Who Is Sonya and Dell Curry?: Why longtime couples divorce?

Stephen Curry’s parents are part of a growing trend in ‘grey divorce,’ in which older adults in the United States accuse each other of infidelity while ending long-term marriages.

Stephen Curry’s parents, Sonya and Dell, announced this week that they are divorcing after 33 years of marriage, which shocked fans of the Golden State Warriors and anyone who hopes to believe in the ideal of a loving marriage that lasts until death.

What happened, and why the divorce now, was a common question asked by those following the couple on social media. After all, the Currys was one of the most revered sports couples because they had stayed together this long, raised three successful adults, and now counted grandchildren among their accomplishments as a married couple.

Their divorce papers, in which they each accused the other of infidelity, may hold the key to answering the first question. Both Dell and Sonya accused each other of having extramarital affairs, with Dell claiming that Sonya had an “extramarital” relationship and Sonya claiming that Dell had cheated on her throughout their marriage.

The Currys aren’t the only famous couple to call it quits after decades of marriage; Bill and Melinda French Gates and Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott have done the same. They are all part of what has been dubbed the “grey divorce” phenomenon in the United States: separation or divorce after the age of 50.

Divorce rates among Americans aged 50 and older nearly doubled between 1990 and 2015, according to data compiled by Pew Research Center. More than one-quarter of U.S. divorcees are 50 or older, according to research published in The Journals of Gerontology. In part, this trend can be attributed to the rising number of baby boomers who are marrying again. Divorce rates are higher for second marriages than for first ones.

Sonya and Dell Curry
Sonya and Dell Curry

Furthermore, there has been a change in the culture at large. Members of the culturally transformative baby boom generation are more accepting of divorce now than they were in the 1960s, according to a study published in the Journal of Family in 2020. Sixty-seven percent or more of 50-plus adults think divorce is the best option for unhappy marriages.

The increasing divorce rate among people aged 50 and up has been attributed in part to changing cultural norms and economic factors, according to experts.

According to Susan L. Brown, chair of the sociology department at Bowling Green State UniversityBrown, in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times, “Americans expect marriage to provide them not simply with stability and security, but also with self-fulfillment and personal satisfaction.”

Dr. Brown, who is also the co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research and a co-author of two of the aforementioned studies, has stated that many couples view divorce as a viable option if they are unhappy in their marriage.

Statistics show that women are more likely to file for divorce than men are, perhaps because they are more attuned to “relationship difficulties” or to gender-related power imbalances, as suggested by the work of Stanford University sociologist Michael J. Rosenfeld. Women now have more options than ever to leave an unhappy marriage due to rising economic independence.

According to San Jose-based marriage and family therapist Liliya George, the phrase “grew apart” is commonly used to explain the breakdown of long-term relationships. People tell me, “Now that the kids have been gone for a while, we don’t seem to have anything in common.'” This is because people spend so much time and energy over the years working to improve their financial situation and bring up their children. When I look at my spouse, I don’t recognize him or her at all.

George notes that adultery is also prevalent among the older couples she counsels; however, she views it as a “symptom” of deeper problems. The unfaithful partner may claim to have been “unhappy for a long time” due to a lack of passion or appreciation in the relationship.

The midlife crisis stereotype is another common one. Margie Ryerson, a therapist in Orinda, California, has observed that one partner may cheat to demonstrate their continued physical attractiveness or to cope with the realization of their mortality.

But resentments build up between long-married partners regardless of whether or not one partner has an affair. Ryerson, author of “Family Focus: A Therapist’s Tips for Happier Families,” added that people change and grow as they move through each stage of life, sometimes independently and sometimes together.

She said that couples often take stock of their relationships at major life transitions like retirement or when their children leave home. Due to the increased longevity in the United States, a spouse may begin to wonder if they want to commit to a partner they may not even like for the next ten, twenty, or thirty years.

According to Ryerson, a breakup of any kind almost always results in sadness on both sides. It’s likely that if one or both partners have to relocate, they’ll experience some degree of loss over the positive aspects of their marriage. Sonya and Dell Curry said in a statement to the media that ending their long marriage was “painful.”
Adult children may also feel the effects of a divorce. Ryerson argued that parents serve as examples to their kids. Even if the parents can maintain cordial relations, it can make family gatherings stressful. No matter how it’s spun, this is a gloomy period.

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