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Jeruba's avatar

Do you know of couples who have separated or divorced late in life and after long marriages? What was their story?

Asked by Jeruba (51548points) November 18th, 2018


Late in life: age 65 or older
Long marriage: 30 years or more


Why did it occur after so long?

What happened, and how did they work out the split? Domestic arrangements, finances, caregiving, division of property, children, wills: in general terms, what was the deal?

And, if you know, what was the triggering event or the last straw?

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14 Answers

janbb's avatar

Me, but I’ve written about it a lot here over the years and don’t want to recap here publicly now. Can chat or pm with you at some point.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Yes, a girlfriend whose parents had a successful prosperous life, raising kids who weren’t spoiled despite being very well off. They were lovely people and I was a bit jealous comparing them to my own family.

The youngest was about 30 when Dad out of the blue announced he had found the love of his life and left the state.

Not a really helpful example, because having no dependents and having plenty of money made it an emotionally upsetting thing, but not an existential crisis. Nobody was threatened with poverty or even a loss of quality of life.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

My aunt and uncle, he had been unfaithful and she knew it but stayed with him until all the kids were out on their own.
and was over thirty years they had been married.

JLeslie's avatar

I know two (aside from janbb) but I don’t know them well.

One, the husband was cheating. I don’t know if he was a serial cheater, or just was with this one woman. I also don’t know if he stayed with the other woman.

Another, I became aware of because I am a caretaker for a friends rental property. I don’t know what happened, and I don’t know how long they were married. I live in an active adult community, so over 80% of the people here are over 55, a huge portion are 65 and older.

Lastly, my MIL “leaves” her husband quite a bit the last few years for extended periods. She is 81. I think she would divorce him if they had enough money, or even if she didn’t do legal paperwork, she would get her own house and live in her own if she could. She has never worked, and they typically spent most of what they earned, and they earned a lot of money before moving to America, and while here earned a decent middle class income. They get $300 a month combined SS.

He has cheated more than once, she doesn’t trust him at all. She’s very mean to him at this point, but it’s a result of his chronic dishonesty, she can’t get over it even if he is true to her now. The lack of money makes it much much worse. She can stay with us for as long as she wants, any of her children really, but she doesn’t seem to like staying more than 2 months at a time. It is a little difficult when she is in my house, she kind of takes over the kitchen, but she never feels completely comfortable in my kitchen. Plus, my current house is small.

Now, that they sold their house (couldn’t afford it) they now both are staying with one of their kids at a time for extended periods, but it’s not a great situation. My MIL basically feels she lived a life that wasn’t her own. She loved having her kids, but I see her regret about not having ever done anything outside of the house. Her husband, my FIL, was extremely controlling when they were young, they both are controlling actually in their own way. He, didn’t want her to wear make-up, he would make her literally salt his food at the table, he would take her places like to the doctor (it was to watch her) he had hit her in the past—very controlling.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Apparently this is more common an occurrence than I had realized. A couple that we’ve known for 30 years is separating without spite or rancor, and the matter of fact low key nature of the breakup is unsettling. This is the 3rd such announcement among our circle. In all 3 cases, it seems the fire went out and the couples stayed together through sheer inertia and for the sake of the children. The kids are now grown and independent, and everyone’s ready for new adventures. What a world!

elbanditoroso's avatar

I know of one that ended in a murder-suicide. Not the best outcome.

Jeruba's avatar

How do these couples who have been together for so long and combined their incomes, bank accounts, home furnishings, utilities bills, and everything else start over again in their 70s or 80s?

Do they just go to some sort of retirement or assisted living facility, or do they have to start over with shopping for a house or apartment just as if they were single and 25? Does each of them now have to do for themselves all the chores that they used to divide up?

Does one of them usually stay put and the other move out? Does a 75-year-old woman with a semi-invalid husband push him out and have to pay him for half the house? What do people do?

And—have you known of a case where after they tried this out, they decided to get back together because managing separately was worse?

janbb's avatar

For us, there was a gradual process of separating our finances. He moved out of the house because he had initiated the split (and wanted to move out), I stayed in it. We continued to have a joint checking account during the year or two that we were separated before starting divorce proceedings and paid our household expenses out of it. We had a collaborative divorce which meant that we each had our own lawyer, but were committed to a joint resolution and not going to trial. I ended up buying him out of his share of the house and still live in it. There are state mandated formulae for the splitting of assets such as pensions, 401Ks, etc., basically, we each got half. We were joint owners of a business and each got a share when that was sold.

He rented a temporary apartment and then a better one that he lived in for a few years. Then he moved into his fiancee’s house and they later moved elsewhere a while after their marriage.

His wife will take care of him in his dotage and I’ll take care of myself – hopefully with help.

We are still in touch with each other with some degree of regularity; we have one asset in common still and a shared interest and love of our sons.

Sometimes I miss being married to him and sometimes I don’t. What can I say?

ZEPHYRA's avatar

@janbb I’m sure he misses you too but obviously won’t admit!

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba I think it really depends. This doesn’t directly answer your follow up question, but I can tell you I personally know two women who became widows in their early 70’s who wanted to dance on their husband’s graves when the husband finally dropped dead. The adult children either felt the same, or at minimum understood why their mom was relieved that he was finally gone. I’m assuming some divorces late in life are like that too.

Jeruba's avatar

@JLeslie, how did those two women express that to you?

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba One if then I was helping her granddaughter sell her mother’s house. Meaning, the mother is the child of the grandmother. The granddaughter’s father had just died suddenly. The mom only spoke broken English, the grandmother nothing, but it happens my Spanish is pretty good. We were all together, the three generation of women, and myself, going over the suggested selling price, and reviewing the listing contract. The mom, got weepy, her husband had just died two weeks before, and the granddaughter told me her parents had a real love affair, a wonderful marriage, that her mom was having a very hard time. She said, “not like my grandfather, when he died we all danced on his grave.” She used that phrase. She continued, “he was a tyrant.”

The other one was a relative by marriage, her husband’s mother was fine with her husband dying. He had been an alcoholic, and I got the feeling physically abusive.

JLeslie's avatar

Wouldn’t let me edit. Should start: One of them was helping…

Mods, can you fix that please??

Response moderated (Spam)

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