Is divorce the answer?

My parents are getting divorced after 32 years. I had no idea they were unhappy. Have you ever heard anything so absurd?” asked my devastated friend.
Indeed I have, and the statistics tell the story. During the 1980s, marriages of 30 years and over showed a sharp increase in divorce.

While the divorce rate for couples married under 30 years rose just 1.4 percent, the rate jumped 16 percent for partners married over 30 years, and the trend continues. Seven percent of Americans over 65 separated and divorced in 1999. In 2001 the number jumped to 10 percent. Is there a compelling reason why couples having spent a ‘lifetime’ together suddenly feel empowered to undo it all?

A number of dynamics seem to cause these dramatic lifestyle changes. When hormone levels subside as people reach their late forties, fifties and sixties – estrogen in women, testosterone in men – they begin to ponder their book of life.

The recognition that they’re about to enter the last and final chapter is for many a somber psychological wake-up call. It’s the last chance for happiness, for romance, or even love. It’s the last chance to realize one’s dreams. Now or never!

Those who have been contemplating the dissolution of marriage for any number of reasons – boredom, simply having grown apart and wanting out, or having endured years of unhappiness – suddenly feel compelled to make the hard decision. “It’s finally about me,” says a recently divorced mother of four. “I was there for everybody for 36 years of my life. Now I want to be there for me, finally!”

A study by AARP suggests that women initiate divorce in greater numbers than men. Having reached menopause and beyond, they feel secure and understand better what makes them happy. Freed of family obligations and responsibilities that they carried for years, many decide to live life on their own terms, including their sexual lives. Many who have rejoined the workforce or otherwise developed financial security, are willing to risk the continued journey on their own, when life with a partner has not been satisfying.

For many women who are left without appropriate resources the picture is often devastating. They literally are stranded. They feel abandoned and betrayed because they are neither able nor prepared to create a decent life for themselves. They simply don’t have the skills or the resources to fight for their rights.

For men a divorce can be a devastating blow, especially if they didn’t initiate the break-up. Many are bewildered and have a hard time settling into a new life. But they usually have more control and knowledge regarding family finances and/or investments that puts them in a stronger position in the event of divorce.

In the sexual realm, the arrival of Viagra and other assorted libido enhancers have given
men more than a mere physical boost. The little pills have made them far more confident, and sexual fulfillment is clearly on their mind. Many simply want out of the “unexciting drudgery” that marriage has become to them. Quite a number, 65 or older, are interested in connecting with younger women. Today sixty is the new forty, seventy the new fifty.

Boomers cannot reset the clock. However, they reset their priorities. Having a full, active and sexually vibrant life is a high priority for both sexes. Self-actualization is no longer a privilege of the young.
Having the time and, in many cases, enough money to structure the third chapter of their lives, men and women put a high value on realizing the life they really want. Today’s boomer generation is willing to face the emotional upheaval of divorce in the hope of improving the quality of their lives.

Jacqueline Brandwynne has worked in the health and beauty industry for more than 25 years and is creator of the Very Private line of products.