We’ve all heard of the seven-year itch. Now there's a new phenomenon called “Silver Separation” or “Gray Divorce”.  It involves a growing number of empty nesters throwing in the marriage towel after decades together.  Cheryl Teeter from Ottawa and her husband would have celebrated their 40th anniversary this year.  But five years ago, once her two boys were grown and gone, she left too.

 "When the youngest one bought a house and moved out in March,” says Teeter, “I moved out in April.”

Divorce rates have doubled among couples over 50, according to a study co-authored by Susan Brown with the National Center for Family and Marriage Research in the United States. The research paper, entitled “The Gray Divorce Revolution” was developed after a discussion about the divorce of Al and Tipper Gore in 2010.  Brown and her colleagues crunched marriage data and found that one in four couples who divorced in 2009 were over the age of 50, compared to one in ten in 1990.

Unlike the seven-year itch, most of these divorces, two-thirds of them, were initiated by women like Cheryl Teeter, financially secure and independent.

“When you grow apart and have nothing in common,” says Teeter, “there wasn't any other reason to stay in a place where I think frankly we were both unhappy. But I was unhappy enough to do something about it.”

The Chief Executive Officer of the Vanier Institute of the Family in Ottawa says part of the decision to divorce after so many years is based on the fact we're living longer.

"So you've got more time to think about what kind of companion do I want to have in those last 20 years  of life,” says Nora Spinks, “what kind of caregiving do I want to give and what do I want to receive?”

Ottawa divorce lawyer Nigel MacLeod says the majority of the cases he sees involve people over the age of 45.

“We have people coming forward and this is a common expression,” says MacLeod, “where they  talk about having had a successful relationship but a failed marriage.”

Teeter says her decision was years in the making but when she finally decided to leave her marriage after 35 years, her husband was shocked.

“He had no idea,” she recalls, “thought it was a bit of a middle age crisis, in fact his doctor told him it was and that I’d settle down soon.”

Cheryl Teeter has settled down -- but into a single lifestyle, focussed on work, surrounded by friends, and doing the things she wants to do.