After 27 years of marriage, Bill and Melinda Gates have Tweeted out their decision to divorce. Why would two people in a long-standing marriage — a union that has seen the couple through the making of billions, and the establishment of one of the world’s largest foundations — decide to part ways?
In most marriages, after decades together, we know each other’s routines, the idiosyncrasies of our families of origin, the cadence of each other’s work days, and how we like our coffee. After so many years of marriage, we know our partners at their best and, of course, at their very worst.
Many couples will have raised children together by this time and discovered things about one another they admire, as well as ways in which they wholly disagree. One might think that, if any of these issues suggested incompatibility, a marriage would end long before a couple was in their 50s or 60s.
That’s not the case anymore. In my current work with couples, I have noticed a discernible difference in older couples in long-standing marriages. Years ago, the vast majority of my client couples who weren’t happy in their relationship chose to remain married out of convenience or routine, or even a sense of familiarity. Over the past few years, many are deliberately choosing to part ways. My client base mirrors the divorce rate for Americans 50 and over, which has doubled since 1990.
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