Divorce is Out of Control, Even Among Baby Boomers

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We boomers are the best at everything, aren’t we?!? Sad to say, according to sources researched by Renee Fisher, this includes divorce. So how do we fix that problem when it crops up? By saying “I did, I didn’t, I do.”

Statistics on U.S. divorce rates vary wildly, from under 35 percent to over 125 percent, depending on which source you look at and how annoyed you are with your spouse at the moment. But, no matter how you slice it, Baby Boomers are getting divorced at a much higher rate than their parents’ generation. One source quotes the rate at three times as many; that would be three times as many Boomers getting divorced than other generations.

Renee Fisher

Some experts attribute our higher divorce rate to the much greater opportunities that we have than our parents ever did. More education, greater employment choices, and increased mobility combine to raise the bar on Boomer expectations. Others, specifically non-Boomers, say that Boomers will simply do whatever they can to call attention to themselves.

If we are at the top age of Boomers — the leading edge of our generation — our parents’ generation had to deal with pesky issues like the Depression and World War II, so maybe they weren’t keeping track of who was taking out the trash more times than the other. And we are living longer, which is a huge factor. The Census Bureau reports that in 2008, one-fourth of new divorces took place in marriages of over twenty years. The same year, almost 51 percent of all divorced (but not remarried) people were Boomers.

Let’s be realistic here: if you are miserable after twenty years of marriage, and your life expectancy is, say, fifty, you are probably too busy checking your blood pressure to worry about whether you are happy. But if your life expectancy is 85, you could get seriously depressed at the thought of spending the next 35 years with someone who spends all of his leisure time eating deep-fried Twinkies and watching McHale’s Navy reruns.

The important point to all of this is, if you are a Boomer and you are divorced and are considering remarrying, you’ll want to know what makes a second (or third, or whatever number) marriage successful (that is, aside from marrying someone who lives on the opposite coast and just sends you large checks each month).

The answer, you might not be surprised to know, is that the same factors that make a good first marriage will make a good subsequent marriage. Try as we might, we just can’t get away from those boring issues like communication, commitment, and equality. So, if you had an issue with any of those in your first marriage, know that they won’t go away in your second unless you are prepared to choose differently, behave differently, and/or experience differently.

And for those of you who are thinking this doesn’t apply to you because everything that went wrong was your spouse’s fault, you could end up competing with a woman named Linda Wolfe. She’s been married 23 times and is still looking for Mr. Right. Considering a relationship with Linda, any man in his right mind might choose to be Mr. Left, instead.

10 Comments

  1. Many boomers grew up in rebellion against traditional institutions. What’s more traditional than marriage? Then there was this idea of self-fulfillment – remember the human potential craze? So, if you’re “moving on” in life and your spouse isn’t, the reasoning was: why stay together? We’ve also been called the “me” generation. This attitude doesn’t tolerate the stresses and strains of relationships well. To paraphrase an old anti-Viet Nam war chant: “What do you want?!” “Happiness!” “When do you want it?!” “Now!” However conservative we baby boomers may have become, we’re still creatures of our generational zeitgeist.

  2. Most of us change during the course of our lifetime,and sometimes a spouse changes in way that you cannot tolerate (perhaps for good reasons).The fact that many divorces occur after ~20 years of marriage tells me that at least we baby boomers are sticking it out for the sake of stability for our children, during their younger years. Getting it right the next time does depend taking ownership to what went wrong the first time, and working on that.

  3. Hi Terry, You do have a good point. The Depression and WWII resulted in a generation of parents who lavished their kids (us) with all the best they could give. The result was a certain focus on ourselves, as well as a desire to break new ground. We continue to do so in midlife and beyond, and some of the fallout has been the dissolution of long term marriages.

  4. Thanks for your comments, Anne. Well said. Many of us do stay together for the sake of the kids, but we divorce when we consider the prospect of another 20+ years in a relationship that is no longer loving, supporting, or healthy.

  5. Hi Renee!

    Congratulations for your article, which is very accurate with few words. In Europe it is just the same for boomers concerning “Divorce”. The previous generation didn’t divorce easily. Very often a lot of us heard this sentence from one, or sometimes the two, parent: “I didn’t divorce from your father (mother) because of you”. And Childs were angry against parents for the nightmare and the hypocrisy running at home for years. Boomers don’t want to have the same way of life that their parents concerning the marriage and divorce more easily that them.
    Life is too short for waste time.

    Best Regards

    Richard,
    from France, student boomer in English language.

  6. Thanks for this great post. And I think that ladies in their fifties look much younger than they really are. And this is because they take good care of themeselves and their healths. And this was not the case with older generations. This gives them more confidence. They don’t worry anymore that they will be lonely after their divorce. Indeed, they have what it takes to date and fall in love again. :)

  7. Hi Richard, So sorry for the delay in responding. I was in London for a month (my daughter lives there), then Maine for a week. Thank you so much for your comments. It’s interesting and not surprising to see that the same holds true for Europe. I know that in other parts of the world, people stay together because of strong societal restrictions against divorce or because women don’t have the option of leaving men.

  8. Thanks for your comments Janett. I also think we women nowadays are very different than our mothers and grandmothers. And I totally agree that a lot of the changes have resulted in our being more self-confident and independent. If we want to enter into another relationship after divorce, we have options to do so. If we decide we are happy being solo, society will support us.

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