The Gray Divorce Epidemic

I’m reposting this email I just received today because it’s powerful and insightful. Hope you find it helpful!

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The Gray Divorce Epidemic

by Michele Weiner-Davis Reprinted from Bottom Line Personal

As a marriage therapist who helps couples avoid unnecessary divorce, I find it reassuring that the divorce rate in our county has stabilized. But there’s a notable exception: Divorce is on the rise among people age 50 and older who have been married for 20 to 30 years.

According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the US Census Bureau, the number of married couples in their 50s who call it quits has doubled since the 1990s. Among couples age 65 and older, ­divorces have tripled since 1990.

This trend to divorce later in life even has a name-the gray divorce.

Here’s what you can do to save your marriage…

WHY DIVORCE NOW?

There are many reasons why long-term marriages are breaking up…

* Kids leaving home. When children still are home, people who are unhappily married often choose to put aside their own unhappiness, fearing that divorce will negatively impact their children. They opt to make the best of the situation until the kids are launched.

Divorces are common when the youngest child leaves home.

* Feeling disconnected. The early stages of marriage typically are characterized by feelings of strong physical attraction and infatuation. But over time, this mutual love affair wanes. Spouses start leading separate lives. They focus on their careers, children, extended family, friends, hobbies and other commitments… anything but each other. 

Eventually, loneliness and emotional disconnection set in.

* Remarriage. Older people often are in second or third marriages-which, overall, have significantly higher rates of divorce than first marriages. Stressors arising from complicated stepfamily dynamics, challenging ex-spouses and overwhelming financial responsibilities often are at the root of why these marriages end.

* Increased life expectancy. It’s not uncommon for people in their 50s or 60s to live another 20 to 30 years. Many seniors are wondering whether they ­really want to spend what remains of their lives with their current ­partners-and finding that the answer is no.

* In search of more energetic partners. If two partners have decidedly different levels of energy or ability or interest in engaging in activities requiring vitality-such as sex, athletics or active hobbies-the more vibrant spouse might desire a more active ­partner.

* Focusing on oneself. Some people complain that during the course of their marriages, their own needs have taken a backseat to caretaking for others-spouses, children, parents and in-laws.

Believing that “time is running out,” there is a growing sense of urgency to nurture oneself instead. Divorce is viewed as an opportunity to redefine and refocus one’s life.

REASONS NOT TO GET A GRAY ­DIVORCE 

Although the idea of getting a new lease on life might be appealing, there are good reasons to be cautious about ending a marriage later in life.

In their quiet moments, many people who divorce later in life-even those who are happily divorced-express sadness about not being able to reminisce together about good times, share family holidays and other important events, or even rejoice in grandchildren together.

Furthermore, the idea that older children aren’t affected by their parents’ divorces simply isn’t true. Research suggests that children of all ages-even adult children-often struggle tremendously when their parents ­divorce. They wonder, Isn’t anything permanent in life? They worry about the viability of their own marriages.

Because mature adult children are believed to be emotionally equipped to deal with the challenges of divorce, parents often openly discuss details about their failing marriages, leaving their children feeling caught in the middle.

Although some gray divorcees yearn for the solitude that single life has to offer, others fantasize about finding new, more compatible partners with whom they can create healthier, more loving relationships.

But “gray dating” isn’t necessarily easy. Becoming single again after many years of marriage has its challenges.

Finally, because many gray divorcees are retired-or close to it-they may be living on fixed incomes that don’t go nearly as far when split between two independent people as when shared by a couple. This can diminish the quality of life and create financial worries.

HOW TO PREVENT A GRAY DIVORCE  

Some older couples think, We’ve made it this far…we don’t need to do anything different now. But if your marriage still is strong and you don’t want to wake up one morning thinking, We have nothing in common anymore, you have to make your marriage your number-one priority.

Your marriage should take ­precedence over kids, careers, hobbies, extended family and any other commitments. This means spending regular time together as a couple and checking in with each other daily. Also…

* Break out of communication ruts. Couples who have been together a long time can get stuck in ineffective ways of communicating. If you’re upset about something in your relationship but avoid discussing it or find conversations about it to be nonproductive or hurtful, over time it will destroy your feelings of love for your partner.

Although all marriages have their ups and downs, when resentment, hurt and anger are ever-present, it is essential to address and resolve underlying issues. If communication problems are at the root of destructive interactions, it’s easy to think that you’re both so set in your ways after being married for so long that change isn’t possible. But this simply isn’t true. When motivated, people can make life-altering changes that profoundly improve the quality of relationships.

Learning new relationship skills is one way to achieve these fundamental changes. Marriage-education classes offered by mental health professionals, religious organizations and universities can be extremely helpful. Simply Google “marriage education” in your area to find a local class. Also, self-help books outlining how to have successful relationships can be useful.

* Don’t give up on compliments. Science tells us that our brains have a negativity bias-that is, we’re most likely to notice things that are problematic. Although this vigilance serves us in terms of survival, it’s extremely detrimental in marriage. 

Constantly focusing on what your spouse does wrong creates resentment, anger and hurt, which in turn leads to emotional distance. 

Instead, couples in healthy relationships focus most on what their spouses do right. They are diligent about expressing appreciation and gratitude. Older couples sometimes stop giving each other compliments in the mistaken belief that they’re not necessary. 

But making a habit of complimenting your spouse a few times a day is a powerful way to build goodwill and friendship-an important foundation for a lasting marriage.

* Keep it sexy. Reaching midlife does not mean giving up on staying fit and having a satisfying sexual relationship. In fact, many couples in their 50s and 60s (and beyond) report having active sex lives.

As people age, however, what they find sexually arousing changes. What “worked” in their 20s may be quite different from what “works” in their 50s or 60s. That’s why ongoing open communication about sexual ­preferences is imperative.

Often one spouse is more interested in sex than the other. In itself, this is not a problem-as long as the couple finds a way to bridge this desire gap so that they both can be happy. When the lower-desire spouse consistently rejects his/her partner’s sexual advances, it causes deep resentment, hurt and, eventually, anger.

For the lower-desire spouse, anger is a big turnoff, making sex even less likely. For more on how to address this, read my article “When a Spouse Doesn’t Want to Have Sex.”

* Break the routine. Older couples can get stuck in routines. But happily married couples continually reinvent themselves. They are creative. They have a passion for breaking out of the mold. Novelty keeps relationships fresh…and that freshness keeps people interested.

What to do: Do some of the things your spouse loves to do even if you’re not crazy about those things. Experiment with new hobbies that you can do together. Travel to new places. Try new kinds of recipes and restaurants. Even if you have two left feet, take a dance class together. Having more time available in later life makes engaging in new activities more feasible.

* Get help. If you’ve tried the steps in this article and still are thinking of getting a divorce, seek qualified professional help. Look for a therapist who specializes in marriage therapy and understands the issues you are facing as you age. The website of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT.org) offers a helpful “therapist locator” tool.

(Another great resource: Divorcebusting® Telephone Coaching) 

Source: Michele Weiner-Davis, LCSW, is founder of The Divorce Busting® Center in Boulder, Colorado, that helps on-the-brink couples save their marriages. She is the best-selling author of eight books including Healing from InfidelityThe Sex-Starved Marriage and The Divorce Remedy, and is a TEDx speaker on the topic of the Sex-Starved Marriage

Date: December 1, 2017 Publication: Bottom Line Personal

Warmly,

Michele

p.s.  I’m always interested in your comments. Write me: michele@divorcebusting.com 

 ©Michele Weiner-Davis  All Rights Reserved

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For more advice and help, read my latest book: Healing from Infidelity, The Divorce Busting® Guide to Rebuilding Your Marriage After an Affair.

My newest program for professionals:

HEALING FROM INFIDELITY: A PROGRAM FOR PROFESSIONALS 

Now including 6.5 CE Credits at no additional cost.

For advance information on my Summer 2018 professional training opportunities in Boulder sign up here.

Michele Weiner-Davis

 Watch my TEDx TALK: THE SEX-STARVED MARRIAGE 

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303-444-7004

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Codependents Dance

A friend recently contacted me to say he thought this might be his marital relationship which is now a filed and proceeding divorce. See 7 min. video clip below. I agreed with him that he was being manipulated by a narcissistic soon to be x wife. I am not a psychologist and my opinion of his relationship is based on observations over the years of this man and his soon to be x wife and my own codependent recovery journey.

Many times people that are not whole and healthy psychologically “hook-up” and each half of a not complete person “completes” the other. This is what is joked about in Codependents Anonymous circles as the “Jerry McGuire Syndrome,” and notable experts such as Dr. Henry Cloud also correctly tell us that two incomplete people do NOT complete each other, but reduce each other through unhealthy co-dependence.

We also know that it may be possible to get healthy together if BOTH people in the relationship are willing to admit and work on their own faults, hang ups and habits, but it is also just as likely they won’t and stay together in a dysfunctional dance for years, decades, a lifetime or at least “until the children are grown,” and then have to look at each other and see a stranger in the “empty nest.”

I can’t tell you what to do. You must discover what is best for yourself. Hopefully some of the posts and resources here can help you. See http://locator.coda.org/ for more on Codependence.

How Church Divorce Recovery Groups and The Law May Differ

Yesterday, a friend going through divorce told me the Pastor at his church running the Divorce Recovery Program has been telling the current group they must “always be trying to reconcile.”

While there is certainly a time for reconciliation, once the parties have retained attorneys, a divorce has been filed and is proceeding through the court system you will actually be hurting your legal case by seeking reconciliation with your soon to be X-spouse.

I told my friend to “kindly” ask the Pastor “Are you giving me legal advice Pastor? Because if you are my attorney has told me in no uncertain terms this will actually hurt me legally!”

That being said, it is also important to think about the timing of things:

  1. You tried or didn’t to reconcile BEFORE filing for or your spouse filed for divorce
  2. If reconciliation FAILED then you either sit in separation anxiety sometimes in the same home or you proceed with a divorce
  3. Depending on whether you’re a member of a religious faith you will have certain views about finalizing a divorce and what that means for your life and your soul. If you’re not involved with a faith or denomination, then you should proceed with a divorce because you are legally married with all the consequences of debt, assets, etc. until you’re not married
  4. Even if you are involved in a faith / denomination there comes a point where there is no more hope for reconciliation. A dear friend of mine who is older actually saw his Rabbi on my behalf and the Rabbi advised correctly in my case to get divorced as quickly as possible. See the final paragraph here to understand why that was good advice
  5. Depending on what STAGE you’re in, your faith and your lawyer you will either proceed with the divorce or reconcile

Confused? Go to many different support groups, talk to people at all these different stages, talk to your lawyer if you have one and make a decision.

The only thing I would say you should NOT do is nothing. Like having a medical condition that is progressive your marriage either works and you stay together to make it work or you sit in dysfunction. See posts on this blog from Michelle Weiner-Davis the divorce buster in Boulder, Colorado who I very much admire. If your marriage doesn’t work you or your spouse might begin going out with others while you’re still married (never a good idea even with “no fault” divorce states of which are the majority. See posts to that effect on this blog. Or you lead lives of quiet separate desperation leading to anxiety disorders and depression (also not a great idea).

DO SOMETHING… Don’t just sit in it. If you can reconcile DO IT. In my case my lovely wife of 18 years was actively involved in an affair with a married man in another state and not only was there no chance of reconciliation (I tried and was laughed at), but my now x wife was un- repetent, arrogant and dismissive and actually told me, her family and our daughters there was nothing wrong with her affair because “she filed for divorce.” Really?! And if that wasn’t crazy enough she also told me “we can always get re-married.”

NO THANK YOU!!!

My Affair “Just Happened” I Wasn’t Looking for it…

Another excellent email from Michelle Weiner-Davis I just received and am reposting. As I’ve said before I found her resources and coaching very helpful when I went through my divorce in 2009 following my x-wife’s affair.

My Affair “Just Happened”

I’ve been a therapist for a very long time. I’ve encountered people from all walks of life with varied viewpoints, personalities, strengths and idiosyncratic quirks.

I’m never bored, rarely shocked and almost never irritated. But the operative word here is “almost.”

I have lost count of the number of times when a spouse who’s been unfaithful says, “I wasn’t looking for an affair, it just happened.”

It’s as if these people were simply going about their days, minding their own businesses and alas, they suddenly found themselves stark naked in hotel rooms having breathless, passionate sex.

It just happens?

Uh, I don’t think so.

Affairs aren’t spontaneous; they require planning and decision-making.

Frequently, the choices people make that pave the way for an affair- dinner with a co-worker, meeting an old boyfriend or girlfriend for a drink after work just to catch up, having lunch with an attractive, single neighbor on a regular basis or sending a lengthy Christmas update to a long lost heart throb- can seem relatively innocent.

But one dinner date or late night conversation often leads to another and another and another.

The talk becomes more personal.

Confessions of marital dissatisfaction begin to surface; the listener becomes empathetic and supportive.

But the riskiness of this behavior is minimized.  People tell themselves, “I just needed someone to talk to. I wanted an opinion from someone of the opposite sex.”

If you’re complaining about your marriage to a sympathetic ear, you don’t need a degree in psychology to know that the implicit message in these conversations is, “I’m unhappily married. Want to fool around?”

You can tell yourself that you’re not doing anything wrong, but the truth is, this sort of interaction is a sheer, slippery slope.

Then there is alcohol, the inhibition-buster that “made me do it.”

And while it’s true that many a bad decision have been made while under the influence, having a drink is a decision. Having two drinks is two decisions. You can do the math on the rest of the story.

What about bad marriages? Don’t they justify being unfaithful? After all, life is short. We only have one go around, right?

Look, life is short and feeling lonely in marriage is no way to live.

But dulling one’s pain through the instant gratification of hot sex or emotional closeness with someone who doesn’t argue with you about bills, children or the in-laws isn’t an effective or lasting way to fix what’s wrong.

There are infinitely better ways to combat loneliness, a sexual void or marital unhappiness. 

Help is out there.

Furthermore, what’s always amazed me is how differently people react to similar circumstances. I’ve met people whose marriages were sexless for years, and although that made them miserable, they simply could not cheat.

I’ve met other people who, when their relationships hit predictable bumps in the road, rather than work things out, they sought comfort in the arms of strangers.

Unhappy marriages don’t cause infidelity. 

Being unfaithful causes infidelity.

In fact, infidelity complicates life enormously for everyone involved, a fact that should not be minimized when planning the next “just friends” Starbucks break.

People who say their affairs just happened aren’t necessarily intentionally trying to justify their behavior; they often truly believe what they’re saying.

They simply lack insight or awareness of the ways in which their actions, however subtle, have led them down destructive paths.  

But in the same way that affairs don’t just happen, neither does healing from betrayal.

Unless those who have strayed look inward and take personal responsibility for their choices, they will not be able to get their relationships back on track when they’ve gotten derailed.  

Instead they’ll see themselves as victims or reeds in the wind.  And in my view, sorry, but that’s just a lot of hot air.

Warmly,

Michele

p.s.  I’m always interested in your comments. Write me: michele@divorcebusting.com 

For more advice and help, read my latest book: Healing from Infidelity, The Divorce Busting® Guide to Rebuilding Your Marriage After an Affair.

New from Dr. Henry Cloud

This just came into my inbox from Dr. Henry Cloud. I am not a subscriber and so I don’t have any first hand experience with it, but Dr. Cloud’s reputation is outstanding and if you’re struggling with boundary issues it certainly might be worth a try!

A new way to a happier life
Boundaries.me is a monthly subscription offering brand new videos, workbooks, audio and other content designed to make setting boundaries in every area of your life easier. Every month, brand new content. Really, the idea is to actually make your life easier, so that you experience less pain, less heartache and less confusion in the relationships that matter most.

Oh, also, sign up today, and we’ll send you a free book, while supplies last*.

Simple. Easy. $9 per month.

In creating Boundaries.me, our priorities were:

As simple as possible
At the lowest price we could offer
To provide clear, structured, actionable content and tools to bring Boundaries to life, every month.
This is about as close as we could get to making it possible for me to be your personal Boundaries mentor. On the first Friday of every month, we’ll release a new learning path consisting of videos, workbooks and audio to guide you through Boundaries in that month’s topic.

We’ll also be offering tons of bonus content that will go live on the site every Friday. You’ll get access to mini-courses created in partnership with our friends and people we admire. For instance, on Friday this week we’ll be posting a mini-course created with Shauna Niequist, which focuses on how to identify the most important people and goals that you have, and to structure your life towards protecting those things.

Over time, you’ll also get access to just about all of the digital products we’ve ever created. You’ll also get audio stories sharing the Boundaries journeys of dozens of people like you that we’ve spoken with. We recorded long interviews with individuals about their lives with the goal of uncovering the universal causes for boundaries issues… you’ll hear about a huge range of experiences, from all walks of life, with one thing in common… Boundaries helped them. And we’ll be continuing these conversations by creating online events and digital workshops for you to be part of the discussion.

*So what’s this about a free book?
As you may know, I wrote Boundaries with my friend John Townsend 25 years ago. We’ve released an updated edition with new content, much of it to do with technology and social media. Early subscribers to Boundaries.me will get a free copy of the updated book, signed by me. Many of you already have a well worn copy of the book, so maybe take a look at the new content and feel free to give it as a gift to someone who may need it. This is something we wanted to offer to early subscribers as an added value. It basically makes your first month of Boundaries.me free.

The best Boundaries content we could possibly offer, for about 30 cents per day.

A few months ago, we asked you to share your thoughts with us — we asked — where do you want further instruction in Boundaries? We heard from vast numbers of you that you want instruction in some specific topics, and you want it to be affordable, clear, and easy to use. Boundaries.me is what we came up with in response to your suggestions, and I couldn’t be more proud of it. Sign up today, and you’re free to cancel at any time. Cancel in the first 30 days, and we’ll refund your money no questions asked.

Cheers,
Henry

boundaries.me
instagram.com/thedailydrcloud
facebook.com/drhenrycloud

Separating Your Emotions from Your Legal Case

I found it helpful to have at least 3 meetings per week as follows:

  1. Church. I go to an Evangelical Christian Church, but whether you’re Jewish, Christian, Islamic or any other faith I believe it is important to work the spiritual components of your struggle within the principles of your faith. If you don’t believe in God, then I encourage you to seek because you may find something very beneficial. Remember, not all churches are the same and you may have to visit several and more than once in order to find a church home.
  2. Counseling from a professional therapist to work on your relationship skills. One of the jokes in divorce circles is “if you had taken the steps you’re taking now to get physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy BEFORE the divorce, you might never have gotten divorced!” Of course there are abusive relationships you must leave, but you will benefit from watching this classic 22 min. video by Dr. Henry Cloud a PhD Psychologist and PhD Theologian on “Foolish, Wise, and Evil People.” https://youtu.be/ruoPQuePhV8
  3. Group Divorce Support meetings. I found it helpful to go to such meetings in a church setting.
  4. 12-Step Groups. I am also a recovering co-dependent and so as you can see in a previous post codependents anonymous was helpful to me. If you have other addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. you can and should find a 12 step group. Learn more at these links:
  5. Physical Fitness is so important to reducing stress and keeping a clear head! Excerpt: “Stress is an inevitable part of life. Seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes at least moderately with their lives, according to the most recent ADAA survey on stress and anxiety disorders. When the American Psychological Association surveyed people in 2008, more people reported physical and emotional symptoms due to stress than they did in 2007, and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year….While all of these are well-known coping techniques, exercise may be the one most recommended by health care professionals.” Source: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st

Marriage and Midlife Crises

I’m reposting one section from an email I received from Michele Weiner-Davis Oct. 3, 2017 newsletter with a link to her full site. I will say that I have found her insights to be invaluable to me and I benefitted from one of her personal coaches when I was going through my divorce to a wife of 18 years that went to her 30th high school reunion and connected with an old crush that was at that time married and living in LA.

…”If you’re going through a midlife crisis and you’re married, it’s important to understand that your marriage might be at risk. 

When you’re unhappy, you look around for the cause of the unhappiness. And sometimes the person standing closest to you-your spouse-is in the line of fire.

You think about how differently your life might have turned out were it not for your spouse holding you back in some way.

You tell yourself you would be better off striking out on your own or finding a new, more supportive, sexy, fun-loving spouse with whom you can spend the rest of your life.

What could be a better escape from all the thinking you’re doing about what’s not working in your life than to find someone with whom you can have a fresh start, who finds you fascinating and exciting?

While it’s possible that your marriage has been less than satisfying and in need of a major makeover, it’s important not to make any monumental, life-altering decision such as having an affair or ending your marriage while you’re feeling overwhelmed with powerful emotions.

Making an impulsive decision to break up a marriage or have an affair often leads to a deep sense of regret or remorse…” Source: http://www.divorcebusting.com