The perfect picture of the happily married grandparents is rapidly changing. More and more seniors are divorcing at a later age and these numbers are increasing fast, in the U.S. as well as in Europe. In DivorceHotel, we too experience an increase in the number of senior divorces.
To get a better understanding of this phenomenon, I decided to do a bit of research by interviewing some of my clients and colleague professionals. What I found out was that a new group of modern seniors is coming up and they are no longer willing to compromise themselves in their current relationship, regardless of how long they have been together.
It is said that in the coming years, the number of senior divorces will keep increasing, but why? First and foremost, older people are growing to be much older these days and they stay healthier too. This alone can bring up the question: "How can I make sure that the last years of my life are the most happy and fulfilled?" They no longer just accept the 'status quo' anymore and they also feel less stigmatized these days when they do ask for a divorce. Look back 60 years and this was absolutely unacceptable. It seems they have become 'freer' and more 'daring' in making choices that are good for themselves, rather than just accepting that 'they are stuck in a relationship for the rest of their lives'. And so they ask themselves questions such as: "What makes me happy?" -- "What fulfills me now?"
The answer to this question can for sure create conflict. What if you don't share the same expectations, wishes or ideas of your future together anymore? What then, what is the next move? It is also simple nowadays to find an old love via Facebook or to search for new lovers on a dating site. In a way, it has become easier to 'step out of your old confirmed relationship box'.
Divorce lawyer and mediator Marie-Louise van As agrees on the trend and she refers to the so called 'empty nest' syndrome as one of the reasons for the increase in divorces with seniors. She says, "When the children leave the parental home, the wife often feels that it is "her" time now. While the husband, who was used to have her take care of him as well, and by now has stopped working, may even feel like an intruder in his own home." When the kids leave the nest, both parents are put in a situation where big adjustments need to be made. They often both start raising questions about what their own future may look like from now on, and more importantly what their future together may look like from now on. This can cause some heavy disturbances in their relationship and thus sometimes even lead to a divorce.
The last two years we facilitated some senior divorces in DivorceHotel, but two couples stood out in particular. Both couples were very respectful to each other and both cases were complicated. With the first couple, both in their late seventies, the husband had been cheating on his wife for many years. It had become a situation where the husband basically had two women he cared for. The wife decided she couldn't live with that arrangement, and their reservation at DivorceHotel was a fact.
The second elderly couple was in their mid-80s. The woman decided she couldn't live with her husband any longer because she was constantly irritated by his behavior. They had grown apart over the years. The typical thing regarding this divorce was the fact that they kept their divorce a secret, for the sake of their children and grandchildren. They continued travelling and going out together but didn't live and sleep together anymore. The women told me, "The last years Peter changed from a husband into a friend, a buddy. I no longer wanted to be married to a friend, that's why we are here".
More and more seniors focus more individually on making themselves happier nowadays and it is a fact that seniors are noticing that the taboo around divorces is disappearing. The younger generations seem to settle their divorces more easily than they used to, so who are we to say they can't either?