Considering a Gray Divorce? Here Are Some Pros and Cons

Does this sound like you?  

You’re in your fifties, married around 25 years, with kids recently launched. Over the past few years, while those children were becoming more self-sufficient, you were able to shift attention back to your spouse. Which led to a realization: You are really not happy in your marriage. It has not gone the way you wanted. And the idea of spending thirty more years with your spouse is not one you relish.  

But then again, if you do get divorced, there are no guarantees about the future. It’s a scary world out there. Dating again, at your age? With some body parts that don’t look, and others that don’t function, like they used to? What if you never find someone, and end up alone? Maybe you’re better off just staying with what you know rather than striking out into uncharted territory.

This dilemma has become extremely common. Many of those who face it are opting out, resulting in the documented phenomenon of Gray Divorce. More than a quarter of all divorces in the U.S. now involve people over 50, and the numbers have doubled in the past 20 years.  

It’s impossible to know how many are currently mulling their options, but it must be a huge number.

I’ve taken to calling these folks Divorce Curious. Or, to coin an internet-ready phrase, “Di-Curious.”  

The best a Di-Curious person can do is gather as much information as possible, weigh the pros and cons, make a decision, and hope for the best. So, in an effort to add to the pool of information available for the Di-Curious, I offer the following from my experience going through a Gray Divorce.  

In the negative column:  

It really sucks. It hurts. It’s horrible. And mine was pretty amicable. But, as I learned, a divorce is like a death – the death of your plan. Your vision of the future dies. And you mourn it.  Painfully. As much as my head said I’m better off, my heart still ached. It’s awful.    

Weird, uncomfortable stuff will happen with the couple-friends. Often those relationships start with the wives in kid-centered venues like mommy-and-me and preschool. Some couples will stay neutral, but husbands figure to be the “losers” more often. That may not necessarily be a bad thing, but the guys need to be prepared.

It feels strange to check the “Divorced” box on forms. It took about a year before I didn’t initially start for the “Married” box. It was very hard to think of myself as a divorced person. And it felt pretty crappy to realize I was.

For many months after I moved out, I’d initially picture driving a route to my former house instead of my new place, then realize I didn’t live there anymore. That hurt.  Walking out of that house for the last time once it sold hurt a lot.  

There’s loneliness. Even if you didn’t particularly care for the person you were living with, at least there was life in the home. Some people might relish alone-time, but if you don’t, be prepared.

You’ll miss certain things your spouse did. Steering clear of gender stereotypes, you’ll have to take over some of the following tasks your ex used to handle: preparing meals, killing bugs, booking travel, washing the car, doing laundry, opening jars, shopping for groceries, cleaning, changing light bulbs, coordinating fashion.  

All right, enough of the negative. Now on the bright side:   

You will have sex with new people. This alone may be enough to outweigh all of the negatives above, but let’s continue.  

Prior to having sex with them, you’re going to meet them, and quite possibly find out they are really interesting. And the more interesting people you meet, the more you learn, and the more interesting you become.  

You may experience emotions and connections you’ve never felt before. If you ask Baby Boomers why they got married, I believe a ridiculously high percentage will offer some version of the following: “Well, we were mid-twenties, we’d been dating a couple of years, all our friends were getting married, I liked his/her family, I thought he/she would be a good father/mother, it just made sense, so we did.” By getting out, you have a chance to find someone you love desperately, and need completely, and can’t bear to be without. Do you want to live your whole life without ever feeling that way?  

You get to hit the reset button. You’re a different person now than you were a quarter century ago. You’ll come to know yourself better — you’ll have a clearer picture of what you want, and don’t want, in a partner. Starting over lets you project the “new you” to the world, not the one you’ve been during your marriage. And this new you stands a good chance of finding a new partner better suited to the person you are now.  

Your married friends will want to live vicariously through you. Whether happily married or Di-Curious themselves, they’re going to want all the details about everything, particularly the sex (which you’ll be having with new people, remember?).  

Of course, this barely scratches the surface. Deciding to stay married or get divorced is complicated and gut-wrenching, and should never be taken lightly. Moreover, there is no right or wrong, as you can never know what would have happened if you’d made the other choice.

Anyone doing their research and gathering information should explore the Di-Curious section of this site. It features articles on applicable post-divorce topics like on-line dating, finding true love, letting go of anger, dealing with friends, sex after 50, and more.  

Good luck to you!