The divorce rate in America has finally seemed to level off. We’ve been holding at 50% for a while now. However, over the past 5-10 years I’ve noticed something that seems odd.
It seems like there are a LOT more people getting divorced around 50 years old. I wondered if it might just be the small pocket of the world I live in or maybe it’s just something that stick out to me. So, I did a bit of research on the web to see if what I was noticing was true.
And I found this –
According to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research, the divorce rate among adults ages 50 and older doubled between 1990 and 2010. Roughly 1 in 4 divorces in 2010 occurred to persons ages 50 and older.
Ho. Lee. Cow.
That is just mind boggling to me. You’ve put in all of the work, you’ve got the hard stuff behind you. Why quit now!?
Each time I’ve heard about someone in their early 50’s getting a divorce, I’ve asked that question – why quit now? It took a while, but I finally found an answer. I don’t have statistics to validate my answer, but I think it makes sense.
The reason people divorce in their early 50’s is because they didn’t work on their marriage. They just drifted along. Let me explain.
Stages of Marriage
So far, in my experience, marriage is made up of stages. Let’s call the first stage euphoria. Right after we are married, everything is new and exciting. We have the wedding. We go on a honeymoon. We buy a new house or get an apartment together. Typically, we’re young and full of energy. It’s just the two of us and we can do just about anything we want. Everything is new, fun, and exciting.
That first stage lasts right up until the first baby is born. The pregnancy and birth of the baby go into the first stage because it’s still new and exciting. But we soon fall into the second stage. The parenting stage.
The parenting stage starts when the exciting part of the baby wears off (probably during the first week of sleepless nights), and it ends when the last child leaves the house. (I can only assume that’s when it ends because I haven’t finished yet).
I will also assume that the next stage is the empty nest stage….the stage where these divorces are happening.
In the first stage, we are typically too young and immature to have sat down together and determined who we want to be, where we want to go, and what we want to do with our lives. We typically drift along in this stage, but at least we are drifting together. We are experiencing all of the newness together. So, I don’t think this first stage really hurts our marriage.
The second stage, on the other hand, is where I believe the foundation is laid for the early 50’s divorce. If the first stage was all about us and togetherness, the second stage is all about the kids.
Where It Starts Falling Apart
The baby is born, and the baby becomes our entire focus. For the most part, our identities are wrapped up in the baby. We are no longer husband and wife. We are mom and dad. Soon, the second or third child comes along.
We start taking the first child to soccer as a family. Then the second child starts playing. Mom takes the first child. Dad takes the second child somewhere else.
School starts. You meet some new friends – parents of the kids. You get together so the kids can play. While the kids play, you talk about the kids.
You add in, baseball, dance, music lessons, football, gymnastics, parties, dances, etc., etc., etc… You take family vacations that the kids enjoy. You and your spouse are working well together – a great team. You’re giving the kids everything they need to make the most of themselves and their life. Everything is going great! You’re packing a lot into life!
Until the kids move out.
The kids move out, and you suddenly realize that your identity has been taken away from you. The investment of time, energy, and money that you’ve just made over the past 20+ years is gone. The investment isn’t worthless, but it’s not yours. Your kids took it with them.
The only thing left is the other thing you’ve invested in – nothing.
You live peaceably with your spouse, but it doesn’t take long before you notice that he/she isn’t who you married – and you just don’t feel the way you used to. You’ve “drifted” apart. She goes out with girlfriends or reads books. He tinkers in the garage. Eventually, you both decide, ‘I just don’t love you anymore. Let’s get divorced.’
I know that’s a sad tale – I’m sad writing it, but I truly believe that’s what’s happening. We have our last child around 28 years old. 22 years later, when that last child is out of college and completely on his / her own, you’re 50 and you’ve invested zero in your marriage. Chances are, it’s not a question of love. It’s the simple fact that you don’t even know the other person any more.
Taryn and I were lucky that we saw this early on in our marriage. So we have intentionally invested in each other. If we wouldn’t have noticed, we could have easily been one of the statistics. We do a LOT without our kids, and we do it intentionally.
You ask, what about the kids? I respond with, what about them? Our kids know exactly why we do so much without them (by the way, don’t feel sorry for them – we do a lot with them too). They know that some day they will leave us. They know that some day we will be left with only each other. They know that we are investing our time, energy, and money into us.
And honestly, I think they will be better people and better spouses because they see us invest in our marriage.
So, what are you going to do today, tomorrow, this month, the next month, this year, the next year, etc… to invest in your marriage?
Question: What have you done or what are you planning on doing to invest in your marriage? Leave your answer in the comments section.
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