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How Do I Know When It’s Time to Leave My Marriage?

People always ask me “How do I know when it’s the right time to leave my marriage?” My answer is simple. “When it’s more painful to stay in the relationship than it is to leave, it’s time”

This can seem a bit vague, however there is a very clear message being given. Marriage is not supposed to be painful. It can be at times difficult, frustrating, and/or disappointing, but not painful. Again, when it’s more painful to remain in a marriage than to leave it… It is time to get out!

Pain in a marriage usually creeps in very slowly. We recognize the pain because it feels different from previous emotions. As the pain edges its way into the relationship more frequently, the thought of escaping to a safe environment (divorce) starts developing.

Most people think about leaving a marriage for years prior to actually making the decision to divorce. Usually, they begin taking small steps towards emotionally preparing themselves to leave their marriage. A step may be as simple as looking up “divorce” on the Internet.

A common pattern in this stage of marital indecision is to think about divorce, make a few attempts towards gaining information about the divorce process, then tuck the idea of dissolution in the far recesses of your brain. You may even try to forget you contemplated leaving your spouse… I call this the “It’s more painful to leave my marriage than it is to stay” stage.

Your emotionally destructive cycle of pain will continue to repeat itself over and over again. As a result of this continuous assault on your relationship, a shift in how you perceive each painful experience begins to happen. The desire to escape the relationship strengthens and the idea of divorce becomes an everyday occurrence. The word divorce will pop up in the heat of an argument with your spouse, or you may mention the idea in a conversation with a close friend. You could also find yourself visiting an attorney or buying a book to further educate yourself on marital dissolution. The three hottest selling relationship self-help topics are: How To Save Your Marriage, How To Get A Divorce, and Emotional Abuse.

As you start feeling more comfortable about ending your relationship, another more gripping emotion begins to develop… fear. Regardless if you have been married 6 months or 60 years, everyone goes through the cycle of “fear of an unknown future.”

We are all creatures of habit. We find comfort and security in routine. A marriage, irrespective of its healthiness, provides the platform for everyday behaviors and activities. Divorce shatters this foundation; and the fear of an unknown future can be as paralyzing as the relationship pain is devastating. Some fears are as basic as “Where will I live?” “How will I pay my bills?” “Will I need to get a job?” “Are the kid’s going to be okay; who will they live with?” Others are more emotional. “Who will continue to be my friend; who will be my spouses?” “Can I live alone after all this time?” “How can I not see my kid’s everyday?” “Will I be alone and lonely for the rest of my life?” Your fears can potentially immobilize you and inhibit your ability to make that final decision to divorce. Unfortunately, these people focus their energies on their fear instead of the possibility of a happy healthy future. Others realize the pain will remain a constant in their marriage. No amount of counseling, pleading, or threats will change this pattern. This is when you realize “It is more painful to stay in my marriage than it is to leave.”

Once you have decided divorce is in your future; the pain actually begins to lift. Some of the interactions that caused you heartache in the past no longer affect you in the same way. It’s almost as if some of the hostility and anger bounces off your shoulders. But one thing continues to hold you back…timing.

There is no perfect time to leave your marriage.Life, being the obstacle course it is, will keep throwing situations and circumstances in your way. Usually, an action of some sort finally pushes you to make your very hard decision. It can be something as small as not remembering to put gas in the car, or as significant as forging your name on a document. The faith in your marriage is gone. Your trust in your spouse is gone, and the love that is needed to sustain your marriage is gone.

Although the divorce process is fraught with self- doubt and sadness, and some of your fears of an unknown future remain… the pain stops. And in time the self-doubt, sadness and fear are replaced with a fresh new future.

When it is more painful to stay in your marriage than leave it, it is time to reclaim your life, your happiness, and your self-respect.

4 thoughts on “How Do I Know When It’s Time to Leave My Marriage?

  1. I’m no professional, but I imagine you just crafted the best point. You certainly know what you’re talking about, and I can definitely get behind that. Thanks for staying so upfront and so honest.

  2. The most spot on article I haver read. From beginning to end this is exactly how it has happened for me. The biggest obstacle is overcoming the fear aspect.The fear of being a failure ,the fear of doubt and the emotions they have created. Thank you for writing this it has given me hope that i wasn’t the only person who had gone through this process

  3. I wasn’t sure if I was making the right decision to end my marriage of 23 years and after reading your article about feeling pain it was time. I married an alcoholic it was not easy my life was up and down with him more downs then ups. He had marital affairs and attacked me once. I should of left then but I didn’t. He always used reversed psychological on me and I ended up staying. Many times i would cry because of how he treated. Don’t get me wrong we had good moments too. After this last affair I left he always justifying his actions making a wrong right. I was constantly being accused by him. After this last argument and bad mouthing each other and my son was there he heard it all horrible name calling it was BAD. I had to leave my heart ache so bad and I cried. My marriage was over a long time ago but i stayed sick with him.

  4. I am going through all of these things in this article, but what if your child’s happiness will be crushed, and when he has seen his friend’s parents getting divorces begs you to never do this, how do you leave and destroy his life. I would die for my child, and that is exactly how I feel in this marriage! I find myself really wanting to ask my doctor to give me some meds, to zombie me out for the next three years till he is grown. I don’t want to be with him. I love him, but and no where near in love with him. And haven’t been for many, many years! I am tried of faking my happiness, and I have gotten real good at it! But I am done! I really am starting to not care who knows our marriage is failing! I am terrified of not being able to support myself and being in the same way I was when we met 15 years ago, on welfare and raising two boys in a bedroom I rented from my horrible grandparents! My husband took me and my two sons and raised them as his own. And gave me a very stable life, but over the years, it has not been a very happy marriage. He is a good father to my boys, one is grown and married now, the other still only 15. My husband claims my youngest as his and my son doesn’t know other wise. Yes, he is a good man, but he controls everything I do, he has a BA in psychology, and is very good with words. He can beat me down verbally and make me feel too stupid to even know what to say. One of the the things he tells me is I can leave him, but I will still be there, so the problem will still be there. I can’t spend 1.00 without him questioning it. LITERALLY! Now, I know some women will spend crazily like thousands of dollars, I never!! But I spend 40.00 and holy shit I am an incompetent! He tells me I can’t even go shopping right. He will make me feel so stupid for my purchase that I will take it back, and then, with him go to dollor stores and walmart, just to try to find cheaper items. All along trying to convince me just to go with something that I don’t want. Then trying to make me feel like I am just being rediculess and stubborn for not going with whatever he thinks is best.
    He belittles me daily to our son. If he is arguing with him he starts yelling at me to jump in and start yelling at him too! I HATE THIS! Even if I do not agree with the way he is correcting our son, I better jump in and tell him whatever he wants me to say or it’s world war three, and this is almost a daily activity! He never helps with house chores, but makes me get his clothes for him daily! He screams my name from the other room all day “Amy where’s my socks where’s my shirt, gimmi my pants!” His excuse, I don’t do the laundry enough, the house is a mess, and I hide his clothes. When he come home from whatever he has been out doing, off comes all the clothes and on the floor, couch or coffee table, where ever he is. Daily it is my job to find his cell phone, car keys, and blasted wallet that he constantly leaves in the car. He is so absent minded and careless will all his belonging, I have to follow behind him picking up after him like a two year old! When he gets up in the morning he says, “coffee” that means, “Amy get up and make me coffee, while I go set in the bath for 30 to 40 minute.” He has been outta work now for over two years. And we fell into the habit of sleeping in most days. So he tells me that it is my job to wake him up in the morning, most of the time yelling at me. I just don’t understand why it’s my job to wake up a 42 year old man, and if I don’t, I’ve wasted the day, and I am destorying our lives. For a while, I would wake up make sure my son got off to school, then come back and enjoy the quite in the house, while he was asleep. But seriously I just wish I could sleep through all this!
    I have told him all this and he just tells me to stop arguing with him and everything will be fine, that whatever I am feeling isn’t real, that I’m hormonal, or drama! I keep a journal and one day, I found out he had typed in something about id I spent more time writing about positive things that happens then it would breed more happier times, and ultimately we will have a happier marriage! So, pretty much I’m stupid not really feeling what I’m feeling and just need to be quiet. I’m sorry but my quiet button wasn’t build into me!
    I constantly tell him I don’t want to fight anymore, I just want to be happy, he tells me, then be happy!
    I don’t know who I am or what I like. Don’t know what I would or could do without him and it terrifies me. But most of all I don’t want to see the light that shines out of my sons eyes go out. Uh whata mess! I’m just so tired of fighting!

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