The Grey Divorce

Divorce has never been an easy word. It has never been just a word et al. 

It has always been a story.

A story of pain, deceit, heartbreak, lies, indifference, and sometimes even Delight! The emotions attached to Divorce may be different for each one – even for the same couple, divorce evokes different emotions for both estranged partners. It comes with its emotional baggage, financial constraints, societal taboos, and personal agony.

And just as there are different emotions experienced by different people, there may be several reasons for the disunion instead of the honeyed ‘Till death do us apart!’ Whatever the reasons, they always spell trouble and surprise for the families involved. More so when you least expect it. At a time, that we have been conditioned to believe, as the one you need your partner the most. A divorce that comes in your ‘grey’ years – THE ‘GREY’ DIVORCE!

So, What exactly is a Grey Divorce?

Divorces manifesting in long-running marriages, typically beyond 15-20 years are touted as Grey divorces. By this time, you are already touching middle-age and dealing with grey hair…hence the name!

There are many more surprising elements to this Divorce than just the nature and the name. First of all, they happen late in life – which you would often imagine as the settled and wary phase to even think of separation. Secondly, more and more couples are opting to separate than ever before.

And most surprisingly – Women are the initiators of this divorce 66% of the time! (WHOA!! Talk about Women empowerment)

So, what do you think goes wrong … that too, so late in life? Let’s ponder over it a bit.

First Things First – It’s not an impulsive decision. The very reason that the stakeholders have taken so long to mull over it, that they have reached middle-age, is testimony to the fact that it is a well-thought-off act.

Secondly, if the woman has initiated it, you can be sure she has exhausted every option and hope for the relationship’s revival.


People grow as they age. With life’s many experiences and trials & tribulations, people grow. Unfortunately, they may not grow together but rather apart. This may be heartbreaking but not impossible. Just as people can fall in love, they can grow out of love as well. Relationship familiarity breeds contempt and boredom here. Spouses take each other for granted and forget to show appreciation for each other. This frustration leads to growing apart, in search of acceptance and appreciation. 

Let’s face it. The earlier generations did not have it all hunky-dory in all marriages. But many duplets still survived the ordeal. Some did only because of the stigma they may have to face if they did go the dreaded path. Societal pressure kept them from seeking separation. 

But things have changed over the years. Call it evolution or indifference; now people care much less about what’s going on in your life. The flip side of this all is the rise in the numbers seeking dissolution of the sacred institution of Marriage. Divorce is no longer a Taboo! 

No more stigma=less pressure to stay in an unhappy marriage

Many and many and yet so many people stay put in unhealthy, unhappy marriages for the sake of their beloveds – Their CHILDREN.

Quite understandably so. They brought them to this world. It was a promise they made to their children to keep them happy; take good care of them; provide them with everything they need and see them grow into beautiful humans. For the sake of this promise, they do not want to shake the foundation of this hollow relationship. They are willing to live this lie for the rest of their lives. A relationship that is an Illusion of a ‘Happy Home’ for their children; even if it has nothing to offer for the partner themselves.

By the time the children have grown, the need for keeping this illusion alive has reduced. This is the biggest driver for the exodus – especially for women. For them, this is where they become the ‘Walkaway Wife’. When an unhappy wife suddenly divorces or walks out on her spouse without warning, is coined as ‘Walkaway wife’. 

‘Without warning’ is a bit of fallacy here, as I believe nothing of this magnitude can be without warning. It may instead be the ignorance of the other partner towards the changes in the relationship, that causes the final step to come as a shock. 

Now that the children are independent and probably even understand that the relationship is not in good stead, people no longer feel the need to drag it further and eventually call it quits.

With more financial freedom comes more choices to live a happy and fulfilling life. Many may still try to live the dead relationship just because ‘it’s too late.’ But the ones who are adventurous enough to take the plunge, feel surer about this once they are financially more secure. It could be career advancement or inheritance of wealth or savings – finances do make a difference in this long-term decision.

Even the lack of it can be a reason for the Grey Divorce. Couples who have struggled with debt for a long time or have been constantly fighting about finances often end up divorcing in the golden years.

Yes, this seems unrelated, but surprisingly is a compelling component of the decision-making process to the D-word.

Look at it this way – if you have only a month to live and you are in an unhappy marriage, would you walk out on them to live happily? Well, some would agree… but a majority would rather not take the bait and live content for the rest of the time they have.

Now imagine if I told you that you have 30 years more to live. Would you still live in this unhappy situation or would rather break free and find the life of your dreams? 

BINGO. You would choose the latter!

With life’s expectancy going beyond 80 and 90 years, people in their middle ages do not want to continue in unfulfilling relationships for the coming 30-40 or 50 years. They want to do away with anything not adding to their happiness index. And this is where the grey divorce contemplation creeps in.

You have worked all your life rushing from task to task to make things work in your youth. Children, finances, loans, chores, and everything else have kept you on your toes. Now that the children are grown up and fled your nest to find their own life, you are left with only their memories and no real work to do. You have been so busy with your life that you no longer recognize your partner or your partnership with them. So once your ‘mission’ i.e., your children, has gone, you are suddenly left with a huge void, and life and partner you no longer connect with! What follows next is reassessment and retrospection of your life which many a time leads to a grey divorce.

The reasons could be different for people. But one noteworthy thing is that people are slowly but surely rising to such possibilities. Whether it is good or bad, is a debatable question. It is more of a personal choice and depends on what one is seeking in his/her life. 

One thing for sure is that Divorces are never easy on anyone. If you have shared a big part of your life and youth with someone, they do deserve a second chance. The same reasons that lead to separation could also lead to a reinvention of the relationship. Every relationship needs work, and so does this new-old relationship. Think about it and let your Grey matter overrule a grey divorce!

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4 thoughts on “The Grey Divorce

  1. Hey beautifully penned! Grey divorces are sad but happiness in the relationship is very important. Even if one spouse is unhappy and frustrated, the relationship will have a bitter aftertaste. Post the children getting settled, if the spouses living with each other aren’t happy, even the families around them won’t be happy. I guess treating them like any other divorce should be okay then. As you said, at this stage in life, these divorces are definitely well thought of. ❤ A heart for all those going through grey divorces.

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