Why do Baby Boomers Divorce the Most?

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Why do Baby Boomers Divorce the Most?

Though it’s always quoted as hovering around 50%, the divorce rate in America is now closer to 40% than 50%. This is true for almost every demographic except the baby boomer, those born between 1945 and 1964. For them the rate has grown to 50% in two decades. So why do baby boomers divorce the most? Some experts have posited that since baby boomers came up in an age of great prosperity and challenged every aspect of conventional society from gender inequality to civil rights, they are now challenging what it means to be middle-aged and redefining marriage and relationships too. Others say that they are looking for a relationship that is unattainable, perfection. Still others believe that they want the most out of life, including attraction and sexual satisfaction in their partners. As baby boomers age their peculiarities will be of much study to psychologists, demographers, sociologists and many others. The question will be how marriage and relationships change in this important demographic as they continue to age and what unique qualities will there be when they are seniors.

Baby boomers were the first generation to reject traditional gender roles outright. With the advent of the birth control pill came the sexual revolution as well as great strides in feminism. Of course this was also the generation that challenged the traditional notion of marriage and enacted a record number of divorces through the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. It may be their propensity toward divorce that causes their children, the Gen X, Gen Y and Millennial generations to wait longer to get married and start a family. It may also be the reason that the younger generations are cohabitating more. Of course financial considerations also come into play, and perhaps are more of a cause.  But the baby boomers paved the way to make it possible. The mistakes of the baby boomers and their propensity toward divorce may have also made marriages much more stable, decreasing the divorce rate among later generations. This is because people are much more serious when entering into a marriage. They take it very seriously, do not want to be divorced and so they wait and make sure the person is the right one before going ahead and getting married. If you are looking for a relationship as a divorcee from the baby boomer generation, read the book, Boomers Guide to Dating (Again) by Laurie A. Helgoe, Ph.D.

Marriage in America Today

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Marriage in America Today

The number of people getting married is declining. Experts say the marriage rate today is lower than it was in 1880, another time when extreme differences in income affected the social landscape. Though marriage is touted in America and many societies as helping to preserve the social order, the atmosphere with which we operate is far from conducive in promoting it. In the original Gilded Age as Mark Twain called it, a new class of industrialists slashed wages and with it the prospects of workers of marrying age, mostly male factory workers. Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin at John Hopkins University wrote that one difference today is many are choosing to cohabitate and have children without a marriage license filed away in the family home. That would never do in the 19th century. But today it’s quite common.

One problem is the gatekeepers to pop culture, the TV and movie writers, musical artists and others have failed to keep up and give us an image we can hang onto for this new state of affairs in how long-term love should be.  Zoë Heller at the New York Review of Books says films today and other cultural milieu are filled with simplistic plots and clichés about love, without delving into the complicated minutia of modern relationships and how best to navigate them. They don’t reflect what people are actually experiencing, nor do they give a strategy for which to encounter the prickly paradigm of modern love. Supporters of traditional values decry the end of marriage as it once was. But couples staying together longer show greater stability, know each other better and perhaps can best negotiate differences. The expense of a wedding, weakening norms and lack of financial benefit may result in a further decline in marriage, experts believe. On the upshot for advocates, statistics show that those who are getting married stay together longer. Also, the divorce rate has dropped dramatically. In fact, since the 1980’s, divorce has been in deep decline. 70% of those who married in the 1990s celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary today. That’s 5% higher than those who married in the 70’s and 80’s. Those who tied the knot in the new millennium have an even lower divorce rate.

According to economist Justin Wolfer at the University of Michigan, two-thirds of married couples today stay together. For those cases where divorce does occur, two-thirds of the time it’s the wife who wants it. The reason is women’s expectations for marriage have vastly changed. Gender roles in America saw a dramatic paradigm shift over the past two decades due to the Feminist movement. This in turn affected how both sexes interact with one another. Today, marriage isn’t only about raising a family or having financial support. It’s about love and partnership. People also want someone who will help lead them into personal growth. They want to grow and better themselves and they look to their partner to help them complete their metamorphosis. A lot of times, when we feel as though we are in a stale relationship and the well has gone dry, we feel it’s time to move on. The baby boomer generation remains the one with the highest rate of divorce. People are living older nowadays, and so when the children have moved out and they still have decades of life left, they want to make the most of it. That sometimes means leaving someone they no longer connect with in order to enjoy those years with someone they do. For more on this topic read, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today by Andrew J. Cherlin.

Why do Baby Boomers have Higher Rates of Divorce?

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Why do Baby Boomers have Higher Rates of Divorce?

For the generations after the baby boomers the divorce rate is around 40%. For the boomers themselves it’s more like 50%, making lots of folks wonder why baby boomers have higher divorce rates.  One reason is that empty nesters, once the kids have moved out and built lives of their own, turn to each other and find that they don’t have much in common anymore. It’s hard to reconnect on a personal level after so much time and once the kids are no longer there to talk about. Some couples feel that they don’t see eye-to-eye on anything anymore. Another issue is baby boomers are living longer. This is the generation that often broke with the old and helped usher in a whole new America in terms of working toward racial equality, the generation that fought the Vietnam War, experienced free love and more. This generation is caught between an ideal that they have for love and relationships and the unsettling idea of settling for someone who isn’t perfect or who they don’t believe is perfect for them. Every relationship has its ups and downs. Every one has its disappointments. Lots of couples in this age group get divorced today and it’s a big surprise to their friends and family, especially if they’d been together for such a long time. But lots of baby boomers, who are living much longer, want to experience their own individual lives untethered now that they are free of the burdens of children and so on.

Sometimes people grow apart and they have a hard time reconnecting. Others wonder whether they were a good match even when they first met all those years ago. Older baby boomers were enticed by the freedom of sexuality, fighting against unfair norms and more. Though this group felt more connected with traditional modes they nevertheless wanted greater expression and personal freedom which affected their marital relationships. Some ventured outside the marriage for these needs rather than getting divorced. But oftentimes the infidelity itself leads to divorce. The second group of boomers were authentically in tune with the new values produced in the 60’s and tried to incorporate those into their own relationships. But this process can also be frustrating and unfulfilling. Lots of boomers too grew up with parents who were neglectful, abusive or indifferent and this may have effected them. Those of the baby boomer generation have more doubts about their marriages and expect more out of a married relationship. One study found that those who question who they married are more likely to divorce. Boomers want to live a true, genuine, authentic lifestyle. But if they feel they can’t do that in their marriage then they get divorced and try and make the life they want out of the time they have. There is hope. According to one study 60% of those who divorce end up in positive relationships. If you find yourself dating as a person of this generation, read Boomer’s Guide to Dating (Again) by Laurie A. Helgoe.

Is your Marriage Better Now than at your Honeymoon?

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We all know about the honeymoon phase, that spectacular time in a relationship when you just can’t stop thinking about one another. Your lover is your everything. You seem absolutely perfect for one another. The short time you spend apart felt like an utter catastrophe only to be saved by the thrill you felt at reunion. Once you fast forward years, even decades later after having one perhaps two careers, a mortgage and some kids grown and moved out things in a relationship change an awful lot. With all the ups and downs, old issues and unresolved ones, it can be hard to re-engage that ecstatic feeling you first felt when you two got together, or were first married. The divorce rate for baby boomers remains at a stubborn 50%. Still, despite the dour statistics, there are those couples, everyone knows them, that seem happier years and even decades into their marriage than they did when they first became an item. Still, there are couples who are deeply satisfied in their relationships. But this feeling has become their normal. So is your marriage better now than at your honeymoon? Here are some signs. First, you feel totally and completely comfortable in front of your partner. You can tell them anything and feel perfectly at ease and they feel the same about you.

You don’t have to rely on getting dressed to the nines to be noticed by your partner, or to feel that glow or your pulse quicken. In fact, interaction, warmth, affection, a deep unrelenting connection and an abiding trust and friendship are just as much a part of your attraction to one another as your physical selves. When a honeymoon phase is on, there’s this nervous energy that inhabits everything. It is in your laughter, how you make love and other interactions. Though it can be thrilling it can also make you anxious. But when you are happy later on in your marriage, you are relaxed. There isn’t this nervous feeling that you may ruin the mood. If it does get ruined your partner is more likely to make a joke about it and help things move on than to get upset. There is a comfort level there that doesn’t exist in the earlier years. Sex improves for some couples in a more developed marriage. Each partner knows the others wants, needs and desires. There isn’t a frantic worry about pleasing the other person. The pressure to get pregnant is gone. It isn’t as goal oriented. It’s more about pleasing and enjoying one another. At one time early on in a marriage, a fight or a faux pas was a big deal. That worrying about little problems or issues is over. Nothing is hidden from the other for fear of disapproval. For more on having and keeping a great marriage, read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver.

Baby Boomer Sex Myths

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Baby boomers are a different generation from those that came before them. They have a younger mindset, are more likely to pursue their own happiness and are more independent than the generations that came before. There are myths about baby boomers as well, especially about sex. This was the generation that defied tradition and instituted the sexual revolution. They also brought more gender and racial equality in to the U.S. and perhaps the world. The first myth about baby boomers and sex is that sex is not that important as they age. First, everyone’s libido is different. For some couples this is true. However, for some couples sex was never that important while for others it is a defining aspect of their relationship. Relationships are different and what works for one couple may not work for another. When strong, deep feelings of trust and love inhabit a relationship sex can seem less important than it once did. But libidos can still continue even into the golden years. Also the relationship changes without sex. The couple seems to be more like friends or roommates and the marriage may seem less like one. Once that spark is gone too it may be hard to bring it back. And if sex wasn’t of great concern to boomers things like Viagra and the penis pump wouldn’t be as popular as they are.

You can have sexual relations at any age. It may take longer for things to get heated up. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t great to help you enjoy time as a couple, relieve stress and deepen your emotional bond. There is a myth that older women are unable to reach orgasm. This simply isn’t true. For younger women, lots of times inhibitions curb her from enjoying her body and knowing how to achieve climax. But older women are generally over any such insecurities. Women over 50 years of age may find that their sex lives have never been better both physically and emotionally. Though the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) may increase as a man ages, Viagra, Cialis and other medications can help. Exercise, a proper diet, stress reduction and plenty of rest can also aid in this. The truth is that men and women can enjoy sex and one another at any age. Foreplay and sex may change as we age but it can still be just as enjoyable and satisfying, and it can help couples reconnect as it did when they were younger. Sometimes couples think that once the kids are off to college that they’ll reconnect in the bedroom, only to find that they have grown apart or don’t know how to reconnect. Find common interests outside of the bedroom and inside and build from there.  Lastly, some people say a midlife crisis is a death sentence to a marriage. It can actually be used to fuel a Renaissance of interesting incorporations in the bedroom. Why not put that energy to good use? For more advice, read Boomer’s Guide to Sex that (Still) Sizzles by Francine Hornberger, Rene Hollander and Michael Levine.