Drama in Divorce Over Fifty

Run for the Drama-Free Zone

I am seeing more and more couples with long term marriages calling it “quits.” More often, one of the partners just suddenly walks out the door much to the surprise and shock of the other. Many clients are calling me because their long term marriages are ending, some in a traumatic way.

The scenario plays out like a script from a dramatic movie: spouse has just “flipped a switch” and moved out. There is no explanation other then, “I’m leaving.” As a trend, I see divorces from scenarios among older individuals like this surging. That’s saying something. Rather than working things out, people are walking out. Rarely, little is offered as an explanation to the shocked spouse left behind.

The reasons for the sudden and drastic change vary from individual to individual but there are a few repeating core issues I’ve noticed that are central to a decision to leave a long term relationship. One, they are approaching a significant birthday, a milestone age. This is usually a few years after 50 and a few years approaching 60. “Boomers.” I see this in a lot of people not only facing old age, but facing the very idea of being “old.” Two, they feel they have compromised their life away. They feel they made unwillingly, too many decisions to satisfy others and ignored themselves far too much. Three, they feel this may be the last time they can really have what they want in life, all “wants” centered around love, happiness and fun. They are also determined to get it anew rather than fix or repair anything they currently have.

Social trends are making this drastic move easier, as well: there are more older people in the population, greater social acceptance of divorce, rising female equality and financial independence, and baby boomers’ convictions that it is proper to pursue more satisfying lives even if it means leaving a long term partner. With baby boomers reaching a certain age and the kids being out of the house, it is a seed planted decades ago in self-centered thinking that has bloomed and come into many of our lives.

Marriage breakups are also difficult but when a long time spouse just up and leaves it is traumatic and shocking. If there are no reasons, discussions or communication it can be even more unsettling. It can feel as if you have suddenly found yourself in the middle of a swirling pool being pulled under against your will. What can you do if your spouse suddenly up and leaves? There are many things, but first and foremost, focus on YOU.

1. Take care of yourself. You are, in a lot of ways, in shock. Pain, anxiety, a sense of panic and betrayal and stress can overwhelm even the hardiest of people so focusing on yourself, what you need to survive day-by-day and what you have to do is number one. Focusing on them, what they are doing, where they are going will only add to your anxiety and pain. Focus on yourself. Stay centered, even if it’s in small packets of time. When you do this daily you can think more clearly, too. This calls for extra steps of care and kindness towards yourself and be extra diligence in keeping your mind occupied, positive and centered.

2. It is NOT you. More than likely they are and have been going through issues and not sharing them with you. This is their bad, not yours. There’s nothing about you that has caused this. You are not being punished. You are not being singled out. Remove the judgement about yourself in this. Also realize everything changes. Life is dynamic. Life changes. This situation could change again just as fast as it began. We may hate it, but it does.

3. Get help. Talk to friends. Talk with trusted advisers. Make sure you have expert advice from someone who has your best interests in mind and can be logical where you’re emotional. If it leads to divorce, get expert attorneys and financial experts on your side. Many times there are substantial assets involved with people in their 60’s and you want to make sure you are taken care of fairly.

Most of all, when a long term marriage ends, understand it is a new beginning for you as you move into a new phase of your life. You can also choose to make it fabulous for yourself as well as miserable. Make the best choice for yourself you can!

4 thoughts on “Drama in Divorce Over Fifty

  1. Mary Redden

    Thank you for your article which i found positive. I am 60 and found myself in this situation 3 years ago. My husband betrayed me after 31 years of marriage. we were having difficulties over something he had done which he would not take responsibility for and for which i had cut myself off in ways from him. So rather than try and fix our marriage i feel he took the easy option and found someone else to start off with again. I became a shell of the person i had been because i was broken into pieces. it has been a long hard road in recovering but i am getting there. I am past the huge hurting and in the angry mode with him at the moment. I have gotten counciling and sought any other help i thought might work because i am determined to come back an even stronger woman. Family and friends have been so supportive to me through all of this. I have not hidden anything i was feeling and shared it with the people i trust and i think that was an important part in my recovery. If anyone else is reading this and going through the dark tunnel at the moment i would just like to say……you will see the light at the end of the tunnel and as your coming out of the tunnel the light is even brighter than it was before all of this happpened. Mary

  2. marc from the uk

    Message to Barbara ” Embrace change, be thankfull to the universe for the positives that your marriage brought, yes you hurt, and yes you have a lot to think through BUT it was never always like this, and you both enjoyed many times and moments that can never be cashed in! thank the universe for that , I have journeyed this and it was worth it, I hope this makes sense. Mark.

    teri b

    I relate to you and have been through something lik this, and low and behold the universe answered my thoughts and delivered. My wonderful wife met some one else with my blessing and I moved on, it can and will happen, which freed me up to BE ME !!! Good luck you can get there. Mark

  3. Barbara

    Your writing is so MY life now! I would have thought I told you my story and you printed it. We are 57 yrs old. after 33 years of a wonderful marriage (in my eyes), my husband announced he wanted a divorce! There is another woman……get this!!!! she is the same age, divorced her husband of 33 years because mine makes more money! Anyway, we have been filling the attorneys pockets, this has been going on for almost 3 years. I have been an at home wife/mom, and am now trying to get an up dated education and find a job. My life has been full of confusion, heartbreak and questions. NO matter what, I have always had God at my side and I will come out fine. Thanks for writing, Barb

  4. teri b

    What if you’ve talked with your spouse about you feelings and thoughts and he won’t hear you? I am made to feel guilty and responsible for his happiness. Well I’m done. I got married 17 years ago because we had a daughter and I did it for others not myself. I’ve never been in love with my husband and I resent him for pressuring me to marry him. I do realize my part in all this. I actually don’t hate him and at times enjoy his company. I want him to find someone that will make him happy and that will love him like he deserves. I’m not leaving yet, but it’s inevitable. Thanks for letting me put my thoughts down.


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