By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.
The Baby Boomer generation is among the first to see divorce as a more acceptable option, and more enter this age group already divorced. Other common reasons for divorce among people over age 50 include anger issues, abuse, infidelity, and addiction. Many are already divorced, or have waited for their kids to be on their own before making changes.
While the number of failed marriages is often thought of as around 50 percent, the general divorce rate is lower, with recent reports ranging from twenty to forty percent. In 2001, the rate was reported to be 41 percent. “This highest rate of divorce in the 2001 survey [of the Fertility and Family Branch of the Census Bureau] was 41 percent for men who were then between the ages of 50 and 59, and 39 percent for women in the same age group,” says Scott M. Stanley of the University of Denver.1
Battered by the economy and subject to longer life spans, people are left with little financial cushion. Divorce divides what people have left and taps into insurance and medical expenses, property division (including house, cars, etc.), assets and liabilities, retirement plans, and business valuations. These have to be split in an equitable way. Divorce also creates a need for additional financial spousal support.
Could you be headed for divorce? Here are ten of the top signs your marriage may headed for trouble.
- A wall of resentment, built brick by brick. Depending on how you or your mate handles anger and resentment, that wall is not coming down, so intimate feelings and thoughts will not survive.
- A pattern of negative thinking about your spouse. If the relationship is entrenched, positive feelings are no longer available.
- Loneliness in the relationship or an inability to have fun with each other. A good adventure can be more bonding than sex.
- Continuous criticism that turns into contempt.
- You or your spouse make demands on the other.
- You or your spouse is continuously on the defense.
- Nearly all of your energy, or that of your mate, is poured into other endeavors besides the relationship.
- Someone special is waiting in the wings, or there’s the thought that I can do better.
- No trust = no relationship.
- There’s no external source of hope and commitment, such as God.
If your marriage is experiencing any of these challenges, it’s time to overcome these entrenched negative patterns. Resentment usually causes one spouse to become disinterested in the relationship and unable to believe his/her partner will ever change. Unfortunately, if you or your spouse has lost interest in your marriage and is spending time fantasizing about the possibility of someone else (or is actually spending time with someone else), your marriage has a lower chance of recovery. However, there are some things you can do.
* Discover what makes you and your partner feel loved. Focus on what you appreciate about your spouse, and respond to bids for reconnection. The age of the forties, fifties, and sixties is a time to redefine one’s self after raising kids, settling in a career, or to confront dissatisfactions in life. One’s marriage is often reevaluated during this time. The marriage sinks or swims. Treat your spouse like a best friend, overlook irritations, create excitement in your life and share it with your partner. Create rituals and traditions and support each other’s dreams.
* Learn proper conflict resolution skills. This is the most crucial aspect to rebuilding your relationship. What seems insignificant, if not addressed, can germinate into a tangled mess in which the special feelings you had for each other are lost. Nothing happens unless people feel understood, so avoid criticism, which leads to the attack and defense mode. Look for alternative solutions to what each side is proposing. Then, make agreements – and secondary agreements that apply if the primary agreement is not kept – to build trust.
* Give your disinterested partner some emotional space, rather than put pressure or guilt on him/her. Instead, make personal changes more in line with the kind of spouse you would like to be. Develop your own identity and self-confidence, because those changes give you the best chance at being an attractive partner and will help if divorce is unavoidable.
The lowest rate of divorce can be found among those couples that prioritize regular spiritual activities together. One study led to the National Association of Marriage Enhancement, in Phoenix, Arizona (www.nameonline.net) to report that when couples prayed together on a daily basis, less than 1% of those couples would end up getting a divorce. The numbers were 1 out of 1156.