“How Did You Know For Sure?”

Since I announced that I was filing for divorce, I’ve gotten a fair amount of emails from mothers who are considering leaving their partner or husband.  They aren’t happy.  Maybe they’ve tried counseling, maybe their partner is abusive, or an addict, or cheated, or is simply absent, like mine was.  Whatever their situation, they always ask me the same question.  ”How did you know, for sure, that leaving was the right thing to do?”

Or as I like to put it, where is the line between “marriage takes work”, and “this marriage isn’t working”?

No matter how many times people ask, I still never know quite what to say.  I think we can all agree that the idea that marriage is forever, no matter what, is antiquated.  But the threshold for leaving is different for everyone.  It’s so personal that I can’t possibly pretend to advise anyone on what to do… nor would I want to.  All I can say is simply, I didn’t know for sure. No one can.

I knew that I was unhappy when he was away, which was most of the time.  That turned into being unhappy when he was around, because when he came back he was still absent.  The week I filed for divorce, he came home after being away for months, he ignored me all night, and in the morning he went to get Caroline from her crib and she screamed in terror and would not calm down until I held her, because she did not know who he was.

Of course I can’t just blame him, because there must be things I did and not do that pushed him to that point.  But in the end I would rather be alone than know in my bones that the person I am with does not love me.

I know this is controversial, but I personally believe that there doesn’t have to be any big, heavy issue like abuse or addiction to justify wanting out of a marriage.  To me, it’s as simple as this: if your relationship does not ever make you happy, then there is no point.  What else is a relationship for?

I can say that I knew for sure within a couple of weeks that it had been the right thing to do.  When it was said and done, when papers had been filed, when he had moved out, and all I felt was relief and a weight lifted, I knew.  When it was clear that my child’s life would be more peaceful and happy with divorced parents as opposed to married parents, I knew.

There will always be sadness for what “should” have been; there will always be guilt for what we did and did not do.  But if you’ve tried everything, have exhausted all the options, and all you can see in your future is more tears than laughter… why would you stay?

So, what do you think– where is the line?  If you left, where was it for you?

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  1. by Kristina

    On June 14, 2011 at 7:46 am

    I knew when my then-husband didn’t even come home at night, and I wasn’t even upset the next morning. I had been struggling for about 2 years, we had been trying marriage counseling and had been discussing divorce for a while. Then he just stopped trying to make it work with me. I went to a few marriage counseling sessions alone, and stayed at home with our then 1 year old son while he would go out and party. When I stopped caring that he wasn’t trying – that was my final straw. I filed that week. I have to agree, there was no huge sadness when it was said and done, just relief and like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I’m sad for what could have been, but it wasn’t meant to be.

  2. by Kristina

    On June 14, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Sorry, pushed send before I could add that 2 years later, I do not regret my decision AT ALL. I can’t remember the last time I was this happy. It’s difficult dealing with my ex, but we manage and are both in much better places.

  3. by Erinn

    On June 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I have never been in the situation, and my marriage is a happy one so I do not presume to know what I am talking about, but I wanted to say that I agree with you – When you are UNHAPPY – And I mean all the time – That’s the time to leave. And don’t get me wrong – Unhappiness exists in a happy marriage – External forces cannot be controlled, each other’s habits, hormones, work, how the day went, how the kids are acting etc… The other point I would explore would be indifference. If you are simply not affected by the other person at all, good or bad – Is also a good time I think to call it quits. I’m not entirely sure what is worse – Misery or indifference – But they are both good reasons to leave a marriage outside the obvious big-ticket reasons (addiction, abuse, infidelity, etc)

    I think getting out is the same as getting in – They say when it’s right, you know. Well, when it’s wrong – YOU KNOW.

  4. by Jennifer

    On June 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I disagree whole-heartedly with your concept that the idea of marriage being forever is “antiquated.” It SHOULD be forever. No one can MAKE you unhappy, you have to choose to happy. You give way too much control to other people when you allow their actions to dictate your state of happiness.
    That’s not say that there aren’t valid reasons for divorce. I finally realized I needed to make a change when I found myself coaching my oldest child on how to behave in order to mitigate a verbally abusive tirade from his dad.

  5. by Julia

    On June 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Certainly it SHOULD be forever. I agree with you. Otherwise why get married at all, right? (Looking back, I should not have, although then I wouldn’t have my daughter, so I can’t say I regret it!) But, since there do exist valid reasons to want out of a marriage, the idea of marriage being forever no matter what isn’t an absolute, in my opinion.

    Erinn, great point about indifference. I would go so far as to say that’s how my husband felt about me… he just didn’t recognize that this was the right thing for us until about six months after we separated. Now I know that he is happier, too.