Divorce is the best option ever

Late separation: Until retirement do us part - At 70 before the ruins of a marriage

REGION - Shortly before his 70th birthday, Kurt moved out. After 42 years of marriage. Three years have passed since then, and when Kurt thinks back to the day on which he finally closed the door to his old life behind him, you can see both: sadness and relief. Wistfulness in the face of the failure of an almost lifelong relationship - with which the hope of an evening for two was shattered. Relief that he escaped a marriage in which he saw himself exploited, ignored, and ultimately sidelined.
Anyone who gets to know Kurt experiences a cautious, amiable conversation partner who chooses his words carefully. A man who cares about harmony, helpful, volunteers in many fields, for example as a carer in a nursing home. Not a club, but happy to be out and about with others: hiking or playing skat. Kurt loved his home: his parents' house, which he brought with him into the marriage, where he lived with his wife, daughter and, most recently, son-in-law. That Kurt would ever leave his house, his wife? After so many years of marriage? A thought that he would have previously dismissed far from himself. With a view to Kurt's story, the question arises who left whom here. When Kurt left there was no screaming, no tears, no one tried to stop him. Wasn't it rather the case that he was literally expelled from his home?
Marriage not just for love
Kurt has long since ceased to be an isolated case: long-term partnerships are increasingly breaking up. Klaus Frädert knows the numbers. "Every sixth marriage ends in divorce after 26 years or more," the family therapist quotes relevant statistics. "There are demographic reasons," he says, referring to the increased life expectancy, "but above all the numbers reflect social and political changes."
Financial consequences
- The financial consequences of a divorce in old age can be dramatic, explains specialist lawyer for family law, Barbara Seelbach-Reineck. Financial assets can be divided - but a house? The best solution - if, for example, the property is to be kept for children: a division into two residential units. Otherwise, only the transfer of a co-ownership share to one of the spouses and the payment of half of the value to the transferring spouse or the sale of the property to a third party would come into question. In the worst case, there is a division auction. Couples should therefore state in a prenuptial agreement in good time who is contributing what to the marriage and that inherited assets should not be taken into account in the profit sharing.

- When seniors demand a divorce after years of living apart, there is often the fear that, after their own death, the ex-partner could assert his or her compulsory portion even in the case of a different will. Without a will, the separated spouse would even become a legal heir. In order to rule out this, according to Seelbach-Reineck, a mutual waiver of inheritance and compulsory portion that is to be recorded by a notary can be agreed.

- It is problematic if one of the separated partners is in need of care. If home costs are incurred, the municipalities turn to the spouse first.
Frädert, who is increasingly counting seniors among his clients at the Mainz counseling center “pro familia”, recalls times not so long ago when divorced people were greeted with disdain. When women were not allowed to work without their husbands consent, they were economically dependent. "In the past, you didn't just marry for love," Frädert recalls the zeitgeist of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, "economic and social factors played a role." Which means: "It is not easy to separate."
Today couples give up faster. Only: if you leave when you are in your early 40s, you can start again, half your life is still ahead of you. At the beginning of 70 it feels different. "The separations in this phase of life are much more dramatic," observed Frädert's colleague, couples therapist Sina Mentges. “A life plan falls apart, and reorientation is much more difficult in old age than in younger years.” So why do seniors take the risk?
“Because they can no longer stand each other”, says psychotherapist Ulla Noll-Reiter, sums up what drives older people apart. She calls them the “problem couples”: two who have functioned as parents, grandparents, and caregivers all their lives and have forgotten how to be partners with each other. Let the feelings wither and endure conflicts because of the children instead of carrying them out. When the children are out of the house, conflicts and distances become apparent. Benjamin Schick from the pro-familia advisory team: "When joint projects cease to exist and the other comes back into focus, the question arises of what still connects you."
Life crises are an occasion to rethink your own relationship
A new phase of life, a crisis can shake marriages to their very foundations. Like Kurt. "When I retired at the age of 60, the crisis started, that is when the separation process began," he states today, sobered. What he reports sounds like speechlessness and alienation, testifies to helpless attempts and a lack of will to keep the marriage ship on course. Most of the time, when older people split up, women leave “in 60 percent of the cases”, Noll-Reiter describes the pattern typical of these age groups. Often the death of your own mother, the separation of your daughter, or surviving cancer are reasons to rethink your own relationship. In which they had to endure abuse and humiliation or the infidelity of their partner. “That can't be all,” many say to themselves. And go.
Kurt's wife stayed. She chose a different route: she pushed her husband out of the house. With the help of the future son-in-law, who may not have understood what was happening. When Kurt's daughter and her boyfriend moved to the ground floor, the hobby craftsman transformed the whole house into an ever-expanding, long-term construction site - with the consent of Kurt's wife. Without asking Kurt. “The two managed everything alone. No one was interested in what I said. ”Not only that the retiree played the sidekick until he was exhausted. The savings were also used for the renovation. Good-natured, generous, Kurt accepted a lot. Until one day he tried to put an end to the hustle and bustle. Only to hear from his wife that he could go. She literally asked him to leave the house, Kurt still has her words in his ear.
Was his marriage happy before it was buried under rubble? Kurt weighs up: her life was quiet. He worked, she raised the daughter, then looked after the elderly parents. But: your life wasn't bad, was it? "Men are more likely to come to terms", Klaus Frädert recognizes a familiar pattern here too, and Ulla Noll-Reiter adds that older men often only break out if they have already entered into an outside relationship.
The financial consequences of a late divorce can be disastrous
Not so Kurt. He just gave up in the end. Because he is a person who cares about harmony, he waited for his wife's knee surgery and the daughter's wedding (“so as not to let any dissatisfaction arise”). Now he lives in the Rheinhessen region, far away. He misses his dog, his friends, his village. But he is "over it". No, they are not divorced. “We'd both be losers”. It was a classic pension marriage in which the woman did not acquire her own pension entitlement.
"If, in the event of a divorce in old age, the pension has to be divided as part of the pension equalization, there is a risk that neither of them can make a living from it and that both are additionally dependent on basic security," warns Barbara Seelbach-Reineck, specialist lawyer for family law in Geisenheim. So is it better to live apart than to get a divorce? Not always a solution, says the lawyer. "Even then, two households have to be financed."
While Kurt lives in rent, his wife lives in his former house, rent-free. They merge their mini-pension and their pension, from which common expenses such as health insurance contributions, taxes or insurance are deducted. The rest is divided in half. Kurt now has a lot less money available in old age than he once calculated. Still - after everything he's been through, he's fine today: "Better get out of the situation before you wear yourself out."