“We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
When recalling every wedding I have attended in the past 43 years—including my own—the words, “I do”, have never been followed up with, “Until I’m 40”.
The United States has seen a significant rise in divorce rates among couples over the age of 40 in the last 25 years, despite the average age of divorce being 30 – but why?
Is it due to the “Frustrated Forties” phenomenon, or has the meaning of marriage undergone a transformation?
The top 5 reasons women in their 40’s divorce?
As we age, our goals and desires inevitably shift, and what we once envisioned for ourselves in our 20’s may look quite different from what we desire in our 40’s. If you and your spouse met in your 20’s, it’s probable that you’ve both undergone significant changes since then, which could have led to a gradual drifting apart.
It’s tempting to remain in a marriage for the sake of convenience, rather than compatibility, but this can have a negative impact on your emotional and mental wellbeing. While it’s perfectly healthy for married couples to have separate interests and friends, if you find yourself spending more time apart than together due to vastly different interests, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship.
It’s not necessary to always agree on everything or share identical passions, but as you both navigate the changes that come with aging, it’s essential to face obstacles together as a team. Working through challenges as a couple can strengthen your bond, but if you’re tackling them alone, those same obstacles may be driving a wedge between you.
Do you recall who picked up the tab on your first date? That seemingly trivial detail could have unforeseen financial ramifications down the road. Financial stress can place a significant strain on any partnership and lead to unwanted tension and anxiety. In fact, many disputes between couples stem from some sort of financial conflict.
Differences in budgeting practices or a complete aversion to budgeting can result in resentment and disagreements within your marriage. Whether it’s the stress of job loss, debt, divergent spending habits, unforeseen expenses, a power struggle over money, or gambling addiction, these challenges can be overcome.
Ultimately, it’s not the money that’s the issue, but rather the lack of trust and communication between partners that underlies the demise of any relationship. It’s vital to communicate openly and honestly with your spouse about all aspects of your relationship, including finances, to build a foundation of trust and mutual understanding.
3. Domestic/Substance Abuse
Domestic abuse is a tragic reality that far too many women in their 40’s face. Often, these women have endured years of abuse, tolerating it throughout their 20’s and 30’s and only ending the relationship in their 40s.
Domestic abuse can take many forms, including verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, and even extreme control, such as withholding privileges from your partner. It’s when your partner displays a need to control you, makes demands that you fulfill their needs, and fails to take responsibility for their role in the struggles within your relationship.
Unfortunately, these relationships can be marked by a constant cycle of highs and lows, which can be confusing and keep you in the marriage for longer than you should. Many women hold out hope for a change in the pattern, and it’s only later in life that they find the strength to leave.
If you feel that you are in danger due to domestic abuse, call 911. You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to obtain more resources and support. Remember that you do not have to suffer in silence, and there are people who can help you.
4. Lack of intimacy/Infidelity
The passion and intensity of a marriage can dwindle over time, especially as the realities of life, work, and children set in. When was the last time you were intimate, expressed your love, or even just held your partners hand?
While it’s natural for the “can’t-keep-my-hands-off-you” kind of passion to fade in your 40’s, if you find yourself no longer attracted to your partner or repeatedly rejected when reaching out for affection, it could be a sign of deeper issues. If there’s no interest in sex between you and your partner, divorce may be in your future unless you seek professional help to work through these concerns.
Lack of affection can also lead to infidelity, which can cause irreparable damage to a relationship. Emotional or physical infidelity, whether by the cheating spouse or the betrayed partner, can lead to the end of a marriage. Even if forgiveness is found, trust is often broken beyond repair.
5. Married too young
Getting married straight out of high school or college may seem like a romantic notion, but in reality, it can increase the likelihood of divorce in your 40’s. The divorce rate for couples who marry at a young age is nearly 20% higher than the national average.
Couples who marry young may be doing so for the wrong reasons, such as to appease their families or to achieve a societal milestone like graduation. Additionally, they may become co-dependent on each other in an unhealthy manner because they haven’t had a chance to experience independence.
As people mature, they may discover that they aren’t as compatible as they thought or that other options seem more attractive. When you’re married, your individual priorities may be overshadowed by the collective “we.” If you’ve only known the “we” since a young age, the “me” never had a chance to develop.
Research suggests that the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in executive functions such as decision-making, planning, and impulse control, does not reach full maturity until the mid-20’s!
It’s important to remember that marriage is a significant commitment and should not be entered into lightly or for the wrong reasons. Taking the time to explore your own interests, passions, and priorities before settling down can help you establish a stronger sense of self and increase your chances of having a healthy, fulfilling long-term relationship.
Is it better to stay in a relationship where you are truly unhappy just because you said,
“Until death do us part”?
The reasons for divorce can vary greatly, ranging from poor communication and incompatibility to boredom or the devastation of infidelity. While it’s possible for couples to overcome these challenges by continuing to work on their relationship with honest and open communication, there comes a point when the question arises: is it better to stay in an unhappy relationship simply because you vowed to stay “until death do us part?”
It’s important to remember that a marriage is a commitment, but it’s not a life sentence. There’s a difference between working through difficulties and tolerating chronic unhappiness or even abuse. If you’ve done everything in your power to improve your relationship, sought professional help, and exhausted all options and are unhappy, then it may be time to consider that divorce could be the best option for both you and your partner.
Staying in an unhappy marriage may cause more harm than good, not only for you and your partner but for any children involved. Divorce is not an easy decision, but it’s important to prioritize your well-being and happiness when considering it. Remember that seeking help from a therapist, counselor or coach can provide you with the guidance and support you need to make the right choice for yourself and your family.
Emma Morano, who held the title of world’s oldest woman until her death in early 2017, said that divorcing her husband in middle age was the secret to her longevity—well that and eating raw eggs and cookies! So maybe Emma had it right—this marriage you’re saying goodbye to wasn’t your happy ever after—but I have a hunch if you are making (or already made) this decision with your heart, no matter how hard the process might be, you will find your happy even after.
Remember, You Got This!
If you are thinking about divorce or in the process, you can purchase my book HERE or schedule a FREE 30 minute clarity call with me to determine if working with a coach is for you.