Long-Term Marriages and Divorce: Is it Ever Too Late to Get Divorced?

Mature Couple

By now everyone knows that the marital union of Kim Kardashian and her soon to never-be-remembered-name hubby was extremely brief, and that many marriages, even among couples who are less famous or fabulous, just don't stick, but is it ever too late to get divorced? Once you get past the famous "seven-year itch," are you safe?

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Recent divorce rate stats indicate that marriages that go bust tend to bust after just three or four years. That makes sense when the couple is young or fairly young and you think how much time it takes just to get used to being married. Throw in the added pressure of bringing into the world a new life (and young couples tend to have their first child within the first three or four years of their marriage) and it's easy to see why these couples so often break up.

More recently, there has been an uptick in people who have been married for 20 or more years getting divorced. The most common time is when the last (or only child) goes off to college and the couples contemplate what it will mean to them to become empty nesters. That's when couples often evaluate the strength and love of their union. Many come to the conclusion that it may be time to bail.

It may seem like a lot of trouble to separate and divorce when you've been married many years, in no small part because there's often a lot to dismantle. There's the home (or homes), combined and complicated finances, and the feelings of the children, who, even grown, will be distressed that their parents are separating. But if the marriage has gone dead, has no life or spark or promise in it, or if the need to find oneself again after decades of serving others is so compelling - well, people do divorce all the time. Even people married for 30 years.

It's undeniably easy to divorce when there is evidence of a major problem, such as alcoholism, abuse, or even criminal behavior. Ruth Madoff resisted divorcing Bernie, her husband of 52 years, even after he was convicted for masterminding a $65 million Ponzi scheme that landed him a prison sentence of 150 years. Finally, in an effort to reconcile with what's left of her shredded family, she filed the papers necessary to leave him.

Should you divorce after a long marriage? That depends on your situation. Some couples (or one partner) go through a period where they think they might divorce, but after seeking professional help, conclude they prefer to work on their marriage. Others see an opportunity to make a clean break and go for it. The decision to terminate a long marriage is not simple; it's often a lot harder than calling it quits to a short one.

Eve Marx is the author of eight sex books. Her titles include "Whats Your Sexual IQ?," "Flirtspeak: The Sexy Language of Flirtation," "The Goddess Orgasm," and "101 Things You Didn't Know About Sex."

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