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Why Long-Married Couples Split

Is cheating always the kiss of death?

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Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of marriages are not presented with such mega challenges. Still, plenty of breakups occur after a relationship of many years. Although some people are able to negotiate the inevitable bumps in the road, for others those bumps turn into a sinkhole — something that they cannot seem to climb out of. Sadly, and often with great affection for each other, the couple say "enough."

And, yes, couples are saying that more often these days. Why?

The answer is longevity. We live so much longer now. Half a century ago, an unhappy couple in their mid-60s might have stayed together because they thought it wasn't worth divorcing if they had only a few years left to live. Now, 65-year-olds can easily envision at least 20 more active years — and they don't want them to be loveless, or full of frustration or disappointment.

And then, of course, we're now looking at the aging of the boomers. They're different from the 50-year-olds who lived before them. In previous eras, couples soldiered on even if they were very unhappy. But boomers gave up on the concept of the dutiful-but-unhappy spouse a long time ago. They were the originators of a higher divorce rate, and while that divorce rate has slowed, we may be seeing a spike as people ponder whether or not they will stay with their spouses into extreme old age.

So, yes, there are plenty of reasons why a couple who have been married for 30, 40, even 50 years might break up. And although we don't celebrate divorce in this country, we are not afraid of it, either. This now extends to our golden years, as well.

Discuss: Why Do Couples Split After 25 Years or More?

Did you or someone you know divorce after a long-term marriage? What were the contributing factors and what advice would you give other couples struggling to hold it together? Leave a comment below or discuss in Late-Life Divorce Group in the AARP online community.

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