My Marriage Sucks But I’m Afraid to Get Divorced!

Are You Ready for Divorce?

TAKE THIS QUIZ and Find Out. 

Minute Read

Your marriage is a mess. You’re not happy. You and your spouse don’t seem to have anything in common anymore – except the kids. Some days, you wonder if you ever did. You’re thinking about getting out … but you’re afraid to get divorced.

Part of you says that you should just bite the bullet, get divorced, and move on. But the thought of all the chaos and conflict you’re going to have to go through in order to get divorced makes you want to throw up.

Plus, there’s the expense. You don’t want to spend your entire retirement account and your kids’ college fund on divorce lawyers. You don’t want to lose half of everything you own in one bang of the judge’s gavel. Most of all, you don’t want your lifestyle to take a gigantic hit just so that you can finally HAVE a life!

On some level you know you can’t keep going on like this forever. But you’re worried about how you’ll survive after your divorce. You’re not sure that you’re going to be able to support yourself AND support your kids AND pay for everything you’re going to have to pay for after your divorce is over.

You’re also worried about your kids too. Will your divorce ruin their childhood? Will they flunk out of school and end up as drug addicts or derelicts because of your divorce?

Getting a divorce seems so self-serving. Or is it self-saving?

Every day that you stay married, you die a little bit more inside.

Staying married is safe. Staying married is stable. But, staying married is killing you.

You’re stuck.

If You Don’t Want to Stay Married OR Go Through a Divorce, You’re Not Alone

If you find yourself longing to get divorced, and yet dreading it at the same time, you are not alone. Divorce is scary. It’s life-changing and gut-wrenching, time-consuming and expensive. It’s not the kind of thing that anyone looks forward to doing.

It’s also the only way to legally end a marriage that is at best no longer making you happy, and at worst making you downright miserable!

Beautiful upset woman who has a fear of divorce curled up in a dark corner trying to decide what to do.

The truth is that, in many ways, staying married is easier. It’s also easier to justify.

You tell yourself you can’t afford to divorce. You tell yourself that staying married is better for the children. Your church tells you staying married is better period.

But, no one tells you the price you will pay for staying in a bad marriage.

Monkey in a cage chewing on the bars. What keeps you stuck?

The Cost of Staying Married

Nothing is for free in this world.

The price of staying in a bad, abusive, or unfulfilling marriage is measured in the amount of life you exchange for it.

If you are married to a gambler, a spendthrift, or someone who is chronically unemployed, the price you pay for remaining married is your financial stability.

You may also pay with your health since you probably have to work extra hard to pick up the slack and make your financial ends meet.

If you’re married to an alcoholic or a drug addict, the price you pay is not just your financial stability and physical health, but also your peace of mind. Being married to a substance abuser takes a toll on you both emotionally and psychologically.

If your spouse is having an affair (especially one s/he refuses to end!) then the price you pay for staying married is with your self-esteem and self-respect. You may also be putting your physical health at risk too if you continue to have sex with your unfaithful spouse.

If your spouse is physically abusive, the price you pay can be with your life.

The bottom line is that no matter what the cause of your marital disharmony is, living in that state takes a toll on you. The longer you stay in an unhappy marriage, the bigger the price you pay.

But what if your marriage isn’t THAT bad?

Un happy family of mom, dad and daughter looking at the camera with disdain.

Staying in a Marriage That's "Good Enough"

While it may be easy to understand why someone would leave a marriage that’s abusive, unstable, or ties you to an alcoholic or drug addict, staying in a marriage that isn’t that bad – but just isn’t that good – can sometimes be worse.

When you’re in a loveless marriage, usually the only one who knows the depth of your pain and emptiness is YOU! No one but you knows that your spouse emotionally checked out of your marriage ages ago. As far as the world is concerned you and your spouse are the perfect couple. At least, that’s the way it looks from the outside.

But on the inside, you feel emptier and more alone than you would if you were single. You don’t feel seen, heard, or loved.

At the same time, leaving a marriage where everything looks like it’s “perfect” leaves you feeling like an ogre.

How do you leave a marriage when you can’t even intelligently explain what’s wrong with it?

Is “not being happy” reason enough to get a divorce? It seems so selfish.

Besides, if you just get divorced because you want to be happy, what will other people think?

Infographic listing the top reasons you get stuck in a Bad marriage.

What’s  Keeping You Stuck?

While lots of things can get you stuck in a bad marriage, the fear of what “they” will think if you get divorced is one of the primary things that will KEEP you stuck.

Who “they” are, of course, depends on who “you” are.

Some people are afraid of alienating their family. Others are afraid that if they get a divorce they’ll lose their friends or be excluded from their social circle. Still others are worried about what the people at church, or at their job, or in their neighborhood, will think if they get divorced.

The truth is, if you’re worried that your divorce will cost you certain friendships or family relationships, you’re probably right! (I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I also don’t want to lie to you!)

MOST people lose friends in a divorce. Some lose family members – or at least their relationships with certain members of their family may become strained for a very long time.

The question is not whether you will lose some relationships in your divorce. You will. The question is whether those are the kinds of relationships that you really want to keep.

For better or for worse, divorce shows you who your real friends are. It shows you who truly cares about YOU, and who doesn’t. 

What’s more, while you’ll probably LOSE some old friendships in your divorce, you’ll also GAIN new ones. That’s especially true if you join any divorce support groups.

Even if you don’t, though, you’ll still be amazed at the people you will connect with on a whole new level – people who have been through or are going through the same things you’re going through. So the truth is that you will BOTH gain and lose relationships in your divorce.

Of course, social pressure isn’t the only fear that can keep you from getting a divorce. Plenty of other fears can keep you stuck you stuck as well.

What if there was a technique you could use that would make decidinge what to do easier?

There is.

Claim your FREE E-Book: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

What Are You Afraid Of?

The list of fears – real and imagined – that can keep you from getting a divorce, (or anything else you want in life) is substantial.

You may be afraid of what will happen in the future if you get a divorce. You may worry that you’ll end up homeless and penniless. Or you may be so afraid of having an uncertain future that you just can’t make yourself take the first step in the direction of divorce.

Another huge area of fear concerns your kids. You may worry that if you get a divorce, you’ll ruin your kids lives … or that you’ll ruin your relationship with your kids. Even if they’re adults you may worry that your kids will be so angry at you if you get a divorce that they will never speak to you again.

Black and white photo of eyes in a rear view mirror, symbolic of fighting your fears.

Or maybe your biggest fear is that if you get divorced now, you’ll spend the rest of your life alone. (NOTE: It doesn’t matter that you already feel alone in your marriage! You can still fear being totally alone if you get a divorce.)

The bottom line is that fear in any form is your biggest enemy. It can paralyze you from moving forward or making a change in your relationship for years (… sometimes decades!). When you allow your fear to paralyze you, though, you often look backward on your life years later with tremendous regret.

Black and white photo of a womans eyes who is scared to divorce looking at the camera.

Fighting Your Fears

Fighting your fears isn’t easy. It takes determination and persistence. But, contrary to what most people believe, it doesn’t take superhuman amounts of courage to deal with your fears. What it does take is knowledge.

The more you know about what you fear, the more manageable your fears will become. That’s particularly true when what you’re afraid of is getting a divorce.

Sure, getting a divorce isn’t fun. But the problems that accompany divorce are well-known and usually manageable. Dealing with them is possible with appropriate knowledge and planning.

Yet millions of people have made it through the divorce process and have ended up building amazing lives for themselves afterwards – lives that they didn’t have, and never could have had, before their divorce.

For example, before she got divorced, Martha Stewart wasn’t famous, didn’t have a lifestyle magazine, and hadn’t created her company, Martha Stewart Omnimedia. All of that came AFTER her divorce.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote her best-selling novel, Eat, Pray, Love when she took a year-long trip to Italy, India, and Indonesia AFTER her emotionally shattering divorce.

J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter book series AFTER her divorce.

All of those women, and plenty of other women and men, found a way to face their fears, get through their divorce, and create the life of their dreams. But creating that life isn’t possible unless and until you face the fears that are holding you back.

Knowledge is Power

A lot of people have a lot of crazy ideas about what will happen to them if they get a divorce.

Some people don’t know what they’re really entitled to get in their divorce. They’re afraid they’ll get nothing. They’re afraid that if they get a divorce they’ll be financially ruined forever. That fear often keeps them from trying to find out what they’d ACTUALLY be entitled to get in their divorce.

Ironically, if those people had the courage to educate themselves about divorce, they might discover that they’re entitled to get much more than what they thought.

Stack of books leading like stairs from basement to a cutout hole on the main floor with the light shining through, symbolziing knowledge is power.

Some people don’t understand how parenting time gets divided in today’s world, so they assume that they’ll only get to see their kids every other weekend if they get a divorce. (ie. They assume they’ll be stuck with the kind of schedule that parents got decades ago!) Because of their fear, they stay trapped in bad marriages until after their kids are grown … without ever taking the time to explore how co-parenting really works today.

Still other people assume that getting a divorce means immediately lawyering up and going to war. They shudder at the thought of dealing with that kind of conflict, so they live with the inner conflict that always comes with living a lie. Meanwhile they don’t bother to explore the many ways you can get a divorce today that often involve less conflict than a litigated divorce.

The bottom line is that ANY situation you’re in can be managed better if you come from a place of knowledge than if you come from a place of fear.

Blue Keyboard Control Button

Taking Control

The more you know about divorce, as well as about your kids and your finances, the more you will be able to replace your fears with a solid plan of action.

Getting yourself into action is a sure-fired way to start combatting your fears.

For example, if you’re afraid to get divorced because you can’t support yourself on your own right now, you MUST know whether you would be able to receive support from your spouse. To get that knowledge you need to talk with a good divorce attorney near you. When you do you may discover that your situation isn’t as dire as you think.

(The same thing is true, by the way, if you’re the person who is going to have to PAY support. Many people overestimate how much support they’re going to have to pay, or how long they’re going to have to pay it for!)

If you’re afraid to get divorced because you know nothing about your finances and even less about how finances work, that’s okay. You don’t have to be Einstein to learn how personal finance works. But you DO have to believe you’re capable of learning about finances, and then you have to take steps to do exactly that. A good financial planner or a course on personal finance can help get your started.

If you are overwhelmed by the very thought of getting divorced, then learning about how the divorce process works and what steps you’ll have to take to get through it can help put your fears to rest.

(The Divorce Road Map 2.0 is an excellent online program that will teach you how divorce works in a simple, step-by-step program that you can complete in the comfort of your home. )

The bottom line is that no matter what you fear, you can fight that fear by getting the facts, and then taking action. That is what will help you face your fears and take control of your life.

But How Do I Know I'll Be Okay if I Get Divorced?

Fundamentally, the one thing every divorcing person wants to know is “Will I be okay if I get a divorce?” That’s really the root of all the fears we’ve talked about.

Unfortunately divorce, just like every other aspect of life, doesn’t come with any guarantees.

No one can guarantee that you’ll be okay if you get a divorce. But are you really okay now?

Pretty but [ensive woman who is afraid to divorce looking out from behind glass window.

Are you okay if you’re financially secure but physically exhausted and emotionally empty?

Are you okay if you’re locked in a loveless marriage that looks good on the outside, but is soul-sucking on the inside?

What does “being okay” really mean?  Are you satisfied with living an “okay” life? Or do you want more?

Asking yourself these questions will start to show you what truly matters to you. It will also show you where you’ve given up what you want in order to just maintain what you have.

So the real question is: What kind of trade-off are you willing to live with? What matters most to you?

If you want to stay married at any cost, you can definitely do that. (Assuming, of course, that your spouse isn’t the one who wants a divorce!) But you may end up trapped in a marriage where you can never be yourself.

Mind you, being caught in a loveless, sexless, and/or lifeless marriage isn’t necessarily good or bad. It’s just the trade-off that you’ve made.

Conversely, you may decide to get divorced and find yourself embroiled in a horrible war … for a while. If that happens, the time you spend going through your divorce will suck. But sooner or later your divorce will be behind you, and you’ll be able to create the life you dreamed about.

Pretty Hispanic woman in a brown turtleneck looking down with her hand on her forehead while deciding to divorce.

Should You Stay Married or Get Divorced?

Ultimately, only you can choose what to do with your marriage. That choice – whether it is to stay in an unhappy marriage because you’re afraid to get divorced, or to leave your marriage and get divorced – will have consequences. Some of those consequences will be ugly no matter what you decided.

But staying locked in indecision has consequences, too.

As the saying goes, “Not to decide IS to decide.”

Your life will be defined by the choices you make.

Getting divorced is a choice.

Staying married is a choice.

Not making a choice, is a choice.

In the end, of course, the choice you make is up to you.

So, which will it be: the devil you know, the devil you don’t, or a lifetime spent being stuck in between?

NEED MORE HELP?

Getting personal coaching is another way you can move past your fear of divorce. If you're interested in learning how decision coaching works, and how it can help you conquer your fear of getting divorced so that you can finally move on with your life, CLICK HERE to check it out.

__________

This post was originally published in September, 2016, and updated on May 12, 2024.

What if there was a technique you could use that would make decidinge what to do easier?

There is.

Claim your FREE E-Book: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


Tags

deciding to divorce, divorce blog, unhappy marriage


You may also like

  • This is exactly what I’m facing now! I want out of a seemingly perfectly intact marriage. Nothing necessarily bad has happened but I feel like I’m slowly dying inside. I feel nothing in my marriage, just total emptiness. I feel more alive and fulfilled when I am with anyone else other than my husband which makes me feel horribly guilty. We’ve grown distant over the years and have finally talked about it. He vows to change, and in fact has made changes, but the connection feels completely lost to me. Divorce is something highly frowned upon and I don’t want to destroy my three young children’s lives. I don’t know if I should just stick with it regardless of my own happiness, I don’t know if it’s selfish to even think about just my happiness. But I do find myself having feelings for other people but I don’t know if it’s just momentary or not.

    • Sandy,

      Feeling empty inside the most significant relationship in your life is really hard. If you don’t address those feelings, they will almost certainly end your marriage, if not now, then later. The fact that you and your husband have finally talked about what is going on is hopeful. The fact that he vows to change, and has made changes, is hopeful. But, don’t think that he is the only one who has to change. (Sorry!)

      Here’s the deal. If you have gotten to the point where you feel nothing toward him, then even if he changes and does everything you say you want, you still may feel nothing. That is why it is so important for you to work on yourself too. This would be a great time to start working with a therapist to find out what YOU want. How do you really feel? What is important to you? If your husband changes, will that improve your marriage enough to make you want to stay? There are a thousand questions that you can be asking yourself right now that will help you figure out your own feelings.

      Since you and your husband have been growing apart for years, it also would probably help a lot of you worked with a marriage counselor on your issues. Can you fix your marriage on your own? Maybe. But, working with a professional may help you work through your issues faster, and more deeply.

      The bottom line is this: if you already find yourself having feelings for others, and you feel empty inside your marriage, you need to address whatever issues you face, both on your own, and with your husband, as soon as possible. If you let them go, your marriage will very likely die a slow death.

      Best.

      Karen

      • I have a wife of 17 years. Im 42 she 39. She was abused by her dad or almost. But she has trauma. When we first met she did drugs like weed, and coke . she gave it to me and i did it with her. Maybe because i liked her abd started to love her. Fast forward i never liked drugs but i did them anyway. But when i said said no she keep on going. Then at times i did it too. Because it was around. Sometimes i would cry that didnt want it. Then she started drinking alot. I even tryed that but i hated it. We did this for years. On and off. We had 4 beautiful boys. But it seemed to start it self back up. She had black outs and she d disappeared 4 hours sometimes she would even come back with pee all over her. Has time went on you tried Coke again. But this time my will kicked in and I decided never to touch it again not even recreationally I’ve been done for 4 years not that I was a attic but I did do it from time to time. But my wife kept going and going and going if she stopped Coke she would smoke weed if you stopped weed should we drink. If she did not drink she was Smoke Vape. She had two DUIs last year. I recently started doing it formation about her abusing drugs found out that she is a functional drug user. She always gets up to go to work and pays her bills. But the drinking and drugs will not stop. I really threaten her what divorce. But I’m scared because she is the breadwinner of the family I don’t know what to do. I recently started looking at other women even imagining myself with other women even start going outside the relationship. She told me that this is how she lives and she will never change. I’m scared of Child Support and what will happen in the courts. I am a man. And I need help.

        • Oh my! Where to start?

          First of all, from what you described, your wife definitely sounds like an addict. Recovering from addition is a long and painful road – even when the addict WANTS to recover. In your case, your wife doesn’t even want to try.

          I suggeset that you get in touch with an Al-Anon group in your area. They can provide you with a lot of support and information. You also would do well to get a therapist. You’ve got a ton on your plate right now and a good therapist can really help you sort through everything. Plus, therapy is often covered by your health insurance, so it shouldn’t cost you a fortune.

          Finally, I don’t want to be hard on you, but it’s time you get yourself together and get a job. You need to be able to support yourself and your kids. Even if you don’t get a divorce, you need to be able to support yourself and your kids.

          Here’s the hard truth: your wife WILL crash and burn. No one can live that kind of lifestyle and continue to do well forever. So at some point she will not be making the money she is making now. Right now she’s still relatively young. She may be able to keep drinking and doing drugs for another 10 years, maybe more (or maybe less!). But eventually her behavior will catch up with her. When that happens, you’re going to have to support yourself and be there for your kids – whether you like it or not.

          The path you and your wife are traveling is a crazy one. It’s not likely to have a good ending no matter how you cut it. Change won’t be easy. Becoming self-supporting won’t be easy. But if you want off the crazy train, that’s where you’ve got to start.

          Karen

          PS In case you’re wondering, I would tell you the same thing even if you were a woman.
          PSS With all due respect, the LAST thing you need right now is another woman! I can understand why other women seem so attractive right now. But they would be just one more distraction – one more drug – for you right now. Get yourself together first. Then you can deal with your marriage. After you do all that, then when you find another woman, you’ll have a chance at having a great relationship. If you get involved with someone now, you’re only going to make the mess you’re already in 100x worse.

        • I’ve been in love with a girl for 8 years who is married and shes in love with me(we just didn’t ever have the guts to say how we truly felt. we finally both kissed and fessed up about our passion and love for eachother. When we kissed she told me that she had never believed in soul mates until the second our lips connected. It’s a mess I know, but i love her and she loves me. She tells that she fears that we will never get our chance to be together, because she doesn’t know if she can ever leave her abusive husband. She said that she’s trying to get the courage but i really fear that she’s going to stay with him. She wants to be with me that much is extremely obvious because we are twin fires not just soul mates. She is having such a hard time with all of this because she’s never felt love like the kind we have. I told her that I’m always here and i comfort her but this girl I love is super headstrong and stubborn. She tells me about how bad her health is getting and how she just wishes that she could just pack up and move to be with me. This has been eating at her for the last week and i just want her happy.

          • She’s got alot on her plate and she tells about how stressed out and depressed she’s getting and how she just wished she would have never let me go 8 years ago. She’s been in love with me for 8 years and i see this in her eyes and the way she says she loves me when she blushes. I can even feel how much she loves me over the phone. I’ve never felt this way about any woman. Sorry I thought I’d clarify a few things lol

          • I totally understand. I can hear how much in love you are. I can tell you just want to make her happy. But, that’s not exactly under your control right now. (Sorry!)

            What I’m about to say may be hard to read. So if you’re not up for it, hit the back button on your browser right now. I will also just say a blanket “sorry” for all of what I’m about to write.

            Still here? Okay. At least I warned you!

            I know you’re in love with this woman. But whatever happened 8 years ago is over. If she wants to be with you now then she has to leave her husband and come to you. (Or, you have to be okay with loving a married woman who can’t ever be totally yours.)

            Is leaving an abusive marriage hard? Yes. It is. Because of that, I strongly recommend that she get help. Getting a good therapist and a support group will be critical to her success. She’s also going to need a safe place to stay. If you want to help, you can get those resources together for her. You can suggest she use them. But only SHE can decide whether to go for help or not. Ultimately, she’s also the one who has to move out. You can’t do that for her.

            You said she was stubborn. If by that you mean that she won’t leave, then that’s what YOU get to deal with. You get to decide how long you’ll stay with her if she doesn’t leave. You get to decide what YOU want to do here. But you can’t save her. (Sorry!) She has to save herself. You can help. But if she’s not on board with leaving, there’s not much you can do. (…except, of course, to ask yourself whether someone who loves you as much as she says that she does would continue to stay with an abusive husband instead of moving out to be with you – or be on her own.)

            I know this probably isn’t what you wanted to hear. (Sorry!) But it’s better to know what you’re getting in to on the front end.

            Good luck.

            Karen

            PS Just so you know, this is likely to take a while, too. So, if you decide to keep going, you need to know that too.

          • Hey Karen thanks for the reply! She’s getting resources together for when she leaves. She has asked me to never leave her side, so I wont. I sent her this article. She wants to leave but fear is strong, i tell her ill never give up and I’ll always be here and that she has more strength than she knows. It’s hard…very hard..but she knows it’s coming she knows she has to have all her ducks in a row before we can finally be together. I hear your words and thanks for the help! I really really appreciate it.

    • I would love to hear what you decided to do and what the results were. I am in the same situation and I will probably have to relocate after a divorce where we live is too expensive and I have not been the bread winner so I don’t make much. Very scary in mid-life.

      • I feel stuck in my marriage as well. We’ve had a rocky marriage the entire time. It was really bad for the past 9 years, until about 2 years ago. He argued over everything and it was always him trying to prove he was right and I was wrong. He yelled and would say rude/insulting things to me. I would shut down and he would act like nothing happened, after a couple of hours. He always seemed to be in a bad mood and I felt like me and our kids were walking around on eggshells just to keep the peace. I don’t know if he got worse, or if I just finally got sick of it, but it seemed like it got worse. He would insult me in front of our families, friends, waitresses, without even realize he was being rude and embarrassing me. One time when the house was a wreck and he freaked out and started griping and cleaning, which was the only time he helped around the house. I told him that I couldn’t work full time, so everything for the kids, and keep the house clean. He said, “Why not? Single moms do it all the time.” Really?! Once he told me that my Facebook profile picked made me look cross-eyed. I changed it. He asked me why and I told him it was because of what he said. He said he didn’t mean it, that I was beautiful in it, and that he was just jealous of the attention and nice comments I was getting on it. We got in to gauge fight because he wanted to spend $1300 on a new gun. 5 days before he’d told me we couldn’t buy the $1200 fridge I wanted because we couldn’t spend money on it right now. We’d been keeping our freezer closed with a child lock for almost a year, replacing it a couple times a month. Fridge food was freezing and freezer food was thawing a lot of the time. I said ok. Then he asked for the gun and I was furious. The kids told my mom that all he ever does is yell. The list goes on, and on, and on. About 2 years ago I decided I was done. He knew it and begged for counseling and to a chance to change. I’d been telling him we needed counseling for about a year and a half before that. He went to individual counseling and started making big changes almost immediately. He was nice, thoughtful, and wanted to actually let me have a say in things. I felt absolutely nothing for him, even after he started doing better. It’s been 2 years and I still don’t feel loving feelings toward him. We haven’t had sex in 3 years, don’t hold hands or kiss, and I don’t really want to. The last 10 months or so I see the old him coming out more, he doesn’t help around the house much like he was after he started therapy. I feel like I’d lost all love and respect for him before he decided to change. Am I just being stubborn and not accepting the new him or is there nothing left of my marriage? I can’t live like this, but I don’t know if it’s something I could overcome. I don’t want to mess up my kids. I’m so unhappy and I know he is, too. He doesn’t understand why I didn’t just get over the bad times after he changed. Please help me.

        • I don’t know if you can overcome how you feel or not. I do know that if you want to change your feelings, you have to honestly WANT to change AND you have to be willing to WORK to make the change happen. You can’t fall back into love with someone if you’re constantly on guard, watching to see if the changes he made years ago are really going to stick.

          Knowing what you want sounds so simple. The problem is that our heads are so crowded with thoughts about what we “should” want that we can’t clearly see what we do want. Our hearts are so full of anger and resentment that there is little space left for love. If you want to get clear about whether you’re being stubborn, or whether there truly is nothing left of your marriage, you have to LISTEN to the still small voice inside of you. To do that, you need to get clear in both your head and your heart.

          You said your husband went to individual counseling and made big changes. Maybe you might want to consider going to individual counseling yourself. That will help you figure out what you really want and how you truly feel.

          I know this probably isn’t exactly what you wanted to hear. (Sorry!) Hope this helps anyway.

          Karen

          • So stuck. Divorcing would be the most painful life experience I can imagine. 3 boys. They love there father. He’s a work aholic and an alcoholic that tries not to drink because he knows I don’t like it. I’m not just married to him, it’s our home we built our land and farm and our family. I know he wants more. I want more. I’m done being the one who tries to make it work .I just barely care anymore. He’s rude. He hurts my feelings. I moved across the country to try to make this family work when I was pregnant. My 15 year old knows we got married because we were pregnant. This does not feel like love. But I will do anything for my kids.

          • I can hear how unhappy you are. Have you tried marriage counseling? Has your husband tried Alcoholics Anonymous? Would he?

            Being married to an alcoholic is definitely not easy. It sounds like you want a divorce, but you don’t want to let go of your land or your farm. You also don’t want to hurt your kids. All of that is understandable. But you’re miserable. So, what can you do?

            If your marriage is truly over, then you need to start making an exit plan. I know that sounds cold. But right now it sounds like you don’t have the financial means to leave. You can work on that.

            Will getting a divorce be painful? Absolutely! But how much pain are you in right now?

            I know you will do anything for your kids, but the bigger question is: what will you do for yourself? Even if the only thing you can do is to start preparing for divorce in the future, once the kids are gone, that’s something. Or, you can pull out all the stops and work on your marriage. Maybe if he’s willing to do the same, he may change, too.

            I know this is hard. Hang in there!

      • I’ve been married 38 yrs. I got married when I was 19 and my husband was 22. I was a very shy insecure girl at the time. I never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings so I said yes… I was definitely not in love… We dated for a year before we married. I think my parents were happy to finally be able to do what they wanted. My husband had a fairly good job. I cried every night prior to the wedding. We were married for a year an a half when he moved out because he met someone else. We were separated for 4 months. My dad met my husband at a bar one night and told him he needed to decide what he wanted…. at the time I was finally getting on with my life.. I had excepted a date with a co worker… my husband found out and said he wanted to be with me again… stupid insecure me said ok… 3 months later I was pregnant.. My son was and still is the joy of my life… I put all my love and energy into raising him… I didn’t know if I could possibly love anyone more.. 6 years later I got pregnant again…. I was so excited. I remember telling my husband and his remark was “that’s nice”… again I put all the love and attention into my kids. My husband was a good provider but not always the best father… we didn’t have the kind of family I dreamt of… when my youngest was about 13 the sex became less and less…we never had the best sex life but it got really bad. I’m human and I want sex like anyone else. When I made advances he would say “no I’m good”… then I would just go in the other room and cry. I could never understand why didn’t want me … he’s denying me made me feel so ugly… by the time my youngest started college I gained 30 lbs. In 2014 my life was turned upside down.. my oldest moved out of state… my dad who I loved tremendously died suddenly.. my youngest graduated from college… my job that I had for 32 yrs went over seas..all the friends I saw on a daily bases I only see about 4 xs a year now… my cat of 21 yrs died and the my youngest moved out of state…. 2014 was devastating for me…. I was now left with a man that made me feel ugly and I could never please. In January of 2015 my old high school boyfriend friended me on FB…. we both loved each other a lot in high school but his dad got a job out of state.. we wrote back and forth for a while but that quietly ended… I was so happy to be talking to him again… for the first time in a long time I felt alive and wanted…I lost 30 lbs in 3 months.. he was in the service so was gone a lot and we talked back and forth… unfortunately some dreams are better left dreams… we weren’t as combatable as we once were. We never actually met and we still talk but just as friends… 9 months after I lost my job I found another one.. only 2 people in the office…. much different then 200 people prior… there is another small office upstairs. I met a great guy… I couldn’t believe that GOD had brought me to this job to meet the most perfect guy… we flirted for 4 years… he knew I was married and didn’t want to be disrespectful… we never did anything but I really grew to love him.. this summer he started getting a little stand-offish… I figure he found a girlfriend and is afraid to tell me… I have told him probably 10 xs that I want to leave my husband… but I’m so afraid. I’m sure he got sick of hearing it and moved on…. I’m so afraid to leave… I’m 58 years old… I will have to work 2 jobs to afford an apartment and probably never be able to retire… what I want is someone to hug me when I have a bad day (I can’t remember the last time I was hugged)…. I want to be happy to go home at night and not cry all the way home from work..I want someone that I want to go away on vacation with. I want to laugh again…. it’s been a long time!! I want to leave my husband but Im afraid I won’t survive and I really don’t know how to meet anyone else… in 2015 I told my husband I was leaving him… he burst into tears and promised to change…. he really has… he doesn’t yell as much and is much kinder… the problem now is I think the damage has been done…. I don’t care anymore.. everything he does annoys me… he wants sex a lot more now and it makes my stomach crawl… how dare he decides when we have sex when for 13 yrs I got to hear “ I’m good”…. sorry for writing my life story but it sure feels good to share… thank you for listening

        • It sounds like you and your husband have a lot of issues that you have never talked about or worked through. Before you do that, though, you need to start to figure out what you want … and what you’re willing to do to get it. You also need to get honest with yourself.

          If you don’t want to be married to your husband you need to decide what you’re going to do about that first. You said you want to leave him but you’re afraid. I totally get that. Having been married for all of those years, and having suffered so much loss all at once (losing your dad, your cat, and having your kids move out) has to be hard. I can only imagine how terrifying it must be to face living alone and supporting yourself at this point. But, here’s the deal: a decision made from fear is NEVER a good decision.

          If you only stay married because you can’t afford to leave you are going to be stuck in a marriage of convenience. Over time, you’re going to resent your husband more and more for all of the things he is not. It doesn’t matter how much he changes. If inside yourself you don’t want to be with him, you’re not going to care. You’re going to end up hating being with him.

          Now, here’s the part you’re not going to want to hear. (Sorry!) If you stay married when you want to divorce, and you are unhappy, that’s not your husband’s fault. It’s your responsibility to take control of your own life.

          Will you have to work 2 jobs if you leave him? Maybe. Will you have to give up your retirement because you won’t be able to afford it? Maybe. But will you be happy if you stay married just for the money and the security? That’s a question only you can answer.

          Only YOU can decide what you’re willing to do, or not do, in life. Only YOU can decide what your life is worth to you, and what kind of life you want to have. Staying married and getting a divorce are both choices. You could choose either one. You could be happy choosing either one — BUT you have to decide you will be happy and work at it.

          Neither choice is going to be perfect. Neither choice is inherently “good” or “bad.” There are pros and cons to each choice, and only YOU can decide which choice makes sense for you. But NOT CHOOSING, and staying married while you want to be divorced, guarantees that you will stay stuck and remain unhappy. (Sorry!)

          I apologize if this was a little harsh. But sometimes we all need a little nudge in order to move forward.

          Hope this helps.

          Karen

        • Loooomg story but after losing my Mom and becoming an empty nester , I truly realized how unhappy my marriage is.
          My husband is over 20 years older , and that alone has been hard. We had two kids before marriage and I made them my world. Now that’s it just us two I feel like I can’t stand him. I spend hours alone every night and when I lost my Mom he offered no emotional support. For the first time I’m my life I realize I have a choice and a voice. I told him a year ago how I felt and he stormed off in anger. He told me if I sign any papers I’d never see him again , and our kids ( both live out of state) wouldn’t have a home to visit. Right after I told him he called our son in Chicago and somehow he had a wellness check while I was gone .. I don’t think he was suicidal that was a scare tactic. I came from a childhood of abuse and he says he took me away from that. He’s always been a good provider and I do care about him deeply but I’m so incredibly alone. I thought it was grief related but I still feel the same. It was wrong from the start. It’s been 25 years. I’m afraid to hurt him or to be alone but I’m not happy either. And I just lost my job.

          • Oh my! You certainly have a lot on your plate! I can understand why you’re feeling alone. Talking to a therapist, or a coach could help a lot. So could finding a divorce support group near you. (While you may think that divorce support groups are only important if you are actually IN a divorce, some can also be helpful in helping you decide whether divorce is the path you want to take.)

            As for what your husband has said, it’s hard to know what he would really do, or not do. People do a lot of trash talking in divorce. They try to scare their spouse into doing what they want by threatening them. Or, they try to make their spouse feel guilty for wanting to leave, or for wanting more out of life. At the same time, people can also get desperate in divorce. What you need to sort out is fact from fiction. For example, will your kids lose their home if you divorce? I don’t know. Maybe one of you can keep the house in the divorce. Maybe not.

            What I do know is that a “home” is much more than just a house. As long as you can keep a good relationship with your kids, my guess is that they would always feel like they had a mom to visit. Isn’t that what really matters?

            I can tell that you don’t want to hurt your husband or be alone. Yet, it sounds like you’re already alone, even though you’re married.

            You said you’ve finally realized that you have a choice and a voice. That’s awesome! You also have a lot of strength – otherwise, you wouldn’t have gotten through everything you have dealt with lately. Now it may be time to start using your voice to claim the life you want. Whether that will be with or without your husband remains to be seen. That’s where your choice comes in. Have enough faith in yourself to know that, one way or another, whatever choice you make will be the right one.

            Best,

            Karen

        • I wish I had answers for you. I know that staying in a loveless marriage, or one that looks good on the outside but is empty on the inside, sucks! But, the truth is, the only one who has your answers is you. (And, yes, I know that is a wildly unsatisfying response! Sorry.)

          Ultimately, it comes down to deciding what you want for your life, and what you’re willing to do to get it – whether you stay married or get a divorce.

          Sorry. I wish I had better answers.

          Karen

        • I have been separated for four years. I am terrified to get divorced because my husband owns the condo we are living in. I am also scared of how he will react. This weekend I got my own phone and he has about lost it. He is Iranian, he doesnt even want me but has to control me. Four years ago I found out that he was not faithful. I was completely heart broken. We separated, he maintains control because if he acts upset he takes it out on our son. My son has epilepsy, when he gets upset it causes seizures. This is how he controls me. I dont know what to do. When I met him I was a successful woman. RN worked at a hospital. Now you wouldnt even recognize me, I have zero friends now. I havent done anything for myself and cant find a job. I dont know how I got here, and I dont know how to get out. Any suggestions?

          • Oh my! I feel for you.

            Let me start by saying that you CAN get out. You have that power within yourself. But, where to start, right?

            Believe it or not, I would start by working on yourself. Get therapy. Take continuing ed classes in nursing to freshen up your skills. Make some friends. But (here’s the key!) do everything ONE STEP AT A TIME! You didn’t get to where you are right now in one day. You’re not going to get out of the situation in one day. But if every day you do ONE THING to help yourself move forward (no matter how small that one thing may be) you will be astonished by where you’re at one year from now.)

            As for your son, that’s something you may want to talk to an attorney in your area about. You need to find out if you can limit or control the contact between your husband and your son if you separate. If your husband’s behavior is harming your son, perhaps that is possible. But you definitely need legal advice about that.

            Finally, remember who you are. As soon as you start believing in yourself again, you will also start to get stronger. The stronger and more independent you are, the less control your husband will have. From there, everything will start to get clearer and less terrifying.

            Hope this helps.

            Karen

    • Hi, I am a 31 year old woman married to a 44 year old man, we have 3 kids together and for long now I have been very unhappy and depressed it all started when he cheated on his phone caught him the 1st time I tried to kill myself as I was very depressed and couldn’t handle the betrayal, he swore he won’t do it again I gave him another chance just for him to do it to me again, it didn’t stop there he did it again and then a 4th time again sex talks with other woman on chats saying things to them that I longed for that I asked for with tears in my eyes, lies about finances kills me, we are in a rutt with finances now and have to downgrade the lifestyle a lot, I never believe him, I struggle to take to heart anything he says, I reached a point of where I don’t want to be intimate with him anymore I don’t enjoy it at all, the connection is gone, he now tries and doesn’t want us to get divorced but I feel like it’s to late, I find that I now have Intrest in other men and don’t feel any guilt about it, I want out of the marriage but I feel sorry for him he still acts now as if we are fine and I am not because I am so unhappy I have a different plan for my life and it doesn’t involve him at all, I don’t know how to tell him that I want us to move into different places and I want the divorce he makes me feel bad because he tries he’s like a puppy does everything and anything for me but nothing he sows changes me I feel the same I am disconnected, dont enjoy being intamate, angry all the time, frustrated with everything, I am very distant he felt it and tried to kill himself that made me feel even worse he cries to our married friends and seeks sympathy and all tries to convince me that I should stay with him and tells me how he loves me blah blah blah blah, but no one ever realizes that I am dying inside everyday a little more as I stay because I am sorry for him and I feel bad for wanting out and a different life, I want to be happy I have never lived before my life revolved around him and my kids they were my center and now I feel like I was never appreciated and never lived or could never be myself I had our first baby when I was just 18 and second when I was 21 he only married me after 10 years of being together I basically just planned the wedding bought my own engagement ring there was never a proposal I was never made feel special at all and these thoughts haunts me because I feel like I deserve the life I want and to be happy but I am stuck because I don’t have the guts to do what I know I want to do it’s so unfair to have this heart where you can’t bare hurting others yet inside you are dying.

      • Oh my! I can hear how much you’re hurting! So much has happened between you and your ex that sorting it all out and getting yourself unstuck so you can have the life you dream of and deserve will be a process! It will take time. Just know though, that if you’re willing to put in the time and the effort, you CAN do it! But you’ll probably need help.

        Right now the best thing you can do is to find yourself a good therapist in your area who you can talk to. That therapist can help you understand and manage your emotions. That way, instead of pushing your emotions down so much that you feel like you’re dying inside, you can deal with them and actually start to feel alive again! The therapist can help you build yourself up so that you have the guts to do what you want to do. It’s absolutely possible. It’s just really hard to do it alone.

        What’s positive is that therapists are often covered by medical insurance. Many of them also work on a sliding scale. That makes them more affordable for those who don’t have a lot of resources.

        I strongly encourage you to start working with a therapist. Doing that can completely change your life.

        Best,

        Karen

    • My co worker had to remind me that sometimes we do have to be selfish for our own sakes. I think my wife feels it too that we’ve drifted apart and aren’t interested as much in each other. I think were both just afraid of what’s gonna happen to us. It’s a terrible conversation to have but Its been eating me up inside lately. The kids, our futures, will I find someone again? I think I would rather deal with all of that then exist with someone with little to no connection.

      • You’ve hit the nail on the head!

        Life is about choices. It sounds like the one you’re facing is whether you’d rather spend the rest of your life in a loveless marriage where you have little to no connection, or whether you’re willing to brave the unknown for the chance to create a more meaningful relationship.

        It’s not easy!

  • My name is Jerrica. I’ve been with my husband for 13 years. He has a learning disability and a drug problem. He has a kind heart and loves me very much. Every time I look at him I worry about what’s going to happen to him if I get a divorce. I have always supported him. He has worked jobs here and there, but has never paid any bills. He has always helped with our two children. He doesn’t drive, he isn’t thoughtful, he doesn’t know how to make me happy. He has never planned a date for me and paid. I’ve never been on a real date. He never wants to go with me and the kids to outings it’s always just us. He sits in the house and that’s pretty much it. His family is also a problem. They’ve never done anything for us. There are a number of things I could go on forever. I’m not perfect. I’m in therapy now because I cheated on him. I’m ashamed of myself and it’s in the past, but I feel like that was a way to keep me sane through all of my problems. It was wrong I know. But after that happened. I know I want a divorce. A fresh start for just me and my sons… A new beginning. I’m scared to death to start that beginning he is all I’ve ever known.

    • Jerrica,

      It sounds like you still care for your husband a lot and are really struggling with your decision. I can feel your pain! What is positive is that you are in therapy right now. That will give you a safe place where you can explore your feelings and start thinking about what you want, and what you are going to do.

      I can’t tell you whether you should stay or go. That is totally your decision. What I can tell you is that the people who are at peace with their decision to divorce have usually all said the same thing: they knew they tried everything they could to make the marriage work before they decided to divorce. The people who regret their decision can not say the same thing.

      So the question you might want to ask yourself is whether you have tried everything you can to work on your marriage? Have you tried couples counseling? Have you told your husband exactly what you want? If not, he may not know. (Yes, I know that sounds impossible! But, you would be surprised. Men and women think very differently. He genuinely might not understand what you want or how unhappy you are.)

      On the other hand, if you have tried everything and nothing has worked, there is no sense in beating a dead horse, either. If you are that unhappy and your husband won’t step up and try to make things better at all, then it might be time to look at your options.

      The best way I know to deal with fear of the unknown is to arm yourself with knowledge. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid you won’t be able to support yourself? Then make a budget and figure out how much money you will need to survive on your own. If you are not earning enough to cover your expenses, brainstorm ways you can make more money. If you are afraid of how much your divorce is going to cost, or what you are going to have to give your husband in your divorce, meet with a lawyer just for an informational session, and learn about what you are facing. Learn what your legal rights and responsibilities are. Get an estimate of how much getting divorced might cost you. Even if you don’t like what you hear, it is important for you to know what you are facing.

      The bottom line is that, the more information you can get, the better able you will be to face your fears.

      You sound like an intelligent and hard working person. Trust yourself that you will be able to figure this out. Trust that you will find a way to get through this tough time. Give up the need to be perfect. That will keep you stuck forever. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to do your best. In the end, that’s all you can do.

      Best,
      Karen

  • I am in a rough spot. My wife has done a lot to me over the years – from rejecting my daughter to cheating on me for 4 of our 12 years of marriage.

    I have reached the point of no return – I feel no more pain, but I don’t want to be married. For me, our bond has completely dissolved. I have no more feelings for her. This is also the point in our marriage where she is trying.

    We have small children – the thought of leaving floods me with guilt. The thought of staying floods me with anxiety and sadness. I’m stuck.

    • I hear you!

      Being stuck is probably one of the hardest places to be. The reason you are stuck is because you have a conflict inside of you between what you think you “should” do (i.e. stay for the kids) and what you want to do, which is to leave. You keep going back and forth in your head and, consequently, are not going anywhere.

      To get yourself unstuck (besides doing what I talked about here already) think about your beliefs, and be HONEST with yourself. You think you should stay married. Why? Where did that belief come from? Is it really true that you should stay married? How do you know?

      You say you want a divorce. Why? Are you really past the point of no return, or is there hope? If there is no hope, why would you stay? What would your life look like if you got a divorce? What would it look like if you stay married? Which reality reflects who you really are, deep down inside, and who you want to be?

      Now think about what you want for your kids. They will learn more from your example (whatever that is) than they will by just what you say. What lessons do you want to teach them?

      I know these are hard questions. But getting unstuck requires you to ask yourself hard questions, and then to be brutally honest with yourself about the answers.

      After that, take action. It doesn’t have to be huge action. Baby steps are fine. But to get unstuck, you need to MOVE!

      If you decide that your marriage is too far gone and you want a divorce, then take some small action to move you closer to divorce. (Maybe it is something as simple as reading these blogs, or talking to a lawyer, or looking for a new place to live.) If you decide to stay in your marriage, then do something to make it better. (You could get into marriage counseling or individual therapy. Or you could go on a “couples weekend.”)No matter what you do, CHANGE something! DO something! At this point, just moving in any direction will help you.

      Finally, don’t think that whatever you decide is set in stone. That only makes deciding anything 1000% harder.

      If you decide to stay together, and it doesn’t work, you can still get divorced. If you decide to get divorced, and your wife is a changed woman and she convinces you to give your marriage another try even after you have moved toward divorce, you can still put your divorce on hold and try to work on your marriage. Yes, some decisions are difficult to change. But making no decisions will keep you stuck.

      If you make small decisions, and take small actions, you will get used to moving. Once you are moving, you can course=correct if you need to do so.

      Hope that helps!

      Karen

      • Karen,

        Thank you for taking the time to reply to me. Your insight is helpful. I am going to make time to answer these questions for myself – especially the part about what I choose to model for my kids, and the reality of what would happen to them if I divorce. Fear and guilt have been huge motivators. I’m going to try my best to go through the process you recommended, face my fears, and then have the courage to act.

        Thank you again for your help,

        Lee

        • I have been married nearly 20 years. My husband proclaimed before we got married that he was completely committed to being married, having children and supporting his family financially. The problem is that he never did that. From the very beginning he simply sat back and let me do all the heavy lifting as in bread winning, cleaning, cooking, child care, etc. He does the grocery shopping, but doesn’t do that consistently or throughly. Any big expenses we’ve incurred have been paid by me and sometimes my parents if I needed help. I already had a house he has lived in for all these years and never paid a penny for. I already had furniture which he sleeps on, sits on, etc that he never helped pay for. I worked through both my pregnancies and have always paid all the expenses for our children. To make a long story short, I feel burdened. I feel like I give 150% while he steps back and does as little as he possibly can. In 20 years, he’s never cleaned a toilet, scrubbed a floor or dusted a stick of furniture, but he enjoys all the effort I put forth and doesn’t even acknowledge any of it. I cook nice meals pretty much every night, and he says if I want him to help clean the kitchen, we need to eat earlier (I work two jobs). He says he’ll get a better job, but never tries. He stays gone a lot due to his crappy job which leaves us penniless and paralyzed financially. He makes zero effort to make things better and really all he wants to do is watch TV while I work myself to death. He’s helped very little with the kids who are teenagers now. He does help take them places they need to go if he’s around. So, basically, I’m angry and tired. I feel like I’ve done my best and I always work the hardest I can and now I’m looking at my kid’s leaving for college and me being alone with this person who does nothing but take advantage of me. I’m really angry. I don’t know what to do and YES…I want things to be easy on my children. That means more to me than anything in the whole world. I just want them to be happy, but marriage to this man is like being an involuntarily mother to a completely dependent grown-up stranger…who also is a leech.
          After reading some of the comments here, I should say that he does not drink, do drugs or have affairs (that I’m aware of) and I do none of these things either. So, I know some people have it much worse. My question (always) is…how much can I do for this person with pretty much nothing in return. Shouldn’t I get something out of this marriage, too? He’s been pretty much taken care of for 20 years and he does not appreciate any of it or try to reciprocate in any way. My family has also been very good to him and his has been non existent in our lives or purposely difficult/miserable. I have thought about divorce A LOT. One reason I haven’t gone through with it is that I couldn’t stand the idea of him having the children alone for visits. He’s very careless and irresponsible and LAZY. I was afraid of what might happen to them if I weren’t around to look out for them, but now they’re getting ready to go to college and they won’t need me anymore. I’m just so tired.

          • Okay, first of all, it’s time to start taking care of yourself a little bit. You can’t make good decisions when you’re exhausted. I understand WHY you’re exhausted, but that doesn’t change the fact that step number one for you is to give yourself a break, get some rest, and try to clear your head a bit. (It also wouldn’t hurt to get a good therapist. S/he will probably be covered by your medical insurance. Having someone to talk to who can be in your corner and help you work through everything you’re going through can be a huge help!)

            I know it sounds selfish, but it’s time to start putting yourself first for a change. Until you get yourself in a more positive head space, there is little you can do to turn your life around.

            As for your husband, I can understand why you’re angry. But, by this point, you should know you can’t change him. Also, I don’t mean to get down on you at all, but if you’ve lived with this guy for 20 years and he’s been lazy the whole time, why would you expect him to be different now? You’re angry at him for doing something that you’ve allowed him to do for decades. Now mind you, I’m not blaming you or judging you. My guess is you wanted a nice lie, and you wanted to make sure your children had a nice life so you put in 150% to make sure that happened. I get that. But, because you did all that, he didn’t have to.

            You asked how much you could do for someone and get nothing in return. I don’t know. Only you can answer that question. So far it sounds like the answer has been: “A lot!” But a better question to ask yourself is: “What do I want out of life and what am I willing to do to get it?”

            If getting the relationship you want requires you to first end the relationship you’re in, are you willing to do it? What’s holding you back? You said you haven’t divorced your husband because you can’t stand the idea of the kids being alone with him because he’s irresponsible and lazy. Your kids are teenagers! With all due respect, they can take care of themselves at this point. (Not totally, perhaps, but the point is they’re not toddlers.) So, what’s really holding you back?

            That’s what you’ve got to discover. That’s what you’ve got to deal with. (That’s also where a good therapist can help.) Once you do that, you’ll know what steps you need to take to change your life so that you can live the way that you want.

            Hope this helps.

            Karen

  • This article was so helpful and painful at the same time. I have been married for five years. In the first year, I gave birth to our first son and were separated. He cheated and got a woman pregnant who eventually ended the pregnancy. It was such a hard time for me. He left our home to go live with her and so much more humiliating thing. This lasted about 2 years. For the past 2 and a half years, we have been back together trying to make it work. He is wonderful but the problem is… He was wonderful in he beginning before the affair and i can’t help but always wonder when will he decide to leave again. All I think of when he complements me is…is he lying.. I feel so unwanted..as crazy a it sounds because I see him trying.. But in my head, I just can’t believe its genuine. I feel so lost and unloved, though he tells me often. So now that I want to leave, I feel so guilty that I wanted us back together back then but now I just dont.

    • I can understand how you would feel both mistrustful and guilty. What I’m wondering is, what good are either of those emotions doing for you? It sounds like they are making you unhappy!

      I can’t tell you what to do. That is for you to decide. But, I do know that, even if you leave your marriage (it sounds like that is what you want to do), unless you deal with your feelings of betrayal and mistrust, they will continue to get in your way in the future. While you may think you would be more careful next time and not get involved with someone who cheats, you just never know what the future will hold. Learning how to let go of your anger and mistrust will ultimately help you immensely. While you may feel like forgiving your spouse would let him off the hook, in reality, it is you who is suffering.

      Mind you, I’m not telling you to take your husband back. I’m not telling you to dump him either. While it sounds like he is really trying to make your marriage work, I am not living your life. Only you can decide what is right for you and your son. But until you learn to trust again, you are going to be hampered in any relationship you are in.

      As a suggestion, you might try working with a counselor or therapist. That person can help you dig deeper into what is going on with you, and help you work on your trust, and work on dealing with your guilt. While there are no guarantees, you might find that, once you deal with these issues yourself, your marriage improves, too! (Maybe not. But, you never know!)

      Hope that helps.

      Karen

  • I have been married for 40 years and I THINK I want a divorce….just not sure…My husband is an addict and a liar. but now that he knows I’m serious, he is trying to change. I think it might be too late though. I don’t know what to do. I cheated, which I never thought I would do and we have separated. Can you give me some insight?

    • Are you unsure about whether you want a divorce? Or, are you just scared to do what you know you want?

      Being scared is perfectly understandable. You have been married a long time. Getting divorced will turn your entire life upside down. It will change everything. Plus, there is no guarantee about how things will turn out. But, being scared is different from not knowing what you want.

      As a general rule, happily married people don’t cheat on their spouse. Happily married people don’t spend their time thinking about getting a divorce. Unhappily married people do.

      The first step in making a change (whether that would be to start working on your marriage to make it better, or to begin exploring divorce) is to be honest with yourself. Do some soul searching. Ask yourself what you really want, and what you need. Then listen to the voice inside that already knows the answer. Realize that you don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to DO anything. You don’t have to get a divorce just because you admit to yourself that that is what you want. On the other hand, admitting that you want to stay married doesn’t commit you to doing that either. Just face the truth, whatever it is.

      Once you have gotten that far, you can begin to move closer toward doing what you want, and what you know is right. If you want a divorce, start exploring your options, and learning about what you are facing. Learn how divorce works. Get a handle on your finances. Start figuring out what your future as a single person will look like. Knowledge will help you deal with your fear.

      Finally, be kind to yourself. The decision you are facing is not easy. Just take it one step at a time, and you will find your way.

      Best.

      Karen

      • I am beyond scared. We only been married for 2yrs but we been together 17. I got pregnant with my first child the first tume we slept togethet and we did make it this far but i was 20. Now fast forward to 37. I have 2 beatiuful girls one 16 & 12. We both have substance abuse problems but his has turned to crack and i am just not on that level. I dont feel emtionally connected lie we r not on the same level anymore but i know if i was to tell him i was leaving he would make it hell for me. He was abusive before in our younger years but not anymore. If this happens i think hell would break loose, there also financing divorce and never been without him. What would i do? Where would i go i cant maintain the house and he can literally take half of everything. I am the breadwinner but he can still get me for spousal support, child support and the house it just seems so much and i am fear it would be hell to even bother but yes i am miserable. And sex lets just say i make sure he is always taken care of meanwhile i am miserable. What do u think?

        • I think you know what you want. Unfortunately, it’s not my place to tell you whether you should get divorced or not.

          What I can say is that you’re not alone. You’re also stronger than you think. If you’ve got a job and you’re taking care of your kids and dealing with your husband’s addiction, you’re strong! You may not be perfect, but so what? No one is.

          I can also tell you that getting and staying clean and sober yourself will change your life and your daughters’ lives. It will also make getting a divorce (if you do get a divorce) way more manageable.

          Finally, I think that you could really use some help. I STRONGLY recommend that you get a counselor. Also, I don’t know the nature of your addiction, but joining a 12 step program like AA can be super helpful. It will also give you a base support group. Whether you get divorced or stay married, you’re going to need that.

          You don’t have to do this alone. When you’ve got help, everything becomes easier. So, find a divorce support group. Join AA or a substance abuse program. Get a counselor. Get help.

          You can do this!

          Karen

    • Thank you for your insight Karen…..I struggle so much with that fact that I have been in the marriage as long as I have. I keep wondering why I didn’t think of it sooner. And I feel guilty that stayed so long…weird right???? My husband is an addict, drugs and alcohol. We lost everything because of it. And I think he might be a narcissist. We haven’t had sex in 15 years. No closeness at all. I have sorta figured that this is just how my life would stay, I feel like we are room mates. I haven’t had a job so I haven’t had any money. Well, I got a job a year ago and I moved out. He was shocked I wanted out. I keep wondering if I should just stay with him simply for fear of being lonely. I wonder which would be worse. I am getting counseling and have been for 2 years and I love my counselor but I feel over the last 6 months he isn’t helping me anymore. I don’t know why though~ I am sure this posting is all over the place but that is where my mind and my heart are right now….I am taking things one day at a time, that is the only thing that keeps me sane….

      • You’re welcome! I’m happy to share whatever insight I may have. Now, for a little more …

        #1 Stop beating yourself up! If you have been married to an addict and have had no physical relationship for 15+ years, my guess is that your self esteem and self confidence have taken a major hit. The fact that you got a job and moved out is an enormous step in the right direction!

        #2 About that loneliness thing … how much lonelier can you be than when you are locked into a bad marriage with someone who is, for all practical purposes, a stranger to you? Right now you CAN’T find someone new because you are married. You are already living alone. If you get divorced, how much more alone are you going to get?

        In my experience, doing anything from a place of fear rarely works out well. If you want to stay married because you are too afraid of being alone, you can. But, what kind of a marriage, and what kind of a life, are you going to have? We only get one shot at this life. How do you want to spend yours?

        I don’t mean to be tough on you, but I think that you are capable of so much more. There is a whole universe out there, just waiting for you to step up and say, “Yes. I want a better life.” Once you do that, everything will start to change.

        Will you be lonely after you get divorced? Probably. Everyone is lonely sometimes. But, there is a big difference between being lonely and being alone. I can tell you from years of experience, that being alone can be awesome! And, yes, if you are alone long enough, you will experience times of loneliness. I certainly did. But I also had times of enormous joy and fulfillment and peace. Being alone gave me the time and space to learn and grow in ways that I never would have been able to do otherwise.

        The bottom line is, it’s all up to you. Your life, and how you want to live it, is your choice. The really cool part is, if you look deep inside yourself, you will know what rings true. That’s where your answers are.

        I wish you the best.

        Karen

  • I’ve been married for 8 years. My wife struggles with alcohol and benzos, she’s hidden financial issues from me and she has been physically and emotionally distant for many years. When she is “on” she is an amazing person, but she cannot maintain it and suffers from depression and issues with her energy levels (she has severe anemia, but it’s also psychological). Our home is a mess (I’ve given up cleaning up after her and my stepdaughter). It’s been this way for several years, but I’ve been locked in indecision. Thats why your article spoke to me.

    I recently stumbled across some really unusual text activity when paying the cell phone bill. I’ve discovered she’s texting a man in a neighboring state that is likely a customer of hers (she does sales). About 6-7,000 texts a month for two months. I have not confronted her yet (it’s been a couple of weeks) because of some travel I’m doing for work. I’m ready to leave but honestly scared. Scared of the consequences and so terrified of hurting her and what she may do. I plan on talking to her next week. I’m almost 100% sure this is it, while at the same time I can’t believe there is still a part of me waffling.

    Hands down this is the hardest thing ever. Worse than going to war.

    • Of course a part of you is waffling! You are human. You have been married for 8 years. You also know how hard things are going to be for awhile. But, just because something is hard, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it.

      I wish you the best when you talk to your wife. Be as kind as you can. But, you have to stay true to yourself, too. It sounds like your wife has made some really bad decisions, and that she is an active substance abuser. Living with her is not likely to get better unless she gets clean. It doesn’t sound like she has any interest in doing that. Even if she does, it will be a journey of years.

      I know how hard this is for you. Hang in there, though. You have the strength to do what you know you need to do. As hard as that is, in the end, you will be glad that you didn’t take the easy way out.

      Karen

  • Ive beeb divorced for 3 months. My husband is now living with a woman who he reconnected on facebook.. i got my house back from the divorce but im afraid i wont even be able to afford it. He didnt leave anything for me to maintain the outside, such a lawnmower or a snowblower for this winter. I still love him. I regret my divorce. I am Catholic and i believe we are given our spouses from God and that binds us. So sad everyday. Made horrible decisions in the last 3 months . Dont want to move on

    • It sounds like you could really use someone to talk with. A therapist would be a great choice.

      The truth is that you are divorced. You can’t change that. I suppose you could remarry your husband. But, it doesn’t seem like that is what he wants to do. So all you can do at this point is to move on. But you can’t move on until you start dealing with your emotions. That is why I think a therapist would be great for you. A therapist can help you work through your feelings.

      Once you get a handle on your emotions, you will start making better decisions. So, truly, the key is to work on yourself, and deal with how you feel.

      Looking backward with regret won’t change anything. It won’t undo your divorce. It won’t put your marriage back together. I know you think you can’t get over your feelings, but I have worked with hundreds of divorcing people, and I can tell you that you absolutely can heal from your pain and move on with your life. But you have to be willing to let go and start working on healing.

      It’s time. But, you have to decide you want to move forward. You have to do the work. A therapist will help. Give it a try. You will feel better.

      Best.

      Karen

      • Hi Karen
        I have grown up finding it difficult to express or know what I want. I think I want to separate from a marriage of 36 years that I went into unwillingly due to a religious group’s pressure. As part of this insular group we raise 3 wonderful children and I hada successful career that distracted me from the doubts.which I repressed in orderto belong to the group. Now with grown children and mental heathissues and 67 I am afraid to get off the fence and make a decision. I should mention that my wife is wonderful and is willing to give me space but she deserves a partner who wants to spend time with her, I also don’t want to hurt her and am prone to Guilt if I leave. Been seeing therapists for years and been hospitalized numerous times over the anxiety provoked by the fence sitting.the anxiety thank yo for your postings and know advice is not something you give but tips about being honest with self or going within to find truth out appreciated, I seem to practically want tostick it out over fears of what I could lose or face in divorce.

        • First off, I’m not a therapist, so I can’t give you advice on how to deal with your anxiety over sitting on the fence. But I can tell you that your anxiety is costing you a lot. So, the question is: how badly do you want to resolve your anxiety? And, of course, the second question is: just how do you do that?

          You said that your anxiety is caused by sitting on the fence about your marriage. If that’s true then the obvious way to get rid of it is to make a decision about whether to stay married or not. The problem is that divorce can make even calm people get anxiety. And, staying in a bad marriage can do the same. So, whether you make a decision or you don’t, you may still have a problem.

          How do yo deal with that anxiety? One way is to look for your answers inside instead of outside.

          You said you don’t know what you want. With all due respect, I don’t believe that. I think you know exactly what you want, you’re just afraid to go for what you want because you’re afraid of what you will lose if you do. So, it seems to me you either need to make peace with the fact that you’re not going to change your situation, or you need to manage your anxiety enough to make the change you seem to want to make.

          Neither one of those are easy things to do. They both involve inner work — a LOT of inner work. But they are both very “do-able.”

          Finally, know that it is entirely possible for you to change the way you feel about your marriage. If you do, you could find happiness right where you are. It is equally possible for you to walk away and get a divorce. You could then find happiness in your new life. The one place you WON’T find happiness, is where you’re at now – stuck in indecision and driving yourself crazy.

          I don’t know the right answer for you. But I do know YOU have the power to find it for yourself.

          Karen

  • I sacrificed my career for a long time for my marriage, but handled my 3 kids and managed to publish as a researcher. Having an independent group leader job was a fading option, but at the last minute I grabbed an opportunity. It meant to move from my husband and we could see each-other only on weekends. He did not want to sacrifice his job so we stayed apart. Two kids are gone for university and the 3rd is ten and lives with me. We live like this for almost 4 years and I gradually realized that I am happy without him and in fact hate the weekends when he comes. I am telling him this and that I never want to move back with him again but he then brakes down and cries. His career doesn’t go very well and now this is in the way of him finding a similar job closer to me and he cannot think of going too down. While my career is ok considering that I practicality raise my kid alone. We have one house for each of us, divorce seems easy. Except that if I just mention it he brakes down and loudly cries in the night to wake me up. My friend tells me that he might turn violent if I left him for good., yet he seems rather broken and tells me that he lives for winning me back. We have no physical intimacy for a while and I try to avoid even a handshake because he is willing to interpret it as a sign that I don’t mean what I say.
    The other 2 children are financially depending on us, divorce might mean that they cannot finish their studies, but no other adverse consequence would be expected.
    I still cannot go for a divorce, I don’t feal like surviving sleepless nights and sorrow for him, and my research is at a critical stage, I need my best effort. Some evenings I just need a drink and I am ready to cry at any moment yet I am holding it back and concentrate on work.

    • You are in a tough spot. Getting a divorce might hurt your kids’ studies. That won’t make them very happy, and they might resent you for it. Getting a divorce will probably also cause you to have many more sleepless nights, even if your husband stops crying all night. On the other hand, staying married out of guilt and obligation is not the recipe for a happy life.

      You are holding in your emotions and turning to drink as a way to cope. Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but it sounds like you are very unhappy. It sounds like you have decided you don’t want to be married, but are simply too guilty to leave. You seem like a strong person, but you are not a machine. If you continue to live the way you are, you are either going to develop a serious drinking problem, get sick, or explode. Or, you may start behaving in ways that you don’t understand. One way or another, your subconscious (which is telling you that you are miserably unhappy) is going to make sure you listen.

      It sounds like you need to think about what you want in your life, what is most important to you, and what you are willing to do to get it. I also challenge you to ask yourself some hard questions. The first is: do you want to be married to your husband? If not, why are you staying? If it is for work, are you willing to sacrifice your personal happiness for the sake of your research? If it is for your kids, are you willing to put aside your personal happiness so that they can finish school? What if doing that means you stay in a miserable marriage for another 10 – 12 years (the time when your youngest graduates from college)? Are you willing to spend the rest of your life in a miserable marriage just because you don’t want to see your husband cry?

      On the other hand, are you willing to get a divorce if it means that your kids won’t be able to finish school? Is it true that if you divorce your kids won’t be able to find another way to finance their education? What if your husband does fall apart if you get divorced? Can you live with yourself if that happens?

      These are the kinds of questions that you need to answer for yourself. I can’t answer them for you. If you need help figuring out your answers, you might want to find a good therapist or a coach who can help you. Having someone to talk to can make a world of difference.

      Only you know what is right for you. But, at the moment, you are not being true to yourself. That’s why you are so unhappy. If you decide to get a divorce, will your life be easy? Of course not! But, living life as you are now isn’t easy either.

      You have a lot to think about. Just remember, you only get one life. How do you want to spend yours?

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

      • Thank you Karen,
        You are so much right!
        I am strong and weak at the same time.
        I have to deal with so much!
        My daughter for example is a social person and very close to the brothers. They’re far and their visits cost. I am financially OK, if I took a loan it might push the boys through but we will hardly see them.
        I am alone for most of the week, so I cannot go out without my daughter, but at least I have my privacy. I am dealing with my husband by pretending he does not exist for most part of the week. I avoid drinking by not keeping any at home, only a certain part of the evening is dangerous. I wrote a letter to you instead.
        My scientific success is important because that is the mind games that keeps my brain fit and ,not least importantly secures my financial independence. The problem is the publish or perish nature of the scientific work, I cannot get out without loosing ground.
        I am unhappy, you are right! I try to wait out until at least one is the boys finish. Last time I suggested one of them to try for a PHD instead of first doing an MAc, he replied that he might even go to travel for a year. This made me burst out crying and drinking.
        My husband sufferrs, too. He doesn’t understand why I don,t respond to his efforts, but I simply cannot. He suggested to go to counselling, but then wanted to make me promise that we pre-agree that we both say that we are here for making this work. In my eye this makes counselling (together) pointless.
        Thanks again, I think I will get to the point to get out of this situation, but it is not easy.

    • You are in a tough spot. Getting a divorce might hurt your kids’ studies. That won’t make them very happy, and they might resent you for it. Getting a divorce will probably also cause you to have many more sleepless nights, even if your husband stops crying all night. On the other hand, staying married out of guilt and obligation is not the recipe for a happy life.

      You are holding in your emotions and turning to drink as a way to cope. Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but it sounds like you are very unhappy. It sounds like you have decided you don’t want to be married, but are simply too guilty to leave. You seem like a strong person, but you are not a machine. If you continue to live the way you are, you are either going to develop a serious drinking problem, get sick, or explode. Or, you may start behaving in ways that you don’t understand. One way or another, your subconscious (which is telling you that you are miserably unhappy) is going to make sure you listen.

      It sounds like you need to think about what you want in your life, what is most important to you, and what you are willing to do to get it. I also challenge you to ask yourself some hard questions. The first is: do you want to be married to your husband? If not, why are you staying? If it is for work, are you willing to sacrifice your personal happiness for the sake of your research? If it is for your kids, are you willing to put aside your personal happiness so that they can finish school? What if doing that means you stay in a miserable marriage for another 10 – 12 years (the time when your youngest graduates from college)? Are you willing to spend the rest of your life in a miserable marriage just because you don’t want to see your husband cry?

      On the other hand, are you willing to get a divorce if it means that your kids won’t be able to finish school? Is it true that if you divorce your kids won’t be able to find another way to finance their education? What if your husband does fall apart if you get divorced? Can you live with yourself if that happens?

      These are the kinds of questions that you need to answer for yourself. I can’t answer them for you. If you need help figuring out your answers, you might want to find a good therapist or a coach who can help you. Having someone to talk to can make a world of difference.

      Only you know what is right for you. But, at the moment, you are not being true to yourself. That’s why you are so unhappy. If you decide to get a divorce, will your life be easy? Of course not! But, living life as you are now isn’t easy either.

      You have a lot to think about. Just remember, you only get one life. How do you want to spend yours?

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • I remember when my husband still had the ability to make me cry, or hurt my feelings, or make me smile. Coming up on 18 years of marriage I realized recently that I cannot remember the last time I felt any intense emotions for him at all. We are not intimate at all and have not been for more than 2 years – he expresses interest but I do not. I do not feel close or connected to him at all – I actually feel more like I have had to do most everything while he tends to his work or sits on the couch playing on his tablet. I am starting to understand that I want out of this marriage; that I am very unhappy and tired and just absolutely spent. I work 2 jobs and go to University full-time so my time is stretched very thin. I will admit part of the reason I keep this schedule is to avoid being home, but I also genuinely want to finish my degree and continue moving up the ladder. I am finding myself very attracted to others and wishing I could act on that – I will not cheat on my spouse but it is very concerning to me that I’m tempted to in the first place. I think the thing that keeps me where I am is feeling utterly and hopelessly trapped. My husband is passive and depends on me for everything…at the end of the day I don’t want to cause him any pain because he is a good man. He doesn’t deserve to have his heart smashed to bits, but I don’t think I can stay and be miserable much longer. Another major fear I have is change in general – can I afford to be on my own? What if I end up making a mistake and realize this isn’t what I wanted? What if I end up alone for the rest of my life?

    Too much fear and uncertainty. Logically I know that divorce is difficult and that people will get hurt – so how does one overcome that and take the leap into an empty void?

    Thank you,

    • I can hear how you are torn between wanting to leave, and being afraid to leave. I can understand your hesitancy. If you leave, everything will change. That change may or may not work out the way you want. But, if you stay, and nothing changes, you already know that’s not working out the way you want. So, it seems to me that your choice is not between happiness and uncertainty. It is between unhappiness and uncertainty.

      Of course, if you and your husband could repair your relationship you could be happy, too. But, it didn’t sound like that was an option for you. If you have gotten past the point of no return in your marriage, then your only choices are to stay married and miserable, or get divorced and maybe be miserable, or maybe start to actually be happy.

      You asked, “What if I end up making a mistake and realize this isn’t what I wanted?” What if you stay and realize you’ve wasted your life and blown your only chance at happiness by staying in a loveless relationship? You asked, “What if I end up alone for the rest of my life?” If your marriage is as bad as you say, aren’t you alone already (at least for all practical purposes)?

      You also asked how you would know if you could afford to be on your own. That is actually a little easier to figure out. Make a budget. Compare your income with your expenses and see whether you will be able to make ends meet on your own. You may have to cut your expenses, or get a second job to be able to support yourself. Or, maybe you will be fine. I don’t know. But actually making a budget will show you your financial picture pretty quickly.

      I can’t tell you what to do, or how to make this decision. It is yours alone to make. I know it’s not an easy decision. I can tell you that not making a decision IS a decision. Your life will pass you by as you anguish over what you should do. If you want to take control of your life and have any chance of making it better, you will need to decide, one way or another, what you want, and then take action to make your decision a reality.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

    • I am in a similar situation, but my husband and I have been together for 39 years, I have moved out on my own but I haven’t divorced. I am so happy I moved out and I have been able to make it work financially. There are times when I wonder if I want to possibly be alone for the rest of my life but then I am reminded this is better then being with him. I saw him the other day and it didn’t take long to for him to say something that reminded me why I left. Here’s something to think about, if you leave him and realize down the road you are sorry you did, is there a chance that you could get him back?

      • Hi Dawn,

        When I leave it will be for good, which is why I’m trying so hard to make the best decisions now. I’m a cautious person; I try to look at things from all angles (wehre was that 18 years ago?!?!) My husband would probably be open for reconciliation, but that comes with me knowing that nothing changes and I’m not willing to live that way anymore. I’m not quite ready to move out – I need to figure out a budget as Karen suggested – and I need to think about what would be best as we divide our current life into two separate ones. Example: the house is in my name, but he will never willingly leave it. So I need to consider my options….have him buy me out? Sell it and split it? These are the things I’m looking at.

  • I also feel so stuck and i have no idea how exactly to explain my situation. I got married at 24 but I’ve been with her since i was 18. Fact is I do love her but sometimes I wonder if it is more of a best friend or family type of love. I feel very unattracted to her and maybe that is a big part of why i started losing my connection with her in the first place. Sometimes I think that I am just to scared to tell her how i feel because all the changes that will follow, sometimes i feel like I just couldn’t put her through that pain because i know the feelings are not mutual, and sometimes i feel like i just couldn’t imagine life without her, because as i said i do love her. However when she hugs me and tells me how much she missed me after I’ve been away for work i just don’t feel the same. sometimes i feel like i love her so much that i don’t want to take everything away from her by leaving. But sadly i feel so empty with her and I want to go out and live my own life have experiences I’ve never had because of being married at such a young age. Understand also that i have tried,,, i have put much effort into being more sexually attracted to her but she just never is what i need. I also Have tried rebuilding the connection but i do not feel the same with her as i used to. We do not have any kids or a house together (we live in an apartment) so it should be much more simple but it doesn’t feel that way. I have never known another adult life and maybe that is why i am so afraid of the idea of being away from her. Whatever the reason is, simply put I feel unhappy.

    • I can hear how unhappy you feel. It seems like you’ve tried many things to make the spark come back into your marriage. Have you tried couples counseling? What about individual therapy for yourself? What about sex therapy? (Don’t blow off this idea. It can work!)

      The truth is that ignoring your issue won’t make it go away. You are not likely to suddenly wake up one day and, after not being attracted to your wife at all, magically think you’re wife is a smoking hot goddess!

      If you try to push down your feelings one of two things will happen: you will either start to resent your wife, and will ultimately end up being angry, having an affair, or acting out in some other way. Or, you will crush your own spirit and end up trying to bury your emotions in some unhealthy way, perhaps through alcohol, or food, or whatever your vice of choice may be. Either choice leaves you with results you don’t want.

      As scary as it is, if you want to be happy, you have to DO something. Maybe that means getting a divorce. Maybe it means working more on your marriage, or on yourself. What you do is your decision. But, if you make no decision, and you don’t do anything, your life is not likely to change. You will just get more unhappy and more frustrated.

      If you truly love your wife, you owe it to her to be honest with her. You owe it to yourself to face your fears and deal with them. Once everything is in the open, maybe the two of you will be able to work together to create the marriage that both of you want. Or not. But, one thing is certain. Doing nothing means nothing will change.

      Best.

      Karen

  • I’m in a 30 year marriage where our values have always differed. The content of television, movies, books has always been the main point of contention leading to name calling and threats of divorce. My shock and disgust level is way higher than hers and thus she thinks I’m scum (a safe and reliable scum) but just one that she can’t have under her roof anymore. I can’t argue someone’s value system and I’ve tried to live up to hers but it doesn’t work. I can only come up with I love her but I don’t like her anymore. Is that a valid statement? I’m afraid to get divorced because maybe I’ll find out she’s been right all of these years. Maybe I am just a non-discerning jerk. On the other hand maybe I’m normal. In any case we’re moving forward in this divorce (thank God the kids are grown) and hopefully I’ll discover I’m an okay guy for someone else. Do other people get divorced over issues like this?

    • People get divorced for all kinds of reasons. It seems to me that getting divorced because your spouse thinks you are scum and treats you like scum is a pretty decent reason to end your marriage!

      You said you were afraid to get divorced. Most people are. Divorce is scary. The prospect of spending the rest of your life alone is scary. But, personally, I think that giving up any chance at happiness and allowing yourself to spend the rest of your life in a marriage with someone who thinks you are a jerk is scary too.

      Will you find out now that you are a horrible human being and that no one else will ever want to marry you? Maybe. (I doubt it. But, I suppose it’s possible) But, maybe you will find someone whose values are more similar to yours, and she will think you’re amazing!

      I have my fingers crossed for you.

      Karen

    • I don’t know where to start….I am 37 and have been married for 16 years, been together for 19 years. We have 3 beautiful daughters. He has been the bread earner as we decided it was better if I stayed home with the girls. I have always felt guilty that he was the obly one working so I always did what i could do to help, shop at the cheapest shops, not ask for much, be supporting the best I could…tried to be the wife that I thought he wanted and in the end I would get the love and respect from him that I desperatelly wanted. Saddly instead we never celebrated anything ie, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. As he hated the idea of having to ‘must do something on that speciffic date’. So I let it be, didn’t want to make problems. Every wedding we went to he would go off sociolising, dancing with other single ladies, etc, while I looked after our children and kept his close fam company. We didn’t even exist to him. Every time we visited mine or his family he would just get lost catching to to everyone not knowing we existed, again. I hardly ever got any presents or any kind of spoiling. He worked abroad while again I took our kids to school, tended to their needs, if they were poorly I did it all myself, never bothered him with anything as I wanted him to have the energy to work. Our w/ends were mainly spent visiting family where he goes off playing board games while girls and I were alone again. I have spoken to him, explained how I felt and asked what we could do about it all on many occations yet nothing ever changes. The more I mention anything he goes in the exact opposite direction. I know he doesn’t do any of it to directly hurt me and I know he is a very social person…. but should we not be his priority? I don’t feel loved by him even though he says he wants me in his life and no one else. He will go away with work people and do all sorts of activities yet when I mention that I want to do something he says I have already done that its not much fun so…. we have nothing in common any more. We do nothing together any more. Bisiness is now really bad so financial troubles are not helping. Now that kids are bigger, 13, 10, and 5….I have started working too…. Nothing ever changes….he still sociolises and flirts with any woman out there….I know he doesn’t mean to flirt but he really does. Saddly there are many many more problems than just that….his mother hates me etc…all sprts. I have been unhappy for….not sure how long any more….but last 2-3 years I really see that we don’t have that love that a couple should have and am bot sure if we ever did. It just makes me so sad….the smallest things like no kiss goodnight breaks my heart. Not to mention the bigger thibgs. I don’t know the last time we celebrated ANYTHING. I always make an effort for his bday, to make him feel loved and special, but all I get is….well I guess a kiss and happy birthday should be enough….should it? Someone you have given ur life to….we all have one life and I have chosen to share it with the person who finds everyone more interesting than me. Every night am sat alone with a glass of wine (glass of wine not every night) as he cant help falling asleep…. He is home all day….whats so exausting about that? I give up everything to be there for my fam….I don’t feel that he does the same. Every comment I have made about him making me unhappy is somehow my fault in his eyes. And he makes me feel that way too. Then I think about it and I say ‘not huni, it isn’t my fault u decoded to dance with that single girl instead of showing some loving time to your wife’. How on earth is that my fault? Not once has he said ‘am sorry that you felt that way…it was not my intention’. I gave birth to 3 children and make sure I look as beautiful as can be every day. I have lost over 30kg after every pregnancy and I wear a dress size 8/10 (uk) so what is it that I am doing wrong? People tell me I look like JLo, not that it matters but to give you an idea of how much I do take care of how I look. I get approached on a daily basis with compliments from men and men who ask for my number so we can sometimes hook up. I never have ofcourse. I cook, I clean, I look after our babies, i serve him his meal every time he comes home and I clean up after him, I take our kids to bed which is something he seriously never does! i don’t complain about the hrs he works as I know its supporting us…so what is there more for me to do? Shut up when u are taking women out to lunches and dinners, stay quiet when you are ignoring my calls and u don’t call back for days, stay quiet when I don’t get help with the kids and around the house when u are home….WHAT?! Now am brocken, am used up, and all I want to do is stay in bed and cry, cry, cry…..and cry some more. I don’t want to be arounf someone who doesn’t bring out the best in me. He kills me. I then take it out on the kids, and I hate myself for that. I have gotten better at it and try to protect my girls as much as I can. Its all just sooooo exausting….and I don’t want to be exausted any more I want to be alone I just don’t know how. Therapy and lawyers are expensive….

      • Oh my dear! My heart goes out to you. I can tell how much pain you are in and how tired you are. I wish I could waive a magic wand for you and make your life better, but I can’t!

        So, what to do?

        I think you know.

        Lets start with the obvious. You are not happy! Not at all! But you’ve been in the same situation for years and years. Nothing has changed and nothing has gotten better. Here’s the truth you already know but don’t want to hear: Unless YOU change, nothing else will change either.

        Believe it or not, you have the power to reclaim your life and be happy again. You hold that power in your own hands. But you have to have the courage to use it.

        You said that therapy and lawyers are expensive. You’re absolutely right.

        So, what’s your life worth?

        What are you worth?

        Trust me when I tell you that the answer to both of those questions amounts to way more than all the therapy and lawyer bills in the world. But, to be honest, I wouldn’t rush off to see a lawyer yet. You’ll probably need one eventually, but before you can work on ending your marriage (if that’s ultimately what you decide to do), you’ve first got to work on building yourself back up. Years of neglect and poor treatment have made you question your own worth.

        I encourage you to make a vow that starting today, you’re going to put yourself first. Yes, I know. You feel like you could never do that! Your girls will always come first! Uh-huh. Listen to me. You can’t help anyone else if you don’t help yourself first. There is a reason why the flight attendants tell parents to put their own oxygen masks on first, then put the masks on their kids.

        It’s not that you shouldn’t love and take care of your kids. But you’ve also got to love and take care of you. The fact that your husband isn’t doing that is all the more reason why you need to double-down and do it yourself.

        Find something you love to do and do it just for you. (It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Buying yourself flowers or taking yourself out to a movie is less than $15.) Get yourself into therapy! Find a good therapist and GO! Check with your insurance company. Some of the cost may be covered under your health insurance plan. Even if it’s not, go! It will be well worth it.

        Find a support group, or friends you can go out with and have fun. (Yes, I said have fun!) You don’t have to party all night long. But, there’s no harm in going out for a drink at happy hour once every week or two.

        Do whatever you need to do to start feeling good yourself. Stop waiting for your husband to treat you well. He’s clearly not going to do that. So treat yourself well. Once you do that enough, you’ll have the power to take your next steps. (… whatever they are!)

        The bottom line is that, if you want to be happy, YOU have to change. When you change, either your marriage and your husband will also change, or you’ll have the strength to leave them. For now, don’t worry about that. Worry about you. That’s more than enough!

        Hope that helps.

        Karen

        PS I also recommend “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay. It will give you a good start.

  • Hello I need some help. My husband abuses me mentally and emotionally. Sometimes we fight and he is cheating on me. I won’t to leave but he is in the military and I am unemployed and I’m afraid he will try to take our children just to hurt me. I don’t know what to do and I don’t have the money for a lawyer. Where can I find HELP???

    • A lot of lawyers will give you a free consultation. I would start with that. Make an appointment with a good divorce lawyer in your area, preferably one who has experience in military divorce. You can also try consulting with your local legal aid office. Another idea is to see if there are any law schools in your area. Sometimes law schools have legal clinics that are staffed with students, and supervised by practicing attorneys. If you can find a local law school with a program like that, they may be able to take your case too.

      One last idea is to call domestic violence organizations. If your husband has not hurt you physically, they may not be able to help you. But, they may have a referral list of attorneys who they work with who might be willing to help you anyway.

      I hope this helps.

      Karen

    • A lot of lawyers will give you a free consultation. I would start with that. Make an appointment with a good divorce lawyer in your area, preferably one who has experience in military divorce. You can also try consulting with your local legal aid office. Another idea is to see if there are any law schools in your area. Sometimes law schools have legal clinics that are staffed with students, and supervised by practicing attorneys. If you can find a local law school with a program like that, they may be able to take your case too.

      One last idea is to call domestic violence organizations. If your husband has not hurt you physically, they may not be able to help you. But, they may have a referral list of attorneys who they work with who might be willing to help you anyway.

      I hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hello I need some help. My husband abuses me mentally and emotionally. Sometimes we fight and he is cheating on me. I won’t to leave but he is in the military and I am unemployed and I’m afraid he will try to take our children just to hurt me. I don’t know what to do and I don’t have the money for a lawyer. Where can I find HELP???

    • Lots of lawyers give free consultations. If you could find a local lawyer who will give you an initial consultation for free, that would be a good place to start. At least you would have educated yourself a bit about what your options are. Plus, you may be surprised. Many states have laws that allow one spouse to collect attorney’s fees from the other. So, even if you don’t have money, if your husband does, a lawyer may be willing to take your case, and then try to get your husband to pay the fees. (It’s not always possible, and it doesn’t always happen, but you never know!)

      You should also check out your local Legal Aid offices. They usually have tight budgets, but they help as many people as they can. Sometimes law schools run pro bono (for free) legal clinics and they may be willing to take your case, too.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

    • Lots of lawyers give free consultations. If you could find a local lawyer who will give you an initial consultation for free, that would be a good place to start. At least you would have educated yourself a bit about what your options are. Plus, you may be surprised. Many states have laws that allow one spouse to collect attorney’s fees from the other. So, even if you don’t have money, if your husband does, a lawyer may be willing to take your case, and then try to get your husband to pay the fees. (It’s not always possible, and it doesn’t always happen, but you never know!)

      You should also check out your local Legal Aid offices. They usually have tight budgets, but they help as many people as they can. Sometimes law schools run pro bono (for free) legal clinics and they may be willing to take your case, too.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Dear Karen,

    Thank you so much for this excellent article. I feel so lost. I’ve been with my husband for 9 years, (married for 5 of them) and 2 children aged 3 and 1. Superficially we have a great relationship. We do lots of things together and we are an excellent parenting team (he is really such wonderful father). We have common interests and we respect and support each other. But the truth is that I do not love him. In fact half the time he really irritates me. I feel like we just see the world differently and we do not know how to have fun together any more. I would be really happy if I never needed to have sex with him again. He has strong sexual appetites but I could pretty much do without, I sleep with him about once a month but for him not for me. Also I do not feel stimulated by his conversation what little of it there is. When we go on holiday together with my family he behaves like he doesn’t really want to be there. When we go away just the 4 of us the days drag a little. He doesn’t show me any physical (non-sexual) attention and never opens his heart to me, how he feels about anything (including me) is a mystery, he never asks how I feel about things. I feel like there is a thick skin between us that we cannot penetrate. However he does tend to show love by being very helpful and practical (like looking after my car, buying me flowers, picking me up from the train station if I need him to). Until very recently I thought I was happy. And then I opened my heart to my sister and I can’t put those feeling back in the box now. I don’t feel particularly unhappy, I get a lot of pleasure from my friends and family, my children, our beautiful home etc – life is good…but romantically, sexually, and in my soul I am unfulfilled. And the most tragic thing about this is that I don’t think I ever truly loved him, in the run up to the wedding I had seriously cold feet, but I lacked courage to back out, and I really didn’t want to be alone and I really wanted children. So I guess what I’m saying is my nesting instinct took over and I settled for someone who was good – but not right for me really. Now I am torn. I could potter along like this for the rest of my life which would be better for my children and easier for me in a lot of ways (children, finances, friendships, family etc) but I can’t help feeling that not only would I be conning myself out of the opportunity for true happiness, I would also be taking the best years of my husband’s life to spend with someone he thinks loves him, but who doesn’t. I think that is probably a pretty awful thing to do to someone, I feel terribly guilty. Either way I guess there is pain. I don’t know if you will have time to reply, but if you do I would really appreciate your comments. Thank you.

    • Oh my! Where do I start?

      I can feel how torn you are. Nothing is really “wrong.” You have the “perfect” marriage on the outside. But, on the inside ….

      The first question I have for you is whether you have shared your feelings with your husband? There may be things that you can work on in your relationship together that will bring you closer together as a couple. Believe it or not, “connection” can be built. The fact that you weren’t totally in love with him before you married him isn’t the best sign, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that your marriage is doomed and that you will never be in love with him. Of course, in order for you to create the connection you desire, you are going to both have to work at it.

      Of course, coming clean with your real feelings is likely to rock your husband’s world. Just as you discovered when you opened your heart to your sister, sometimes you can’t get the Genie back into the bottle once it’s out.

      The real question is: who are you deep down inside, and what do you want for your life? Those questions are deceptively simple. My guess is, if I asked you what you want out of life, if you’re like most people, you would answer me with something like: “I want to be happy.” Or, “I want to be in love.” Or, “I want a great marriage … not just a superficially great marriage, but a really great marriage!” But what do those ideas MEAN to you?

      Here are some questions you can ask yourself to start your wheels turning. Know that there are no “right” answers. There are only right answers are the ones that are authentic for you.

      Can you ever be deeply in love with your husband? How do you know? Have you tried? What if he changed? What if you changed? Can you change the way you view him, yourself, and your relationship, enough to create with him the kind of connection you truly desire? Can you believe that’s possible? (Here’s a hint. If you don’t believe that something is even possible, it probably won’t happen for you.)

      On the other hand, if you stayed in this marriage and things don’t change, can you be happy? Someday, when you are 80+ years old and on your death bed, will you regret it if you never left your husband? Will you regret it if you did?

      If you never leave, and you never find true happiness, will you regret that when you die? What if you do leave and you still never find the kind of love and connection you are looking for? Will you regret leaving?

      Here’s the bottom line: the only one who can figure out what is best for you is you! While you are going back and forth over all of these questions (and more), you will likely be extremely uncomfortable. (Sorry!) You may even be in true agony, because you are not asking easy questions. But nothing is for free. If you put in the time, and the soul searching, eventually you will come up with the answer you are looking for. You will know the answer in your head, and feel it in your heart. But getting to your answer wil probably require you to go through a lot of angst. If you don’t, or aren’t willing to, put in the time and effort to wrestle with these hard questions, you can always continue on with life as it is. There is nothing wrong with that. But that means that you may end up living a life of quiet desperation — never being truly happy or realizing your dreams, but never be entirely unhappy either.

      I hope this helped, at least a little bit.

      Karen

      PS If you want to know more questions to ask to figure out whether, and when, you should divorce, you might want to check out: When is it Time to Divorce? 18 Questions to Help You Decide.

      • Thank you so much Karen, I am going to read and re-read your answer. Everything you said rings true. I have so much to think about. I think I need to take my time to do it!

          • Hi Karen,

            The more I think about it the more I think that it isn’t right to spend the rest of my life (could be 50+ years!) with a man I don’t love, and so unfair on him too! I want him to be loved too and it’s just not fair to hide from him that emotionally I don’t feel what a wife should feel for a husband. I also feel like he drains the pleasure out of our shared experiences. We had a day in the sunshine at an idyllic park last weekend and he was so absent he hardly added anything to the day, I felt like i could almost have been on my own (although admittedly 2 boys under 4 would have been harder). At best he’s my friend at worst he’s a black hole I’m throwing my life away into. That phrase ‘quiet desperation’ you used really resonated with me.

            Anyhow, I have 2 questions. I’m in the UK, I want to get informed about my rights, my finances and divorce processes so that before I choose to talk to him I can be informed and prepared for whichever way he reacts. Can you recommend who I should talk to?

            Secondly I want you to tell me if I’m fantasising. I’m thinking potentially we could have a really amicable undramatic separation and remain friends and co-parents. Still even spend time together as a family. I have this gut feeling that he has emotionally checked out of this marriage too. And when I tell him how I feel he might totally understand, even feel relief! I also imagine (in these fantasies) us making this really smooth for the boys, and having a custody arrangement that works seamlessly. OK so just writing this makes me feel naive. Can you let me know if couples from non conflict marriages where the love has just gone ever achieve this kind of divorce?

            Thanks again in advance.

            Angela.

          • Dear Karen,

            I have decided I can’t stay put for the rest of my life (could be 50+ years) with a man I don’t love. It’s not fair on me or on him.

            However 2 questions – where can I get informed about everything I might need to know before I talk to him? He’s a lawyer so if he flip out could be awful for me. I’m in the UK.

            Question 2 – is a really nice divorce possible! I have what I think are probably unrealistic fantasies, like everything’s amicable, we stay friends, we even continue to spend time together as a family and even possibly extended family for kids’ birthday parties and that kind of thing. Have you ever seen this happen? My gut feeling is he has checked out emotionally too but I don’t know because we don’t talk about important things. Thank you!!

            By the way I wrote this yesterday but it doesn’t seem to have posted, apologies if you have to approve it before it posts and you are getting this same message twice.

          • It seems like you have made some decisions. That’s a good start.

            Okay, question 1: How do you find out everything you need to know before you talk to your husband? That’s a tough question, but a good one. I have created an online divorce program that is designed to answer exactly that question for a price that is much more affordable than what you would pay a lawyer. It’s called The Divorce Road Map Program. Here is the link if you want to check it out.

            I want to be honest with you, though. I am not an expert in UK law, and I can’t promise you that all of the information in the program will apply in the UK. If you want to give it a try, by all means, sign up. (It comes with a money back guarantee.) But, if not, though, you’re going to have to do this the old fashioned, and expensive way. (Sorry.) That means you are going to have to pay a lawyer (in the UK it would be a solicitor) to sit down and educate you about what you need to do to prepare for your divorce, and what you can expect to get. S/he can educate you about the law, and about the divorce process. You also might want to get some guidance from a local divorce coach. They can provide you with a wealth of information at a fraction of the cost.

            As for question 2, yes! a “nice” divorce is absolutely possible! But, don’t expect it to happen overnight! Whether you can pull it off also depends on you and your spouse.

            Lots of people start with the idea that they want an amicable, “nice” divorce. Some are able to achieve that right away. But, most go through an ugly time. They try to be amicable, but their emotions are just too raw. They are in too much pain to be friends. But, if they stay out of court, and at least try to be kind and considerate of each other’s feelings, they can usually get through their divorce in a civilized way. Eventually, they can grow to be friends again. But if often takes time.

            I have worked with many people who have gone through their divorce and remained civil with each other. Later, they were even friends again. But, it usually took some time. But, know, though, that it can be done.

            If that’s what you want to do, and your spouse is on board, you absolutely can do it. Just make sure to honor your own feelings, and your spouse’s feelings. Give yourself and each other a break. Let yourself feel. Give yourself space. Give yourself time. I have no doubt that you’ll get there!

            Best,

            Karen

  • Article is the only one I have found (new to this) that addresses this situation. I like that you use Socratic method and have refrained from giving advice. Very smart. Really wish I wasn’t researching this topic- 31 years of a childless, mostly plutonic relationship. Can’t imagine leaving; ours is my first real home. But, I keep trying to get the idea across but he’s pretty much clueless, and our whole life has been, “what’s important to T is important.” Which includes the idea that what’s not important to T is not important at all. We were SUPPOSED to have kids, but he changed his mind. Don’t know how much longer I can live with his negativity, arrogance, micromanaging and criticizing. But, I’m terrified of how much worse life could be. I am well within my rights according to God. I tried to leave years ago– moved to another state for a year. We barely hugged when we saw each other for the first time; haven’t had sex or even kissed since 2006, 🙁 (less than five times since 1996). He sold MY paid for vehicle, against my desire. He bought us a new truck because I needed something more dependable. He just uses it if I’m not….. Damn! that happened two years ago and still infuriates me. He finally admitted he was wrong the other day, but says all he can do is apologize. I’d like him to learn from his mistakes…. Anyway, I can stay in a pretty cage where almost every move I make is scrutinized, but living accommodations are nice– or I can start again at 55 and hope I die before I can’t afford to live. And pray that that time is not in my near future. lol

  • Hi Karen. I have been with my wife for 28years (3dating and 25married). Have three “adult ” children. I recently had an emotional affair that turned physical and have leftmy wife and in middle of a separation. When asked why I did it, my answer was that I was controlled and the relationship lacked any real intimacy. The response to that was that I let myself be controlled and that she becam emotionally detached. I don’t hate my wife but I have found something with someone I have not wxperienc d before. A love that I really want to explore. I am so scared of moving forward, feel guilt for not going the counselling route even though she was well aware of the coercive control techniques (threats etc). she used right from the get go, never felt my needs ever came first. Kids have alienated me and refuse to communicate with me (to be fair they never saw us really arguing as I would usually concede before it got to that point, so this has really blindsided them). I have amazing support from my brothers and sisters and mother, all who have said it is great to see “me” back both physically (trips to see them were brief and few and closely guarded). My children were really not afforded the opportunities to develop close relationships with my side and have alienated them as well. Have visited with psychologist and therapist but it has s still hard. What I have learned through this is that when you constantly put others first you teach them that you always come second and if you do something that contradicts this the guilt and fear is overwhelming!!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story!

      I know that what you have been through hasn’t been easy. Moving forward with a divorce after such a long term marriage is difficult under the best of circumstances. Hopefully, your children will come around. Keep the door open to a relationship with them. Make sure they know that, even if they choose not to communicate with you, you are always open to communicating with them. Keep trying. In time, they may start to understand your position better. In time, they may learn to forgive you for what they perceive as the “wrong” you have done to them. It will take time.

      I wish I could say something to you that would make this difficult time easier. Unfortunately, nothing I can say will change what you are going through. Know this, though: just because something is hard, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

      Only you can decide what is right for you. You are stronger than you think. It’s normal to be afraid. It’s normal to feel guilty. Keep talking to your psychologist and therapist so that you can work through your emotions. Make sure you get the support you need right now. That will help a lot.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,

    Your article was one of the most insightful articles about the fear and anguish that comes with struggling with a decision to divorce I’ve read in a while.
    I’ve been married to my husband for over 4 years now but we’ve been together for 10. He’s always been somewhat jealous and/or possessive during our relationship but I chalked it up to our age difference (he’s almost 13 years older than me).

    The accusations of cheating and constant phone calls, text messages to “check up on me” even when I’m at work has gotten out of hand to the point where my supervisor has taken notice. I’ve asked that he refrain at least while I’m at work and he got very angry. We’ve gotten in several verbal arguments lately because he says I’m not the same woman I was 10 years ago. And he’s right, I’m not! We all change in one way or another as we get older.

    He doesn’t cheat on me, he is a good provider, and he loves my son. But the constant need to question me on everything from who I’m texting to why I spent $15 on a pair of jeans while looking at my checking account has made me pull away and not want to share anything anymore.

    I’ve tried to communicate my feelings but feel like I get nowhere. Anyway thank you for your article and for taking the time to read my comment.

    • You’re welcome.

      Your situation sounds so sad, mostly because it doesn’t have to be that way! If your husband could see the effect that his jealousy is having on you, perhaps he would change. Of course, that having been said, the only person who can change your husband is your husband. So, he will only change if he sees the need to do so.

      If you haven’t tried going to couples counseling, you may want to try that. Even though you’ve tried to communicate your feelings to your husband in the past, it is entirely possible that he didn’t really hear what you were saying. (Yes. I know. You’re thinking,”That’s impossible! I was so clear in what I said.” But, we all hear what we want to hear, and what we expect to hear.) Sometimes, an independent professional can help us see and hear the things that otherwise don’t sink in.

      Just a suggestion.

      Karen

  • This is exactly my problem. I feel like deep-down the marriage isn’t salvageable but the thought of divorce is terrifying and unless one of us says something, we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.

    I changed my religious beliefs after we got married, which was devastating in and of itself, but the problem is now we disagree on how to raise future children. He now doesn’t want kids at all if we have different parenting philosophies, even if I agree to have them raised in his tradition, but I absolutely know I want kids. He is also very fundamental in his beliefs and his employment is related to his religion. I am in school and have no income for another year yet.

    I love him to death. We are compatible in so many ways. But long-term I don’t know how we will manage. I don’t know where I would go or how I would live with minimal income right now. But I can’t stand living every day knowing that we will not work out. We’ve been to marriage counseling but it didn’t do much – and how can it if his beliefs and opinions are un-compromisable?

    • It sounds like you are butting up against certain “non-negotiable” beliefs that each of you has.

      Let me start by saying that, you are right. If neither one of you is willing to compromise your religious beliefs (and I’m not saying that you should, or that you shouldn’t) then your future as a married couple, and certainly as parents, is not looking rosy.

      I can hear how much you want children. But, I wonder: how would you feel if you have children and he wants to raise them in a way that you fundamentally disagree with? What kind of life will your children have if they are raised by two warring parents, who can’t agree on any parenting issue? Do you think your kids will have a peaceful, happy childhood with parents who are so at odds with each other?

      Getting divorced is traumatic for everyone – but especially for kids. If you are going to get divorced (and it sounds like that is the road you are headed down) why bring kids into your life? That’s not fair to your kids. It will also tie you to your husband, and his religious beliefs, forever.

      I can hear you want kids. I hope that someday you have them. But, having them right now may not be your best choice. It may satisfy you, but it will create a life of drama for your kids.

      I can hear how much you love your husband. But, the issues you are facing have nothing to do with whether you love him. They have to do with whether you can live with him, and whether you can raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children with him.

      If you can find a way to reconcile your beliefs and your husband’s beliefs, then you may be able to save your marriage. Reconciling beliefs doesn’t mean giving up your own beliefs to please him, but then resenting that you did it. It means finding a way to truly be okay with your different beliefs, and your different parenting styles. If you can’t do that, where are you going?

  • Dear Karen,

    Thanks for this article. I have been with my husband for ten years and married for five. We met when I was 19. We have one young child. I have been going back and forth on the decision to divorce for ten months. I thought it about it since the day after our wedding, but I first brought up the idea to my husband ten months ago. We have slept in separate bedrooms since then and barely spoken about non-childcare related topics since. I’ve met with lawyers, and a financial adviser. I cannot seem to bring myself to file even though everyone in my life from my therapist, to family and friends think it would be the right choice. Basically, I will be very much screwed financially if I move forward and I think that plays a huge part. I have a ton of debt from when we were much poorer and I was unemployed. I still care about my husband. We were just kids when we met and we’ve been through a lot together. I don’t necessarily love him in a romantic way, but he’s the father of my child, he’s cared for me for years, even when I wasn’t contributing financially. He works hard to support us, He’s a good guy and I don’t know why I can’t make myself have feelings for him. He cries daily, tells me he loves me and always will, that he will never remarry, that I will be unhappy, I will ruin our child’s life, that I’m selfish, and that he will take the house and everything in it if I leave because he deserves it for the emotional harm I’m causing. He’s trying so hard to win me back, but I don’t know if I was ever there. I feel so guilty and broken. I recently became suicidal over the guilt and started taking antidepressants under his urging.

    It was wrong, but over the past eight months, I developed feelings for a female co-worker. We were just friends for two years, but over the past eight months it became more and she shared my feelings. We never engaged in a physical affair, but we definitely had an emotional one, exchanging “I love you’s” often, spending every moment we could together, and talking about a possible future together. This probably did not help fix anything with my husband, but for the first time in my life I loved the person back that loved me. This affair has since ended and my husband did not know about it. At least I don’t think. He hates this friend. The end of the affair was crushing and devastating. I think the end of the affair has made me doubt the divorce even more, and I think my lawyer and people in my support system are getting tired of the back and forth. Like the boy that cried wolf.

    I don’t know what to do. I feel like staying is selfish as I’m doing it to see my child everyday and be financially supported. I do work full-time, but don’t earn enough to support myself and child. I’m looking for different jobs, but nothing has come up. How do I move forward?

    • I can hear how much you are struggling right now, and I want you to know that you are not alone. So many people are caught between staying in a marriage they know deep down is wrong for them, and getting a divorce, which will also cause more heartbreak and hurt. What I can tell you is that you can’t find happiness by doing the same things, and thinking the same way, that has put you in this situation from the start.

      You asked how you move forward. You do it by deciding who you are and what you want. You say that you are staying in the marriage for selfish reasons – to be supported and to see your child every day. Are you the kind of person who would stay in a relationship just for money? Is that who you WANT to be? My guess is that the answer is “No.” Otherwise you wouldn’t be feeling so guilty.

      Of course, it sounds like your husband is also piling the guilt on top of you, too. He is using guilt and fear to keep you from leaving. That’s not to say that he is bad or wrong. He’s afraid of the marriage ending, too. He’s only trying to use the tools he has to keep you from leaving and from breaking up your family. But a marriage built on guilt and fear is not the kind of marriage anyone wants to be in.

      What you need to realize is that you can either live the way you are living now, or you can decide to change your life. If you want to move forward, then get yourself into action. Start moving in the direction of your dreams. Take baby steps. If you can’t support yourself right now, then start getting the training and education you need to get a better job. Talk to your lawyer about child support and spousal support. See if you have options to start living on your own sooner rather than later. Every day do 1 small thing to move forward.

      Action, even small action, is the key to progress. But, it all starts with a decision. Who are you? What do you want?

      Now, as for your guilt, it’s time you decide whether you want to live the rest of your life controlled by your guilt and your fear, or whether you want to be free. Clearly, you want to be loved. We all do. But, is this marriage you have a marriage of real love? Or is it a marriage of guilt and fear? If you stay in this marriage, will you be able to find real love?

      I can’t answer these questions for you. But, you don’t need me to. You have the answers inside of yourself. All you have to do is listen.

      Karen

      To find out more about conquering guilt, check out this article: Are You on a Divorce Guilt Trip?

      • Thanks for your reply, Karen. I was told by my lawyer that since we planned to split physical custody 50-50 I would not get any child support. Also, we were not married long enough and he does not make much more than me to get spousal support. I did not mean to imply my husband is rich. Splitting our household from a two income household to two one income households hurts him too, and puts us both in the poverty range. My major hesitation with money is more how it affects my child’s quality of life taking her from working class to poverty. I have education and training as does my husband. I am actively searching for a job and I started a side business. I have my current job that doesn’t pay as much because it has great benefits and flexible hours to better accommodate childcare schedules and cost and maximize the amount of time my child spends with a parent. Our families are all out of state, so we can’t call on them for any help.

        • It sounds like you have already done a lot of your homework. That’s a good thing.(It may not always feel like it, but it is.)

          I don’t know your husband, but I would be willing to bet that he has thought about what splitting up would do to your family economically as well. That may be part of the reason he wants to stay together so badly. (Not that he doesn’t love you. But, I’m just sayin’.)

          If there was any way that you could get your husband to work with you to try to figure out how you could both live separately, and still make ends meet and maximize each of your time with your child, that would be a winning situation for everyone. I know that right now, with him dead set against the divorce, that may not be possible. But, if you could find a way to work together on your divorce, you may be able to create better lives for both of you, and for your child.

          I know it seems crazy to think that two people can work together on divorcing each other. But it happens a lot. You just don’t hear about it because people sensationalize the divorces that are full of drama. No one talks about the amicable divorces that work out reasonably well because both sides are not trying to totally screw each other.

          Of course, even amicable divorces are difficult. Getting divorced is no bed of roses no matter how you do it. But especially when money is tight, working together (or at least not fighting each other) can make a horrible situation at least a little bit less disastrous.

          I wish you the best.

  • Hi Karen!

    I feel like I’m in a very weird position. I waited until later in life to get married (36) and dated my husband to be 3 years before we got married. I’m 43 and he is 40 and we are coming up on our 7 year wedding anniversary and on 10 years of being together. My story is not like other ones, because my husband is quite wonderful. He cleans the house, cooks, is attentive, thoughtful and very compassionate toward others. Honestly, he would do anything for me. He listens to me when I talk, helps me with problems and generally cares about others. One of the problems is, he almost seems too nice. The other problem is, he and I are not sexually compatible at all. He has not had as many intimate relationships as I have, and always seems unsure about what he is doing. It has gotten to the point where I no longer want to have sex with him, and haven’t in 5 years. I feel very awkward and weird when I’ve tried to be intimate with him, because he’s reserved and not into anything exciting. I immediately become self-conscious and no longer want to be intimate. I also find myself not really caring what he talks about and happy when he has to leave the house for an extended period of time so I can be alone. I feel like such a jerk, because I know many women would love to have a man like this, but there is just no excitement anymore. Is that really a reason to get divorced or am I just being selfish? In other relationships, I always had a very exciting sex life, but this is just awful. I have gotten to the point that I don’t even want to hug him anymore or kiss him. I’m afraid it could eventually lead to sex, and then I’ll realize it’s still bad and feel worse. Honestly, from the beginning it was never really very good, and it’s always bothered me. I guess I eventually hoped it would get better. The problem is, I never brought it up because it’s extremely awkward to tell someone, even someone you love, that they suck in bed. What I hate about this the most, is that I know how wonderful he really is, but it seriously feels like I’m living with my friend more than a partner. Sometimes I’m not sure if I was meant to be married at all. I’m a very free spirit with wanderlust, and he’s never stopped me from going or doing anything I want and I hate the feeling of rules or restrictions. He has often said to me that he is surprised I ever got married because I hate not being able to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it. Am I just immature and selfish or is there something to this? I’ve brought it up to him before, and he has mentioned counseling, but the idea of it completely turns me off. Maybe because I feel it just won’t work and it might already be a lost cause. I do love him, but I’m not so sure I would go so far to say I was in love with him. I also am finding these days I have a wandering eye. The idea of being with others has crossed my mind several times and I feel bad about it, but it won’t go away. I’ve weirdly found myself daydreaming that maybe he would cheat on me or something would happen that would cause the marriage to end, so I could be free to see what else is out there without hurting him. My fear tho, of course, is that it will not be what I expect and I will have lost something that I didn’t realize was so special until it was gone. My husband is attractive and in fairly good shape and I feel like all his good attributes should be enough, but I’m starting to wonder if it is. I’m sure if we got divorced, it would be a shock to everyone since we seem to have a fairly good relationship. Sometimes I think maybe there might be something I could do to save the relationship, but bailing almost seems easier than having the talk about leaving and ending it. I actually feel really awful because I do love him, but I also wonder what else is out there. I’m yearning for something more exciting, and what I actually have is safe. And to be completely honest, for some time, I have had an interest in my best friend who is single, and who I seem very compatible with in many ways. There is definitely a spark on both sides, but nothing has been done about it. I’m sure this is partially what is driving these feelings as well. We have no kids, just pets, and we own a house together. Do I sound nuts, or does any of this make sense? Is it a mid-life crisis, or am I starting to realize that I perhaps don’t want to wake up one day when I’m much older, and realize I wish I would have done something sooner? This is the first time I’ve put anything like this down, and reading it over, I feel like it makes me seem like a terrible person, but I can’t shake the feeling that things are off, and I need the opinion of someone on the outside. Thanks so much!

    • Okay, first of all, you are NOT a terrible person! You are, however, a person who seems to be in a marriage that’s floundering, and you feel bad about it. I get that your husband is wonderful and stable and safe. I also understand that, on paper at least, you “should” have no reason to be dissatisfied with your relationship. (…except for the fact that you never have sex and don’t even want to touch your husband anymore.) But I also get — loud and clear — that you are NOT happy!

      The problem is that you don’t feel like you are in love with your husband, and the more you focus on how wonderful and stable and safe he is (i.e. boring, unappealing, and way too nice) the more you wonder whether the grass would be greener somewhere else. At the same time you don’t want to let go of him in case you later find out that you lost something that was really special.

      So, let’s cut to the chase: Should you walk away? Should you get a divorce? Or, is your marriage worth saving?

      I’ll be honest with you: I don’t know. But, neither do you.

      I know that seems like, “Duh, Karen! Isn’t that the point of my whole comment, here?!” But, there is more to my answer than what you may think.

      First of all, let me preface all of this by saying that this may be a little bit of “tough love,” right here. If this sounds like I’m being hard on you, I apologize. That’s not my intent. Believe me, I understand your situation better than you can imagine. But, the truth is that you don’t know whether your marriage can or should be saved because you’ve never even tried to save it.

      From what you wrote, you seem to consistently want to avoid doing the “hard” thing. You never told your husband that he sucks in bed because it’s awkward to tell someone you love that they suck in bed. Your husband has brought up the idea of counseling but you feel it just won’t work and may be a lost cause. Over and over, rather than face whatever problem comes up, you turn away from it. You think that maybe there might be something you can do to save your relationship, but it’s easier to bail than it is to have the talk about leaving. It seems like, for years, you’ve been taking the easy way out.

      Unfortunately, taking the easy way out has a huge price. That price is authenticity. That price is depth in your relationship. That price is lasting love and connection.

      Here’s the thing: No relationship is perfect. Period. Yet, it is easy to have a relationship that looks perfect on paper so long as you avoid ever bringing up, talking about, or dealing with any issues that could possibly ever cause a conflict. So, you have a relationship that looks great on paper, but is shallow and boring and sexually dead because you’re too afraid to deal with any issue that might rock the boat. The problem is that the issues that rock the boat are the ones that give depth and life to your relationship!

      Having a conversation about sex, particularly when you don’t like to have sex with your husband because it’s unsatisfying, is hard! It will be even harder for you because this sounds like it has been a problem for years, and you never said anything about it. So, not only are you going to have to have the awkward conversation about sex, but it will now be even more awkward because you now have to explain why you never bothered to have this conversation years ago! But NOT having a conversation about sex means that, not only is your sex life now non-existent, but you don’t even want your husband to touch you!

      Every problem you avoid causes another problem. So your marriage will get worse and worse unless and until you have the courage to actually deal with your differences with your husband.

      Of course, if you deal with them, that doesn’t mean that everything will work out. Maybe your husband will be mad at you. Maybe you will find you are incompatible. Maybe your husband will want to divorce you! But, at least you will have gotten to the core of what’s going on. At least you will finally slide underneath the surface of your perfect marriage and get to what is really underneath it.

      So, here’s the good news: if you deal with these issues, you might just end up having an amazing marriage with the wonderful husband you say that you have! Or, you may end up divorced. Either way, you will have grown. Either way you will be closer to having real love in your life. (Even if you get divorced, you will have put yourself in the position to recognize and find real love in the future.)

      Of course, having the hard conversations and facing the issues you have in your marriage head on will NOT be fun! You will hurt for awhile. Your husband will hurt for awhile. Your marriage may or may not survive. So, NOT having these conversations will be way easier! But if you don’t face these issues now, they will come up again in some way in your next relationship … and your next relationship … and the relationship after that.

      So, what do you do? It’s up to you. Are you ready to take a chance on creating the relationship you truly want, even though doing that will be scary and painful? Will you do it even though there are no guarantees about how everything will work out? Or are you willing to settle for what you’ve got?

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,

    I’ve been with my husband for 7 years – married for 2 and a half. Over the course of the last 7 months, I’ve been feeling more and more distanced from him. There’s a plethora of reasons why, but the main ones I focus on are that he can be emotionally abusive and manipulative, he’s controlling, and he has anger issues. I’ve always hated his anger, but never noticed the manipulation or abuse until last year. I’ve had friends that have witnessed how he treats me and have voiced their concerns about our relationship, and I myself find that I am doubting my feelings for him. One friend in particular, noticed that he comes off as sexist or misogynistic – which I also only noticed recently with certain actions and arguments between us.
    What makes it exponentially worse is that I’ve developed feelings for someone else at my job. It’s hard because this person and I have so much more in common with each other than I and my husband ever had. This man does not know of my feelings, of course. But it scares me that I’ve seemingly fallen so hard for someone not my own husband. My husband is by no means a terrible person – but his rocky past has definitely molded him into quite a difficult man that does not easily acknowledge or empathize with my feelings. In his mind, I’m “irrational” or “illogical” – when I explain my feelings to him, he rarely, if ever, understands.
    We are seeing a couples’ counselor, as well as seeing the same counselor in solo sessions. She has diagnosed me with Depression and Anxiety disorder, which certainly doesn’t help matters.
    I feel like I am stuck between a rock and a hard place – he is trying, but it feels like once things seem to be getting better, all of a sudden they’re bad; all of a sudden, he’s back to his old self. It’s almost like I have to be reminded that I can’t have just all good in my relationship, and it saddens me. I’m afraid to go for the divorce because I fear his anger, and I also fear that it will hurt him. Our therapist has said that a lot of my personal problems come from my personal desire to be a people-pleaser and always worrying about how others perceive me. I don’t want him to hate me, and I certainly don’t want to be the person that destroys his whole world – but I’m not happy. I feel empty, I feel alone in my marriage. I’m literally at a loss for what to do.

    Thank you for your time and your expertise.

    • It sounds like you are in a rough place in your life right now. The fact that you and your husband are seeing a marriage counselor, and that you also have individual counselors, is wonderful! Obviously, even though it sounds like you are getting a lot of help, you still don’t know how things will shake out. But, at least you are doing something to move yourself forward.

      It sounds like you are not happy and that you may be leaning into wanting a divorce, but that you are afraid to do that because you are afraid of your husband’s reaction. That’s actually normal. Getting divorced, especially from someone who has anger issues, isn’t easy. But, it can be done.

      Here is what I suggest. First, stay in counseling. Work on building yourself up and figuring out what YOU want to do — NOT what other people want you to do, or what you think you SHOULD do. Figure out what YOU WANT to do. (I know that sounds simple, but when you have been in an emotionally abusive relationship, figuring out what you really want is often not so easy. That alone will take time.)

      Second, once you know what you want to do (whatever that is) make a plan that will help you achieve your goal. It doesn’t matter that there may be 5000 different things that you will need to do to achieve your goal. It doesn’t matter that your goal seems so far away right now. Figure out your goal. Make a plan to achieve it. Then every day, do 1 thing to move yourself forward.

      Take baby steps.

      You don’t have to do everything in one day. There may be days when you accomplish very little. Other days you may make what feels like huge progress. Either way. Just keep moving forward.

      Most people overestimate what they can do in a day or a week, so they get frustrated when they don’t make the progress they think they should make. But, they underestimate the progress they can make in a month or a year. So, they do nothing, and make no progress at all.

      I know you feel stuck right now. In my humble opinion “stuck” is the worst place to be. But sometimes you have to stay in that stuck place for awhile in order to be able to figure out which direction you want to move in. So, hang through the discomfort. Just keep asking yourself, “What do I want? How can I get it?”

      You’ll get through this.

      Best.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen
    Ive been married for 14 years but have separated 4 times.
    I have loved my husband very much but we are at crossroads again.
    He is very fixed in his ways and extremely stubborn from nit picking on how I cut tomatos to what i wear. And argueing consistently how we are raising our teenage kids.
    Our 16 year daughter hates him, as he does not actively listens he assumes the worse of her and he has a foul mouth.
    they have had horrible rows where he had cornered her and screams at her. She is a typical 16 emotional girl but my husband deals with it so wrong and screams at me if I try to split them up when it gets heated. Tells me to back off and im weak as He thinks She is manipulating me.
    Last year her school counselor has called me in saying she was cutting herself, I was horrified and beyond upset.
    She suggested that my husband should come in and had a family counselling session. It ended been a disaster where he denied her hurt and problems saying it was attention sèeking!!And accused the counselor of putting more crap in her head.
    He made the session about himself and not about her problems. He has lost his high paying job 18 months ago that was his fault that he lost.
    The counsellor said how do you deal with your emotions when feeling overwhelmed and he said I just explode!!
    She suggested counselling for himself but he hasn’t and he wont because he just thinks he’s fine. Its not him its everyone else!!
    Im so ashamed, irritated, angry, and feel horrible how he has turned out, he is lazy, over indulgent in food that we cant afford to replace, angry at the world, And just waste his time watching tv and fishing. We are drowning in debts my son who is 14 is in the middle of all this but angry at me and his sister cause we have moved out, not far so he can visit anytime ad he doesnt want to leave hid dad.
    My daughter has since blossomed doing well at school, happier and had a traineeship in a fancy Hotel.
    Recently my husband says I can move back in if I want to, ad we struggling finacially barley have enough food til payday.
    He seems to genuinely loves me but not sorry. He feels our daughter should apologise as he feels like the victim.
    He just doesn’t get it. I want to get a divorce but feel so gutted about everything and scared!!

    • Oh my! You are in a really rough spot. I’m not surprised that you want to divorce, but are afraid to move forward!

      The truth is that divorce is expensive. When money is tight, you need to make sure that you have all of the right pieces in place before you start the divorce process. Planning is everything.

      If you don’t have a counselor yourself, I highly recommend that you get one asap. The road ahead of you is not going to be easy no matter what you do. You need support. You need someone to talk through your feelings with. A counselor can help you figure out what you want, and which direction to go in now that you are, again, at a crossroads with your husband. (Plus, a lot of counselors have a sliding fee scale or are covered by insurance. That will help with the expense.)

      It’s wonderful that your husband genuinely loves you, but, in spite of what Hollywood might have you believe, love is not enough to sustain a marriage. What you are going through is not about love. It’s about life. How do you want to live? Who do you want to be? Are you happy with how your life is at the moment? Will going back to your husband make your life better or worse? Will it get you closer to where you want to be in your life or further away? Will it help your kids or make them miserable?

      It sounds like your daughter is doing really well. Would she continue to do well if you went back to your husband? Your son might do better if you were around, but maybe not. Ultimately, your leaving may set an example for him, and give him the strength to leave, too. (Btw, I don’t know if it’s possible, but it sounds like your son could use some counseling too. If you could find a way to get him to do that, he would probably benefit from it a lot.)

      You said that you are ashamed, irritated, angry and feel horrible about how your husband turned out. While I can understand your feelings, you are feeling awful about something you can’t control. Your husband’s life is your husband’s responsibility. Your responsibility is to create the best life you can for yourself, and for your kids. I know that’s not going to be easy. But, it sounds like you’ve made progress already. You tried counseling. You moved out. You helped your daughter.

      Think about what’s important to you. Keep doing your best. Even if you aren’t ready financially or emotionally to get divorced right now, if getting divorced is what you want to do, start educating yourself about divorce now. Decide what you want. Make a plan. Step by step, you will get there.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hello Karen,

    I would like to start by thanking you for replying to others comments in such a respectful and knowledgeable manner. It is what has given me the confidence to write what I’m about to write. It is very calming to put such things into words to someone who is professionally trained while at the same time remaining anonymous.

    To start I’m a 38 year old man who has been with his wife since the age of 15. We started dating and married upon the completion of college. We have lived a fairly mundane life, but many would call it “living the dream” from the outside looking in. We both have college degrees and are financially in a very comfortable position, we have two healthy children ages 7 and 11. As the years passed we took the “normal” progression and completed college, purchased a home, had children and built our careers. Sadly throughout this process I have never been certain I loved her, but I felt secure and for a long time that was enough. I grew up in a poor family which mentally impacted my decisions from a young age as our relationship developed in its’ infancy. I believe the fact that her family was financially sound and that she had a substantial trust that I would be secure in a financial manner no matter the turmoil we may find in our personal careers. This may sound silly, but at the age of 15 coming from a family who sometimes didn’t know where the next meal would come from it greatly influenced my decision making. Now that I look back I know that it is not a suitable way to choose a life partner, but those are things we learn as we progress through life.

    As for our current relationship she loves me more now than ever and that’s one of the things that hurts me the most since it is not reciprocal. I truly want to love her the same as she does me. I don’t want to divorce, but at the same time I must be happy as we only have one life to live. I would love for that happiness to be derived from our relationship, but for the life of me I just can’t fake it any longer. We agree and do not argue about almost anything. Over the past 23 years we have had possibly 10 arguments of note. We are on the same page with children and finances which can be huge hurdles within relationships. The problem is I just feel numb to her other than guilt for feeling the way I feel. Our sex life is not phenomenal, but we still have sex at least a few times a month and from what I understand that is not outside the norm especially given the longevity of our relationship. However, there is little to no passion as it most just fulfills physiological side of things.

    So that is some of the past and I’m sure there are many other things to add, but I feel like I’m already writing a book and I know your time is limited. Now, taking this to where things really began to change rapidly. After feeling this emptiness for years I, in a moment of weakness began an affair. It is not something I’m proud of and truly am on the verge of hating myself for it. I did not realize at the time that this would blossom into a relationship if it can be called that given its’ nature of origin in both of us being married. I think we both fulfilled a gap within each other that was empty and has been for a long time. The thing is I do feel the passion and the desire to climb mountains and conquer the world the way I think you should in a truly fulfilling relationship. She has recently divorced her husband as she truly came to the realization that her marriage was at an absolute end. Fortunately, for her there were no children involved, which say what you will does simplify matters in my opinion. I will not lie this does make me feel internally that if I wish to “try” to make a life with her I need to make a decision as to how I move forward with my marriage. I know that I should end the affair relationship and that my decision to divorce has to be independent of what will or will not become of that relationship, but that’s easier said than done.

    Now, to complicate matters further. I was diagnosed as bipolar and hospitalized in the midst of a manic episode about seven years ago. Since then I of course experience cycling and have come to terms that I will for the rest of my life. I take my pills religiously and will for the rest of my life. They are my daily aspirin and for the sake of my family I would take them ten times a day so they never have to experience such an episode again. This comes into play because I constantly question whether my emotions are based on “me” or my “condition” It is truly difficult to differentiate at times.

    To complicate things to the next level I contracted an STI from my affair partner. It is herpes and based upon what she tells me she had no idea that she had it. After research it is very possible that she is telling the truth as 20% of the population is reported to have it and an estimated 90% of the carriers do not even know they have it due to some carriers having little to no symptoms. For those that don’t know this is spread based on skin to skin contact so even with protection it can still be spread.

    I’m in a position of not knowing what to do moving forward. Even through all of the grief and pain I have caused my wife and the fact that she has stuck with me through such hard times she still wants to be with me. For the life of me I don’t know why. I want her to hate me. I want her to despise me. I deserve it! I feel so terribly guilty. She deserves a man worthy of her love.

    I apologize for this being so long, but it is a complicated situation and difficult to summarize. In closing, I am seeing a therapist and we have scheduled appointments with a psychologist who is also a marriage counselor to hopefully seek a path moving forward whatever that may be. Our hopes are that he can use his training for both to try an separate my “condition” and its’ impact on my thought process in concern to our marriage. Thank you for listening.

    • Oh my! Where to start?

      First of all, kudos to you for being honest with your wife. It had to be hard to tell her about your affair, and the STI you contracted as a result. Obviously, having an affair in the first place is nothing to be proud of. But, getting a therapist and a marriage counselor are the best things you can do to start dealing with your situation in a productive way. So, no matter what, you are already going in a positive direction.

      With all due respect, though, I wonder if you’re not asking yourself the wrong question. What difference does it make whether your dissatisfaction with your marriage is the result of “you” or “your condition?” Either way. you’re unhappy. If your marital dissatisfaction is due to your condition does that mean that you are willing to stay married forever, even though you’re not happy?

      Now, it may be true that if your condition affects your thinking, it will affect your thinking in any relationship you are in. That means that if your bipolar condition is the root of your unhappiness, then you will be unhappy whether you stay married or get divorced. I’m not sure how you deal with that. But, I also don’t believe that being bi-polar, in and of itself, is a sentence to a life of permanent unhappiness. It also sounds like you felt empty even before you got diagnosed as bipolar. (Although, I could be wrong about that. I couldn’t tell from what you wrote.) Anyway, all of this still leaves you with what I think are the core questions you are really asking: How can I be happy? and, Should I stay married? (Or rather, “Is getting a divorce a mistake?”)

      I’m not a therapist myself, but I have been on this planet for awhile and I’ve lived though my share of tough personal stuff. I’ve also been working with divorce people for more years than I care to admit. I may be going out on a limb here but I wonder if your unhappiness isn’t just with your marriage, but it’s also with yourself.

      You said you are on the verge of hating yourself for your affair. You wish your wife would despise you because of what you’ve done. You feel terribly guilty. Those feelings are understandable. They are also not helping. They’re not helping you, and I doubt they’re helping your marriage. In fact, on some level you probably now resent your wife even more because she doesn’t hate you for having an affair! (Of course, I’m just guessing here.)

      Before you can figure out whether you can find happiness in your marriage, try focusing on how to find happiness in yourself. Keep going to counseling. If self-help is your thing, go to a bookstore (if you can find one these days!) and dive into the self-help section. Make sure your medications are right for you. Exercise. Do some soul searching. If you pray, pray.

      Your journey is not likely to be easy. It will also take time. If you care about your wife, be kind to her during this time. Try to look at this situation with her eyes. Yes, you are suffering, but so is she. Try to be kind to her, and to yourself. Beating yourself up and hating yourself accomplish nothing. They only make you feel worse. They cloud your thinking even more. Try to forgive yourself. Once you can do all that, you will be well on your way towards figuring out what to do about your marriage: whether to try to save it, or let it go.

      Best.

      Karen

  • Hello karen,

    I have been married for three years now and i cannot bring myself to make a decision for divorce or to stay. My wife cheated on me while we were dating and got pregnant, but i was unaware that the child was mine for the first 2 years. We seperated for a few months then iwe started living together again because i felt so bad about the child not growing up without a father. While living with her i just notice we don’t get along at all. Anytime we go out anywhere its a disaster. Shes the complete oppisite of me. It mentally drains my motivation and makes me think my whole life was determined by someone elses mistakes. Its hard for me to trust her because of her past. She has never been faithful in any of her relationsships in life. Has had threesomes with other guys (and girls). I feel so in adequite because the only person i have had sex with in my life is her. Shes sloppy and unorganized, has crazy debt and it makes me scared to even divorce because she might take from the savings i have worked so hard to save up on. I am unhappy and i feel stuck and it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth because i want to leave this marraige and start a whole new life but should i just leave the child behind even though its not his fault..

    • I can hear how upset you are. I applaud your dedication to your child, and not wanting to leave your wife for the sake of your child. But, with all due respect, I’m not sure that having an unhappy, disrespected and stuck father is doing your child all that much good. I also wonder whether you’re asking yourself the right question.

      It seems that you are looking at your situation as being a choice between staying married to a woman whom you clearly don’t love, respect, or share values with, or getting a divorce and leaving your child behind. But, you can get a divorce without necessarily “leaving your child behind.”

      At the very least, you will have parenting time with your child. And, while it may sound far-fetched, more and more fathers these days are getting joint custody (both legal and residential) and even sole custody. I don’t know your full situation, and I can’t give you legal advice, but you might want to talk to a good divorce lawyer in your area and find out what your options are.

      The bottom line is that, even if you end up spending less time with your son if you divorce, the quality of your relationship might end up being 100% better. So, think about what’s important to you.

      As for losing the money you’ve worked so hard to save, I don’t know. Maybe you will lose it. Maybe you won’t. Again, you need to discuss the particulars of your case with a local divorce lawyer to get a better idea of what you will likely lose (or gain) in your divorce. But, here’s the truth: staying married longer is not going to help you safeguard your savings any more. The longer you stay married and the more money you accumulate, the more money you will have to lose in your divorce. So staying married just so you don’t lose money is likely to be a losing proposition.

      Finally, I strongly suggest that you get yourself a good therapist. They often take insurance, or have sliding fee scales to make their services more affordable. But, you could use some emotional support right now. It sounds like your self esteem has really taken a hit in this relationship. It’s time to get yourself back on course. A good therapist can help you do that. Plus, if you do decide to divorce, you will need all the support you can get.

      I know you are in a difficult place right now. Hang in there. As long as you keep moving forward, you will get through this rough patch and on to the life you want.

      Best.

      Karen

  • Hello Karen,

    Your advice to others has been the best I have read for the many months I have been searching for answers and I was hoping you could give me some advice as well. I fall under the category of being in a marriage that is not bad, just not great. We are in our early 30’s, been married for just shy of two years, together for three. My wife is a loving, compassionate, loyal, and wonderful person with a good heart. We have the same interests, hobbies, political views, hardly ever argue, and in general get along very well. However, about 6 months ago I just lost all my feelings her (this has been gradual but suddenly became overbearing), and came to the realization that I was never really “in love” with her. My story is we only dated for a few months before I had to move out of town for a job, and asked her to move with me. She said she would only if I made a “commitment”, i.e. engagement. After being single for four years and finally finding someone I liked who had all the qualities I was looking for (on paper she was the perfect woman), I obliged. Honestly, I had been in love twice before in my life (over ten years ago at this point) but I just never had those same feelings for her, but I was so tired of dating and being alone, and I convinced myself I was being too picky and how could I let such a great woman go. Looking back, I think the attraction and chemistry just wasn’t intense enough from the start. I wanted to live together for a few years before the wedding because I wasn’t sure I was making the right decision, but she did not want to wait and convinced me to go along with it, so we married within several months. People would ask me before if I loved her and I always answered yes, but I knew in my heart that I was lying to them and to myself. I felt my attraction/feelings fading after the first 8 months together but it wasn’t so bad that I paid much attention to it. She is in fact a pretty girl and there were many times when I felt quite attracted (when she dressed up, put on some makeup, etc). We bought a house and I agreed to have a child. The timing could not be worse because I began to have serious doubts about whether I wanted to be with her, admitting I settled, feeling unfulfilled, unhappy, realizing I was just never really in love with her. Soon afterwards she announced she was pregnant. I fell into a deep anxiety and depression because I just agreed to start a family and now I strongly felt that I wanted out. I decided not to make any rash decisions (abortion, divorce, etc) since I was in a panic, and was prescribed medication to relieve my anxiety, and deliberated for several months. At this point it has only gotten worse. I just feel no affection towards her, I avoid kissing, hugging, sex, and saying I love you because I know it’s a lie. She noticed my depression and has asked me several times if I want out but I cannot bear the thought of being honest about this with a woman who is carrying my child, and what everyone will think of me if I did. So I lie and say I am just stressed about having a child. I am tormented daily with the guilt and shame, feeling like I ruined her life, like I tricked her into believing I really loved her, she did not deserve the hurt I have caused. I thought one should marry based on a decision of the mind, but now I realize it must also be a decision of the heart. I am an emotional, very sensitive person, and I realize now that I need to be crazy about someone for it to work. In several past relationships, when the feelings were gone, they were just gone and there was no going back. I hate myself for doing this to such a good woman but I cannot live a lie and be unhappy for the rest of my life, I don’t want to grow to resent her and my child. I feel trapped, alone, and completely unsure of what I should do. As far as work, family, and friends, all of that is great. I apologize for such a long message but I wanted to be as thorough as possible. I am really hurting inside, and would appreciate any advice you could offer me, thank you so much

    • Oh my! Where to start?

      I can tell you are in a lot of pain over your situation. I wish I had a magic wand that I could just waive and make everything be okay for both you, your wife, and your child. But I don’t.

      Let’s start with the easy stuff. (Okay. None of this is easy. But some of it is more obvious.) You said you are unsure of what to do. After reading what you wrote, I have to tell you that it seems like you know exactly what to do. You know in your heart what you want to do. Your body is screaming at you with its anxiety and depression: something’s wrong! The problem is not that you don’t know what to do. The problem is, you don’t want to do it because you know how much pain it will cause.

      As hard as it may be for you to hear this, its’ time for you to get real. (Sorry!)

      Believe me, I know how hard it is to be honest with someone when you know that being honest will hurt them deeply. It’s even worse when you know that you were the one who made a mistake. You made a decision, or a series of decisions, that turned out to be not so great. But, you’re human. So is your wife. If she hadn’t pushed to get engaged, then married, perhaps you wouldn’t be in this situation. I’m not saying that you should blame her, or that you have no responsibility for your current situation. Not at all. But both of you made decisions that, in hindsight (which we all know is 20/20) may not have been the best. Now you have to deal with the consequences of those decisions.

      I wish I could tell you that there was an easy way to handle your situation. But, there’s not. You just have to tell your wife the truth. Period. Of course, please be sensitive to her feelings. You don’t need to be a jerk when you tell her. You also need to own your part of the problem. (It sounds like you do, but she needs to hear that.) But, as you said, you can’t live a lie. Sooner or later it will catch up with you. As a matter of fact, the more you wait, the worse it will be when the truth comes out.

      You should also be mindful of the fact that she is pregnant. (At least, from what you wrote it sounds like she hasn’t had the baby yet.) I don’t know when she’s due, but it might make sense to wait until after she has the baby to start dealing with this issue. Or, maybe telling her now would be best. I don’t know enough about all the details of your situation to know what would be best. I’m also not a psychologist. If you have questions about when and how you should talk to your wife, I suggest you find a good therapist in your area and start working through all of this. Having a good therapist on board now will also help because the road ahead is not going to be easy. Getting support will help a lot. (You also need to work through your own guilt and shame. While I can understand why you feel those emotions, hanging on to them for the rest of your life will do you more damage than living in a marriage with someone you don’t love.)

      I hope this helps. I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • In a 23 year marriage, about 4 years ago we both decided to call it quits. However, since that time she has had a change of heart. Her mother and estranged father passed away. I however never changed my mind, and still want the divorce. On the outside we looked to have a great marriage, but it never really was that way. I put up with disrespect, selfishness, was under appreciated, and ignored for many years. Her mother came first, and I came usually 3rd or 4th. She has been dishonest and done many things behind my back over the years. We really never agreed on child rearing, religion, sex, or choice in a movie. We married young, first loves. I always felt like I put more stock in the marriage than she did. Meaning, if I didn’t do what I did to keep things going the marriage would have been over. Saying all that, I still feel guilty. Although she always worked, I took care of almost everything. Her mother was her rock, but since she died my wife seems so lost sometimes. I lost my mother right before she lost her mother, so I know that feeling. I know it’s time to move on, but there still is apart of me that wants to make sure she will be ok. She wants to reconcile, but my heart no longer is in it. I feel that if her mother hadn’t passed away she wouldn’t be acting differently and wanting me back. she just want to hold on to me for comfort. I still care deeply about her, but that’s about it. Years of taking how she treated me just eroded my feelings. She is still good looking and attractive, but I’m not attracted to her anymore. She just doesn’t understand how I could want to divorce after all these years. It really sucks, and people get hurt in a divorce, but I have to do it for my sanity. We have been separated for the last 3+ years, and she refuses to sign the divorce papers, although now she has no choice. I don’t know what life will bring, but I’ll be happy being in a relationship with myself if nothing at all.

    • It sounds like you’ve made your decision and are at peace with it. Even still, the decision isn’t an easy one, especially with your wife wanting to get back together.

      Shakespeare said it best when he wrote: “This, above all else. To thine own self be true.” If you know that you are done, and your marriage is over, then being true to yourself is actually the kindest, best thing you can do for you and your wife (although I doubt she would agree at the moment.) If you know it’s time for you to move on, then staying in your marriage would eat away at you.

      Just because you may be getting a divorce, though, doesn’t mean that you will no longer care at all about your wife. Of course you will! You were married for 23 years. It’s not surprising that you still have feelings for each other. But those feelings alone may not be enough to sustain a marriage.

      While it’s tough to predict how divorce will go for anyone, I urge you to try to divorce amicably. No matter what you may think, HOW you divorce matters! Look into collaborative divorce and mediation. Stay out of court. Do your best not to totally blow up your relationship with your wife during your divorce. While you probably won’t be best friends during your divorce, in time, after your divorce is over, you may grow to have a friendship again. Under the circumstances, that may be the best you can do.

      Karen

  • I only started writing this response as you’ve given such good advice so far to people really looking –and clearly we all landed on this page for a reason. I’ve started and stopped writing this 4 times now, so I’m just going to click submit and put it out there…

    I’m 17 years into my marriage, and have 5 kids. I had a statement/plan written up to recite to her and was going to ask for divorce 7 years ago, nearly to the day, when she came in and exclaimed she was pregnant with our 3rd child. I took it as a sign that it was meant to be, and that we could work it out…

    Over the last 7 years, we added 2 more kids, and all along the way I’ve just went back to “we can make it work”, “we can make it work for the kids”, and “I don’t want to be like my father and leave”.

    She comes in with statements, when we’re in the heat of an argument that “all couples fight”. It’s true, but not as much as we do. People write everywhere that you should have 5 good interactions to a bad one. I’m at LEAST twice as much in the opposite direction, and it isn’t getting better. There are mediocre days, and bad days. There aren’t any good ones. ;/ THere are good ones with the kids, no doubt, but when it is just me and her, I don’t like the feeling. We’ve certainly grown apart and I am happier when I’m not around her. That kinda hurts to write, but it is true.

    I’ve been writing down these bad interactions (and trying to mix in good when I an find them) in a journal now for 2+ years to try to give myself some firepower/will to pull the trigger. Recently came up with the plan to write out the perfect situation I could bring it up in. That is helping a little, but there is no “perfect way to do it.” But getting there…

    My wife had an emotional upbringing from sexual assault, and then her mom put her on a ton of drugs to keep her balanced afterwards. When I met her she was in a tough place financially and emotionally, but we made it work and got pregnant within 5 months. Had the child and got married shortly thereafter. Since then we’ve both blossomed financially and in our careers. We’re well off there, and won’t have a problem, even with 5 kids, making it on our own, respectively. That’s one thing I give to her, we’ve kept each other on this path to make us, and our kids, successful financially.

    2 years ago she accused me of having an affair, when I wasn’t. She read some emails I’d written to coworkers that she deemed “too personal and flirty”, and assumed the worst. I said we should go to counseling, but she refused due to her past with therapy/drugs she was given. I went by myself for 9 months until I told her I’d been going, to which she responded with “Why are you going? You don’t go unless you’ve done something wrong. What did you do?!??!” She still is holding on to the thought I’m cheating, when I’m not. She still monitors/checks my emails/text regularly. I have nothing to hide, but it is weird, and I don’t tell anyone that I know she is –even her.

    I brought up divorce a few months back and she agreed (against every fiber in her being and kicking/screaming) to go see a therapist; we started having sex on the regular, and again I got into the mindset that, “ok, this finally did it! We’re back on good ground!” We did for 5 or 6 sessions, and at her will, she said they weren’t working, and she stopped rescheduling the visit. That was 2 months ago, and it’s went downhill since, again.

    To this day, nobody would blame me if I got divorced. I’d even think some of HER family would be OK and understand it, but my thing that paralyzes me is the fear of the unknown. When I DO bring it up? She’s emotional abusive, and has (in my opinion) bipolar disorder. She’ll be extremely happy, extremely sad, and extremely angry multiple times a day, multiple times a week. On the good days, it feels like I can make it work, but on the bad ones, I stay up all night searching for articles like this to justify me leaving, and continue to build my journal of notes/reasons why I should go…

    As I write this out, it’s just painfully obvious I should jump ship, I have ever right to, and justification behind it, but…

    It. Really. Is. Just. So. Damn. Paralyzing….

    I don’t even know what I’m looking for in a response, more just to put something out here that everyone else has been doing so great on laying out their feelings, and you giving solid response back, so I’m going to leave it at that, hope that it helps someone else out, and look for a response. If (when?) I make the decision, I’ll certainly come back to give an update to everyone else in the same boat…

    • First of all, thank you for sharing your story. I can tell how difficult it was for you to write it. I applaud you for having the courage to speak about what’s clearly been in your head and your heart for so long.

      As for where you go from here, let’s start with the practical stuff. You said that you are both doing well financially and in your careers. That’s awesome! But, before you do anything get serious about divorce, you need to spend some time with a divorce lawyer in your area and find out what you are facing, and what your options are. While you may THINK you will be okay financially, with five kids, whether that is true or not will depend a lot on what child support will look like. Maybe you will still be fine. I hope you will. But, you won’t know that until you educate yourself about what you are facing. Making a decision without full information is like pulling a hand grenade when you’re blindfolded and in a strange place. Maybe you can throw the grenade away from you before it explodes … but you just never know.

      Let’s assume that you are right and that financially you can afford a divorce. That still doesn’t mean you will be emotionally ready to get one. That, too, may take time. But, I would like to suggest that taking a different approach may prove to be helpful.

      You said that for the last few years you have been keeping a journal of all of your negative interactions with your wife to try to give yourself more “will” to pull the trigger. Since you’ve been doing this for over two years now, and you still haven’t filed for divorce, I’m not sure that that approach is working very well.

      Whether you believe it or not, what you focus on expands. The more you are focused on your wife’s negative behavior, the more problematic and painful that behavior becomes to you. I’m not suggesting that you “pretend” everything in your life is full of sunshine and kittens. Lying to yourself isn’t the answer either. But, I wonder what would happen if, instead of focusing on all the NEGATIVE things, you focused on the POSITIVE ones? And what if, instead of focusing on what your wife is doing, you focused on what YOU are doing, and on what YOU want?

      Now, at this point, you’re probably thinking: Why did I ever write this comment? Karen must be nuts to answer me this way! Clearly she doesn’t understand how bad my marriage is!

      Before you click off this page, stay with me for a minute.

      I’m not telling you to focus on the good things in your marriage (and in your life) because, if you do, your marriage will magically become perfect and you will live happily ever after. It would be fabulous if that happened, but it probably won’t. Focusing on what’s good in your life won’t wipe away what’s bad in your life. But it will make you feel better — not all the time. Maybe not about your marriage. But you will feel better. And that can make all the difference.

      It sounds like for the last 7 years you’ve been trying to suck it up and make your marriage work no matter how miserable you were. While you haven’t gotten divorced, you don’t sound like you’ve created a happy marriage either. It also sounds like you’ve got a lot of guilt surrounding deciding to divorce. You said you “don’t want to be like your father and leave.” You also said no one would blame you for leaving. But, would you blame yourself? It seems like that is what’s really holding you back.

      Focusing on all of the problems in your marriage hasn’t motivated you to leave your marriage. It can’t. If you believe that you will be a bad person if you leave, you’re not going to leave. Period. Full stop. You will stay married, no matter how miserable you are .. not because you shouldn’t leave, but because you can’t live with yourself if you do. (Mind you, I’m not saying that you should or shouldn’t leave. That’s a decision only you can make)

      What I’m suggesting then, is that you stop focusing on your wife, and on all of the bad things in your marriage. Instead, try focusing on yourself and your kids, and on all of the things that make you happy. Focus on teh good things that are happening in your life. Focus on the fact that you are an amazing human being, and a good father and a successful man. Write THAT stuff down!

      When you know what you want, and why you want it, moving towards it becomes infinitely easier. You’ve been trying to move AWAY from what you don’t want. Try moving TOWARD what you DO want. Of course, to do that you first have to be clear enough to identify what it is that you do want. Then you have to have the courage to move toward that, even when doing so will be hard. But don’t worry. You can do it. I really believe you can.

      Best.

      Karen

  • Hi, this article helps me a little. I love my husband so dearly and that’s why we’ve stayed married for almost 8 years. He is perfect but I don’t living the stepfamily life. He has a son from his previous marriage and we get him every weekend and everything about him gives me anxiety and depression and misery. His son is my husband’s world but I don’t think I can do this anymore.

    • I feel for you. Being a step parent isn’t always easy. (I know. I’m with you!) But, a good relationship with your step kids can be one of the most rewarding relationships on the planet.

      If you can find a way to improve your relationship with your step son, that would be optimal. Unfortunately, as the adult, it will be up to you to do that. Hopefully your husband will help. (If not, perhaps he is not quite as “perfect” as you believe.) Even if he does help, though, you’re still going to have to take the lead to make things better. If you decide to try to do so, you might want to enlist the help of a therapist to help ease the way.

      IF changing your relationship with your step son isn’t possible, then you’re really in a pickle. Your husband is not likely to abandon his son. Putting his son between you and him will eventually destroy your relationship. It also could hurt your step son. It’s not going to make you feel great either. So that’s a losing proposition all the way around.

      If staying with husband under these circumstances gives you so much misery, you will probably have to make a difficult choice. (Sorry! … but you probably already figured that out.) I hope that, no matter what you choose, everything works out for the best.

      Karen

    • Wow everything you have written and the responses you have given to people have been so heartfelt and honest. And I guess I’m at a time where im so scared to share with anyone. This is my story. My husband and I are in our early 30s. Have been together for 8 years and just had our 4 year wedding anniversary. We’ve moved twice for each other, changed careers and have always had a very happy and fulfilling marriage and relationship. He could do no wrong until I caught him earlier this year having a 3 month affair with his first ex (a girl he truly had love for and kept a small form of communication with) I was extremely trusting in our relationship and he communicated well and told me he never wanted to keep things from me. Basically when confronted with the affair he broke down and apologized, was extremely remorseful and begged me to stay that he will be a better man. I gave us another chance because I still loved him and it’s been almost 8 months. I just found a text of him reaching out to a girl he “knew”(apparently had no physical encounter in the past). It was an invitation to see each other and they met in public and just talked about the past. If this was a fist offense I would have laughed it off and yelled at him but this is literally happening after he swore, promised, cried and that he will never put any situation before us ever again. Now I’m torn. If I stay I will always feel distrust and insecure but it’s hard for me to want to leave because I’m still so in love with him and a huge part of me feels like he can be a better man. Another part of me is torn because I am 7 weeks pregnant and I’m wondering if the security of staying is keeping me in love with him. I am so torn right now. I want to stay but I am scared that I’ll regret staying and if I leave in scared of regretting that too.

      • Oh my! Where to start?

        I wish I could tell you that I had a magic wand I could waive to make your husband stop reaching out to his past girlfriends to “just talk,” but I don’t. I think the real crux of your question is whether or not your husband’s affair was an isolated occurrence, or part of a bigger, ongoing pattern of “misbehavior.” The answer is: I don’t know. Without knowing a whole lot more about both of you, and without having ever met you or him, I honestly can’t say. But I do know that it’s going to be important to you to find out.

        People cheat for a lot of reasons. Some of those reasons develop from problems in their current relationship or marriage. Other reasons develop from things that happened to them in their past. While going into a long dissertation about why people cheat is beyond what I can write here, you might want to check out Esther Perel’s TED Talk, “Rethinking Infidelity.”. If you want to go deeper, you can listen to this podcast with Tony Robbins and Esther Perel entitled, “Why Do People Cheat?”

        Why did your husband cheat? That’s something that the two of you are going to have to figure out for yourselves. (Or not. many people prefer to stay in denial. It often takes 2 or 3 failed marriages to force someone to look at what’s going on inside themselves. I don’t recommend doing that. It hurts a lot. But, a lot of people do it anyway.)

        While I suppose you could try to get to the bottom of your husband’s wandering eye yourselves, if you want to give your marriage the greatest chance for success, the best thing would be to find a really good marriage counselor to help you. S/he can help you figure out what’s really going on in your marriage, and whether you can repair the damage. (And, yes, it is possible. It’s not easy. But, it’s possible.)

        Finally, being 7 weeks pregnant certainly puts an extra twist on your situation. Is your pregnancy influencing your thinking? Probably. Are your hormones also changing the way you think and feel right now? Definitely. That’s another reason why getting a good therapist will be a Godsend for you right now. You need someone who’s thinking can be a little bit more clearly and objectively right now. (You might also want to get your own therapist, too!)

        What your pregnancy is going to do is slow things down for you. As horrible as that may seem at the moment, it’s probably not a bad thing overall. It will force you to take some time, think about what you want, work on your marriage if that’s what you decide to do, and see what happens. If you or your husband decide not to work on your marriage, it will give you both time to prepare for your divorce. (Yes, I know how horrible that sounds. Sorry!)

        I will share one word of caution, though: having a baby is no reason to stay in a bad marriage. People who “stay married for the kids” usually end up divorced anyway. Plus, contrary to what many people think, getting divorced when your baby is very young can be better than getting divorced when your child is older. If your baby grows up in a divorced family, that will be his/her “normal.” Is that sad? Yes. But is getting divorced when your son or daughter is old enough to have the divorce totally rock his/her world any better?

        Finally, I know you are scared. I know you are torn. Of course you are! You’re human! But, as awful as you probably feel right now, be patient. Take your time. Work through your feelings. Work through your problems. If you choose to do so, work on your marriage. If you don’t, then work on letting your marriage go.

        Will both of those things suck? Absolutely! As hard as it is, try to “embrace the suck.” Don’t run from it, and don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Sit with it. Ruminate on it. Eventually, you will know what you should do. Everything will be clear. Your answers will come.

        I wish you the best.

        Karen

  • Hi I been married 20 yrs.this April 12 2017 My husband is heavily involved in his hobbies, racign, trazes cars, and a big one internet gaming, He has ran up a lot debt.. We have 5 kid’s ages now 23 down to 14, he ignors them, totally NOT involved in their lives. We have had a lot counseling through our church 4 5 different times.. Thing’s are good for a while then back to same old stuff. I feel dead, I have had feeling for someone else I feel attracted to , he doesn’t prob. know I exsisit this time, I say it’s wrong.. but loves the man’s quality traits. I sit home alone tons, he won’t lift a finger around house, I literally do everything, he says I work full time, last yr I worked full time, I got no help what soever, etc etc, I’m a single mom doing it all anyway!! I feel if I were divorced from him, I wouldn’t put any expectation’s on him.. Believe me we have tried EVERYTHING!!! I’m miserable 🙁

    • I can hear how unhappy you are. The question is: what are you going to do about it?

      I would suggest marriage counseling, but you’ve tried that. So, what about individual counseling for yourself? I’m not suggesting anything is wrong with you. But, the only way to improve your situation is to DO something. Sitting around in the same old situation will only get you the same old life and the same old feelings. The problem is, before you can do anything, you have to have some idea about what to do. That’s where counseling or therapy can fit in.

      In counseling, you can start to explore your feelings, your needs, and what you want from your life. You can start to figure out why you have stayed in this marriage when it has been so bad for so long. You can start to decide whether you want to go or to stay. You can identify what you want from your marriage, and whether there is any hope of you getting that if you stay married to your husband. Most of all, you can start to figure out what steps you can take to move yourself forward in whatever direction is best for you.

      Moving forward into the unknown is scary. But staying where you are at is no picnic either.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,

    I am 29 and have been married for a year a two months, together for almost five years total. I knew when I got engaged something was not right. I did not feel how I thought I would feel. I was not over the moon. Months went by and I even ended up telling my husband (then fiance) that I was having doubts. I was so madly in love with him in the beginning – he is handsome, rugged and so, so funny. But I slowly started to realize that he never wanted to do much of anything. Gorgeous Saturdays were being spent sitting inside. When I would bring up doing something, it was either met with signs and grumbles, or he would agree to go but seem miserable the whole time. I grew up in a very social household with parents who entertained almost every weekend, so I am the complete opposite of him. When I finally get fed up and go out on my own, he makes me feel guilty about it.

    I almost called off the wedding 2 months before, but I was too ashamed and afraid. I was not sure if I wanted to lose him or not? I am still not sure. I have come to him more than a few times now, saying I still feel like nothing has changed. He says this is all my fault because I am an unhappy person. It is hard to respect someone as a man who only wants to watch TV. I ended up starting an emotional affair that has now become physical because I have just become so unattracted to him as a man. I told him we are not ready for children obviously, but that is all he pushes for now and it seems to be all he really cares about is getting kids out of me before he is too “old”. Nothing about him makes me want to be better or pursue any of my dreams, and in fact I feel lazier when I am around him.

    My dilemma is that he really is a good guy. Treats me fine. Gets along with everyone, my entire family loves him. But I have never really done anything or gone anywhere in my life, and even on our honeymoon he was just miserable and didnt want to do anything the entire time, I am worried I am wasting my life away because I am staying with someone who does not want to experience life, and that terrifies me. I am not sure if I am more afraid of losing a “decent” guy or looking back later in life realizing I have done nothing.

    • Oh my!

      Have you tried marriage counseling? If not, that might be a good place to start. I also think it may be time for you to start being honest – first with yourself and then with your husband. (Sorry. I know that’s going to be rough!)

      If you tell your husband how you are really feeling, you may be able to work on your issues together. Or, he may get so mad that he blows up and blows up your marriage too. Either way, being honest will take courage. Yet, living a lie for the rest of your life is not a great alternative. One way or another, you’ve got to start dealing with what’s going on inside your head.

      Keep in mind that if your husband thinks you’ve been crazy in love since the day you met him, learning that you have realized that you don’t feel the same way is likely to be a shock. That’s one of the reasons it may be helpful to have that conversation in the presence of a good therapist. S/he can help guide you so that your discussion is productive. It will still be painful. It will still be scary. But, it is absolutely a conversation you need to have, no matter the end result.

      Here’s something to think about. Whether you were “over the moon” or not when you got married, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good marriage now that you are. You and your husband were in love once. It may be possible that when he hears how unhappy you are, he will change. (Or, not.) That having been said, though, step #1 is deciding that you want to work on having a good marriage with your husband.

      If you don’t, then be honest with yourself. Admitting that perhaps you shouldn’t be married to your husband doesn’t make you bad. It doesn’t make you wrong. It might mean you made a mistake. But, everyone makes mistakes. You’re human. Be kind to yourself. Try not to judge yourself too harshly.

      One thing you do NOT want to do is have a baby right now! Babies do not save struggling marriages. They only make them worse. Then they get caught in the crossfire in divorce.

      I know you are afraid to lose a “decent” guy. But, is a “decent guy” (and more specifically this decent guy) the one you want? Only you can answer that question. Take your time. Think about it long and hard. But if you ever loved your husband, be honest with him. Tell him the truth. It may hurt now, but it will save you both a lifetime of hurt in the future.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

      • Karen, thank you SO MUCH for your reply. I have felt like I have no one to turn to. We actually have done counseling a few times, much to his dismay. I even went alone a few times. I have told him several times about my feeling unhappy, but he seems to think that it is a personal choice to be unhappy because he is just fine. We have had several conversations that end in him being defensive and saying he “can’t sit around all day thinking of ways to make me happy” (verbatim). It hurts to think he does not even want to try to compromise and that I am the only one doing any wrong.

        I think I feel sad about what used to be and guilty thinking about him alone and sometimes that is the reason I stay. But then when he blows up and does not seem to see me as anything but a baby machine, it does make me realize a little bit that I don’t deserve that and that it cannot work if we both are not willing. I think I am more afraid of hurting everyone else than hurting myself.

        • You’re welcome! A few final questions: If your best friend, or your sister, or someone you loved was in your position, what advice would you give to her? Would you tell her that it’s okay for her to hurt herself, so long as she was making everyone else happy? If not, then why would you say that to yourself? Don’t you deserve the same love and compassion as anyone else?

          … just asking!

          Karen

          PS You’re not alone.

  • Hello Karen
    Thanks for your article. It’s made me think differently about a dilemma in which I have been caught for several years now and don’t know what to do about.
    My husband has anger issues and can be verbally and emotionally abusive. Sometimes I wish he would become physically abusive, just once, because that will give me a clear-cut reason to leave him. When it’s verbal and emotional, it’s so much harder to pin-point and explain to others. And easier to hide, of course.
    He works rotation – or used to, he is now unemployed – and when he is home he is stoned the whole day or drinks beer from the morning. He used to drink vodka but has stopped since he’s puked up blood. He claims he did it for his family but I know the real reason. He’s also been addicted to pain killers for a year, when I was pregnant with our second child – he’s admitted as much but I also knew at the time but just got denial out of him when I tried to confront him about it or even present him with the evidence!
    He does not take ownership of most of his actions but kind of passes everything on to me – I run the whole household, basically make all the decisions about the children myself, sort out his messes and now – I have become responsible for bringing in money as well! We have some savings but still… we might be losing our house soon.
    I could deal with all this if he didn’t treat me so poorly. Sex is a one-way street and pretty much on (his) demand. My needs are not being met. If I say no, I get pestered until I give in or there is a row. And I do not like conflict so will often give in just to avoid it.
    I am an accomplished person but my self-esteem is low because I can’t understand why I am being so pathetic allowing him to treat me this way. It is impossible to reason with him as he does not seem to be able to reason logically – made worse by weed or alcohol or whatever he has found in the medicine cupboard to pop that day. And he is much louder and more overwhelming than me, so making my point becomes just impossible it feels.
    We have been to see a counselor, I thought she was very objective which was good, but I also feel like she didn’t call him out on his stuff enough. And in the end it ended up being all about him anyway. Things he has to deal with. But doesn’t. And that’s the thing – I think he is a big egomaniac. When we listen to music, we listen to what he wants to listen to. If I put on my music, he makes fun of it. He talks a LOT and I have to sit there for hours and listen… can’t hide my boredom then he gets angry. But feel like I am not being listened to. Like I am just a supporting act in his life drama. No – that is not good enough for me. And I have told him this but… nothing. Or change for a day.
    Part of the problem for me is the logistics of getting separated, and probably that I do in some weird way still love parts of him. But I feel pretty miserable in his company, or when I have to deal with his drama, and very relieved when he goes off to his rotation job. Like I can breathe again and be myself again. Anyway – the logistics, he is American and I am not. The kids (two beautiful children of 5 and 3) and I live in my home country. I can just imagine what kind of guilt trips he’s going to put me on if I tell him I don’t want to be with him any more. And how often will they see their father? And will they hate me for it one day? (My son does bring up incidents of his father’s rage from time to time, so I can see that it has an influence on him.)
    I have very supportive friends but I do feel that they are getting a bit sick of my situation, as am I, and I don’t blame them! I am generally a very optimistic and happy kind of person, so I am really fed up of having to tell people I am – still – going through a difficult time.
    Now my husband is unemployed and I have to sell the house and make a plan. He is devastated (as I have to hear for hours on end because he can’t deal with his own emotions) so I feel I can’t break up with him now. But – there is always a drama and a crisis, so when?!

    • So, it sounds like you’ve got a lot going on!

      Here’s a couple of (unfortunately) hard truths that anyone thinking about divorce has got to wrap their head around:

      1. There is NEVER a good time to get divorced. Nothing is ever perfect. There is always some reason that getting divorced at this moment doesn’t make sense. So, if you know you want a divorce, the best thing you can do is to start learning everything you can about it, talk to a lawyer, make a plan as best you can, and then move forward. Or, you can always stay as you are … for as long as you choose. (Make no mistake about it. NOT deciding to do anything IS a decision.)

      2. Fear of the unknown is one of the biggest fears there is. That’s why people say, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” That’s also why a lot of people stay married and miserable as often as they do. When you move forward with a divorce, you are jumping into the unknown with both feet. That’s terrifying! You never know what’s going to happen or how you will end up. Ultimately, you either embrace that, or you let your fears paralyze you. Then you stay stuck.

      No one wants to cause themselves pain. Yet, most people are way stronger than they think. I would venture a guess that you are, too.

      If you are really feeling stuck, I suggest you talk to a counselor – not as a couple, but just you. You need to explore what’s stopping you so that you get the confidence and the courage to move forward. The answer to your dilemma does not lie with your husband, or your circumstances, or with anything outside of you. You are the one who has to make a choice and live with the consequences. It sounds like you are very able to do that.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

      PS You might also want to check out this article When is it Time to Divorce. That will help too.

  • Hi karen,

    Thank you for your article. I have read through all the posts and comments but still I feel so unsure. I don’t know where I am at. I feel so lost and so depressed. My article is going to be very long and I apologize for it.

    So I have been with my husband since I was 20 and we’ve been married for 4 years. I am 31 yrs. My husband is very handsome, built, caring, loving and we are compatible in many ways. He loves me to the moon and back and would do anything I ask him to. He is actually one of the best human beings I know. He never abuses me, even when we fight he makes sure that I am not upset. He makes sure that everything is for my comfort. Everyone around thinks I’m the luckiest girl ever. But I feel empty. I do love my husband a lot the thought of hurting him hurts me but I don’t feel I’m in love with him. From the start of our relationship I felt that and I always brushed it off. So I told myself that’s alright you have someone who loves you more than life. But the main issue came up when I realized he isn’t sexual. It’s been this way since the start. I didn’t look into it thinking that may be he is just shy. But after few years into the relationship it was still the same. Whenever we made out or had sex it was always so passionless for me but I just didn’t address it Coz I thought it would hurt him. Couple of years back I almost broke up with him because of this issue coz I did not feel satisfied. We went months without even just making out. I told him I wanted to break up and it tore him apart. He promised he would work on our passion and being more Intimate. Everyone told me that it would get better and that he is an amazing guy. So I stayed But after our marriage things didn’t really progress. We did have an amazing time together like we travelled alot. We did everything together but I felt more like I am with a best friend than a partner.
    Whenever I tried to initiate any physical activity he would always say he’s too tired or stressed. He would apologize though and I felt bad. Then the pressure of having a baby came and it made him more stressed. So we did an iui. He would say he is too stressed to perform and once I get pregnant he would be fine. But the iui failed and I know it’s awful to think that way but I feel a little relieved that it did. Because I felt once we have a baby then he might never touch me again. Everything was fine. I was trying my best to be supportive, to try and tell him not to stress and to be there for him. Even tried dressing up, booking getaways for weekends to spark things up. I tried not to bring up the sexual talks coz he would always say that it stresses him. I asked him many times to go for therapy for it but he refused.

    Many a times I would wish that he cheats on me or something happens that would break us.

    Anyway so couple of months back I got into an emotional relationship with a friend of mine. We’ve always been close. He advised me to work things out with my husband but it just didn’t happen. And then my relation with my Friend got to a point where we fell in love and then it got physical (no sex). Ofcourse I felt awful and guilty but I just couldn’t stand to be apart from my friend. There was just so much passion and chemistry. I have never felt this way before not even with my husband although I’ve tried many times. We always spoke about how things would be if I wasn’t married. He confessed that he’s always liked me since the time we met. We kept breaking up coz of guilt and going back coz we were in love.

    I decided to speak to my husband, told him I want out coz of how I felt but kept the affair a secret still coz I know it would kill him and it was really the reason I wanted out Coz j had thought about it many times before. He was angry at first said that I ruined his life and that I should have left his years back but then he agreed to many things I said. He said that he doesn’t know why he never felt it but I’m the only girl he wants. And it just makes me very confused. He says he will work on it and go for counselling but I feel nothing now. Even when he touches me. I feel like things cannot go back to normal. Even if they do it would eventually turn out to be how they were as it has happened before. We’ve had this problem before. But I kept going back and forth on what to do as I was so confused and got into this depressing state.

    So After almost 4-5 months of my affair my friend broke it off saying that he wants me all to himself and me not making a decision to divorce my husband is just messing him and us and everything. Which I agree. My indecisiveness was making him crazy coz nothing was moving forward and we all were just stuck. We decided to just be friends.

    I don’t want to leave my husband for another guy coz I know my future with my friend isn’t certain. I know that much. Although I do miss my friend and I know that the issue I have with my husband was there long before he came in. It probably just sent the alarm to my head that something isn’t right. But I am really torn. I don’t want to hurt my husband but I feel like I’m hurting. I feel I would be happier without him and sometimes I’m just sacred . Mostly of how he will cope up. He sees me as his world and it kills me that I did what I did to him but if I truly loved him I wouldn’t have. I also keep thinking of my friend. I cannot get him out of my head. I feel ill never find that connection with anyone else. I am also scared of being alone. What if I never find anyone? And I feel like I’m too old and I’ve wasted my husband life.
    I feel like such an awful person.

    Awful

    • Dear Awful,

      You are not awful! I can tell you don’t want to hurt your husband. I also doubt that you really want to hurt yourself. The problem is, right now you are doing both.

      I don’t want to be harsh, but I will share a little “tough love” with you right now. I would like you to answer a few questions for yourself. Are you happy and fulfilled in your marriage? Is this the life you want to be living? If nothing changes in your marriage, and you live to be 100, still married to your husband, when you’re on your death bed, will you be happy with how you lived your life?

      It seems to me that, if you were being totally honest with yourself, the answer to all of those questions would probably be, “No.” The problem is, you’re not being totally honest with yourself. You’re trying to convince yourself that you should stay in a sexless marriage because your husband is a great guy. He’s handsome, and well-built and would do anything for you. Except have sex.

      Sorry, but that’s a problem.

      If you didn’t want to have sex either, you’d have a great marriage. But you DO want to have sex. The fact that he doesn’t IS a problem for you, and it’s time you started to deal with it.

      You’re going to want to start by being honest with yourself. You’re only 31 years old. Do you want to spend the rest of your life in this kind of relationship? If not, you need to change it. Maybe the two of you can go to a sex therapist. Find out if there is something you can do to put the spark back into your marriage. Avoiding sexual talks because it stresses your husband only buries the problem. It’s time to bring it out into the open. Talk about it. Work on it. See if there is a medical reason for the problem. See if you can make things better.

      If you can’t, (or he won’t) then you have to decide whether you want to stay in this kind of relationship, or move on. Maybe you do. People live in sexless relationships all the time. They don’t necessarily talk about it. But they do. If you’re okay with that, there is nothing wrong with it. But if you’re not okay with it, then staying married because of whatever excuse you’re telling yourself is just garbage. Be honest with yourself and be honest with your husband.

      You say you don’t want to hurt him. How much more will it hurt him if you stay together, but you end up having an affair (or multiple affairs) behind his back? My guess is that will hurt a whole lot worse. Plus, you obviously wanted a child … but now, not with him! What does that tell you? And what will happen if you have an affair, and get pregnant? It’s not like he won’t know that he’s not the father! So, then you get divorced and your child has no father?!

      Believe me when I say I am not being judgmental. You’re not an awful person. You’re just someone who doesn’t want to face the truth because you’re afraid for yourself and you don’t want to hurt your husband. You have the best intentions. But good intentions alone won’t make or sustain a good marriage. For that you need love, trust, integrity and honesty.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Karen,

    Your website has been very informative and thank you for that. I recently have filed for divorce after being married for 2 years and have a 1 year old daughter with my wife. Now, there are many issues in our marriage that has led us to where we are at. Lack of communication, little to no compromise on a lot of things, very bad attitude with family/lack of respect, lack of intimacy, and to be quite honest I’ve really started not to like the person I’m married to as a person, and even not liking myself and who I am when I’m with her. Given all of this, and being the person filing for divorce I’m still hesitant if this is the right thing to do. We share a daughter who is 1 year old and a lot of people say the first year is the hardest, but my wife has made it so much more difficult than it needs to be. Due to her family history, she is overprotective of the child, won’t let anyone help or take care of the child, unless its someone she says is okay to which is mainly 1 person. We’ve had 1 night out as a date night in a year, and I mention that because it obviously bothers me, but now at this point I’m not sure if we were to “date” would we have anything to talk about other than our daughter?! So all of this is saddening and depressing. I can’t decide if I should try and make it work or get out as so many of my family friends say to do. My wife is controlling and very critical and has isolated herself from almost everyone. I saw shades of this early on in our dating years, but since marriage and definitely since having our daughter it has magnified. We’ve briefly tried counseling, but didn’t do much as she just says the right things, but no follow through with action. I’m seriously concerned that nothing will ever change enough to make me fully happy in the relationship. I just can’t stand the thought of losing time with my kid, which she has threatened to do all she can to get full custody, as thats her only leverage on me, as she knows I love our daughter so much and have stayed home with her as my wife is the breadwinner and has the better job, I stayed home and have been an excellent father, yet now she is upset that I want a divorce and is making threatening statements about custody that scare the heck out of me. I have yet to get an attorney as when I filed she agreed to be amicable and did not want to spend money on lawyers as we really only have a child we care to split, no real other assets. Though once she received the papers in the mail her tune changed and she met with an attorney and is now seemingly out to screw me over anyway she can. Which isn’t helping me with the idea of possibly still trying to make things work, as the more and more that she does and says actually is scaring me into thinking/questioning what kind of person did I marry and if we somehow were to come through all this, what is to stop her from being manipulative and trying to screw me over 5/10 years down the road? Really looking for some helpful insight and feedback on this when you can, much appreciated!

    • I’m glad you like my website. I hope I can continue to give you good information now, too. I’ll do my best.

      Okay. Where do I start?

      I can tell that you weren’t sure whether or not you wanted out of your marriage, or still wanted to work on things. The problem is that, when you filed for divorce, everything changed. I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’m not surprised.

      Can you still work on your marriage? Maybe. But it will now be one hundred times harder. (Sorry.) Filing for divorce is “the nuclear option” in marriage. Once you push the button, it’s really hard to go back. You filed for divorce. You pushed the button. That’s not to say you can’t still work things out. A few people do. Very few. Most don’t. If you want to try, then I strongly suggest you work with a marriage counselor. That will give you the best chance of success.

      Meanwhile, at this point, what you really need is a lawyer. You need legal advice — especially since your wife has already gotten a lawyer. You now can not afford to try to do this without a lawyer yourself.

      You say all you have to split is your child. With all due respect, that’s a lot. You need to understand what your rights and responsibilities will be if and when you get divorced. You also have to figure out how you’re going to support yourself after you’re divorced. You said your wife is the breadwinner and has the better job. That’s fine while you’re married, but what are you going to do when you divorce? With such a short marriage, you can’t count on getting spousal support from your wife, at least not for very long. Plus, you now have a child that you need to support, too.

      It would be best if you and your wife could talk and work something out between you. You need to figure out child support, and spousal support, and custody/decision making for your daughter. You need to make a parenting plan and a parenting schedule. You need to put a lot of pieces in place now so that you are both in a position to move forward after your divorce with the least trauma to your child. If you can do that yourselves, great. If not, a mediator can help. Otherwise, you’re going to have to go through lawyers. That’s not optimal. But it may be your only choice.

      I wish I had better news for you. But, the truth is that filing for divorce set you on the path of getting divorced. The best thing you can do now is prepare yourself, and deal with it.

      Karen

  • This article is very insightful. I just wish this decision was an easier one to make. I’ve been struggling for months trying to decided which direction to take.

    My husband and I have been together 11 years, married for 8. We have three children, the youngest being 1. A few months ago I found out that my husband cheated. When I confronted him he lied until I showed him the proof. Then he fessed. He said it was only once but this is not the first time I’ve caught him talking to other women. He has a history of lying quite a bit.

    I’ve caught him talking to women, some sexually, at least 7 times throughout our relationship. Usually he has some excuse, or he’s apologetic and I end up forgiving him. This was the first time (that I know of) that he actually had sex with someone else. It broke me. If it happened when he says it did (which I have doubts) it was while we were trying to conceive our 3rd child. How could he do that to me knowing we were trying for another baby?

    We tried counseling a couple times and I’ve tried to get past it but I just don’t know if I can. I have so much resentment toward my husband for all the things he’s done I just don’t think I can forgive anymore. I think about it all the time. I struggle to be intimate with him because afterwards, it’s all I think about. It’s sent me into a depression. And I have no trust left.

    I know this sounds clear cut but I struggle because besides his lies and infidelity, he is a good man. We can still have fun together but at the end of the day the things he’s done still haunt me. And I worry about my children and what a divorce will do to them. I’m so torn….

    • Oh my! I can hear how much you are struggling. I can only imagine how difficult this decision is for you.

      I wish I could tell you what to do, but the truth is: I can’t. The decision you face is yours alone to make.

      If it helps, know that whatever you decide, whether it is to go or to stay, you are not bad or wrong. Either decision will have consequences, probably both good and bad. A divorce will have an effect on your children, but so will staying in a marriage where they see their father lie and cheat on their mother, while their mother spirals farther into depression each time. Neither scenario is perfect. So know from the start that you are simply trying to make the best choice when all the choices you face are bad ones.

      If you would like, try this. Think about where your life will be in a year, five years and ten years if you stay. Then envision the same thing if you go. Pay attention to how you feel as you work through each vision. Then ask yourself, what do you want for your life in a year, five years, and ten years? Just remember, the ONLY one you can control is you. Human behavior doesn’t often change. So, when you are trying to envision what you want for the future, the one scenario you can’t create is the one where your husband changes. That’s probably the scenario you wish would come true. But, it’s also the one scenario that you can’t create yourself. It’s the least likely to actually happen. (Sorry!)

      Finally, remember that NOT making a decision IS a decision. Not making a decision yourself will also rob you of whatever power and control you have. No matter how difficult the decision is, making a decision will always be better than letting others decide your life for you. (At least, in my humble opinion, that’s true.)

      Good luck. I wish you the best!

      Karen

      • Dear Karen,
        If I moved towns to be with my partner in marriage and I need space from our unresolved problems to think about separation or divorce and we have one 3 yrs old child who just started nursery, do I move back to my home time where I don’t need to pay rent and make my son moves schools and away from his father or do I move out and stay in the same town to keep my son in school and near his dad but I have to pay rent on my own when I don’t have a stable job as I depend on my partner for finances. Please advise. I love my husband but I feel like we are not compatible and mostly at odds with each other’s values. I am soft he is hard. I feel defeated to fight to stand up for myself without his support. He can be very nasty with communication. Please help.

        • I wish I could answer you, but you really need legal advice from a local lawyer about this. I don’t know how far away your partner’s town is from your home town. Because you have a child involved, this question is more complicated than you might think. You really need legal advice. Unfortunately, I can’t give that to you online or outside the state of Illinois.

    • I very much had to reply to this because this is SO so relatable to me I am in tears. Like this woman I have a cheating spouse (1 sexual encounter I know of, at least 5 or more he has talked to sexually). Also, have 3 children and the physical cheating happened while I was pregnant with my 3rd child and after he was born.

      However, of course he is a great father and amazing provider but the pain is still there. I know the answer is clear, but he get soo emotional when I bring up divorce. Of course I am.financially upside down after having trouble keeping a job and have chosen to stay home with our 2yo. (I was also laid off 2 weeks after the physical affair to add insult to injury)

      I am.emotionless most days because I have been hurt so much so many times I almost cannot feel the hurt anymore. He just thinks trying harder will make everything ok, and of course being the sole breadwinner he knows it.

      I have the courage mentally but he will not make this easy, and financially I am worried I won’t be able to make it.

      Just need some encouraging words….. Thank you.

      • My heart goes out to you. Divorce is never easy. But living in a marriage with a serial cheater isn’t easy either.

        I can understand your concern about not being able to make it financially after you divorce. The way to combat your fear is with knowledge. The more you can learn about your current financial situation, the better off you will be. Also, you need to rally yourself and start thinking about what you can do for a job. Staying home with your 2yo is great if you can afford it. But, if you get divorced, you may not be able to afford it. So, now is the time to start realistically considering what you can and can’t do to make money.

        If you need to go back to school, then do it. If you need more work experience at a lesser job to build yourself up, then get it. If you need better contacts to land a decent job, start networking now.

        The bottom line is that, whatever you need to do to get yourself to be self-supporting (or as close to it as possible) that’s what you need to start doing.

        You also might want to talk to a divorce lawyer and get an idea of what you might get in child support and/or alimony/maintenance if you divorce. Knowing that will help you figure out how much money you need to generate yourself in order to make ends meet.

        Finally, get yourself a therapist. Going through a divorce is rough. Doing it when you’re already numb and emotionless can be harder. Trust me, your emotions are still there. You may not feel them. But, they are still there. The sooner you can unearth them and start to deal with them, the better off you will be.

        Whether you get divorced or not, you are going to face challenges. But they are challenges that you CAN face. You are stronger than you think. You may never have wanted to be in this situation, but now that you are, know that you can deal with it. It won’t be easy. But you can do this.

        Hang in there!

        Karen

  • Thank you for this article. I’m a stay at home mom, been married for 7 years and am heavily considering divorce or separation (idealy). The problem is that my husband doesn’t seem to want neither nor does he make an effort to change things in our marriage and home. He knows changes have to happen but he doesn’t do his part. I’ve felt empty and alone in our marriage for several years now. It slowly and progressively became this way. Even though I would tell my husband that we would be here one day, he never bothered to make the changes he needed to. I always feel rejection from him (sexually, physically, morally and emotionally). He’s controlling and I’ve started to wonder if he is verbally and emotionally abusive. He points out my flaws more often than he points out my strengths. He recently crushed me when I wanted to take my mother (who was visiting) to a local lake. I mentioned to him that we did not have to spend money (since we had just gotten back from a little vacation with our kids and my mother) and he agreed to go sometime during that week. He hadn’t set a date so when I brought it up towards the end of the week and told him we would be going the following day, he became so irritable and didn’t want me to go. I asked him what was the big deal if we didn’t have to spend money and he said, “it costs gas to get there” then went on to tell me to get a job. He recently retired and I can understand he might be stressed (although we have a healthy bank account). However, what I don’t understand is that the following day, he bought alcohol and asked if we could host a small get together with his friend and wife. He gets very upset and moody when I spend money (regardless of the amount…even when I was working, too) and always blames me for almost everything that goes wrong including our marital issues. He doesn’t communicate with me. I’ve known more about his plans after retirement because of conversations he has had with other people when they ask. We went to counseling at the beginning of our marriage but we didn’t complete it because he cancelled two appointments in a row (to watch sports). I recently tried to schedule counseling for us again but no one would call me back so I gave up on trying after several attempts. I asked him if he could take care of it (Hoping he would have better luck than me) but has yet to do anything. I can go on and on about all of our issues and why I am heavily considering divorce. I don’t want I be a divorced woman, I’m afraid of how often my kids will see their dad and how it will affect them (I come from a broken home). But I also want to be the best to my kids and being in this marriage just makes me so unhappy, alone irritable and tense (possibly depressed). I’m not afraid of having to do it on my own with my two kids, I just don’t want to break up my family. We will be moving out of State next year so I have started to prepare myself with licenses/credentials to get back to work asap. In the meantime, I don’t have a place to move to temporarily since we currently live in a State alone with no family near by. I also don’t want for him to move to my town only to get divorced and him having to move once again (it makes me feel selfish). I don’t know what to do anymore other than suck it up until I can get back on my feet and take things from there. Thank you for taking the time to read my vent.

    • Where do I start?

      It sounds like you are very unhappy. You are also obviously very conflicted about getting divorced. That’s understandable. Divorce may get you out of a relationship where you feel controlled, unappreciated and disrespected. But, it will also mean that you will then have to take control of your life yourself – and that’s scary! It will have an affect on your kids. And, if getting a divorce is your decision, then you’ll have to deal with the guilt that comes along with that, too.

      I know you said you tried calling a therapist. Try again. Try harder. Get a therapist for yourself. If you can get your husband to go to a marriage counselor with you, great! But, it sounds like you could really use a therapist of your own. It’s time to start looking inside yourself, dealing with your own issues (we all have them!) and reclaiming your own power. I know that becoming empowered when you’re married to someone who is constantly pointing out your flaws isn’t easy. But it can be done. You can do it.

      Once you can start standing on your own with more strength and courage, your next steps – whatever they are – will become clearer and easier to take.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hi,

    I have been married for three years. Married my high school sweetheart and first real boyfriend. We married at a very young age. All throughout our relationship I felt the urge to explore and be with other people or be alone. However each time I attempted to do so, I felt enormous guilt and did nothing. Then we got married, a little over a year ago I had an affair. Emotional and sexual. At that point I realized I wanted to be alone. I needed to be me alone and away from my husband. Hwowver when the affair came out I was again driven to comfort and back to working things out. I love my husband and he is an great person. I however do not feel fulfilled in the marriage or really interested in a future. Sex is not enjoyable for me and I feel a lack of connection. I also still have very strong feelings for the other man. I have been separated for some time now and am considering divorce at this point. My family says I will regret this but I am also scared to continue to live with these feeling for another year.

    • I know you face a difficult decision. But, it sounds like you already made your decision long ago. You’ve just tried to push your decision aside, and pretend it’s not true, when you know it is.

      I don’t mean to be hard on you, but it’s time to be honest – with yourself and with your husband. If you want to be alone, you need to tell your husband that. If your husband is really the great man that you say, then he deserves to know the truth. And it’s time for you to stop hiding it.

      Telling the truth doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get divorced. Maybe a marriage counselor could help you repair your marriage. Maybe not. (Ok. Probably not.) But, it’s time for you to look inside of yourself and be honest about what you see. You might also want to start doing some deep work on yourself to figure out how you got to where you are now, and what you are so afraid of. Working through your own issues, whatever they are (and we all have our issues, so don’t feel like I’m picking on you here!) is never bad. It may also help you from making similar mistakes in your next relationship.

      Good luck.

      Karen

  • Hi
    I have a full time job been at my job for 13 years and have a 6 year old son and also live with my parents im tryin to get out of a marriage that i no longer wont to be in i don’t wont nothing i just want to be single and take care of my son but my husband is threatening to take my son away from me will the judge allow that

    • I wish I could answer you and put your mind at ease. But there are so many factors that come into play in a situation like yours, that I couldn’t possibly tell you what will happen, one way or the other.

      What I do suggest is getting some good legal advice as soon as possible. You need a lawyer who can advise you about your rights and responsibilities. You need someone who can help you make a plan and a strategy for achieving that plan. I strongly suggest that you find a good family law attorney in your area as soon as possible.

      Karen

  • Well: I have been a SAHM for the last 10 years. I am a permanent resident of the US but NOT a citizen, My husband and kiddos are. We lived abroad for over 10 years and we moved to the States a few years ago. So, I have NO family or close friends near by. My husbands has cheated on me a couple of times and this recent one has me over the fence. I am still deciding if our relationship is worth saving. Thirteen years together. My problem is that I dont know where to start?? As my kids are in school all day now I’ve been looking for jobs but nothing has come yet. I have a bachelor’s degree in Ecotourism, but I have worked in a lot of different environments plus I am bilingual. I just don’t know how to make the first step???

  • I’ve been on the fence for the past couple of years about my marriage. We’ve been married 18 years, with two kids (13 and 10), but the wife and I have been drifting into a roommate situation for a while now.

    Unfortunately, many years of my wife being hostile, judgmental and inflexible/impatient with me, the kids, and my parents have taken their toll. I am a people-pleaser by nature, so I’ve been working on enforcing better boundaries with her and calling her out on her bad behavior. Boy, does she hate that! At the same time, there are stretches when she’s not only tolerable but downright kind. She’s tried solo therapy but always quits after a few sessions, and we did a handful of couples counseling sessions a couple years ago (my idea), but we ended that when she told me she felt like I was “winning” at our sessions. Ugh.

    We both work — in fact, she makes about $50K a year more than I do — but I can’t seem to pull the trigger to initiate a separation. The other night, she confronted me after I called her out on an un-empathetic remark (she made a snide comment about where my elderly parents are going to be moving in a couple of months — a slightly longer drive for us when we visit them). She said I was so mean to her lately, suggested that we should “divide our assets” and be single parents, and then asked me, “What do you want?” I froze — and then gave a vague answer about wanting respect and real partnership from her.

    I almost wish she’d toss a coffee mug at my head so I’d have a clear-cut reason to get out. Help!

    • It sounds like you’re looking for the easy way out. That’s usually the time when life is least likely to give it to you. (Sorry! No coffee mugs for you!)

      Time for a little tough love. If you are that unhappy in your marriage (and it sounds like you are) it’s up to YOU to do something about it. While it would be nice if your wife made things easier, the truth is that YOU are responsible for your own happiness. (Again, sorry! But you asked.)

      You can’t change your wife. You can’t control your wife. All you can do is manage your own behavior and control yourself. If doing that isn’t getting you the relationship you want you have 2 choices: change yourself or re-evaluate whether you want to be in this marriage in the first place. If you decide you don’t, then YOU are going to have to take steps to end the marriage.

      The reason you’ve been on the fence for so long is because you are waiting for your wife to take action and end the marriage. So far, that hasn’t happened. Maybe it never will. So, if you truly want out, it’s time for you to step up and face that reality. On the other hand, if you’re not sure you want out, then it’s up to you to step up and get yourself in therapy, or do whatever you need so that you can focus on what YOU can do to make the marriage better.

      If you’ve tried everything, and you know your marriage is beyond repair, then you can be at peace when you decide to call it quits.

      Finally, an observation. It sounds like you are very focused on everything your wife is doing wrong. I wonder what would happen if you focused instead on what she’s doing right? I wonder if that would change your relationship?

      If it seems like I’ve been hard on you here, I apologize. But, from what you wrote, it seems like you are very unhappy, but looking for someone else to save you from that. YOU can save yourself. You’re the only one who can.

      I hope that helps.

      Karen

  • I’m so glad I stumbled across this article and also happy to see it is still active in the comments. With that said, here is my situation. I fee like u should leave but the fear of the unknown cripples me.

    Quick overview of us, we have been married 10 years, have two kids ages 8 and 5.

    I am an emotional person. Emotions are important to me. Sometimes as a man, I am not the “strong one”. I am not very romantic either but I love showing random acts of affection. Sometimes, I’m a little lazy but I do a lot to help around the house and with the kids. I’m not a good communicator sometimes. Ok, I acknowledged my issues…so here’s the rest.

    Over the years, my wife’s lack of affection has really gotten to me. I am a person who requires emotions in a relationship. In addition to that, our sex life has slowly decreased over time. We are now about once every two week to a month. Not bad but not great IMO.

    When I bring these things up, she gets annoyed. She says things like “oh, you have got it so bad”, in a condensing way. I’ve been belittled in arguments over and over again. I am constantly reminded on how she is a “good catch”.

    I feel unappreciated. I cook, I clean, I take the kids to school, bathe them, take them to sports etc… and yes I know, these are expected of me and I have no problem doing them. No matter what I do though, I feel like it’s never enough. I work, fix things around the house, make home improvements, etc.. I’m made to feel I should be doing more or that what I do is not good. I’ve struggled with these feelings for a while and have expressed them numerous times. Nothing changes.

    She says she “knows she is not that bad” and brushes it all of to act like I’m too emotional. On my days off, when alone, I feel like I can’t take time to myself. I’m worried about making sure I’m doing something to please her. When I do things around the house, my abilities are belittled. Example, I recently hung 3 new ceiling fans. One of which I ran into an issue. She saw me sweating my butt off, getting upset, and instead of asking if I am ok, do I need a hand, or anything…….she says “what the heck,, everytime you do something it turns into something more than what it should have been”, as well as other condescending type statements.

    We both work a lot and have good careers, so I know we are both tired….I get that

    But, I’m never to tired to tell her she looks beautiful, or give her a kiss when I get home, or a random hug. Simple little signs and actions of affection. These things are never returned….honestly when I say never I mean it. Additionally, when I say that I do these things and she never returns them she swears up and down I don’t do these things…and I know I do.

    I can’t help but to think she doesn’t love me and that I’ll never be good enough.

    Her response is “if I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t be with you”. Should that be enough? Should I accept that answer and just accept that she is who she is?

    I just don’t fee like I get any kind of validation…. at all. As an emotional person, this is important. Again…I’ve expressed this to her for a long time. She knows how i feel but never seems to make a conscious effort to improve.

    In addition to all of that, I can not remember the last time she has initiated sex. I’ll admit, I have a very high drive. But I’m not looking for much. Once a week is good for me. I would just love for her to initiate sex but it never happens. I have to do it. 80-90% of the time, I am shot down. It’s something that bothers me immensely. I have shared this with her and her response is “I think you have a problem”. It’s not normal to have that high of a drive she says. Again, I’m made to feel like I’m the one with an issue. Am I?

    Recently, I decided I can’t hold in these feelings anymore. I blew up on her and finally took a REAL stand for how I feel. It happened while I was doing some house chores. She was picking apart the way I was cleaning. It’s not up to “her standard” and it wasn’t how “she would do it”

    She was so upset with how I approached it and basically thinks my points are invalid. She shows love “in other ways” is what she says. When she says that she means by working hard in her career and doing things around the house. She says “I know I’m a good wife and I’m not a bad person.”

    I decided it was time to call a counselor a few days later, she agreed to go.

    The first meeting went well. However, since then, she refused to say she loves me. She said she is “protecting herself”. When I asked why she said because of me being unhappy. My thought process is if you know I’m unhappy, wouldn’t you try harder to make me happy? At least I feel like this is what I would do if I were in her shoes. I told her ALL of this.

    Her response was “you don’t control me, so you better take a step back. I’ll say it when things are better”.

    We had our second meeting the other day. It was my turn to lay out my expectations. After doing so the counselor said I laid out very realistic expectations. They were not unrealistic by any means. Basically, I was looking for respect and affection in my expectations.

    My expectations were met with a “I am who I am and I’m not going to change”. The counselor seemed taken back. We had to end the session shortly after due to time.

    Last night, we were lying in bed and I cuddled with her and was talking to her. It’s a situation where I knew we were both in the mood. So I thought to myself, she heard what I said today let me see if she tries anything. After a few minutes I mentioned this and she got upset. She said I’m not going to change over night. Ok, I get it, and I do not expect you to change instantly. I initiated and then our dog messed everything up (long story there). We didn’t have sex but afterwards it turned into a fight because I wanted the puppy to go downstairs and she didn’t…it became a huge mess. Then it led to the other things. I told her I knew she can’t change over night. But I think any normal person in that situation would have been like “oh….. here is my chance to initiate, he just mentioned today how important this is to him, let me show him I listened and that I really do care”. But she didn’t see it that way.

    I told her yet again why these things are imperative to me and how not feeling wanted has really hurt me. She said she doesn’t understand, she said I’m too emotional. She said “I’ll show you what it is like to not be wanted, don’t text me throughout the day, don’t call me and don’t touch me, I’m not going to counseling anymore either”. It was the ” I know I’m not a bad person and if I didn’t love you I wouldn’t be with you”.

    I then once again started questioning the way I felt. Am I asking too much? Should it not be a big deal? Is it ok for me to never receive what I think is affection?

    I could type way more but that is the gist of it. I can go into more detail if you would like. For instance, yesterday I stopped by the grocery store to pick up dinner, she mentioned she needed deodorant. Well, apparently I picked the wrong deodorant and man did I get yealled at for that one. Like “you know this is not what I use”. I said, no I did not know that. I said, “do you know what kind I wear?” She did not have an answer. It is things like this that drive me nuts.

    But, the way she turns things around I am ALWAYS questioning myself and whether or not I am the one in the wrong.

    I know what I should do but I’m scared. I fee like over the years I’ve been made to believe its always my fault and I can’t help but to feel the same way here. The unknown scares me. If I leave, will I fee better? Will I redeem it? I just don’t know. 🙁

    • Oh my! Where to start?

      First of all, I apologize for having taken so long to respond. But, you wrote a lot, and I wanted to make sure I was able to digest everything you said so I could respond thoughtfully.I’ll try my best.

      First off, it’s clear that you are not happy in your marriage. What’s not as clear is where you are at in therapy. It sounds like your wife may have stopped going with you to counseling. If so, that would be a shame. Dealing with relationship issues takes time. Sometimes it takes a LOT of time. While marriage counseling isn’t the answer for everyone, it is usually a great place to work on your marriage and make improvements over time. If you can get back into counseling, it would be a good idea.

      But, if your wife won’t go back to counseling, then what?

      It starts by figuring out what you want.

      Do you want to stay married to your wife? That’s what you need to ask yourself. But, from what you wrote, I can’t tell what your answer would be.

      You said you are an emotional person and emotions are important to you. You said sex is important to you. What you didn’t say, in all of what you wrote, is whether you love your wife. You didn’t say whether you wanted to be married to your wife.

      You seem to be self-aware. You know you’re not perfect. (No one is, by the way!) But you also know you have needs and your needs are not being met. You’re focused on how your wife doesn’t do what you want. It seems that she, too, is focused on how you’re not doing what she wants. With all due respect, you seem to be locked into a way of relating to each other that isn’t doing a whole lot of good for either one of you.

      While that sounds negative, it’s really not.

      None of the problems you’ve talked about are insurmountable. If you change yourself, and you change how you deal with your wife, you will change your relationship. If you start acting differently towards your wife, I’d be willing to bet that she will start acting differently to you. The key, though, is to stop playing the game that you’ve been playing with her for years. If you want an amazing, loving, wonderful marriage, you can’t make it a power struggle. You can’t make it a situation where you say, “I’ll give you what you need IF you give me what I need first.” You also can’t keep focusing on all of the things she DOESN’T do for you and then expect her to treat you like you want to be treated.

      Relationships don’t work that way.

      I know this sounds crazy. You can think I’m crazy if you want. But, if you want a different result in your marriage, you have to do things differently than you’ve been doing. I think it was Einstein who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

      You’ve told your wife what you want. You’ve argued with her. You’ve talked to her. You’ve focused on your needs and told her how important they are. None of that is wrong. But now, for six months, try focusing on HER needs. Not on what you THINK are her needs. But on what SHE really wants. How do you know?

      Ask her.

      Ask her what she wants. Talk to her. A lot. Ten times more than you think you need to. Talk to her. Focus on HER. Stop thinking about yourself. Do what makes her happy. I’m not saying to be a doormat. I’m not saying that you push your own needs aside. I’m also not saying you’re going to do this forever. What I’m suggesting is that you try an experiment. Ask her what she wants. Listen to her. Spend time with her. Love her the way SHE wants to be loved. Then see what happens.

      I’ll be willing to bet that, at first, she won’t trust what you’re doing. She’ll wonder what you’re up to. She’ll be suspicious. But, she will like being the center of your world. She will start to melt. And, if she loves you, she will start to want to make you feel as good as she’s feeling.

      Of course, if she doesn’t love you, you may get a different result. That will tell you a lot. If she still focuses on all of your faults and constantly makes you wrong, point that out to her, in as non-accusing a way as you can. Tell her you’re trying your best to bet he best husband you can be. Don’t judge her or try to make her feel guilty by saying she’s not being a good wife. Focus on what you can control – yourself and your behavior.

      If, after six months, nothing has changed and your relationship is the same, then you will be able to walk away from it with a clear conscious. On the other hand, if things have gotten better, you won’t need to leave.

      You asked if you can redeem your relationship. I don’t know the answer. But, if you try, you just might.

      Meanwhile, even if your wife won’t go back to couples counseling, you would be wise to get into counseling yourself. Keep working on yourself. The better and stronger you become, the better off you will be – whether your marriage makes it through this rough patch or not.

      I hope this helps.

      Karen

      PS The unknown scares everyone. But if and when the pain of staying in your relationship as it is gets too unbearable, you will find the strength to leave, non matter how scary that thought is. One way or another, you will get through this time. You will be okay.

  • I don’t even know where to start. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I really don’t want to be married any more, but I’m stuck. We’ve been married for 18 years and together for 22. We have 3 children together. I guess I’ve never really been truly happy in our marriage, maybe at the beginning I was. I think my bad feelings toward him began after my first miscarriage less than a year after we got married. He did take me to the hospital for a d&c and then brought me home but left and went right back to work after dropping me off. He has always been a workaholic and it never got better. I’ve always felt like he just doesn’t care about me. There is no sympathy from him at all. A couple years ago right before christmas I was having horrible pain. I ended up driving myself to the doctors 30 mins away because he wouldn’t. It was just diverticulitis but I was in pain. The pills they gave me for it made me horribly sick and the pain was bad. I was throwing up. I asked if he could watch the baby that night – just take care of her if she woke up. He said he had to get up early for work the next day. Thankfully she slept all night because I was up all night in pain and throwing up. Stuff like that happens a lot. He doesn’t care if I’m sick or in pain. I had a bad gallbladder attack and actually ended up staying in the hospital because of it and getting it removed. I had to call my mom to drive me that night because he had to work the next morning and who would take care of the kids if he drove me. He doesn’t have one pinch of sympathy. I think because maybe he didn’t get any growing up. He’s never stuck up for me or defended me.
    He’s a good man and a good dad and provider. Things have been bad for years. He posted a craigslist ad 2 years ago looking for a sexting partner and slept with her once before I found out. He said he felt bad and would never cheat on me again, but then a year later he posted another ad looking for a penpal and then several months ago posted an ad for a threesome because he thought I wanted one! We had a huge fight and I found out that he thinks I have never in our whole marriage done my part during sex. I don’t just lay there and do nothing! But he has a big sex drive and likes a lot of things I don’t. Even though we’ve done several different positions during the years and I’ve done many things I wasn’t comfortable with and didn’t like, I still never did my share in the bedroom. Apparently I’m absolutely horrible in bed. But now, I just don’t want to have sex with him because of all that. It’s mostly not the physical cheating but what he said. And I’m supposed to fake it as well. I’ve never faked an orgasm and don’t see the point. I don’t always have one, but I do more often then not. But now I have to fake it if I don’t. I have a hard time sleeping with him now. I find that I can’t orgasm now and it was never a problem before. And when I do I have worked so hard to make myself that I get an instant sharp piercing headache when I do. I’m trying to avoid sex now and that isn’t helping our marriage.
    I’m stuck though. I haven’t worked in over 14 years since just before our first child was born. I have no skills at all. I can’t do anything. I’m stupid. I have an unfinished degree towards teaching that I can’t finish because we have no money and too much debt. I have no skills in anything. I’m also very shy and introverted. I have anxiety when I’m around people. I’ve thought about maybe applying to be a substitute playground helper/class/lunchroom helper, but I looked up sample interview questions for that and I can’t answer any of those questions. I used to be smart, but now I just keep getting dumber and dumber. I have a bad memory. The thought of working at a fast food restaurant and dealing with all those people all day makes me want to vomit and die. Of course, they didn’t even hire me years and years ago when I applied before having kids. I have no job and no skills to get a job so I can’t leave, I’m stuck. No family and zero friends. But I’m so unhappy. I just want to be loved and love someone with my whole heart. He is a good man, and he works hard and loves the kids. I just don’t think he loves me. I hate that he has always worked 60+ hours a week, often going on business trips. We have zero in common, we are literally 100% opposite in everything. I don’t think he intentionally does things , but he makes me feel stupid. And when I say I’m stupid he doesn’t agree or disagree, he says nothing. There is no non sexual attention or affection from him. No hand holding or kissing. He barely kisses during sex. All he does when he’s home is play with the kids (which is very good) or play on his phone or talk about work. He never asks how I am. And it just feels like I’m always wrong about everything. I could say the grass is green and he’d say it looks more brown. Everything I say is wrong. I could say the sky is blue and he’d probably say it’s more grey than blue. I keep telling him and his annoying mother I think it’s carpenter ants in our kitchen, but no one believes me. I’m never right it seems. I could be 100% sure that I’m right and I still would never be right. Just once I’d like someone to tell me I was right about something.
    I’ve also seen how divorce can mess kids up and I don’t want that for my kids. Do I stay unhappy and unloved? Not like I have a choice unless a large sum of money came my way and I could go back to school. Student loans won’t work, we still have too much debt and are still paying off an consolidations loan with student loans in it from the last time I went to school. There’s just no hope.
    I’m just so lost and stuck.

    • You’ve written a lot here. I probably won’t be able to respond to it all, but I’ll try to hit the most important stuff.

      First and foremost, you are not stupid! If you were smart enough to find this website and reach out for help, you’re not stupid. So, lets take that off the table right from the start.

      You say you’re lost and stuck. I believe you. But, that doesn’t mean you have to stay that way forever.

      Right now you don’t have a lot of confidence. I’m not surprised. It seems that your husband has been filling your head with thoughts about how bad and inadequate you are for a long time. The first step in moving you toward a better life is to start to change what’s in your head.

      You are not always wrong. You are not dumb. You are not without resources. There is hope. But, changing your life will take time and effort on your part. If you are willing to work at changing your life, you absolutely can.

      I suggest you start by getting a therapist. You can’t change your life until you believe that you can. I understand that you don’t have money, but many therapists are covered by health insurance. Others will work on a sliding scale. The bottom line is that you need someone to talk to and you need support. Without that, you will start out all enthusiastic about the changes you want to make in your life. Then, your husband will start telling you that you are stupid and that you’ll never change. You’ll start to believe him. Then you’ll give up and end up right back where you started from.

      It’s not that any of that is true. It’s just that its hard to change when you’re living with someone who is telling you every day that you can’t.

      Please understand that this is not about being dumb or being weak. You need help. There is no shame in that. A therapist can help you with your anxiety. S/he can help you with your confidence, your social skills, and so much more. So start there. Once you have built yourself up a bit, THEN you can start looking for work, and getting yourself in a better financial position. THEN you can start thinking about divorce. Taking things one step at a time will make everything so much more manageable.

      Hang in there! You can do this!

      Best.

      Karen

      PS As for the sex, with all due respect, that’s not your primary problem. What you want is love and respect. What you want is intimacy with a partner who cares about you. To get all of that, you have to start by loving and respecting yourself. You have to start by taking care of yourself. Once you start to do all of that, my guess is that your sexual feelings will return. (Whether you will want to have sex with your husband or not at that point is a different discussion. I can’t say what will happen with that. But, as I said, first things first!)

  • My wife of 26 years has been verbally abusive since day one. She has denied me any type of sex for 26 years even though she was a crazy person in bed when we dated. As soon as I asked her to marry me she found religion. She has never used her degree and is a stay at home mom. This would be fine except I don’t like being treated like I am the devil. I make a 6 figure income. I never drink or use drugs. I dump all my money into the house and kids. I am not verbally abusive. When we dated she was so desperate to get married. We were 23 years old and I had a half a year left in university. While driving in the Rocky Mountains she started screaming at me and said she was going to drive the car over the 10000 foot cliff if I didn’t set a date. Being young and stupid I agreed. In the last 26 years I have been so unhappy. She fights over the smallest things and uses the nuclear bomb every time. She makes me say sorry all the time. I once asked her why she never says sorry. She said she is never wrong. I once told her all the great things I like about her. I waited for her response and then asked her what she like about me. She said I can’t think of anything.

    She is short and has gained weight over the years and I am 6’6 inches tall and 230 pounds. Even if she is overweight it would not matter, but it is insulting to have someone 70 overweight treating me like she is Miss America. Like I mentioned, I have to beg for intimacy. She never touches me or initiates. It is insulting. She told me once that no woman would want me because she knows the real me. The real me is a super nice guy. I don’t gamble, drink or fool around. I am in shape and I have a great professional job. No bad guy would stay 26 years for this type of abuse. I felt sorry for her and our children. Now that the children are all in college I feel I want my freedom.

    I tried living 3 years ago and she went completely nuts. She threatened to kill herself that night. Told me to tell the kids go bye. Being a sucker I came back but I am totally lost right now. I hate being married to a woman who has abused me and I hate the feeling I am just a pay check.

    I want to leave next week and ask for a divorce but I know she will threaten to kill herself and use guilt on me that she has no job and we can’t afford for me to move out. It pisses me off because instead of retiring when I am 60 I will have to work my ass off until 65 because she never helped out financially.

    I just feel so dead inside and we did go for counselling twice and both times they told her to let me go. She said both of them are quacks.

    What really gets me mad is I will have to pay her support for the rest of my life even though she is one of the smartest people I have ever met. She is so talented but every time I asked her to get a job she went completely crazy. It was better to shut up than fight. She would always say who is going to be there for the children. I said I don’t think our teenagers need mom home after school. What makes her so entitled to think she can stay home while we go into debt.

    Anyway, I am just really scared because she is a crazy person and will go off the deep end next week.

    • I can understand why you are scared. The bigger question is how long you are going to let that fear stop you from doing what you want to do? How many more years are you going to stay in a marriage which has been making you so unhappy for so very long?

      Now, if you tell your wife you want a divorce, and you move out, will she go crazy? Probably. Will she threaten suicide again? Probably. Human behavior is consistent. Her threats worked in the past, so it only makes sense that she will try them again now. The truth is, you can’t control her. But you can control yourself. You can control your reactions. So, this time, when she threatens, you can decide to cave in again, or you can decide to move forward in spite of her threats.

      You said you went for counseling twice. If you don’t have a counselor yourself now, I suggest that you get one. I seriously doubt that your divorce will be easy or cheap. You will be grateful for all the support that a counselor can give you.

      If your wife has been manipulating you as you say for the past 26 years, she’s not going to stop manipulating you (or trying to do so) now.

      Do your best to try to prepare yourself for what’s coming. Don’t be surprised if she tries to manipulate the kids into hating you. (From your description of her behavior, I would guess that she’ll probably try to turn the kids against you in order to keep you from leaving. I hope I’m wrong. But, it’s better to be ready for the worst, even while hoping for the best.)

      Getting a divorce from your wife won’t be easy. If what you said about her behavior is accurately, my guess is you will be heading into a fairly high conflict divorce. But, that doesn’t mean you should continue to stay miserable until the day you die.

      You said you’re afraid she will go over the deep end. Okay. So, what if she does? I don’t mean to sound cold, but, again, you can’t control her. If she chooses to go off the deep end, that’s her issue. Will that make moving forward with a divorce harder for you? Of course it will. That’s the point. That’s why she’s doing what she’s doing.

      As for having to support her for the rest of your life, I don’t mean to be cold, but, again, there’s nothing you can do about that. You chose to support her for 26 years. You may have hated doing it, but you did it. The truth is, whether you stay married or get divorced, you’re still likely to be supporting her. The only difference is whether you are married to her or not while you are doing it. Is that fair? Maybe not. But, the more important question is, what do you want to do with the rest of your life? Do you want to continue to live like you’re living? Or have you had enough?

      That’s a question only you can answer.

      No matter what you decide, your life won’t be easy, at least not in the short term. But, if you get a divorce, at least you have some hope for achieving happiness in the future. If you stay married, your marriage and your life will likely continue to be just as they are now. Again, I could be wrong. But, given her behavior, I suspect I’m right.

      The bottom line is, it’s your life, and your choice.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

      • I have a wife who truly loves me. We have been married 36 years with 3 grown children doing well. Our disabled child passed away. I never felt happy getting married but was in a religious community where the leader said I would be guilty if I backed out. At 66 I feel that my body and mind might not be strong enough for divorce and it seems easier to just accept my unhappiness. I have a history of depression and hospitalization mostly over my ambivalence in being married. HIT got me so depressed last year that I attempted suicide to escape my pain. I am presently in a day treatment mental health program and fear I might not be strong enough to go alone as I have been dependent in many ways. I should say that I had a great career in education that I miss.. Retirement and empty nest have not worked well – was an excellent father and feel proud of that and was a great provider.I love my wife but just am not in love. Indecision and fear of the future are killing me.

        • People say that getting divorced is hard. It is. But, being stuck in an unhappy marriage, too afraid to leave, yet miserable when you stay, is just as bad. It may even be worse.

          Here’s the problem – no matter what you do, you’re going to lose. If you stay married, you lose the chance to find happiness and love with someone who might suit you better. Yet, if you get divorced, you will lose the wife who truly loves you. You may also lose your financial stability and the approval of your religious community. That’s not insignificant.

          But even though you will lose something no matter what you decide, you will also gain something too. If you stay married, and you work on your relationship with your wife, you might be surprised by the happiness you can create for yourself. If you get divorced, you might find a new love, or at least create the life you’ve always wanted.

          Yet, there’s a third option: do nothing. Interestingly, of all of your options, that is the only one that is pretty much guaranteed to bring you just misery. It is the only option where you have everything to lose, and nothing to gain.

          When you are stuck in indecision, you can’t commit to working on your marriage, so you find no happiness there. At the same time, you can’t look forward to creating a new life through divorce either. As a result, you stay frustrated, unhappy and stuck.

          I wish I could tell you what you should decide. But I can’t. Divorce is an intensely personal decision. Only you can decide what you want to do. But, here’s the key: You CAN decide. You have the power to get yourself out of indecision whenever you are willing to DO something, and live with the consequences, no matter what they are.

          Is that scary? Sure. But, is existing in unhappiness and depression better? I don’t know. That’s the choice you have to make.

          The truth is, life has no guarantees. No matter what you do, there will be consequences. But there are consequences to doing nothing, too. Not making a decision IS a decision.

          Finally, I urge you to get professional help. It seems you’ve been stuck in this place for a long time. Especially given your history of depression and attempted suicide, getting a therapist to guide you through your decision-making process can help a lot.

          I wish you the best.

  • Hello my husband and I have been married for 14 years now we have three children and my oldest daughter who is 16 who he’s been Daddy to since age one he’s wrong in our marriage and has changed a lot he has also became very spiritual and his believes and has taking away birthdays Christmas holidays constantly changing his mind about our family and our marriage is based on me submitting To him he says I feel trapped I feel like I don’t want to be married anymore I don’t want to put my children through this all they know is that they have Christian parents and mom cries every day I’m on disability and I just don’t know if I’ll be making the right decision

    • I can hear how conflicted you are!

      It sounds like you need some guidance and support deciding whether to divorce or stay married. It’s a rough decision for everyone. But, when you have strong religious beliefs against getting divorced, that makes your decision even harder.

      I encourage you to get support. If you can, start seeing a counselor. Educate yourself as much as you can about divorce. If you can, talk to an attorney so you understand what you are facing. Before making any decision, you need to know all of the pros and cons of staying married versus getting divorced.

      Also, take your time. Divorce is a huge decision. If your husband will go with you to couples counseling, you might want to give that a try, too. A good marriage counselor can often help you and your husband work out your issues and save your marriage.

      Finally, understand that, no matter what you decide, you still may never be 100% sure that you made the right decision. It’s normal to second guess yourself. But that doesn’t mean that you have to stay stuck until you know for sure that your decision is “right.” If you wait for total certainty, you will never move at all. You will just stay stuck. Remember, NOT making a decision IS a decision.

      So do whatever you have to do to make the best decision you can. Don’t worry about being “right.” Just do your best. That’s all you can do.

  • Thank you for this article, it’s spot on. I’ve been married for 11 years after a relationship of 7 years, we have two small children. 16 years ago I left my home country to join him in his, we have moved many times over that period of time. Looking from the outside we have everything: a beautiful house, two healthy children, good jobs, except we’re not happy. For the last 4-5 years we are struggling, I feel that he abandoned me emotionally, I am very emotional and passionate and caring and I feel now that’s gone with him, I feel he killed it with his indifference and lack of emotional support and lack of showing affection. We have been to marriage counseling (after I insisted) but I don’t feel it helped – at some point the therapist told us he couldn’t help us any further if we were not gonna change. He suggested he would also go to therapy to try to get in touch with his emotions but he didn’t do anything. During the rough times we argued a lot, he called me names and that was for me the last drop, he apologized but I’m still so hurt for everything he did and said. Nowadays we don’t fight much, but there is a lot of distance. And sometimes he tries to get closer and it’s nice but it lasts two weeks and then goes back to nothing, it’s so confusing. A couple of years ago I fell for someone at work, he is everything I was missing and I know it sounds cliche but it just happened: we got emotionally involved and that is still going on, I know it’s “wrong” but he has been my lifeline all along, I can be myself when I’m with him, I can speak and act freely without feeling judged or that I should fulfill a certain expectation. I also had a burnout and after recovering I went back to work. A year later I was diagnosed with depression for which I’m still recovering, depression coming from being away from my family, not having a strong social network because I’ve moved so much, having a collapsing marriage and two young kids who demand so much from me. My husband doesn’t know about my emotional affair and I don’t plan to tell him. He has made some changes but I don’t think it’s enough for me (and I’m not trying to justify my emotional affair, I’m perfectly aware of the mess I’m in – please no judging comments). He still refuses to go to marriage counseling even though my depression therapist has suggested it, because he doesn’t like talking to strangers about his things. I think it’s selfish of his. I think he thinks I’m the one with the problem so once I’m “fixed” it will all go back to normal. I’ve been considering divorce for more than 3 years now, because although he’s a good guy, I’m not happy anymore. But I’m indeed afraid of making a mistake and making the wrong decision, I’m afraid for my children and the impact it will have on them, and I’m afraid of being selfish and putting “my” happiness above theirs. But I also know that by feeling so irritated by and angry towards my husband doesn’t make me a better mother to my children. I don’t know what to do and who to go to. My family is very religious so they always tell me to put everything in God’s hands and it will be ok, but I know for me that’s not enough. I don’t have a lot of friends and the one I can trust has helped me a lot by listening to me but I know in the end only I/we can make a decision, we don’t communicate about the difficult issues anymore because we always end up in a fight or I end up crying and going to bed. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Oh my! Where do I start?

      I can hear how much you are struggling. I can tell that you are not happy. Yet, you’re also wise enough to know that rushing into divorce could be a big mistake.

      When reading your comment, the first thing that hit me is that you are in another country. I have no idea of what country you are in, or what the divorce laws in that country are like. But YOU need to know that before you make any decision about whether to leave or stay in your marriage. You need to know how the divorce process in the country you are living in works. You need to know what your rights and responsibilities are, or may be, if you get divorced. Most of all, you need to know what will likely happen to your kids.

      I don’t know whether you are considering returning to your own country with the kids after your divorce. If you are, then you REALLY need legal advice before you do anything. You need to know whether moving to a different country with your kids after divorce is even possible. Of course, if you’re just planning on staying where you’re at, then that might not be an issue for you.

      As for your marriage and whether you should get a divorce, all I can say is, “I don’t know.” Divorce is an intensely personal decision. The only one who can decide whether you should get a divorce is you.

      If you do decide to get a divorce, will you be making a mistake? Again, I can’t say. It depends on what you define as a mistake. It also depends on who is doing the defining.

      If you listen to your family, they will probably tell you that God doesn’t want you to get divorced. Are they right? I guess it depends on what kind of God you believe in. Some people say you should put everything in God’s hands and just trust in the Lord. Others say that God helps those who help themselves. Only you can decide what you believe.

      What I do know is that, unless you and your husband start communicating with each other openly and honestly, and start having the difficult conversations that you are currently avoiding, the chances that you will end up divorced are pretty good. I’m not saying that you should tell your husband about your emotional affair. Again, that’s not for me to say. That’s strictly your call. (I’m a lawyer, not a judge.)

      But, if you want to save your marriage, you have to let your husband know just how unhappy you really are. He has to know that you are thinking about divorce. (I know you’re probably thinking that your husband already knows you’re unhappy. Trust me when I tell you that he probably doesn’t. He might know that things aren’t perfect. But, in his mind, they might not be nearly as bad as they are in yours.) What I am saying is that in order to begin repairing your marriage, you’ve got to be willing to talk about the subjects that are tearing you apart.

      But here’s a word of caution. Before you dive into that conversation, it’s important for you to know that you’re willing to get divorced. If you find out that the divorce laws in the country that you are in are terrible, and you know you can’t get divorced there, that changes everything.

      I also need to warn you that being honest with your husband about possibly wanting a divorce can have unintended consequences. It might make your husband wake up and start to try to seriously work on your marriage. Or, it could make your husband start considering divorce himself. So, if you’re not serious, don’t start a conversation you may later regret.

      Finally, you might want to think about what you want, and what you are willing to do to get it. You said that you think your husband is selfish for not going to marriage counseling with you. He treats you like “you” are the problem. Because of that, you have a lot of anger toward him. While your anger is understandable, it’s also not helping either you or your relationship. Your anger will not make your husband change.

      The only one you can change is you. The only one your husband can change is himself. If neither one of you wants to change, then it’s not likely that your marriage will change either. Your marriage counselor was right about that.

      Since you can’t change your husband, if you want to change your marriage, that means you have to change yourself. That may not seem fair, but that’s life. (Sorry!)

      The good news is that you hold the keys to your own happiness. You can change if you want to. You don’t have to be stuck. But you can’t get “un-stuck” unless and until you’re willing to look deeply inside yourself, decide what you really want, and then move yourself in that direction.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hi been married 40 years to a man who wanted me to be a stay at home mom which I have been , now that our kids have all left , I feel like I want to leave too , My husband has been a very controlling person over me for the past 30 years or so , it’s his way or no way he has a bad temper , it was mental abuse , I felt I couldn’t do anything right , I always had to defend myself to him , I was scared of what he would do if I didn’t do what I was told . Since I was a stay at home mom I didn’t have a job , so he was in control of the money , I just stated to pay the bills , I know how much he makes but he only gives me a little of what he gets , I don’t know what he does with the rest . I have thought many times what it would be like to be out on my own , I don’t think it would be that bad , except for the money part , like I said he controls it , I know since I was a stay at home mom for 38 years or more that I should be able to get alamony , but my husband and I have talk about it and he said he’s not giving me anything , but I have been told that a judge will have different ideas about it , My husband has worked most of his life took care of me and 9 children , yes 9 kids there all ours , I took care of them and the house and him , and now they are all out doing there own things , and I feel like I want to try something new , I have done my job , if I knew that he still loved me it might be different , He once told me that he didn’t love me any more , but that was ok cause he said that I didn’t love him either , that he doesn’t much care for me , but that since we own our home , and have kids and grandkids , that we should stay together , I was shocked to hear that , that , was the only reason we were together , he has his own life he does what he wants , while I stay home , sex we haven’t had then for the past 7 years , it’s like we’re roommates . My husband I found out has a crush on a new women friend , I asked him about it , and he said he is allowed to have friends that are women , and I said I guess , but not ones u stay out late at night with , or leave our home to go to hers to hang out at , or that u tell intamit things too , I talk to him about what we were going to do , he said we could go to a marriage counselor but he doesn’t think that will help , he says we have lost our spark , and that this new woman friend has given him back that spark , he says there just friends , that they haven’t done anything , but he can’t wait to see her ,she calls and he goes and hangs out with her , sometimes with other people , but still . I have just had it , I have gotten my self a job , doesn’t pay much , I’m trying to work on my self esteem, trying to get the nerve to stick up for my self more , but the part I’m scare about , is the money , I think if I knew for sure he would have to help support me , then I would be ok , I have family and friends who believe in me , I want so much to be happy but I also what him to be happy , and I think we need to separate or divorce , If your separate or divorced can u both live in the same house until one of u finds something elas ? Sorry about rambling on , hope u can help me , there’s so much more I can say but I’ve rambled enough Thanks

    • Okay. Where do I start?

      It sounds like you are terribly unhappy, but you’re scared to get a divorce. I don’t blame you. Divorce is scary. Plus, since you’re not the one who handled the money in your marriage, the thought of living on your own, and having to support yourself, has got to be scary. What you need to know is that you’re not alone.

      There are plenty of other women who have been in your situation. They have gotten a divorce and survived. Many have done more than that. They’ve thrived.

      If you decide to divorce, you, too. will learn to stand on your own two feet. It won’t be easy. But it’s totally possible. The keys are education and preparation.

      You have to learn about money. You also have to learn about your money. You need to know how much money you and your husband have, and what you owe. You need to know how much he makes, and what you both spend. If diving into your finances scares you, find a financial planner or a divorce financial planner who can help you. (To learn more, you might want to read: 8 Ways Divorce Financial Planning Can Help You Avoid Costly Mistakes.)

      You also would do well to learn as much as you can about divorce. If you want to understand more about how to prepare yourself for divorce so that you can get through your divorce with the least amount of damage possible, check out some of the articles on how to prepare for divorce on my website. Or sign up for one of my webinars.

      Go talk to an attorney in your area. It’s easy for your husband to say he won’t pay you alimony. Of course he’s going to say that. But, as you said, a judge may say something very different. In order to not be intimidated by your husband you need to know the facts, not just his opinion.

      You said you need to build up your self-esteem. You are 100% right. There are a lot of ways to do that. One of the best is to get a good therapist or coach to help you understand how amazing and worthwhile and strong you are. (Anyone who can raise 9 kids has got to be all of those things and more!)

      The bottom line is that you don’t have to be stuck in a miserable marriage if you don’t want to be. You don’t need to watch quietly as your husband has an emotional affair with another woman. You can stand up for yourself, and you can make a better life for yourself. It won’t be easy. But you can do it. Really, you can.

      Karen

  • Karen,
    I have been married for 13 years and have 4 children (my oldest from a previous relationship). My issue is that I know I’m ready for a separation and divorce, but my husband has been trying everything he can to get me to stay. I’m active duty military and he blames my enlisting for him having nothing to show for himself during our marriage, as well as the health problems that he has now. In the past 2 years he has had 2 strokes and several hernias, and everything that we own is in my name. What makes this even more difficult is that he just lost his father a few months ago and his sister is causing problems with the land that he was supposed to inherit.
    We are both younger than 40, and I have a very big heart, which is both a curse and a blessing. He is a good man overall, but I’m not happy with him and haven’t been for years. My love has changed from when we first got together, and I’m not in love with him anymore. He has been trying guilt tactics to persuade me to see his side and agree to stay with him. I’ve been seeing a counselor myself and told him that we could go to counseling together, but I already know that I’m ready to move on. How do I stop feeling guilty in order to be 100% honest with him? I also feel guilt and fear that my leaving him will cause him to have another stroke, which could lead to his death. He’s already talked about just disappearing and even understanding why people contemplate suicide. I want this separation to be amicable, but dealing with him and his emotions is physically draining to me. He is constantly demanding promises or declarations that I can’t give. Please help with any advice you can give!

    • You’ve packed a lot in here. Let me see what I can say to help you deal with all that you are going through.

      First of all, dealing with guilt can be tough, especially if you come from a family or religious background where guilt was routinely used to make you feel bad as a child. The problem with guilt is that it is an incredibly unproductive emotion. It helps no one.

      I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it seems that your husband is trying to use guilt as a tool to manipulate you into doing what he wants – i.e., to stay married to him. While I don’t mean to be harsh, his actions are definitely manipulative. The problem is, his tactics are working. You are allowing yourself to be manipulated. (Again, sorry to be harsh. But his manipulations can never work unless you allow them to do so.)

      Let me also say that it’s not surprising that you would hesitate to divorce your husband under these circumstances. If you think a divorce might kill him or cause him to have another stroke, it’s no wonder you’re hesitating! Anyone with a heart would feel that way. The problem is, if you give in to this sort of manipulation, you will be left feeling trapped and miserable. Chances are, at some point you will explode or act out. You will either have an affair, or leave him, or both. But waiting until then will likely be worse for both of you.

      The subject of how to deal with your guilt is unfortunately too complicated to deal with in this kind of a comment. If you would like, you can check out this blog post: Are You on a Divorce Guilt Trip? The information in there will help you understand a little bit more about what you’re feeling and how to deal with your guilt.

      As for counseling, it’s great that you are seeing a counselor. S/he can help you manage your guilt and move forward productively. You might want to encourage your husband to go to counseling himself, too. That would probably help him a lot.

      However, if, as you say, you have already decided to divorce your husband, please do not go to marriage counseling just to be “nice” to him! Marriage counseling is the place you go to work on your marriage. It is NOT the place you go just to “let your spouse down easy,” or have a therapist tell your spouse that your marriage won’t work, just so you don’t have to be the bad guy! (Sorry!)

      What you might want to check out is something called “Discernment Counseling.” It is limited scope, limited time counseling that is focused on helping you and your spouse figure out whether you should stay married or get divorced. It can also help you figure out HOW you want to get divorced – i.e. whether you want to try to divorce amicably, or whether you’re up for an all out war. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this article: Discernment Counseling – A Way to Cope when Your Head Says “Go,” But Your Heart Says “Go.”

      Finally, as hard as it is, I urge you to be honest, both with your husband, and with your self. If you want a divorce, tell him the truth. Sure, that will be hard on him. But stringing him along with false hope will ultimately be worse.

      You asked how you stop feeling guilty in order to be 100% honest? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you move forward in spite of your guilt. Maybe you move forward first and work on your guilt with your counselor as you go. (Just a thought!)

      Can I guarantee that if you start divorce proceedings your husband won’t have another stroke, or get so emotional he tries to commit suicide? No. I wish I could give you that kind of guarantee. But, I can’t. No one can. So, the question is, do you allow yourself to be paralyzed by your guilt and fear? Or do you find a way to deal with your emotions and move forward anyway? As a military person, I suspect you know the answer to that question.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

      PS You mentioned that you have kids. Make sure that, whatever you do, you also provide support for them, and help them through this difficult time, too.

  • I am lonely in my marriage . I hate his adult son that moved In with us when his mother didn’t wanna deal with him physically abusing her husband. He is in trouble with the courts. Takes advantage of us ,me. My husband diesnit defend me. I am an outcast in my own house. I spend the majority of my time at home I my own bedroom. As my husband and I no longer share a room. When my husband and I got together he had no job, no car, or his kids. I have pushed him to the msn he is today and he now has a chip. It is all his. Although I have always kept a job a house and raised my kids to be good kids. I hate coming home. There is no intimacy, we fight daily .. I am physically and emotionally sick. I can leave and stay with my daughter and her family . I don’t really want to but thud is my only now choice. He refuses to sell or buy me out and just let me leave. I don’t understand why? We are both miserable ! His kids never come out of their rooms. Especially when I’m anywhere near. It feels strange to me. I am unhappy .. he keeps blaming hormones and me being crazy. I’m not crazy. I deserve at least half the equity in the house which would allow me to buy my own home . He says we’ll go to court and make sure I get nothing. If I leave one day while he is at work will I be walking away from the house and the equity?

    • Oh my! I can hear how unhappy you are! Having to walk on eggshells in your own house, and feeling like you are an outcast, has got to be horrible!

      Your question, whether you will be walking away from the house and the equity if you leave, is a legal one. Unfortunately, I can’t answer that kind of question on a website.

      Divorce law is state-specific. The answer to your question depends upon the law of your state, and all of the facts and circumstances of your case.

      I urge you to get advice from a good divorce lawyer in your area. The more you know about divorce, and how it works, the better off you are going to be.

      Remember, knowledge is power. Once you know what you are facing, you will be better prepared to deal with it.

      Best.

      Karen

  • Hi there
    I am 24, married with 2 kids. I have been married for 6 years now and known my spouse for 9 years. I was so “in-love” back then as I was so young and naive. I got pregnant and decided to get married at 18. Since we were in relationship, it has always been an abusive one. In terms of physically, emotionally and mentally. Up till today, the marriage is really toxic. I have sacrificed my family, friends and youth (enjoyment, freedom) just because of my love for him. Over the years, he has cheated on me a number of times. Even when I was pregnant with my 2nd child. I stayed but felt miserable. I have asked for divorce a number of times before but he will never let me go. Ever since I worked in this new company (1 year now) I have grown to be independent & confident about myself. All these years he’s made me think that no one else would be interested in me, made me feel like I’m so ugly, I wouldn’t survive without him. And every time he did something bad, I eventually forgave him because he’s so good with words. He’s really good at manipulating me to make me feel that I’m at fault despite doing the mistake. And he’s recently been gas lighting me to my parents. Making them against my decision to finally get a divorce. Yes, I finally decided I need to end this misery. Only now, he wants to change. He has tried. I tried too. To give him (yet) another chance, but I couldn’t lie to myself or him. I felt guilty for the fact that I can’t stay faithful and sincere anymore. They blame the company that I’m working at for my “sudden” changes. It’s super frustrating when it’s really their assumption. But I am changed because I decided to. After years of tolerating, I finally could think wiser now. But they made me think that I’m immature for such decision. And for a year now, since I last caught him cheating (again) I met someone and we are actually falling for each other. I expect to be with him if I get divorced. But I am happy that there’s someone who is really sincere in being so nice and loving to me. He’s definitely not lusting me. As we haven’t had sex before. We have had a few moments and they were really very romantic. Also, my current company is all about drinking. So my family, being traditional and religious, despise the idea of it. I have been drinking since young. Occasional clubbing and drinking sessions with my spouse. But never really had good times with friends as I’m not allowed to socialize. So I have attended a few drinking events after work which got me into so much trouble, when I just needed a timeout after so much effort at home (kids, house work, husband). I NEVER abandon my responsibilities. I don’t even own a Facebook account because he doesn’t allow it. So basically he controls every aspect of my life and I want to break free. His actions towards me are really cruel and mean even though its because I am doing things against him. I hate to leave because that would mean destroying my kids’ happiness (according to everyone) but I hate the fact that I am staying in my marriage, miserable, unfaithful and wishing that I am divorced every single day. Its hard because my dad believes I want to leave my marriage for freedom and to turn wild and slutty, but that is honestly not the case. I know he wants to change and can change but I don’t have the heart to love him anymore. I really honestly don’t. I love my kids more than anything. I’ve put up with so much. I’ve been in a cage for years, even since under my parents control. So partially, obviously a part of me wants some enjoyment in life that I am deprived of. I haven’t lived my youth like any other normal youths. With so much fun and laughter, with actual friends. But instead, I settled with him and committed my years to him up till now. And he never treated me well. The resentment has built up and finally I wish to break free. And we tried to compromise, negotiating for him to allow me to participate in occasional events with friends and colleagues. I told him, it’s only fair he gives me this allowance after I have tolerated him the past years as he has prioritized his friends so much and I never got to say or do anything about it.

    There’s just so much that I could bring up but I’m afraid its too lengthy to read. However, I have filed for divorce and waiting for follow up procedures. At the same time, my dad is forcing me to stay but that’s only because he ill treats my mum as well. (Thus condoning my husband’s behavior) My mum admits to me that she doesn’t love him anymore and only staying for the kids (5 kids) and because he has no one else left to take care of him.
    I don’t want to live in her shoes and suffer the years. I want to make a change. Break the curse. But they view divorce as something majorly tragic, like tarnishing family image and such.

    I appreciate your time in reading this and look forward to some great advice! Thank you! <3

    • Wow! That’s a lot! It sounds like you are really unhappy and want out of your marriage. It’s sad that your family won’t support you. But given what you’ve written about your parents’ marriage, that’s not surprising.

      Going through a divorce is really hard. It’s even harder when you feel like you have to go through it alone.

      Since you can’t rely on your family to help you through your divorce, you might want to try to form your own support group. There are actually many divorce support groups across the country. Most of the time, they aren’t really expensive. Look for a divorce support group in your area. They can be a godsend in times like this, especially when you have no one else you can lean on.

      You might also want to seek out friends you can rely on at this time, too. There will be many times when you need a trusted friend to talk with when you are having a particularly rough day. You also may want to talk with a therapist to help you deal with the emotional side of your divorce.

      If your family is not supportive, then don’t rely on them for advice or support. Don’t confide in them unless you know that they are truly on your side and will help you. Be careful and smart about what you say and do.

      Finally, I know that you want to break free and enjoy your life, but don’t forget about your kids. Do your best to put them first as much as you can. Divorce doesn’t have to ruin their life, but if you and your spouse fight your way through your divorce and make it ugly, your behavior will definitely affect your kids. Try to take the high road and keep your kids out of the middle of your divorce.

      You are facing a rough time for awhile. Unfortunately, nothing I say can change that. But, you will get through this.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    I’d like to thank your for this article and taking time to reply to everyone. These are some of the most solid pieces of advice I have read in a long time. I guess after reading all this I already know the answer to my question, but it helps hearing it from someone else.
    I have been with my husband for 15 years, (married for 9, dating for 6), we have 2 young children ages 3 and 5. I met him when I was 18 and he was 24. We just moved from another country and I was eager to start making connections and friends. I guess I was drawn to him because I was lonely. There wasn’t an instant attraction but I slowly fell for him because he was kind, light-hearted and very social. We (my parents) we’re having a difficult time establishing life in this country and he helped us out tremendously in every possible way he can, and at that time I knew he was marriage material. Granted I was only 18 and never had a serious relationship before him. We never had the deep mental connection that I have always wanted but we have such a great time together that I figured things might change once we got married. We talked about marriage and he always expressed that he already knew from day 1 that I was the “one”, but for me it just felt like the next logical step and that I wasn’t going to find someone better than him. Even during the wedding day I was having second thoughts but buried my feelings.
    Fast forward to being married a few years and now having kids, I become the breadwinner and move up the corporate ladder. He remains doing the same dead end job he hates. I have encouraged him time and time again to go back to school and better himself but he always had an excuse. From the beginning of our marriage his brother has lived with us and completely leached off us (didn’t pay rent/food/etc) and my husband never saw that as an issue and would not stand up for me to his family as he is non-confrontational. I handled all the finances, and family issues, and basically kept him comfortable by giving in to all his wishes to compensate for my lack of feelings. I never felt truly at home having brother there and this has caused me to resent him a lot. His brother is a complete drag and a manipulative liar. I truly believe he took the best first years of our marriage, those I can never take back.
    My husband became complacent and after a long time of complaining and not being heard I just stopped. Our focus turned to the kids. We are barely intimate. We develop separate hobbies. But on paper we look great together. To make things worse I started having an affair with an older man. He made me feel secure, and safe. We had the connection I was always looking for. It was such an opposite from my marriage. My husband found out about the affair and I was forced to confront him with my feelings. This is the first blow out we’ve had since getting married. We barely argued. And that always concerned me. The affair has since ended but it made me realize I need to start putting me first. I have always put him first in everything that I buried a lot of my feelings. The affair was just the catalyst that forced me to really realize how truly unhappy I have been all these years. I know deep in my heart I got married young with no real idea what I was getting into. That at that time I had no idea what I wanted. I have asked for space and when I am alone I am finding that I am enjoying those moments. I am enjoying learning more about myself. And this scares me. I feel so bad that after what I have put him through with the infidelity, I now am thinking of separating. I feel scared of the consequences because I also have kids to think about. Like all others here, I know I can stay married and grin and bear it, but I know I won’t be truly happy. I am scared of the changes, and the backlash from family and friends. I love him, but I am not in love with him. He still truly cares and loves me, and that’s what’s making this decision so difficult. Part of me is more than ready to go and change, but other part of me worries about my kids, about starting over, and the other consequences involved with unraveling our marriage. I’ve been stuck in indecision for months and its making me depressed and anxious.
    I am sorry this is all over the place. There is no way to summarize this without going into some detail. Any advise you can give will help. I’ve been thinking of going to therapy, but too afraid to hear myself say the truth. Thanks for your time.

    • Your last comment said it all, “I’ve been thinking of going to therapy, but too afraid to hear myself say the truth.” Clearly, you know the truth already.

      The anxiety and depression you are feeling stem from your own dishonesty to yourself. Your body doesn’t lie. It can’t. So the question is: what are you going to do about it?

      Can you stay married and grin and bear it? Sure. But, if you do, your anxiety and depression aren’t going to magically disappear. They will likely get worse. What’s more, the longer you ignore them, and ignore your truth, the more likely you are to start to get physically sick as well. (Sorry!) Plus, you’ve already had one affair. If you continue on in the relationship as it is, do you really think you’ll make it until you die without having another?

      I strongly suggest you go to therapy, deal with your feelings, and start being honest with yourself. If there is any chance that you and your husband can put things back together, go to marriage counseling. On the other hand, if you know that you’re done, then don’t string him along. Pulling off the band-aid quickly hurts intensely, but when it’s over you can both start to heal. Peeling it off a little bit at a time hurts less, but it hurts longer. By the time the whole band-aid is off, the wound underneath is often infected and oozing. That’s not what you want in your life, nor is it what you probably want for your husband.

      As for your kids, of course you are worried about them. Every good divorcing parent is worried about their kids. But, let me ask you: what do you want to teach your children about life? about love? about marriage? After you answer those questions, ask yourself one more: “By my behavior, what am I teaching the children now?” If what you want to teach your children is different than what you are teaching them by how you act (NOT by what you say!), you’ve got a problem.

      Divorce is always hard on kids. But, it doesn’t get easier as your kids grow older. Even adult children of divorcing parents often have issues with their parent’s divorce. Staying married for the kids is a noble concept in theory. The problem is, in practice, it often does way more harm than good.

      I wish you the best!

      Karen

  • hi, I am joan.
    I have been married thirteen years and some months. I and my husband have been through a lot and finally when we are starting to see some real progress, he starts cheating all over the place. I have been afraid of a divorce,but I am beginning to think that is my only way out of this hell I am living. he is growing bolder as the days go by and I just feel so depressed because all my life all I wanted was happiness. I have gradually lost all desire to work and even make progress in anything worth doing. The only thing keeping me going are my kids.i know breaking/divorcing will break both of us, but right now he has all this new friends in his life who seem to be advicing him and directing him.I feel sorry and angry at him all at the same time, for I know he is being fooled by people who think he is well off and at the end of the day he will be left by himself once I am gone.I cant keep on pretending all is good, I feel like god will really speak in my life once I have moved on from him, I feel his cheating over the years has held a lot of things away from us.
    please I need your advice, what should I do? stay and hope he changes, or divorce him?

    • Hi Joan,

      I wish I could tell you whether you should stay or go, but I can’t. For better or for worse, that is solely your decision.

      What I can say is that you certainly don’t sound happy. You mentioned that your husband has been cheating on you for years. So, why do you stay? What kind of marriage do you want? What kind of marriage do you have? How much do you value and respect yourself?

      You said you are depressed. I’m not surprised. You’ve been unhappy for a long time. The good news is that you hold the keys to your happiness in your own hands. You have the power to change your life. But, to do that you have to decide what you want and commit to moving forward. The longer you stay stuck, the longer you will stay unhappy.

      I’m not saying that divorce will make you happy. Going through a divorce is difficult for everyone. You will probably be miserable for awhile. (Sorry!) But at least your misery will be time limited. Hopefully, once you are divorced, you can move on to create a better life.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • What makes me sad, in all of the blogs and posts I have read on this topic, is the number of men that are not living their vows, and being half of the relationship equation. I am finally beginning to accept that I can’t keep chasing him, while he says he will do more, but then doesn’t. Our last fight, I realized I have been giving 70%, and he is mad that I won’t give 15% more to meet him in the middle. He doesn’t see it, at all, and I am tired of trying to let him figure it out. He most recently cost us $110 more a month because he didn’t take care of the health insurance during open enrollment. He said he would, I backed off because he said he had it, and now we are paying for it because he can’t figure out how to grow up and take care of anything. I can’t parent him, and be his wife.
    What makes me even more sad is the number of blog posts on this topic, where the wife is meant to support and help him figure out how to be a man- NO- it is not my job to do everything!
    I am so tired, but I am glad to finally be accepting this is the way it is going to be. I know I am going to have to manage the whole divorce too, because he can’t do anything, but I just want to be on the other side it so i can get my life to how I want it to be. It is so hard to be this empty and burned out to have to get a divorce, only to have to get it together for the actual divorce.

    • It sounds like you’re exhausted because you are doing far too much. I wish I could tell you that getting divorced will be different, but the truth is, it probably won’t be different at all. You will be divorcing the same person you married. You will likely do more of the work while you are going through your divorce as well.

      The good news (if there is good news) is that once your divorce is over, you will only have to take care of yourself. So there is an end in sight.

      Hang in there!

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    I am married for almost 5 years. I am 32 and he 35. He is the only in all my life that respect me, loves me and wants build up family with me. Before this the guys only played with me nothing serious. We have different nationality and our English is not that much good to have deep conversation. He is crazy for me but I don’t fell anything more I feel love but is not a love of men and women is kind of love of brothers and friends. I respect him I am take care, cooking, washing up but I can’t bare his voice, his humor, his ideas I cant bare. Now he is planing to buy a house for next year and he asked all the time when I am going to have a baby. To be honest I want to die if I think that I will have family with him I will be fat and more unhappy our communication is not good, he dosent know nothing about my work field and we have only one common interest. How can I am going to have a baby with a person that I dont feel attraction, interested and passion ? When I felt passion for another guys in the past they always put me down whereas my husband i don’t love him but he put me always up because he wants to see the mother of his children’s happy. Can I stay with him only because he loves me and I will never have another one that loves me like him? Does married is like this ? All this things that we see in films is not true about forever love and happiness? How can I build up my confidence to find the type of guy that I want? Does this guy exist ? If I divorce and never meet this person that I dream?
    Thank you very much,

    • Oh my! Where do I start!

      First of all, I applaud you for not having a child with someone you don’t love and probably won’t stay married to. So many people have babies because they want them, but they don’t stop to think of what kind of a marriage that baby will be born into. Or, they think that having a baby will fix their marriage. It won’t. Having a baby will only make staying together even harder.

      So, kudos to you for not having a baby with someone you want to leave.

      Next, I have a few questions for you. You say that no one will ever love you like your husband. How do you know? You said that men before were never serious with you. Why does that mean that no man besides your husband will ever be serious with you? Why is it that you think that your future can’t be different from your past? Why do you believe that you should stay married to a person you can’t stand, and you don’t love, just because that person says he loves you? What do you think you’re worth?

      With all due respect, it sounds like your real problem isn’t just your husband, it’s your own self-confidence!

      Building self-confidence takes time and work. It is 100% worth the effort, but you have to put the effort in. I strongly suggest you start seeing a good therapist or a coach. S/he can help you understand your feelings and build your self-confidence.

      Another thing you might want to explore are your own values. Right now you have the security of having a husband who loves you. Yet, you seem to have nothing in common with him, and can barely stand to be married to him. So, what’s more important to you: security or love?

      Finally, you might want to consider being honest, both with yourself and your husband. It doesn’t sound like he has any idea how you are feeling. Obviously, if he knew, things might change a lot in your marriage. Maybe that change would be for the better. Or, maybe it would be for the worse. But, at least you would be being honest. In the end, that’s the only way to build a solid relationship.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

      PS I know I’m a divorce lawyer, but I also deeply believe in true love. Is true love like what you see in the movies? No, not exactly. But does true love exist? I believe that it does. I believe that you can have a deep, loving and wonderful marriage. I am blessed myself to have an amazing marriage. It is everything I ever wanted and more. Is it perfect? Of course not. Nothing in this world is perfect. But, it’s still pretty awesome most of the time.

      Don’t give up on true love, and don’t give up on yourself.

  • Hi there ,

    Married to a man who is amazing husband and daddy . I was nearing 30 and didn’t want to be alone . Is that awful ? We now have a two year old . I always knew I wasn’t in love but didn’t want to be alone . Now after 7 years it’s all catching up. I just don’t enjoy his company . After a couple of years we went for marriage counselling which did help , but all same issues returned e.g. Lack of desire etc. We are going back to counselling but I feel hopeless . I do suffer from depression but I think this time it is lots to do with the marriage .
    Any advice appreciated . I’m so low and unsure what to do.
    Sarah

    • You’re not alone. I’ve heard from many people who’ve done the same thing. But, that doesn’t make where you’re at now any easier.

      First off, you have to decide what you want. From what you’ve said, my guess is you’re in your early 30s now. You have a lot of life left to live. How do you want to live it? What do you want your future to look like? What will it look like if nothing changes?

      The way I see it, you’ve got three choices: 1) Commit yourself to making your marriage better and decide to be happy with that; 2) be honest with yourself and your spouse about your unhappiness, end your marriage and do the thing that terrifies you – ie be alone; or 3) don’t do anything and continue to feel stuck and torn about your life and your future.

      Which one should you choose? That’s up to you. But, as scary as #2 is, and as much as you don’t think #1 will work, your worst option may actually be #3. Staying in indecision keeps you spinning in circles and going nowhere. Until you commit to do SOMETHING (whether that is to work on your marriage or leave it) nothing is likely to change.

      It’s like the old saying: “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to keep getting what you always got.”

      At the same time, you’re facing a huge decision. I’m not surprised that you’re unsure what to do. If you don’t have a therapist, now would be a good time to get one. A good therapist can help you understand your thoughts and feelings so that you can make the decision that’s right for you.

      Best.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,

    This is long.

    I’ve been married for two years to my husband (together 6 years). No children. I’ve thought about divorce over the past year and more recently have been thinking about it more seriously. My husband has become increasingly verbally/emotionally abusive over the course of our marriage and I don’t feel like I have a supportive partner in my life. My husband and I don’t do much together because he doesn’t really like to do things no matter what I suggest. Prior to marriage, my husband acted like he did like to do things and was actually a civil person when we disagreed. Now, he is very content sleeping in until noon every weekend and not experiencing new things. I on the other hand love to do things and travel. He sees my interests as frivolous. Everything in our life is either his way or if I go against him leads to an argument where he belittles/degrades me. Everything is held over my head including our engagement, my engagement ring, our wedding cost, etc. A little back story: My husband would bring up getting engaged 2 years prior to him proposing. There were times I would get very upset that I wasn’t engaged because I felt like I was being lead on. Eventually my husband did propose and while I was able to enjoy being engaged for a little while it was soon used against me in arguments. Do I regret getting upset about not being engaged? Yes. I have expressed to him how special events like being engaged, our wedding, etc. have been turned into something negative because to this day (3 years later) he still uses them as ammunition in arguments. I’m left feeling overall very negative about my life with him. My husband has been pressuring me to start a family with him which given his anger issues and the negativity I feel in the marriage…I have been hesitant to do. My husband now tells me, “If I really wanted to I could act like how you acted before we were engaged and be really angry and immature because I’m not getting my way”. So despite me expressing several times how much it hurts to have those events verbally ruined he continues to do so and feels justified doing so.

    He has days where he is nice to me but overall I feel as though the relationship has been verbally ruined by him at this point and I just can’t move on. Anything can set him off and I never know when I can approach him to talk about issues/concerns because if it goes against his opinion I am bullied, yelled at, degraded. My husband has actually put a blanket over his head several times when I’ve tried to talk to him about how I feel almost visually shutting me out? (I know it sounds strange). I feel like I deserve better. We tried couples counseling in June and we both did not like the counselor. I tried to get him to go to a different therapist and my husband refused to go telling me that he would not attend counseling until I saw my own therapist for my own issues-essentailly implying that I’m to blame or that I’m not OK. When I asked him to see his own therapist he refused stating that he doesn’t feel that he needs help.

    Fast forward to now: I’ve been seeing my own therapist for a month who specializes in emotional abuse/divorce/etc. I have also met with a divorce mediator to understand my options regarding the divorce process. My husband recently became aware of how unhappy I am with our marriage. He basically called my perceived indecisiveness “a waste of his time and money” since we are not starting a family right now and I have halted renovating our house. He told me that he will go “a few times” with me to therapy if necessary. I want to let go of this marriage but I feel stuck. I feel guilty. Someone asked me if I felt as though I had tried my hardest to save my marriage. The truth is I just don’t know if I have anything left to give. I desperately want to be happy and live my life. I hate the roller coaster I’ve been on and I feel as though myself and the relationship has been disrespected so many times that I cannot change how I feel. Need advice.

    • I know you asked for advice. But, with all due respect, I think you already know what I’m going to say, and what you want to do.

      You’ve written a lot. What’s interesting is not what you’ve written, but what you haven’t written. You haven’t said that you’re happy, that you were ever happy, that you’re in love, or that you think your marriage can ever work. That’s probably part of the reason why you feel stuck and guilty. You think you’re “supposed” to want all of those things in your marriage, but you don’t. I’m not surprised.

      It doesn’t sound like your husband is treating you well. It also seems like you are both very different. So, my question to you is: what do you want? Is this the kind of marriage you want? If it’s not (and clearly it’s not!) then can you fix it? If not, then why are you staying?

      The truth is, people stay married for a lot of reasons. What’s important is that you figure out what YOUR reason is, and then test it. Ask yourself: Is it true? Is it true that X (X is whatever your biggest fear is) will happen if you get divorced? And, what if it does? What happens then? Will I die? Will anyone I love die? If not, what am I so worried about?

      So often, when we test our fears, and bring them out into the light of day, we find that they’re not nearly as scary or horrible as we thought. Or, we find out that they are scary and horrible, but staying stuck is even more scary and horrible. That’s when we find the strength inside to move forward.

      Here’s the deal: not making a decision IS a decision. In many ways, it’s even worse than making a conscious decision because, as long as you’re locked in indecision, you keep circling in a world of “What if” in your head. “What if no one talks to me because I’m divorced? What if I never find anyone to love me again? What if … you get the idea.)

      I really don’t mean to be hard on you. I can hear how you’re suffering. But, I think you already know the answers you are looking for.

      Karen

      PS If you think getting a divorce now will be hard, how much harder will it be after you have kids? Just a thought.

      • Thanks Karen. I guess I feel stuck because of guilt and fear. I’m 31 years old and want to have a family and a loving, supportive husband. When I was dating my husband I never could have predicted that this is how it would be because our beginning was not like how we are now so I struggle with that everyday.

        • I can totally relate. If only we all had a crystal ball, right?

          31 isn’t exactly over the hill. You still have time. Do your best to start dealing with the guilt and fear. When you do, everything else will become clearer.

          Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    I need some advice. I am thinking and I have been discussing with my husband about getting a divorce. He agreed, although he says he never wanted this – his behaviour proves otherwise. We met when I was 21 and he was 20, been together for 13 years and married for 3. Not that it was all plain sailing until then, but after we got married, his whole mood changed. He started drinking and going through phases where he would take drugs. He says he is bored. He did these things before, only I was hoping he will change, as he has changed a lot and I thought those were just crazy days when we are young and all this will pass. I changed a lot and matured, hoping that we will mature together and start a family. Because of his addiction issues, I cannot trust him (he lies to me about his whereabouts) and I am always doubting he will be there for me when I will have a child, as I feel he is unreliable. He is great with children and all my family and friends say this. He is a Jekyll and Hyde character. When he doesn’t drink, he is lovely and I adore him, we talk about everything and make plans for the future. He is my best friend. As soon as he has one drink (one drink can make his behaviour change – he becomes unreliable, he lies to me, he is completely different), although he doesn’t do anything like being abusive or hurts me, he hurts me by just doing it. I asked him to stop and last year we went on a break for 2 weeks. Again, the break was my idea. After the break I pleaded with him to come back to me and we decided to give it another go and even moved house for a fresh start. He came back. Immediately after I regretted it, as I saw that, slowly, his old ways were creeping in. I can imagine my life without him, although do I really want to leave him behind? I am not sure. Recently, he told me that his own business is going to close down. At this point in time, I am not sure how he will be able to provide for us. I have a very good job and I never expected my husband not to be on the same level as me. I married a guy who had a good job and I had all these plans in my head about how our future will look like. I want to be there for him, but he makes the worst decisions! Like getting drunk and coming home late. When I ask him where he’s been, he lies or tells me it’s none of my business! I know…bad. But it’s the drink talking and not him. Now, he tells me he will work from home starting January…like that is supposed to make me feel more secure about the future! So, now, not only do I have to deal with his addiction (he started again after he found out about the business), I also have to deal with the insecurity of not knowing how we will be able to provide for ourselves. I want a family and I feel that, me waiting for him to sort his life out all the time, means I am losing precious time, when I could be there finding someone who is reliable enough to have a family with. I am also thinking that my time is running out…Being a woman is not easy.

    • Sorry, forgot to add. I am depressed, I suffer from anxiety and cannot sleep. I often cannot sleep for days on end, even though I am exhausted! It drives me crazy. I feel like my health is deteriorating because of the stress. I cannot lose my job. I need stability to feel happy. Not sure whether he can provide me with the things I need.

    • Please excuse me for starting so abruptly, but I think that, under the circumstances, you may need to hear this. Do NOT have a baby with this man! At least, do not have a baby with him until he is clean and sober AND has been clean and sober for at least a year! (Sorry! But, breaking a drug and alcohol habit is really hard. It often takes people multiple tries to do it. So, thinking your husband is “okay” after he hasn’t had a drink for a few weeks, or even a few months, is just deluding yourself.)

      I can hear how much you want to have kids. I also know that you also hear your biological clock ticking. But, ask yourself, do you really want to bring a child into this marriage the way that it is? Do you trust your husband to take care of the baby when you’re at work, or away? If he’s “working from home,” he’ll have access to the baby all the time. Have you thought about that?

      What you’re dealing with is hard, really hard. You married your husband thinking he would change. He didn’t. You did. Now you’re dealing with the aftermath. But at least you’re dealing with it as an adult. Dealing with it as an adult with a child will be so much worse. Plus, think about your child. Coming from a broken home with a father who is likely addicted to drugs and alcohol will be REALLY hard on your kid!

      I strongly suggest that you get y