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Leaving a Marriage After 60: How to Know When it’s Time to Let Go

By Martha Bodyfelt September 27, 2022 Family

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.

  1. You Are in an Abusive Relationship
  2. You Do Not Get Treated with the Respect You Deserve
  3. You Justify Your Happiness and Mental Health
  4. You Feel Nothing Will Change for the better
  5. You Are Not Being True to Yourself

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. It’s time to realize you deserve to be safe and respected.

Physical and sexual abuse are easy to identify, but mental and emotional abuse can be more difficult. Gaslighting is a technique frequently used by abusive partners which undermines and makes you question your perception and understanding of reality.

The manipulation often begins slowly and goes unnoticed by yourself and others. Common behaviors include constant lying, deflecting or shifting blame, creating a codependent relationship, twisting conversations, and giving false hope. 

Also, narcissists can create volatile environments and make you question your self-worth. They generally don’t have your best interest at heart and don’t really care when they hurt you. Narcissists typically don’t change as it is a personality trait (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). 

Don’t stay in an abusive relationship thinking that they will change. Chances are they won’t.

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 and 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 behavior, 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. Women of your generation demanded more for themselves. They 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. This holds true if you continue to justify your spouse’s misbehavior 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 counselor 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 you 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.

You Are Not Being True to Yourself

Do you find yourself easily agitated and frustrated most of the time? If you find that your personality changed over the years and you are mostly angry with your partner, then it’s possible that the environment has become toxic and it’s time to make a change. Sometimes the change means leaving the relationship.

Sometimes it’s neither abuse nor flagrant disrespect but little things that your partner does that annoy you and that are not conducive to a healthy and loving relationship. You have the right to be happy and to live in a nurturing environment that promotes your happiness and unique personality.

It used to be that women who left relationships in their 50’s and 60’s usually felt lonely, isolated, and stigmatized. Nowadays, more and more single women over 50 are living their absolute best lives – traveling, moving abroad, taking on new hobbies, starting businesses, and meeting new people. You can search Facebook groups, meetups, travel websites, and social events that gather older women together to do activities.  

Read UNEXPECTED FRIENDSHIPS ARE EVERYWHERE, WAITING TO BE FOUND.

Also, KEEPING SCORE IS FOR GAMES AND SPORTS NOT RELATIONSHIPS 

Let’s Have a Conversation:

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? Let’s have a conversation and support each other!

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Claire hanney

Carer for my husband don’t love him like a used to

Anonymous

Hello I’m 53, I gave up my career to run a business with him. Hes realy sweet but fits of anger and yelling, namecalling, the walking on eggshells exhausts me. But I have nothing! Nothing in my name, nonsavings, no career, I’m afraid I have no money to start over. The business is also our home and mortgaged to the max.
Not sure where to go or what to do?
I will always love him but i can no longer be yelled at and talked down to .
😪

Madge

Hello, I feel your pain. I have been in your position for 32 years and always knew that things were not right. I have just realised that my husband is probably narcissistic although not diagnosed. I no longer put up with his anger, shouting, blaming , lack of responsibility and selfishness.
I was so in love with him but enough is enough. I’m going through breast cancer and his lack of empathy and caring broke my heart.
I no longer respect or love him and I know he won’t change.
if any of this resinates with you , ask him to leave. Get a good lawyer, you will be entitled to your share of everything.
i too am frightened of my new future, but my well-being and sanity are more important.
I hope it helps knowing you are not alone. Read up on narcissistic husbands.it’s been very empowering and enlightening to me. Good luck.

Jen

Divorce does not have to be painful or messy. My exhusband went to work one day, nearly 20 years ago, & I moved out. I think I gave him the
shock of his life, but he never pleaded for me to come back & was financially supportive (of our daughter). Six months later, he was sent overseas with his job, which was great-timing; our daughter spent a part of those years in Europe & some months here. We had had some happy years, but then alcohol (him) got in the way.
Ladies, please don’t ever, ever allow a man to belittle, name-call or gaslight you.
Looking back, I should have left much earlier, & it was only when our 8 1/2 year old daughter suggested that I “have a break” (from the abuse) that I packed our bags.

Trace

I left my now ex husband 5 years ago after 36 years of marriage. I was 57 and had never lived on my own. It took me years to do it and I was terrified! I moved into a modern bedsit (that was all I could afford) and had some counselling. I slowly became more confident about me and never once thought ‘what have I done’. I have a new partner now but I’m a stronger more independent person and able to say what I’m thinking and know I’ll be heard. Life is good!

Fran

How did you cope??

Jo C

You sound like such a wonderful person. I just can’t imagine being that brave and courageous. I’m under threat from my partner to leave me and I’m just confused and hurt. I’m even responding to my adult children’s questions about Christmas plans with my partner and his children. And yet I don’t even know if we’ll be together but I can’t tell the children that yet, in case my partner and I work things out. I’m scared of being alone as well and I’m just so pleased you have met someone.

WWSaulsbury

My 32 year marriage ended ten years ago.I thought the world ended but I was mistaken. At almost 69 I am living my best life ever.

The Author

Martha Bodyfelt is a divorce recovery coach who helps professional divorced women over 50 overcome their divorce loneliness and break free from the patterns keeping them stuck so they can feel fulfilled, have more fun, and live fearlessly. To find out what's *really* keeping you stuck after divorce, take the 30-second quiz.

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