Calling it Quits: Late-life Divorce and Starting Over

Front Cover
Random House, 2007 - Family & Relationships - 326 pages
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 don’t know how many years I have left, but I do know I don’t 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 Bair’s 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 divorce–and 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 author’s most personal and most universal work.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

Calling it quits: late-life divorce and starting over

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

National Book Award-winning biographer Bair (Samuel Beckett), impelled by the breakdown of her marriage of 43 years, sets out to explore why people separate after decades as a couple and what happens ... Read full review


Abuse Takes Many Forms
The Last Chance Divorce

9 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

Deirdre Bair is the critically acclaimed author of four previous works of nonfiction. She received the National Book Award for Samuel Beckett: A Biography, and her biographies of Ana´s Nin and Simone de Beauvoir were also prize finalists. Her biography of C. G. Jung was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and received the Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. She has been awarded fellowships from (among others) the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. She has been a literary journalist and university professor of comparative literature and now divides her time between New York and Connecticut.

Bibliographic information