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Baby boomers' divorce rates expected to rise

When Olivia Newton-John sang Hopelessly Devoted to You in the 1978 movie Grease, baby boomers were deeply in love and headed for the altar. But now that they're older, many are saying to heck with 'til death do us part.

Although studies have determined that the overall divorce rate has held steady or declined since the 1980s, it's not so for those older than 50.

The National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University found that the divorce rate for boomers and older couples has more than doubled over the past three decades, and it's expected to increase.

More than one in four people who divorce today are older than 50. Of course, some of those have exchanged vows on more than one occasion. In fact, the center found that roughly half of those who divorce are in short-term remarriages.

The dynamics of couples have changed significantly over the decades, said Loralea Allen, a clinical counselor with Counseling for Wellness in Kent, Ohio.

"Traditional views and expectations of marriage and family have changed, due in large part to more education and employment opportunities for women," she said.

Those changes, Allen explained, have allowed couples to end a marriage when a relationship has deteriorated. Previously, social expectations often forced them to remain together.

Psychologist Donald A. Lichi, with EMERGE Ministries in Akron, Ohio, thinks the trend is the result of a society that no longer looks negatively on someone who is divorced.

And boomers who are 50 today likely have a much different lifestyle than someone the same age in decades past.

"Ours is a youth culture and people are exercising, Botoxing, tucking — to appear younger," Lichi said. "The mind-set is: 'I've done my duty, stayed married, raised the kids, and if I'm not in a happy marriage, I can find someone who will make me happy.'

"The avenues that closed for many in the past after high school, college and early career of finding a mate have also dramatically changed," he added. "With the onset of the Internet and numerous social-relationship platforms, it's just as easy to meet more eligible people across the country as it is across the street."

For baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), empty nest syndrome can wreak havoc on holy matrimony. But if a couple's marriage was built on a strong foundation, then chances are the relationship will remain solid, Allen said.

"Lack of interest and participation in activities, other than that of their children, often creates a large void for the couple when their children leave the household," she added. "Communication is always key to a successful relationship."

Typically, couples face difficult situations during their lives together. But the foundation their relationship was built on is key to its long-term success. So does that mean a shaky relationship is doomed as the couple ages?

"No," Allen said. "A couple can learn the appropriate coping skills and communication techniques that will allow them to develop this foundation."

Young or old.

By the numbers

More than one in four people who divorce today are older than 50.

Baby boomers' divorce rates expected to rise 11/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 5:10pm]
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