Restarting Life After Divorce in the Elderly

8 mins read
Restarting Life After Divorce in the Elderly

Many see it as a salvation. However, divorces in people over 50 are not always very positive. In fact, hidden economic disputes and great emotional difficulties lie behind this explosive phenomenon.

Restarting Life After Divorce in the Elderly

Statistical data shows that divorce rates among the elderly and in couples over 50 are increasing all over the world. However, when one is faced with the end of a 20, 30 or even 40-year relationship, the challenges are numerous. They also vary from person to person.

Starting life after a ‘divorce in the elderly’ is not an easy task. In fact, many people feel completely lost. On the other hand, others see it as a new opportunity or a second chance. A well-deserved opportunity to shape a happier, more uplifting existence full of hopeful goals. Whatever the case, there is no denying that it is necessary to end any relationship that brings only unhappiness and trouble rather than satisfaction.

However, when two people have lived together for decades, they have often built a huge family, emotional, material and even economic infrastructure. Dividing this legacy in half is not easy, just like cutting a piece of paper in half. For example, difficulties almost always arise in dividing property. Moreover, couples find themselves having to mourn the separation and redefine the meaning of their lives.

Keys to restarting life after divorce in the elderly

In the case of divorce in the elderly, love is sometimes over, damaged or abused. But there are also those who, instead of ending their unhappy relationship, prolong it for decades. This is especially common in couples over the age of sixty, who have been taught that marriage should last forever. Needless to say, the only thing that will last forever under such circumstances is suffering.

Fortunately, this perception is outdated. Divorce is no longer seen as a stigma, but as a frequent and reinforced action in our society. Add to this the fact that many women between the ages of 50 and 60 are enjoying economic independence and their own careers, and it is easy to understand why separations in this segment of the population are on the rise.

The real challenge is how to start life after divorce in the elderly. Empty nest syndrome is not something that can be explained by a midlife crisis or impending retirement. These are people who no longer love their spouse/partner and want to start a new life alone. What comes after taking this brave step is not easy to manage.

Need for support from the environment

The research, published in The Journals of Gerontology, reveals two interesting aspects. First, the so-called divorce revolution among the elderly first announced its existence in 1990. Since then, separations in couples over 50 represent one in four divorces.

The second aspect is that we do not know for sure the predictors or the consequences of this phenomenon. What we do know is that it is not a simple process and that it is extremely different from divorce at a young age because of its peculiarities.

The key point in these cases is that the divorced spouse must have the support of his or her environment. In fact, having friends to talk to and a social group that acts as a daily ally is key to starting life after a divorce in the elderly. It is also important to have the understanding and support of other family members.

Reshaping life stories to guide them into the future

The 55 or 60-year-old couple who decide to divorce may have lived together for 20, 30 or more years. Naturally, each case is unique and while there may be some relationships that went wrong from the start, others may have experienced a decline much later. In many cases, it means reformulating life almost from scratch.

There are those who regret what they went through and ask themselves “Why didn’t I do it sooner?”. There are also those who go away still suffering because they had to separate from a partner they loved due to various circumstances (betrayals, disagreements, etc.). There will also be those who have escaped from long lasting abusive relationships and left relationships by mutual agreement when there was no love left.

In all these cases, the last thing they should do is try to erase their life with their partner. These shared decades are there and are part of their history. They form part of who they are. They need to accept the past in order to focus on the future. For this they need to mourn the separation. Then they can clarify new aspirations and goals.

Restarting Life After Divorce in the Elderly 1
Communication and empathy between parents and children are decisive in coping with the effects of divorce in the elderly.

Economic problems can cause anxiety

Starting life after divorce in the elderly is challenging in many cases. Moreover, when one of the partners is not contributing financially and depends on their spouse’s pension. After all, there are many women who dedicate their lives to raising their children.

In other cases, the couple is often faced with a property division that causes legal problems. These are experiences that cause a lot of anxiety and in some cases can create hostility between other family members.

The impact of divorce in the elderly on adult children

Most parents in their 50s and 60s assume that their children will not feel the impact of their divorce. “They have grown up”, “They have their own lives”, they say. However, many of these young people deal with the situation in silence, not really knowing how to accept, understand and face it. They experience strange and conflicting emotions, along with frustration and sadness.

Therefore, parents should talk to their adult children and explain to them that how they feel is completely understandable. They should keep the channels of communication open and understand that just because their children are grown up does not mean that the separation will not affect them too much. Life is not like that.

Obviously, they don’t need their children’s permission to separate and divorce. However, mutual support between parents and children, in addition to benefiting from empathetic and sincere dialog, will serve as a buffer for a situation that is never comfortable or easy for anyone.


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