The Good And The Bad Of A Gray Divorce

So, you're considering a Gray Divorce. You're weighing the pros and cons of getting out after a few decades of marriage. And wondering what the future might hold for you as a single person in your 50s or 60s. In other words, you're Divorce Curious. Or, in Internet speak, 'Di-Curious.'
05/04/2016 07:14 am ET Updated May 05, 2017

So, you're considering a Gray Divorce. You're weighing the pros and cons of getting out after a few decades of marriage. And wondering what the future might hold for you as a single person in your 50s or 60s.

In other words, you're Divorce Curious. Or, in Internet speak, "Di-Curious."

Of course, this curiosity may have been forced upon you. Perhaps your spouse is driving the split, and you want some idea of what you'll face when you rejoin the ranks of the single.

Having gone through a Gray Divorce around five years ago, I offered my take on the pros and cons one could experience in a Huff/Post 50 piece in September of 2015.

Among the negatives I noted:

  • The pain one endures after divorce -- whether you wanted it or not, you'll likely mourn the loss of your plan to be married for life.
  • The loneliness.
  • The inevitable changes in relationships with your couple-friends.

But the positives included:

  • Having sex with new people.
  • Connecting fully and deeply to someone new.
  • Hitting the reset button and becoming, or getting back to being, the person you want to be.

Via the website I run, DivorcedOver50.com (which includes a Di-Curious section), I asked users to weigh in on their experiences going through a Gray Divorce.

Following is a look at how they responded. Please note, there was nothing scientific about this poll. It asked the respondent's their gender, length of divorce, and two open-ended questions: "What's the WORST thing about being divorced over 50?", and "What's the BEST thing about being divorced over 50?"

The overwhelming negative had to do with loneliness. Sometimes it was stated in one word, sometimes respondents provided answers like:

  • "Being alone."
  • "Fear of being alone."
  • "Realization you may be alone."
  • "Afraid of being alone the rest of my life."
  • "Not having someone to share adventures with."

Economic issues were also mentioned frequently. Some people said their divorce created significant financial hardship. Others mentioned the changes necessitated by living on just one paycheck, as well as taking on new roles like financial planning.

The difficulties of dating were another common response. There were complaints about the dating pool, particularly women saying that men want younger partners. Others expressed concern about their body image, as well as intimidation about a physical relationship with someone new after a thirty year marriage.

Some cited reductions in the time they could spend with their children, while others mentioned being excluded from couples events.

If "Loneliness" won a plurality on the Worst side, clearly "Freedom" reigned as the Best thing about a Gray Divorce. In fact, freedom, in one form or another, was the respondents' overwhelming response.

Those who expounded beyond the single word added commentary including:

  • "I have the freedom to do anything I like."
  • "No one to tell me what I can or cannot do."
  • "Not having to answer to anyone else, being able to do what I want, when I want, and being in control of my finances."
  • "Able to do what I want, when I want, and where I want without having to answer to anybody. First time in 50+ years I will be able to do so."
  • "Being able to have whatever adventure I want, when I want, just because I want."

It's interesting to note how often respondents used the word "I" when writing about the positives. It seems that their Gray Divorce had shifted their perspective -- no longer part of a "we," so many were fully embracing the optimism of starting over as an "I," as well as the opportunities available to them as a single person moving forward.

(In fact, in echoing the theme of freedom that her divorce granted her, one woman perhaps shared too much information: "I can pass gas as needed.")

Ideally these answers provide a bit more insight into what a Di-Curious person might encounter in divorce. And they confirm that while a Gray Divorce will most likely put him or her through some tough, lonely times, it quite possibly offers some tremendous positives as well.

So, is that almost certain pain worth the potential extreme gain?

That's a decision every Di-Curious man or woman has to make for him or herself.

All that Di-Curious person can do is gather as many facts as possible, talk to as many divorced friends as possible, perhaps seek guidance from an unattached outsider like a counselor or coach, and then try to picture him or herself going through that divorce.

Predicting one's future is an impossible task, but digging deep to really understand potential results can at least prepare a Di-Curious person, and increase the odds of a positive outcome.

If you've gone through a gray divorce and would like to take our survey, it's available here.

For more content of interest to anyone who is Divorced Over 50, or whose marriage is at a point where divorce is a possibility, please visit DivorcedOver50.com.

Would it help if you had someone to talk to about your Divorce Over 50? Or, if you're Divorce Curious, might you benefit from a confidential discussion of your situation? Click here for more information about our coaching services.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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