“How Do I Leave My Husband?”

I want to leave my husband, but I don’t know how. We’ve been together for 10 years, lived together for 7, and married for 2. In reality, the last 4 or 5 years have been really unhealthy (we can’t/don’t communicate, it’s not fulfilling — mostly for me, etc.) I’ve been seeing a therapist for the past 8 months, and I’ve decided that I need to move on in order to be healthy and happy. Now that I know I want to leave, I’m clueless as to how to do it. I tried talking to my husband, but he begged me to stay, and I caved. That was a month ago, but nothing’s really changed. Part of the reason I’ve stayed so long is because I don’t want to hurt him. Do I just say, “This isn’t working, I’ll be out by the end of the day…the week(?)…the month(?)” Do I give him the full rundown about how things got really hard a long time ago and they never got better and during that time I got over him? Do I sign a lease somewhere and say, “Surprise!” I want to be gentle, but I also know the outcome I want. I’ve been with my husband since I was 20. And, before that I didn’t have much relationship experience. I know I need/want to move on with my life; I just have no clue how to make it happen. — Regretful Wife

You say that “part of the reason” you’ve stayed so long is because you didn’t want to hurt your husband. What’s the other part of the reason? If it’s something that hasn’t been resolved yet, clearly you need to make sure that it is before you move on. Once that’s taken care of, you need to develop an exit strategy before you talk to your husband. Since all that resulted before when you talked to him without an exit strategy was him begging you to stay and you caving to his request, you need to have a plan in place. This plan could include: telling a few close friends and/or family members so you have emotional support and accountability; securing a place to stay/live — this could mean renting an apartment if you can afford it; renting a room in an apartment, or lining up a guest room in a generous friend or family’s home; speaking to or hiring a divorce attorney and perhaps even filing for divorce; securing a financial account that your husband does not have access to with enough money to cover living expenses for at least six months; and obtaining some source of income if you are not currently employed. Some people may argue that not all of these things are necessary to leave your husband, and they’d be right; having a job, for example, isn’t necessary, but getting one if you’ve always been financially dependent on your husband would go a long way in showing him that you’re serious about leaving, and that you staying with him is not a topic that’s open for discussion. (Obviously, if you have children together, which I’m assuming you don’t since you didn’t mention them, you’ve got to figure out how they factor into your exit plan).

As soon as you’ve done everything you can to make the transition into a life of independence as smooth as possible, then sit your husband down and tell him that as he knows, you’ve been unhappy in your relationship for quite some time and after many months of therapy and soul-searching you’ve decided you no longer want to live with him. You may even decide at this point to tell him you no longer wish to be married (if you already have divorce papers, this would be the time to show them to him). As clearly and as sensitively as you can, explain the reasons that led to your decision. Tell him that this is a decision you reached awhile ago and as much as you hate hurting him, the decision is made and there’s nothing he can do to change it. Tell him you welcome his questions and are more than willing to explain how you’ve arrived at your decision. Be prepared for anger at this point, but don’t back down. Be strong, and remember your exit plan.

Finally, one thing that really stuck out to me in your letter is the fact that you got married two years ago, yet you’ve been unhappy in your relationship for at least four years. It’s too late for you, but I hope you’ll be an example to others who may be thinking that marriage will fix whatever issues exist in their relationships. People, if things aren’t good now, they’re going to be even worse after you tie the knot. Leaving a live-in partner is hard enough — I know from personal experience — but leaving a spouse you’re legally bound to is much, much more difficult. Don’t get married if you’ve got doubts. Even if you’re currently engaged — even if your wedding is next week — even if you have kids together — don’t get married if your relationship isn’t in a good place. The risks simply aren’t worth it.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. WatersEdge says:

    Wendy, that last part is so true. I’m in a very happy marriage, but it’s amazing how the problems we had when we were dating got worse with marriage. I don’t know if bad habits get worse after people feel secure in a marriage, or if the problems seem amplified because now I know that I can’t leave, but getting married does NOTHING to resolve relationship issues.

  2. Wendy’s advice about what you need to do to prepare yourself to leave is pretty good, but I think you need to make sure that you understand the financial implications of divorce in your state (assets as well as debts) so you can protect yourself accordingly. So, I would definitely work with a lawyer and ensure that you have the proper financial planning in place _before_ you leave.

    If you’ve been unhappy that long, and you’ve tried to leave before, he should already know why the marriage isn’t working for you. Given that, once you’re ready, I’m not sure if trying to sit him down and explaining it to him once again is going to result in a different outcome than the other time(s). I think you should still communicate this to him with sensitivity and tact at some point, but there are other ways you could do it that don’t thwart your plans to leave.

    It’s unfortunate that you’ve spent this much time in a relationship that has been unfulfilling, but since you know you want to leave, I wouldn’t waste any more time.

    1. BeckyGrace says:

      I’ve been divorced twice and in a very happy 3rd marriage so I do have experience with this and FG-SCR you have nailed it. My best advice is that although its going to be very emotional time and sometimes your just going to feel like its all too much… you NEED to approach it like a job. I didn’t and its been a mess. My last ex has ruined my credit and I am still on his house many years after the divorce etc etc… its just terrible and stressful. Get a good lawyer, someone your comfortable with first before you leave. Get the financial part figured out first. I suggest that you just take it one step at a time and know that although its hard to leave, if its the right thing you will feel so empowered and like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders once its done. By getting a lawyer and having a lot of the figured out before you leave, it will actually help to keep things as amicable as possible because there will be less fighting about the details after the fact. Good luck and keep your head up. Its a big decision and a HUGE step but if you truly believe its the right thing, use this as a clean fresh start to be the person you want to be.

  3. ReginaRey says:

    I haven’t yet been married, but I certainly can also speak to the truth of how difficult it is to leave someone who you’ve been in a long-term relationship with, and with whom you have invested so much. This sentence struck me in particular: “I tried talking to my husband, but he begged me to stay, and I caved.” The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to stay firm in your decision to leave. I know that when you have shared a decade of history and love, even if half of it has been unhealthy, it can be very tempting to stay out of loyalty and not knowing anything else. But it seems like you’ve taken some strong first steps to make yourself happier, and I promise that with continued strength you will be able to build a healthy relationship with someone new in the future. Best of luck.

  4. Wendy,
    The last bit hit home for me-I was with a guy for almost four years when he dumped me four weeks before our wedding last August (I’ve never gotten a real answer as to why…it keeps changing). The pain from it all is still there-we had pets, just bought a house, lived together for two years…but I cannot agree with you more that marriage doesn’t solve problems, like I thought they would. I thought that his anxiety and stress were because of the wedding planning and so many changes we had made in less than a year, not because he was having doubts and wasn’t happy. Although I was a ball of emotion until recently, I am so thankful that we didn’t go through with it- we’d both be much more miserable now.

    1. I’m glad you’ve moved to a place of acceptance and gratitude. I can’t imagine getting dumped weeks before a wedding, but I’m sure whatever pain you’ve felt is not as great as what you would have felt in your marriage, so hopefully that’s been some comfort.

      1. That’s exactly what I kept telling myself these last few months 🙂 Thanks for your response!

    2. TJ,

      It happened to me too – 4 years together, left 10 days before the wedding. I got answers long after I needed them but I came out better in the end. It gets better, it gets easier, and I’m glad you didn’t get yourself into a bad situation.

      It took me a long time to be happy about the outcome of mine but I can honestly say it was the slammed door that caused me to turn around and see everything that was available to me.

      If you ever need someone to talk to, I’d be glad to help!

    3. bostonpupgal says:

      TJ, I guess I make 3 in this group! Together four years, he left four months before the wedding. He gave a list of really crushing reasons; he couldn’t imagine only sleeping with me for the rest of his life, for one…yeah, ouch. Then came crawling back a few weeks later, begging for a second chance, which I didn’t give him. Later I also found out he had cheated.

      It took me a long, long time to heal. But it surprised me how fast I saw how much better off I was without him. I realized that the issues in our life together were his, and his alone. I know how much hurt you’re going through, and the embarrassment and the feelings of failure don’t help. But they do get better, and eventually they disappear. In fact, I just got engaged to my wonderful boyfriend. We’ve had 2 happy years together, and we plan on many more. You’ll get there again, too!

      1. My ex threw out a list of excuses too, but then changed them. Originally it was that awful, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” (cringe), but then he retraced that statement when he found out I was involved with someone. He’s gone from one end of the spectrum (“I never want to talk to you again” which is totally not plausible, since we work together) to the other (“Let’s just go to Vegas and get married” That was thrown out there a few weeks ago. With a serious face.). The only legit answer I have received is that he wasn’t happy…which if you think about it is a broad statement and doesn’t really give me any insight as to why.

        So I definitely feel your pain, but thankfully you found Mr. Right and I have found Mr. Awesome and the karma gods will come knocking at both of our exes doors 🙂

  5. lemongrass says:

    As an engaged woman, divorce terrifies me. It is so common that I would feel like a fool if I thought “it couldn’t happen to me.” Wendy is really right though about not getting married to fix any problems, and I’ll add, PLEASE don’t have children to fix any problems either. I feel that my personal fears of divorce are just cold feet at this point because I know that we are marrying for the right reasons.

    1. WatersEdge says:

      If it helps, I was terrified of divorce in general and it was amplified x1million during my engagement. If you’re feeling anything like what I was feeling, then I recommend talking to married friends about it. They were much more realistic than my single friends, who said “I would never marry a man who was cranky after a hard day. he should be thrilled to see me every single day of his life” etc.

      1. lemongrass says:

        My cold feet have mostly gone away but there were times when I first got engaged that I really freaked out. Talking about it with friends did help me realize that all my fears were about marriage in general and had absolutely nothing to do with my fiance. Every marriage is a leap of faith and mine is one I am willing to jump for.

      2. TaraMonster says:

        Reading these comments is really helpful to me. I am not engaged, but have been with my boyfriend for six years and we’re talking marriage. He’s wonderful and I know I want to marry him, but my fear of divorce is palpable because of my parents. Suffice it to say they made the phrase “messy divorce” sound like a little clutter in your living room. I know, realistically that I am not my parents, etc., but sometimes I’m just shaking in my boots thinking about the ‘what ifs.’ I’ll be talking to my married friends (thanks @WatersEdge!)… I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to do this already. Lol.

    2. evanscr05 says:

      Lemongrass, I am also currently engaged, and I feel the EXACT same way. My terror comes from having parents that divorced when I was 10 and who still carry the battle scars after nearly 20 years. Watching my mom subsequently remarry and redivorce by the time I was 20, has only made it worse. My fiance’s parents also divorced when he was a small child, though he doesn’t carry the same fear as he was significantly younger and his mom remarried when he was about 10 to a man he has called his father ever since. I think it’s normal for this feeling to amplify during an engagement. Married friends of mine have expressed the same sentiment. I find that my fears are less when I talk about how I feel with my fiance. If there’s an understanding from both people that the future is uncertain, it makes the present a little sweeter and the effort to support each other even greater. Congrats on your upcoming marriage!

      1. lemongrass says:

        Thanks! Congrats to you too! I think its great that you are talking to your fiance about cold feet. I have talked to mine as well and it really helped. I think that it is a good exercise in communication and brings a couple closer together.

  6. I’ll probably write more on this later, as I have a vast pit of experience upon which to draw in this particular area, but one thing I’d suggest that runs, not so much contrary to, but in parallel with the other advice is this:

    Consider a separation first, but only after you’ve followed all of the advice about getting your finances in order. Find a place you can stay for an amount of time but not necessarily indefinitely. Do everything you’d do to prepare for a divorce – including speaking with an attorney – but don’t yet file. Sit down and tell your husband that you’re leaving in exactly the same way you would tell him about the divorce except mention that it’s a separation and that you intend to file for a divorce after a specific period of time. Some states recognize separation legally; others don’t. An attorney could verify your rights before you move out.

    I suggest this because of the guilt you feel over leaving and because of his likely attempts to beg you to stay… a divorce is so final, his begging might cause you to relent even if you’ve filed. But… a separation, well… that isn’t final. Not inherently. So you might be able to use that fact internally and with him to at least get out the door to your own (temporary) place. It’ll give you a chance to breathe and him a chance to do all the venting and pleading and begging and bargaining and threatening that he’d do during divorce proceedings, but without the accompanying vast legal bills.

    Also, it’ll allow both of you to see what a post-marriage life would be like, both in terms of freedoms and financially. Odds are that, at the end, you’ll still want it and he still won’t, but at least there will have been time to adjust before beginning legal proceedings.

    Maybe this wouldn’t work in your case, but I’ve seen instances where it has, at the very least, very clearly and undeniably pointed out issues that a divorce would bring. If a divorce follows, you haven’t really lost anything except some time before legally being rid of him – but you’d be on your own starting at the same time.

    Just a thought.

    1. Sounds like a great idea – but I would definitely have a deadline in mind. I was a wreck for the month after I moved out of the house in which I lived with my husband and before I filed the divorce papers – but once I filed them the roller coaster became less wild. It was another 5 months before the divorce was final – and it was a roller coaster for at least another month after that… but the time in limbo was really really draining and terrible.

  7. Don't Defund NPR! says:

    This letter was simply too hard to diFficult to read.
    Though I feel for the LW, it got me upset in thinking of responses to another letter recently published – Is He Ever Going To Propose.

    Problems surrounding communication abound in every relationship. Marriage won’t fix them.
    I wish the LW the best, but I wonder if leaving is the wisest decision considering she didn’t consider or do a couple therapy to help illuminate the communication and lack of fulfillment problems to him, then commit to working on it together.

    Too, too sad and easy to simply bail.

    1. Woman of Words says:

      That’s very harsh… There is nothing ‘easy’ about leaving – if it was, LW wouldn’t even be writing in. The LW has mentioned therapy and for all we know they may have attempted couples therapy. I am in exactly the same situation myself right now, and have been for the last 4 years, except we have children and have been married for almost 20 years. We have tried counselling, together and seperately, I have tried different approaches to communication. I couldn’t leave knowing I hadn’t tried everything, but NOTHING has made any difference for any length of time – things change just enough to make me think he might have understood but then slowly slide back to what they were, and in the meantime my life is passing by.

      Wendy is right – an exit plan is a must, and like you I learnt it the hard way. Unfortunately I have nothing extra to add as I could have been the LW myself. Just keep your chin up and remain focused on what you know is right for you. Hugs.

      1. Leave NPR Alone! says:

        WoW, my words were not meant to be harsh.
        To clarify, it was difficult to read because as a person who believes in marriage and upholding the vows taken (“…through thick and thin…”), a bit of me is torn apart when I hear of a marriage falling apart. I understand we are not witnessing a physical (maybe emotional, but I’ll withhold on that even) abuse. Maybe an un-attentive mate who isn’t meeting the LW’s full “needs”.

        It sounds like the LW is determinedly set to leave her husband and that is sad considering that we don’t know of the alternate ways her and her husband have attempted to bridge the gap (communication and fulfillment) and for her to make her wishes be known to him.

        My opinion was that it is too simple to walk away because marriage, from what I understand, requires work. Lots of work.
        To hear my grandparents talk (and laugh) of the struggles they’ve had in their 50+ years of marriage, I am awed and always tear up because it is evident they took the vows seriously. The LW’s problems pale in comparison to what this wonderful couple have gone through – and learned and strengthened their relationship on.
        I think Stephen’ piece on GMP – http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/what-your-marriage-needs-to-survive/ speaks very well of what Grandma & Grandpa acknowledge. But I digress…

        LW, you have my sympathy (as does your husband).
        Yes, seek out your friends and family in this trying time and if anything as _jsw_ suggested, consider a trial separation, but allow me to break from the masses and ask you to do yourself a favor; give it one more go before you reach 100% that it is time to go. Maybe this final go should be of a different nature than “trying to tell him you are leaving”

        Off the top of my head;
        – couples counseling
        – a chat with him (in the presence of a trusted mutual friend/family member – one who has both of your best interests at heart)
        – write him a letter and ask him to read it and,
        – join a support group that is set for couples like yourself can all be ways that can help him see where you are coming from.

        If communication is the bigger problem, chances are; you may not also fully be aware of what he’s been experiencing – give him an ear but also stand firm on your wants and needs from him and for him to be more communicative to you.

        That’s all this stranger of an NPR fan can say to you on your predicament. I wish you all the best & please… don’t be so fast to throw away this marriage. It could be the best life-learning lesson for you (and for us, when you write back with updates) to ever learn.

      2. @Leave NPR Alone!: I agree that it is best to attempt to resolve issues in a marriage before leaving it, but, especially in cases where children aren’t involved (because they do complicate things and the affects on them should be taken into account), there is no compelling reason to continue to try, over and over, to “make” something work simply because, at some point, one decided to get married. If the LW has attempted to the extent she feels reasonable to resolve the problems, she’s under no ethical obligation to live out the rest of her life with a man she does not want simply because they’re currently married. There is no benefit to society to her staying married, but there is a detrimental effect on her happiness to stay that way.

        Again, I strongly concur that, before entering a process as expensive and stressful as divorce, one should try to make things work. But one should also be able to decide that it just… won’t.

      3. RoyalEagle0408 says:

        @NPR- Your first comment definitely read a little harsh and borderline judgmental to me as well. Especially your ending sentence.

      4. Woman of Words says:

        @NPR – I agree you have outlined some good strategies for clear communication. However, the crux of the matter is what’s happening within the relationship. If these things can’t be fixed then it’s time to work on some exit strategies.

        I don’t believe anyone gets into marriage thinking they will be divorcing sometime down the track. Over time people change, and sometimes that means growing apart. It can mean your goals and ambitions have changed and that you possibly are not living up to your potential, or are suffering as a result. Usually it’s not over a spat… Sometimes it’s because no effort has been made, but it can also be because the situation was unfixable and it’s time to move on.

        In my case, lack of affection and intimacy over 25 years together, and almost 20 years of marriage have led to feelings of inadequacy, low self esteem and depression. Couple counselling has not helped (my husband sat there saying whatever he thought was going to get him out of there the quickest), nor have other forms of communicating the message. Twice previously I have tried to leave, been talked into not doing so by family – but in the end, I do not believe it is in the best interests of either myself, my children or my husband to stay together.

        So i made a decision to make changes, and at the start of the year we had the talk, and was very clear that if nothing changed this time I would be moving on. Two days later, I was raped by an acquaintance. I was in no position mentally or physically to leave the relationship – however, apart from support in the initial stages, nothing has really changed within my relationship. Now I am back to square one.

        Nothing about any of this is easy. Not the realisation that things are not working (it can be years before you understand what is happening), not the decision to leave, nor the communication, or the final move. Often you lose sight of what is best for you (and therefore others such as your children) because there is so much other turmoil. However, we only get one life and everyone deserves happiness.

        I am assuming LW has figured out why she wants to leave, and has made an effort previously to try to get things to work. Getting the ball rolling is a super hard thing to do, mentally. I understand why she is seeking advice.

        It’s not easy.

    2. RoyalEagle0408 says:

      This comment was simply too difficult to read.

    3. I thought the same thing actually. It’s just like she is saying, “I’m bored now.” I get that she committed herself to this guy when she shouldn’t have, didnt get a chance to realy see what was out there, etc… but that was the choice she made.

      If a man sent in this letter the commentators would be irate. Communication problems can and should be fixed. Not a good enough reason to break the vows of marriage. The institution means so little now.

      1. If you are religious, I can see how you’d consider the vows to be significant. Even so, I find it difficult to explain why the God you believe in would want you to be miserable. Even from a religious standpoint, marriage has perpetuated as a means to ensure children have both parents around. It serves little purpose before there are children.

        If you’re not religious, marriage is a legal contract which can be cancelled by either party, albeit at a price.

      2. yea, but that’s the difference between marriage and a relationship. I mean, people throw the word commitment around a lot, but it means sticking with something even if you don’t want to anymore. The LW obviously will do whatever she wants, but I’m just saying, the way people view marriage nowadays is a joke.

        You’re committed… until you don’t want to be anymore.

      3. Am I wrong? What does “for better or for worse” mean to you thumb downers? Are people really taking the vow “for better or for worse” thinking that if they decide the communication is “fulfilling” for them anymore this doesn’t count as “for worse” but instead is something so horrible the whole thing needs to be called off?

        I’m looking at this from the husbands perspective. He didn’t cheat, he didn’t hit her, he didn’t lose all their money with compulsive spending and a gambling addiction. His wife has decided she is no longer fulfilled, (actually, at the same level of fulfillment she was when he proposed and she accepted, and they married) but instead of couples therapy, she is leaving him. He is devastated.

        I always heard that couples fall in and out of love throughout a marriage. She obviously is in a down time, but that doesn’t mean it’s permanent. If he was leaving her for the same reason he would be vilified.

        Maybe she feels so guilty because she is NOT doing the right thing. She should fight for her marriage. The choice she made. Her poor husband. 🙁

      4. RoyalEagle0408 says:

        Jess, this isn’t a case of them “falling in and out of love” throughout their relationship. She has been unhappy for years. I don’t think she should have gotten married if she wasn’t happy, but I also know I’ve made mistakes/bad judgment calls/whatever you want to call it. That doesn’t mean the LW (or me or anyone else in the world) deserves to be miserable forever. Unless you’ve never in your life made a mistake, you can’t judge this woman.

        I think people rush into marriage and get married for the wrong reasons, but I don’t think that means they shouldn’t be allowed to get divorced. And as far as the husband? She has tried to leave and he begs her to stay. Seems to me like he’s manipulating her. He should be in therapy. Also, a divorce would be better for him as well. He deserves a partner who wants to be with him, not one he has to beg to stay with him.

      5. That’s true, and there are no children involved. And I agree with the point about her husband deserving to be with someone who really loves him. Still I think her feelings might change again with some effort/time.

        My dad divorced his first wife (no children) but he always made it clear that they “tried everything” to make the marriage work, including about 5 years of therapy. He said they got married because it was the 70s and his company pressured him into it as they were a “family values” company and he was living in sin with his girlfriend. And his company was Westinghouse! A huge corporation. Imagine a company pressuring an employee like that now!

        Still, I find it hard to believe that she would go through the whole engagement and wedding if she was this unhappy. I think at least to some degree, her current feelings are influencing her memory.

      6. BTW living in sin was the companies words, not mine! I currently live with my boyfriend and I’ve lived with a previous boyfriend also.

        As an aside, I never considering “definitely knowing we were going to be together forever/get married” as a requirement for living with someone, which is what almost everyone mentions when ‘defending’ living together without being married. This is probably a topic for a separate thread (maybe an ‘open topic’ weekend) but I moved in with my boyfriend because we spent so much time together already and love living together. I’m not sure if we’ll get married. (As marriage would involve us living in Europe forever and I’m not ready to make that decision)

        I dont really see anything wrong with this. But I do have the mindset that once you are married, you are in it for a whole different level of commitment, and I guess that’s why I do not see the LW’s point of view here.

      7. RoyalEagle0408 says:

        Maybe her current feelings are affecting her memory and she was happy before. By the same logic though, maybe she is now realizing that what she thought was happiness wasn’t really happiness before.

        Hindsight is 20/20, afterall.

      8. Click-Clack on NPR! says:

        So sad that marriage is trivialized and for us to not hold persons in a marriage to fight for a good cause is indeed, sad!

        To get to Joe’s point; to leave on her part will be unethical and amoral. Religious or not. Marriage is more than a social contract and should be respected as such.

        This woman is now bored and you are all advising her to move forth rather than advising her to dig deeper within herself. Commenting and dishing the easy way out is just that… too easy to do when it’s not affecting any of us directly.
        Good luck to her and I hope she finds that happiness in her next relationship/marriage.

        And I agree with Jess – if it was the guy writing in with the same letter (sub wife for husband, etc), he stands to have his head yanked off by Wendy and in the comments section.

        Here’s to hoping he realizes he stands to gain as much, if not more in his soon to be ex-wife’s departure.

      9. You know, I get so fucking sick of close-minded people assuming that I give gendered advice — that if, as you say, “it was the guy writing in with the same letter (sub wife for husband, etc), he stands to have his head yanked off by Wendy.” Uh, no. I actually do not believe for one second that a person, regardless of gender, who has been miserable for his or her entire marriage is “unethical” or “amoral” for considering divorce.

      10. Click-Clack on NPR! says:

        Aaaalrighty then…

      11. Click-Clack on NPR! says:

        And from the letter, she sounds bored which is vastly different from “miserable”. Please stop extrapolating more than you should.

      12. I don’t see how “really unhealthy,” “can’t/don’t communicate,” and “not fulfilling” translate as “bored” as opposed to “miserable.” You don’t spend 8 months with a therapist because you were bored and decided on that instead of a Netflix subscription. You do it because you are seeking a way to overcome an unhealthy situation.

        I see absolutely no reason whatsoever for someone to not get out of a relationship like that. Show me the harm to society, and maybe I’ll see some of your point. But for now, my point is that a married couple without children is no different than a couple in a dating relationship except for the legal contract which they need to have dissolved. She’s not happy, and if he is, it’s not a very loving thing to bind her to a relationship which is not working. And it’s not helpful to him, either.

      13. RoyalEagle0408 says:

        Not that your ego needs to be any larger, but this comment made me giggle.

      14. Keep telling me how to run my website and you’ll be banned.

      15. Click-Clack on NPR! says:

        How is that telling you how to run your website?
        Isn’t this anti-what you are about; an open forum to discuss ideas and debate matters?

        Go ahead and ban me if you wish, but you can count on me to call you out for misrepresenting a point of view when needed.

      16. RoyalEagle0408 says:

        Wendy, my girl crush just got that much bigger.

        NPR Fanatic- It’s a little harsh of you to say that wanting to get a divorce is “unethical” and “amoral”. And as Joe said it’s a legal contract. Maybe you believe it should be respected as something more, but not everyone does and that’s their business. And as far as it not directly affecting any of the commenters? More than one has shared that they’ve been in the same/a similar situation before.

      17. Actually, most marriages do involve vows, whether you’re religious or not. So it’s more than just a legal contract actually, it’s a promise to be with the other person forever. I think that’s what NPR and Jess are getting at. You made a vow, you promised this person you would spend your life with them. And people seem to throw it away so easily these days.

        Now, I’m not saying I don’t believe in divorce. My brother-in-law is getting divorced, and everyone’s behind him on that one cuz his wife is a total psycho. Of course, she was a psycho before the wedding too, but everyone makes mistakes. For this LW, I don’t think there’s enough info to say one way or the other if she’s “tried everything”. Anyway, if she really has, then it’s reasonable that she should start divorce proceedings. If she hasn’t, then she definitely should get back in there and give it her all – she just shouldn’t have kids with him unless she gets to a place where she’s actually happy!

      18. I wonder how much effort the LWs husband has put into trying everything. Jess and NPR fanatic seem to point out whether or not she’s tried everything… I’d think her years of unhappiness and months in therapy are indicative that she’s tried a lot – whether or not her efforts will meet the “Tried everything” standard I don’t know, but she clearly hasn’t taken this lightly. It takes two to make a marriage work – and sometimes one person can give and give and give until there is nothing left to give. It seems that many people say that marriage is taken so lightly these days – I don’t know that that is the case at all. Every bride says or thinks “my marriage and love for this guy will be forever” and that there is no way they will become a divorce statistic – yet a significant number of them will be divorced in 5, 10, or 25 years. I doubt that many of them were flippant about taking their vows. Breaking up a marriage is terribly hard to do. I used to be a “Smug Married” that thought people should just try harder rather than throw in the towel on a marriage, but I think I was naive when I had that attitude – I would venture to guess that the majority of people who are contemplating divorce or are getting divorced have significantly deeper problems in their marriage than the typical disagreements that happily married people also share. And I’d think that a compassionate tone would be more well-received by people in that sad situation.

        Further – I don’t think “For Better or Worse” means that one person can be treated worse and worse or feel worse and worse and they have to stand by their vows. I think it means as life goes on there will be good times and bad and you vow to stick together through those times.

      19. I have been annoyed by this argument on posts lately. It seems like as soon as someone doesn’t like what they read they blame it on gender.

    4. Why are people acting like she has decided on a whim to leave her husband? Eight months of therapy have helped her reach this point. She already tried to leave him once (and nothing changed). And most importantly, she’s been unhappy for HALF of their relationship! Years of unhappiness is not the same as going through a phase or getting bored. I don’t think it’s so unlikely that things would not work out with someone you started dating when you were only 20, especially when you were inexperienced then. I don’t see why anyone wants to jump on the LW. Divorce is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, both in general and in the LW’s particular situation. The issue of breaking wedding vows is so much less important than getting to a point that is ultimately better for both people.

  8. Runs with Scissors says:

    I lived pretty much your exact situation (together for 10, married for 3, miserable for…longer than I care to admit). We finally split when he decided that he wanted my okay for him to start dating other women.

    I stayed in the house for a while, but then I realized that I was only hurting both of us in the long run. It was very, very hard, but I left. It took a while, but four years later I am happily engaged to a wonderful man, and couldn’t feel better about life.

    I wish you all the best in a very difficult time.

  9. Talk to a lawyer first. Find one that is smart and won’t back down in a fight. Make SURE that they are emotionally supportive as well. I think my lawyer did more by being kind and compassionate than he did in the court room – but it made things so much better. Also – a good lawyer will lay out how things are likely to go, it will set your mind at ease and allow you to make plans for your future.

    And – I think it’s important to be your best self – but don’t feel bad if you and your soon to be ex can’t get along during this process. You might be able to be friends in a few years – but it’s asking too much of both of you to try to maintain a friendship while you are going through this. I am one of four women who have gotten divorced in the last 12 months. Three of us tried to maintain somewhat friendships and friendly divorces – and one was not hateful but not very giving either. She ended up financially and emotionally better off than the ones of us who tried to be too nice.

    Good Luck – my divorce was the worst thing I’d ever been through – but now that I’m on the other sad – it was the best thing I ever did for myself. I wish you the same peace and optimism when you are done.

  10. llclarityll says:

    One big thing I don’t understand about this letter and situation (and maybe I misunderstood) is the therapist part. LW says she has been seeing a therapist for 8 months, but it kind of seems as if her husband may not know this? If her husband knows she is seeing a therapist because they have troubles in their relationship, and things aren’t getting better, then wouldn’t he have some inclination that perhaps the marriage is failing? I’m confused because she acts as if he is going to be blindsided when she tells him she is leaving.

    Sorry if that isn’t very articulate, I’m having a hard time explaining my confusion today 🙂

  11. LW, I’m sorry you are in this situation. It is never an easy one.
    One thing that worked for me while going through my divorce was not thinking/talking about the situation _all_ the time. It was very hard, but I made a conscious effort to try to have some time and space free of my troubles. It was exhausting but, it helped to keep me grounded. I immersed myself into my work, for example, and it was a ‘break’ from the emotional turmoil to go to the office and focus on something else. Spending lots of time with my family and friends, and talking about trivial things instead of my problems, also helped.
    Also, don’t forget to take care of yourself. With all the things that go on while going through a divorce, or getting ready for one, it is important to remember that you need lots of TLC: don’t forget your meals, take vitamins if your appetite isn’t the same (which is likely), go for a manicure, or to the movies with some friends. Pamper yourself.
    Best of luck.

  12. Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich says:

    I do feel for the LW, but one things she needs to accept is that there is NO painless way to break up with someone. Waiting, because you fear hurting the other person, doesn’t really prevent pain. It delays it until the pain becomes something deeper and stronger.

    Rip it off like a band-aid, but have the emotional support system to process that pain afterward. You’ll grow from this experience, and hopefully so will he. You say you haven’t been happy for the last four or five years. Chances are, he hasn’t either. I’m not saying exactly that you are doing him a favor, (at least its not going to feel like one for a long time, if ever), but truly, you are. Ten years is a long time to dedicate your life to someone, and I understand how hesitant you may be to stay with the evils you know, but you both deserve chances at happiness. Please go find it.

    1. I totally agree, and remember that the longer you wait, you’re not only going to hurt him more, you’re also hurting yourself in the process. The sooner you move on, the sooner you both can begin to heal. Be strong and be well.

  13. I went through a very similar thing — we were together for 13 years, married for ALMOST 10 (I left him 2 months before the 10th anniversary) — and it was SO heart wrenching to leave that it took me almost 7 years to do it…
    I would suggest this:
    1. Talk to him HONESTLY about what you are unhappy about and possibly what can be done (if anything ) to help fix it. In my case, I had been outlining to my husband for 8 years what was making me miserable, what was going on that was making me feel that I was disconnected from him, and what he was doing that was pushing me away and leading me to feel that I couldn’t rely on him — and he simply didn’t want to actually accept it, no matter how many times or ways I talked to him about it, so when it came time that I wanted to leave he COULDN’T repair it! If you can talk and there IS a chance you could reconnect your feelings with him, let him know… but you might STILL want to consider a separation as well…
    2. Talk to a lawyer. Find out your rights and what will likely happen. Talk COST as well… even though it might seem silly, EVEN SEPARATION in some places is an expensive legal process.
    3. Talk to friends and family. Get support. If you can’t find support through friends and family (which can happen) seek out a therapist and see if there are any support groups.
    4. Get a job if you don’t have one. If you have been financially dependant on him know that unless you have a disability (and sometimes even then) you may not qualify for social assistance programs and will need to support yourself financially. DO NOT assume you will get Alimony or Spousal Support — I know of only a handful of women who recieved it and only for a short period of time. If you have a job now, start thinking about separating your finances. Get your own bank account and credit cards. If you have your own bank account start saving money to leave, it is EXPENSIVE. If you have joint credit cards, try to get the balances down to $0 so you can get your name off the cards, because these are one of the EASIEST ways for an ex to ruin your credit and incur debt against your name during the period between leaving and legal separation/divorce.

  14. Relaxicab says:

    I had this exact scenario happen to me a few years ago. My ex-wife and I were together about the same amount of time as the LW and her husband. She had very little relationship experience before we met. We lived together for 7 years and then got married. We were divorced 2 years later.

    I won’t pretend to know how your husband will react since everyone is different. I’ll tell you how I reacted – I was absolutely devastated. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. I wouldn’t wish that upon anybody. But…I got over it. And you know what? She was right. Being in a relationship that isn’t satisfying is much worse than breaking up.

    If there is any chance you think you can reconnect with him, you should try. I think you would regret it if you didn’t. But if you are done, truly done, it’s time to move on. You owe that to yourself and your husband because I can almost guarantee that he isn’t satisfied either, he just hasn’t figured that out yet. He probably won’t take it well. It will be really difficult for both of you.

    As for how to leave him, just be honest with him. And compassionate. And don’t offer him false hope. That was probably the worst thing my ex-wife did when she left. Don’t go to counselling with him unless you want to stay married. You should definitely talk to a lawyer before talking with him and have your exit strategy planned. Be prepared to leave right after you’ve talked with him. If you can avoid staying in the same house you should. And this might sound strange, but use the word divorce when you’re talking with him. If you want to be divorced, then be clear about it. My ex-wife never used that word and it really sent a lot of wrong messages to me. When your head is a mess (as his likely will be), it’s really easy to misinterpret what would otherwise be obvious.

    All the best.

  15. Quakergirl says:

    Everyone has made great points about the logistics of leaving, but I’d especially like to re-iterate @Pam’s advice about your joint credit cards. Anger, spite, and hurt feelings can make otherwise sane people do very ugly things, and if your husband tanks your credit, you will have a VERY hard time getting a new apartment or new cards in your own name. It may help to talk to a financial advisor and/or lawyer about how to make sure your credit isn’t negatively impacted by closing/opening a bunch of new cards, how your state will view your jointly held debts, and whether you will be responsible for any existing debt in your husband’s name. I know this can be majorly expensive, but it’s SO worth it– and ask around to see if your friends and family know anyone who can give you a break.

    Another logistical consideration is your health insurance. I don’t know whether or not you are on your husband’s coverage, but if so, think about how that will work during your separation and subsequent divorce. Even if you are employed and can get your own coverage, you may not be able to register until the next enrollment period (usually January) after you lose coverage through your (ex-)husband. Think about a stop-gap measure for periods where you may not be covered– even just a basic catastrophic event coverage plan is better than nothing.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

  16. My parents split up when I was 14 and I think it was one of the best things to ever happen to me or to my mom. The best word to describe my mom while she was married would probably be repressed. After her divorce people started telling her how much better she looked, and the neck and back pains she had disappeared. She just hadn’t been happy in her marriage. I know most kids are probably upset when their parents divorce but I had been hoping my parents would divorce for years. Now, 6 years later, my mom still says she regrets staying as long as she did. And her credit is still bad- that’s the one thing that was bad about it all: my dad really screwed us financially. So really do get that sorted out first! I know the LW doesn’t have kids but maybe my parents’ situation can at least show that staying too long is bad for everyone and that the divorce can really be freeing.

  17. D Hampton says:

    I have been married for almost 19 years, and have been unhappy for some time, but couldn’t quite pinpoint why. Now I realize we are in a completely co-dependent relationship…he’s a major taker and I am a major giver. I have come to the point where I am SO emotionally drained, I can’t even invest in the relationship anymore. I am so spent. I enabled his behaviors of control, manipulation, financial dependency and lack of responsibility and ambition for so long, I am a complete shell. I do not love him anymore, and he was shocked when I told him so, even though we have communicated little in the past year or two and have had minimal sexual relations. We do have 4 small children, and we attempted therapy for a very short time, but I am so drained, I can’t even emotionally commit. I am just going through the motions. He takes care of the children full time, but does nothing else (we pay for house cleaners and grass cutters, and nothing gets done around the house besides laundry and dishes), and even if he changed, I don’t know that my respect level for him would rebound as he has no internal drive or ambition, never has, even though he claims now that he wants to change since I’ve dropped this bomb on him. We’ve had discussions about my new found feelings that turn him from saying “I love you don’t leave” to “you’re an evil bitch who should have died instead of my mother” and in a couple of cases physical abuse (for which he apologizes each time), mostly because I have struggled articulating why I feel this way. This is not an environment to want to invest in fixing this. I don’t have the energy and time in my life to hope that he changes…he’s always been a lot of talk and little real action so I just don’t have faith that someone can change in their late 40s. Friends and family tell me “about time you woke up”. I am planning to file for divorce.

  18. D Hampton. I am exactly where you are. He has been an extra child to take care of most of our 14yr marriage. We have 3 kids. I am so emotionally and financially drained as well. I don’t love him anymore. I don’t respect him. I want a divorce but he keeps begging for another chance. The house is in my name, so I’m staying, but he can’t afford to move out. I do care about him enough that I don’t want to throw the father of my children out into the streets with nothing, so he continues to stay. He wants more counseling (the first round-a yr-didn’t do anything). I’ve had the begging and crying, the ‘how can you do this to the kids’, the ‘you lied at the wedding with your vows’, all kinds of things. I don’t know what to do at this point. I agree with you that I don’t know if I could ever love him again, even if he became the perfect husband. I just need a break.

  19. D Hampton says:

    Do what your heart tells you. My problem is that I didn’t pay attention to my emotions all of these years dealing with him, I repressed them and assumed I could overcome by bearing all of the burden. It doesn’t work. I am prepared to provide a decent alimony payment…the rest is up to him. He waffles between wanting to do something for himself for once and making something of himself, and then admitting he can’t survive on his own and giving up because no one taught him about all of the things he needs to do as a responsible adult. He needs to do for himself. I get mixed reviews on the kids…it’s terrible to stay together and pretend because they get a very terrible example of what an adult relationship should be, or it’s terrible to divorce because they’ll be emotionally scarred. I am going to take the latter route, and work to help them sort it out emotionally over time. Once I realized the children are worse off either way, and the choice was I stay and be miserable for the sake of his happiness or leave the marriage for the sake of mine and make him miserable, I chose the latter.

  20. It really is amazing how similiar your story is to mine. Everything you say about how you are feeling and what he is like is the same as me and my husband. Change is scary even if you know it will be better in the long run.

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