Getting Divorced After a Long-Term Marriage?

Old couple looking away from each other
Getting divorced after many years of marriage is often the result of not prioritizing each other.

Many people assume that if you’ve been together for twenty, thirty or even forty years, you and your spouse are unlikely to get divorced. And as it turns out, you would be right. According to Census Bureau statistics from the American Community Survey, the chances of a long-duration marriage ending in divorce here in Oakland County are actually pretty small.

Recent data shows that, on average, Michigan couples married at least forty years, there is only about a half percent chance they will get a divorce. For couples married for twenty-five years or more, statistics show the margin rises to one percent. But once again, just because it’s relatively rare, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. Long marriages that end in divorce are called gray divorce.

Why does a marriage that seems to have endured for so long, and survived through so many of life’s ups and downs, suddenly fall apart? Well, the reasons are many and varied, but here is a look at a few of them.

  • Not prioritizing time together over the years….

When life is busy, full of commitments and distractions, it’s easier to overlook difficulties in a marriage. A couple with children to raise, careers to pursue, and busy social lives may be less likely to have opportunities to focus on their relationship. When your life is full to brimming with all sorts of obligations, it can often be simpler to put your focus where the activity is rather than on the marriage relationship itself. All over Metro Detroit, that scenario repeats itself time and time again.

But when the careers are winding down, and the children are all grown up and have moved on to pursue their own lives, couples are suddenly faced with less to fill up their days. They enter their golden years together without all of those distractions that filled their time. So if they never invested in the health of their marriage relationship during that earlier period of life, they end up with a very shaky foundation on which to sustain their relationship.

For some couples, this time can be one of relaxation, reflection and pursuing dreams long set aside. But for a growing number, they look at one another and realize that they no longer recognize or understand the partner they married, which can sometimes signify the beginning of the end. Here in Oakland County, sadly, gray divorce is on the rise.

  • Without a safe, supportive relationship, challenges are harder…

As couples enter later life, they’re faced with a whole new set of challenges that they will be expected to handle and overcome. Caring for aging parents, the death of older family members and friends, and even their own health problems all begin to add up. These stressors shift the focus from earlier priorities that affected the marriage.

So for those whose marriages were founded on friendship, trust and support of one another during times of stress, they are more likely to survive the struggles of aging than a marriage that functioned but didn’t thrive. Without the coping skills in place to handle struggles, and without a partner who provides a safe place to express difficult feelings, a marriage can easily founder.

  • It doesn’t take much to shatter an already fragile relationship….

For a couple who perhaps were unfulfilled and unsatisfied in their marriage, but had grown so used to the status quo that they never thought to question it, a major event can shake loose their complacency, and result in the collapse of their relationship. A simple walk down the hallways of the Oakland County Family court shows the number of older couples that are choosing to end their longer term marriages.

This could be anything from the death of a close friend, to a personal injury that could have led to death, but didn’t. These kinds of events often cause one to sit up and examine their life, and to take stock of what they’ve achieved, and what they’ve allowed to slip away. This sort of introspection can lead to the realization that life is too short to be unhappy when there is something can be done about it. Sometimes the grass just looks greener on the other side.

If your marriage is not as happy as it could be, then the time to discuss it with a professional is now. Don’t wait another ten or twenty years to make changes. Do it before you reach those distant golden years. Consider your options, approach your spouse to discover if they might feel the same way, and then chart a course toward a more fulfilling future, whether that means renewing your current relationship, or leaving to pursue a new one. Our Oakland County family law attorneys have decades of experience helping clients plan their futures. We are conveniently located in Farmington Hills, MI.