Marriage Challenges at 50


Couples face certain predictable challenges after they turn 50 – typically a time when at least one of their children has left the nest, careers are shifting, and mortality has more reality. With their lives in transition, these couples may find themselves needing to revisit, reinvent and renew their commitment – and even deciding if they want to stay together at all.

Those who feel they have lost that vital connection really have only two options: 1. keep drifting apart until they reach the inevitable point of a breakup or 2. focus on what brought them together in the first place and re-ignite the fire. The latter may require romantic getaways, serious discussions, and even some situational marriage counseling. Each partner has to think outside the box about new activities and interests they can share. Conversely, if the divisions go deeper, and are about serious differences in how to live the rest of your life, that is a different challenge.

There are as many potential bumps in the road at 50 as there are couples in the world. One party may want to retire early while the other is fully engaged in their work. One spouse may want to spend the next chapter involved in charitable endeavors, while the other believes that the marriage can’t afford it. Sometimes compromises are achievable: respectful communications about different hopes and dreams can be cathartic.

I have seen compromises where the couple chooses a new life plan jointly that incorporates some, but not all, of each party’s wishes. For example, I have seen couples re-negotiate the terms of their relationship so that one ‘retires early’ to Florida or California or even Mexico and the other spouse commutes there on weekends. Then, there are the situations where the couple decides that the differences are simply irreconcilable.

The last waterloo for many couples is on the battleground of money and how to spend it. Money crises can generally be resolved with good communications and some good financial planning. There are even legal agreements couples can make to codify their financial arrangements going forward, similar to a prenuptial agreement. Called post-nuptial agreements, they can save a marriage that is cratering over money issues. However, if one of the parties has an expensive addiction – typically, drinking, drugs or gambling – that’s another story. How a couple handles that sensitive issue may very well determine the future of the relationship.

The good news about turning 50 is that you have a chance to reinvent your life, hopefully with your current partner. Many couples find a way to walk through those uncertain times, somehow holding hands, and finding that they’re a happier, stronger couple when it’s over.

Photo courtesy of stockimages via


About Gemma Allen

Gemma Allen is a partner in Ladden & Allen, Chartered, and has practiced family law for most of her career. Ms. Allen has written more than 50 articles and lectured on topics that include divorce, child support, maintenance, mediation, cohabitation, women and money, and reconciliation. She co-authored The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In, or Moving On! and helps you navigate modern relationships in “Relationship Gems.”