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Wives Taking Point Seeking Divorce

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Two-thirds of divorces after age 40 are initiated by wives, debunking the myth of an older man divorcing his wife for a younger woman, a new survey shows.

"That obviously happens, but mostly it's women who are asking for the divorce," said Steve Slon, editor of AARP the Magazine, on Tuesday. The magazine will publish the results Thursday in its July-August issue.

"The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond" surveyed 1,147 people ages 40 to 79 who had divorced in their 40s, 50s or 60s. The questionnaire survey, completed in December, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey found that women over age 40 seemed more aware of problems in their marriages, while men were more likely to be caught off-guard by their divorces. Twenty-six percent of men said they "never saw it coming," compared with 14 percent of women.

The increase in women initiating a divorce reflects the empowerment of women to leave bad marriages, said Linda Fisher, AARP's director of national member research.

"Thirty years ago, many of these women might not have been able to (divorce) because of lack of self-confidence and financial means," she said. "Women are more likely to have more self-confidence and the means to leave a marriage when the circumstances are untenable."

The AARP study found that most women said they filed for divorces because of physical or emotional abuse, infidelity or drug and alcohol abuse. Men said they sought divorces because they fell out love, they had different values or lifestyles or infidelity.

The report also found that most older divorced people move on to other serious relationships.

Seventy-five percent of women in their 50s reported enjoying serious, exclusive relationships after their divorces, often within two years. Eighty-one percent of men in their 50s did the same.