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When to Walk Away from a Relationship – Baby Boomers vs. Us

when to walk away from a relationship

Future generations learn from older generations, right? This is what our grandparents *baby boomers!* teach us about when to walk away from a relationship.

We have this preconceived notion about the romanticism of the baby boomers. The generation coming before our Gen-X parents, those born around the 1940’s. Most of them are now grandparents. The baby boomer generation teaches us a lot about relationships, including when to walk away from a relationship, one of the hardest things to do.

How did our grandparents get together?

Each of our grandparents have varying versions of how they met their other halves, yet they all fall into the same pattern. Unions happened because of cultural expectations and rituals. For example, during that time in the US, people ended up dating when they were in high school. Subsequently, most married straight after high school graduation.

The same can be said for different countries, but some cultures had traditional dating norms of their own. In my country, for example, men went through a rigorous courting ritual involving their family.

That’s how my grandparents ended up together. My grandfather liked my grandmother, so he started visiting her as often as he could. He brought her gifts, serenaded her, and even brought his whole family to pay their respects to my grandmother’s family.

It sounds all so old-fashioned, and that’s because it is. More importantly, it worked. The attraction was there. All my grandfather needed was to follow the usual steps, and he eventually got to marry my grandmother. Back then, our grandparents had relationship blueprints. They knew how to get their future spouses, and, at the same time, they knew when to walk away from a relationship.

How did they know when to give up?

By the time dating baby boomers started committing to each other, giving up on the relationship was out of the question. As fast-paced as our daily lives are, their dating lives were even faster. The average baby boomer got married at 18 years old.

Statistically speaking, most married young and stayed together for the longest time. In order for them to give up on their relationships, they had to do it early on. They made that decision by seeing how their initial dating went.

From the 1940’s to the 1960’s, people were more partial to romance and committed relationships. It wasn’t until the 70’s when people realized commitment was optional. Polyamory and casual relationships started becoming a trend. Unfortunately for the baby boomers, they were already in too deep. [Read: Casual dating: 15 reasons why it’s the best thing ever]

They started having children, getting stable jobs, and they even got better tax breaks because of their relationship status. By then, they had no intention of giving up on their relationship irregardless of whether they were happy or not. So, does that mean that they never gave up? Not quite.

What happened to the baby boomer relationships?

Two words: Gray divorce. Apparently, there is a rising trend in divorce for people who are aged 50 and above. After their children flew the coop, so did one or both of the spouses. According to the data, almost 25% of people experiencing divorce today come from the baby boomer generation. Almost 10% are older than 64. More than half of those numbers consist of people who have been together for more than 20 years.

So, what exactly is happening with the baby boomers? Why are they finally giving up on their relationships? According to experts, it may have something to do with starting their relationship too early, as well as the time period when it occurred. People were more family-oriented back then, which means most couples did not realize they were not really fit for each other. [Read: The pros and cons of marrying your high school sweetheart]

According to the study, aptly named Gray Divorce, these couples were not exactly suffering in their marriages, but they weren’t exactly happy either. The couples seem to have stayed together for the sake of their children and when that common ground disappeared, they started focusing more on each other.

The most significant reason for the rise in divorces, however, may be attributed to the acceptance of divorce culturally. And the rise in the ability of the couple to part ways while still being able to financially support themselves. This is especially true for women because they are now more financially independent.

So what can millennials learn from the baby boomers?

Judging by the drastic downturn of events for baby boomer relationships, we can all agree there are some points we need to consider before starting our own relationships and understanding when to walk away from a relationship. With that being said, here’s what we can learn from grams and gramps.

#1 Making a decision about what we want in life. Do you want a family or do you just want a partner? Baby boomers didn’t have much of a choice because having a family was considered a status symbol back then. You got better jobs, better taxes, better houses, etc. These days, you can have it all–provided you have a stable job and a secure pension plan. [Read: Why get married? 10 of the worst reasons to tie the knot]

#2 Consider a reasonable timeline for our goals. Whether you want to start a family or not, it might be better to hold off on it until you’re sure about your partner. They were expected to marry early as well, which meant they did not really have enough time to get to know each other better before tying the knot.

Nor did they have the option of exploring the possibilities of being a single twenty-something, or even a single thirty or forty-something. In that time, you’re not just focused on developing a relationship. You’re also looking at your career, finances, and self-actualization. [Read: 10 self-reflective questions to help stay true to yourself]

#3 Digging deep and finding out whether you are really fit for your partner. Baby boomers were deluded into thinking their partner was perfect for them, just because they managed to procreate with them. By the time the kids arrived, they were too busy focusing on other aspects of their lives, leaving less time to focus on each other.

#4 Knowing what to prioritize. We all agree the past generations were an unselfish bunch. It definitely showed in their determination to ride out their marriages until the kids were all healthy and grown and mature enough to deal with divorce.

For us millennials, we can take a cue from them and try to think about what we are willing to sacrifice. Having children is a great thing, but some people aren’t interested in devoting their lives to that cause. [Read: 11 ways to know if both of you are ready to have a baby]

#5 Knowing when to let go. The greatest lesson we take from the baby boomer generation, they made an immense sacrifice when it came to upholding the values of relationships and family. It may seem sad that it took this long for them to realize that they weren’t in the relationship they wanted, but we can change our own paths by looking closely at our current relationships and be able to decide if it’s really worth fighting for or when to walk away from a relationship.

By being more aware of what kind of relationship we’re in, we’ll be more inclined to make a decision that benefits us for the long-term. We don’t have to wait until we’re 50 or 60. We can make the big decisions about our relationships now because we have learned from the best keepers of relationships.

[Read: Trouble in paradise? How to know when to break up]

Did any of this resonate with you? Can you make the decision to walk away from a relationship now, or will you wait like the baby boomers and see what happens in the future? 

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Danielle Anne
Danielle Anne
Those who can’t do, teach. I can neither do nor teach as well as others, but I can try. Aside from being a writer, I am also a physical therapist. My dream is...
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