My parents were married for nearly 50 years — then mum left ‘because of me’

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun26,2024
Divorce rates are going down overall, but the over-50s are bucking that trend. Why are more older couples calling it quits and what are the impacts? Watch Insight episode Silver Splitters on

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This article contains references to domestic violence.
After giving birth to her second child, Kath was struggling.
She was facing mobility issues and had difficulty walking. Her mother Lynne was two hours away, so she couldn’t offer much support.
Unable to care for her newborn and two-year-old toddler, Kath was desperate. She asked her mum to stay and help for a few nights.

It was a request Kath knew would risk her mum’s safety, but she asked anyway — and Lynne tried to find a way to help her daughter.

“Mum was amazing. She could see that I needed the assistance, and she just said, ‘I’ll see what I can do,'” Kath told Insight.
“[My parents’] relationship was based on .”

“We had to be very careful. She was in a very difficult situation.”

A mother (left) and daughter stand together and smile on a sunny day in a town square somewhere in Europe.

A desire to help her daughter after the birth of her second child drove Lynne (left) to leave her husband. Source: Supplied

The next day, Lynne called Kath. “I’m just coming up. I’m thinking I’m going to leave Dad,” she said.

She later showed up at Kath’s house with a small bag carrying her most loved possessions.

Separating after almost 50 years of marriage

Lynne had been married for almost 50 years when she decided to leave her husband at the age of 71.
It wasn’t easy, but she was determined.
“We spoke on the phone. He said, ‘When are you coming back?’ And I said, ‘I’m not coming back,'” Lynne told Insight.
“And he said, ‘What do you mean? Who’s influencing you?’ And I said, ‘Nobody’s influencing me. I’ve made up my mind, I’ve had enough.’

“He didn’t get it.”

Lynne met her husband on a Sunday night dance when the pair were in their early 20s. After a year they got engaged, and married shortly after.
“There was a lot of coercive control [and] gaslighting.
“Because he was very manipulative, sometimes I felt I wasn’t good enough. I used to get a bit nervous,” she said.

“There was no physical [abuse]. It was all mental, it was all verbal.”

What is coercive control?

is a pattern of behaviour “designed to dominate, control and entrap the victim through fear, isolation and loss of independence”, explained Delia Donovan, CEO of Domestic Violence NSW.
It can include physical and sexual violence, as well as non-physical forms of violence, such as financial, emotional, technological and systems abuse, threats and intimidation, isolation, and the use of children and pets.”
One in five (21 per cent or 4.2 million people) in Australia aged 18 years or over have experienced partner violence, emotional abuse or economic abuse since the age of 15, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The prevalence of violence and abuse by partners was higher for women than men.

As many as 27 per cent (2.7 million) of women in Australia aged 18 years or over have experienced partner violence or emotional/economic abuse, compared to 15 per cent (1.5 million) of men.

Coercive control is not an easy offence to prove, Donovan said.
For those experiencing coercive control, she added that a family member, trusted friend, case worker or colleague could provide important support to help them leave the relationship.

“As a society, we are getting better at recognising abuse in all its forms, and are more informed on how to help victim-survivors in a safe, caring and respectful way,” she said.

‘I’d actually done it’

Being the catalyst to her mum leaving her dad left Kath feeling conflicted.
“I felt guilty. She left because of me and my situation.”

But for Lynne, her daughter’s support was the lifeline she needed.

Looking back, Lynne feels empowered by what she’s done.
“I felt proud of myself. I’d actually done it,” she said.
“People may have always got the impression I was a meek and mild person. I guess I gave that impression.
“But I got to this stage seven years ago, and I thought, ‘That’s it, I need a life.’

“And I’ve got it. Life is very good for me.”

Two women stand together in the sunshine, smiling at the camera. It looks like they're on holiday.

Lynne (right) had been married for almost 50 years when she decided to leave her husband at the age of 71. Her daughter and grandchildren were the driver. Source: Supplied

Lynne’s ex-husband died last year. Since the separation, she’s moved closer to her daughter and grandchildren, has her own house, and chose the furniture for the very first time in her life.

“I can make plans [now]. I don’t have to cook dinner at six o’clock every night,” Lynne said.
“I can just do what I want. It’s an amazing feeling.”
If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, text 0458 737 732, or visit .
For counselling, advice and support for men who have anger, relationship or parenting issues, call the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.
In an emergency, call 000.
And for more stories head to , hosted by Kumi Taguchi. From sex and relationships to health, wealth, and grief Insightful offers deeper dives into the lives and first person stories of former guests from the acclaimed TV show, Insight.
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Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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