People love each other in old age
Relationship: That means a separation in old age - end or new beginning?
In the last third of their lives, many people turn their lives upside down - marriage included. But a new start without a partner is never a walk, not even in old age.
The children are out of the house, the career goal has almost been achieved - what's next? And who is coming with you? Hans Berwanger is a family and marriage therapist. He knows the typical questions that many people ask themselves in this situation. "When the children move out, the joint marriage is suddenly put to the test. The end of active parenthood quickly goes hand in hand with inner distance."
Reasons for separation in old age are gender-specific
Women and men separate differently in old age, Berwanger believes: men suddenly discover sexual shortcomings in the relationship. With women, it's more likely to be emotional gaps. "Once the inner relationship account has been cleared, the question often arises: why go on now?"
And who takes the initiative in the late separation? "Women approach marriage counselors when they are ambivalent, men when the woman has moved out," says the therapist. Because men naturally perceive women as emotional and sexual support until the end of their working life - even if they have long since distanced themselves. "Basically there is a deficiency in both partners, but one has more the opportunity to take the exit card."
Money or love
With long-term marriages in particular, separation is often not that easy - for financial reasons. Many religious and social taboos no longer exist, says psychotherapist Klemens Funk. "In the past, divorce was almost treason."
But even today, many women maintain marriages that weigh on them - for economic reasons. However, according to Funk's observation, women are becoming more and more courageous. Many women change their careers from the age of 50. This opens up new perspectives in the direction of self-realization, even without a man. If you don't want to live completely alone then, for example, you move in with friends, says Funk.
Divorces more common in old age
When divorce attorney Renate Maltry opened her law firm in Munich 35 years ago, divorces weren't even an issue when they were over 60. It looks very different today. "Today people see the beginning of a new phase of life that they consciously want to shape, including new life plans."
At this time, Maltry also founded the self-help association TuSch (separation and divorce) in Munich to strengthen the position of women in separation situations. "Back then I was appalled by what happened to women in society - now women are more daring, even as they get older."
A divorce as a new beginning
Often the partners only ask when they retire how the final path of life should be shaped - with vastly different ideas. "If women used to say 'I can do the ten years too', with a female life expectancy of 84 years there are many more years," says Renate Maltry.
Changed family structures and changing values in society are displacing the previously common marriage out of habit. Today it is marriage for love - and it should stay that way. Another effect: the more old couples dare to separate, the more role models there are. The digital age has also made it easier to find a new relationship, an inspiring experience for many older new singles. "It used to be morally more difficult to find an alternative," says Funk.
Between rescuing and jumping off
When does it make sense to work on a broken marriage - and when not anymore? "If there is no emotional intimacy and the emotional world has withered, then it becomes dangerous," said Berwanger. Familiarity and the exchange of unpleasant emotions are part of a functioning partnership. Real relationship killers are boredom or coalitions against the partner, as well as experiences of violence or trauma.
At certain turning points in life, for example at the end of working life, there is often a vacuum of social recognition and contacts - the colleagues who are suddenly no longer there, the lack of social status. Much of what was missing in the course of the relationship suddenly becomes more important. If this cannot be resolved or it turns into a permanent conflict, then the couple relationship no longer makes sense, says Funk.
When is it worth fighting
But even if divorce is no longer taboo today, it remains an emotional and bureaucratic challenge. Even divorce attorney Renate Maltry therefore thinks it makes sense to work on a marriage. "Today everything is thrown away too quickly. It's worth fighting for a once good partnership, even with therapy." And if it turns out afterwards that it is no longer possible, you can still separate - and both partners take something with them for the new beginning.
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