Late-Life Divorce is on the Rise--Are you at Risk?

Forget the seven-year itch; experts say the new trend in divorce is more like a 27-year itch. Look at Al and Tipper Gore. Just ten years ago, the very public couple practically made out on stage at the 2000 Democratic Convention. Now the former VP and his wife have announced they’re splitting up after four decades of marriage. 

Experts say that the shift toward late-life divorce has a lot to do with increased life expectancy. A few generations ago, when living long enough to make it to your own retirement party was a noble goal, it hardly made sense to go to the great trouble of dividing a lifetime's worth of assets just to die alone and penniless. But tack on another couple of decades of potential togetherness and the thinking becomes, “If I have to live with this lump until we’re ninety-five, someone’s going to get hurt.” 

I get it and I don’t. On one hand, I’m all about cutting my losses. When a movie is boring me into a coma, I have no problem walking out of the theater. I know people—my husband among them—who will stay put until the credits roll because of the time and money they’ve already put into it; maybe, they hope, the movie will redeem itself. I say why throw good hours after bad?

Similarly, if I were married to a drunken slob and the kids were grown and we could support separate households and the thought of being alone (or dating again) seemed better than duking it out with my drunken, slovenly husband until death mercifully parted us, I suppose I’d consider leaving him. But not until I’d exhausted every housekeeping service and rehab resource on the planet. 

Trophy-wife theories aside, it turns out that women are more likely than men to initiate divorce later in life, a decision frequently fueled by loneliness and lack of freedom. These women say they are tired of taking care of people, feeling unappreciated and picking up someone else’s goddamned smelly socks. They believe there has to be something better out there, and that this might be their last shot at it.

My take? Someone once told me, “Marriage isn’t an exchange of vows; it’s a conscious commitment you make every day for the rest of your life.” It may be trying, but I like the idea of growing old with someone who knows me better than anyone on the planet, even if we annoy each other on occasion (or more).

Do you think the Gores should be calling it quits or sticking it out? Chime in below!


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