A mum whose menopause signalled her rebirth told how her “second life” saw her end her marriage, find romance with a fellow Butlins Redcoat from her youth and become a divorce coach.
A stay-at-home mum, Sue Palmer-Conn, 69, had started the menopause when, aged 50, she called time on her marriage, realising once her two boys had left home that her relationship had lost its sparkle.
Reinvigorated by her hormonal changes, she gained a PhD in psychology and in 2004 picked up her friendship with Bill Conn, 69, who she had worked alongside as a Redcoat in 1971 – leading first to a reunion and soon after to marriage.
Sue, of Liverpool, who was married for the first time in 1976, said: “The menopause was the beginning of my second life.
“I believe it rewires your brain due to the hormonal changes in your body and it made it realise I was becoming a different person and needed different things in life.”
She is far from alone in her desire to make relationship changes, according to experts at Stowe Family Law, who dubbed the menopause a “divorce danger zone,” after a survey found that 68 per cent of divorces involving women at this time of life were initiated by wives.
Sue said: “I started to notice I was beginning the menopause at 45 years old and, by the time I was 50, I’d split from my husband.
“It was already a point of change in my life, my boys were leaving home and my husband and I didn’t seem to have much to talk about without them with us.
“I was a housewife and my focus had been on raising the kids but, suddenly, I realised I needed a new purpose.”
She added: “I think the menopause intensified this need to find something new in life. Mentally, emotionally and physically, things were happening to my body and it put a huge strain on our marriage.”
Newly single, Sue felt a sudden desire to prove herself and pursue new opportunities.
She said: “I decided that I was going to re-educate myself, so went out and got a PhD in psychology.”
She added: “In the past, I had been afraid to shine, but as I was going through the menopause, all of a sudden I had this burning desire to become somebody and to find myself.
“I didn’t just want to be someone’s mum or someone’s wife anymore, I wanted to be me, too.
“I think the changes that the menopause brings are partly hormonal and partly cognitive.”
She added: “You go from being this nurturing mum, caring for other people and ignoring your own needs. Then, all of a sudden, because of the hormonal changes, you start to look at things differently.”
Sue also drew-up a divorce bucket list of things she planned to achieve – travelling around the world as she ticked them off.
She said: “I went surfing in Hawaii, then I went black water rafting in New Zealand. I sailed on a yacht in Australia and went scuba diving for the first time in my life. Then I went to Singapore for Chinese New Year.”
She added: “It was an incredible experience. I’d never let myself be a bit selfish before, but the menopause gave me this second chance at life.”
Her newfound confidence also led to her reconnecting with an old flame.
She said: “In 1971, I’d worked as a Redcoat at Butlins in Pwllheli for a short while where I met Bill.”
She added: “We went our separate ways afterwards though and, in a world before the internet, we had no contact for 33 years.”
But in 2004, Bill, a semi-retired accountant, found Sue on the now defunct Friends Reunited website and sent her a friend request.
Sue said: “We got on the phone and chatted for hours. We had both been married and had divorced within six months of each other.”
She added: “We started speaking in the evening and kept going all night. I remember my alarm going off at 7am and telling him that I had to hang up, because I had to go to work.”
A few days later, Sue arrived at work to a surprise.
She said: “There was a bouquet of 33 red roses waiting for me at the reception with a note that read, ‘You’re my first, my last, my everything. One rose for every year I’ve missed you.’”
On Valentine’s Day 2004, the pair met face to face for the first time in more than three decades on the bridge where they had last clapped eyes on each other at Butlins in Pwllheli, North Wales.
Sue said: “Bill went down on one knee there and then and asked me to marry him. Nine months later, in November, we tied-the-knot.”
And her second marriage is completely different to her first, which Sue says is partly because of the menopause.
She said: “There’s no pressure to have children at our age, so it’s completely different. Bill is my biggest supporter, he has such blind faith in me.”
Another of her achievements has been launching a career as a divorce coach, helping other women whose marriages are ending while they are going through the menopause.
She said: “I encourage the women I coach to make their own divorce bucket list.”
She added: “I think it’s important to rediscover yourself after the menopause and find new purposes in life.
“Give yourself something to focus on that’s just for you, without having to worry about anybody else.
“In a way, while it is always sad to see a long marriage end, divorce has given me a new freedom and women should see this time in life as a chance to chase their dreams. ”
According to Rachel Roberts, Yorkshire Regional Director of Stowe Family Law, menopause is frequently cited as a reason for marriages breaking down.
She said: “We are noticing a significant increase in women in their 40s and 50s filing for divorce, citing issues caused by perimenopause as one of the reasons for their marital breakdown.”
Loss of physical intimacy was the biggest issue cited in a survey of 530 women conducted by the firm.
Rachel continued: “It’s time for more awareness to be placed on the emotional impacts of menopause so that women are better supported in their lives and in their relationships.”