There is a somewhat unspoken theory that if your marriage lasts 20 or 30 years, you’ve made it and that your marriage is safe from divorce. Unfortunately, the statistics say that isn’t so.
An article yesterday in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, called “A Growing Number of Baby Boomers Face the Challenges of Divorce“, experts advise that more people over the age of fifty are getting divorced than they ever have before.
According to a study by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, the divorce rate for baby boomers has more than doubled over the past three decades. More than one in four people who divorce today are older than 50.”
What does this mean for those who have been married for decades and are experiencing trouble?
Well, one of the most important things is that it’s essential to treat your marriage just as carefully as you would if you had only been married for a few years.
As our marriages pass the ten, twenty or thirty year mark, we tend to take for granted that they are permanent and that we can slack off a bit on marriage maintenance. But these statistics show that this just isn’t true. There is no line that you cross that means you’re good to go for the rest of your lives and that you are safe from divorce.
When problems arise, talk them out together as early as possible and in the most constructive way possible. If you have old resentments and lingering bitterness or hurt, bring them out into the open, talk about ways to change any continuing behavior that caused them and then find ways to move on.
The other important thing to note from the article is that the stakes are high in a mid-life divorce.
Elizabeth Cooper, a Knoxville family mediator, said baby boomers who divorce face a much different grieving process and often more serious financial issues than younger couples.
She lists as examples retirement accounts, life savings and even health insurance, which older singles, especially those no longer working, may have trouble replacing on their own.
In other words, divorce when you’re young and childless may be equally painful, but less complicated than divorce when you’re fifty.
If you’ve been skating through your marriage, being less attentive to and proactive about problems, you need to seriously consider the ramifications of divorce, beyond simply having to adjust to being alone.
While having some years in your marriage doesn’t mean you’re home free, it also doesn’t mean that it’s too late to take some real notice of your marriage and start working towards a relationship that you want to spend the rest of your life in.