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Archive for Sunday, May 22, 2011

Boomer Girl Diary: Divorce in the older-than-55 set

May 22, 2011

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Who’s next, people!?!

First, Al and Tipper. Then, Arnold and Maria. Now, Frank and Jamie? (That’s Frank and Jamie McCourt, owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are shaking up Major League Baseball by divorcing after 30 years. Don’t worry. I didn’t know who they were either.)

The point is, baby boomers are splitting up at an alarming pace. In fact, while the national divorce rate has dipped slightly since the early ’90s, it has doubled for the older-than-55 set.

Probing, hard-hitting investigative journalist that I am, I wanted to know why.

Granted, we all know the reason behind the Terminator’s marriage, uh, terminating. Arnold’s a dog. A really, really big dog. We’re talking Marmaduke proportions, friends. Mr. Universe’s behavior was so beyond canine, I must apologize to my cocker spaniel, Lucy, and everyone else’s pooch, for the comparison.

As for Al and Tipper, married 40 years before last year’s split, and the McCourts, who knows?

An AARP study, titled like a Jimi Hendrix album: “The Divorce Experience,” looked at possible explanations for this troubling trend in baby boomers.

One theory is that the “me generation” is predisposed as a demographic to demand midlife happiness, that pesky “till death do us part” thing be damned. In fact, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 66 percent of baby boomers “proved to be less enthusiastic about staying in an unhappy union than the adult children they passed their values on to — by a 66 percent to 54 percent margin.”

Where is most of this dissatisfaction coming from? From women, that’s who.

Statistics show wives initiate two-thirds of midlife divorces. Experts suggest these boomer women take a hard look at their life expectancies and realize that, unlike their mothers, they are more equipped, both financially and spiritually, to leave a once-fairytale-but-now-unfulfilling marriage and create their own happiness.

I have another theory.

These 50- and 60-somethings have taken one too many trips together.

If there’s one “experience” that brings a couple’s incompatibilities to the fore, it’s travel. Show me two partners — straight, gay, young or old, for that matter — who are smiling and snuggling, waiting for their weather-delayed connection in O’Hare airport, and I’ll show you two people completely zonked out on Xanax.

I know from whence I speak.

On a recent two-week “holiday” with my spouse — which included arduous journeys on planes, trains and automobiles — I saw my 31-year marriage flash before my eyes more than once.

He will tell you that I have no sense of direction, can’t pack a suitcase to save my life, and am an irresistible target for gypsies and thieves.

“Pay attention!” he’d yell, as I rambled through the Termini train station in Rome, my eyes fixed on all those fabulous Italian shoes. “Platform 23! This way. THIS way!”

I will tell you, it’s hell living with an Eagle Scout.

“Be prepared” is more than a motto with this guy. It’s a divine decree!

Before the trip, the Scout printed all of our hotel confirmation emails, train schedules, routes and fares, plus directions and maps for every single connection we had to make in 14 days: Nice airport to hotel, hotel to Nice train station, Monte Carlo train station to port, port to Termini station in Rome, Termini to hotel and so on. He methodically punched three holes in each piece of paper and assembled them in a soft, vinyl binder, in chronological order per our itinerary. (I have to admit, that binder came in handy.)

Still, when something went wrong — and it often did — what would he do? Pull the binder from his backpack and thumb frantically through the pages, usually from a squatted position on some Vespa-infested intersection, for a map that had lost all relevance because WE HAD NO IDEA WHERE WE WERE!

“Let’s just ask somebody!” I’d plea.

“No need,” he’d reply, holding his compass due north. “We’ll take Via dei Coronari to Piazza Fiammetta, hang a left at Via delle Coppelle — bada bing, bada boom, we’re back at the subway station.”

It got so bad, any time he’d say “bada bing, bada boom,” I’d walk, defiantly, in the opposite direction.

Who’s to say if the Gores, McCourts or even the Shriver-Schwarzeneggers had the same problem? I’m only suggesting they had logged exponentially more frequent flyer miles than the average couple and probably argued over Google maps in way more foreign intersections.

I’m just saying, if you want to make your marriage last, consider staying home.

— Cathy Hamilton is a public relations and marketing consultant, author of 16 books and blogger at boomergirl.com. Contact her at cathy@boomergirl.com.

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