Splitting Up after Long Term Marriage

I recently saw a column in the Seattle Times by Carolyn Hax.  In it, a man who has been married for 38 years asks:

“I feel as though my wife wants to control and smother me and wants more time from me than I can give her. Things are complicated by the fact that my wife just retired, and I probably never will. I love my work. Also, I am heavily involved in a social-change movement, and my wife just seems to want to do nothing but go to the gym.

How do we get things to work when we have different plans for the way we spend our time?”

We see a great many couples who are divorcing after long term marriages. Often it is either soon after the children have all moved out of the house, or as they are moving into retirement age. Both events are significant transitions in the life of a couple. Such transitions can be a time of real stress, because the comfortable patterns that a couple falls into are changing, and the couple has to adapt the patterns of their lives to the new circumstances.

Often one person will have a different idea about how they should adapt than their partner. The partners may well have long held but rarely discussed visions for their future after that transition – “I always wanted to travel more once the kids are out of the house”, or “Once I am retired I really want to get serious about my hobbies”, or “I’m just really looking forward to kicking back and taking it easy for a while”.

The couple from the column clearly have different ideas about what their future should look like. The husband wants to work at things he cares about, while the wife wants a more relaxed life style. There may also be differences of opinion about how much they value spending time together versus time pursuing individual interests, and even the value they put on the marriage.

While one always hopes that these kinds of differences can be worked out through discussion, maybe even with the help of some mediation, sometimes they do drive couples to decide to go their separate ways. When that happens, a couple with such along history together often wants to avoid unnecessary acrimony, they just want to get on with their lives, albeit separately. In that case, it is important for them to find attorneys who will help them with the process without escalating the conflict, and hopefully even help them reduce the conflict they are having.