The process that leads to gray divorce isn’t typically a sudden event or trigger, says Stan Tatkin, author of Wired for Love. Rather, it often happens slowly over time. “It’s like an unbreakable plate you drop repeatedly,” he says. “The relationship develops microcracks inside the structure you can’t see. Then it finally reaches a critical mass and shatters.”
It’s a reason many couples that split late in life say they’ve simply grown apart. This usually comes as a shock to close friends and family, such as when Al and Tipper Gore separated in 2010 after 40 years of marriage.
An undercurrent of dissatisfaction can happen for a number of reasons, but several dominant themes crop up regularly, says Tatkin. “Often one person — usually the woman — feels she’s given up too much. She may have put aside her career as she raised the children. She feels the wear and tear of the relationship because it wasn’t collaborative.”