What is Gray Divorce?

Noemi J. Mullins

Many people were shocked when Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce. It seemed as though the couple lived very closely together from the outside. After 27 years of marriage, why do they do this?

While overall divorce rates in the U.S. have dropped since 1980, divorce rates among those over 50 rose to historical levels. The rate has doubled in the last 20 years. One in four divorces today is a “gray” divorce.


People in their 60s and 50s have a shift in how they think about relationships. Couples no longer feel obligated to stay together in a bad relationship, as the stigma surrounding divorce has diminished over time. There’s an increased life expectancy which gives you the feeling that there is still much to do and that time is passing quickly.

Many couples have achieved their parenting or career goals by now. Partner disconnection can lead to long-lasting problems in their marriage.

Sometimes, parents of college-educated children will feel lost. The routines, roles, rituals and rules that have governed their lives for many years are now thrown out the window. My client Nate* said that he and Lily*, their 23-year-old wife, don’t know each other anymore. They were having a session about reuniting with one another. For the past 20 years, they were “Mom” and “Dad”. Their only focus was on their children. Although it has many possibilities, the empty nest can prove lonely for many couples.


The increased financial independence of women is another factor that has contributed to the rise in divorce later in life. The AARP reports that two-thirds (three quarters) of divorces in heterosexual relationships are initiated by women. Women are no longer dependent on their spouse for financial security. They look at the next 20-30 years and weigh a stagnant marriage against an exciting new chapter. “I gave up trying to get Luis* on vacation 15 years ago. It was pointless. “He would only argue with me,” Chloe*, my client, told me. “Now that I am retired, I want the freedom to follow my dream of travelling. He is so far from me now that I don’t want him to come with me.


Here are some suggestions based on research to help you create and sustain a strong relationship over time.

  • Keep a close friendship between you and your partner. Have fun . Parents should do the same. Parents need to spend time with their children. It keeps your relationship in the forefront so it doesn’t become an afterthought. This keeps you informed about how your relationship is changing.
  • Avoid resentment by addressing differences quickly. The ability to fix quickly is what separates happy and unhappy relationships.
  • Think about the future of your relationship. Discuss your hopes and dreams. A thriving relationship is defined by a shared sense of meaning, which evolves over time.


Many couples make the decision to end their relationship after many years. Unhappy partners don’t have to be bound by expectations, financial obligations, or obligation. They can start a new chapter in their lives. Couples who are reevaluating their relationship over the long-term and want to keep it together, but feel they need some minor tweaks or major overhauls, should remember that your relationship is always changing. You can create and modify your relationship as partners.

Leave A Comment