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

By Martha Bodyfelt May 17, 2023 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.

Read THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR IN A DIVORCE.

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.

Read DIVORCE AND THE MARITAL HOME: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.

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.

Read 10 STRATEGIES TO EMPOWER YOU WHEN DEALING WITH A CONTENTIOUS DIVORCE.

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.

Online websites like Better Help and Talk Space offer individual and couples online therapy to help you go through this difficult period. You may want to talk with someone if you do choose to end the marriage. A therapist can help give you coping skills to navigate through your feelings and emotions.

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.

Read OVER 50 AND READY TO LET GO OF UNMET EXPECTATIONS AFTER DIVORCE? HERE’S HOW TO TAKE ACTION!

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.

Barbara

I live with one and I need help leaving I mean retired low money ibwant my pet to go with me but can’t afford its a vicious cycle I know what you feel

Brenda

Oh my, this is a year late , but good for you, I’m 42 years with husband since age of 18 and realizing he is narcissist . I hope your cancer outcome has been positive

Ellen Murphy-Keeley

and don’t!!! I do the same thing and I believe I am being WEAK! You are young enough (not that that should be a factor) to enjoy a full life. If you can-get out

Ester

Hi ladies. Allow me to express my ongoing battle with a 40year relationship that sporned two beautiful children.
As the nest was close to empty,just a 28 yr old boy-man was left.
I was devastated to arrive home from work and see all my clothes and belongings lying outside on the gravel driveway.
So I moved into the studio shed on the property.
I felt guilty! like I must have done something to deserve this treatment. I just retracted myself into a reclusive state of being….the wanting of forgiveness

Charles Evanoff

I’m so sorry that happened to you. That is garbage and he should be ashamed of himself.

Sharon

You are way stronger than you think. One day at a time. Free consult with an attorney, with 4 stars, prefer a woman. There are people to support you!

Charles Evanoff

Yell at him back! Tell him that you love him, but that he’s being a real motherfucker who’s hurting your feelings. If he legitimately feels bad, you might be in a better spot afterwards. If he doesn’t, then you know that he really doesn’t care.

Sharon

The FIRST step is going to an attorney and find out what you will be entitled to. Second should be a therapist to support you all the way and give you advice. Im so happy I finally jumped, even though Im working part-time.

Barbara

I so relate im lost right now I don’t know how to go and can’t afford it

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.

Sharon

Same scenario for me. Except my kids are grown.

Victoria

I couldn’t agree with you more. Mine was an alcoholic too. Me being so young & naive never saw it.

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.

Sharon

Being alone is WAY better than being frustrated and miserable, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Rolande

I agree I’m 82 and very sad .

Susan Alice Manahan

I am 82 and left when I was 75. I did not want to spend the sunset of my life being emotionally abused. I made excuses for his behavior and it was only this last December that I realized his mean words were deliberate. I journal, I am active–play bridge, read, play golf and have the support of my amazing friends. Many of my friends are much younger than I. I also volunteer. Once in awhile I have popcorn for supper. Life is good.

Jasmine

Rolande, I’m very happy to hear your new beginning is going well for you. Thank you for sharing the beginning of your new journey. I am about to separate from my husband of 18 years next month in May.

Kate Colburn

YES!!!

diane

hello im 3 months out of a 37 year marriage due to emotional abuse for most of it i just snapped and left i cant stop worrying about what he will do now, i feel my feelings about everything are totally insignificant and i am overwhelmed with the feeling i have to still sort him out, did you go through this at all or is this just me, i have been through counselling in bits.

Susan Alice Manahan

I journal. On the back page, (I call it the Dead Room) I list the things I cannot control. There is no sense in wasting time and energy on worry. Live your life, enjoy.

Vivian

I understand what you’re saying. Ive been in a 45 year marriage and the last 15 have been a yo-yo. It’s hard because Ive always taken care of everything and everyone except myself. Ive always had a steady income even in my 20 years of retirement. In the ’80’s he didn’t work during that downturn in the economy so Ive supported him. I could write a book but I realized recently after coming back inside to do something and as I was going into the kitchen he was coming out. He did an abrupt about face so I asked why are you walking away. He turned around and said, this. He was holding a fifth of brandy 2/3 full. My heart dropped because this is the main issue, his drinking. He lies, hides liquor and is very mentally abusive when he even has one beer. I always wondered why he kept going to the bedroom or down to the cellar (where he hid his hard liquor.) I wondered why he started to chew gum when he never did before and finally I wondered why the Body Armor bottle smelled like hard liquor. Ive found shooter-size, pints, quart bottles all over for decades now. So, yes, I’m frustrated and angry that Ive worked hard all my life to be faced with a choice of living without peace , comfort and financial stability in my twilight years is unreal. He doesn’t deserve me, my loyalty and servitude. That’s all I’ve been is his mother and slave. We did raise a lovely daughter but she’s not going to be around him if he continues being an ass. Sorry for the long story but it feels great to reinforce in my mind what I have to do to save my soul and sanity.

Last edited 1 month ago by Vivian
Elisabeth52

Boy, I can really relate to your situation. Last night my husband got very drunk and whenever he can’t find something he blames me. I’m so sick of this. He was the love of my life but alcohol has been a problem for a long time and I feel like I can’t take it anymore. Problem is I’m 71 and don’t want to tell my family or friends what is going on so I have no where to go. When he’s not drinking for a few days we get along well, but then the cycle starts all over again. He’s not drinking right now but I’m still so upset about last night (screaming accusations, slamming doors, etc) that I don’t want to be in the same room as him. I just don’t know what to do.

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.

Just wanna be me

That gives me hope

Alana

I ended my 33 year marriage 2 years ago
Many of the above mentioned issues and a sometimes violent adult son.
It’s hard ! . I left during Covid lockdown another man who shared similar interest through an online app ( not dating) , encouraged me to leave . He also had an extremely difficult marriage situation.
We both left and are together now.

Neither of us dreamed we would ever do anything like this .

There have been many sad times because families are separated.
Difficult circumstances around him losing everything. I’ve been luckier keeping my loved ones .

I guess I’ve got one form of peace and love that I craved .
But I’ve now got many other worries .

I don’t think there’s a perfect solution
Waiting for much happier times

Olga

Its been 23 years of marriage to guys who only had a great job with a great income, & that had been married for 18 years with 4 kids to a women that was 10 years younger, they both filed bankruptcy and got divorced, I met him 2 years after, I had my own house. No bills. All was paid off except my mortgage and I had a savings account! He moved into my home that was fully furnished, he came with a boat a motorcycle and a truck! That should have raised flags, but it didn’t, I thought he would eventually pitch in for vacations or anything we bought, but he had a bankruptcy on his record. So he could not get credit. Well guess who had all the credit ME!! that should have been another clue. But it wasn’t. He also had esophagus issues and gall bladder, which was taken care of. After that he looked for illnesses he just wanted a care taker, but I stayed feeling sorry for him, I still could believe his wife of 18 years & 4 children wanted a divorce from this nice gentleman, I thought I had won the grand prize!
My biggest mistake!
He was a gentleman, he loved doing & going places as long as i paid for it, but never paid attention to this. Once my money ran out it was all about him * his money, he never shared unless I complained, , im 67 years old, I can’t take this marriage anymore, its depressing, there’s no sex for over 1st years, doesn’t try to please in any way securely, but on the other hand, he doesn’t like to bathe unless i tell him to do it.
I just feel like I’m ready to leave. But when I bring it up for him to change. He calls me selfish and spoiled, he doesn’t like my adult children who are very well established and don’t need anything from me, yes his kid are full grown in their 40 & 50’s who only visit to ask for money and he gives it to them without payback. I’m nervous, can I do it on my own,

Glenna

Your situation sounds a lot like mine. I’m not married but have been living with a guy for 22yrs. I’m 62. I can’t take it.

I was the one who had money when he moved in with just a backpack (red flag anyone?!) and he spent it all. I got an inheritance from my father that lasted, oh, a year with this guy around. Of course I wanted to buy his love!!. It wasn’t a small inheritance, either. I had 2 little children I should’ve been saving for but ofc this deadbeat came first for SOME reason beyond my comprehension.

I have never been on a date with him, nor have I ever gotten Birthday OR Christmas presents from him. Oh, I took him out to dinner many times when I had money. He got presents for every occasion.

Now I’m physically disabled and I feel like he is scrutinizing whether I actually am or not, even though a car ran over my leg, I fell down 16 stairs and snapped my knee— and more– did he even visit me in the hospital? Nope. Call?? Ha! And never once does he take over things I find very difficult to do now my mobility is comprised.

I’m a collector. I find out he’s a hoarder. Coke bottles, paper, plastic bags— clothes all over the place– and it’s running my things I’ve worked so hard to collect. Does he Truly care? If he did he help me instead of telling me “just say the word and I’ll help!” I’ve… said the word so many times I’ve given up. A lot of my displays are ruined simply bc I can’t get to them thru his stuff.

I kid myself into believing I love him. I don’t know if I ever did.

My first (late) hubs was the love of my life. We were broke (funny how I pick the broke ones…) but we were so happy. Joined at the hip, we went everywhere together and I really can’t think of a day he didn’t bring me flowers or some little trinket he thought I’d like. We had 2 kids. It was idyllic most of the time. He made me 5 gardens and always had Me on his mind first. This guy barely thinks of me it would seem.

I’ve got ADHD, and so do my kids. Impulsivity rules the day. After my wonderful husband and I had to split in 2000, (long story, and he passed in 2016,) I had what I thought was my rebound. Nope. That ended and I frantically looked around for a man to help me with my kids. (Why? I could’ve don’t that on my own! Years of conditioning…)

This man I speak of now was amazing at the time, taking us to places we needed to go, etc. We even went out! Ithought he would take care of us! Thinking about it though, it was always on my dime.

Now we’re being faced with eviction bc HE didn’t work for 3yrs. Says bc Covid bc he’s got COPD. Understandable but GEEZ. I’m on SSI and so is my grown kid who lives with us. How am I supposed to get away when I don’t even make enough to pay for a studio?!

I have no family, they just think I’m looking for a handout. They’re bootstraps kind of ppl.

Anyway I know I’ve gone on replying to a 3mo old post but it struck a chord. Did I mention he eats all my food, replaces it, and then eats it?! (My son and I eat separately.) Hello, common sense!?

I don’t know how to get away. I’m being gaslight, lied to (he even shoplifts now!) He never used to do either. He had glaucoma now, doing very little about it–I keep feeling oh God he’s going blind how can I leave him but the other half of me says Get out NOW before he IS blind!

How do I DO this???

Jeanne Schwetje

Get away from this loser and user now! Love and hugs

Alana

I know it’s hard .
He isn’t treating you well .
You know it’s a bad situation
.
Tell him he has treated you badly !!
I did this under different circumstances . I was lucky I had somewhere else to go .
I left ! After 33 years marriage.

Victoria

Get the hell out now of you haven’t. I’ve had several that have been very similar. Coming from a dysfunctional background growing up, I’ve had the cards stacked against me since entering this world. Ugh. Took me many years too realize.
I graduated high school at 17, & 3 mths later taking my younger brother to a rock concert, (fyi~my mother had a host of mental problems, all undiagnosed & untreated & was also an addict then.)
I went to school & graduated along with working a full time job after school. I learned early on how I’ll, entitled, & narcissistic my mother was. I refer to her as my mother because she brought me into the world but. She was everything but that mother I’d always wanted. I had too grow up from 5 yrs old when she uprooted me from my great grandmother who was my caretaker, we lived with her, she was my security. The only reason my mother took me across the country with her is because I was the reason she got survivor benefit checks from my father.

Got my own car, my own place, my own clothes, bought my brother the concert ticket took him too the show. Back to topic it was at this concert I would meet my future & ex-husband who was also a huge narcissist unbeknownst to me back in 1983.
We were together 10 years. He was 10 years older than me. At 17 yrs old I thought I’d hit the jackpot. Not thinking about how perfect I was for this 27 yr old. He new exactly what he was doing. When we met he was an apprentice electrician. He had too go a few times a week to our community college after work & he finally got his journeyman electrician card. The job he got the card thru ended. He wasn’t willing to work for under 20 bucks an hour. He wouldn’t work a real job for the next 10 years so, I was the bread winner. When he filed for the divorce, mind you, I still wanted to work it out for the sake of our son & wanted too go to counseling, of which I scheduled 2 sessions & he only went to one, telling me he wouldn’t be returning because this counselor was very good & got busy getting too the root of what was going wrong (this was both of us going). He used the excuse in fear of having too own his part in our collapse, he said since he finally landed a job on base, with a company subcontracted thru the govt & he didn’t want too risk them looking into his background & discover he was seeing a counselor, he could risk losing his Q-Clearance. It was always about him. However, he was furious I was taking my paycheck with me & he would have to return to the work force again.
Yes. The man hadn’t worked to help or support his family for 10 years. He didn’t even do any house work or laundry. Never prepared dinner or did dishes. Couldn’t take our son too day care or pick him up. His day consisted of waking up at 11 am drinking his coffee & reading the newspaper, taking a shower & then doing whatever he wanted or nothing. We would go on vacation too see his parents every other year. I paid for it all. Once when we were waiting for our ride to the airport to arrive…. A friend of his showed up who I couldn’t stand & I noticed when our ride to the airport came that the car his friend was driving was parked in our driveway. I thought the best of it & figured my husband had asked him if he’d park there while we were gone so people would think someone was there. Lol… Nope. He took it upon himself to write this guy a $700 dollar check out of our account because he bought that piece of shit without so much as even asking me. Needless to say, that trip got off to a really bad start. I found him to be extremely disrespectful. Never once did he consult with me on where he was spending my money. I couldn’t say our money because he never contributed. He was the one who divorced me yet, he always bad mouthed me too everyone including my own family. I never even so much as spoke one bad word about him too our son because I knew in my heart once our son was old enough he’d see his father for who & what he really was & he did. Having had & seen enough our son moved in with me the summer before his senior year.
He wound up dying do too being diagnosed with amyloidosis. Look it up. It affects 8 people per million that’s how rare of a disease it is. Talk about karma. He remarried & it lasted maybe a year. This time he married a messed up woman who was 23 years younger. Notice how he didn’t bother with his own age group. She herself was an alcoholic & a coke addict. She smoked cigarettes & my son was terrified to go to sleep fearing she’d pass out with a lit cigarette & set the house on fire. He’s 12 feet under where he needs to be. My son lives in our home his father & I acquired that I qualified for the loan to purchase. We had the house paid off but, at the end of the story when his illness was diagnosed, he wound up refinancing several times & living off the money. So, never being a believer in life insurance he died owing $50 grand on the house which my son pays monthly. A true piece of shit & purposely a thorn in everyone’s side. Glad to be done with it.

Elisabeth52

I hope you have left this guy by now! He’s a selfish loser you shouldn’t waste one more minute on. Do whatever it takes to get him out of your life if you haven’t done so already.

Sharon

ABSOLUTELY! You have already been doing it on your own.

Cheryle

I REALLY needed to hear that right now. Thank you

Sharon

Listen to Paul Simon “50 ways to leave your lover.” Jump on a barrel, Cheryle … lol, I know…but not much rhymes with Cheryle 🙂

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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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