I Want a Divorce But My Husband Doesn’t: Am I Stuck?

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Portrait of melancholy women worrying, "I want a divorce but my husband doesn't."I want a divorce but my husband doesn’t.  I have been unhappy for years. I’ve tried to talk to him. No response. I tried to get him to go to marriage counseling. He said okay, but never went. I told him I was going to a divorce lawyer. He was upset at first, but now acts like nothing has changed. I am beside myself!

 I know that getting a divorce is the right thing to do. But, my husband is making this so hard! He got the divorce papers, but won’t open them. He refuses to show up in court. My lawyer says I can get divorced without him, but I feel so guilty! I know he is going to blame me for everything. What do I do?

My heart went out to this woman. It’s bad enough to have to say, “I want a divorce but my husband doesn’t.” But, when your spouse refuses to acknowledge or participate in your divorce, moving forward becomes infinitely more difficult. Not only do you have the burden of doing all the work in your divorce yourself, but you have to deal with the added guilt of looking like “the bad guy” while your spouse portrays himself as the innocent victim.

That is not a position most people would want to be in.

Stubborn cartoon donkey epitomizes the reluctant spouse in divorceDivorcing a Reluctant Spouse

Let me first start by saying that there is a big difference between divorcing someone who doesn’t want a divorce, but will go along with it because he has no choice, and divorcing someone who won’t participate in the divorce at all. The former is sad. The latter is infuriating … and not very smart!

If your spouse won’t do anything in your divorce, then settling your case amicably becomes impossible. You can’t settle with someone who won’t come to the table and talk. You can’t make a written agreement with someone who won’t sign the divorce papers.

While you may think that your spouse’s stubborn refusal to participate in your divorce will allow you to do whatever you want in your case (after all, he’s not going to be there to object, right?!), the truth is, you can’t.

Even if your spouse doesn’t show up, the judge is charged with making sure that every divorce judgment follows the law and is reasonably fair. So, while your spouse’s absence might enable you to structure your divorce in a way that benefits you, don’t think you will be able to get away with giving yourself everything while your spouse gets nothing. The judge probably won’t let you do that.

Stern judge reading a law book and banging his gavel in divorce court.Your Spouse’s Behavior is Going to Limit Your Options

If your spouse won’t engage in your divorce, then your only option for ending your marriage will have to be to go to court. Mediation will be a waste of time because your spouse won’t participate. Collaborative divorce won’t work. You will have to litigate your divorce. That means that, unless you have no money, no property, and no kids, you are going to need a lawyer.

Once you get a lawyer on board, you are going to have to file for divorce and have your husband served with divorce papers. If he refuses to appear in court, your lawyer will have to default him for failing to appear. The lawyer will probably have to appear in court a few more times while the judge gives your husband every possible chance to participate in what’s happening. Eventually, though, the judge will grant you a divorce by default.

All of this will take time and cost money.

Business man kneeling down in the desert. Burying your head in the sand is not a good strategy.The Perils of Divorcing a Reluctant Spouse

While you might think that divorcing someone who refuses to show up will make everything so much easier, often times the opposite is true.

Every divorce requires you to produce a certain amount of financial information.  If you can’t collect all of the necessary information yourself, you are in for a long, drawn-out divorce. Since you can’t get information from your spouse, you are going to have to get it from third parties.

You will have to subpoena records directly from banks, credit card companies, and financial institutions. Doing that takes time and costs money.

If you need information that only your spouse can give, and your spouse ignores your requests to come clean with financial documents, you may have to ask the judge to hold him in contempt of court. That is going to make you look and feel like even more of a jerk.

If a judge holds your husband in contempt of court, and he still continues to refuse to produce the information that the court requires, he may end up being thrown into jail for a while. Your husband (and probably your kids) are going to view that as being your fault.

Meanwhile, your husband’s continued refusal to acknowledge and deal with your divorce is going to cost you time and money and make you feel angry, frustrated, and incredibly guilty.

Woman with "Guilt" written on her forehead.How Can I Deal with the Guilt I Feel Because I Want a Divorce but My Husband Doesn’t?

Feeling guilty is, unfortunately, a natural part of divorce. You promised to stay with someone until death, and now your marriage is ending and you are both still alive. By deciding to divorce you feel like you broke up your family. Your husband’s behavior adds to your guilt because anyone can see that HE didn’t want this divorce. So, you feel like the divorce is your fault. Obviously, your husband can’t be to blame … or can he?

You may be the person who is finally pulling the plug on your marriage, but I can tell you from decades of experience in working with divorcing people that you are not the only one who caused your marriage to fail. You and your spouse both had a hand in that.

Yes, one of you may have done more to damage your marriage than the other. But, if you look back at your marriage objectively, chances are that you will see that both of you let things slide that you should have addressed. Both of you did things that, in hindsight, you can see hurt your marriage. It doesn’t matter who starts the divorce. Both of you caused your marriage to fail.

Allowing yourself to believe that you, and you alone, caused your divorce is shouldering a burden that is not yours to bear. Your husband is not an innocent victim of your divorce. Quite the contrary.

Your husband’s passive behavior does not make him a saint. What he is really doing is trying his best to manipulate and control you. He is not being passive. He is being passive-aggressive.

Your husband may not be arguing with you in words, but he is fighting with you through his behavior. Especially if you are the type of person who is sensitive to guilt, this kind of fighting can work extremely well.

Strong woman sweats after a workoutDivorcing a Reluctant Spouse Means You Have to Be Stronger

When you want a divorce but your husband doesn’t, you have to be strong enough to get yourself through the divorce process while (literally) dragging him along behind you all the way. In order to do that, you have to approach your divorce a little bit differently.

5 Tips for Divorcing a Reluctant Spouse

1. Assume you will be handling your divorce on your own.

If your husband won’t even acknowledge that you’re getting a divorce, you can’t expect him to help with anything. He won’t. That means you have to figure out your divorce yourself. It also means you have to do all of the legwork for your divorce yourself.

You’re going to have to hire a lawyer. You’re going to have to gather all of the appropriate financial information AND decide what will happen with the kids. What’s more, you’re going to have to figure out how you are going to pay for the divorce and survive afterward.

Yes. Having to do all of that yourself will suck. But the sooner you can lean into the “suck” and start dealing with it, the sooner you will move forward.

2. Assemble your divorce team as soon as you can.

You’re already having to do the work of two people in your divorce. Trying to do all of that AND manage the technical end of your divorce would be crazy.

Who should be on your divorce team?

You will definitely need a good divorce lawyer. Trying to navigate the legalities you need to manage to get divorced from a reluctant spouse is no small job. It’s best done by a lawyer. You also may need a financial adviser. And you will definitely need a therapist.

3. Get help for your kids now.

If your husband won’t get out of denial about your divorce, he’s probably also not going to do anything to help your kids deal with the situation either. Unfortunately, hat will make your divorce harder on your kids.

Because of that, another professional you might want on your divorce team is a child psychologist. While hopefully your spouse will take the high road and try to shield the kids from the worst of your divorce, you have to assume that he is not going to do that.

He may try to recruit the kids to “be on his side” and feel sorry for him. He may try to get them to be angry or upset with you. If he’s successful, they may start acting out, or doing poorly in school Getting professional advice on how you can deal with this right from the start, is a great idea. Do it now.

4. Expect that you are going to be “the bad guy.”

One of the primary “benefits” your spouse will get by not participating in your divorce is to be able to say that he didn’t want the divorce. You did. Therefore, everything about your divorce will be YOUR fault.

It doesn’t matter if that’s not true. (Sorry!) It doesn’t matter that it’s not fair. Your husband is going to paint himself as the victim. You will be the evil person who destroyed his happy home.

If you don’t know whether you can deal with that, hire a therapist now. That will help.

5.  Prepare for a marathon, not a sprint.

When your husband doesn’t want a divorce but you do, your divorce will take longer and cost more than a “normal” divorce. (Sorry. But divorcing someone who is purposely dragging their feet is always more involved than divorcing someone who will go along with the program.)

Before you start the divorce process, make sure you are as prepared as you can possibly be. Take the time to educate yourself about divorce. Learn how the process works and what you need to do to get through it. Put together your divorce team. If you can, find yourself a divorce support group.

You might not be “doing battle” in the traditional sense, but you will be fighting to get through your divorce nonetheless. The more you (and your kids) are ready for what lies ahead, the better you will all do.

Overall, if you find yourself saying, “I want a divorce but my husband doesn’t,” and you know your husband will flat out refuse to participate in your divorce, take heart. The road ahead of you may be longer than it is for others. It may be bumpier and a bit more expensive.

But, if you stay the course, you can still get through your divorce and end up in a much better place.


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.


children and divorce, dealing with divorce, deciding to divorce, dividing property in divorce, divorce blog, divorce strategy

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  • That really helped me a lot, I truly want a divorce but my husband doesn’t and sometimes I feel sympathy for him and I just prolong the relationship. I’m very miserable and unhappy and I feel stuck. I don’t have the money for an attorney and I’ve even tried to file myself, but was unable to get any help from the court clerks. I’m very depressed and sometimes I feel like I’m gonna be stuck in this marriage forever.

    • Being stuck can be so miserable! I totally get it.

      If it helps, try to remember that you have the keys to your freedom in your own hands. If you truly want a divorce, as you say, then you know what you need to do. If you don’t have money for a lawyer, then you have to learn how to manage a DIY divorce. Or, you can see if you qualify for a local legal assistance program.

      The way to get yourself unstuck is to get out of your head, and into action. DO something! Even if you only take baby steps, do something every single day to move yourself forward into the new life you want.

      Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, but underestimate what they can do in a month, or a year.

      Keep taking baby steps. You’ll get there!



    • I know I am about to enter into the same situation , and I want to be able to go about the divorce in a peaceful and civil way , for our only daughter the yet is to finish school. I do not want the divorce to be to hard on our daughter , it will break my heart.

      • My heart goes out to you! It’s so hard to do things that we know might hurt our kids. At the same time, children learn by example. So the questions you might want to ask yourself are: 1) Am I setting an example of what a healthy relationship looks like for my daughter; and 2) How much pain will I ultimately cause all of us if I stay in a relationships I know isn’t good for anyone.

        These are hard questions. The answers are equally hard to deal with. Yet, if you can answer them honestly, and have the courage to do what you know in your heart to be right (whatever that is!) you all will grow.

        Hang in there!


  • I want to end my marriage. I have been unhappy for a long time now. Many times I have expressed my true feelings about our marriage but he purposely remains oblivious to it as he wants to keep the marriage going. We are great “friends”, not lovers. I married the wrong man. He is awesome for another woman and a terrific father to our 3-year old. I want to separate but I do not want to hurt him. He is my friend.

    • I can understand your feelings. It’s wonderful that you don’t want to hurt your husband. I’m sure he doesn’t want to hurt you either. (Real friends don’t want to hurt each other.) But, if you are truly that unhappy and have decided to end your marriage (and it sounds like you have decided that) then you need to tell him. You need to tell him in a way that he hears.

      If you are not in counseling, you might want to consider it. A good therapist can help the two of you talk to each other in a productive way. S/he can help you find a way to end your marriage respectfully.

      If counseling is not your thing, that’s fine. But, then you need to be able to find a way to speak to your husband so that you can convey to him that you have decided to separate. He needs to know you are serious.

      If your decision is non-negotiable, tell him that. If you would consider reconciling now or in the future, tell him that. If you are willing to work on your marriage, tell him that. But, tell him the truth. Don’t give him hope if there is no hope. Telling him what he wants to hear or trying to “be nice” by lying to him will only make everything worse.

      Finally, make sure to clearly set the ground rules for what you are doing. If you are getting a divorce, okay. But if you only want to separate for now, what does that mean? Where will you live? Where will your child live? Who will pay the bills? When will each of you see your child? There are a lot of details to work out. A mediator or a counselor can help you do that, if you need help.

      I wish you the best.


  • Hello!
    I have passed the stage of feeling guilty because that is what held me back from moving forward. I filed for divorce about 1 week ago. My husband tried to play on my emotions, but I am no longer phased or bothered by his antics. Yes he tries to portray me as the bad person but I know what his tactics are and so i do not and will not allow him to manipulate me any longer. I am happy, free and at peace. He continues to go back and forth with me about nothing..i have even blocked him by phone and text. All the extra that he does is unnecessary. I pray and encourage you ladies to find the inner strength to propel forward or otherwise, you will be caught in a never ending rut and life is entirely too short to suffer like that. Be encouraged and prayerful.

    • Thank you for sharing this! I applaud you on your strength and courage. Divorce is a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Getting to the point where you feel good about your decision to divorce is huge.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t still have your ups and downs as you go through the divorce process. That’s normal. But in the end, there is peace.

      I wish you the best.

  • I am so glad I found this site. For years, I’ve told my husband that I’m not happy. I finally told him that I want a divorce and he was stunned, which, I must say, took me by surprise. Even more so, the guilt I feel and the way he walks around as though I’ve doing this all for nothing, confuses me at times. Your site has given me a better understanding about what’s happening. Now I know I’m not crazy! Thank you!

  • I have been separated for nearly a year, with a restraining order in place. He was arrested and convicted of assault on a female a year ago. Having gone through some pretty awful emotional and verbal abuse and then slowly crossing into physical abuse these past few years, the assault was the final straw. At first he filed for divorce before me. Then over the past year he has changed his mind and says he will do anything to win me back. I have been in therapy for a year, and know that this cycle of abuse will not be broken. He has mental issues and is using them to say he is not healthy enough to go to mediation or court. I am just empty of all my love for him. I do feel badly, but I feel I must escape and if I do not follow through, the abuse will come around worse than before. I am definitely feeling like the bad guy at this point. Attorney fees are so high and he is stalling and making it last longer than it should. We have been married for 15 years, but separated for this past one.

    • You are not the bad guy!

      I’m glad you are in therapy and understand that the cycle of abuse is not likely to be broken. So many victims of domestic abuse get seriously injured, or killed, because they believe their spouse when he says that he will change, and will never abuse them again. Please, don’t do that!

      And don’t believe it when your spouse tries to convince you that you are the bad guy! Intimidation is part of the cycle of abuse. Don’t let anyone, especially your spouse, convince you that you are bad, or wrong, or unworthy of love. You know who you are. You deserve to be treated with respect. You deserve love.

      As I’m sure you know by now, getting out of an abusive marriage isn’t easy. I encourage you to get as much support as you can. Stay in therapy. If you can, find a support group that can help you get through this, too. Don’t be afraid, or ashamed to lean on family and friends. That’s what they are for.

      Hang in there! You will get through this!

  • I want out of my marriage we have two kids, my husband is an alcoholic, and has no regular job. I am working full time overnight and when I get home I still have to do all the chores and taking care of my kids because my husband is always drunk. I came home from work and he will passed out right away on the bed because he always drink early morning soon as he get up. I am tired and exhausted and sleep deprived because he is not helping me out. I am not happy with my marriage anymore because I feel Like I don’t have a husband. All he does most of the time is drink and get drunk he does’nt cook or do any cleaning. We always argue and fight because I am so tired of him being like that almost everyday. I told him I want a divorce and he is refusing and telling me that he is not giving me my kids because I am not a US Citizen yet. I just wanted to go back to my homeland with my two kids, but he is refusing for divorce, he just wanted to manipulate me using my kids because he knows I will not gonna be able to live without my Kids, he knows my life are my kids and he is using it against me, telling me that I cant bring my kids to no where! I don’t wanna leave without my kids, I don’t trust him! I am confused on what I am going to do? I cant leave my kids with him..but I dont wanna stay with him anymore, everyday he is just causing me frustrations and emotional stressand its killing me!

    • I hate to say it, but you really need a good lawyer … maybe two! I have no idea where you are living, but if you can find a lawyer who is experienced in both divorce and immigration law, that would be ideal! That having been said, I know that might not be possible. There aren’t a whole lot of lawyers who are experienced in both of those areas. So, if you can’t find one lawyer who can advise you both on divorce and on immigration issues, then you’re going to have to talk to two different lawyers: an immigration lawyer and a divorce lawyer.

      It sounds like your marriage is over and you know it. I don’t mean to sound cold and calculating but, at this point, you need to make a plan. Step #1 is to get information. You need to know what you will need to do to get divorced. You also need to know what effect, if any, your divorce will have on your bid to get citizenship.

      Finally, you need to know your options about taking your kids out of the country. To be honest, that’s probably going to be the hardest part. (Sorry!)

      Your husband can’t stop you from getting a divorce, but he can stop you from taking your kids out of the country once you are divorced. That’s not to say that you can’t get divorced and move out of your current house with your kids. But taking them out of the country is probably going to be an issue. (Again, sorry!) Plus, if you leave the US before you become a citizen, that might jeopardize your ability to ever become a US citizen, or to even come back into this country. While that might not seem like a problem to you now, I’m assuming that your kids are US citizens. So, if you can’t come back to this country, and they live here, that will be an issue for you.

      The bottom line is that forewarned is forearmed. You have options, but you can’t know for sure what they are, or what to do until you get some good legal advice. The sooner, the better.

      Good luck.


  • I have been wanting a divorce for a long time. My husband & I have grown into much different people. He even admitted that he portrayed himself as more extrovert than what he really is. He smokes cigarettes & weed. He is not interested in fitness. He is a very nice & tolerable guy when he’s high, but a downright jerk when he’s not. I will say, he holds a good steady job & has for years. He keeps up on the house & he’s a great father. He’s a terrible spouse but a good friend. Anytime I mention divorce, he works my feeling well. Like, he will say that well my mom & sister have divorced & that’s all I know. Then he says we need to stay together for our son. He’ll then cry & say he remembers the first time I told him that I loved him & the next hour say if I follow through, he’s not going to be amicable at all about this divorce. I also have another huge obstacle… my mother-in-law. She is a very conservative Christian (as is he, yeah surprise) & they believe in only getting divorced on biblical standards. So now I’m at the point where I really want to go through with this divorce, but he makes me have an almost panic attack & I get physically ill.

    • With all due respect, it sounds like you’re listening to your husband and his mother a little too much!

      It’s easy to get freaked out when you’re listen to people who are manipulative and bullying. (I don’t mean to be rude, but, from what you’ve written, that description definitely fits here.)

      The sooner you can arm yourself with knowledge and information, the less scared you are going to be.

      I suggest you start learning all you can about divorce now. Start gathering information and preparing yourself for the road ahead. All of that will help you a ton later.

      Will your divorce be amicable? Obviously, I can’t say for sure. (I wish I had a crystal ball. But I don’t.)

      My guess, though, is that since your husband clearly doesn’t want the divorce, he will probably do his best to make it difficult. While that’s unfortunate, at least you know that now. If you’re wise, that means you will prepare yourself for the worst. Then, if he decides not to be a jerk, and your divorce is amicable, so much the better. But forewarned is forearmed.

      Here’s the simple truth. You want a divorce. You know you want a divorce. Your husband can make your divorce take longer and cost more. He can make it ugly if he wants. But, he can’t stop it. He can’t stop you.

      So, are you going to let him hold you hostage because you’re afraid your divorce won’t be amicable? I hate to tell you, but a lot of divorces aren’t amicable. They still happen.

      Are you going to stay married out of guilt? What kind of lessons are you teaching your son if you do that?

      As for your mother in law, is she really your problem? Really? 99% of all mothers side with their own child in divorce. She won’t be any different. So what? The truth is, she’s more of a problem now, while you’re married to her son. Once you get divorced, she will be his problem.

      Divorce is scary. It’s hard. But sometimes we all have to do hard, scary things if we want to grow.



  • Ive filed for divorce months ago n is ready to pay the whole downpayment to get it going n finalized my husband on the other hand does not speak to me or my kids i love him with all my heart n never wanted this to happen but it came down to it n is the only option i dont knw how to feel or n i am miserable day in n day out he is my true love even if im not his how can i get all these feelings away

    • I’m so sorry.

      I wish I knew of some way to make all of those feelings just go away. But I don’t. I can’t. The only way to get past these feelings is to allow yourself to feel them and work through them.

      It comes down to time. In time you will feel better.

      Hang in there!


  • I have been married for around 18 years now. Ours was never a strong marriage. we fought from day 1, but kept on going because in our culture divorce was not an option. In spite of having 2 kids (15, 6), it has reached a point where I want a divorce but he does not. I am still not taking the step as I am afraid how it will affect the kids, I don’t want to break them, so I keep on going in this bad relationship. We have fought so many times in front of the kids that I don’t know which one is worse. We have seen 3 marriage counselors so far, he stops seeing them after few months. He is not ready to even separate, he blames everything on me. he plays the guilt card very well with me. He does not agree on a divorce and will gain sympathy from the kids. I fear the unknown as everyone says divorce is very hard. I don’t care much what world thinks, but kids yes. I feel like I am stuck

    • You may feel stuck at the moment, but you have the power to “unstick” yourself too! Step #1 is believing you have that power. Step #2 is taking the scary step to use it!

      I can understand your fear of moving forward. Divorce is FULL of uncertainty. You never know what your spouse will do, or how things will turn out. Will your husband try to get sympathy from your kids? Yeah, probably. Will it work? I don’t know.

      Will your divorce affect your kids? Yes. Definitely. I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t. But, the good news is, the affect doesn’t have to be totally negative.

      Ask yourself, what are you teaching your kids about marriage by staying in the marriage you’re in? What are you teaching them about relationships and self-respect? They see you fighting. They know things aren’t great. Your kids aren’t stupid.

      If you get a divorce, yes, their lives will be different. But different isn’t necessarily worse or better. It’s just different.

      Your kids probably want to live in peace. They love you and your husband and they want to see both of you happy. A divorce can give them (and you) both of those things.

      True, kids also usually want their parents to stay together. A divorce will take that away from them. But, as the parent, you have to ask yourself: what’s the price of staying married? At what point does the price of staying together become too great?

      The truth is that when the pain of staying married becomes bigger than the scariness of getting a divorce, you’ll get divorced. The question is, whether you’re willing to take the steps to move forward before things get that bad.

      Think about it.


      PS I know this isn’t easy for you. Be kind to yourself. No matter what you decide, or when you decide it, give yourself credit for doing the best you can. You’re going to be okay.

  • I have been married to my husband for 28 years, we married when I was 18, in the first year of my marriage he came out as Transgender and decided that he wanted to be a woman, I stupidly stayed with him against my inner voices, because he begged me to and told me it would not affect the person he is ( I was very young and so naive- he was my first love and I adored him – believed everything he told me) we carried on to have two children, broke up and separated twice only to get back together when he sobbed his heart out and vowed to change. He alienated my parents and family and I had no one. He conditioned me not to trust anyone and I didn’t. So much money spent on psychologists, which ended in procedures that removed his testicles, and hormone treatment to develop breasts, it didn’t matter how much I begged him not to go through with the procedures for fear that it was the wrong thing to do, he treated my opinion with very little respect and went ahead with it all, which I can understand is something he needed to do. He would steal my underwear and wear it in secret and buy hundreds of dollars of women’s clothing but I wasn’t allowed to tell a soul and everytime I tried to leave he would vow to stop what he was doing, and he would be the model husband and father for a few months and it would start again, he was angry and short with the kids and myself all the time and we would walk on egg shells around him to keep him happy. It however did kill our marriage and for a very long time I have made the decision to stay in the marriage for one reason or another, we were either living in african countries where it was not possible for me to leave or “when this child is finished with school I will tell him I want a divorce, or his Dad just passed, I can’t tell him now, and on and on it’s gone. After crying myself to sleep in my bed that we do not share, he sleeps in his room and I in mine, we haven’t had sex for 6 years now as he does not have the urge, (I tried to bring up the subject of me wanting a divorce about a year before and was told that I was frustrated and needed to get laid) I finally made the decision to leave, the culminating point for me was when he stood in the kitchen one morning with my 15 year old son looking on and took offence to a comment I made that was meant as a silly joke and told me rather venomously with his face inches from mine, that he would “punch me in the F****ing face if I said that again”… my son was aghast and immediately asked him how he could talk to me in that manner to which he replied “I never said that”…. it was in that moment that I realised that he was a gas lighter and he had done this very thing so many times over the years when I had no one else to back up what I had heard, I literally felt like I was losing my mind at times but I held it together for the sake of my kids time and time and time again. I cannot do that anymore! I have told him that I do not love him but also do not hate him, I have no feeling where he is concerned apart from anger toward him that he has put me through so much and anger at myself for allowing it and staying for as long as I have. He is now at the begging and sobbing stage of denial and will not accept that I do not want to be married to him anymore, he is convinced that we can fix this as I “am his everything” and he cannot live without me. I have told him I would prefer us to do this amicably for the sake of my 16 year old son as the last thing I would want is for him to be affected in a bad way, I want to do the adult thing and leave. Every day is a new manipulation tactic and more tears and I feel terrible that I can stand there and watch him cry and not feel anything but I am not going to change my mind, he professes that everything he has ever done was for my benefit, he just cannot see or accept the part that he has also played in the breakdown of this whole relationship – extremely frustrating, and he walks around playing the hard done by party who never saw this coming but I know that I should have left years ago and I understand that’s my mistake, now I am making decisions that are best for myself and my son. There’s a long road ahead, the anger and bitterness will come next as this is how he operates but I am prepared and know that my resolve is strong and I will not stay, I deserve to be happy and I haven’t been for so long, life is too short to be doing this for the next 10 years. I want a divorce and I don’t believe I need to justify why, it’s what I want. Thank you for your article, it has been most helpful and has rung true for me is so many ways.x

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story! You have certainly been through a lot!

      If I could give you just one piece of advice it would be this: get support! Now!

      Going through a divorce is never easy for anyone. But given how long you have been married and how much you have been through, your divorce is likely to be even more difficult. While you may be standing strong at the moment, you will have times during the divorce process when you’ll be tempted to give in again. Then you’ll be right back on the merry-go-round you’ve been on for years already.

      Your support can come in many different forms. I strongly suggest you start by seeking out a good therapist.

      If there are any divorce support groups in your area, you might want to join them. If there aren’t any such groups, look online. There are a lot of divorce support communities, particularly on Facebook.

      Finally, you might want to enlist support from your family and friends. I know you said your husband has alienated your family. But family is family. If you come to them openly, and you tell them the truth about your situation, they may be willing to start to mend their relationships with you. (Actually, they will probably be happy to have you back!)

      I know that going through a divorce will probably not be easy for you. But the life that lies on the other side of divorce can bring you happiness, and a joy you have not known for way too long.

      All the best.


  • I’ve been with my husband for 23 years and married for 15 & I’m miserable. We have 2 children together and things were great at the beginning but now I’m so over him. I’m an introvert and he’s an extrovert. It took a while for me to learn who I was because I was just so busy being a house wife and a stay at home mom. Now that I have a full-time job there’s so many things I want to do but he feels as though we have to do everything together but my husband and I just aren’t compatible. I’ve had two inappropriate relationships with men (didn’t sleep with them) but each time he’s begged me to stay. I’ve asked him “why would you want to stay with someone you can’t trust” and he simply says cause he loves me. In the past I’ve stayed because I didn’t have any income of my own and I didn’t want to hurt my kids. I’ve asked for a divorce on several occasions and each time he’s talked me out of it saying he had a bad childhood and he doesn’t really know how to be a husband. He also just wants to sell our home and displace our 22 & 11 year old because he says “he can’t live in the house without me”. He seems to be willing to give up his home business because I want a divorce and I feel awful because he works so hard. I don’t have much savings and the car I drive is in his name. I believe he’s going to make it difficult for me and our kids. He’s a good man and provider and I know he’s just angry & hurt but he’s just not the husband or father I thought he’d be. We’ve been to counseling but I really only went because he wanted to go. Six yearly sessions are free through my job so that’s the other reason. We have ok times together but for the most part I just want out. He’s also very envious of the relationship I have with our kids vs his relationship but that’s his fault because he seems to have felt like it was my job to do most of the parenting because I was the stay at home mom. I was able to get a job with pretty good benefits just as he was becoming an entrepreneur. He told me I needed to get a job so that we could have benefits, which wasn’t a problem cause I wanted to be employed anyway but he was more concerned about benefits vs me finding a job I liked. Now that I have a job which is 2nd shift work, a majority of the parenting has fallen on him along with his 2 job workload. Doesn’t leave much time in the schedule for our son. He’s never been abusive just not very attentive but so dependent on me for household and parenting matters. I’m at my wit’s end but unsure of what he’ll do. I know he’ll make me out to be the bad guy as he already has and I really don’t care about that, I’m just concerned about our son. I feel so stuck????

    • Oh my! Where to start?

      I know you feel stuck. The question is: how to start “un-sticking” yourself? It starts by believing that you can.

      You’re obviously an intelligent person. You’ve got a good job, and have been able to raise good kids. I know I don’t know you, but just from what you’ve said, i can tell that you ARE a very capable person. Step one in “unsticking” yourself is for YOU to start appreciating who you are and what you can do!

      That having been said, though, it will be easier to get through your situation if you have support. If you get 6 free counselinng sessions a year, I suggest that you line up a good counselor for yourself and use your sessions for your own support. You’ve been with your husband for a long time. Whether you ultimately decide to stay with him, or to move on, it will be helpful to have a professional to guide you through your decision-making process and to support you afterwards.

      For now, you will probably want to focus on making a decision that you’re comfortable with. That may take some time. It will also involve being open to learning what your options are and exploring them. Getting a divorce is no piece of cake. But neither is staying in a bad marriage. The key to making the best decision for yourself and your kids is to really take the time you need to figure out what your life will look like if you stay married or get divorced.

      No matter what, it’s not an easy decision. But staying stuck in indecision is usually your WORST option. When you’re caught in the middle, you can’t devote yourself to trying to make your marriage better AND you can’t devote yourself to moving out of your marriage and on with your life. So staying stuck puts you in a double bind. It robs you of your joy in doing anything.

      As for what decision you should make – that’s completely up to you. But trust yourself enough to know that you already have the answer inside of you, AND that you are capable of making the decision that will be best for you.

      I wish you the best.


  • Ive been with my husband 8 year and married for 3 and a half years. We have a 2 year old. Hes a great father and is a good husband however im just not happy. I have a long rough past and ive never gotten the chance to learn who I am. I have told him I want a divorce he will suggest marriage counseling or that I get on medication for my anxiety but what he cant seem to understand is that its not going to help. I just want out I want to be myself again. We have completely different wants in life. Ive told him at least 3 times I want a divorce and he tells me give him a year…. but what exactly is that going to do or change. Ive tried to explain to him its not him it has nothing to do with him im just not happy. He then jummped to conclusions that i was talking to someone else but honestly im not. How to i get him to understand that I want out because Im just truely not happy?

    • It sounds like you’ve tried telling your husband that you want a divorce but he’s just not hearing or believing you. You might want to try going to discernment counseling. That’s a special kind of limited scope counseling that helps couples figure out whether to get married or divorced. I know you want a divorce, so you may think going to counseling is pointless. But the point of discernment counseling is to help both you and your husband get on the same page about the future of your relationship.

      Whether your husband wants to be divorced or not, if you do, he can’t stop you. The discernment counselor can help you get that message across to your husband in a kind way, and in a way that he can hear.

  • In October 2008, I came home to find my wife in bed with someone else. Our counselor told me to give it some time so as to avoid making an emotional decision. Over the next year, i really tried to see if I could make our marriage work still but unfortunately, i no longer felt the same way about her so in March 2010, I told my wife I want a divorce. She claimed she still wanted to work on our marriage but would start looking for places to move out (which was great because I paid for the house). We agreed not to use lawyers because she didn’t want things to get nasty, she didn’t want my money and she trusted me to figure out how to file everything (I am a lawyer). All she wanted was some time to figure out where to go and what she was going to do for work going forward. We continued to live under the same roof in separate bedrooms. By the beginning of 2012, I began to look for a place because I could now afford something similar and she was taking to long to move out. In late 2012, i got really sick which required over 30 surgeries over 5 1/2 years. She encouraged me to look out for my health and we work out the divorce once i was back on my feet. I found a place in late 2013, she signed a quit claim deed so I could buy my new place. After my health started to improve, I filed for divorce in 2017. now she claims that because I supported her and helped her deal with a car accident, that we’ve been working on our marriage and didn’t know we were headed towards divorce. This is clearly a money grab to claim a long term marriage as opposed to short term. We were both been seeing other people even before I moved out. I thought we had become friends and were amicable. Clearly not. Now we both have attorneys and she wants both houses (the new place i moved into). Any thoughts on how to handle this going forward? i’ve cut all direct communication as she uses that to say we’re working on our marriage.

    • Wow! It sounds like you’re doing all that you can do. At this point, the best thing you can do is to listen to your lawyer. I’m normally not a big fan of “lawyering up,” but when one person is clearly trying to take advantage of another, that’s, unfortunately, the only thing you can do. I can’t give you legal advice online or outside the state of Illinois, so there’s not much I can say to you. Sorry, I can’t be more helpful.


  • Im writing this for my mom because I want some advice to help her out. My dad has gotten out of control the past years he is an alcoholic and he is getting worse. He goes from emotionally and verbally abusing my mom all night to the point where she cant even sleep. He is always cursing at her a degrading her. He gets physical when he drinks alot but that’s why I still live here so I can be there for her. When my mom defends herself he acts like the victim and that he is the one getting beaten, which is just a big joke. They have talked about getting a divorce for a while but mom is finally going through with it because she just cant take it anymore. He tries to make us feel bad because he is a wounded veteran and stuff like that but we just cant take it anymore. The thing that sucks is he tells us that he is going to make it very difficult and he will drag it on for as long as he can. We are at the point where we are ready to move out and find another place to stay while this all happens but I just dont know how expensive it can get either. We really can live in the same place as him anymore.

    • Oh my! My heart goes out to you and your mom! As for advice, I’m not sure what to tell you.

      If your dad does decide to drag the divorce out, he can make it very difficult. But he can’t stop it. That’s the good news.

      The best thing your mom (and you!) can do right now is to get support. Your mom especially would be wise to get a therapist. They’re often covered by insurance, so the cost should be minimal. Divorcing an active alcoholic can be quite a process. Your mom could use all the support she can get.

      You both might also want to check out Al-Anon. It’s a support organization for families who are dealing with a family member with a drinking problem.

      Finally, while it’s great that you want to take care of your mom, don’t forget to take care of yourself too! What you’re going through isn’t easy. So make sure to get YOU the support you need too!

      I wish you the best.


  • We separated in Feb of 2019 and I filed in June 2020. He tried to hide from service, but I was finally able to have him served in Nov 2020. As of today, going on 3 years in this divorce and him dragging his feet as well as letting the marital home go into foreclosure for the 2nd time, I have to constantly remind myself to Trust the Process. I have gone through Depression (death of my marriage), Anger (all the cheating and emotional abuse from him) and Anxiety over just not knowing what to expect in this long drawn out process. My kids are young adults, but I have to fight hard not tell them too much of what’s going on. I don’t want to worry. He’s dragging his feet, not responding to court ordered motions and petitions to submit Financial information. I need to keep my mental and emotional health in order to get through this. I hope that a divorce support group can help me get through this.

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