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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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Sandy Miller

hi, is it chauvinistic to ask why this is from a female perspective?

Vanya Drumchiyska

Hi Sandy, and thank you for commenting.
Not at all. This is a women’s magazine, so we are most interested in the female perspective and concerns.
Have a brilliant day!

Debbi

I have been married for 39 years, After 30 years and raising 2 children, my husband came out as a transgender woman. I still love this person so I have worked really hard to make it work. I feel that we have both changed so much and are growing apart. We really don’t share a lot together and I am very lonely. We have grown apart and I am very angry, sad, broken, and dealing with addiction over and over again. I have lost my identity and I think I need to leave. I am sad because my dream has died and I don’t know where to turn. Any advice on where to start?

Jane Tasker

I have been married for 25 years to a covert narcissist and the atmosphere is toxic. I can now leave the family home as I have made myself financially independent but I am panic stricken and paralysed by the thought of being cut off from my children who are 19 15 and 13. He doesn’t accept any responsibility fir the failure of the marriage and is good at making me out as the bad guy. I am worried I will swap one set of problems for another by being apart from my children. I just can’t pull the plug and feel pathetic.

Linda Rivera

My husband is 74 and I’m 59 we have been married 15 years.. He has mental health issues from Vietnam. We have no other family. He is argumentive throws Tantrums refuses to do anything and the VA sees no issues he can manipulate them. I was fine dealing with him but I lost my only son and I went into therapy but his death was so horrific I have trouble coping so I know I haven’t been right. I’m tired I quit my job because we have dogs and I couldnt handle a filthy house and him and his many appts. We live in the woods and there is nothing here and I just want to leave and just have a life but with the costs and no support I go back and forth everyday .I try my best but I tired of being alone and going nowhere

ern

Please try and go. I wish I was still 59. Feel too old to redo, remake and restart my life. For you, if you divorce, you can work and then collect va benefits or social security off of him at some point. Just a thought. Please don’t give up.

caroline

I’m done with feeling less than with my husband of 30 years. The way he speaks to me sometimes is just disgusting. Also, I’m really hurt right now because I realized he didn’t buy me anything for Christmas. I asked him about it and he said Walgreens was out of my face wash. OMG. I’m an afterthought. I’m the one who takes care of things and our 17 year old with Autism/ADHD because he doesn’t want to. I decided to go back to school for my Masters in Social Work and I have one more year. I’m going to plan for my exit. He drives a truck and can work over-th-road but we thought it might be very disruptive for our son but he doesn’t care about him either. He might as well go over-the-road, then he won’t be around much. We did try that before and it really didn’t work but it may buy me some time.

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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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