“Help! We’ve Been on the Verge of Divorce for Six Years!”

I am a 32-year-old mother of four. My first two girls are from a previous relationship. We were very young — 17 to be exact — and it was a very toxic relationship. I got out five years into it. No marriage, so no divorce. Two months later I met my now-husband, and I accepted a date six weeks after that.

My husband and I have now been married ten years. When we first started dating, I was so incredibly head over heels — literally obsessed with him. We got pregnant eight months after we moved in together, then married a year later. We now have two children together.

For the first three years of our relationship my husband was in the military, and during that time he was gone more than he was home. I thought he was perfect for me — I had the time I needed to find myself after my last failed relationship, and we got to maintain that excitement with his being gone and then coming back so often.

Once he left the military and was home full-time things just took a different turn. We fought all the time. I’m OCD and he is very messy, I am a lenient parent and he is very strict, I am creative with goals and dreams and he is very small-minded with little interest in anything. We even have a hard time working together on small projects or even during discussions. It seems as if we are from two different parts of the world and I never realized it before because he was always gone.

The only time I feel like we are totally in sync and compatible is in the bedroom — and that’s if I’m even in the mood, which isn’t often because I don’t feel like my emotional or intellectual needs are met. So, the past six years we have been on the verge of divorce. Last year I even moved out and we had a very short separation. At this point, I don’t know what to do. I have discussed all my needs and asked for his, and we agree to work on things and then efforts fade and it all goes back to the same again.

With my first failed relationship it was so easy — I just knew I had had enough! But with my husband it’s so emotional, and I feel like I’d rather die than leave. But I am so unhappy that it makes no sense to me. I also work a job that takes over all my time; I don’t have time to exercise or have any “me time.” My husband isn’t romantic so he never tried to plan dates, but even with my job it would be hard.

I hope I haven’t babbled into a confusing mess of words. And I hope I’ve given enough information to give me some much needed advice. — On The Verge of Divorce

I’m not sure what you want me to tell you? You’ve been unhappy for years — years!! — and yet don’t seem able/willing/interested in taking any active measures to change your situation. There isn’t a magic pill you can take to make everything better, you know. You’re going to have to change things in your life, and some of those things are going to be uncomfortable, take effort, be inconvenient, maybe be expensive, and possibly be the hardest things you’ve ever done. On the other side of all that awfulness though will be a better life for yourself (and your family).

I don’t know if the better life is a stronger marriage between you and your husband or if it is that divorce you’ve been on the verge of for years that leaves both of you able to live your truths more freely and to eventually be emotionally and physically available for a better match. I do know though that if you do the work, despite the discomfort and inconvenience and pain, your heart might break but you will gain the strength and knowledge and wisdom to piece it back together stronger than it ever was. And I know that if you don’t do the work, the cracks in your heart will deepen and widen until the dam bursts and your heart breaks anyway and you won’t have the strength and knowledge and wisdom to piece it back together.

So, what’s the work you have to do? Well, there are lots of options. A sampling of some of the work you could and should do: marriage counseling; individual counseling; figuring out a way to free time in your schedule so you can have regular dates with your husband and tend to yourself and your family. (Maybe that means getting a different job or talking to your bosses about the very real need to have a better work-life balance because, if you don’t get that, your heart and marriage isn’t the only thing that will break. YOU will break because no one can sustain a schedule of all work all the time.)

You didn’t do the emotional work of healing after your first relationship ended. You rushed right into a new relationship, and you used time apart from your now-husband to “find yourself,” rather than working on yourself between relationships. You distracted yourself from the pain of one failed relationship with the excitement of a new one even though you were in no shape or fashion ready for a new relationship. Then you had the built-in distraction of your husband’s work constantly taking him away from home so you didn’t have to think about how marrying him before you even knew yourself, let alone him, was a big mistake. And now that he no longer has a job that takes him away, and he’s home all the time, you are distracting yourself from the mess of your relationship with working all the time. STOP DISTRACTING YOURSELF FROM YOURSELF. Face your issues head on or they will continue following you and building up and making you miserable.

I promise you, the pain and discomfort you’re going to feel over the next one, two, three years of investing fully in getting your life back — even if it makes you think suicide would be easier — will be worth living the rest of your life after that authentically, whole-heartedly, and with the strength, knowledge, and wisdom to fix the cracks that may occasionally arise before they truly threaten your well-being.

I am 21 years old, and I have two siblings — a 14-year-old sister and a 12-year-old brother. Our dad got remarried four years ago to his wife, Sandie. She is almost 50, and she is a spiteful, hateful woman who treats my siblings and me like crap. She calls my little sister a whore (my sister is a virgin and she and her boyfriend have never even kissed), and she told me she hopes I miscarry my baby (I’m four months pregnant).

I confronted my dad about this behavior, appalled that he hasn’t done anything regarding his wife’s behavior. Instead, he blamed it on us, saying we are lying, trying to push his wife out of the family, and that if they get divorced, it will be our fault. My dad has never stood up for us with her, and he has consistently used us as meat shields for her abuse. (My mother has documented everything.)

I guess what I’m asking is whether I am doing the right thing by cutting my father out of my and my baby’s lives? I love my dad, but I cannot stand the fact that he won’t take his balls out if his wife’s purse and stand up for his children. My sister and brother are depressed that they are being told that my dad doesn’t love them anymore and that he hopes they are happy with themselves. — Cut Out Dad?

You are doing the right thing cutting your father out of your and your baby’s lives. I know it isn’t easy, but sometimes — a lot of times — doing the right thing is really hard. This is one of those times. Your father has failed you and your siblings, and it isn’t your fault. He has not been loving, he has not protected you and your siblings, and he has manipulated you all and used you, and I am sorry for that.

You cannot change your past and you cannot change who your father is, but you can change your relationship with him and protect yourself and your baby from future pain caused by your father. You can do this by cutting him out of your life and reserving your time, energy, and love only for people whose presence enriches your life.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.


  1. Bittergaymark says:

    LW1). Your marriage is doomed because everything is about your wants. Your needs. Your desires. Blah blah blah blah. You you you. Honestly? YOU sound fucking a pain to live with. 4 kids, via two fathers and a raging case of OCD. Yeah. Good luck on tinder.
    Whatever the fuck you do, don’t pop out any more kids as your taste in men is questionable at best.
    LW2). Today I strongly, STRONGLY disagree with Wendy. How exactly can the LW cut off all contact with her father without completely abandoning her truly stuck younger siblings?
    I don’t see how she can. So… No, she can’t do that.
    Course of action: next time your horrible Monster in Law starts ranting at any of you. Secretly record that fucking cunt. All of you should start doing this immediately. NEWSFLASH: All our phones can easily do this now. Edit all the clips together and then you go and confront daddy dipshit and that scumbag he’s so desperate to keep fucking. Or better yet. Email him one a day until you run out of them… which you won’t. So seriously bombard that failure of a father…

    1. dinoceros says:

      I don’t think she’s abandoning her siblings. They have a mother, so it’s not like her other way to see them is through her dad. I assume they have to see him because of a custody agreement, so her talking to/spending time with him isn’t going to impact whether they see him or not.

      1. Bittergaymark says:

        Oh. I missed that line…

    2. My parents are divorced, so they live with my mother and visit my dad on the weekends. So I won’t be abandoning my siblings.

  2. dinoceros says:

    LW1: It seems like you understand that what probably happened is that you made long-term decisions based on the giddiness of a new relationship without actually waiting to see if you were compatible. I also find it concerning that you say you’d rather commit suicide than leave him. You need to talk to a therapist immediately. If you truly mean that, then this is bigger than just having a bad marriage. I also noticed you didn’t mention your children in all this (except that you have them). I can’t imagine that having an unhappy mother and parents who are on the verge of divorce is good for them. Kids learn from their parents’ relationships, and I think right now you’re teaching them to stay in unhappy relationships and, assuming you two don’t interact in a very happy way, you’re teaching them that’s how to treat others and be treated. In the future, don’t jump into another relationship before you do some work on yourself in therapy and don’t jump into living with or marrying someone simply because you have chemistry. Relationships are not sustained simply because you have a connection in your first few months of dating. Relationships are based on the other stuff that is left once the honeymoon period fades.

    LW2: You’re doing the right thing.

  3. Rangerchic says:

    LW1: WWS.

    LW2: I do think you should cut your father out of your life for your own emotional well being as long as you can still stay in touch with your younger siblings and help them through this if they have to visit your father regularly or if they live with him. If they do live with him – maybe they can stay with you on weekends or something to give them a reprieve from the awfulness they have to live with. Sorry your going through all that – it sucks when parents don’t stand up for their children.

  4. LW1: This is fairly common among spouses who are in the service or other professions where one travels non stop then suddenly stops. You have never actually had a real, daily life relationship. It is so easy to be crazy about someone when you see them rarely. You can miss them, be excited to see them. It is the same with many long distance relationships. You really need to spend real, extended time with someone to know how compatible you are. You have to have crap days when you come home exhausted with kids screaming and see how you can get through it. You have to be bored together and see how you make that work.

    It sounds like you simply are not compatible people and now that you are face to face you are realizing that. Stop being unhappy and move on. It has been 6 years, you know this is who both of you are.

    I do think therapy can help many couples but not if you are fundamentally just such different people. It can help you understand, work on changes and work together, not change who one of you is.

  5. LW1 — for at least a part of his military commitment, your husband had to live in a virtual OCD world of spit-shined shoes and beds made so tight you could bounce a coin off them. He likely doesn’t want to return to that as he seems not to be a military careerist.

    The first thing for you to work on is your OCD. That will impact any relationship you are in. Is your husband truly messy or just not OCD-neat? Couples counseling as well as individual counseling might solve a lot of your problems, but your marriage has a lot of incompatibility issues, so counseling very well may not save the marriage.

    Kids are messy and disorganized. Four kids seems like it would inevitably be a hugely unbearable strain upon an OCD person. Why did you have 4, or aren’t you bothered by kid chaos and messes? I’m not being judgmental on modern family size, your choice just seems strange and extremely self-challenging for a person dealing with OCD.

    You do seem to rush very quickly into kids/marriage, with the kids preceding the marriage. Doesn’t leave any time for working on yourself.

    1. Wondering if she actually has OCD or just refers to herself that way. I sometimes will refer to myself that way as I am very organized and clean, clothes must be by type and color in my closet but I am not actually OCD, just very very organized.

  6. LW1 – I think you sound like almost every 30 something stressed out mom. I mean, working full time and raising kids is hard work. I think many women see their husband as just extra work (more laundry, food prep, extra mess). This is very common. I started listening to a podcast called “Vibrant Happy Women” and there are some takes that really talk about prioritizing your life.

    I know it sounds silly but my husband and I set a list of goals for our life and put it on a white board in our house. We do it every year and things got better. This year, we shot for 4 date nights… a year. That sounds crazy but that was our goal because life was stressful. But we put it on the calendar to remind ourselves that we love each other. We did one project that made our home a little nicer. We put fun things to do as a family like go on a hike. i shoot for two nights a month out with friends and started going to a gym early in the morning. Is it perfect, no. But these little changes helped us connect and remind ourselves what life we are building.

    Right now, you are in the busiest, most stressful time of your life statistically. If you love your husband, don’t make a rash decision. Carve the time out for yourself and see if you still feel the same way.

  7. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW1 I’m curious about your husband being small-minded. What does he do that is small minded. I work with someone who is OCD and it is hard to imagine someone being small-minded compared to their OCD and the way they try to control things in a way that isn’t needed or even useful but is highly inflexible.

    I think you need to work on you first which means work on the OCD. You are less likely to see things clearly when you have OCD. You will be using a lot of energy to keep things in a very controlled way and that has to be exhausting. It probably also affects your work. If you can get your OCD under control then you can see if there is a middle ground where you and your husband can find shared interests and values and see if you can compromise on other things.

  8. This s not worth working on ( writer one)-you two are not and will never be compatible. Get a lawyer ask your husband for a divorce,and take a couple years to understand who you are and what you want/ need before dating again. Focus on yourself and your kids. Good luck.
    Stop having sex with your husband-this keeps you thinking things could work-a false idea. Get your own bed and tell him that this is the new normal until he moves out.

  9. LW2, please advocate for your siblings as much as you can and if your mother has documented the abuse, is she willing to try and get the custody agreement altered to protect them? They are old enough that a judge might be willing to listen to their preferences if they want to reduce contact with their dad – that should be their decision – but you can be a supportive person who helps give them a safe space to make such a decision either way, along with your mother.

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