HomeLifeThe nine biggest mistakes couples over 50 make

The nine biggest mistakes couples over 50 make

A lot of things change as you get older. Your body, your interests and even your relationship. However, just because something changes doesn’t mean it’s worse than before, with a little reflection and effort changes can work out well.

In fact, many couples find that their relationship is stronger than ever after 50. Here are nine of the biggest mistakes couples over 50 make, and how to prevent them.

They become too absorbed in their children

Kids can be all-consuming and, if you’re not careful, you can easily become engrossed in their lives, especially if you’ve recently retired and haven’t found your groove with it yet.

Clinical psychotherapist and relationship therapist Cynthia McKay says: “I have seen many individuals become absorbed in their children and grandchildren’s lives, causing them to minimise the importance of their own relationship.”

Now’s the time to create and nurture a rewarding lifestyle for you and your partner. Prioritise your bond by travelling together, learning together and staying curious and open about each other’s lives.

They assume their sex life will decline

For many people, maintaining their sexuality as they age is an important part of their lives. But unique issues can pop up that you didn’t experience in your younger years.

You may not feel as comfortable in your ageing body. Or may worry that your partner no longer finds you attractive. Health conditions can cause physical problems, along with stress and worry, that can get in the way of intimacy or enjoying a fulfilling sex life.

Fortunately, a lot of these issues have solutions and can often be helped by talking with a sex and relationship therapist.

In fact, many older couples find greater satisfaction in their sex lives than they did when they were younger. They may have fewer distractions, more time and privacy, and no worries about getting pregnant. They also may be better able to express what they want and need, which can offer an opportunity for greater intimacy and connection.

Read: Eight ways to keep sex exciting and fulfilling in your 50s

Not communicating openly and honestly 

Honesty is key in any relationship, but therapist Sam Nabil has noticed that some couples become less open as they age – even around important issues such as their health.

“They want to avoid being a burden to their partners or spouses, especially when their other half is going through midlife challenges of their own,” says Mr Nabil. “However, this often causes them to be distant and absent in the relationship, leaving their partners feeling alone and unwanted.”

Dealing with health issues is tough enough on your own. If you’re part of a team, embrace the fact you have someone to rely on during challenging times.

Not spending enough time together 

As you get older, it’s easy to let other commitments, such as work, children, and hobbies, take precedence over your relationship. However, it’s important to make time for each other and nurture your relationship. If you’re not spending enough time together, you may find that you’re growing apart instead of growing closer. 

Read: Why ignoring problems in relationships can make them worse

Not planning for or discussing retirement

Having a deep and honest talk about your ideal retirement is important to ensure you’re both on the same page. Retirement represents a great change in your lifestyle, and couples must prepare for it properly.

“Although the couple may be financially ‘set,’ they often aren’t aware of – or prepared for – the challenges that arise when work is no longer a major focus of their lives,” says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly. “Couples often end up bickering with each other as a result of spending too much time together, having insufficient personal interests, or having too few shared interests.”

Plan ahead to discover new shared and independent endeavours. Try volunteering, exercising together or taking new creative classes and workshops together.

Not resolving conflict in a healthy way 

All couples argue from time to time, but it’s important to know how to argue in a healthy way. Couples over 50 may have a harder time resolving conflict because they’re less likely to compromise. It’s important to be patient, listen to each other, and try to see the other person’s point of view. 

They don’t challenge complacency

“The most common mistake we see long-term couples over the age of 50 make in their relationship is to become content to the point where they don’t care to improve or address issues,” says therapist Cierra Fisher.

Any issues or dissatisfaction you have in the relationship can only be improved once they are talked about. Working together to establish an action plan that targets and eliminates those issues will result in a more fulfilling, happier, healthier relationship at any age.

Not making your relationship a priority 

It’s easy to let other things take precedence over your relationship, but it’s important to make your relationship a priority. If you’re not putting your relationship first, it’s likely that it will suffer. Make time for each other, show your partner that they’re important to you, and nurture your relationship.

Read: My husband and I have nothing in common

Staying in a relationship purely because you’re scared to be alone

Sometimes, you just have to call things quits. “I would say that one common relationship mistake that long-term couples make over the age of 50 is staying in a relationship that no longer works due to fear of being alone or being single,” says clinical psychologist Lauren Napolitano. “I work with women in therapy, and some women feel that they haven’t been single since their early 20s and that it would be too scary to start over. They fear being unattractive to new suitors, they fear having to manage their own finances, and they worry that their kids might be angry with them if they divorce their partner.”

If you’re unhappy in your relationship, you could try couples therapy. “It’s worth talking openly and directly with your partner about how the relationship may have changed over the years and what can be done to reconstruct something that is pleasant to both of you,” says Dr Napolitano.

Are you married? How do you keep your relationship fresh and engaging? Let us know in the comments section below.

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.


  1. Re: staying in a relationship because you are afraid to be alone. Nobody is guaranteed a tomorrow. Death can happen at any age unexpectedly or due to old age. Therefore one of you will be alone sooner or later. If you are not happy, talk about it. Maybe you can agree to reside together but have a more flexible lifestyle arrangement.

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