Grey Divorce – Grey Future?

Grey Divorce – Grey Future?

What an interesting expression – grey divorce. It has become a standard expression and it means divorce after the age of 50, I guess assuming that everyone at that age has grey hair. Seeing that one of my favourite sayings is “Grey hair are highlights of wisdom” I might say filing for divorce at that stage in life is a wise thing to do. And surely it is for many couples as they find themselves really no longer happy together so it might be wise to try to be happy on your own. And not surprisingly the rate of grey divorces these days makes up a quarter of all divorces. That is more than double of what it used to be 20 years ago. And 66% of these divorces are initiated by women according to the National Center for Family and Marriage.

Why is that you might wonder. The 2 main reasons are:

  1. 53% of women said they left their partner due to emotional or psychological abuse. And that means systematic manipulation of one person towards another. This happens through intimidation, bullying and constant criticism for anything and everything. No matter what the woman might do, it is wrong and it makes her feel smaller and smaller and more and more insignificant. And for the spouse to finally come to the point where she says enough is enough it took years of that kind of abuse and bullying and often the husband would say, he was taken completely by surprise by his partner’s decision to leave. Well, of course, because he was running the show and she was following – until the point of break, which was initiated by her. An interesting point to be considered here is that fact that due to the hormonal changes in women. Oestrogen decreases whilst Testosterone increases and that contributes to the women being more determined in their actions, more decisive and of course they often are also financially independent of their spouse which makes leaving a little easier.
  2. Simply growing apart. Reaching a point where a couple realises that the values, the life expectations and dreams have moved into completely different, often opposite directions and are not compatible anymore. Mostly it has been noticeable for years but kids, commitments, may be a joint business or other reasons made a couple stay together despite personally moving into very different directions. Once the kids are grown up and not that dependant on parents anymore it is easier to face the reality and do what would have had to be done years ago.

There are many other reasons why a couple finally separates in later years, one of them definitely being another partner but the 2 mentioned above are amongst the main ones.

What does it mean for us women to be single again in our 50s or later? It is a big step and it certainly is easier to live if one is the person initiating the split, leaving the marriage or relationship and choosing to start all over again rather than being the one left to deal with the consequences.


Yet I am going as far as to say, no matter who left whom, who initiated a separation, it always takes both partners for a relationship to break down. And as hard as it might sometimes be to admit that we are both “at fault”, it is the reality. That also means that – if we are honest enough with ourselves – there were always moments when we were thinking of the relationship as something not really working the way we want it to work, we had other ideas and fantasies about what our relationship might look like in later life and that really gives us the opportunity to see a separation as something positive. If you are not the one having initiated it you can see it as having received a kick in the butt in order to wake up and face reality.

That reality often enough looks very grim in the first moment, it is not easy to accept the fact that someone has left us. We hurt, we feel worthless, our self esteem is crumbling and we feel like the world is collapsing. And that is a very normal and healthy first reaction – no matter who is the one being left.

It is important though to move on from this point and start seeing the advantages, the silver lining. Yes, it is always there, we need to learn to open our eyes to it and accept it when it shows up. Because we are allowed to do so. No one will tell us we have to sit in the self pity pit forever, it is our choice when we decide to leave it.

No matter who left whom, who initiated a separation, it always takes both partners for a relationship to break down.

I personally have gone through separation myself and it took me 4 years to come to the point where I finally accepted the fact that we really should have separated years ago. But there were all those apparent reason, the hope, it will get better again, the signs I tried to interpret in my favour and of course the fear of what it means to be alone, on my own again after so many years of marriage. Yes I always encouraged others to leave a marriage that didn’t work anymore and I did tell women that it is much easier nowadays to be single and to find your own integrity and value again if you cannot own it in your marriage. But as always in life it is much easier to give advice and support to others than following it yourself. I was shocked to realise how much I was hung up in the traditional belief of “a woman without a man is like soup without salt” hence why it was so difficult for me to take that final step and face reality. Now, after 2 years of separation I have found my own value and love the life I am living even though it is very, very different from the one I envisaged for this stage of life when I was still with my husband. What I have learned and discovered is that in order to process a separation we really need to accept that we have to go through 3 stages:

  • Grieving – allow yourself all the emotions that come up and really grieve. In the end you are loosing something that was part of your life for the last 25 or 30 years and it is not easy to let go of. Even if you are the one leaving there is still grief to be processed. Do it openly, ideally with a counsellor or coach and own that grief. That will make it so much easier to move on the the next stage which is
  • Grounding – finding your feet, finding what is good about the separation. What is there you now finally can experience you never were able to. What is it that gives you emotional or physical freedom? How do you find yourself with all your integrity and values in this life and how are you now able to live it? How do you slowly start owning your life, yourself? Rather than letting someone else control it? Exercise this grounding on a daily basis by just stomping your feet and telling yourself and the world that you are now standing on your own feet and enjoying it. And once you are there and can feel it and believe it is the time for
  • Growing – growing into the person you really are and you want to be. Make sure you take everything on board you need for your growth, be it friends, family or professional support. Only when you start being yourself, knowing what it is you need in life you will become your own best friend and start more and more loving the person you are independent of who else loves you. Because the self love is the most important love we can live and it will have more and more love come to us and with it so many new and wonderful experiences.

One day at a time life will show you the good side of things. It takes time to see it but remember there is always support and encouragement out there and it is up to you to reach out and ask for it. And then the future is anything but grey

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