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The Golden Years: Often Rusty


What makes a couple that's been married 40 or 50 years decide to split up? Is it something sudden? Or a long, slow accumulation of unhappiness?

TRACE: I'm 62. After 38 years, three kids and three grandkids, my wife called me at work to tell me she moved out of the house, hired an attorney and wanted a divorce.

The marriage hadn't been good for years. We'd gone to counseling 10 years ago, but my wife wouldn't work at our marriage. I'm now seeing a different counselor who's preparing me for moving on, working on my communication skills and being the man my wife would have wanted and that I should have been. But it will be too late. At least she left me the dog.

SARAH: I was 54 when my husband asked me for a divorce. We were married over 33 years, with two children and a grandchild. I asked him to go with me to three marriage counseling sessions (one for each decade we were married) to try to save the marriage. Or, if the marriage couldn't be salvaged, at least to help me find out what went wrong. He said no. He didn't love me anymore. Believe me, that hurt.

The divorce went quickly with little arguing. He was definitely fair when it came to finances. That was two years ago. I'm still scratching my head over what went wrong. He has a girlfriend. I don't know if he had her when he asked for a divorce.

NANCY: "We boomer women made ourselves the most empowered women in history. We married men of our choosing, developed careers, raised kids, worked full-time at an office or at home, and generally did really well at all of it.

Now we have quite competently completed a lot of these tasks and are retiring. We finally have empty nests. And what do we discover? That after patiently waiting for our turn, we realize it's never going to come. Our husbands want their lives to continue as they have for the past 30-40 years.

He wants to die at home? Forget finding that cute condo with no yard duties and moving to somewhere like Florida, Arizona, Colorado or Vancouver. He doesn't like travel? Then forget about it. He likes eating at home? Forget dining out. He's shocked that the little wife is tired of living his life.

He had no idea. He thinks of himself as remarkably easy to get along with. Of course he is — as long as we both remain firmly in his comfort zone. We boomer women would like the chance, before it's too late, to find our own comfort zones. But not all of us can. I'm married to my husband's pension.

JIM: Unhappy younger couples are often unwilling to split for several reasons. It may be because of the damage to the children. Or they don't want to be single parents. Or they don't realize that the only thing keeping them together is the children. Or they're overextended with house payments, car payments, childcare, school loans and health care. Maybe they like having a steady sex partner.

Maybe that's why younger couples stay together and older couples are divorcing.

Are you contemplating a divorce after a long-term marriage? Why? Send your tale, along with your questions and problems to And check out my new ebook, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front."



5 Comments | Post Comment
@Sarah.. yes.. if he was so far out the door that he didn't want to entertain the thought of counseling, she, or another woman were there already. I'm sorry he couldn't admit to you what went wrong.. even if it was just that he was searching for "excitement" you no longer provided. I think I could deal better with knowing the "why" even if it showed him to be a shallow cad.

@Nancy - I don't get your problem. You claim you "boomer women" developed careers. Why are you dependent upon your husband's pension? Or do you mean that in order to live life in the level of comfort you are accustomed to, you need his pension and the assets you acquired as a couple? There is literally nothing stopping you from going off on your own and doing what you want.. even if it means you may have to settle for a less expensive condo (or gasp, an apartment) and settle for only occasional meals out as your finances can afford it. If you truly have been dependent upon him financially all these years, you would also be most likely to be entitled to a healthy share of assets and maybe even a portion of his pension... not to mention spousal support. You have two choices. 1. Make the most out of your situation and lunch with the ladies and vacation on your own etc.. 2. Leave him, get every penny you are entitled to, go to work and earn money to fill the gaps and find your own comfort zone... ALONE. I would hazard a guess that you still love him but are frustrated he is a stick in the mud and are loathe to consider divorcing him (so messy) and getting the money to do what you want. I imagine you would worry about what friends and family would say about you. So.. sounds like your best bet is door number one. Make the most of what you can do. Develop friendships with like-minded people and travel and eat out. Maybe get a part time job to help fund these activities if you husband won't support these activities. You can sit here and complain or you can fix your situation. It was a mistake to think that "your time would come" and awfully unfair to your husband who thought you were both living the lives you wanted to live.
Comment: #1
Posted by: qhgirl
Mon Aug 3, 2015 7:04 AM
qhgirl, good advice. To Nancy, she may be able to work out a compromise. Maybe she could convince her hubby to move to a cute condo in their same area. That way they could stay near family and friends and yet shed the hassle and cost of maintaining the same house they raised their kids in. If they are dependent on his pension, they probably can't afford to keep up the big house indefinitely anyway.

Boomer women are usually financial partners with their husbands. The two of them need to sit down together to assess their financial situation in view of how expensive their current lifestyle is, and what funds they may need if either of them has a medical emergency or something. Most men, Boomers or otherwise, can see the advantage of reducing their fixed costs of living to free up cash for other uses.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Samantha
Mon Aug 3, 2015 11:11 AM
Nancy doesn't sound so empowered to me. In fact, she sounds like she lives her life on a leash. He doesn't want to go out for dinner? Go without him. He doesn't want to travel? Make plans with a friend. He doesn't want to sell the house? Well, that one she can't do without his consent, but she could leave him and file for divorce. That may force him to sell and even if it doesn't, she would still get her share of the assets with which to move forward. Martyrs...ugh.

LWs who speak for an entire generation annoy me. She isn't a poster child for all Boomer women any more than her husband is one for all Boomer men.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Shirley
Mon Aug 3, 2015 12:12 PM
I always thought it was a real con job to tell people to wait to be happy until they get old. It's like telling them to obey your every whim and give you money, so after they die they can go to heaven and be happy.
It makes no sense to me to assume that one's older years are going to be "golden", because when we get older we are more likely to have health problems and financial problems.
I lived in Florida for a while and saw a lot of grouchy older people. I have the feeling their "golden years" turned out to be the same as their other years, only more boring.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Mary
Mon Aug 3, 2015 1:32 PM
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Comment: #5
Posted by: mccartf
Tue Aug 4, 2015 5:53 PM
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