These people share what happened in their marriage that ultimately led to a divorce.
“It Will Always Haunt Me”
“When my ex and I got together, we were great at balancing our separate needs versus our needs as a couple. We were both independent introverts and require a lot of alone time. At first, we would spend part of the weekend going hiking together then spend the rest of the weekend doing our individual activities. It was the perfect balance for our relationship.
Over time, somewhere along the way, we lost that balance. We stopped scheduling activities together. Even simple couple activities, like when we would sit on a park bench together and read books all afternoon. We began doing everything apart. By the last year of our marriage, we were even taking separate vacations.
Ultimately, we stopped growing and learning together as a couple. Instead, we went on separate journeys, our paths diverged. I look back now and this insight seems so obvious, I don’t know why I was so myopic at the time, denial, maybe. Although I have learned from this experience and feel I’ve grown stronger through the divorce process, my lack of insight at the time bothers me, especially since I’m a professional counselor. No matter what, this will always haunt me.”
They Needed More Than Friendship
“We were confusing friendship for love. I married my best friend, but we were never good partners. I know people say that you must be friends first, but we were not able to translate that into being good spouses. Our interests were different and our goals in life were different. Our approach to resolving problems was different. We had never talked about the important stuff such as:
What is your dream life? How many kids would you want? When? Where would we be living? How will we share domestic responsibilities?
Our communication was awful and we were not in love (we thought we were dating and would figure things out later). We were unable to calmly discuss our issues. It all led to infinite resentment in the end. We both had our share of mess ups and we were both independent enough to not continue it. I am glad we didn’t.”
“I Was Blindsided”
“‘I think we should try a separation,’ she said over the phone during a conversation we were having while she was out of town for a job interview.
I was a little confused. I knew things had not been perfect the last couple of years, but it certainly wasn’t bad enough to separate. Besides, I had recently accepted a new position with my company which required me to work in another state. Why bring up separating when I was already 800 miles away?
Moving to a new city to learn my way around and make sure the new position panned-out before selling the house and uprooting my wife and daughter gave me a new perspective on our relationship. Two decades of married life put stress on our relationship, but it was normal stuff that we had always worked through in the past.
I had always trusted her unconditionally, so whatever she told me I believed. We were always honest with each other, and no matter what she told me, I believed. It’s awesome until it’s used against you.
After the phone call when she mentioned the separation, I wrote her the best email I have ever written. I let her know that I was more committed to our relationship than ever and I would do whatever it took to get through this rough patch and to forget about the separation nonsense. When she called the following evening, everything changed.
She explained that she was getting ready to fly back home from her job interview the following day. She had a layover in Chicago and was going to meet up with a friend who was moving to the same area where we lived, and they were going to fly from O’Hare to DFW together. And since I was working out of town, she asked if it would be ok if he stayed at the house for about a week while he looked for an apartment.
She claimed they had never met in person. Nothing was going on; he was just a friend she met online. Obviously, I said no, so that phone call didn’t end well. I called a friend and told him that story, and when he said, ‘Chicago isn’t that far from where her job interview is.’ My heart stopped. This was the third job interview she had flown to in three months. I called her back and told her that her friend was not welcome to stay in our home, and her response was, ‘I’m not asking if he can stay at the house. I’m telling you he’s staying at the house.’
At that moment, 20 years of unconditional trust crumbled, and my gut took over and I knew something bad was going on.
I found out what this guy’s name was, but couldn’t find him on Facebook. I asked my roommate to look him up using his account, and I nearly passed out. The first thing that popped up was a relationship update that he had posted on his timeline announcing he was in a relationship with a personal note, and guess who clicked ‘like’? My wife.
My head was spinning. I needed to get back to the house to find out what was going on. I knew her flight itinerary and estimated she would be arriving at the house around midnight. The next morning I called my boss and told him I needed to go back home and take care of a situation, threw some clothes and toiletries in a backpack, tied up some loose ends, and drove 13 hours straight on the down-low. I didn’t tell anyone I was headed back except my father. I didn’t know what the situation would be when I arrived around 3 a.m. Ideally, I would find my wife asleep in our bed by herself, but I also knew there was a possibility two people would be asleep in our bed, or I might find them screwing in our bed, so in case things got out of hand I thought I should alert my dad to the situation.
My mind was racing the whole way back. I was thinking about what might happen when I got there and hoping this was all a big misunderstanding or a bad dream. I got to the house about 3:30 a.m. No one was there. I parked my car down the street, went inside and reset the alarm and kept all the lights off to maintain the element of surprise. At about 8 a.m. I heard the door open and waited until I heard footsteps coming down the hall. I came out of the bedroom rather quickly and scared the heck out of my mom, who came by to check on the house and bring in the mail because she didn’t know if my wife had returned from her trip yet. I quickly explained why I was there and had her leave just in case.
It wasn’t until early afternoon that my wife got to the house, and her ‘friend’ was with her. It was tense. They weren’t expecting me to be there and I was firing one question after another at them. They insisted nothing was going on; they were just friends, and had met for the first time in-person at the airport in Chicago the night before. Their friendship was through phone calls and text messages.
He was 20 years younger than her and claimed that she was more of a mother-figure to him, and he preferred women his own age. It eventually boiled over and she told me she wanted a divorce. I learned the house was in foreclosure, the bank account was drained, my motorcycle payment hadn’t been made in five months, and we owed the IRS over $10,000. I was blindsided.
Despite their insistence nothing had been going on and they had just met, they ran off together and were together for about six months. I have since learned she had flown up to see him three times, and not only were they having a relationship, but when she flew to meet him the first time they were fooling around within the first 20 minutes.”
He Is Really Bitter
“When we got married, I was 32 and my wife was 24. That would not be such a big deal for most couples, but in retrospect, it was an important difference for us. My wife had never lived away from her mother’s house when she moved in with me, whereas I had left my parents’ house at age 18. Up until meeting her, I dated ambitious college graduates who were self-directed and knew where they were going. My future wife, however, had only attended a few semesters of community college and intellectually was not my equal.
While we were dating, I broke up with her. We got back together after only three days apart, and I started talking about marriage. I guess I was smitten with her, and we had great chemistry. I also wanted to have children and she was this pretty, uncomplicated Midwestern girl who wanted children as well. I had talked about her faults with my older sister, so I felt I knew exactly what I was getting into and accepted it –something my sister still shakes her head at. And, significantly, I also felt somewhat empowered by being THE MAN in the relationship.
I had being dealing with depression for a number of years, and I know now that it was often brought on by stress. Getting married, having kids, and being the breadwinner meant stress. The first few years were fine because we had three boys one after another, and having children will almost always distract you from the problems in your relationship. I loved being a dad, but I went through some bleak times, depression-wise, and I almost thought I should be hospitalized on a couple occasions.
These episodes were hard on my wife, but she wouldn’t talk about it. She also seemed not to have any interest in learning about depression or taking a more active role in the treatment of my mental health. My wife had no idea how to deal with me and we slowly grew apart. In her defense, I am not sure if there is anything a loved one can do that will really help someone suffering from depression. Being there and being interested in talking about treatment options and coping strategy definitely helps, but there is no silver bullet.
Financially, we were not living high off the hog, but we were doing OK. My job was going alright, and I thought that she and I were in a fairly good place. I never treated her badly, I never hit her or yelled at her. But then she cheated on me.
This was something I never thought would happen, but I guess since I didn’t know her well, there was no way I was going to see it coming. She was basically seduced by this guy whom she met at the health club she went to. He told her all these fanciful stories about how wonderful and wealthy he was and how he wanted her to travel around the world with him. He was a rocket scientist at Princeton and not the sort of buff gym rat I was expecting. He looked more like a younger Alan Dershowitz. What a disappointment.
Anyway, she ended up finding out that this guy was shining her on and was not serious about being with her and taking care of the three boys. She realized she made a mistake. I took her back, no questions asked. I was happy to have my family back together again. I think we went to a few therapy sessions together after that, but she didn’t continue going with me, maybe because in therapy you have to talk about your feelings.
Things were fine at first after the cheating episode. But as the months went by I started to have a delayed reaction to her infidelity. I started to show anger towards her and at times would be mean to her, something I had never done before. We also started to have financial problems. I lost my good paying job, we declared bankruptcy, and our house went into foreclosure in spite of the fact I was working three jobs to make ends meet.
How did she handle it? She roller-bladed, ran, went to the gym and only worked about 20-30 hours a week while I was busting my butt 60-80 hours a week to keep things together. We were getting Sheriff-Sale notices once a month, which would always be postponed. She was scared we would end up having only two weeks to move out, and so we took advantage of a friend’s offer of the loan of their two-bedroom condo nearby our house, and we finally moved out.
That was it for my wife, however. Despite her having initiated the move, she couldn’t face living in a dinky condo after our four-bedroom house, and one day she told me that she was unhappy in our marriage and that she ‘wasn’t in love with me’ anymore. I told her that she had to figure her life out and that she should temporarily move in with one of her friends and decide what she wanted to do. That was in the late fall of 2010. The following July, she came to me and told me she wanted a divorce. I told her fine, but she was going to have to do it. We attended a Do It Yourself Divorce seminar offered by the local bar association and I said I would help her with the paperwork, but she had to do all the filing of the papers. It was going to be an amicable divorce.
A year went by, and she still had not done anything with moving the divorce forward, so I took it all back from her and filed the papers myself, listing desertion as the reason. She wasn’t happy about that, but it was accurate. By that time I was bitter.”
She Became Someone She Hated
“We were opposites, and though opposites attract they aren’t exactly a recipe for long-term compatibility. I have always been a free spirit and he was a bit more grounded. I was born poor and came from a third world country, and he was born into wealth and his environment was one of luxury. I am a woman of color and he is Caucasian and had different experiences growing up. He’s introverted I’m mostly extroverted. I love traveling he’s content just fishing. I wear heels and would prefer to live in the city and he wears boots and prefers the country. I had complete freedom over my life and he felt he had obligations to live his life to his family’s standards. I am unconventional he is conventional. I am liberal he is conservative. All these things created conflict, almost daily.
When we met, he fell in love with who I was. I would sit there talking for hours and hours, and he would just listen while he looked at me and smiled. I remember that look of complete adoration. He smiled at every liberal ‘save the world’ idea I had and genuinely adored me for it. I just felt loved and I loved caring for him. However, our differences are not ideal for people who share space. His passive attitude toward things didn’t mix well with my passionate, head-on approach. I expected him to deal with issues in the same way I do and he expected me to be more like him. Keep in mind we were both in our early 20s.
Then came the kids. We weren’t married when we had our son. I didn’t want to get married because I knew we weren’t compatible. But there was so much pressure from everyone, and I did genuinely love him, so we got married. I changed my name and did all the things married people are supposed to do. Suddenly, all the admiration went out the door. Expectations from everyone were placed on me to behave a certain way, to present a certain way, to be everything that I wasn’t to fit a standard I didn’t belong to. Bits and pieces of who I was were slowly disappearing until I wasn’t me anymore.
A couple years later I found myself in a house in the suburbs raising two children as a stay-at-home mom. I was withdrawn from the world; no longer flying the free skies I once did. I was so depressed I had dropped down to 97 pounds. I simply lost my will to exist in a way because I didn’t feel I could be me. Alone, frail, lost, I was so unhealthy, so internally conflicted. I didn’t recognize myself any more. I didn’t know who I was or who I was supposed to be. I felt that I needed more love from him and he expected me to become something that I am just not. The love I had turned into my sadness and the love he had turned into his anger.
I tried so hard to make our marriage work, but what I didn’t do is take care of myself first. I didn’t stay the free spirit that I am. I conformed to something that didn’t resemble anything that I was/am. I allowed myself to change into something I didn’t want to be. I did it, and no one else. Maybe if I had stayed the free spirit we still would have been married, but I honestly don’t think that we were meant to stay together. I realized something needed to change and it had to begin with me, so I filed for divorce. There was just too much hate and conflict to fix the marriage.
Had I known then what I know now, I would have thanked him for our time together and walked away before things turned into a mess so that we could both live in harmony, remember the best times, and continued to be amicable while raising our two children apart.
It’s been several years since we divorced. During that time, I learned what self-love and self-care mean. I lost several friends once I understood that the dynamic between us was toxic. I had to reach the very bottom before I was able to understand that if I didn’t care for myself I wasn’t going to survive. It was hard, it was brutal, but I did it. Not only did I finally love the person that I was, I also learned what self-growth meant and how to invest the energy I gave to other things back into myself and those around me in a healthy way. Today I am aware of the traits that define me and am proud of them. I am genuine, kind, and loving towards myself now and though I had gone through what felt like hell and back I love the story that created the person that I am today.
I feel as though I am now at that point that I have spent enough time getting to know myself and loving who I am that I am now ready and able to both give and receive love. However, I still experience a few hiccups from time to time, especially when I get close to someone. I immediately panic, feeling as though my wings are going to be clipped again and I leave the relationship before the other person has a chance to ‘tie me down.’ I’ve learned to accept this as part of my story and a part of who I am ‘now’ and I still love myself both despite it and for it. I recognize that all I can do is keep trying until I feel secure. The important thing is that I know that I do want it and when I finally encounter someone who genuinely adores me and doesn’t want to change a thing about me it will feel secure, and if the love is there it will last a lifetime.
My ex-husband and I did better when we didn’t live together. Today, we are for the most part friends. I find happiness in his happiness, and I think he finds happiness in my happiness, too.”
They Beat Cancer, But Couldn’t Save Their Marriage
“My former wife is an amazing human being. We built a successful business together when she was well and she was amazing at running it and her team. She worked hard, cooked, cleaned and played hard — we even had fun backpacking around Central America. We had just started trying to have children.
We were having a party for her team one night. Drinking, dancing on tables at a Greek restaurant, and hanging out with Kevin Nealon in Orlando after his comedy routine.
The next day she had tiny red spots on her legs. And she had a pain in her thigh. She stayed home. She called me at noon, crying, saying her knee hurt worse than anything she’s ever felt. We spent five hours in the emergency waiting area while she cried in agony. Three days later she was diagnosed with a rare form of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of 30.
Her cancer had an equally rare mutation that made it almost impossible to treat. They gave her less than a 10-percent chance to live a year.
What happened next was a two-year series of nightmares and miracles that simply cannot be fathomed. She almost died many times. Everything she identified herself with as a beautiful and successful person was lost almost overnight.
But she was amazing through it all. Her doctors and nurses fell in love with her, and our community fell in love with her, her spirit, her fight, her humor.
I slept by her side in the hospital every night for four months while trying to our businesses. I helped manage friends and family so that she was never alone in the hospital. I read thousands and thousands of pages about cancer and insurance. I was there to ask the doctors the tough questions. I helped her go through IVF treatment and gave her hormone shots. I helped build a blog so she could share her story. I was there to help catalog her journey on social media through hundreds of photos.
I was there to hold her when she lost her hair. I was there to call the nurses when she was in pain. I rushed to her bedside with a pan when she was vomiting and I helped her when both the sheets and her clothes needed changing. I gave her IV treatments in our home. I was there to help her shower, to help her walk down the hallways at night, to celebrate that she could walk more than two minutes. I was there to call 911 twice when she became unresponsive. In another emergency, I carried her frail body down our stairs and drove her to the emergency room myself.
I spent every waking minute worried about her for years. I spent hundreds of hours of my life sharing her story with friends and strangers. I was there to drive her to Virginia to see her home for what might have been the last time. I was there through her life-saving bone marrow transplant. I financially supported us in our darkest hours.
But it wasn’t enough to save our marriage.
I came home from work one day and she was gone. Not because of cancer, but because she didn’t want to be with me anymore. You see, as much as I’d like to say I’m blameless and this isn’t my fault, I failed her. I was probably the biggest jerk in the world.
Here’s the other side of the coin: I was too controlling. I fought with the doctors too much and argued against some of the mood/pain meds she was taking. I limited our spending when she might be dying, I was angry and tense all the time and got upset and angry whenever she didn’t agree with me, sometimes I called her crazy, I wasn’t home enough, she had to walk on eggshells around me, she never knew if I was going to be nice or cranky when I got home from work, I sometimes used the phrase ‘it’s all about you isn’t it?’ when we argued, and I made her life more stressful when she just wanted peace and kindness. I used the ‘D’ word when we got into stupid fights. I was condescending, insensitive, and critical of her recovery efforts. To be blunt, I was an unbearable jerk.
I didn’t realize how bad my behavior was until it was too late. I started going to counseling, but it was too late. The damage was done. As I move on, alone, into the next chapter of my life, I do regret I wasn’t strong enough to be a warrior and a poet for her.”
Suddenly, He Just Left
“My ‘perfect’ and profoundly loved husband and father had a catastrophic male midlife crisis after 33 years of marriage. He was the last person on the face of the Earth to have abandoned his wife, quit his job and move across the continent and marry ‘the other woman.’ But he did.
His parents, children, and friends all said words to the effect that he turned into someone they didn’t know.
I became a walking meta-study on male midlife crisis. Suffice to say that MMC is biological and has NOTHING to do with how good or bad a marriage was. Everyone knows about horrible wives who are not abandoned by husbands who probably should leave, but ‘perfect’ wives are routinely abandoned by men in the grip of a MMC. There are hormonal changes that lead to behavioral changes that range from the relatively subtle; like a guy becoming moody and buying a toupée and a little red sports car, to an extreme case like my ex.
I still love him. Sometimes I hate myself for it. The kids never speak to him, and he will not have contact with our three grandchildren. There are other consequences to him that I can’t mention here because I don’t know if he’s been told. The consequences to me are beyond description. I still live, but I am destroyed.”
Everything Changed When They Had Kids
“He was my knight in shining armor and my everything. We had a fantastic relationship before we had kids. We had dogs together and did quite well with them. We had fun and friends, did home improvements, spent time together and had a great love life.
I got pregnant, ballooned, had a healthy baby, took years to lose the weight, yadda yadda. But long story short, kids change everything and I’m not good with little kids. Luckily, Grandma helped out quite a bit. By kid three, he had an affair, we were distant, and financially strapped. We stuck it out for eight more years, often having good times, but we did better when it was just us. I don’t regret my kids or my marriage that lasted nearly 20 years.
People live nearly twice as long as 200 years ago — marriages should be contracts you sign, vows you take and renew every five, seven, or 10 years — your choice. Obviously, the marriage system is broken and few care about it anymore. It seems hardly anyone gets married THEN has children, or maybe that is all we hear about.
You can go farther, get more done with a partner, so I’m not opposed to marriage, but now you can easily meet people throughout the world and options are limitless. If you believe there are only 12 zodiac signs, why in the world do people believe there is only ONE person for them?”
She Felt Like Everything Was Her Fault
“My husband became impotent after we were married for only five or six years. That was ten years ago. We’re still married, but at this point, it’s nothing more than a miserable technicality.
Despite knowing that this was a common problem, and knowing it was a symptom of a medical condition, it took ten years to talk to a doctor and get a prescription for those pills that half the rest of the adult male population eat like Tic-Tacs. Why? He was embarrassed. He’s a successful businessman, competitive, and incapable of admitting any weakness.
During the past ten years, this led to effects much worse than the original cause.
I was made to feel that this was my fault. Subliminally. Gradually. But purposefully. As we came to realize this wasn’t a one-time problem or even a short-term problem, the suggested solutions were always put on my plate. I should lose weight. I should learn to be better at physical intimacy. Or whatever. It’s your fault. You’re not doing it right. You’re not attractive anymore. I don’t have a problem; it’s just you I don’t want. And so on and so forth.
Sadly, I believed a lot of that and tried to change just about everything. Then what happened? Of course, I was cheating on him. Why else would I be trying so hard to be more attractive? No matter what changed, he didn’t like it, and I must be doing it for someone else. So, once again, this was my fault. He couldn’t be expected to fool around with me if he didn’t trust me. What a joke. By this point, my confidence was so low, I wouldn’t have dared to even flirt with anyone else. And if anyone even spoke to me, I just assumed it was because they felt sorry for the old ugly 40-year-old sitting by herself.
As things go, I got the luckiest breaks around this time. I got a new colleague at work. We’d known each other already but had worked in different departments. We got to be good friends quickly when we started sharing an office, and that friendship vastly changed my outlook. Amazing what a bit of understanding and friendship can do for a girl’s confidence. I also got a great new job but kept my close contact with my friend. We also traveled some together, and I found out that I’m not completely unattractive. No cheating, but just close enough to know it wasn’t all me after all.
My husband noticed the change slowly, too. He finally got up the nerve to discuss his issues with the doctor. Nice. But after so long and so much water under the bridge, who knows if it will ever be right?”
He’s So Conceited
“I moved to the big city from a rural community when I was 40 to begin a new life. The 30-something single women were great to date, but they always broke up with me for the same reason: I hadn’t established my career. The ironic part was that these women weren’t bringing much to the table financially themselves. Then I met a beautiful young woman who was fairly fresh off the plane from a third world country.
My career took off, we got married, had a kid, moved up four times in real estate over very few years. Now we live in a somewhat upscale neighborhood, which is challenging because my city has the most expensive real estate in my country.
Then my boss retired. The company appointed a new guy to take over, and he botched it big time. I have been bouncing from company to company looking for a replacement for my high-paying position. I think I have found it. I can go out and see one client and make more than she makes all week, but my wife has ruined it so badly. I don’t see us ever being back as close as we once were.
She completely cut off all physical intimacy and treats me horribly. I have been doing everything for her. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, driving her, grocery shopping.
My wife works long hours because she is in a low-paying profession, the same position that she has held since immigrating here. She is free to do other things but refuses. So she has to work 55 hours a week to make about $100 more per week than I make before I roll out of bed. I think that is what makes her so furious. Money comes fairly easy to me, while it is hard to obtain for her. I keep explaining to her that all her friends from her old country with whom she associates do not live our lifestyle. Most do not own property at all, and if they do, it’s small and run down. Meanwhile, we have a $30,000 renovated kitchen and a premium German car in the double garage, so things could be worse.
I can’t divorce her. I’m in my mid-50s, and if we sell the house and split the equity, after paying off the mortgage, there won’t be enough for me to live anywhere nice, and I am not going back to live in a small place after working so hard to get to this neighborhood. And I’m too old to have enough time to rebound financially unless I were to get up into the $200,000 annually range, which may not happen. Plus, I don’t want to have her raising our boy without me. She is a bad example, always saying she can’t do things, doesn’t know how to do things, can’t find things.
The stress has aged me. I used to be a handsome man who looked about 10 years younger, but now my hair is grey and I have put on weight from stress eating and also being in the kitchen a lot as the family cook. I can’t see myself attracting a younger beautiful woman the way I used to be able to do, and I don’t know if I could be attracted to a woman who is of similar appearance and age to me. It’s just the way human males are. It’s in our DNA, so sue me. My wife lost attraction to me when my income dried up, even though, with all our combined sources of income, we are still above average. We just can’t go to $300 restaurants.
I reminded her that she has broken our wedding vows, about for better for worse, and wedding vows are very important in her culture.”