Divorce is never something that couples hope for on their wedding day. It is also not something that the majority of people expect to happen when they enter the later years of their lives after 30 to 40 years of marriage. After so many years together, it is hard to imagine divorce being an option, and some struggle with figuring out how they can even healthily cope with it. It is even harder for some to figure out how they can begin again, whether that be dating or just moving on with life.
Bill Knecht, a long-time couple and marriage therapist and licensed clinical social worker with a plethora of experience, knows a thing or two about the topic of gray divorce. He himself had gone through a divorce after a 31-year-long marriage and shares his insight on the topic and how he navigated through his own divorce.
Causes for Gray Divorce
Knecht shares that when it comes to late divorces, the cause of them varies; it depends on each marriage. One common cause for these divorces has to do with “empty nest syndrome.” When couples are alone together after their children have grown up and moved out, they realize that they have nothing left to focus on in terms of children or family.
The couple sometimes finds out that they can’t get along with each other. Over time, people can change and drift apart for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the distance is just too great to be able to salvage the marriage, and divorce is inevitable. It opens the floodgates for fear and questions to come rushing in as they begin to ponder what’s next.
How to Cope
When it comes to how to healthily cope with gray divorce, Knecht shares that, “It depends on the person’s level of maturity, someone getting divorced at 20 is different than someone at 60.” There isn’t a set way to react or handle the situation. The reality is, people’s reactions will vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the divorce.
Knecht emphasizes that it is important to seek out the support of friends, relatives, and even individual psychotherapy when needed. Having a positive support system in place is vital for healthy coping with divorce.
If you find yourself in a position following a divorce where you can’t function as normal, seeking out individual psychotherapy is something you should do. It is through that support that you are able to begin again and rediscover what you want out of the rest of your life, whether that be reconnecting with friends and family, getting up and moving again, or even getting out there and dating again.
If one finds themselves wanting to start dating again, starting online is a great option. Recently, Knecht has noticed an increasing number of couples who have met online, and that is what he did as well. It’s important to know that dating now is very different from 20-somethings dating. At this stage in life, most people are generally very independent when it comes to their lives and financial security.
Knecht shares that you don’t have to remarry. There is a unique way of dating known as “living apart together” that is popular nowadays, where couples pursue a relationship with each other and do all of the same things that one would expect normal couples to do. They talk, go on dates, and get to know each other on a daily basis. The only difference is that they do all of this while living apart from each other. They retain their independence while living life with someone who they have romantic feelings for.
The key is figuring out what you want and reconnecting with yourself before trying to date again. Knecht uses the airplane analogy to explain what he means: when the oxygen masks come down, you are instructed to first secure your own mask before you look to take care of the people around you. When it comes to late-in-life divorces, this method is vital to navigating through this challenging experience.
[vc_separator][vc_column_text]By Anthony Bui