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Why empty nest syndrome is a major reason for gray divorce

On Behalf of | Jul 4, 2024 | Divorce & Family Law |

For a long time, divorce was broadly perceived to be off the table for couples who had stayed together way into their 50s. However, in recent years, there has been a spike in older couples choosing to divorce in their golden years. This phenomenon has been nicknamed gray divorce, and many hypotheses try to explain why more couples are ending their marriages later in life.

For example, it is believed that the departure of children from the home can inspire divorce among couples who have spent decades together. A deeper look at the link between empty nesting and gray divorce can help explain, to a degree, the spike in gray divorces.

Empty nest syndrome

The term empty nest syndrome was coined to describe the identity crisis that many older couples experience when their adult children finally leave the family home. Such couples find themselves grappling with feelings of sadness and loss as they mourn the sense of purpose they used to share when raising their kids. For such couples, their lives revolved around their children’s:

  • Schedules
  • Needs
  • Activities

After decades of following the same predictable schedules, now they have to figure out what to do with their lives. With so much free time on their hands, these parents may struggle to find new common ground. In their quest to rediscover their individual identities, they may realize that they don’t have shared interests now that they have kids to raise together.

Unresolved issues come to the forefront

When parents are completely devoted to raising children, their marital issues can easily be pushed to the background. However, when the kids become independent adults, they no longer need their parents’ hands-on guidance. As the kids slowly leave the family home and the house becomes quieter, the parents may find themselves grappling with:

  • Unresolved conflicts
  • Unmet emotional needs
  • Communication problems

Long-standing issues that the parents previously managed to suppress or ignore can become more apparent. The absence of distractions can magnify these problems, leading some couples to conclude that divorce is the best solution.

The transition to an empty nest is a significant life change that can incentivize couples who’ve been married for decades to consider divorce. Older couples who are contemplating divorce in their golden years can benefit from appropriate legal guidance. With the right information, they can be better equipped to transition into the next chapter of their lives successfully.