Grey Divorces What Are They?

Grey Divorces What Are They? The latest News reports the spitting up of billionaire and philanthropist Bill and Melinda Gates. They have decided to call it quits and move on after 27 years of marriage. The Gates, along with Amazon tycoon, Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott, and other not so notable couples over the age of 50 are going through what is referred to as a grey divorce or silver splitting. This term identifies the demographic trend of an increasing divorce rate for older (grey-haired) couples in long term marriages. Grey divorce was documented in the United States as early as the 1980’s but wasn’t labeled as such until around 2004. The phenomenon entered the public awareness with a 2004 AARP study and was further elucidated in Deirdre Bair‘s 2007 book Calling It Quits containing interviews with grey divorcees.

     
Grey Divorces What Are They?
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Grey Divorces

Just like Theresa and Larry Caputo their breakup and divorce may have been a result of becoming Dreaded Roommates after being with each other for three decades. As a Marriage Counselor, I hear the statement “I love you,” but “I’m not in love with you” from couples who experience what I believe couples like Bill and Melinda Gates experienced. Being with each other for decades while trying to keep the romantic piece alive can be challenging. When we first get together in our romantic relationships we feel excited and alive due to the newness of it all. We grow with each other and hopefully continue to grow as individuals. In healthy relationships, the individual still exists within the relationship. The two are Individuating and Differentiating from each other. Meaning we continue to grow and evolve into the person we are becoming while differentiating from our partner creating a good balance between the two processes to maintain a happy relationship

The relationship can become threatened when one person starts to differentiate more than the other. As a Marriage Counselor, I hear couples say one of them has become distant and does their “own thing.” Coupling activity is limited and sometimes nonexistent.When individuals tend to overly concentrate on their individual interests and neglect their relationship the result can include a feeling of emotional disconnectedness. With Bill and Melinda Gates separating I can imagine raising their children while making the world a better place through their philanthropy took a toll on their marriage. The energy the wife receives from “doing me” can be alluring. Some women define themselves as wife, mother, daughter, and sister. But when they establish a successful professional life, that is validating. Perhaps a lot of personal energy went into their professional life, therefore, making little time for the relationship. Maybe becoming empty nesters brought on the realization that when they are no longer raising children together, they have few other projects or interests in common. Others find it’s a moment to take another look at what they really want from life. Divorcing at this stage in life can be a time when they reassess what the relationship holds for each of them as individuals.

Another factor making grey divorce an option is that older individuals have more resources to leave a long term relationship. They are established in their line of work and have the freedom to pursue what they want rather than what others wanted for them. As the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers are now at ripe older ages, they have a better understanding of who they are and what they want. If their long term relationship hasn’t been happy for a long time they have options to get the happiness they are looking for.

For more information on grey divorce and leaving a long term marriage please contact me at (858) 735-1139

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