Why Do Older Women Want Divorce?

Why Do Older Women Want Divorce?

Ever wondered why so many middle-aged and older women put the kibosh on their marriages after so many years? Wouldn’t the financial and personal upheaval stop them from taking such a drastic step? The answer is “no”.

In the US, approximately 70% of all divorces are initiated by women. 

As a divorce mediator, with over 20 years of experience, I find that the same reasons pop up over and over again when I get a call from a middle-aged or older woman:

(1) Menopause – Changes in Personality and Priorities

(2) Money – Nest Eggs become “Escape Eggs”

(3) Caregiving – Burn Out from Caring for Other People

(4) Independence – Desire to be Free

(5) Spouse’s Emotional Neglect

(6) Spouse’s Infidelity

(7) Spouse’s Emotional Abuse

1) Menopause 

As women get older, their hormonal make-up changes. In particular, their estrogen all but disappears. In younger women, the estrogen provides a “hormonal padding” that helps to equip them to deal with babies and children (whether they have kids or not). Peri and post-menopausal women often lose their patience for what they consider “nonsense behavior” and they are no longer willing to assist in the management of their husband’s emotional life. 

If that woman was walking on eggshells to keep peace in the home, that marriage might be dead-ended in my office. A woman will walk on eggshells around her husband to keep peace in the home for her children, but this often ends once the kids are out of the house. 

With their estrogen at rock bottom, many middle-aged and older women find that their nurturing qualities start to take a backseat to their desire for selfcare. This makes dealing with their partner’s troubling personality quirks (and disorders) very difficult. Stubbornness, silent treatments, irrationality, neediness, jealously, bad moods, and sulking become much harder to navigate and, in many cases, these women jump ship. 

2) Money Talks

If an older couple is fortunate enough to be retirement-ready, in terms of their finances, and the marriage is not loving and supportive, divorce often starts looking like a good idea to many of the wives in these situations. This is true whether the money was earned primarily by the husband, the wife, or both. 

Money buys opportunities. In my world, this means the opportunity to get out of a bad marriage. If your partnership is rocky, dead, or on life support, having the cash to start a new life is irresistible to many middle aged and older women. They are happy to live on half of the assets, rather than suffer the loneliness of living with a partner who ruins their day, every day. 

3) Freedom from Caregiving Responsibilities

Even in today’s modern world, where most women bring home a big chunk of the family’s income, they still end up the primary childcare providers, the chief scheduler and social planner, and the household manager. 

Modern women are exhausted from these two “careers” (one paid, one not paid). The last thing many of these women want, once the kids are on their own, is to continue in a caretaking roll for anyone, let alone their full-grown husbands. 

If the wife feels nurtured, supported, and cared for, however, she is usually happy to provide the same emotional support and caretaking for her husband. If not, though, many of these women leave their marriages behind. 

4) Rediscovering Independence

Getting older makes some women rethink what they want out of life. They start realizing that they have put their dreams on hold for too long. 

Many of these women have been in marriages where their spouse was the head of the family (in other words, he had the last word, or acted as if he did). In many marriages between middle-aged and older people, the spouses had their clearly delineated roles.

The only way many of these middle-aged and older women can push their way into independence – and feel that they can grow as a person -- is to be freed from their marriage. Though they might be able to pursue their dreams with their marriages intact, when many years have passed with these women feeling like “second class citizens”, they feel they need to go it alone in order to create their new lives. 

5) Missing Emotional Back-Up

If a woman is not receiving adequate emotional support from her spouse, she may find that she is actually lonelier in her marriage than she thinks she will be if she divorced.  These women often have divorced friends and family members who have found their way to active social lives and a network of people who are there for them when they need them. Essentially, they find in their friends and colleagues the type of connection that they had always wanted, but never received, from their husbands.  

If a middle-aged or older woman’s partner cannot figure out a way to be her primary emotional support system, that marriage is a risk. Even if the wife finds her emotional support from other people, she may end up wondering why she is in the marriage at all when her husband is coming up empty in terms of comfort and understanding.

6) Infidelity by Spouse

Infidelity within marriages is astonishingly common. This is true even with older couples – but more so as it concerns older men. If a husband cheats, the wife is left grappling with pain, betrayal, and a loss of trust. 

Most marriages do not survive an affair. If the marriage does survive, it often becomes one of convenience, but not of respect, intimacy, or connection.

When a middle-aged or older women no longer feels the need to keep a not-so-great marriage together for the children, she might not “look the other way” when her husband cheats. For older couples, the husband’s philandering often spells the end of that marriage. 

7) No More Abusive Behavior

Many women have put up with a lot of emotional abuse during their marriage. After 20 years or so, many of them say “enough is enough”. 

Much of society now fully supports a woman who is ending her marriage due to emotional abuse. If a middle-aged or older woman’s spouse refuses to clean up his behavior, or he just cannot seem to stop insulting her, yelling at her, or punishing her through silent treatments and sulking, she might very well walk out that marital door for good. 

Be Smart About Your Divorce Settlement

If you are a middle-aged or older woman, who is considering divorce, you will need excellent professionals to help you navigate your settlement. You will not have as much time as a younger woman to make-up for the financial strains that divorce often puts on an individual. You have to get your settlement right. Be sure that your mediator (or lawyer) understands retirement assets, tax, finance, social security, health insurance, and all of the other matters that will become important to you much sooner than for a woman who gets divorced in her younger years.  

Watch my Video on the topic

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