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Divorce after 60: is it ever too late?

So the years have rolled by and suddenly – before you know it, really – you’re in your 50s or 60s and your marriage is measured in decades rather than years. Time to settle down and resign yourself to a comfortable coda, a few last increasingly silver decades with your  long-established partner, right?

Maybe not. Some people think they have spotted a new social phenomenon: the catchily- named ‘silver separatists’ – that is to day, people who suddenly separate from and divorce their partners when in their  60s. Earlier this week, the Mail speculated that some older couples “discover they have nothing in common with each other once their children fly the nest.”

And today the Telegraph is also examining silver separations, citing some high profile examples. There’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, veteran actor and erstwhile governor of California, for example, who recently split from his wife of 25 years, Maria Shriver. Arnold is 65. Former Vice President Al Gore is just one year younger and he separated from his wife Tipper in 2010 after an impressive 40 years together .

And last month we reported on the shock separation of actors Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman after more than forty years together. He is 68  and she is 64.

Official figures certainly suggest that that there has also been a distinct increase in the number of non-celebrities getting divorced in their 60s. In the Telegraph article, journalist Neil Tweedie notes that over  3,000 more over-60s in England and Wales divorced in 2010 than in the previous year: a total of almost 14,600.

Actress Diana Quick, famous for her role in Brideshead Revisited, was 61 when she separated from actor Bill Nighy after 27 years together in 2008. She recently discussed silver separations in an interview with the Telegraph, claiming:

“There are far more couples splitting up in their sixties now and one reason is that they can. Economically, they have more independence.”

That is not a bad explanation –  many older people are wealthier now than their parents were at a similar age and money certainly provides freedom and options. But I actually think there is more going on than money here. As a society, our attitudes to age have changed and are now very different to those held by previous generations.

Older people no longer expect to sit in an armchair and quietly decline into decrepitude once they retire. They want to keep on living their lives – enjoying themselves, pursuing their interests, seeing their friends and family, travelling, making the most of all that free time. And many older people do precisely that, but fully aware all the while that time is no longer on their side. Time is a precious commodity when you are in your 60s, and certainly not one to be wasted.

As I see them, silver separations and divorce after 60 are one last grasp at freedom and self-expression. They may have been with their partners for 20, 30 or 40 years, but they see no reason why they cannot step outside and enjoy some freedom and fresh experience before it is too late.

Some freshly single older people frequently reunite with long lost loves or take existing friendships in a new direction and tie the knot once more. But here is where I’d like to sound a note of caution. Marriage in later years should come with a health warning. Why? Second marriages are notoriously more fragile than first time round. People are more set in their ways. It’s harder to get used to the habits of a newer but older partner. There will be children around, often grand children or even great grandchildren. The spouse of the first marriage may be unwell and depressed as a result of the breakdown of the first marriage. So a second marriage in such circumstances, surrounded on all sides by resentful and unhappy relatives (not least because of inheritance concerns) might be almost doomed before it begins. Ask yourself is it really worth it?

If you have a marriage that you secretly hope each day might soon turn into a potential silver divorce, so you can run off into a starry future with another, think very long and hard. As I am ruefully told on many occasions by my clients, the grass is never greener even if for a short while you suddenly feel like a lamb in the spring time. Your long suffering spouse may have learned to live with your moods and habits but a new spouse may find them less than palatable after a while.

Worst of all, such unions could even mean bigger financial settlements if it all goes wrong, even after a short time, and leave you completely cleaned out. Older people will have greater financial needs simply because they can no longer work or are coming to the end of their working lives. I have acted against wealthy men who became much poorer after paying out to not just one spouse, but two when their starry eyed second wife turned into a ferocious vixen.

So if you are longingly pondering a silver divorce and a second marriage, I’m far from sure it should all be thrown away, upsetting the entire family at the same time. And if you are still unconvinced, at the very least take legal advice to protect yourself.

There is, after all, no fool like an old fool.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Mark Stephenson says:

    You have GOT to be kidding! If I ever get up the courage to ditch the empty, miserable prison I call marriage, the last fucking thing I would ever do is plunge into this quicksand again. Day and night, all I dream about is freedom and singlehood … forever. May that day come sooner than I can hope. They say that second marriages are the triumph of hope over experience. I would categorize them as such supreme stupidity as to warrant involuntary commitment to a mental institution.

  2. NotAHope says:

    After 38 years of marriage, I couldn’t agree more. I would rather stick pins in my eyes than EVER think about sharing my life with anyone every again. How desperate are people to want to go through that hell again?

  3. Suzie says:

    At last. People who think like me. 39 years this year of a living hell for the last 20. The moods, the silences, always telling me of my mistakes and how inadequate I am. The constant criticism. I cannot wait for next year. I can leave him and the hell he creates. Never, never, never would I even dream of marrying again. How I long for the calm and the quiet and waking for whatever the day brings rather than waiting for it all to start again.

    • CEC says:

      Your marriage sounded bad Suzie i don’t blame you for not marrying again it must have put you off i can understand that. I don’t think you need marriage to be happy anyway not in this day and age. I have been living with my partner for over 40 years but i have decide to go my own way. I was ill with bad depression a few years ago and he had no empathy for me at all and his sister was the same. I now dislike them both and have decided to move on within the next 6 months. My partner has not been well recently but not being nasty i can’t muster up any sympathy the way he treated me his sister had a go at me for it and i told her you look after him now he never worried about me.

    • Jean says:

      I feel like you do. My husband & I have been seeing shrink for 6 mos. this is my 3rd shrink. 36 yrs. of arguing, not smart enough to make financial decision, can’t park car straight, don’t wrap cord on vacuum right. It’s time! I need to leave and never want another man!!

      • Stephanie Gent says:

        My question to you is, did you go through with a divorce? I have been married for 40 plus years and finally realize that I need out. We’ve never had anything in common and now I’m retired and involved in new ventures, meeting new people and I think it bothers him. We do nothing together and if we do, there is no conversation.
        I just need to hear from someone who has gone through it.

        • Joan says:

          I know how you feel!! Been married for 47 yrs we do nothing together n hardly to talk.lockdown has made it more apparent how little we have in common.if I can summon the courage I would leave !!!

    • Liza says:

      Well said Suzie

  4. says:

    Hi there, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this article. It was practical. Keep on posting!

  5. elizabeth says:

    Amen, I totally agree, wish I could find a “silver splitters” club in St Augustine, Fl. Just reading other peoples comments reassures me I am making the right decision even though it will be devastating to my husband who thinks he can make me love him again!

    • Alivia Alexander says:

      Comments:That is exactly what my husband thinks ,he can win me back ,never !! after all that I went through with him ?I won’t even consider taking him back ,there’s nothing between us I don’t love him ,its over between us ,after he abused me for all these years and now the mind games that his playing. I’m divorcing him after 40 years of fake marriage.

      • RF says:

        Sorry to hear about your horrible l life regarding your marriage. And some of the other comments on this site regarding long relationships or marriages. I know of at least 3 friends who have divorced after 40 years. I myself did this last year after over 40 years of marriage and to be quite honest i have never looked back. I am 68 years old and now feel a new person regarding my health and well being. Some of my friends said you will regret it but i haven’t not a bit of it. I now have my own flat i go to various activities and have made some lovely new friends. I don’t miss my ex-husband now i did at first but i feel at 68 years old i can have at least another 20 years of happiness not misery in a one sided marriage. Why did i sit it out so long nos sure but i thought a few years ago i can’t do this anymore so i got out. Good luck other commentators with your lives after divorce in your 60’s as the saying goes as one door closes another opens so true especially in my situation.

    • Carole Heath says:

      Good luck if you feel you are making the right decision Elizabeth. Some people don’t always realize like your husband he most likely has made a mistake. I think love is very hard to recapture once it has gone for whatever reason but sometimes you can rekindle it but i think there are always barriers unfortunately.

  6. Michael says:

    36 years this year and I feel they have been wasted,no courage to leave. At least iI have not felt the need to use the f word unlike some need for it.

    • Natasha Jane Durrant says:

      I agree Michael the f-word isn’t really the right thing to say but unfortunately for some people anger does play a part in their feelings and they let it all out even on a internet site. I hope you find some peace in your life relationship which are difficult are hard to cope with.

  7. Luke says:

    I think this article and the comments above show once again how marriage is such a bad idea in the first place.

  8. RS says:

    After 32 years with a man I very much loved in the beginning I am starting over ON MY OWN. Alcoholism, criticism, verbal abuse and pig-headedness have left me wanting solitude and the freedom to make my own decisions. We have a beautiful home, children and grandchildren but I am leaving this hell I call a marriage shortly. I would rather live in a tent. Would I ever do it again? HELL NO.

  9. Rich says:

    After 36 years of marriage and at the age of 60 my wife has filed for divorce.
    Why she has not told me but the rumors I hear range from she is tired of my bipolar illness which for the most part is under control to I was an anchor around her neck to living with me was like a roller coaster.
    The hardest parts are two fold; the children 25 and 29 have abandoned me and the worry about my senior years and let Bing a life with someone you can care for and who would care for you.
    I am scared and lonely. It almost in hindsight feels like if she spoke to me as as much as with others our marriage might have lasted another 36 years.
    The takeaway talk and not divorce.

  10. CF says:

    I am white British and I married an African man for 38 years took his redundancy money built a big house for his so Grandaughter niece and all his family left me and my 3 children and grandchildren

  11. NK says:

    Wow! I can’t believe how similar some of these comments are to my own story. I have been married for 39 years and left 9 weeks ago. My husband has been critical of my figure, the way I behave in social situations (drinking is not a factor), and various other complaints. I’m never sure what I will get day to day except largely ignored. Intimacy is non-existent, we don’t sleep together and we don’t eat together. And NOW, he thinks I am nuts for not doing the work he thinks I need to do to fix this. I feel free and can breathe deeply in my little one bedroom apartment!! Good luck to you all!

  12. A says:

    After 40 years of marriage, found out about his bisexuality.
    I cannot breathe let alone cope with this deceit,says he is all over it and it happened
    Long ago, don’t believe him.
    Where to go,what to do. I was a dinasour.a Wife,mother,no career.
    Why now? He was not who I thought and this marriage is a lie.
    No hope for me.

  13. Lucy says:

    My husband left me three weeks ago for another woman
    Says he still Ioves me but only like a sister says now
    in love again. My husband largely ignored me all our married life he was workaholic no time for me or our daughter who is now 33. But we both loved him dearly and both of us devastated. We have a house and he has small pension but still working, I want him back as can’t see a future without him my financial security gone and after all we had been through I felt things were getting easier how wrong could I be I don’t think he has thought the finances through properly I don’t want to divorce neither has he said he wants one . All we both worked for will be gone and not much left.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Lucy
      No one goes through life untouched by tragedy and what you write is just that. However, its how we deal with it that matters. Its happened, and now its a case of dealing with it. I hope you can get some emotional help as soon as possible. You will be experiencing all the raw emotions that are similar to a bereavement and I suspect will be in deep shock.
      Then when you feel more able, deal with the legal side. You may not have to leave your home. It might be kept on a “Martin” Order for you to stay in for the rest of your life. I dont know if its possible in your case, but its worth enquiring. Things may not be divided 50/50. Its all about meeting your reasonable financial needs out of the assets.
      Think about what you will need and how those aims can sensibly be achieved. Dont assume you arent entitled to more of the pension or income either.
      I wish you well,
      Regards and best wishes

  14. Mrmoto says:

    I’m surprised at the low volume of comments. What are the stats. Everywhere I go I see oldster couples galore

  15. nancy says:

    Wow! It is so telling to read many of your comments I left my husband after 39 years he wasn’t a bad guy he just was very critical and I became saturated with feeling like I didn’t quite measure up he is devastated at my decision I am slowly moving on and feeling like I’m finally finding myself again perhaps marriage has the best before date

  16. Lynn says:

    My common law mate spent all our 30 years pushing and pulling. I was fed up by age45 so asked to be free but we stuck it out. He didn’t return the favor 15 years later when he hooked up with old friend but didn’t bother to see how I felt. I said I should have clued in, that I had blinders, that I was insensitive . He is a jerk but I can’t detach in this lifetime

  17. EH says:

    My husband of forty one years left me six months ago, after he was arrested for domestic violence. He’s sixty seven, same day he moved in with a thirty eight year old woman. I had no job due to ill health, He has a private pension, am I entitled to anything off him, I’m getting seventy three pound a week ESA, he is paying thee hundred a month off mortgage, but threatens he’s going to stop paying it. He’s employed, and has two pensions.

  18. S says:

    I am 64, and I am considering leaving my husband of 43 years.I can not see myself with him for the next 25-30 years. We have little in common. Don’t talk, don’t share activities. We travel with friends so we don’t have to be together. Trouble is, he is a good guy, no bad habits-does not drink, smoke, gamble , spend excessively etc. Everyone loves my husband for his stories he tells. After 43 years of hearing the same stories over and over plus the downright lies as he makes up more , I can’t take it. His stories end when we got married. Its as if his life ended when we married. Never talks of our children or trips or lives. Just about what happened before we married. Refuses to help with finances, then blames me if there are concerns. I put up with his snoring for 40 years, I developed a chest condition and started snoring and he moved out of our bedroom. He fishes and watches sports. If I come to share the TV he leaves. If he is out on the porch reading and I show up, he goes inside. If I ask to talk about anything, I get told…. I was having a good day till you started. I am at my wits end. Now he is blaming his actions on his grandchildren. “No I did not do that , the child did it” OMG, we saw him do this or that and he still denies it. My daughter does not want him teaching her child to lie or blame things on others. We have no closeness, no intimacy. Refuses any councelling. He says its all me, well maybe it is. So I am considering leaving .

  19. Drema says:

    This discribles my life exactly. Have you been peeking in my windows.

  20. Sue Widdows says:

    Is it possible to get your ex out of your head? I was married for 47 yrs, he left 18months ago and finally owned up to being with someone else. She is older than me /him has bought a house where he wanted to be by the coast. He is now able to travel and go out again which he would not do with me for years, even refusing to visit his kids abroad
    I have moved on in so many ways but every day he comes into my head and I really don’t want this.
    I have rebuilt so. I have of my life but these thoughts/memories are driving me mad

    • Nancy Knapp says:

      I left after 39 years. He was a critic. One who often undermined or undervalued my personality and/or opinions. And . . . I think about him everyday. Sometimes wistfully and other times with disdain. I was told to work it out if I could. But, my journals are full of my attempts to “work it out”. He might have listened after the fact, but it took my leaving to get his attention. And now, two and a half years later, I am free. I still think of him all the time. I see him at family functions, but I am free to be me and that is worth so much. Let your thoughts come and go. He was a major part of your life. He is a part of your history . . . the good and the bad parts. Let the thoughts come rush over you and dissipate.

  21. Elkie says:

    Wow I’m glad I have read about all of you , cause I am 60 now and don’t want to be in this marriage with my husband of 43 years. 30 of those years I wanted to leave , kids dept etc. Most of all I didn’t have the strength. He sits all day doing nothing, he always embarrassed me in public by yelling at me when ever I said anything he didn’t like. He still does it. I look at him and I truly don’t want anything to do with him anymore. He is a angry unhappy man!! But financially he has nowhere to go. Even if the marriage was awful there is a history, I feel bad for him cause hes 72…..should I stay just because I think that I owe it to him???
    I am so miserable

    • Kate Nestor says:

      Sorry to hear of your situation. I understand the stress and unhappiness caused when a relationship breaks down. The decision to stay or go is yours to make however I would recommend getting some guidance. This article on the blog is a good place to start.

      I am also an advocate of counselling to help you work through your feelings. You can find a directory of approved counsellors here:

      Good luck in making your decision.

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