Ready to toss your marriage into the proverbial wastebasket? You're not alone
I have no illusions about marriage, partly because I've been married enough not to have any and partly because I'm familiar with the odds of making it to assisted living these days with the same person you started out with 30 or 40 years before.
Still, in spite of everything I know about those odds, some couples seem destined to defy them or maybe I just hope they will, so in 2010, when Al and Tipper Gore split after 40 years together (she was 61, he was 62), the news gave me pause.
I was hardly alone in assuming they'd cracked the code: the storybook meeting at the post-prom party, the enduring political marriage, the public displays of affection and the overriding sense that after four grown kids, three grandkids and nearly half a century of triumphs and heartaches personal and political, the two individuals inhabiting that marriage had made it to the other side still holding hands. ("Please, Al and Tipper, don't do this. For our sakes – don't," begged the Washington Post.)
Reportedly even their closest friends didn't see it coming, and few could understand why it had, especially since the marriage was in the home stretch.
"You get through 40 years – of ill-behaved children and ill-behaved bosses and stolen elections – and then you split?" lamented Rebecca Traister in Salon. "This is precisely the kind of mysterious and inexplicable narrative of marriage thing that scares the bejesus out of people who are newly or not yet married."
But end it did – with an email to friends saying they'd reached the "mutual and mutually supportive decision" jointly after "long and careful consideration."
Meanwhile, while the rest of us were in the stands shouting at the Gores for blowing the game in the late innings, they were focusing on the innings yet to come – and had decided they'd be better off playing them apart. One of the couple's close friends conjectured that perhaps they'd simply grown apart and had decided to pursue their own interests. Maybe, she observed, Tipper was "tired of being the wife" and preferred to "accomplish something on her own."
The Gores may have had an extraordinary marriage, but their decision to separate was not.
Increasingly, couples around the globe with decades-long unions are making the same decision. In North America, the U.K., Europe and Japan, marriages of a certain age are coming undone in record (some say "epidemic") numbers. That fact alone warrants notice, but it's even more striking when you consider that in every other cohort besides the baby boomers, divorce rates have either stabilized or are heading in the opposite direction.
In Canada, divorce is spiking only among 50-plusers and becoming an increasingly common event for couples 65 and older. In the United States, the divorce rate has decreased in every demographic since the '80s – except among baby boomers, where it has doubled. In the U.K. and Europe: similar story.
In Japan, that story has gone viral: in the past two decades, couples married 30 years or more have seen their divorce rate quadruple. The Japanese call the phenomenon "Retired Husband Syndrome." (You can guess how it earned that moniker.) It's still true that the longer you've been married, the lower your chances of splitting, but even with serious marital mileage under your belt, reaching the finish line in tandem is by no means a slam dunk anymore.
The trend is so striking it has been dubbed the "grey divorce revolution."
Copyright 2018 ZoomerMedia Limited