When the divorce bomb drops anytime in life, it can be crushing. But in retirement, it may be especially devastating. After decades together spent caring for each other and a family, the end of a long marriage has repercussions that go beyond personal loss. Whether you want the divorce or not, when getting a divorce in retirement there are many things to manage, but also many ways to cope and move on.
Divorce in retirement: the stats
Known as “gray divorce,” divorce in retirement is more common than ever before. According to the Pew Research Center’s article, “Led by Baby Boomers, divorce rates climb for America’s 50+ population,” divorce in retirement accelerated 109% from 1990 to 2015. The finance.yahoo.com article, “Gray Divorce in the U.S. – 2020 Edition” also notes the divorce rate for U.S. seniors 65+ has tripled over the same period. A contributing factor may be that second and third marriages end in divorce at higher rates, and many Baby Boomers who grew up in homes impacted by divorce may be more inclined toward divorce and remarriage themselves. A second contributing factor is the fact that the stigma surrounding divorce is decreasing, making it more socially acceptable.
Financial implications of divorce in retirement
Although women have come a long way in the workplace and many retired women had long and successful careers, the greatest financial impact of divorce falls on women. The U.S. News & World Report article, “Gray Divorce: What Women Who Divorce Later in Life Need to Know,” notes that even women who work, earn less than men and live longer, so divorce can render them financially unsound. Another problem is that those women who stayed home to raise a family, often left all financial aspects of their marriage in their husbands care and have little to no knowledge of their net worth or assets. This can make it difficult to get a fair financial settlement when they need it most. Of course, this is also true for men who were not the primary breadwinners as well.
When getting a divorce in retirement, it’s a good idea to work with a certified financial analyst or when the couple’s wealth is substantial, hire a forensic accountant to uncover all assets prior to the divorce. Among the many asset possibilities are stocks, bonds, real estate, retirement accounts, pensions, long-term care insurance, and social security. Learn more about the importance of assets in the kiplinger.com article, “Dividing Your Assets in a Gray Divorce.”
Coping with divorce in retirement
There are many reasons for divorce in retirement including falling out of love, infidelity and addiction, and circumstances will often determine how each person learns to cope and move on. Feelings of betrayal, abandonment, and low self-worth are common and may get worse as time goes on leading to depression and even physical or mental illness.
On the other hand, grieving the end of a decades long marriage is normal and is not unlike grieving a death. The Psychology Today article, “Understanding Gray Divorce and the Grieving Process,” can help understand the grieving process and how it can ultimately help a divorcee begin to live again. Learning about grief in divorce can also help other family members like children and grandchildren cope with the associated changes in their lives.
Give yourself a break and the time you need to adjust to the new reality. During that time, don’t dwell on what went wrong (unless it is something you can change within yourself) and take steps, even baby steps, toward a new fulfilling life. Take a class you never had time for, join a club or group that does things you enjoy like walking, discussing book or taking trips together, or try a divorce support group to share your feeling with peers.
Also make time for family and friends who care about you. Even though it may be difficult, do things together and let them help you understand that divorce isn’t the end. It will also help them feel better and gain a little peace of mind knowing that you are still there for them.
When is it safe to date again?
One way to begin putting the past behind you is to start a new relationship, even if it is just a platonic friendship. With seniors divorcing in retirement more and more, there are surely many people who like you are ready to move on in life. Getting to the point where you are ready to forge new relationships is different for everyone and can take months or years. But a new relationship can help renew self-esteem, give you something to look forward to (instead of living in the past), and prove that you are indeed a person of value. Find out how to assess the right time to date again in the guideforseniors.com blog, “5 Signs to Know that You’re Ready for a New Relationship.”
Sonrisa Senior Living is a place where divorced seniors can turn over a new page in their lives and live an active, vigorous lifestyle, meet new friends and forge new relationships. Our resort-style apartments and accommodations are among the best and we invite your questions. Contact us today for more about our housing options and amenities and start living your best life!