Marriages, especially ones that have lasted for decades, take work. Every day will not be a honeymoon. Arguments, compromises, and sacrifices will no doubt be daily currency. While the give and take in a relationship is normal, there are instances when staying married is not a sustainable option.

It can be terrifying to end a decades-long marriage and start over in your 50s, 60s, and 70s. For this reason, many older women stay with their partner, even if it is not in their own best interest.

But how do you know when it is time to leave your marriage, versus staying in it? Every woman’s situation is different, but if you are in any of the following situations, regardless of how long you have been married, it may be time to consider your options.

 
 

You Are in an Abusive Relationship

There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s when it comes to abuse. It is wrong, you do not deserve it, and you need to leave that situation as soon as you can.

For years, our culture has told us that running the household and making the marriage work is our duty. As a result, we put this enormous pressure on ourselves to keep the marriage intact, even if it is harmful or dangerous to us. Whether it is physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse, or the threat of abuse, you do not deserve it. There are resources out there to help you leave.

It does not matter how many years you have invested in a relationship. You may have even told yourself, “I may as well stay since I’ve already invested all this time and I’ll learn to cope.” But please, for your sake and for those who love you, do not stay. You deserve to be safe and respected.

You Do Not Get Treated with the Respect You Deserve

Anyone who is married for more than a few years understands that there will be ups and downs. However, if you are not being treated as an equal partner in the relationship, that’s a problem. If your wants are needs are ignored or mocked, that’s a problem. If you are being cheated on, that’s a problem.

These actions are symptoms of a larger problem. They show that your partner is not valuing you in the way that you should be valued. Never forget for a second that you are a queen and that you deserve to be with someone who will love you and respect you and treat you right. If you find yourself continually justifying your partner’s disrespectful behaviour, or, even more alarming, you have become numb to it, it might be time to reconsider the value of that marriage.

You Justify Your Happiness and Mental Health

If you justify, and continue to justify, everything over your own happiness and mental health there is a problem. You, a woman over 50, are a part of a resilient group. You are in a generation that demanded more for themselves, who broke out of what society told them they should be and how they should act. You have made a lot of sacrifices along the way, especially when it came to balancing the demands of marriage, motherhood, and career.

During those years, you probably had dreams of your own deferred. It’s common for most women to have made that type of sacrifice. However, the red flag starts to wave if keeping your marriage together is at the expense of your own happiness and mental health. If you are continually discouraged from pursuing your own dreams and happiness, it’s time to consider if staying in the marriage has been a reason for that neglect.

You Feel Nothing Will Change for the Better

Perhaps you feel like nothing will change for the better, and your spouse is unwilling to try. If you are in one of the above situations, where you are mistreated and disrespected, it may be time to stop. Or if you continue to justify your spouse’s misbehaviour towards you, or continue to prioritize everything over your own mental health and happiness.

You may have the opportunity to work things out with the help of a good counsellor or other professional. These types of services can be a godsend for some, but there are times when it’s not a cure-all.

It takes both partners to make a relationship work. Perhaps do not want to leave and have done everything you can to try to make the relationship work. Yet if your spouse is still unwilling to work on it, he is sending you the message that you may not want to hear – you deserve better.

Ending a marriage is a messy and complicated process. It can be terrifying to take that leap – the one where you go from having a predictable but unhappy existence to one that is full of uncertainty and stress. But remember that there is a whole new chapter of your life that awaits you if you decide to do so.

Recognizing that you deserve to feel safe and free from abuse and harm, that you deserve to be treated with respect regardless of how long you have been married is important. Knowing that you deserve to have your own independence and happiness despite years of sacrificing for others, can be the motivation that gives you the courage to leave a relationship that is no longer healthy for you – even after age 50.

Has your marriage ended? How did you know it was time to leave? What advice would you give other women who are struggling with the decision to stay or go?

Martha BodyfeltMartha Bodyfelt is a divorce coach, whose website “Surviving Your Split” helps readers navigate their divorce with less stress and drama, so they can move on with their lives. For your Free Divorce Warrior Survival Kit, stop by Surviving Your Split or drop Martha a line at martha@survivingyoursplit.com. You can also visit her on Facebook.

Let's Have a Conversation!