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Menopause: a divorce ‘danger zone’

Article updated March 2024

Our collective awareness of the impact of the menopause on the lives of women has grown significantly in recent years. As we become more informed, it’s become clear that there’s a connection between the menopause and the breakdown of relationships. With the majority of divorces in the UK started by women in their menopausal years, so called ‘menopausal divorces’ are the outcome of a perfect storm.

What is menopausal divorce?

A menopausal divorce happens when a woman divorces during her menopausal years. In the UK, over 60% of divorces are initiated by women aged 40s, 50s, and 60s, coinciding with perimenopause, menopause, or post-menopause. Around 3 million women in the UK are estimated to be experiencing menopause at any given time, making it a substantial portion of the population.

How common are menopausal divorces?

It is common for a marriage to break down during a woman’s menopausal years. In fact, divorce rates peak for couples aged 45 to 49 years old in the UK, with the average age for divorce being 43.9 for women and 46.4 for men (ONS).

We see this reflected at Stowe, where we receive a significant proportion of divorce enquiries from women in their 40s and early 50s who cite familiar issues caused or heightened by the menopausal years as key reasons for the marital breakdown.

Why do marriages breakdown during menopause?

Perimenopause and menopause are profoundly transformative phases for women, making it a particularly challenging time for couples.

The cumulative effects of physical, physiological, and cognitive symptoms can be overwhelming, leading many women to feel anxious, depressed, and lacking in self-confidence.

This period of change can cause new issues between spouses or highlight existing struggles.

In a survey conducted by Stowe Family Law last year 77% of women felt menopausal symptoms affected their mental health, with 65% saying the menopausal years had negatively affected their relationship.

The survey revealed a loss of physical intimacy was the area of relationships most impacted by the menopause. And 50% of those polled worried that a lack of sex could lead to their relationship ending.

The survey also revealed that other key areas triggering relationship issues during menopause were a partner not understanding what they are going through, an increase in arguments, lack of communication, and growing apart.

Divorce ‘danger zones’

Life changes like pregnancy, menopause, and empty-nest syndrome are often dubbed “divorce danger zones” due to their significant impact on marriages.

However, they usually don’t directly cause marriage breakdowns. Instead, they tend to highlight and exacerbate existing issues. If a relationship is already struggling, it may lack the resilience to weather changes, such as menopause, effectively.

In fact, you and your partner may have reached the stage where you no longer want to resolve things at all.

Sound advice when you need it most

Divorce isn’t an easy decision. Relationship breakdowns often occur gradually and stem from various reasons and factors.

If you recognise menopause as one of those factors, know that there is support available.

Clear family law advice is essential and can help to take the strain at an already difficult time, making the process as straightforward as possible and helping to ensure the best possible outcome for you.

Useful links

The impact of the menopause on relationships

NHS Menopause Overview

Menopause Care

Postcards From Midlife

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. LIFTING your Menopause Hopes – Opal Rising says:

    […] (low muscle mass), osteoporosis, heart disease, sleep disorders, mood disorders and interestingly, divorce, if left untreated through lifestyle change and/or medical/non-medical […]

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