Two years ago, Becky was a married woman on the verge of retirement. A year later, she did what previous generations of women her age would not have considered an option. At age 63, she divorced her husband.
Today, more than one in four people who divorce are 50 or older, according to a study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research. Becky, now 64 and living in Fort Wayne, never expected to be one of them.
“You can plan your life down to the smallest detail,” says Becky, who asked that her last name not be used. “But you can never predict how your life will change in a year.”
Only a year ago, Becky and her husband of 17 years were living in Florida, planning to retire to the Tampa Bay area. They loved the weather, she says. The couple’s circle of friends was growing and there was enough in the couple’s savings account to buy a small house back in Fort Wayne so they could visit family and friends a few times a year. It was a “dream come true,” she says.
“The two of us were going to stay in Florida forever,” she says. “This is exactly what we’d planned for and saved for. This was our dream.”
Then, on a Sunday morning last year, Becky noticed a voicemail notification on her husband’s cellphone.
Assuming she’d missed a call from a family friend, she picked up the phone and listened to the message. What she heard was the voice of a young woman calling Becky’s husband “sweetie.”
“I asked him, ‘Why is a woman calling you “sweetie” on a Sunday morning when everyone thinks you’re at church with your wife?’ ” she says. “But I was willing to forgive. I wanted to work on our marriage. I went to counseling, but he wanted no part of it.”
With no hope of reconciliation, Becky regretfully filed for divorce and prepared to move back to Fort Wayne.
“It felt like torture,” she says. “I cried constantly. I sat and drank coffee and cried. I lost 32 pounds. But there I was, still making his dinner for him every night. Old habits die hard.”
The National Center for Family and Marriage Research study also found that roughly half of the boomers who divorce are in short-term remarriages. This was true in Becky’s case and in many others, says Cindy Mullins, a director of local DivorceCare seminars and support groups. Mullins says the average participant in her groups is a woman, usually in her 40s or 50s, many of whom have been married at least once before.