Things to know before getting a late-life divorce
More couples today are considering divorce late in their relationship. In 1980 and 1990, couples who had been married for 20 years and longer made up 20 per cent of all divorces in Australia – but by 2017, this number had grown to 27.4 per cent.
Ending a marriage later in life is not an easy decision – but shifting views in society play an important part, according to psychotherapist Anne-Louise Lagudi.
“I think that there is an increase in older couples considering separation now due to the fact it is more socially acceptable,” Lagudi said.
“People are taking into account their personal growth, their individual goals and hopes for their future as they age. Sometimes these three factors don’t align with their relationship.”
Why grey divorce happens
As couples age, life transitions could add pressure to the relationship.
Lagudi said changes such as retirement and empty nest could leave a vacuum and prompt couples to take another look at what they want out of their marriage.
“Partners are forced to spend more time together, leading some to the realisation that they may have fewer things in common from what they once had, and want greater independence,” she said.
“Older couples often express ‘growing apart’ and suffer from the loss of feeling connected, both emotionally and physically.”
This loss of connection does not happen overnight, according to counsellor Paige Duddy. “Over the course of their marriage, partners may focus their attention on other areas of their life, such as work or children, and forget to nurture their romantic relationship,” Duddy said.
Dealing with prospects of parting
Some things can be taken into consideration before deciding to go through with a late-life divorce.
Couples can begin rebuilding their relationship by coming to terms with where they are in life.
“Sometimes ageing limits what time is left to feel like a worthy contributor to society,” Lagudi said. “So partners need to ideally think about what they want to be, and how they want to act when faced with the possibility of divorce.”
Staying engaged with friends and family can help people find their footing, Lagudi said, along with talking to a relationship counsellor.
If reconciliation is still on the table, paying attention to the small things may pave the way for a better relationship, Duddy said.
“Resentment can build when the small things you do go ignored, and so it is the small things you can do that will rebuild friendship and affection in your partnership,” Duddy said.
She recommended couples to carry out simple actions every day to turn negative sentiments for each other into positive ones.
“Expressing the things you like and admire in your partner or being aware of the things you do for one another day to day and openly acknowledging these … These simple yet effortful actions build on positive feelings in the relationship and remind you of the reasons you chose to come together.”