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Serial Marriage and Gray Divorce
Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP --  The Herman Group Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP -- The Herman Group
Austin, TX
Friday, May 21, 2021


The Herman Trend Alert

May 19, 2021

Serial Marriage and Gray Divorce

Back in the 1960s, when Alvin Toffler wrote his landmark book Future Shock, many people were jolted to read that he believed we would have a series of spouses for the different periods in our lives: one for being childless, one, when we were having children and raising them and another when as empty nesters, we would be looking for alternative interests and lifestyles. When I read about serial marriage, it helped me to understand what was happening in my own life. I was living what Toffler had described.

High Profile Gray Divorce

With the news about the Gates' divorce, I am once again reminded just how prophetic Toffler was. After 27 years of marriage, sharing values and goals and projects, Bill and Melinda are breaking up. They are not alone. Between 1990 and 2010, the rate of divorce in the United States among people 50 and older actually doubled, going from .5 percent to 1 percent per year---and thereafter, the rate remained parked at this new peak---for a while. However, now, more than 25 percent of the divorces are among the over 50 crowd.

Opposing the Trend

For the past four decades, the overall divorce pattern in the US has been very slowly---and steadily---declining. Among young people, divorce rates have tumbled, even as they have risen among older adults. The reason for this trend may surprise you: fewer people under the age of 39 are getting married. The major cause for this phenomenon is that marriage has shifted from a rite associated with "coming of age" to a decision that young people only make after they have finished their education and gained financial independence. These young people are even having children out of wedlock to avoid getting married. If people never get married, they eliminate the risk of divorce.

The "Why" of Gray Divorce

Late midlife often brings with major life transitions. Children become adults and leave the nest, leaving couples with a different set of circumstances. People evolve and some make the transition to retirement. Without the distractions of the myriad of children's activities and extended hours spent working, couples sometimes discover they do not have as much in common as they did in the past. Gray divorce is more often caused by a gradual growing apart, as opposed to a particular event.

Redefinition of a Good Marriage

Male and female roles used to define successful marriage. Each individual had his or her own set of roles and responsibilities; personal fulfillment took a back seat to childrearing and being "a good spouse." Now, not only are couples looking for individual fulfillment, but they also want their spouses to share common interests and provide mutual support. Today's ideal marriage is a true partnership of best friends.

What's Next for Marriage?

I wish I believed that the future of marriage was rosy, however, my forecast is that as we move into the future, fewer people will feel the need to "tie the knot." As we have seen in the Scandinavian countries, an increasing number of young people will choose to avoid the expense of divorce by never getting married. Moreover, as couples age and grow, I expect the rate of divorce to increase among the 50+ crowd.

Special thanks to NBC/Think and Susan Brown, Author of Families in America. To read the whole article, visitĀ here.

Next Week'sĀ Herman Trend Alert: On-Demand Pay

While it is creating a Unique Selling Proposition for front-line positions, this new benefit is costing employers who do not adopt it. Be sure to check out next week's Alert for the details of whether on-demand pay makes sense for your employee population.


News Media Interview Contact
Name: Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP
Title: Certified Speaking Professional and Management Consultant
Group: The Herman Group
Dateline: Austin, TX United States
Direct Phone: 336-210-3548
Main Phone: 800-227-3566
Cell Phone: 336-210-3548
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