The recent announcement that Al and Tipper Gore are splitting up after 40 years of marriage is making headlines. Why, people ask, would anyone call it quits this late in the game? After all these years of loving and living together, what event or problem could possibly be so big as to tear a couple apart? And isn’t life rosier in the later years of marriage, when the stress and strain – not to mention financial burden – of parenting are behind you?
The breakup of the Gore’s long-term, seemingly compatible relationship is surprising to just about all of us. I say, “just about,” because guess who isn’t the least bit shocked? You guessed it; divorce lawyers and marriage counselors. Both groups say in recent years they’ve been seeing more of what they’ve labeled, “late-stage” divorce among Baby Boomers.
Why? A divorce lawyer in Atlanta is quoted in USA Today as saying it stems from several things:
It’s the whole phenomenon of living longer, of having sex longer, of being healthier, oftentimes of being wealthier and feeling that they can easily pursue a no-fault divorce. I think we’re seeing persons in long marriages questioning whether in fact there’s a better life out there…Baby Boomers are part of the ‘Me Generation’ — what’s better for ‘me.’ I think we’re going to see more late-stage divorce in this country.”
So now boomers are responsible for a new trend. Story of our lives isn’t it? It seems we can’t go to the bathroom without it becoming big news: “This just in…Nielsen research indicates the baby boomer generation is heading to the john in record numbers…the exact cause is difficult to discern, but researchers note a sharp increase in sales of Charmin.”
We digress. Let’s get back to talking about this latest trend, or more specifically, what may be behind it. The Gores told friends they just “grew apart,” and experts indicate that jibes with what they’re hearing from other late-stage divorcing couples.
Now you might be inclined to suspect “grew apart,” is more likely a case of a middle-aged husband wanting to trade in the wife of 30, 40 years on a new, younger model; hoping to spend the remainder of his days – and money – with a trophy on his arm. But here’s another surprising trend – Robert Butler, a founding director of the National Institute on Aging, told USA Today it’s women who are contemplating ending their long-term marriages:
They wanted out. They were tired of too much pressure or inadequate emotional support from the husband. He was too preoccupied with other things. He didn’t carry his weight. He didn’t help around the house. They didn’t have the kind of support they wanted to have.”
Hmmm. When this news gets out, we wonder if we’ll see a another boomer trend in the making: “This just in…Nielsen reports a sudden and dramatic increase in the number of middle-aged men engaged in weekly vacuuming. Researchers also note a sharp spike in sales of the book, Housekeeping for Dummies.”