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New and Different Goals: Why Couples Over 50 Get Divorced

In my last blog, I covered conflict avoidance as one of the primary reasons couples over 50 separate. But as a family and divorce lawyer with years of experience handling divorce cases, I think it is also important to touch on another reason couples over 50 divorce: new and different goals.

As people age, they might grow to enjoy new hobbies, set new goals, and desire different things in their lives. While these changes are perfectly natural, you might find that you and your spouse’s new goals no longer align and it puts a strain on your marriage.

As part of my series on common reasons people over 50 get divorced, this article focuses on the formation of new and different goals among both spouses. Read on to see what the experts are saying about this issue with couples over 50.

Why Do Spouses Set New and Different Goals?

Things change, and so do people. Nowadays, marriage norms are not the same as they were twenty or thirty years ago, and they will not be the same years from now. This evolution can leave you feeling disillusioned or confused about the values your marriage has been based upon, which can lead you to set new goals that are different from your spouse’s.

As Dan Rizzardini, a Licensed Professional Counselor in Illinois, states, “The most common goal most couples agree upon is the importance of raising their children. Once the children have left the home, spouses discover their interests have changed.” While spouses might set new or different goals at any stage of their marriage, this issue is especially prevalent in couples over 50.

As a lawyer, I have seen many causes of spouses setting new and different goals. Maybe your children have moved out, and you no longer feel like you have a connection with your spouse. Maybe one spouse has decided to pursue a career after being at home for years. Any life changes or new goals can present unique challenges in a marriage. While many couples can deal with these alterations, many others find that it is time to move on and seek divorce—especially if one spouse does not support the other’s new or different view of the future.

“In the first years of the marriage, all couples tend to settle on a specific dynamic and patterns that involve spoken and unspoken rules, roles and expectations… Some couples can change their contract with a collaborative approach, operating as members on the same team to create a win-win, even with seemingly incompatible goals. But other couples cannot figure out how to change the dynamic without incurring in conflict or distance,” reveals Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Founder of Couples Counseling Associates in the Chicago area.

The Challenges of Generational Gaps

Another common issue I have seen with couples over 50 are generational gaps that cause spouses to set different goals for themselves and different expectations for each other. According to Kate Engler, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Kate Engler Counseling in Illinois, “Every generation deals differently with issues such as division of labor, gender role expectations, work/family balance, and financial concerns. When I start working with a couple, I am interested in finding out their core beliefs when it comes to their own take on work, money, parenting, and who’s supposed to do what/when. Often, those beliefs are different according to what generation the couple belong to.”

In fact, spouses from different generations can face specific challenges or questions that leave them feeling dissatisfied with their marriage. For example:

  • Gen Y spouses
    If you are around 23 to 38 years old, you are part of Generation Y. Being married to an older generation—or vice versa—can present issues, especially in terms of gender roles and careers. If you and your spouse are both professionals, you might not want to give up your careers to stay home with the children. This time away from family can take its toll, and you might be butting heads with your spouse about what you feel each side of the relationship should be doing.
  • Gen X spouses
    If you are around 40 to 55, you are part of the Gen X Generation. Frequently, there was still a traditional division of labor at the beginning of these relationships. The mother took care of the kids and home, and the father went to work. However, Gen X, roles have started changing. Now, both spouses might be working and taking on more responsibilities. Conflicts surrounding retirement money, retirement itself, and future goals might arise. Questions might be bubbling to the surface, such as: “When I retire, what is my life going to look like?”
  • Retiring spouses
    People over the age of 60 are often facing retirement, especially since many companies require you to retire after a certain age. This change brings new issues, new challenges, and perhaps new goals as you look ahead to your future.
  • Already retired spouses
    If you are already retired and facing divorce for the first time after being married for decades, you might find it difficult to reconcile splitting everything you thought you were going to share with your spouse for a lifetime.

While generational differences might have an impact on what types of challenges you face and goals you make, the conflicts arise when neither spouse expresses these changes as they are occurring. When that disconnect occurs, dreams and goals of the future become independent from one another. Often, couples over 50 realize that their personal or professional goals no longer align with those of their spouse. Then they decide to pursue divorce.

You Can Seek Help for Divorce over 50

It may surprise you to learn that divorce over 50 is not uncommon at all. More and more couples over 50 are deciding to divorce, due to unsolved differences or new or different goals. In many cases, this process can offer a good deal of benefits for you and your spouse as individuals.

As Dr. Schwarzbaum states, “Couples think they know each other very well. But the reality is that people change in their goals and aspirations and dreams all the time. If spouses have a frozen-in-time version of their spouse, and don’t update their old version, the new goals and aspirations may come as a shock or a surprise, destabilizing a couple frequently.” If you and your spouse discuss your current goals and aspirations, do you support each other, or do your values present a conflict that cannot be solved?

Perhaps you and your spouse cannot resolve your differences, or your goals are sources of tension. If so, it might be time to look at getting therapy or pursuing divorce.

If you are over the age of 50 and wondering if divorce is right for you, please feel free to call me, Janet Boyle, or any of my colleagues at Family Law Solutions, P.C. We can provide important legal information you should know, options for next steps, and legal support throughout your process. To begin working with one of our divorce attorneys today, contact our office at 312-332-1344.

Dan Rizzardini, MSCP, MBA, LPC | Phone: 224-261-7817
Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum, LMFT & LCPC | Phone: 312-416-6191
Kate Engler, LMFT & LPC | Phone: 844-546-6642

About Us

Family law is complicated. The impact on the lives of everyone involved cannot be minimized, but Janet helps her clients discover that life will go on, and in many cases, will be better.