Thursday, June 30, 2022


Divorce among older couples especially in Asia was virtually unheard of 50 years ago. Marriages were meant to last a lifetime. Even when death took away one partner, the other would remain faithful till death. My mother remained a widow for 60+ years when my father passed away at an early age. Couples in those days stayed together because they took their marriage vows seriously, more so if they married in a place of worship and exchanged vows before God.

In reality and in these days of freer social interaction between the sexes, remaining faithful to one person for the rest of one's life seems to be strictly for the firm believer in story book fairy tales of the genre 'and they lived happily ever after'. The reality is this is only the beginning of a marriage.

In South Korea, for example, longer life expectancy, gender equality and better financial support for divorcees have been cited as reasons behind the high rate of silver-haired divorces. The number of couples that decide to separate after living more than 30 years together increased 7.5 percent on-year and more than doubled compared with a decade earlier. (More Koreans end marriage at older age: data). 

It's the same in Malaysia and Singapore. With a global ageing population, it is not surprising that gray divorces are on the rise. I believe a lot also has to do with the emancipation of women. Baby boomers were the first generation to break through the gender discrimination barrier. With access to higher education and better job opportunities, older women are now able to support themselves. They are in a more secure financial position to break free from a marriage that no longer holds any meaning for them. 

No longer considered a social stigma, divorce now means liberation for many women, and an opportunity to start afresh on their own. (Image from The Daily Mail)

This is unlike our mothers' generation (those born in the 1920s-30s) who depended almost entirely on their husbands for support. So when the children have grown and flown the family home, it is time for these older women to pack up and leave too. Many divorcees are enjoying the single life again, or entering into new relationships. There is even less reason for them to remain in the role of the long-suffering wife, especially if their husband has been unfaithful or abusive to them. 

Sure, there are couples who are blessed to have found their 'soul mate' to share the rest of their lives with. They truly exemplify the meant-for-each-other marriage. But for many middle-aged and older couples, they are more likely to find themselves stuck in an unhappy marriage, wondering what happened to that sweetheart they once loved and married so many years ago. Both parties have changed and have become disillusioned with each other.

It's the same story in Singapore. What is interesting is that the number of older divorcees re-marrying has risen. Social stigmas associated with divorcees and second marriages have generally disappeared.

This is especially true for women in their 50s and 60s who feel trapped in their marriage. Emboldened by the rising number of silver-haired divorces they read about, they no longer think twice about initiating divorce proceedings. They no longer feel pressured to keep up a pretense of a happy marriage. They no longer fear facing the future alone.

70 years together "in sickness and in health". Unfortunately such loving elderly couples are a rarity these days. (Read the touching full story at The Huffington Post)

To be fair, there are husbands who want to leave their wives too. Some women are no angels, and do cheat on their husbands. Others are gold-diggers or title-seekers. Still others are so insecure, they become overly jealous and possessive of their husband, while many are born naggers, constantly harping on their husbands' perceived faults. Such women can make marriage a living hell for their husband. Of course, as shown in the recent Amber Heard vs Johnny Depp court trial, women can be the perpetrator and men the victim but such cases remain in the minority.

Divorces are usually messy, ugly and expensive. The only winners are the lawyers. Regardless, women will proceed to file for divorce rather than endure more years of suffering mental and emotional anguish in an unhappy marriage. Often their decision has the support of their adult children who do not want to see their mother in misery.

As long as neither party wants to give their marriage another chance, or if one partner is adamant about splitting, no amount of marriage counselling can help. When a marriage has irretrievably broken down due to irreconcilable differences, the best solution is a divorce. 

Here are some tips for a long-lasting marriage.

1. Appreciate your spouse and show it with little acts of love.
2. Communicate. Share your feelings, your views, your worries,
3. Continue to have sex and intimacy. Have weekly date nights.
5. Never criticize or humiliate your spouse in front of others.
6. Have realistic expectations of each other.
7. Embrace your differences.
8. Have your own pursuits as well as shared ones.
9. Learn from each other.
10. Support each other in maintaining an active healthy lifestyle.

(Reposted from an old blog article I wrote, and last updated on 4 July 2022.)

1 comment:

Ariel Ky said...

I never married, but I still wish that I could find someone to share my life with. It would have to be someone very special who made me happy to hang out with. I have seen so many marriages where both partners would probably be happier if they were to divorce. However, I've also seen that marriages go through rough patches and then they get through it, and the marriage improves. So divorce isn't always the answer.

However, if nothing ever gets better, and your spouse is often making you miserable, it makes all the sense in the world to get divorced.

I've been single all my life, and now that I'm older, I really treasure my solitude. Left to myself, I'm usually content and often quite happy. My emotional life is mostly in kind of a neutral zone that I cherish. I remember the roller coaster ride of emotions that I was always on when I was in a relationship.

As long as the patriarchy makes relationships between men and women so unequal, marriage will be challenging for strong, independent women. Even men who consider themselves on a spiritual path can be incredibly sexist in the relationships with the women in their life. These are just my personal observations.