We now have an expectation of living for much longer than our parent's generation and could easily be with our partner for upwards of sixty years. This is a long time to be sharing a home and a life.
The age group experiencing the greatest increases in divorces is the over sixties. In 1997 there were 9,050 divorces which rose to 13,680 in 2007. That's a rise of over 50%. What's going on, why is it going on and does it matter?
What's going on?
After 30 or even 40 years of marriage an increasing number of people are calling time on a relationship which has lasted for more than half their life. The prospect of living out the teatime of their lives alone or with a new partner is clearly more attractive than working to resuscitate an unsatisfactory marriage. The challenge of a new life after divorce beckons.
Women initiate 70% of divorces and are more often seeking independence whereas men are more likely to leave the marriage for another woman. Does this suggest that women are inherently more self sufficient than men especially when half the family assets can provide an acceptable standard of living in their life after divorce.
Why is this happening?
Those who are now in their sixties were born just after the end of the Second World War and are known as the ‘baby boomer generation.' These were the people who were responsible for the greatest social change of the last two centuries.
Sexual freedom, recreational drugs and brightly coloured clothes were just the tip of that particular cultural iceberg. Staying together just for the sake of doing what was expected was never part of the culture that sort to create a revolution and then rebuild society from the ground up.
The ethos of these revolutionary times is now working through to the late middle age life styles of the baby boomers. The children have left home and retirement makes the relationship a 24/7 project without the respite that used to be provided by time at the workplace. The benefits of marriage (building a life together, a career and creating a family) that were so attractive at the age of 25 have lost their relevance.
Does it matter?
Well, yes it does. The effect of a divorce after a long marriage will almost by definition impact upon an even larger number of people than a divorce after a short marriage. Despite the fact that the children are grown up and moved away they will still be devastated. The grandchildren will probably be unable to understand how these important people in their lives are no longer together. This can easily lead to them becoming fearful of their parents divorcing just like granny and grandpa. A nightmare for a child with a vivid imagination.
However, if the marriage is broken and can't be fixed then the best advice is to get a good solicitor and divorce kindly, gently and quickly.