When Olivia Newton-John sang Hopelessly Devoted to You in the 1978 movie Grease, baby boomers were deeply in love and headed for the altar. But now that they're older, many are saying to heck with 'til death do us part.
While studies have determined that the overall divorce rate has held steady or declined since the 1980s, it's not so for those over 50.
The National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University found that the divorce rate for boomers and older couples has more than doubled over the past three decades, and it's expected to increase.
More than one in four people who divorce today are over 50. Of course, some of those have exchanged vows on more than one occasion. In fact, the center found that roughly half of those who divorce are in short-term remarriages.
The dynamics of couples have changed significantly over the decades, said Loralea Allen, a clinical counselor with Counseling for Wellness in Kent.
"Traditional views and expectations of marriage and family have changed, due in large part to more education and employment opportunities for women," said Allen.
Those changes, Allen explained, have allowed couples to end a marriage when a relationship has deteriorated. Previously, social expectations often forced them to remain together.
Psychologist Donald A. Lichi, with EMERGE Ministries in Akron, thinks the trend is the result of a society that no longer looks negatively on someone who is divorced. And someone who is 50 today likely has a much different lifestyle than someone the same age in decades past.
"Ours is a youth culture and people are exercising, Botoxing, tucking ... to appear younger," Lichi said. "The mind-set is ... 'I've done my duty, stayed married, raised the kids, and if I'm not in a happy marriage, I can find someone who will make me happy.'
"The avenues that closed for many in the past after high school, college and early career of finding a mate have also dramatically changed," he added. "With the onset of the Internet and numerous social-relationship platforms, it's just as easy to meet more eligible people across the country as it is across the street."
For baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), empty nest syndrome can wreak havoc on holy matrimony. But if a couple's marriage was built on a strong foundation, then chances are the relationship will remain solid, Allen said.
"Lack of interest and participation in activities, other than that of their children, often creates a large void for the couple when their children leave the household," she added. "Communication is always key to a successful relationship."
Over the years, there have been lots of references to the "seven-year itch" -- a presumption that a man's or woman's eyes may wander after that length of marriage. But could there be such a thing as a 30-year itch?
"Most likely it's the fact that if a person got married fairly young, they are only in their mid-50s by that time and feel they have plenty to offer in a relationship," Lichi said.
Though parents most often worry about how divorce will affect younger children, what about the big kids? It's only natural to think they are better equipped to handle the news.
However, "adult children are sometimes shocked when they discover that their parents, who have always been together, are 'suddenly' ending their relationship," Allen said.
If Mom and Pop had a decent marriage, they probably told you that marriage takes work. Typically, couples face difficult situations during their lives together. But the foundation their relationship was built on is key to its long-term success. So does that mean a shaky relationship is doomed as the couple ages?
"No," Allen said. "A couple can learn the appropriate coping skills and communication techniques that will allow them to develop this foundation."
Young or old.
Kim Hone-McMahan can be reached at 330-996-3742 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 330-996-3742 end_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting or email@example.com.