"It was the breaking point. The Trump issue was the catalyst," Gayle McCormick tells PEOPLE
Credit: Courtesy Gayle McCormick

The recent presidential election has caused heated debates, strife between friends and families, and in at least one case, a woman to separate from her husband of 21 years.

Gayle McCormick, 73, a retired California prison guard, says she was shocked last year when her husband Bill McCormick, 77, mentioned during a lunch with friends that he planned to vote for Donald Trump.

“I was in shock,” she tells PEOPLE. “It was the breaking point. The Trump issue was the catalyst.”

It was the toughest decision Gayle, who is now living in her own apartment in Washington, says she has ever had to make.

“It took us many, many months to make this decision,” she says. “We went to counseling and saw a priest. This wasn’t a snap decision.”

Gayle, who met Bill in 1980 while they were both working at the same prison, says she felt like she had no voice in the relationship.

“When things are 51 percent good and 49 percent bad, you just stay,” she says. “I was tired and older and I didn’t want to argue and neither of us was going to change.”

When politics would come up, she’d usually walk away, she says. It was only when Trump came up that she knew she couldn’t stay silent.

“I just couldn’t,” she says. “I was surprised Bill could agree with Donald Trump on anything.”

Although Bill ended up not voting for Trump in the election, Gayle knew they still had to separate.

“We are just too different,” she says. “It had more to do with the fact that I had not been true to myself for so long and that I had not stood up for myself for so long. I need to recapture myself.

“It’s hard and not an easy thing,” she says. “I love him and I want him to be happy.”