“Is it Selfish to Leave my Husband of 18 Years?”

I’ve been married for a little over 18 years. It was a very rough start. We were your typical young stupid kids who jumped into marriage. We fought a lot. He would yell and get drunk often, etc., etc. As a few years passed, things would get better, but not completely. After I had our second child, I hated the thought of kissing him, much less having sex with him. As I think back now, I probably had post-partum depression.

He used this time to go out till all hours and come home screaming about what a bad wife I was. One particular time (as I will never forget) the fight was so intense and mortifying emotional that I begged for divorce. He told me that there would be no chance in hell that I’d see my kids if I proceeded. Scared and young, I didn’t know what to do. The following day was a half attempt at making up and because I didn’t like fighting, and certainly didn’t want to be alone, or without my kids, I tried forgetting that night.

About a year later, his best friend told me he was cheating on me (with his wife). Again mortified, I tried to remove him from my life, but I didn’t. My pastor told me to heal my marriage. My dad didn’t want to hear my story — just told me to keep my family together. We were in the process of moving to another state, and I had no one to help me out… so I moved to another state and stayed with him. He has told me over and over that he is sorry, and I have forgiven him, but for whatever reason I cannot forget. And ten years later I am still suspicious.

My problem is that he isn’t always a monster. True, I have cried numerous times to ask God for a way out, and I have a very, very hard time picturing us growing old together. (Ugh). But he can be a great guy. He is a hard worker and tries hard to be a good dad. Life can be comfortable with him — like going through the motions — but we have very little in common anymore.

Am I selfish for picturing my life without him? Just recently, my first child moved away to college and I started to get hopeful and scared at the same time. I need to decide. I don’t want to waste any more time wondering if I’m doing the right thing by staying. There is nothing out there for me. No other man, no job, no friendships that would help me move on. Sometimes I think I can do it on my own, and other times my head tells me I’m a whack job for even thinking it.

Just recently I’ve expressed myself and my feelings to him. He is devastated. But I feel like I have put him in limbo. I don’t know if I want to be married or not. I’ve been seeing a counselor, and she tells me that I’ve closed myself up to emotions and love with him. I don’t know. Maybe. She isn’t making me feel less confused about what I should do. I don’t want to hurt him if I’m just being a selfish person. I don’t really want to hurt him at all. But then, I don’t want to stay if I’m always wondering if I should have taken a different path. – Hurt Wife

It’s interesting that you say, “My problem is that he isn’t always a monster.” Actually, that isn’t your problem at all. Your problem is that you don’t particularly trust your husband, whatever bond you once shared was long ago damaged and never repaired, and you are too scared to leave or disrupt the comfort you’ve gotten used to. The problem is that you don’t believe you deserve to be happy or that your happiness matters enough to risk the unhappiness of others.

But whose unhappiness, besides yours, is at stake? Do you honestly believe that your husband is happy? Do you think your marriage, though completely unfulfilling for you, is rewarding to him? Yes, you have kids, but they are practically grown now. One has already left for college. The other will be leaving soon too. Do you think you’ll wreck their lives by taking care of your own? No! Quite the opposite. You’ll model for them that it’s never too late to make a new beginning. You’ll show them that what a strong woman looks like and that it’s important to make your happiness and personal fulfillment a priority.

Here’s the thing about your kids: in a sense, their lives are just beginning. They’re going to have relationships and great loves and maybe marriage and families of their own. They’re going to have careers and adventures and their own homes. They’re going to have successes and failures and broken hearts. They’re going to be OK. And if you show them what OK looks like — that a person can experience a sense of failure or great change or face the scary unknown and come through it just fine — better than fine! — they are going to be that much more OK.

But even if you don’t — even if you stay in your safe, but ultimately unhappy marriage, they’re still going to be OK. They’re still going to live their lives regardless of what is happening with yours. And wouldn’t you rather be traveling along your own exciting path as they travel theirs? Wouldn’t you rather be moving toward something, even it’s unknown, rather than staying in the boring and unfulfilling place you are forever?

Maybe your therapist is right that you’ve closed yourself off to love from and with your husband. But that doesn’t mean that there’s a lot of love there to feel anyway. It doesn’t mean you’re supposed to stay with him. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the work you should be investing in yourself is work that is better invested in him or your marriage. You’ve given it 18 years. Maybe it’s time to see what else is out there — start a new chapter.

I know it seems scary to think about moving on when you don’t have the support to make moving on easier. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. The first step would be to talk to a divorce lawyer and find out how to protect yourself and secure some financial support as you find your own way. Then you would need to find a job or a path that would lead to a job. As for friends, that’s something you should be focusing on whether you decide to leave your husband or not. Everyone needs friends, especially someone in an unhappy marriage.

You have the power to make your life better. But you can’t wait for it to happen. You have to be brave and take the steps toward a happier life. If you don’t, it’s going to be more of the same for a very long time. Your biggest problem is NOT that your husband isn’t a big enough monster to justify you leaving. Your biggest problem is that you don’t believe your own unhappiness is justification for making some changes. But it doesn’t have to be that way.


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


  1. Wendy, I love your response to this letter, and I really have nothing to add except for to ask the LW if she and the hubby have ever been in counseling together. If there’s any hope of this marriage being salvaged, couples counseling is definitely a necessity.

  2. Selfish means putting your own needs ahead of someone else’s. This is not always a bad thing. No one else has looked after your interests: not your husband, not your pastor, not your father. It’s time you looked after yourself. If it were me, I’d leave and try to find whatever happiness is out there. But you will not find it if you stay.

    1. I would venture even to say not her therapist.

      The LW is obviously unhappy, and from the brief line given about the therapist, I’m not sure he or she is much help. Sure, maybe the LW closed off her feelings for her husband, but that was for a reason. And to me, it sounds like some pretty good reasons.

      1. Yes, I neglected the therapist. No one from whom the LW would normally expect to get support has given it to her. She needs to take charge and get herself a new support system.

      2. …i wonder if her therapist is a religious sort of counselor, one who would never counsel someone to divorce…

  3. Perfect advice, Wendy.

  4. Good advice as always, Wendy.

    I would add that everything in life keeps moving and changing. If you don’t drive the change, it drives you. You are now at a point where it must be difficult to imagine why you made the choices you did early in life. By trying to hang on to something that is not making you happy, like staying with him despite the cheating, you have allowed things to change for the worse (for you at least). They won’t likely change for the better unless YOU drive the change. Whether that is inside or outside your marriage, you have to take some steps. You started by expressing yourself. Now you need to find the courage to follow through on what you KNOW your feelings are. My sister stayed with her husband for 18 years too (from age 18), despite being very unhappy. When she attempted suicide, he essentially accused her of being a drama queen, and told her to stop taking the anti-depression medication the hospital put her on. It took her another few years to finally leave. She is much happier now, but still doesn’t truly believe she deserves the nice guy she is with. You are allowed to be happy, but in case you never heard the phrase, happiness is something you have to pursue. Go get some, in whatever way suits you best. You only get one life.

  5. WWS 100%.

    LW, you sound miserable. It’s really sad reading what you’ve written. Life is short. It really, really is, and you only get 1 shot at it. Everyone deserves the chance to be happy, and if you know that isn’t going to happen in your marriage, I hope you have the courage and strength to do something about it.

    It seems so big and difficult to leave, but break it down into little steps, and start with 1 thing at a time. Look for a job, contact a lawyer, start embracing yourself and your independence. Keep in mind that simply not being married isn’t going to make you happy. You need to become invested in your life and in things and people around you. You sound so lonely, and I worry that if you don’t have some support in your life from other people you might regret leaving your husband…

  6. Moneypenny says:

    Wendy’s advice is spot on!
    It’s time to take care of yourself. Your pastor can’t do that, nor can your father, or anyone else. You can totally take charge of your life and decide if your marriage is worth working on/salvaging. It is your choice! You know what your life will be like if you stay- what possibilities could be out there if you leave?

  7. EricaSwagger says:

    “True, I have cried numerous times to ask God for a way out, and I have a very, very hard time picturing us growing old together. (Ugh). But he can be a great guy.”

    You’ve asked for a way out? God doesn’t need to give you one. Make your own decision to not grow old together (UGH!) if you really despise the idea so much! YOU control your life, not god, not your husband, or your kids. Make a choice.

    Also, I have to point out the second part of the quote. Everyone has the potential to be “a great guy”. He might be… sometimes. But if he makes you unhappy in general then however “great” he can be “sometimes” obviously isn’t enough.

  8. LW, WWS^2. Also, are you focusing on you in your therapy? Or your marriage? Make sure it’s you-centered, and if your therapist seems mainly keen on “saving your marriage” over helping you figure you out, then get a new therapist. Good luck LW, I hope you find your joy.

  9. I really hate it when people (usually women) equate living one’s own life and finding happiness with being selfish. It’s what women have been told since the dawn of time. If we don’t sacrifice our hopes and dreams for others, we are selfish creatures. No, we were not put on this earth to serve others. We can and should proudly find our own bliss. In the process, you just might find someone else who values your happiness and finds it not selfish at all.

  10. Avatar photo Regina Chapman says:

    Oh, honey. I almost cried from the desolation in your letter. You are basically apologizing for feeling the way you feel and for being unable to overlook your own interests any longer (after 18 years!!).

    In my opinion, you have to start validating yourself and your feelings – maybe this will start with the simple *acknowledgement* of some feelings – and acting from that place. You don’t *have* to be the victim of your situation, you can actively do something about it. You’re allowed to express your needs and wants as a human being. In fact, there’s great empowerment in getting behind yourself, and, like Wendy said, you starting to act from that place will only set an example of strength and personal integrity for your kids.

    ‘Ugh’ is not a great way to feel about your husband and your life together. Start by acknowledging ‘ugh’ and owning ‘ugh’. Make your own decisions from there. It’s hella scary standing on your own, but in the end: who’s holding you up now? YOU are. You can do this. Best of luck.

  11. Oh LW, it sounds like you already checked out of this marriage. Considering that your husband has already broken the vows he made with you, it sounds like he has too. He could be pleading with words how he needs you in his life, but if you’re husband isn’t backing those words with ACTION, then really, why should you stay?

    Sometimes with change, there is hurt. You cannot live your life worried about the approval or the feelings of others if you’re so unhappy with the way things are. Is it selfish to leave your husband after 18 years? Yes it is, but its foolish to stay if your husband hasn’t given you a reason to. You cannot be a strong couple together if one of the individuals in the couple is not themselves anymore. LW, re-read your letter again and note the level of desperation in your words – you are not yourself anymore. You are this shell of despair, and only you can do something about it.

    Good luck in finding what that something is.

  12. landygirl says:

    This letter reminds me of a joke I heard a long time ago…

    A farmer is in Iowa during a flood. The river is overflowing, with water surrounding the farmer’s home up to his front porch. As he is standing there, a boat comes up, The man in the boat says “Jump in, I’ll take you to safety.”

    The farmer crosses his arms and says stubbornly, “Nope, I put my trust in God.”

    The boat goes away. The water rises to the second floor. Another boat comes up, the man says to the farmer who is now in the second story window, “Jump in, I’ll save you.”

    The farmer again says, “Nope, I put my trust in God.”

    The boat goes away. Now the water is up to the roof. As The farmer stands on the roof, a helicopter comes over, and drops a ladder. The pilot yells down to the farmer “I’ll save you, climb the ladder.”

    The farmer says “Nope, I put my trust in God.”

    The helicopter goes away. The water comtinues to rise and sweeps the farmer off the roof. He drowns.

    The farmer goes to heaven. God sees him and says “What are you doing here?”

    The farmer says “I put my trust in you and you let me down.”

    God says, “What do you mean, let you down? I sent you two boats and a helicopter!!!”
    LW, don’t wait for someone else to fix your life, do it yourself.

    1. painted_lady says:

      I actually thought about using this joke too. LW has had abuse, infidelity, and the exodus of the kids, on top of being able to see herself spending her life without him.

      LW, some things are tests of faith. Some things are road signs. Don’t confuse the two.

    2. I heard that joke at church when I was younger – the priest did a great sermon on “God helps those who help themselves”, it stayed with me for a long time.

      1. Eagle Eye says:

        My rabbi actually gave the same one and it’s also stuck with me!

      2. All purpose spiritual advice 🙂

  13. painted_lady says:

    I have beat my head against a brick wall trying to explain this to my mom: if he’s not *always* a monster, that implies that he is *sometimes* a monster. Change that sentence from your letter:
    “My problem is that he’s sometimes a monster.”

    I don’t know if you can distance yourself far enough to read this objectively, but oh my god, that is such a heartbreaking sentence. The fact that he is not a monster every single second of every single day is not a silver lining.

    Your kids are not stupid. If they’ve been around you both regularly, they know the score. They will understand. It took me forever to realize the way my dad treated my mom and me wasn’t our fault because of how my mom would cater to his tantrums. This will probably be rough for them, but they will understand – probably without you ever telling them a thing. If they don’t understand now, they will eventually. And if they don’t? There are other issues that are not in your control.

    And you know what? Even if they don’t understand, the longer you go without making your own happiness a priority, the longer it’s going to take for people to see that as your right as much as it is anyone else’s.

  14. You Go Girl says:

    The LW’s husband has already broken their marriage covenant with his unfaithfulness. Even though the Bible allows for divorce in the case of aldultery, the LW’s pastor advised her to stay with her husband. When he told her to “heal their marriage”, he was essentially blaming her for her husband’s infidelity. Now she feels guilty for wanting to leave her husband after years of verbal abuse and his infidelity. Unfortunately her experience with her pastor is very typical, because many pastors overlook domestic abuse. My friend is in the process of getting a legal separation from her husband, and she knew better than to ask our pastors for advice.

    I want to tell the LW that God does not require her to endure more abuse. She is not selfish and a bad Christian for wanting to leave her husband. She needs to start investigating how to find a job so that she can be economically independent, and to consult an attorney. If getting a divorce seems too drastic, then at least file for a legal separation.

  15. SweetPeaG says:

    “My problem is that he isn’t always a monster”

    Nope. Your problem is the OPPOSITE. Your problem is that he is someone you’d describe as a “monster” even sometimes! Is it ever worth being married to someone who even occasionally is or acts monstrously? I don’t think so. That is not a word to ever use to describe your spouse! Your husband can be sloppy, or late, or hard to communicate with, or too sensitive. He can have a lot of negative qualities. But “monster”? No, never. That’s a word that makes me think you sometimes fear him. That you can’t trust him. That he makes you feel small. Those are bad things. Being a hard worker and an attempt at being a good dad is not enough.

    I do think that if there were a point in the 18 years you have been married that your husband made serious attempts to make changes, this marriage might have been something worth saving. However, it sounds like that never happened. In EIGHTEEN YEARS! Eighteen years is too long to spend in this kind of desperation and sadness… don’t you think?

    We are all pulling for you. Wishing you the best!

  16. sarolabelle says:

    You make changes when the pain of those changes becomes less than the pain of remaining where you are….you decide which is more painful and then you make the change or not.

  17. bittergaymark says:

    This is what happens when you’re (apparently) so stupid you deliberately CHOOSE to have a SECOND baby with somebody you don’t even like any more — much less love. This is what happens when you seemingly cut off all sex from your partner. Sure, the guy sounds like a real prize. But YOU married him. YOU stuck with him. YOU kept making babies. And YOU sexually rejected him… And then YOU wonder why HE is so unpleasant?


    Take some fucking responsibility for you and your life. Taking some fucking responsibility for YOUR decisions. You’ve wasted both your youth and his with your silly pathetic paralysis. This whole letter reads like a series of terrible events that all just “happened” to you… Whatever… You seem to forget that were instead a willing participant.

    Do something about your life. And stop blaming others. First it was your husband’s fault. Then your father’s. Next it was your undiagnosed depression’s fault. Followed by your minister’s… Oh, no. It was never ever you — was it? Nope. Now I suppose it’s the kids’ fault that you stayed together… Gee, it must be nice to ALWAYS have somebody else to blame for your own mistakes…

    1. If this were another one of those letters we’ve seen a lot of lately where the LW says “He does this and I knew he did this but I stuck with him and now he’s done it again and I don’t know what to do”, I would agree with you. But, in this case, I think there’s something else to consider. The LW sounds like she was raised in a conservative environment. People, particularly women, who are raised in such environments are often taught to respect male authority. Case in point, my brother’s marriage: he runs the house, period. The preacher stood up and commanded his wife to obey him as if he were Jesus himself. (That is a direct quote.) I can’t really blame her for not wanting to sleep with her husband. I wouldn’t either if he were my husband. As for the babies, perhaps birth control is not an option? She sought out help from the people whom she had been taught to respect: her father and her pastor. When they dismissed her concerns, she went to a therapist, who doesn’t sound particuarly helpful. She feels trapped and confused because her teaching is at odds with how she feels she should be treated. At least, that’s how I read it. She needs to know that there are other ways to do things. Abandoning what you’ve known your whole life is hard. What she needs is encouragement, not condemnation. She got enough of that at home.

      1. I have a feeling BGM doesn’t have much sympathy to waste on people who forego birth control for religious reasons. Or who are too stupid (mimicking his tone, not my own thoughts) to break out of an oppressive environment.
        Of course, I could just end that first sentence after “sympathy.” But hey.

      2. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        You’re right… I don’t. Anybody who uses their religion as a crutch — as some silly pathetic excuse for why they brought children into a shitty world that they themselves as parents created by deliberately choosing to (unsafely) fuck somebody they barely know (which, I must say, is oh, so very deeply religious. And, oh, so very RIGHT with God…) is simply neither worthy of either my time or sympathy. I suppose a lot of my disgust at these people could possibly stem from the fact that more often than not they also use that same fucked up religion as an blanket excuse to condemn me and to do all they can to see that life remains as fucked up as possible for gays and lesbians everywhere. Yeah, I suppose that could be it. At any rate — FUCK ‘EM.

    2. Are you incapable of realizing that not everyone is the same? That some people actually CAN be manipulated into doing things they do not want to do and, for a myriad of reasons, are incapable of asserting themselves? And when they actually start making an effort TO assert themselves – your response is what? You wasted your husband’s youth with your silly paralysis? Which silly paralysis was that, exactly? The one where someone threatens to take your children if you make a move? The one where, what should be your avenue of support and rescue, sends you back to your raging, cheating spouse? The one where depression blankets you and makes not rocking the boat the most you can manage? That silly paralysis?
      Seriously – what is wrong with you? You are a grown man whose life hasn’t worked out how you thought it would EVEN THOUGH you are someone with a support system, with a strong sense of self and who seemingly never had to deal with abusive fathers or husbands. Are you so devoid of any kind of emotional intelligence that you are incapable of understanding what life may have been like for this letter writer? That berating at someone fragile may do damage to her? Or is it that because this is the Internet, you just don’t give a damn? You don’t have to agree with her or her choices but why so virulent? Is this the only language you are capable of using when you disagree? Your only method of dissent are wayward personal attacks? Really? You need to check yourself. I don’t know you – but even I know this is beneath you.

      1. WFSS, x 10000.

      2. Agree, amazing response FireStar!

      3. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        She wasn’t in love with him ever, it seems. And so she had another baby? That’s what I’m talking about here. No wonder her husband is fucking pissed off. How could he not be. Being meek isn’t some blanket excuse for deliberately doing nothing to fix your marriage. I don’t know, everybody around here sure does seem to just always love the fucking victim mentality. I simply don’t get it. You know if it was 19fucking60 I’d have more sympathy but for fuck’s sake in 2012. Women’s Lib happened like damn near fifty years ago… Hell, Madonna’s been singing about not going for second best for well over twenty years. Where did the LW grow up? Some Amish village or something?

        Take responsibility for your own life.

        And as for me? My life is a fucked up mess to be sure, but that’s on me. I was fucking overly ambitious. I believed in myself too much. And that …. was a big mistake, to be sure. Colossal. Huge… Things have definitely NOT turned out even remotely as I planned… And yet I don’t sit around blaming everybody under the sun for my mistakes… Admittedly, though, it must be all so very convenient.

      4. Right. Just the immigrants. 😉

      5. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Eh, the immigrants have had nothing to do with my professional failure. The fact that the flood of cheap labor hasn’t exactly been great for many in California is something that remains very open to debate, I suppose. But talk to anybody in the construction business and see what they think of it. Or talk to those that make their livings as nannies… It certainly put the kibosh on my fallback plan of painting houses.

      6. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        But truly, it is my own mistakes and delusions that have left me the most fucked. Don’t tell your children that they can do ANYTHING they put their mind to… It’s a very dangerous message in that they might foolishly believe it and then prove it to be simply not true. Ironically, nobody ever told me that I could do anything I set my mind to. I somehow just foolishly came up with that little chestnut on my own after hearing it somewhere else.


      7. Haha. Too true. Sometimes, perhaps, we should “aim lower”…

      8. What if she did grow up in the equivalent of an Amish village? She had controlling and abusive men around her her whole life – you think Madonna is going to make a dent? And as for the this not being the 1960’s – there is a huge population in your country that didn’t get the memo – and how do I know? Because they are running for CONGRESS, they spout their beyond archaic beliefs and PEOPLE STILL PLAN ON VOTING FOR THEM. So much for Women’s lib infiltrating every aspect of your culture. So yes – the LW grew up in a way that thwarted her own development so that she couldn’t make decisions for herself and have a little self-determination. She is asking for support in finally doing it now. And if you think that is the right move – then support her already instead of blaming the failures of her life on the fact she didn’t want to have sex with her abusive husband. I thought this wasn’t the 1960’s – when exactly do women get to decide who they have sex with?

      9. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Loo, if she didn’t want to fuck her husband, then she owed it to both herself and to him to just leave him. Honestly, I simply can’t believe that this viewpoint of mine is really that radical or even remotely controversial…

        I’d say the exact same thing to any man that wrote in here after having lived his life in such an absurd fashion. If you don’t want to fuck your spouse? Then yeah, it’s time to fucking end things already. Especially since the marriage ended a LONG time ago anyway..

      10. I just wanted to say that you have articulated this perfectly, and I am SO onboard with your argument. I’m so sick of the telling off of people who have problems on here. I agree people need to own their lives and make their own change but for fucks sake, some direction rather than telling them should have done it 20 years ago might actually make a positive difference in peoples lives, ya know.

    3. You Go Girl says:

      Bitter Gay Mark is being very mean to the LW, and I hope she does not take his comments to heart.

      1. More like being a huge fucking asshole! Seriously LW, don’t pay any attention to him.

      2. Grilledcheesecalliope says:

        Agreed, LW just keep scrolling.

    4. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

      Eh I agree that she’s being pretty passive in her own life but I can see how it would be really hard to get divorced. At this point she probably feels like she missed her opportunity. Like if she didn’t do it when he cheated on her why do it now? A lot of people have the mentality that they need permission to get divorced – like back when fault divorce was the only kind. And if it’s looked down upon in your family I can see how it would be hard for her.

      LW – I am giving you permission to get divorced. You have my blessing.

      1. Now be fair, everyone. The guy’s handle is not Supportive Gay Mark. Although his tone is mean, he is actually saying much the same as everyone else, including my very mushy version above. Take responsibility for your life and take action. Maybe the LW would benefit from knowing how very different her view of the world is from BGM’s, and knowing that ideas she may be clinging to are not at all important to lots of people.

        And BGM, I’m not supporting you; I know you want full credit for being the wonderfully poison pill that you are, so there is no need to tear me a new one. But, y’know, feel free.

      2. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Look! The DEVIL is on my side, people! 😉 Although, the fact that I traffic with Satan probably wouldn’t be much of a surprise to many, I imagine…

      3. I don’t THINK I am the devil, but I am a redhead, and I do represent a country that legalized gay marriage, so i may be in LEAGUE with Satan. I’ll keep you posted.

      4. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Some people think I am a redhead, but I am on the fence about it as my sister has truly red hair. Mine is reddish at best, I think… More of a strange brown. What country are you in?

      5. Canada. And to be fair to both sides of the gay marriage pseudo-debate, most of my gay friends, even the ones in LTRs, don’t particularly seek to emulate the hetero orthodoxy. I only know one lesbian couple who actually got married. But that doesn’t stop us Canadians from granting these deviants their satanic RIGHT to marry!Take THAT, Mitt Romney!

      6. YAY Canada 🙂

      7. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        I guess I just think that if as a society we quit looking at divorce as a failure there would be fewer unhappy marriages. Yes there will always be ups and downs – but I think we can all agree that 18 years is way too fucking long to be unhappily married. I don’t personally see divorce as a failure – I see living an unhappy life for other people as a failure. But I think I’m in the minority. Hell people even look at breaking up as a failure. I would like people to start seeing relationships as successes – even if they end. Obviously not all relationships are great the whole time.

        I’m rambling now. But I just think that if society as a whole quit seeing divorce as a failure we would see fewer situations like the LW. I think in her head she’s scared to divorce because then she failed at something. I wish she would see it as a good thing. She can go on to live the life she wants. Life is pretty damn short to waste 18 years of it unhappy. She’s never too old for a new start.

      8. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        I never said that her divorce was a failure. Her failure was foolishly staying in a hopelessly bad marriage and doing nothing about it…

      9. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Right I agree with you – BUT there is still a HUGE stigma against divorce. So there needs to be more people like you and I and all will be well in the world. 😉

      10. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Eh? Really? A HUGE Stigma? C’mon! The Divorce rate is the highest its ever been… 40 to 50% percent of all U.S. marriages will now end in divorce. Um, okay, that’s one pretty ineffective stigma…

      11. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Yeah but people still cling to the notion that means lifetime marriage = successful marriage. When I think it’s lifetime happy marriage = successful marriage. And come on there are stigma’s about lots of things that are common place. Cough cough. Lets brainstorm a few.

      12. Well even though more people get them, it’s still seen as a failure- that’s the point. And also, a failed marriage is equal to a failed life in the eyes of many people, even if those same people would get a divorce….

        Sampson, I couldn’t agree with you more. And ill add that marriage, first off, isn’t the be all end crowning achievement to a life. It can be great, sure, but there is SO much more to life then a marriage. People need to understand that as well.

      13. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Oh hey soul sister. We are thought twins right now.

      14. The difference is, we’re all saying the LW should take responsibility for her life NOW. BGM contends she should have done it ages ago and because she didn’t, she’s stupid, pathetic and silly.

        We may all agree that she could, and likely should, have ended things ages ago, too – but we also know that rubbing her face in it and calling her names is not what’s going to help her.

        And before someone goes “Well, this is the comments section, not the ‘give more advice’ section,” I will buy that argument only when the commenter in question does NOT directly address the LW.

  18. Oh, LW, don’t wait any longer! You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to be happy and to really live.

    I was married to someone who, also, was not a monster but who had destroyed any bond we shared. We lived separate lives, except for fighting or occasionally making up. It was comfortable and easy and so unsatisfying.

    I was talking to a friend’s mom one night about how unhappy I was, but how hard it would be to get out of the situation and she told me something that changed my world, “I felt the same way in my marriage and I waited 30 years to leave him. It never got better and I wasted all that time.”

    I divorced my husband, and once we were apart it was like the sun started shining again. I didn’t even realize how bad the situation was until I was out of it. Eleven years later, he is happily remarried to someone as crazy as he is, and I have a great, happy life and will never settle again.

    1. Good for you! Thank you for sharing =)

  19. LW, my heart aches for you as I read your letter. I sense so much regret and helplessness from you, and am even sadder that you feel you have no resources to help you out of this. (It does not sound to me like your therapist is helping too much, either, but that’s a leap to judgement based on a very small statement.)

    Take Wendy’s advice. Value your own happiness – prioritize it. No one deserves to be in your position. I am one who believes happiness comes from within, not from external things – but when external things like your husband’s actions have put such a damper on your inner flame that you can’t even find it within yourself to be happy, it’s time to make a change. I sincerely hope you can find the strength to do this, because while your life may be ‘comfortable’ now, I think it would only benefit you to get out of this situation.

    I hope you don’t mind a little Buddhist wisdom, but if you do, feel free to disregard: “If you are going to be selfish, be wisely selfish.”

  20. Your letter was all about how you’ve spent basically your entire marriage wishing you weren’t with him. It doesn’t matter if he’s not “always a monster”; why be with someone who is ever a monster? You’ve had a lot of people in your life who have not been looking out for your best interest and who have bullied you into staying with him. Time to do what’s best for you. It might be scary to be out on your own, but if you were strong enough to put up with this awful man for all this time, you’ll be OK.

  21. 5oclock charley says:

    I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect an abusive, unfaithful husband would have a hard time getting full custody of the kids in a divorce. My dear LW, he has been manipulating you. You make his dinner, take care of the kids, and keep a nice home. I doubt he truly appreciates you, but I am sure he enjoys being the king of his castle. This is not God’s plan for you. I understand this rigid patriarchal system is probably what you’ve grown up with and all you know, but now is the time to learn to be strong and show your children that they don’t have to repeat the same behavioral patterns they saw growing up. The kids stil look to you for guidance, even if they have left the nest.

  22. I had to comment because I could have written this year 4 years ago…but mine was 21 years of marriage before I finally decided to love myself enough to get out while I still could.

    I was a high school dropout who had been told her whole life that was stupid. I realized just stupid I had been when I caught him cheating on me, seriously witnessed it caught him, with my best friend. So I wised up and left. I got my GED, went to school for a degree in massage therapy (and graduated summa cum laude)

    Six months after my divorce I meet an amazing man who loves me as much as I love him. I now have a loving friendship and partnership with a man I respect the hell out of, and best of all I trust him.

    LW, I know how scared you are, but you know in your soul that leaving is the best thing for you both. You know, why else would you write in?

  23. Sue Jones says:

    So where did you learn the emotional pattern to set such a low bar of low expectation out of life for yourself? Were you abused as a child? Were your parents unhappy with each other? Your friends? After 18 years of marriage I am sure that you have earned your share of alimony and child support from this loser. Nobody is all bad all the time, but the cycle of abuse is such that the tension builds up, there’s an explosion of sorts, and then the abusive partner is on his best behavior. You are in therapy for yourself? Find another therapist because this one sucks! A good therapist would recognize an abusive relationship with a cheater and help you find the resources to get out, not some lame ass excuse of “you cannot recognize love”. And don’t use any counselling from your useless pastor or this therapist. Find one who will help you EMPOWER yourself! Remember, you are setting an example for relationships for your children. If this relationship sucks, that is what they will model. Get out for your own sake and set a good example for your kids.

  24. Christina says:

    I can understand you completely. I was in a 20 yr marriage with a man I grew to dislike very much. I have been without him for almost four years. I cannot tell you how liberating it is to be out from under his control and the constant stress I lived in. It’s a whole new world. He was the first man I loved and I was 19 when we married. Knew nothing about life, had never lived on my own, etc… And what I find now is that I see just how beaten down I was back then and I truly didn’t realize the magnitude of it while I was in it. I just got re-married in February to the most wonderful man. He is nothing like my ex and I thank God for him every single day. The old hurts and habits creep up from time to time when I “expect” my husband to respond to me like my ex used to. It’s been a real learning process for me and I have received much emotional healing. As a Christian woman, I tried hard to keep my marriage and my family together. But at some point, when you feel down, broken, walked-on, unappreciated, you walk and feel better for doing it. Good luck to you. I would love to give you my email address to possibly talk with you, but I am not sure if it’s allowed on this site.

  25. Dear Hurt Wife: I can relate to you. I’m sure many others can too. Moving on into the unknown is scary. If you’re keeping up with this blog, how are you?

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