Maddy Dychtwald

Will You Outlive Your Marriage?

In Huffington Post Series on June 5, 2010 at 7:23 am

After forty years of marriage, Al and Tipper Gore announced this week that they have grown apart and are going their separate ways. They met at a high school graduation dance and then said “I Do” when Tipper was just twenty-one and Al was twenty-two. With four grown children and three grandchildren, they described their news as a “mutually supportive decision that we made together” after growing apart.

I don’t know Al or Tipper Gore personally, and I wish them both the best as they each reinvent their life, but it makes me wonder: is it possible that Al and Tipper Gore may be indicative of a trend that is about to be unleashed? After all, when most of us say, “I Do,” do we expect “til death do us part” to translate into forty, fifty, or sixty years of marriage? Is that what we signed up for? How Does Any Marriage Last a Lifetime?

Frankly, most of us probably don’t think about it like that. If we’re lucky, we fall in love, have a family and never fully grasp the idea that we may live well into our eighties or nineties and potentially be married for as long or longer than most humans lived just a century ago.

Or not. Historically, the early years of marriage are when we’re most likely to divorce, but things are changing. With people living longer, 78 million restless baby boomers beginning to turn 65 next year, and women becoming more and more financially and socially independent, there is already a rise in divorce among older couples. (Boomers have divorced at every stage of life, and probably won’t stop just because they’re getting gray.) And let’s not forget that women outlive men by about five years. This translates into the fact that most women — 90 percent to be precise — will spend at least some of their adult years single. Tipper Gore: welcome to the club!

As I discuss in my new book, INFLUENCE: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better,

Maddy Dychtwald

as women age, their increasing tendency toward singlehood will have a staggering economic and psychological impact on their lives, the lives of their family and on the overall economy. On the plus side, many working women will have more discretionary time and disposable income to enjoy, spend, invest, and, in general, influence their lives, their families, their communities, and the world. On the downside, women will need to make more conscious efforts to manage their lives — in particular their money — wisely for the extra years they are likely to be living, possibly alone.

Here’s a few facts that every woman — young and old — ought to know so they’re not caught by surprise.

Read the entire article as it originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

  1. The changes that we undergo between our early twenties and beyond are enormous. It is really hard sometimes to know at 23 what you want at 43 and beyond.

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