Gray Divorce Regrets: 8 Considerations Before Ending Your Marriage
When it comes to divorce, many people enter and finish the process with regrets. There will always be questions about how things could’ve been different, but the more you can consider and learn from the regrets that others have, the less likely you are to end up regretting the decisions you make throughout the process of your gray divorce.
What is gray divorce?
Gray divorce is a term used for divorces between older adults. It gets its name from the idea that people in this group, usually 50+, have gray hair. This type of divorce often has unique considerations from divorces between younger people, who usually have been married for shorter lengths of time. Because there have often been so many years of marriage before a gray divorce, there are more complex decisions to be made surrounding property, retirement funds, and how varying roles of “high earner” and “homemaker” impact the division of those types of assets.
As a couples counselor for more than 10 years, I will discuss the eight most common regrets that people have after going through a gray divorce and why people have those regrets.
Not preparing for the financial implications of gray divorce
Divorce is expensive, especially when there are a lot of assets to divide between spouses. It is ideal for taking steps to mitigate the financial consequences of divorce early in the process. Some examples of steps you can take include:
- Consult with a financial advisor to ensure that you fully understand the long-term financial consequences, as well as how divorce will impact your budget and retirement.
- Try mediation or a collaborative divorce when possible to find an agreement on how things should be divided.
- Know your state’s laws regarding things like communal property and alimony so you can prepare accordingly.
Underestimating legal costs
Going through a divorce comes with a high price tag – both emotionally and financially. The longer a divorce takes, the more expensive it may become with legal fees and attorney costs, so it’s ideal to finish a divorce quickly and amicably whenever possible.
The average amicable divorce costs between $25,000 and $50,000. While that may cause some sticker shock on its own, it’s important to note that a divorce that isn’t amicable has the potential to be dramatically more expensive.
Being unprepared for social implications
Maybe you have mutual friends or mutual communities that you are a part of with your spouse, like church or clubs. Divorce can impact relationships with mutual friends and change a person’s support system. It may be difficult for friends to support both people at the same time, so often, people feel that it’s impossible to maintain relationships with each spouse.
Regardless of how things end, many people lose important friendships in the midst of a divorce, which can be an especially painful experience. It can also compound upon the feelings of loneliness and disconnection that people often feel when going through a divorce.
Changing retirement plans
When you get married,you, of course, plan on spending the rest of your life with your spouse. As a couple, you may create retirement plans that will support both of you. However, this can get turned on its head when divorce is considered.
For example, if a couple is depending on a pension to manage a significant amount of their retirement, that may be difficult to divide. While in some cases, spouses qualify for equitable distribution, it’s usually impossible to formally divide these assets in a divorce.
There is also stress that comes with having to figure out how retirement savings that were meant to support one household will be able to support two. You may find that retirement isn’t as near as you once thought or that your lifestyle in retirement will have to be significantly more humble than you expected. It’s important to plan for these changes so you aren’t blindsided by them later in life.
Health and insurance
Health can be a big concern for older couples, and the stress of the divorce process can also impact a person’s health. Older adults with preexisting conditions, in particular, should plan for how to manage the stress of a divorce and mitigate the impact on their health. Things that can help with this include therapy, exercise, and meditation.
However, those things may be more difficult to access if you no longer have health insurance. If one working spouse covers the entire family’s health insurance, divorce may mean the other spouse needs to look for a different job, plan for the additional expense of health insurance, or apply for Medicare. It’s important to plan ahead of time how you will pay for care in the event of a severe health problem during and after your divorce.
Many gray divorcees have adult children that are impacted by the divorce. Divorce impacts each family differently, but it’s a good idea to prepare for some difficult conversations as a result of your decision to pursue a divorce.
Adult children are often less impacted than young children when their parent’s divorce but may still feel tension with one or both parents. There is a lot of emotion involved in a divorce case, and each family member can experience things differently. It can cause tension and change family dynamics in unexpected ways. For example, some adult children may feel like their parents have been lying to them about the state of the relationship. Other adult children may feel like it’s one parent’s fault and distance themselves from that parent.
Loss of companionship
One of the biggest regrets about gray divorce is the loss of companionship. Many gray divorces happen after years and decades with their spouse, and people are very used to day-to-day life with that person.
You may not notice that your spouse always did the dishes while you did the laundry while you lived together, but as you adjust to living alone, you may notice yourself feeling lonely while doing housework. These feelings can be especially strong while doing domestic chores your partner used to do. While it’s normal to feel a sense of grief after divorce, it’s important to continue building your life and relationships outside of the marriage to preserve your mental health.
Weigh the pros and cons
There are many things to consider when contemplating divorce later in life. It’s important to weigh all the pros and cons of your specific situation. Many people may find the regrets that come from divorce worth it to work through in the long run, while others may prioritize their companionship. Each situation is different, and the answer will depend on each individual couple.
If you are considering a gray divorce, seeking professional support can have a great impact on your mental health. Lisa Rabinowitz can help with the emotional process before, during, and after your divorce for both couples counseling and individual counseling.
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