Article: I’m Leaving or Maybe Not; The Grey Divorce Question

By: Beverley Glazer

“Should I stay or should I go?” That’s the typical grey divorce question. Divorce in later years (grey or silver-hair divorce) has become common and it’s certainly not a stigma as it was in the past. In 2014, people age 50+ were twice as likely to go through a divorce than in 1990, (National Center for Family and Marriage Research, Bowling Green State University in Ohio). For those 65+, the rate was higher, but among the younger age groups the divorce rate fell.

The mid-life crisis usually appears with-in 15-20 years of the marriage. Typically, the kids are in their teens, and you begin to look at yourself and your partner and say, ‘is this all there is?’ For many, the transition is a period of adjustment and the couple gets through it, but we’re in better health than any generation before us, and we live longer. So many others also feel ‘what’s the point?’

Most of the marriages among older people aren’t terrible they’re just stale.

As a friend of mine, who’s now divorced said, ” The person I am, is not the person I was when I first got married. There’s still plenty of time to keep living my life. I’ve changed.” And she is not alone.

More than 60% of women are the ones who initiate the divorce after the age of 40.


But, leaving the marriage may not be a ‘bed of roses’. There are many factors to consider and to decide on when you’re thinking of the grey divorce question:

Women still earn less than men, so they receive smaller social security checks.

More women live below the poverty line then men.

Adult children and grandchildren may not be accepting and cause problems.

Older divorced people have 1/5 the wealth of older married couples.

Many studies have shown that conflict with ex-spouses continue, long after divorce.

Yet, many women will tell you, that being married was not the way they wanted to live, and that they felt better off after ending the marriage.

Getting a divorce is a huge life transition and should not be taken lightly, so before you throw it all away, here are a few questions to give you confidence and insight to help you answer the grey divorce question: Should I stay or should I go?


Test the relationship: You may have drifted apart, have little to talk about, or acquired different interests, or live separate lives. Tell your partner that you feel you no longer know who he is, and (although you may not want to at this point) spend more time together. Have a date night and do activities with each other for a minimum of a month and see if you can reconnect and generate a spark.

Arguments: Do the same quarrels repeat? Are they getting worse, or as much as you try to make things better, nothing works? Is he a spender, a gambler, an alcoholic? If he is, ask yourself how much you are willing to take? If the situation is chronic, it’s easier to answer the grey divorce question.

Reality: People change over time. You may be living in a fantasy. Ask yourself if you’re actually seeing the person realistically or if you have a glorified image. Remember, this is the person you married and he can’t be anyone but that.

Future: Ask yourself this “If you had a crystal ball, do you see a future with this person?” If you can’t, you may have your answer right there.

Commitment: Do either of you or both of you have one foot out the door? Have you communicated this to your partner? It’s time to do it, but I have to tell you sometimes this alone won’t work. Sometimes the other holds on. Here, you know the answer to the grey divorce question, but you may need professional help to help you move on with confidence and a minimal amount of guilt.

Friends: Confide in a very close friend and ask for advice. Sometimes a friend who knows both of you can give you a more balanced perspective.

A burden: If there are serious issues, such as substance abuse, infidelity, or other major problems, or if you’ve always been giving and fixing the other person’s problems and they’re not holding their weight, ask yourself if life would be easier if he wasn’t around.

Finally, if you’ve answered these questions, tried couples therapy and you’re still not sure, seek professional help for yourself. You will not only work through this life transition, but you will feel empowered and sure of your decision. You deserve to be happy! So whatever your choice of answer to the grey divorce question, own it! You’re happiness belongs to you!!

Have you gone through a divorce over 50? Are you happier for it? What other comments can you add?


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