Couples over 50

Marriage Over 50 – 7 Signs That It May Be Over

Share with Friends

Marriage over 50 can be a blessing or a burden. The trials of life can either tear you apart or bring you closer together. There are distinct signs that your marriage is ending and this can often happen with couples when the kids are leaving the nest. A couple will often wake up and realize that they are no longer connected as they once were. Stress, careers and raising children can take a toll on the relationship.

Do you wake up one day and realize you no longer know your spouse and have nothing in common as we often hear in the media? Or are there telltale signs that a marriage is headed down the wrong path.

There are distinct signs that a marriage is on its way to the end regardless of your age. On average, 20 percent of married women and 13 percent of married men, report having thought about leaving their spouse.

The Signs Your Marriage is Over

There are several signs that are often ignored and before you know it your marriage is over. Learn to recognize those signs as they are beginning then you have an opportunity to resolve the issues and change your behavior as a couple or seek counseling.


If you are hearing or feeling contempt in your relationship then this is a huge sign the marriage is in trouble. Contempt can happen from a long history of undermining behaviors in the relationship that have worn it down over the years or it can come from a major event like infidelity.

With couples who have remained together a long time, contempt typically stems from more subtle behaviors that have worn down respect in the relationship. In a marriage, contempt is acting as though your partner is beneath you or not worth your time. It’s disregarding someone else’s thoughts and opinions or actively displaying scorn for them. Eye-rolling, ignoring your partner in favor of your phone, invalidating their feelings are all behaviors that can trigger contempt in a relationship.

As summed up by The Gottman Institute, “contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about one’s partner, and it arises in the form of an attack on someone’s sense of self.” Gottman describes contempt as far beyond criticism, as it indicates a moral superiority over one’s partner. “If Gottman observes one or both partners in a marriage showing contempt toward the other, he considers it the most important sign that a marriage is in trouble.”


Communication does not just mean acknowledging your partner when they walk in the door. It mean sharing your concerns and joy. Every night we had dinner together as a family and now that the kids are gone we still do. This is our time to connect about each other’s day and get a rundown of the day’s events. I remember a co-worker saying to me, “You tell your husband what happens at work?” YES! I spend more time at work than I do with my spouse! I want to hear all about his day and he wants to hear about mine.

In one study, 53 percent of couples reported that a lack of communication was a core reason for their divorce. In any relationship, communication is crucial to building a foundation of honesty and trust. When you and your partner won’t address relationship issues or share in each other’s joy, or sorrows, it means your emotional intimacy is diminishing. 

Mentioning the “D” Word

We have all heard this. Never threaten or bring up divorce in conversations and arguments. Once you take hold of this mindset it can bring on a whole host of other issues. You can take on a single person’s attitude and other factors can creep in like infidelity. You must have a long term mentality and should not be an option in conversations.

I personally have seen couples that have been discussing this option for over 15 years so maybe it is not always a death sentence. However, if you are thinking it, then speaking it, you are more likely to act on it. One thing it will do is undermine the safety of the relationship. If one person always has a foot out the door then the other spouse can not feel safe in the relationship.

Marriage over 50


There is a difference between a criticism and a complaint. The important thing is to learn the difference between expressing a complaint and criticizing:

  • Complaint: “I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other.”
  • Criticism: “You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish. You never think of others! You never think of me!”

If the majority of your complaints turn into criticisms then it can become a problem. A partner who is constantly assaulted this way can not deal with this kind of rejection long term. Eventually, this critical behavior leads to contempt.


This is one that is so important for many reasons. A person who is defensive is typically a person who is not taking personal responsibility in the relationship. But it can also stem from living with someone who is overly critical.

Here is when it is a major issue. I come to you with my complaint. You retort with a defense. In my experience, you are probably not even listening to me. You are taking no ownership for your part in the complaint. And I do not feel validated. Some people are naturally defensive and are always in this mode. They incapable of having a healthy exchange because they live in a world of making excuses. In addition, the defensive person will turn it around on you and try to make it your fault.

Here is an unhealthy defensive exchange.

Did you make it to the bank today to make the deposit?

No, I did not make it to the bank today! You know how busy I am! You should have made the deposit yourself!

Here is a healthy response.

No, I had a jam-packed day. My fault. I will get the deposit to the bank tomorrow.

Lack of Intimacy

As we age many people struggle with sexual dysfunction or a decrease in sexual interest. A lack of physical affection can make one feel unwanted and also cause them to wander. Even if there is a lack of sex drive you can still give your partner the physical attention they deserve. Sex is not the only way to connect on a physical level. Physical attention is a strong predictor of where the relationship is headed and promotes likeability, affection and reduces stress. It also creates a stronger bond for the couple.

However, the rush of fantasizing about a new relationship and wandering eyes can be the nail in the coffin for many couples. Thinking and fantasizing about a new relationship can be the first step in ending the old one in someone’s mind. It is important, no matter the physical issues that you continue to hold hands, hug, kiss and do romantic things together!


Has your spouse ever just not responded in a conversation? This is known as stonewalling and is usually a response to criticism and contempt. Stonewalling can be a protection mechanism that turns into a bad habit. Initially, it can stem from contempt and the person uses it as a way to protect themselves by not responding. They can be afraid that if they open their mouth they will not be able to control their anger. They may feel things will go too far. So they clam up.

How does it become a bad habit? It can be a power play on the part of the spouse who is doing it. Not only is it passive-aggressive but it allows the stonewaller to feel in control while the spouse being stonewalled is feeling confused as to why they can not get a response.

In Conclusion

The marriages that seem to survive, have a sense of teamwork and dedication to making it to the end. Let’s be honest, sometimes people stay together because it is easier than breaking up.

I was talking to a friend the other day who has had a really tough marriage. I won’t get into his details here. But he feels that if they stay together then the marriage is a success. I say that can not be further from the truth. We all want a partner who loves and respects us. Someone we can grow old with and enjoy our lives and the fruit of our endeavors with. Sticking it out and living completely separate lives in a miserable marriage does not make it a successful marriage.

It may not be too late, if BOTH parties are willing, to reconnect and rebuild a mutual relationship of trust. I have found in my experience that the marriages that work as a team are the most solid. They are looking out for each other’s best interests rather than their own self-interests and enjoy each other’s company.

Photo by Bianca

After almost 25 years of marriage, I look forward to my husband returning home at the end of the day so I can find out what he has been up to! If I see him struggling to keep up with something I need him to do I offer to help or try to come up with solutions. He does the same for me. We are more than best friends. We are partners and we have each other’s back no matter what the circumstances.

Recognizing these patterns of behavior is not enough. You must replace the unhealthy patterns with new healthy conversations and patterns. I see so many couples having the same fights over and over. But it must be an effort on both parts. You can only individually change how you react though! If your spouse is not willing then you can not control this.

Looking for tips on Empty Nest? Check out our article on How to Fill Your Calendar After the Nest is Empty.

5 1 vote
Article Rating

Share with Friends

59 responses to “Marriage Over 50 – 7 Signs That It May Be Over”

  1. Cindy Avatar

    Gosh good list. Everything you shared is so true!!

  2. Tamera Avatar

    This is extremely informative! I’ve noticed that communication and being a team are extremely important.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Lots of folks have mentioned that. I am glad to see it is resonating for some people!

  3. Alex Avatar

    Great, well written post. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Nomads RTW Avatar
    Nomads RTW

    What a post! I think communication is one of the most important for us.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That seems to be the trend! Thank you!

  5. Lisa Avatar

    Such a good reminder for such a heavy topic. Thank you for posting.

  6. Jessica Avatar

    This was interesting. It made me reflect on my own marriage and analyze the marriages around me.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Awesome! I think it is always good when people reflect more!

  7. judean Avatar

    I am not going to lie, this post was difficult to read. I am not even 50 yet but I get everything you are saying!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      My thoughts are with you, Judean. Counseling can do tremendous things! Please consider it!

  8. Tiffany Avatar

    Having a trustworthy partner who has your back is so important, no matter what stage of life you are in. I’m lucky that my hubby and I definitely make a team. We may have disagreements, but we always work through them by coming back to the idea that we are in this together and make decisions based on what is best for both of us.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      IN my experience those are the most successful marriages. Thank you Tiffany!

  9. Maria G Avatar
    Maria G

    Such a well written, and insightful article. As a single person (married briefly in my late 20’s), I have had the privilege of watching several successful marriages last well past the 25 year mark. My parents are well into 50+ years, it hasn’t always been easy for them, but they did the work!

  10. Nicky Avatar

    Very good information for any age.

  11. Tracy Avatar

    Sad but true. Quality Communication is a key part of any relationship.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thank you Tracy! Communication seems to be what everyone is pointing to.

  12. Robin Avatar

    Wonderful, informative post! I just love the way you write 🙂

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Well, thank you so much! That made my day! 🙂

  13. Lisa Avatar

    Very informative post. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Eva Avatar

    My husband and I have always worked to stay connected through deployments, moves, jobs, and kids. The year we spent in marriage counseling was worth every dollar we spent because we still use the tools we learned to this day.

    I especially loved the way you clarified contempt vs complaining. We counsel so many people who waited too long to get help with their marriage and their feelings are often contemptuous and bitter.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      My husband used to come home from the grocery store and talk about older couples at the store and how mean people were to their spouses in the check-out line. You definitely need to get help immediately if this creeps in.

  15. Karen Avatar

    I went through a divorce in 2012 and these were a lot of the factors that split us up.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thank you so much for sharing that Karen.

  16. Jen Avatar

    Marriage is a lot of hard work. So true that a lot of “stuffed down stuff” comes to the surface when kids are leaving the home

  17. Suzan Avatar

    Marriage takes work and a lot of it. Keeping the lines of communication open and a sense of humor has definitely kept us going.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      A sense of humor has been the key to our success as well. You have to keep laughing at life and yourselves!

  18. Karla Petersen Avatar
    Karla Petersen

    This is all so important from dating and the first days of marriage. But habits dig in the longer you don’t address them!

  19. Tiffany Avatar

    Well written – I have noticed a wave of friend’s parents (as well as my own aunts/uncles) who have divorced recently.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thank you, Tiffany! When the kids are exiting it is at that point then they only have each other to deal with.

  20. Haley Kelley Avatar
    Haley Kelley

    I know that the general population seems to think that you should never ever get divorced and I think you should do everything possible to save your relationship but if it is over, then you need to do what is best for you and your happiness.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thank you, for your comment Haley!

  21. Lisa Manderino Avatar
    Lisa Manderino

    I am such a romantic that I hope everyone can find happiness and their marriage and remember why they fell in love in the first place and figure out their happy ending.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I think that is an important thing to be doing Lisa!

  22. Kristen Usrey Avatar
    Kristen Usrey

    This is a very well written article. I’ve watched my mom go through a divorce and then find the man of her dreams and they’re going almost 20 years strong because of their communication, etc.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thank you, Kristen! There can be hope in a second relationship. Although statistically, it does not look that way.

  23. Pauline Avatar

    Great tips!! I think this is also great for the younger crowd. My husband and I have struggles but because of the things we have in common, we always figure it out.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Often, the kids are the glue that holds together the relationship until they are in their 50s. You are smart to be working on it now.

  24. Brianna Avatar

    I love this topic. Although I’ve never been married it is still useful information for when the time comes to tie the knot. Thank you for this!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thank you Brianna! These are great tips and warning signs for any age. Many stay together for the kids and the uncomfortable notion of a failed relationship.

  25. Jill Avatar

    This is a good list to recognize behavior patterns in any relationship. I agree communication and speaking up is most important. Although it’s hard to share your feelings, no one can read your mind and it’s horrible to assume anything.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes! I can’t stand when people say, “He/She should have known” Did they though?

  26. Liza Brackbill Avatar
    Liza Brackbill

    Communication is the number one factor for me! It’s so important to stay open about how you’re feeling and work through problems together.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Agreed! Thank you Liza!

  27. Holly Bird Avatar
    Holly Bird

    Insightful many couples struggle with life changes especially if they have children and there is nothing left that you have in common!

  28. Lora Rovegna Avatar
    Lora Rovegna

    Great, informative post! While I am not married but would like to finally be one of these days, I still have learned that communication is everything. We can’t mindread so we have to talk in order to know what our partner is thinking.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Excellent point Lora! Thank you!

  29. Christie Avatar

    Very informative post. I get this. It can be hard. I e been married 20 years last kid left the nest and sometimes we struggle but so far have been able to reconnect and get over the hurdles.

  30. windsofjane Avatar

    What a well written post – very insightful. It makes you wonder if these tips are being followed (on a daily basis) to make sure that you have a healthy relationship with your spouse. My hubby and I never go to bed angry so I guess that’s something 🙂

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That is a lot! I have definitely gone to bed angry! lol But sometimes it is better to talk about things when you have 8 hours of distance!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Affiliate disclosure
Posts may contain affiliate links that pay us a small commission to help support the cost of my site and are at no additional cost to you. We will only promote the products and services we love.  Thank you, our readers, for supporting us. See my Privacy Policy here. 

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We are compensated for referring traffic and business to Amazon and other companies linked to on this site.

Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee
Recent Media for Born to Be Boomers

Join the Tribe so you can get all of our articles!

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: . You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x