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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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Just wanna be me

I’ve been married 41 years. I married at 17, never had a life of my own. I have been unhappy for years. I stay because he is sick. But I’m tired, I’m tired of being the reason everything doesn’t go his way. I just want to be me, I want to go and do what I want, when I want and not have to explain myself. Or have him tag a log!!! I’m just done, my kids are grown, is it too much to ask to just be me, just me in a little 1 bedroom apartment, just me to care for. I did say, til death do us part.

Wendy

I feel exactly the same,
my husband has never complimented me in fact has never said anything kind,
just treated like the maid really,
when my children where small he would even call from the kitchen for me to wipe there nose,didn’t read them stories ,play with them ,put them to bed ,change a nappy nothing, never helped with house work ever.
not even after a bowel resection and hysterectomy,I’m 69 and still cleaning up after him,he hides money ,he gives £750 a week and and I have to pay for everything and rent and council tax is £750. He retired late saved all his pension for years and kept it,I have to pay for everything out of my pension and my private pensions as he know I have them ,but he also has a private pension which he saves ,
I have been diagnosed with lymphoma and I don’t think I can look after and clean up his mess when I start having treatment.
i have to watch what what he wants to watch on tv ,I have to either go to bed late or get up early to watch my programmes,no one visits not even our children because he’s so rude and miserable ,
I just want to spend my last few years on my own doing and cleaning up after me .I’m more lonely living with him than I would be on my own as I’m sure people would visit if I was on my own .

Sharon

STOP PAYING! Move on out and get a small apartment … you’re paying anyway.

Victoria

I’m so sorry you’ve internalized it all for so long it’s made you sick. Warning too everyone it will manifest somewhere in some way physically. Take your money & some of his without his knowledge of course & get the hell out.

Vicky

I’m 68 years old and have been married to a thoughtless man who does not value me at all for 30 years. I’m a crafty person and he acts like anything I’ve created is worthless and a waste of time…even if I’ve sold some of my crafts and made money..I retired 2 years ago from a very stressful job..he sold his business and retired 16 years ago due to a physical disability (he owned a small meat processing business and wore out his hips, shoulder, wrist). Even though he’s retired, he would be sitting in his recliner after I would come home from work and ask me what I was going to cook for his dinner as I came in the door (the six months before my mother passed away she lived with us…she was wheelchair bound due to a stroke..I would take care of her before and after work, and come home at noon to get her lunch and help her with bathroom needs). My mother died 3 years ago and left my brother and I farm ground that we cash rent. Income from these payments as well as my social security has allowed me to retire. I have a small 401k, and my husband has investments he gets a monthly income from. My concern is that he will force my brother and I to sell my mother’s ground so he can get part of it! We have 60 acres and a home that are paid for…I have no where to go and thought I could just stay married and travel so I could avoid being around him…I just don’t think I can…I don’t know what to do…I just don’t think I can do this anymore…

Carol

Hi Vicky,
I’m so sorry you are in such turmoil. Please know you are not alone.

Linda

You would need to verify it, but in many states, items that are part of inheritance (like tge land your mom left, etc) do not get split during a divorce. Please verify this first though.

Sharon

First stop …. an attorney’s off ice to get the facts.

Wendy

I am so hurting and don’t know what I can do to change my feelings of wanting to seperate from my husband , but then I want to get back what we once had !
He drinks every afternoon , until he is no company at all , he is going deaf , he is known to be arrogant to me and others ! , while he is getting attention he is happy , when he is not or cannot get his own way he is rude !!! Not interested in anyones conversation , he loves to tell people I pick on him and repeats conversation incorrectly just to gain some sympathy!
He was a jealous man earlier in our marriage 20 years ago with no reason to be and act out , when I would want to leave even though it was ripping my heart , he would tell me he could not live without me , then I found out he had 6 children by another woman before I came into his life ! But while he was with another woman and their family , he told me he was like a sperm donar and they were never to recognised as his ?? No one was to ever be told not even the poor man that believe they are all his ?? Well, that has stuck in my side , I have tried to forgive as I believe he should have told me 33 years ago before we got married? He said he was naive back then to help the woman !
He has no affection for me for the last 14 years only wants to touch me in a sexual way ! With no cuddles and passion !! That hurts and he knows as I ask him please be abit passionate so we can try and restore what we once had ! But he snaps and tells me that we had too much of a good thing earlier so he is worn out ?
To find peace and harmony in our relationship is I do everything , outside and in , cook , clean and don’t ask him to help !! He won’t listen to common sense in how to fix or do things when needed , he gets aggravated with me and ends up doing more damage , I am losing any respect or feelings for him as days go on , I am getting angrier and do not like myself being like this , but just do not know what to do anymore ! He was a man I once looked up to and believed that I loved him with all my heart , but he has changed since I had to close my business down due to a mild stroke , which made a good living for us , after he took an early redundancy at the age of 50 , he played with a few cattle and did put food on the table with abit of income he got from them , while I made money to set us up for our super ! Looked after his original children on his shared custody , and I feel now they are all grown up ! I am no use to him anymore !!
His words says nice things but action speaks a lot louder !!
I am at cross roads and don’t want give up all the things I have put in place and worked hard to get !!
Is this common in this feeling ?
Sometimes I can honestly say , I hate him at times and that is harsh !!

Fran

I’m 53, looking to be single after 17 years . Mentally abused all the time. Scared as about starting over. Any advice??

Kim tibbins

Hi fran
I’m the same , I am looking for somewhere to live after been with my partner for 11 years , he is a narcissist in his behaviour , he has not made me feel like I’m worth anything for years in respect of physical closeness , normal everyday doing things every couple would normally do .
I have anxiety and going through post menapuse . I’m scared of starting all over again but I no I have to mentally keep focused and strong and keep telling myself my future is waiting and age is just a number .
The thought of moving starting again makes me sometimes feel paniky amd worries me a lot in the way that I could not go through with it .
But we must

Beans

My husband is a serial cheating narcissist,it’s a second marriage for both of us and we were living together for 15 years prior to marriage, we don’t have children together(thank God).My weight went up after menopause, so,the creep started cheating,this all started in his 40’s,well,I’m 55 and he’s 60 now,loser is still going online looking to “hook up”.
We do have 8 little dogs that I truly love and a big house,I don’t care about the cheating, when he gets nasty,I tell him to shut up and to go back online,maybe one of the women will listen to him(he pays all the bills,I have a great job and my own money but I told him, he’s not uprooting my pups lives.
I could just leave but I’m fine …I ignore him like he’s not even here,I don’t cook or do his laundry for him(he’s a grown man,he can do everything himself) I do everything for my pups and me.
He used to think he had all the power and I would do whatever he said,until I started to yell back at him and now I won’t back down.
Do not let these men push you around anymore,once you start pushing back,they do start getting nervous.
My advice…Stand up to him,not by him(no woman is helpless or hopeless when she fights back)

Ruth

I am wondering if there are any women here wanting to leave their decades long marriage because you have finally admitted to yourself that you are gay and was never truly in love with your husband.. my husband is an amazing man and a great father and is very in love with me but i cant stand even the yhought of having sex with him although we did in the first 20 years of our marriage. I am now making steps to separate but it is terrifying. He still is a good friend.

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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