5 Reasons People Get Divorced When They're Older & Nobody Is Expecting It

Sometimes we just find ourselves reflecting back on better days.

woman going through Gray Divorce fizkes/Shutterstock

What is a "Gray Divorce?" These are later-in-life divorces that involve spouses, aged 50 years old and above, many of whom are members of the generation of Baby Boomers. 

Divorce is difficult at any age. But, getting divorced later in life can bring with it a unique set of challenges and emotions.

Deciding to end your marriage can be one of the most painful and difficult experiences in your life, resulting in grief, depression, isolation, anger, loneliness, confusion, and possibly some physical symptoms.


These emotions may be even more pronounced among older individuals, who may have been married half of their life or longer.

RELATED: 6 Tips On Talking To Your Adult Kids About Your 'Gray' Divorce

So why, after everything you’ve been through — joining your lives, bonding your families, raising children, celebrating milestones and holidays, joys and sorrows — would you divorce at 50?

Is there really nothing keeping you together?

There are 5 common reasons why Gray Divorce happens to older couples.

1. You're experiencing Empty Nest Syndrome.

For two decades or more, you've been focused on raising kids. Your lives were a flurry of activity: school, sports, recitals, and a widening of your own social circle.


Then, one day, the last child leaves and you're both finding it hard to fill the void or to discover any common ground.

2. You're going through retirement.

Similar to the Empty Nest Syndrome, retirement is a huge life transition that's often accompanied by an identity crisis.

Many people define themselves by their career, and when that's gone, they feel lost and rudderless.

Spouses may also define retirement differently. One may want to sit on the couch, while the other wants to travel the world.

3. There's sexual incompatibility.

Differing sex drives can lead to frustration and, possibly, infidelity. One spouse may look outside the marriage for someone else to fill that void and make them feel young and desirable again.


Unfortunately, these days it is easy to rekindle old flames online or find new ones.

RELATED: I'm Happily Married, But Divorce Is Always On My Mind

4. You are both financially secure and self-sufficient.

Many women are financially independent today, more so than in decades past. They are likely to have successful careers and generate a decent income.

Not having to rely on a spouse for keeping a roof over their head is liberating in the face of a failed marriage. The desperation to stay for sheer survival is not an issue for them.

5. You now have adult children.

Divorce is more complicated when you're in the midst of raising kids, in both an emotional and a practical sense. Sharing custody and all the related chaos and stress can be so overwhelming.


The decision to divorce at this stage can also include judgment and disapproval from parents. As a result, many couples choose to tough it out until the kids are grown and on their own.

Each marriage is unique and each divorce is, too.

In my practice as a psychotherapist, I've met so many clients in the 50-year age bracket who are considering ending their long-term marriage.

One or both partners feels that the marriage is a lost cause. It has flat-lined. The spark is gone and, often, there's barely a friendship remaining.

Some spouses even feel like they're living with a complete stranger. So, as painful as it is to split, they feel that it's better than the alternative: staying in a loveless marriage.


Couples can’t always articulate exactly when or why the bottom fell out. But, after digging deeper, they often discover that gradual erosion of the marriage has occurred over the years or even decades, rather than a single event.

If this sounds familiar, you may find yourself reflecting back on better days. When you took your vows, divorce was the last thing on your mind.

Decades were stretched out in front of you, full of possibilities — growing together, making a home, building a family, and supporting each other’s goals and dreams.


It's hard, if not impossible, to anticipate the challenges ahead and the transitions you'll go through as individuals and as a couple.

Divorce is a monumental decision that can affect not only the couple but their loved ones as well.

While some marriages may be unhealthy and irreconcilable, others may stand the chance to survive and thrive.

If that's the case for you, please consider talking to a therapist or seeking out a support group.

Starting over after divorce at 50 may not be easy but help is available and you don’t have to navigate this difficult road alone!

RELATED: How To Tell If Your Marriage Is Worth Saving — Once And For All

Babita Spinelli is a psychotherapist and CEO of Opening the Doors Psychotherapy and Embrace Coaching. To learn more about how she can help you accomplish your goals, visit her website.