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Why becoming empty-nesters can mean the end of a marriage

We've all heard of the "Seven Year Itch." There was even a movie by that title in which a faithful husband is tempted by a woman he meets on vacation, played by Marilyn Monroe.

Now researchers are seeing a growing phenomenon that some call the "20-year itch." It's one reason for the rise in divorce rates among couple in their 50s and older. It's doubled in the past 20-plus years, while the divorce rate for people 65 has grown even more.

The 20-year itch often coincides with when kids go off to college. As one author who has written about divorce says, "Kids leaving home is a major milestone in life." It causes many people to reevaluate not just their marriage, but their entire lives. They have time to focus on something besides their kids. They're left alone with a spouse they may have little in common with and perhaps not even like anymore. They may decide to leave an unhappy, unfulfilling marriage as part of starting a new act.

Many couples can find a way to communicate their dissatisfaction without being hurtful so that they can work on rebuilding or reinvigorating their marriage now that it's just the two of them again. One clinical psychologist says that couples need to "recognize early warning signs. Very often people are in denial."

However, for some couples, divorce is the best solution -- particularly if the marriage has become mired in animosity. The psychologist notes that divorce can be a "do-over that enables someone to reinvent one's life for the better."

Divorcing after years of building a life and family together can be complicated. There are likely many shared assets that need to be divided. One spouse may have been out of the workplace for awhile and needs spousal support. You may still be putting your children through college. Your family law attorney can help you sort through all of these issues and work towards an agreement that will let you live as comfortably as possible as you begin this new phase of your life.

Source: Next Avenue, "Why Do Many Marriages Dissolve After Two Decades?," Gary Stern, May 02, 2018

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