Marital infidelity or cheating is something that most people associate with younger couples and early divorce. People might point to a spouse in their twenties cheating and use that as a reason why very young people shouldn’t get married. Other people mistakenly assume that once a couple has been together for a certain amount of time, infidelity becomes a non-issue that won’t impact the happiness or success of the relationship.

Unfortunately, age has very little, if any, bearing on the likelihood that an individual will become unfaithful. If anything, the opposite of what most people expect is true. Research in recent years has indicated that older adults engage in infidelity at higher rates than their younger counterparts, which is one reason why the divorce rate among older adults is high.

Adultery remains a leading cause of divorce among older adults

When people who are close to or past the age of retirement seek a divorce, people call the legal proceedings a gray divorce as a reference to the hair color associated with older adults.

Most people understand the idea that gray divorce can result from a couple growing apart after many years or possibly coping with the stress of having an empty nest after raising a family together.

Fewer people realize that adultery and infidelity can become a major issue as couples enter their fifties and sixties. However, data shows that married people over the age of 55 are more likely than their younger counterparts to take on a romantic partner outside of their marriage. Roughly 1 in 5 married Americans over the age of 55 admit to having extramarital sex.

That rate drops to 14% for people below the age of 55, which is a noteworthy decrease. It’s also worth noting that researchers found much lower rates of infidelity in the same age group as recently as 1991, which means that attitudes about marriage and adultery have shifted over time.

Take steps to protect yourself if you divorce over adultery

Just because you have spent most of your life with someone doesn’t mean you have to accept mistreatment or infidelity as part of your marital life.

If your spouse has cheated and you cannot forgive and forget, it may be time to consider whether a gray divorce is the right choice for you. The right planning can reduce the likelihood that divorce later in life will have negative implications for your stability.