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Thursday, July 12, 2012

In the past few weeks I’ve seen multiple stories reporting on the issue of “gray divorce.” News outlets from The Wall Street Journal to NPR have featured stories on this heartbreaking phenomenon.

Most of these stories reference a recently published study called “The Gray Divorce Revolution,” co-authored by sociologists Susan Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University and I-Fen Lin.

The Facts

In 1990, one in ten divorces occurred in couples ages 50 and older.  In 2009, that number doubled to two in ten.  For those previously married, it has skyrocketed to one in four, a 250% increase. 

Over the two decades represented by the study, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of people in this age group on their second and third marriages. In 1980 45% of singles were divorced.  In 2009, that percentage increased to 58%. The marriage failure rate is historically much higher for multiple marriages.

The Real Problem? The ME Generation!

While general societal acceptance of divorce and the increased earning power of women are both sited as key factors influencing the rise in gray divorce, I tend to pin it on something else.

The baby boomer generation, which I am part of, is also called the “Me Generation.”  That’s a fitting but sad moniker and also a key to understanding the gray divorce epidemic.  

Dr. Brown describes the attitudinal shift concerning marriage that occurred with this generation, which had “for the first time, a focus on marriage needing to make individuals happy, rather than on how well each individual fulfilled their marital roles." She goes on to say that the problem “springs at least in part from boomers' status as the first generation to enter into marriage with goals largely focused on self-fulfillment.”

In other words, with the me generation, marriage became all about me and making me happy, rather than about us becoming one and serving one another.

Sadly, this “it’s all about me” notion has become even more prevalent in subsequent generations. 

Don’t believe me?  Just listen to the abject selfishness extolled by this Fox Business "expert commentator" (a divorce attorney extraordinaire, whatever that is) in her report on this study:

Did you count how many times she said “me” and “my” and “I” in explaining and defending the gray divorce trend. Did you catch this gem: “It’s time to think about me as an individual, not as a marital partnership.”  

What? I’m sorry, but to me she kind of misses the whole point of marriage, at least of marriage how I think God intends it to be. And this goes to the very heart of the problem.

Today, while about to put up this post, I came across an amazing quote.  Thanks to my therapist niece for sharing it:
‎"Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become "whole" and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.

We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married."

Duke University Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas
It sums up the problem pretty well.

In my next three posts I’ll share my thoughts on what can be done to fight the gray divorce epidemic.  Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Links to My Three Remedies for Gray Divorce:
  • Remedy 1:  Seeing the Larger Purpose of Marriage - it's not just about your happiness
  • Remedy 2:  Taming the Me-Monster - why selfless love is the best kind
  • Remedy 3:  Getting Your Priorities Straight - keeping marriage before your kids or success


Author said...

Powerful message as a I am a 50 something divorcee who bought into this deception. But I am wiser, humbled by my circumstances and much closer to God. I pray my children never have to experience the pain that selfishness causes. Thanks for writing and laying it all out for us!

Anonymous said...

There are two things that hit me especially. The word LOVE was never mentioned!! How sad to not even consider love and learning to love and nurturing love and being committed to each other, not love only as a feeling but as a decision. The other missing subject was children!! Even adult children suffer deeply when their parents divorce. It affects the grandchildren, too! Why wasn't Grandma at your wedding? Can't we see Grandma and Grandpa together?! Can I just say I am glad we are living longer so that I can be with my husband longer!! Oh, I think this is sad. Jenni Means

Alecia said...

Loved this post. Can't wait to read the follow up! My first thought when watching the video was how ironic it was that this woman was a divorce attorney extraordinaire but also was promoting a book on pre-martial planning.

Angie Mack said...

From my study of spiritual warfare, the "it's all about ME" syndrome is rejection recognized by its attitudes and actions; it is a root-system which must be removed! Some of the fruit-bearing spirits resulting from rejection, include the spirit of pride, selfishness, independence, and insensitive. These spirits are the greatest hindrance to fellowship in marriage, thus allowing the demon entry of the spirit of divorce to come in. We as believers, need to stand in the gap for marriages. We cast out ALL marriage-breaking spirits that would break covenant in the name of Jesus. We break EVERY time-released curse that would activate in our life as we grow older in marriage in the name of Jesus! We break and release ourselves from ALL curses of divorce and separation in the name of Jesus.

Anna said...

Great response!

Anonymous said...

My view is a little different. I don't have a problem with non-believers exercising an escape clause. Barring all the societal ills research has shown it produces. When you don't focus on eternity, then by default, your focus is temporal -- the 'here & now' - it's all you have - it kind of makes sense. The world is a selfish place so it should come as no surprise that behaviours are, well, selfish.

What raises my barometer is when people profess to be disciples of Christ yet model the antithesis of His demonstration. And when this is happening 'en mass' ... something has 'runamuck'.

And thanks for the heads up about the video - "me" "my" "I" -- very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Wow...I've only been married a year and some change. I'm 27. But reading these types of post sews seeds of wisdom in me. I appreciate you. Be blessed.

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