Gray Divorces: How to Start Over

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Louise Hay

Gray Divorces: How to Start Over

Many see it as a liberation. However, divorces between people over the age of 50 aren't always that good. Behind this rapidly expanding phenomenon, there are economic disputes and great emotional challenges.

Last update: June 15, 2022

The statistical data tells us that so-called gray divorces, ie between couples over 50 years of age, have increased in several countries. When facing the breakup of a relationship after 20, 30 or even 40 years, the challenges are innumerable.

Starting life after a "gray divorce" is not easy, so much so that many people feel lost. It is true that there are those who experience it as a new opportunity or a second youth.

Even as one a well-deserved opportunity for a happier and more refreshing existence, full of hopeful goals. It is equally true that nothing is as necessary as ending a relationship that, far from giving satisfaction, causes unhappiness and difficulties.

But everything gets complicated when two people have shared living spaces for decades, have built together a large family, emotional, material and even economic infrastructure.

Splitting that inheritance in two, like cutting a sheet of paper in half, isn't easy. Difficulties almost always arise in the distribution of goods, it is necessary to manage the mourning for the breakup and also redefine the very meaning of life.

Many people in their 50s and 60s don't know how to deal with the emotions of divorce and starting a new life on their own.

Gray divorces require the person to start over, but also integrate the whole life shared with the ex partner.

Gray divorces and strategies for starting over

Love sometimes goes out, breaks or wears out. Be that as it may, there are those who, instead of putting an end to the bond, extend it for decades. It is common among couples in their XNUMXs who have been raised in the idea that marriage is forever. And under these conditions, the only eternal feeling is suffering.

Fortunately, this perception has largely been overcome. Divorce is no longer seen as a stigma, but as a frequent and more than consolidated action in our society.

If we add to this the fact that an important part of women between the ages of 50 and 60 are economically independent, we understand better the reason for the increase in breakdowns in this segment of the population.

The real challenge is how to start life after gray divorces. This phenomenon does not depend on factors such as the empty nest, the midlife crisis or the proximity of retirement.On the contrary, these are people who no longer love their spouses and who want to start life again alone. Handling the following at that brave step isn't easy.

The need for support

Research published in The Journals of Gerontology points to two interesting aspects. The first is that the so-called revolution of gray divorces dates back to 1990. Since then, couples over 50 have registered a divorce rate of 1 in 4 couples. 

The second aspect is that we do not know exactly the elements that predict this phenomenon or the consequences. We know, however, that it is not an easy process and that by its characteristics it is very different from divorces at a younger age.

In these cases, therefore, the support of one's environment is indispensable. Having friends to talk to, a social group that acts as a daily ally is the secret to starting over after gray divorces. Likewise, it is good to receive the understanding and support of other family members.

Dealing with a gray divorce involves abandoning your ex's extended family relationship, mutual friendships, giving up certain dreams, and reformulating your entire legacy of shared memories and experiences.

Reformulating the history of life to orient it towards the future

The 55- or 60-year-old couple who decide to divorce may have lived together for 20, 30 or more years. It is true that each case is unique and that although there are relationships that have gone wrong from the start, others have declined in the latter stage. This implies in most cases having to reformulate life almost from scratch.

There are those who regret what they lived and the "why I didn't do it before". Others suffer from separation with a life partner whom they still love and who, due to various circumstances (betrayal, disagreements, etc.), are forced to leave. Finally, there will be those who run away from a long relationship made up of abuses and those who put an end to the relationship by mutual agreement because they no longer feel love.

In all these circumstances, the last thing we should do is try to erase history. The shared years exist and are part of our history. They are part of who we are.

You have to accept the past to focus on the future and this requires overcoming the mourning of the breakup. After that, new goals and purposes will be clarified.

The economic question, a source of anxiety

Starting life after gray divorces turns out to be dizzying in many cases. This is especially the case when one of the two was economically dependent on the other. This is the case of those women who have dedicated their lives to the care and attention of their children.

In other situations, the couple will have to face the division of a heritage in which problems and disputes are not always free. These are experiences that cause great anxiety and can, in some cases, create resentment among other family members.

Communication and empathy between parents and children is crucial to coping with the gray effects of divorce.

Consequences of gray divorces on adult children

Most parents between the ages of 55 and 60 believe their children will not feel the impact of divorce as adults. The truth, however, is that many adults face this situation in silence without accepting, understanding, and dealing with it. They experience contradiction, strangeness, disappointment and sadness.

Therefore, it is advisable to talk to adult children and explain to them that every emotion they experience is valid. The channels of communication must be opened and do not remain with the idea that, as adults, the new family reality does not affect them excessively. Because that's not the case.

Obviously, their permission will not be necessary to proceed with the separation. However, the mutual support between parents and children, as well as making use of an empathic and sincere dialogue, will serve as a buffer for a situation that is neither comfortable nor easy for anyone.

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