Calling It Quits: Late-Life Divorce and Starting Over

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Deirdre Bair

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This is the first book to reveal the truth about the exploding phenomenon of late-life divorce, which has resulted in a seismic shift in modern relationships. Now, in a finger-on-the-pulse examination of this growing trend, Deirdre Bair, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the National Book Award, explores the many reasons why older, long-married couples break up. Having conducted nearly four hundred interviews with ex-wives, ex-husbands, and their adult children, Bair reveals some of the surprising motivations that lead to these drastic late-life splits, as well as the surprising turns life takes for all concerned after the divorce is final.

Although the standard assumption is that husbands trade in their spouses for younger trophy wives, Bair has found that, most often, women initiate these divorces because they want the freedom to control how they will live the rest of their lives. The realization may appear to happen suddenly, but Bair shows how it often takes many years and much careful planning before the ultimate Eureka! moment. We see that for one woman it happened when she asked her husband to help in the kitchen and he shouted angrily for her to keep her voice down so he could hear the television. For one couple, the decision to end their marriage arrived when the wife condemned their unmarried adult daughter for having a baby and her husband sided with the daughter, leading both partners to realize that they had never had anything in common. One woman in her eighties, married for fifty-three years, woke up after transplant surgery and announced to her husband: I dont know how many years I have left, but I do know I dont want to spend them with you.

Bair describes current trends in late-life divorece, including the growing use of mediators, whom many couples see as lower-cost alternatives to lawyers. She also provides fascinating examples of how people cope in the years after divorce. Divorce changes older peoples sex lives in surprising ways, and Bair is candid in discussing what really goes on in their bedrooms. She presents the stories of those who elect to stay single after divorce, of others who remarry immediately, and of those who are puzzled to find themselves divorcing yet again. As Bairs subjects rebuild their lives, the reader wills see new possibilities for living in the third age, and may be inspired to realize that there is indeed life after divorceand plenty of it.

Important, eye-opening, and truly groundbreaking, Calling It Quits is essential reading for an entire generation and its children,and an acclaimed authors most personal and most universal work.


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