20 Reasons Why Couples Divorce After 20 Years Of Marriage

Abuse, mistrust, and infidelity are all valid reasons to end a long marriage.

Reviewed by Casey M. Reiter, Esq, Appellate & Litigation Support Attorney
By Harini Natarajan, Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner

If you think your married life is not going well and is beyond repair, it will likely end with a divorce, which can be tougher when you are in a long-term marriage. It is often a mystery why couples divorce after 20 years of marriage. It can be heartbreaking to separate after living together for two decades. However, there can be several reasons for the separation, and ending the marriage might be inevitable in some cases. This article explores why couples separate after 20 years of togetherness and tells you how to survive such a divorce. Continue reading.

20 Reasons Why Couples Separate After 20 Years

1. You Have Fallen Out Of Love

Some couples have a good life together – nurturing the family, parenting the kids, and sharing their duties – but they may have fallen out of love. This happens gradually as they grow apart over the years. Due to the burden of responsibilities and challenges of life, they may have lost affection toward each other. Many couples try to avoid the truth for several years but realize and accept it one day. Thus, they get separated in search of their respective happiness.

2. Infidelity

No matter how old a person gets, they can still have sexual desires that may be unfulfilled in their marriage. When intimacy becomes stale or is lacking in a marriage, one spouse may look elsewhere to rediscover carnal pleasures. Infidelity is also one of the primary causes of divorce in a long-term marriage. It can also be referred to as a symptom of the breakdown of a marriage.

3. A Desire For Independence

Those who have been dependent on their spouse for too long often look for independence as they age. It may happen when they go back to work after the children are out of the home. The more financially stable one is, the more inclined they become towards being independent. Being financially independent also means more confidence in their ability to start over alone after a long marriage.

4. Unresolved Past Issues

There may be some unresolved issues from the past that can resurface after several years. Couples may hide their problems in the closet for the sake of their social image, happiness, or kids, but there comes a time when they can no longer fake it or live with it. Things such as a big lie, cheating, an accident, a nasty fight, a debilitating illness, etc., may keep resurfacing until they call it quits.

5. Wanting Something Better Out Of Life

The things someone wanted out of life when they married at 25 may change once they hit 55. That is why couples grow apart over the years. They become strangers or just two individuals living under the same roof. Couples who undergo midlife crises often leave their marriages searching for a new identity. They also do so to relieve themselves from the pain that they experience during their middle age.

6. Lack Of Communication

Lack of communication is one of the leading causes of divorce after years of marriage. After a point in time, you may fail to communicate your emotions and affection to each other. When you share your thoughts and feelings with your spouse, you feel understood in your relationship. Your feelings are validated, respected, and cared for by your partner. A lack of communication breeds distrust, self-doubt, and insecurity, which can be damaging to your bond. If this essential element is missing, two people become distant, leading to divorce.

7. Lack Of Equality And Identity

An ideal marriage should involve open communication and compromise with enough breathing room so that both parties feel they have a meaningful stake in the partnership. Being married is not just about staying together. A relationship can be suffocating when you don’t give it the time and space it needs to flourish. Spending time together is great, but there should be space for each person to explore their likes and interests. If you are with each other most of the time, the relationship can get claustrophobic. It is okay to seek out friends who have similar tastes in music, movies, cultural events, and more. Maintaining your own identity helps you keep your sanity, which is healthy for your marriage.

8. Old-Fashioned Mentality

If one of the partners has an orthodox mentality, it can result in divorce. One of you may have an old-fashioned outlook on certain things in life. One of the partners is often too rigid to change with changing times in such cases. They like to stick to their orthodox mentality while the other likes to be dynamic and stay up to date with the latest trends. When their mentalities differ, they can find it challenging to stay in sync with each other.

9. Abusive Relationship

Husband abusing his scared wife

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If there is a pattern of domestic abuse in your marriage, then it is time for you to walk away. Abuse can be of different types – physical, mental, emotional, financial, or sexual. Constant displays of anger, withholding money, and other negative behaviors can ruin your marital life. In some cases, domestic violence may be coupled with external issues such as substance abuse, loss of a job, or the death of a close friend or family member. Staying in an abusive relationship is not healthy and safe, and it is better to walk away from such a marriage, even if it is after 20 years.

10. You Got Married For The Wrong Reasons

Some people have unreasonable expectations when it comes to marriage. If there is a constant tension between you and your partner, problems will arise, and sooner or later, there will be cracks in the relationship. All marriages have ups and downs, but there should also be a natural flow and order to your relationship. Sometimes, people stay in unfulfilling marriages for years out of a fear of being alone. But, they may realize years later that that’s no way to live.

11. Mistrust And Lies

The foundation of a healthy marriage is open and honest communication. Even small lies can block emotional intimacy between partners. Lying to a spouse about little things can pave the way for lying about bigger things in the future, like your finances, attraction to someone outside the marriage, and whether or not you’re happy in the relationship. Even catching your spouse in a small lie can cause you to question whether they were honest with you in the past, thus putting you on edge and making you feel uneasy in the marriage.

12. Addiction

When you think of addiction, you probably think of drug or alcohol abuse. But, addiction can take many forms, and it can threaten couples who have been together for years. Addiction can be of different types, such as gambling, pornography, uncontrollable spending, or infidelity. When addiction is present in a marriage, it will cause a spouse to lie, cheat, steal, or otherwise betray the foundational trust that a marriage is built upon. Hence, addiction is one of the most common causes of divorce after two decades of marriage.

13. You Were Never In Love

Some couples are married for twenty years but may have never been in love with one another. They may pretend to be a happy couple for the sake of their social image or their children. They may have gotten married due to family pressure and never had any compatibility or bonding between them. Love is the fuel that keeps the ship sailing, but in the absence of love, two people eventually drift apart.

14. Professional Failure

Professional failure can harm a marriage. Professional failure can lead to a financial crisis and make the failing partner feel unworthy. Despite all efforts, it can bring a fundamental change in the marriage. Stress from such failures may lead to divorce.

15. Different Sexual Preferences

Sexual intimacy is a crucial part of every marriage. Many people shy away from discussing such topics. They may even come out of the closet after a few years of marriage. They may hide their sexual preferences or sexual orientation for several years out of fear of oppression. They may take years to muster the courage to disclose their sexual orientation to their partner. Such a revelation may end in divorce.

16. Kids Leaving Home

The presence of children in your house has an enriching effect. A home once lively and vibrant with children – their laughs, jokes, endless talks, and fights – suddenly becomes empty and dull when they grow up and move away. It is a difficult transitional phase for parents when their house becomes vacant. They are left with only each other, and the entire family dynamic shifts. It can make both of you realize that you are incompatible with each other. Children often act as the connecting link between two people. Once they move out of their house, the couple may drift apart. Kids leaving home is a significant factor contributing to middle- or old-age divorces.

17. Lack Of Emotional Support

In a marriage, emotional neglect occurs when one partner consistently fails to connect with or respond to the other. Emotional neglect can also occur in the form of silent treatment. When a partner emotionally withdraws, it can be said that they are manipulating the other person into changing their behavior or punishing them for some perceived wrongdoing. They may ignore their partner’s feelings and emotions, which can have far-reaching negative consequences.

18. Financial Issues

Financial issues are a significant source of stress among couples. A person’s monetary problems can produce such overwhelmingly negative feelings and self-criticism that their mental and physical health can be adversely affected. Financial distress can also have adverse effects on a person’s relationships and family life. Severe economic hardship can lead to potentially detrimental lifestyle changes and cause adjustment problems. This can lead to divorce even after twenty years of marriage.

19. Therapy And Counseling

Couple undergoing counseling while contemplating divorce

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When couples find the bond between them diminishing and themselves drifting apart, they may seek help from a professional therapist. While undergoing therapy, they may realize that their incompatibility and differences have no scope of improvement. The counselor can help them decide the right thing to do, considering the situation. In that case, the couple can mutually decide to divorce and free themselves from an unhappy marriage.

20. Unrealistic Expectations

Getting married with lofty expectations is easy, but expecting your spouse to live up to those expectations is wrong. When you are married to someone, it is natural to expect many things, but one shouldn’t have unreasonable expectations. These expectations can put a lot of strain on the other person, leaving you feeling let down and setting your spouse up for failure. Wrong expectation setting can become one of the reasons for divorce years later.

These are some commonly observed grounds for divorce after twenty years of marriage. If you identify any of these in your relationship, you must get conscious about where your marriage is heading. Getting a divorce after twenty years of marriage can be difficult, but you can always cope with the situation using the tips listed in the following section.

How To Survive A Divorce

Divorce can be confusing and heart-breaking. After those papers have been signed, things have been moved, and your life has been uprooted, you may find yourself in situations where you have to do everything by yourself. If you have children, the transition to a single-parent lifestyle can be challenging. The best you can do is take some time off and reach a mutual agreement with your partner.

Here are some ways to survive divorce after twenty years of married life:

  • Have An Adequate Discussion With Your Partner

Getting a divorce after spending years together can be complicated. In such a situation, you need your partner to be there for you to make things easier. Talk through the divorce process with each other directly or hire lawyers to help you out. It would be best to have some clarity on what both of you expect from the divorce. Getting a divorce is a lifetime decision, and you need mental strength to go through the process. Many unnecessary conflicts can be avoided if you and your spouse are on the same page. If you have children, it is essential to discuss it with them and let them know why you’re getting divorced.

  • Organize Your Finances

After the split, you have to take care of your finances all by yourself. Regardless of your financial role during the marriage, you need to have clarity of the finances. Here are some tips on how you can do it:

  1. You and your partner may decide to sell your marital home and split the money. One person might also keep the house and pay the value of their share to the other.
  2. Create a budget, and make sure to account for your share of the marital assets and cash inflow.
  3. Distribute all your joint accounts.
  4. Check your individual social security benefits and retirement accounts.
  5. Arrange your health insurance.
  6. Sign agreements on child support.
  7. Make a list of all the probable future expenses, like medical expenses or your child’s educational expenses, and set aside a specific fund for it. Planning for unavoidable and unforeseeable expenses can help avoid conflict later.

Planning your finances well will help both of you handle things better.

  • Focus On Your Well-Being
Woman pampering herself at a spa after a divorce

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After the divorce, it is time to take care of yourself. Start by getting a medical check-up. Ensure that you exercise every day and eat right as nutrition is critical for your health. Visit a salon or spa for some self-pampering sessions and give yourself some “me” time. When you feel good, all your problems begin to seem lighter.

  • Give Yourself Some Time And Focus On Your Personal Interests
Single woman traveling after getting a divorce

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When you divorce after twenty years of marriage, many changes can happen in your life. Take some time off and don’t force yourself to pretend that everything is fine. It is okay to be sad and cry. Give yourself time to grieve the loss. When you are married to each other, many of your choices are made by the other person. Remind yourself of your preferences, try out new things, and see what makes you happy. Give yourself the freedom to explore.

  • Avoid The Questioning And Negativity Of Other People

Society has its way of looking at things, and the time after the divorce can be difficult for you as you may be questioned about your decision to separate after twenty long years. Keep some answers ready to deal with such questions whenever they are thrown at you. Make sure you are polite but stern enough to tell them that you are not ready for this conversation yet. You can tell them that you value their concern, but do not give in to their emotional manipulation. Divert the conversation to something else the moment you feel uncomfortable.

  • Look Inward

Take the time after the divorce to look inward and understand yourself better. The new freedom of being single can be scary, but if you take some time off, you’ll realize how you can make things work for you. You now have enough space in your life to discard any unwanted habits and welcome activities that will bring you happiness. Learn to be flexible in the new situation and adjust to the new normal.

  • Make Forgiveness A Priority
Woman embracing her ex husband as a sign of forgiveness

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Your divorce with your partner may not have ended on a delightful note. If you cannot forgive your ex or yourself for what happened, moving on will be a struggle. An unforgiving heart is the biggest obstacle to letting go. It will never let you look forward to the future. Find true forgiveness, and you will live a whole and prosperous life.

These are some of the things you can do to survive divorce after twenty years of marriage. Avoid looking at the negative aspects and use divorce as a positive opportunity to start your life afresh. It can be an excellent chance to live a life you always wanted.

These are some strategies for overcoming a divorce after twenty years of marriage. Avoid focusing on the darker sides of divorce and instead, see it as a meaningful opportunity to restart your life. A divorce can be addressed prudently, practically, and responsibly. Everyone has the right to pursue happiness in life. If you feel your marriage is limiting you, your dreams, or failing to meet your expectations, even after dedicating almost two decades, find the courage to break away. Do not compel yourself to remain in an unhealthy relationship. Consult your close ones and reflect thoroughly before taking a calculated decision. Also, if you have chosen to decide to divorce, take a moment to think through how it will impact your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is divorce possible after 25 years of marriage?

Yes, falling out of love and deciding on divorce may happen anytime in a marriage. Couples do take time and try to work it out their best before arriving at this life-altering decision. There could be a change in personalities, circumstances, ambition goals, or mutual understanding to bring about such a situation. So it could be possible after a few decades into your marriage as well.

Who suffers the most in a divorce?

While a divorce affects both partners, it could affect the person more who still wants to make the relationship work and not give up on it.

What percentage of marriages make it 20 years?

About 50-55% of marriages make it to 20 years and beyond.

Key Takeaways

  • Relationships often develop small cracks, slowly engulfing the entire bond. Similarly, couples may grow apart and split after decades of togetherness.
  • Being married for the wrong reasons, mistrust, and abusive relationships are among the most common reasons for divorce.
  • Divorce after 20 years of marriage can be difficult. But when it is inevitable, ignore the negative aspects and see it as an opportunity to start your life afresh.

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Casey M. Reiter

(Esq)
Casey M. Reiter is an appellate and litigation support attorney practicing in Florida. Her focus areas are Family and Marital... more

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