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Gray Divorce

What is a Gray Divorce and How to Move Forward from It?

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Believe it or not, over the past 30 years, there has been a steep decline in the younger couple's divorce rate. However, the divorce rate for people aged 45-50 rose from 13.1 in 1990 to 18 in 2017. Likewise, those aged 55-64 saw the divorce rate more than double.

There is a term for this trend-it is gray divorce.

While divorce can prove to be some of the most challenging times in many people's lives, gray divorce could end up worse. Because usually, when a couple faces a gray divorce, they were together for several decades in a long-term marriage.

Keep reading to learn almost everything there is to know about divorce later in life, its common causes, and tips on moving forward from gray divorce.

What Is Gray Divorce?

A gray divorce is a term that refers to an older couple who were married for several years-often decades-and later divorced.

Those who divorce around this period of life are often over 50 years old and have gray hair. The gray hairs provoked the various names, including gray divorce, silver splitters, and diamond divorcees.

Lately, more have noticed this trend due to famous older adults that divorced, such as Bill and Melinda Gates and former American vice president Al Gore and his ex-wife Tipper.

Why Is Gray Divorce Becoming So Much More Common?

While it may seem strange that an older adult divorces their partner after such a long marriage, there are several contributing factors:

  • Postponed divorces: Many couples wanted to stay together for their kids. By the time their adult children no longer need them as much, the older couple may decide to divorce.
  • Marriage issues revealed due to lockdown or retirement: Many became trapped at home with their spouses due to unexpected world events. Job and income loss added more stress, which shone a light on previous and present issues. Plus, when an older adult retires and spends all their time at home with their spouse, they may find they are no longer compatible.
  • Repeated divorces: By this point, many Baby Boomers have had at least one other marriage, which means their following marriages are possibly more likely to end in another divorce

Who Most Often Initiates a Gray Divorce?

The American Association of Retired Persons-otherwise known as the AARP-conducted a study in 2004. Their results showed that 66% of female participants claimed to have initiated the divorce. When they asked men, 41% said that they had initiated the divorce.

Overall, 15% of the respondents reported that it was a mutual decision.

What Are Common Causes of Gray Divorce?

Gray divorces often lead to a dark path and messy situations. However, what usually causes them? Understanding the causes below can help you in moving forward from a gray divorce.

Empty Nest Syndrome

When your kids grow up to an age where they can move out and leave your house, the situation in your home may change. Moreover, you may not find yourself interested in activities and events you once enjoyed.

From there, you and your partner will find yourself in a quiet home.

As the two of you have nothing to distract you from each other anymore, you both come to realize-or one older adult realizes-that there is no love anymore for the opposite partner.

At that point, you and your partner may find yourself arguing more often, pointing out flaws where there were none before, eventually leading to a divorce.

Financial Difficulties

When couples are younger, they will often find ways out of financial hardships due to their vast area of opportunity and high energy. That makes it easier for them to overlook mistakes many would not think of. However, once you get older, that declines.

Problems like adhering to a budget, losing money on investments, or spending on unnecessary things can compound into increased pressure between a couple. Because of this, couples may find themselves arguing more over finances than before, which could lead to a divorce.

You Both Are Growing Apart

While a couple may start strong, after decades of experiencing positive and negative adventures with each other, the spark that brought them together could soon fade.

Whether it is the loss of trust due to realizations over time or that one partner is not carrying their weight in the relationship, both parties may eventually realize that they were not who they once were.

Moreover, the couple may not have been happy for years and were too afraid to face a divorce. However, possibly due to the changing social climate and acceptability of divorce, they felt the time was right.

How Is Gray Divorce Different Than When You Divorce at a Younger Age?

Gray divorcees have a vastly different experience than younger couples for various reasons. Firstly, throughout your many years of marriage, you and your spouse likely built many marital assets together.

Some of these assets built throughout your many years of marriage could include the following:

  • Businesses that you and your spouse may have started a business together in the past
  • Retirement benefits, such as pension plans
  • Employer benefits, including partial ownership, stock options, and more
  • Reward programs like hotel points, airline miles, and more

If you were to find yourself getting divorced at a later age, you would find it a lot more complicated than marriages that have not lasted long.

Moreover, there is also spousal support-or alimony-if that comes into play. Also, other factors appear, such as paying for obligations from a past marriage, such as spousal or child support.

How Do I Move on After a Gray Divorce?

Suppose there is absolutely no way to piece together your marriage, and a divorce is inevitable. In that case, you will likely find yourself experiencing a storm of emotions during the divorce process and afterward.

It would be in your best interest to find some methods to handle a divorce to prevent your life from spiraling into a dark area.

Apart from working with a divorce attorney to help manage your assets, use the following tips to move on from a late-life divorce.


Laughing with your relatives or friends acts as an excellent way to forget about a divorce. It may actually be the best. Do you have someone who you have not talked to in a while? Or someone who you like meeting up with? Call them up.

Afterward, schedule a night out on the town. If that is not something you are interested in, try a road trip, a vacation to another country, or take a walk around the park and chat. Not only can this be a great way to clear your mind, but it also may give you a chance to express your emotions if that is how you best move on from situations.

Focus on Your Sleep

Since you will likely find yourself lonely after a marriage lasting a long time, you may find yourself having difficulty sleeping for a few months. At this point, it would be in your best interest to acclimate yourself to your new environment to prevent health issues related to a lack of sleep.

However, do not drink yourself to sleep or rely on medication-unless prescribed by a doctor-otherwise, you may find yourself in a situation worse than a divorce.

Find natural alternatives to falling asleep such as doing everything you can to focus away from your thoughts because they will likely keep you awake.

Do Not Let a Divorce Break You

Since you are breaking apart from someone who has been in your life for decades, in a way, you may find yourself losing a piece of who you are.

Conversely, at that point, you will need to go back to where you were before you met your ex-partner. Do you have a bucket list? Perhaps there are places that you want to visit, but could not before.

Take the time to see this as a potential opportunity to do more with yourself, not the end of your life. Remember, there is always a solution to a problem. Though it may take a while to find it, it is out there waiting for you.

Prevent a Downward Spiral

Divorce is hard. However, if you do not shine a light on your thoughts and emotions, they could lead you into a downward spiral that could make your life a lot worse.

Do what you can to craft a positive narrative for yourself. For instance, you could let your emotions pass and weave self-compassion into your life.

It Does Not Have to End Here

Gray divorces tend to have messier aftermaths than divorces from younger couples. Because older couples had more time to accumulate assets together, potentially build stronger bonds, and more.

Moreover, due to the ever-changing atmosphere in relationships, many more older couples face divorces. Whether they are due to changes in social policy, recent events, or the couples do not feel the spark they once had.

Despite your age, there are still various ways that you can go on and enjoy the rest of your life and move into your next adventure. Whether the remedies involve focusing on who you are or spending more time with loved ones.

If you are interested in counseling for older people, reach out to us!

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