Why do couples divorce after long marriages? This scenario baffles many of us.
The perfect couple that spends decades cultivating the perfect “picket fence” life, ends the marriage on the cusp of the golden years.
Friends and family wonder, “What just happened?” Many folks who are “once removed” from the couple’s inner circle start to gossip about all the potential causes of the disillusionment of marriage.
Was one of them cheating?
Is he gay?
Are they fighting over money?
Was the marriage all about the children?
It’s a sad scenario, but it happens. The most “seasoned” couples can watch their once vigorous marriage decline into oblivion.
The question is, were there signs that the end was near? Absolutely.
So, what is the leading cause of divorce, and why do so many marriages fail and couples reach out for a grey divorce?
Read on to discover the biggest reason for divorce, alongside other significant reasons that seasoned couples decide to go their separate ways.
1. The walls are closing in
Sometimes couples in a long-term relationship feel constrained by the enduring dynamics of the relationship.
Partners may feel that they are holding one another back from self-actualization.
Yes, there are times that individuals in an enduring union feel like they cannot take further steps together, and would be healthier parting ways.
When a couple splits after many years of “perceived togetherness”, often people around speculate,
“Why do couples divorce after 10 years of marriage?”, or
“What is the main reason for divorce for a couple that looked so happy together?”
The number one reason for divorce for couples who have stayed in long marriages is a strong craving for a reboot or an upgrade.
Shallow as it may sound, sometimes it can be dissatisfying to continue being in a relationship with the same person you have been with for decades, and people seek “newness”. This urge for novelty ends up becoming a leading cause of divorce.
Freedom comes at a steep price when it means the end of a relationship that’s been affirming and sustaining for decades.
2. Communication malaise
Why do couples divorce after being around the same person for years? Poor communication is a fast track to divorce among baby boomers.
It’s been said that communication isn’t merely talking to your partner, but rather understanding their point of view and vision for life.
When understanding and awareness of vision are no longer present in the relationship, the relationship will eventually wither away and die. Lack of communication and a significant distance between couples is one of the most common reasons for divorce.
When the communication problems are the result of a stroke or another debilitating medical condition, the agony of “ending” can be even more pronounced.
3. Great expectations
Why do couples divorce when they have faced a variety of challenges as a young couple and emerged seemingly unscathed?
Let’s be honest. “Till Death Do Us Part” is a tall order.
It’s hard to imagine that this idea is tested in healthy marriages, but it is. When retirement, a job loss, or chronic illness sets in, we hope that our intimate partner will help us navigate the uncertainty and the change.
That doesn’t always happen.
On some occasions, our beloved ones “have had enough” and choose to step away from the connection. For the partner that remained committed to the relationship, priorities and expectations must be reconsidered as well.
4. The dreaded change in lifestyle
So you reach the “Golden Years” of earning.
Armed with a big position and an equally large salary, you find yourself on the top of your financial game. Your beloved gets used to the cruises, the Cadillacs, and all the amazing discretionary income.
Suddenly, the economy tanks and your wonderful job sinks.
So, what causes divorce when you have pronounced your love for each other through thick and thin?
Many marriages cannot survive the abrupt decline in income and the related lifestyle change. Yours may not survive it.
But if your relationship strength is judged by your earnings, was the relationship worth the time and effort in the first place? When the foundation of marriage is shaken by such greedy behavior, questions like, “Why do couples divorce” seem superfluous.
Some partners have a second spouse – the job – or a hobby that becomes time-consuming and intimacy-challenging.
Sometimes, on the other hand, the spouse that feels like a victim to the workaholic may be overstating the depth of the problem.
Yes, jealousy can be a problem in seasoned marriages if one or both partners suffer from a heavy dose of insecurity.
Sometimes the resulting jealousy can make the loving exchange of time and information an utter impossibility.
So, Why do couples divorce in their twilight years? Jealousy is a marriage killer for marriages of all durations and couples who may be heading down the road to divorce can take timely steps to rectify the situation, and cultivate marital harmony, once again.
7. The empty nest
Kids get older and, hopefully, leave their family of origin to begin a life of their own accord.
Many couples, while missing the days when the kids were at home, welcome the empty nest enthusiastically. Other couples discover that they invested so much of their time and effort on the kids that they do not know how to function as a pair anymore.
This can be a traumatic discovery for a family, but it happens more often than you would think.
It’s hard to reinvent the marriage several decades into the relationship. With the kids out of the picture to soften the reality of a couple that’s not really coupled, the relationship will decay. An empty nest is one of the top reasons for divorce in long-term marriages.
Adopting kids or pouring one’s self into grandkids will not heal the core issue of not knowing how to be together.
8. Personality conflict
People change. We are dynamic, evolving, malleable creatures.
But how’s mental evolution linked to the question, why do couples divorce?
In as much, our relationships must change with us or we will disintegrate. It happens more often than you think. While personality changes and the resultant potential of conflict are often the offspring of organic causes – aging, dementia, education – there are some external causes too.
For instance, a personality conflict may arise over issues like politics, aging parents, or how to deal with a troubled adult child. When a relationship develops cracks due to conflicting personalities, it becomes one of the reasons to leave a marriage.
When we don’t see eye-to-eye on the defining issues of our life together, we may turn on each other.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.