The story of Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce has taken the world by storm this past week, as one of the world’s richest couples is about to go through the process of splitting up their lives and assets. There is no telling what will come of the split when the dust settles, but their divorce highlights a trend in America that has long been on the rise—gray divorce.
Is Gray Divorce On the Rise?
While divorce rates are declining amongst the younger generations, spurred mostly by younger people delaying marriage until after they have graduated college and established themselves financially, divorce rates amongst those over 50 doubled between 1990-2010 and have since plateaued at this high rate.
Why Are Divorce Rates Different for Older Generations?
There are many reasons for this rise in gray divorce, but one of the driving factors is that those in this age group were raised during the divorce revolution of the 70’s, destigmatizing the idea for many. And the divorce rate rises 2.5 times higher when you look at remarriages. For those who have divorced once, there is the understanding that there is a life after divorce, in many cases a better one for those whose relationships no longer work. This makes them more willing to walk away from a remarriage if it is not bringing what they need to the table.
What’s Age Got to Do With It?
Couple all of this with the fact that we are now living longer than ever. As couples begin going through some of the mid-life’s biggest changes, such as empty nesting, retirement, and decreased mobility, they are beginning to reevaluate if they want to spend the next 20+ years in an empty marriage. They may have been willing to stay together before when they had their children and careers to focus on, but now that these are no longer masking things many decide they want something more.
Bill and Melinda Gates have now joined the growing ranks of those going through a gray divorce. Only time will tell how this mega-divorce shakes out, but one thing is clear—gray divorces are here to stay.