Page last updated at 18:44 GMT, Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Divorce threat to retired couples

Trader in Japan
Relationship experts say men are paying for putting their jobs first

An unprecedented rise in divorce among Japanese couples married more than 20 years is being blamed on a phenomenon known as "retired husband syndrome".

Marriage guidance counsellors are warning newly retired couples not to spend extended amounts of time together - recommending day trips over cruises.

Many of Japan's workers or "salarymen" spend decades living largely apart from their families, devoted to their jobs.

With time on their hands, couples are finding they barely know each other.

The divorce rate in Japan has risen 26.5% in 10 years, according to the health ministry.

The number of divorces among couples married 20 years or more hit 42,000 in 2004, double those recorded in 1985.

When a man retires at 65 the wife may be thinking 'I still have 20 or 30 more years with this person'

Divorces among those married more than 30 years quadrupled during the same period.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Tokyo says many wives increasingly resent how little their husbands contribute to home life and are seeking divorce when, after retirement, the men show no sign of changing their habits.

Japanese people also tend to live longer, so when a man retires at 65 the wife may be thinking "I still have 20 or 30 more years with this person", our correspondent says.

'On the rocks'

More people will retire in Japan in the next five years than at any other time as the post-WWll "baby boomers" reach retirement age.

Experts say that celebratory cruises or long holidays are having a devastating affect on many marriages.

Couples who have been married for 30 or 40 years are discovering that they barely know each other, and what they do find out is not that attractive.

The author of self-help books "Why Are Retired Husbands Such a Nuisance?" said it is dangerous for couple to go on overseas trips after the husband retires.

"Disagreements between the spouses often deepen when they spend a lot of time together in a foreign setting.

"Husbands pay the price for placing more importance on their jobs than their wives," author Sayoko Nishida said.

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