When Laura*, 59, from west London, entered the perimenopause, her mood swings were so bad she asked her 'lovely' husband to move out – a decision she now deeply regrets. Here, she shares her story with writer Louise Burke.
Lying in the bath, I began to cry. I felt like a failure. My marriage was ruined and it was all my fault. I was so angry with myself but completely helpless.
This emotional breakdown wasn’t a one-off. Two or three times a week, I would lock myself in a room away from my husband and daughter, and burst into tears. I couldn’t understand how I could go from being head over heels in love with my husband to not being able to cope being in the same breathing space as him.
The perfect couple
I was 46 when I married Tom*, my second husband in August 2010 after he proposed in December, the year before. We’d had a whirlwind romance but it took us three years to decide to marry. My first failed marriage, which lasted 10 years, hadn’t put me off the idea. I never even thought about the 12-year age gap. Being with a younger man never crossed my mind, not once.
Tom was like no one I’d ever met before. The first time I met him at a work party in April 2007, I thought he was a loudmouth with a weird sense of humour, but he had my attention with his funny banter and we swapped numbers at the end of the night – admittedly, his good looks may have helped…
Even during the early days, I knew Tom* was my soulmate
After a few weeks of flirty texts, he asked me out on a date. It didn’t come as a shock because I could sense things were moving in that direction. I always felt butterflies of excitement when his number flashed up on my phone. He moved in with me and my daughter Anna* a few months later in June.
Even during the early days, I knew Tom was my soulmate. He brought out the best in me and we laughed together so much – something I now realise is so important in a relationship. But Tom was kind too. I remember telling him one weekend I was going to wash the car and he replied with, "Go and run the bath and I’ll take care of the car." I felt lucky to find such a lovely man.
Filled with rage
Fast forward two years into our marriage and it was a different story. Our happy, fun and busy life juggling work and family suddenly became unbearable and suffocating.
It was a gradual process. All the little things I used to find endearing about Tom began to irritate me. Whether it was his cheeky banter or how he kicked off his shoes in the hall, my frustration over every small niggle caused a growing tension between us.
At home, whenever I was around Tom, I felt like a pressure cooker about to explode. I kept it all inside me, as I’ve never been good at confrontation. I could hear my own voice getting snappier by the week but Tom just sat back and took it.
He’s such a placid guy, he would never shout at me or start an argument. He actually did the opposite – he would recommend local support groups for me he’d found online or couples counselling. It sent me into a rage. I didn’t want to talk it through, it was my problem to sort. Tom’s attempts to help me made me feel micro-managed and smothered.
My libido suffered too – I wouldn’t let him anywhere near me unless I’d had a few glasses of wine. It wasn’t that Tom was unattractive – he was very good-looking, in fact – but my head wasn’t in the right place to consider having sex with him. He was by no means the monster in our marriage, I was.
Ending my marriage
I continued to work full-time and gave everything to my work. None of my colleagues had any idea that my life was falling apart at home. I was taking it all out on those closest to me.
I’d turned into a martyr at home doing all the housework while also working full-time and I resented Tom for it. But it was all driven by me – he was happy to help out around the house, but I insisted it was easier for me to do it all myself, then be angry with him after it was all done.
I blamed myself for rushing into a second marriage and felt like I’d let my daughter down again.
My hormones got the better of me – I could bear to be under the same roof as him
At the age of 48, after a year-and-a-half of letting my hormones get the better of me, I asked Tom to move out. I couldn’t bear to be under the same roof as him. My daughter has since told me she used to hide away in her room during this time because the tense atmosphere at home was too awkward.
Tom was shocked and upset when I broached the subject of leaving one night during dinner so we decided he could come back for family dinners once a week. But it was a false promise really, I knew there was no going back. The day he walked out with his suitcase, I felt so relieved.
Some horrible and upsetting conversations followed over the next few months, but once we agreed on a proper separation in December 2012, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted and I was finally free.
Blaming the menopause
Once Tom was gone, my sister persuaded me to see a GP as she suspected I was going through the menopause – although I was in denial.
After some tests, I was offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but I chose not to take it due to news headlines back then about the link with cancer and my family history. So I went through it cold turkey, which I don’t recommend.
However, without the emotional weight of Tom living at home, I started enjoying myself again and celebrated my 50th birthday on holiday with friends.
When I hit 55 and came through the menopause, it dawned on me I’d made a huge mistake splitting from Tom. Six years on from our split, I would recall those happy early days with him and imagine what our life together would have been like now.
I regret not sharing my feelings with Tom* – but he's moved on now and has another woman
Unfortunately, I know he’s moved on with another woman, but if he was to ever knock on my door again, I’d take him back in a heartbeat. But sadly, Tom isn’t looking back.
I blame the menopause for hijacking my moods, my feelings and my mind. Looking back now, I don’t even recognise myself during our fallout.
A lesson learned
I regret not sharing my feelings with Tom and bottling them up inside. We could have fixed things if I’d been more communicative – he was always willing to support me but I pushed him away.
Menopause awareness is so important as not only does it help women, it also means men are more included in the conversation. I know of friends who've also ended marriages due to the menopause. I’m not the only one, but still, it doesn’t soften the regret.
*Names have been changed to protect identities