Monday, March 5, 2012

Divorce In Old Age—Getting More and More Common

Divorce in America spiked in incidence in the 1980’s and has been decreasing since then. However, the story is different for old people—their divorce rate is increasing. In 1990, only one in 10 who got divorced was 50 or older, but by 2009, the number was roughly one in four.

Infidelity is stated as the cause of 27% of divorces in the elderly; and that is the same as for all divorces in general. Women are the ones in marriages seeking the split—they file for divorce 66% of the time.

One must wonder—what could be the reason for these elderly people seeking divorce? To answer this question, it is useful to look at the reason they got married in the first place. Before World War II, I am told that people got married primarily for “economic” reasons. My own parents married in 1934; and they told me that was the reason they married. I am not sure what “economic” reasons are; but I assume that they thought they could cope better money-wise if they divided the work of raising a family and supporting themselves. In the decades of the 50’s and 60’s, sociologists say that spouses married for reasons defined by the degree to which each spouse could fulfill his or her role. Husbands were measured by their prowess as providers and wives by their skills in homemaking and motherhood. Whatever the reasons for these older marriages, the partners respected one another and did their best to help and support one another in the partnership. These marriages held tightly together for the most part.

After 1970, however, I believe that people got married for different reasons. These marriage partners were baby boomers who set much higher expectations on self-actualization. They saw marriage as a way to develop their personal skills and professional advancement in various ways. Their emphases were not on building up one another—they sought to advance themselves! This was the “Me Generation.” That idea has finally come home to roost. Marriages built on a desire to advance oneself will not last—stable marriages will only be established by people bent on helping the other member of the arrangement.

If you are interested in following this idea further, I would suggest that you look at

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