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Why Long Married Couples Split Up

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This week, AARP featured an article entitled “Why Long Married Couples Split Up—Is Cheating Always the Kiss of Death?”, written by Dr. Pepper Schwartz. As eluded to in the title, this article discusses the various reasons why couples who have been married twenty, thirty or even forty years eventually decide to file for divorce.


Dr. Schwartz first poses the question, “Why do so many long-married couples decide to split? How can people be so happy for so long, only to then have the marriage turn sour in what are supposed to be their ‘golden years’ together?” The response may surprise many; cheating is not to blame. According to a survey done by AARP, in relationships where the partners are age 45 and older, extramarital affairs happen for only a relatively small number of couples.


So what is the true reason for divorce in long-term marriages? The answer: people grow apart. According to Dr. Schwartz, “Some relationships have been in decline for decades and finally lose all their juice. A marriage doesn’t usually just blow up. It’s more like a balloon that has been seeping air for a long time. After a while, it’s totally deflated.”


As the couple starts to grow apart, their marital issues intensify. At first most problems seem manageable but then “something sends them into hyperdrive”—change in jobs, health, children’s lives, personal ambitions, or a number of other triggers. The balance the couple has sought to achieve for so many years is undermined and starts to crumble.


In addition, lack of communication and loss of trust are major issues that seriously undermine a marriage. As Dr. Schwartz describes, “Although some people are able to negotiate the inevitable bumps in the road, for others those bumps turn into a sinkhole — something that they cannot seem to climb out of. Sadly, and often with great affection for each other, the couple say “enough.”


Societal factors, outside of an individual couple’s control, also add to the increase in divorce rate of older couples. In terms of life expectancy, Americans are living longer and healthier lives, meaning more time to break unions. According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy has grown to 78.8 years in 2012, compared to 69.7 in 1960. In the words of Dr. Schwartz, “Half a century ago, an unhappy couple in their mid-60s might have stayed together because they thought it wasn’t worth divorcing if they had only a few years left to live. Now, 65-year-olds can easily envision at least 20 more active years — and they don’t want them to be loveless, or full of frustration or disappointment.”


Are you or someone you know considering filing for divorce or legal separation after a long-term marriage? Are you concerned about issues such as equitable distribution of marital finances and property, division pension and marital benefits? With over two decades of experience, the Law Offices of Jay D. Raxenberg has the skill that is required to address the most complex matrimonial and family law issues. Please call (516) 491-0565 or toll free at (888) 543-4867.

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