When Bill and Melinda Gates announced their impending divorce, citing they no longer believe they “can grow together as a couple” in the next phase of their lives, I'm sure their honesty struck a chord with many middle-aged couples.
Since my husband semi-retired, his lack of personal growth – indeed, his refusal to grow – has become an increasing frustration for me.
Where he seems to want to make his world smaller, I find myself in an altogether different space.
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Having been finally unshackled from the chains of parenthood and a career compromised by the responsibilities of motherhood, I’m ready to cram as much new learning into my degenerating brain matter as possible.
I have to bite my tongue each time I catch him watching dog videos, taking afternoon naps, or catching up on a vacuous Netflix series, mid-afternoon.
And while I suspect my judgment of how he spends his free time is none of my business – according to my therapist, at least – I’m certain I can’t be the only woman who feels this way.
“Grey divorce” is on the increase.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics of 2019 show a higher proportion of divorces where the marriage lasted 30 years or more - a surge that is expected to be compounded by COVID.
Causes include lack of communication, financial mismanagement, the growing financial independence of women, loss of spark, infidelity and sexual incompatibility, lack of mutual support, appreciation, and flexibility, different retirement goals, and even dependencies.
And there are also intrinsic gender differences that should be considered.
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It is believed that some men become more needy and dependent on their wives as they grow older because they don’t have an established social circle like women, or struggle to find purpose in their retirement.
A nurse friend of mine has noticed this difference in her older patients. Whereas many widowers become shadows of their former selves, widows seem to find a new enthusiasm for life, and even start making more effort with their appearance.