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Why do some couples break up in their 50s?

In the not-too-distant the past -- when people viewed marriage and long-term romantic commitments differently -- elderly spouses tended to stick together until the end. These days, divorce is becoming more common for spouses who are over the age of 50, perhaps due to a mix of changing perceptions about marriage and love, and the fact we live much longer and enjoy better health in old age than we did several decades ago.

Still, when two long-term spouses, who have survived so much life experience together, decide to call it quits, it certainly makes you wonder why. In fact, it's not easy to pinpoint the reasons for any marital break up, but here are three common reasons that 50-plus spouses cite for their divorces:

1. Empty nest syndrome

As cliche as the term "empty nest syndrome" sounds, it certainly is real. When all the kids have gone off to college and moved out of the house, the family unit disintegrates. Couples need to redefine their relationship at this point, but sometimes they've grown far apart from each other that they can't function as a happy, thriving couple anymore.

2. Retiring

Retirement is another one of those big life-changing moments, where couples wake up and realize they're different people than they used to be. There's no better way for two spouses to stare their marital problems dead in the face than spending months on end at home with one another after they both retire.

3. Aging at different rates

Everyone ages at different rates. Some of us never slow down and we're kicking and screaming and constantly on the move until we take our last breaths. Others of us prefer a more laid back, less active and easygoing expression of their golden years. If you and your spouse are on opposite ends of the spectrum in this regard, it could lead to a divorce.

Regardless of you're reasons for a "gray divorce," you'll want to make sure you're prepared for the process. A thorough review of your financial situation and your property rights is essential before you file your divorce documents.

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