suffer.

It takes a lot of self-work and time to heal.  Healing can take years and some people may never get over the hurt, pain, and be able to forgive their spouses.

Your relationship with family and friends may change.  Birthdays, holidays, celebrations and things you use to do together will be no longer.  You will be left with only the pictures and the memories.

Adult children may have strong emotions and reactions to mom and dad splitting up.  They may feel shocked and confused.  Adult children may also feel guilt or anger if they feel the parents stayed together all those years for their benefit.

You may need to return to college, work or start a new career.  Returning to college or starting a new career after the age of fifty can be very challenging.

Loneliness can set in and you may be thrown into the world of internet dating.  Where all the other lonely singles hang out that are looking for connection and intimacy!

The biggest concern with the gray divorce however seems to be the financial impact that divorce has on couples over the age of fifty.  Because finances must be split up and divided between the spouses this can put them at a disadvantage for a secure retirement.

Women are often left financially worse off after gray divorce then when they were in the marriage. Therefore they may have to reduce the standard of living they were accustomed to.  Men are often the bread winners and often higher income earners and may be in a better position to recover from financial losses.

In some cases however if assets are split in half the couple may both be at financial risk of poverty upon retirement. Instead of supporting one household there are now two households to support with the same amount of income.

After age fifty pensions and Social Security become a bigger portion of the divorce process. The division of how IRA and 401K assets will be distributed needs to be carefully considered for tax purposes. Then there is also the decision whether spousal support or alimony will be awarded.

Even though there are many negatives to consider to the gray divorce there are also many positives.

Personally speaking I have experienced a deep sense of peace, joy, and happiness within myself.  That comes from the freedom to make my own choices and decisions.  After being married for many years I was free to finally be me and explore whatever I wanted.  For myself it was like getting a fresh start at life again at age fifty five.  A chance to reinvent myself with the career I had always wanted.

Studies show that social activities may also pick up.  It can be a chance to reconnect with old friends, make new friends, and try new hobbies.

You will be happier than if you would have stayed in an unhappy marriage.  Possibly you and your ex may actually become friends or at least treat each other with some respect.

You may take better care of yourself and get a gym membership.  Lose weight and get in shape.  After all you want to look good before you put yourself out in the dating field.

For many people divorce is a chance at a brand new relationship.  There is the hope that they will find that deep soulmate connection with someone that will really appreciate and accept them for who they are and vice versus.

Data also supports that true intimacy gets better with age.  Perhaps with age comes wisdom.  Maybe we are simply able to receive the lessons from our previous partners as the wedding gifts they were meant to be.

Leslie Welch, CDC, LOA

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