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6 Tips to Help Prevent a Gray Divorce

When we think of divorce, we often picture middle-aged couples with younger children. Gray divorce is more common than you might expect, though. The life transitions that happen with age can take a toll on your marriage, so gray divorce can be a risk for even the happiest and healthiest couples. If you and your partner are getting older, you should be aware of the causes and risk factors for gray divorce as well as what you can do to prevent divorce later in life.

Causes of Gray Divorce

Gray divorce happens for a number of reasons. Sometimes, married couples have been unhappy for a long time but stay together for their children or for financial stability. Once they can both live independently, they decide to separate.
In other cases, gray divorce results from new challenges that occur with aging. For example, empty nest syndrome is one of the most common causes of a gray divorce. When your children leave the house, your family dynamic changes dramatically. You might find that you and your spouse struggle to connect with one another when you don’t have the kids to focus on.
Retirement sometimes plays a role in gray divorce as well. You and your spouse might be spending more time at home with one another, which could lead to increased tension or bickering. The financial challenges that can occur after retirement may increase the risk of gray divorce, too.

6 Tips to Prevent Gray Divorce

Many couples face new challenges as they age, but you’re never too old to work on your marriage. Even if you and your spouse are struggling with new life transitions, gray divorce isn’t inevitable. Here are six tips to prevent gray divorce:

1. Keep going on dates.

Spending quality time with your spouse is absolutely vital no matter your age. Older couples have spent so much time together at home that they may not see a need to go out on dates. However, existing in your shared space at home is not the same as committing time solely to your partner and to a shared activity. The quality time you and your spouse experience on a date night can help you maintain or rediscover the spark in your relationship.

2. Embrace each other’s hobbies.

You and your spouse don’t have to share everything together, and it can even be helpful for both partners to spend some time alone with their own hobbies. Sharing certain hobbies and activities can be very meaningful, though. It feels great when your spouse takes an interest in your passions and wants to learn or participate. You get to share something you love with someone you love.
Even if you’re not especially interested in your spouse’s hobby, give it a try. You’ll get a better understanding of what your spouse does in their free time. Additionally, you’ll get to spend quality time together. Then, ask your spouse to join you in one of your favorite hobbies. These shared experiences can make your marriage feel more fulfilling and can reduce your risk of gray divorce.

3. Show appreciation.

Most couples forget about the little things after many years of marriage. However, so much of the joy of marriage comes from small moments. Expressing gratitude and appreciation toward your partner on a daily basis can bring you closer together and help prevent gray divorce.
If you think your spouse looks especially nice one day, let them know. If you appreciate that they make you coffee in the morning, express your gratitude toward them. If you’re proud of their accomplishments, tell them. Nothing is too small to show appreciation for.

4. Discuss finances.

Disagreeing on finances is a major contributor to gray divorce. You and your spouse need to communicate openly about your finances to prevent divorce later in life. This is particularly important if one or both of you is preparing for retirement. Sometimes, couples also plan to relocate or downsize as they age. By planning your financial future together, you ensure that you’re prepared for anything and that you’re in agreement on everything.
You and your spouse might not have exactly the same money habits or financial priorities. In many cases, one spouse is more likely to spend while the other is more likely to save. You’re not necessarily headed for a gray divorce if you don’t see eye-to-eye on every financial topic. You need to be able to compromise, though, so that you both feel like you’re working toward important goals while also meeting your current needs.

5. Prepare for health issues.

Unfortunately, physical and cognitive health problems are common with age. If you and your spouse haven’t discussed a plan for handling a serious medical diagnosis, you might be at a greater risk for gray divorce. Chronic health problems can be physically, financially, and emotionally devastating. Preparing in advance doesn’t prevent the pain of a diagnosis, but it does help you handle the situation with a clearer mind.
Spouses are often the primary caretaker when an older adult falls ill. Seeing your life partner decline physically or cognitively can be extremely difficult, though. Before you or your spouse face any health issues, you should discuss options for support. Some couples plan to enlist the help of other family members. Others consider retirement homes or skilled nursing facilities. What to do when one spouse gets sick is a highly personal choice, but your marriage will benefit if you have this difficult conversation ahead of time.

6. Work with a counselor.

Therapy is always a helpful option when working on your marriage. Couples often attend counseling when they’re already facing challenging issues and feel like they’re on the brink of a gray divorce. Sometimes, couples go when they’re feeling happy with their marriage but want to make the relationship even stronger.

Couples Counseling for Seniors

Couples counseling for seniors can help if you and your spouse have been fighting or struggling to communicate. Working through your current challenges with a supportive, unbiased figure can make a dramatic difference in your marriage and can prevent gray divorce. Therapy is also incredibly helpful for future planning. Discussing your long-term plans as you age can be difficult, but your counselor can help facilitate the discussion and make sure both partners express themselves.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling provides couples counseling for seniors who are concerned about divorce later in life. We understand how important it is to work on your marriage as you age, and our licensed counselors have the tools to help. Contact us today to learn more.

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