With over 76 million people within this group, baby boomers make up a large portion of the U.S. population. They have always been independent and have trail blazed their own way. Nowhere is that showing up more than in marital status. Since 1990, the divorce rate has gone down in the United States for everyone but the boomers. Boomers have seen divorce rates double, and if you’re over fifty, you probably have seen several of your friends split after the kids are gone.
The reasons for divorce are many: living longer, no kids to stay together for, and more women working. And it doesn’t end there. If divorcees remarry, their failure rate is over 60%. If you are in a boring, lonely marriage, don’t you want to feel alive and happy to be with your spouse?
The first and most important thing is to not assume that because no one mentions being unhappy that they aren’t. Begin talking about your life as empty nesters before the kids move out. The 40s and 50s are difficult years for many people, but the 60s and beyond are reported to be the happiest times for many adults. [Editor’s note: Check out Mary Jo’s video Marriage After Kids.]
What or who do you want to be in your second half of life? You can begin doing things together that you both didn’t get a chance to do when you were busy in your career and raising a family. So, doing things like mission work, moving out of your family home in the suburbs and into a high rise in the city, or learning a foreign language together as well as realizing numerous other ideas.
Here are some easy strategies to try with your spouse:
- Find a balance between “we and me.” Having individual time helps you continue evolving and growing in your own interest. Couples who do everything together end up feeling more bored and disinterested.
- Keep your friendship alive. When you have kids at home you are busy with their life, but when they leave it’s time to reinvest in each other again. Who is this person you share a life with? Do they still like the same things? Hang out together and be friends.
- Establish new rituals together. Sunday morning bike rides for coffee and doughnuts, or Saturday night movie night. It doesn’t matter what you do, but it is important that you do it and protect it from others rescheduling your schedule.
- Keep family and friends close. On every happiness scale you will see the importance of relationships listed. Your marriage in the second half thrives on those close to you as well. Have a fun, casual “get together” once a month with family to celebrate one another. You don’t have to wait for family or to gather people together. You feel more connected and loved when you share your life with friends and family.
- Let go of what you’re never going to be able to fix in one another. A big part of being happily married is to know what issues are off the table. Hot buttons are those buttons that are never going to cool down. Don’t push them.
- Intimacy is not sex, but is vital to baby boomer marriages. The lack of intimacy is the number one killer of baby boomer marriages. Couples who grow apart, no longer touching or talking, cannot make it in marriage. Sex is part of that, but only part. The other part is talking together, sharing meals, praying together; cuddling on the couch, slow dancing on a date night, and making sure before you close your eyes that the person lying next to you understands you are everything to them.
- A good attitude. Getting older isn’t easy because it also means giving up control of many things you took for granted. Your body does age and so does your mind, but that doesn’t mean you have to live a life feeling resentful. A good attitude is linked with happiness at every stage of life. Keep a gratitude journal, making a list of things that make you happy, things you have control over as well as things you want to learn to make you happy. Good attitudes are contagious, so keep one for yourself and give one to your partner.
Everyone wants to know or be related to the older couple who still holds hands, slow dances, and takes long walks together at night. Be that couple. Do it for your kids, your friends, and anyone whose life you touch. Life has surprises at each stage no matter what stage you’re at. Stay curious, stay hopeful, and be grateful you get to experience your partner at this stage of your marriage.