How Your Marriage Can Survive the “Frustrated Forties”

Photo of couple in divorce

It’s no secret that divorce rates have increased throughout recent decades. For many couples in early middle age, the 40s are particularly tumultuous. Divorce rates among couples in their early 20s are negligible, and among the 25 to 29 age group, the rate stays under 10%. By the time a couple reaches the 40s, divorce rates increase sharply, from about 30% at age 40 to just under 40% at age 49, according to data compiled by Business Insider. That means that four out of every 10 couples will be divorced by the end of this decade.

Why do so many people get divorced in their 40s?

Research indicates that among this age group, more women than men initiate divorce. There are probably a million little reasons for divorce, but some of the major ones include:

  • Infidelity
  • Financial woes
  • Breakdown in communication
  • Frequent arguing
  • Lack of intimacy

Some couples simply fall out of love after having been married for years. And in some cases, the divorce has been brewing for a while—spouses may sometimes wait to divorce until after the kids leave home.

Ideas for improving your marriage in early middle age

Couples often try marriage counseling before thinking about divorce, and this is definitely a step in the right direction. But not enough of them try individual counseling as well. Often, a marriage hits the rocks because one or both spouses have individual behavioral or health issues that interfere with the relationship. In one-on-one counseling, a spouse can work to overcome depression, anxiety issues, past relationship trauma, and similar issues that may interfere with the health of the marriage.

Beyond counseling, there are plenty of strategies couples can try to improve the marriage. Couples in their 40s have typically settled into a predictable routine. They’re focused on getting things done, rather than enjoying the journey. Try breaking out of the routine for just a day. Spend some time in each other’s company, doing low-pressure activities, and simply enjoying a genuine conversation.

It’s also important to give up on being right, particularly if a couple argues frequently. Spouses may need to give themselves reminders that they’re on the same side, and being right isn’t important. Avoid going on the offensive, and instead try to consider the situation from the other person’s perspective.

Lastly, try focusing on improving quality of life along with the marriage. It’s easy to get wrapped up in negative thought patterns, and the negativity of one spouse affects the other. Research indicates that smiling, even if you don’t feel like it, really does help elevate the mood. Embracing positivity and smiling are also contagious. Few things bring people together like a good, wholehearted laugh.

What to do when a marriage just isn’t salvageable

Sometimes, staying together causes more harm than good. If you and your spouse just aren’t compatible any longer, you need a divorce lawyer you can trust. The family law attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have been helping clients through difficult divorces since 1975. Our divorce lawyers serve New York and New Jersey, including Bergen County and Rockland County. You can request a private consultation by calling (888) 624-4916.

Additional resources on marriage and divorce in middle age:

  1. Psychology Today, What Rising Divorce Rates in Midlife Mean for You, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201311/what-rising-divorce-rates-in-midlife-mean-you
  2. Business Insider, Here’s when you’re probably going to get divorced, https://www.businessinsider.com/divorce-and-marriage-by-age-charts-2016-2