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how to initiate a separation?
November 12, 2012 7:29 PM   Subscribe

i'm unhappy in my marriage but my wife is very dependent on me. how do i do this?

i'll say up front that i've thought a lot about this and i definitely want out of my marriage. the reasons are many and i think unimportant to list because i've already made up my mind. it is probably sufficient to say that there has been no infidelity or abuse, i've just grown away from her. i still care about her as a person so i obviously feel pretty bad about this. my question is: how do i break the news, and how do i make the transition as unshitty as possible for her?

some background: i'm in ontario, canada. we've been married for nearly 3 years. we rushed into marriage. she moved to a new city with me right when we got married so i could take a job. she doesn't work (by choice). i have tried to explain to her that i'm unhappy, which backfired catastrophically and i stupidly backpedaled because i felt bad. my main concern is that this decision (which is entirely my fault) is going to uproot her whole life and destabilize everything.

thanks in advance :-/
posted by saraswati to Human Relations (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have kids? Then it's complicated.

Don't have kids? Then it's really not that complicated. How do you break the news? ASAP, respectfully, honestly, and straightforwardly. Move out (don't try to continue cohabiting) and start the divorce process. You may have to pay for two places until it's finalized; and some support after that for a limited period of time that your lawyer will explain to you. Divorce is expensive.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:46 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


thanks! that would've been good information to include: no kids.
posted by saraswati at 7:48 PM on November 12, 2012


It isn't actually impossible to divorce without a lawyer, many couples do manage it, there is no need to engage a lawyer if there are no significant issues.
posted by wilful at 7:48 PM on November 12, 2012


Yeah, there's no easy answer here. Be certain about your postion on this, be honest with her, move out, and begin the process. She's responsible for herself moving forward, as she was before you got married.

Most important, be kind....
posted by HuronBob at 7:50 PM on November 12, 2012


Whoa whoa whoa, partner. You're unhappy but haven't talked with your spouse about it?

This is what couples' therapy is for, to talk about hard stuff. Whether or not one wants to save their marriage, it can be good to talk these things through.

There are two ways I can suggest to do what you want: a) talk this through with your spouse, in a therapist's office so you both get to look at your relationship honestly (and you both get heard by the other) and then divorce with a good chance of less trauma, or b) just divorce.

I don't know which will be better for you, but I do recommend considering (a).
posted by zippy at 7:51 PM on November 12, 2012 [37 favorites]


This really isn't a decision that ought to be made without talking to one's spouse first.
posted by valkyryn at 7:58 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just be honest and upfront. Do it soon; every moment you put it off is a moment she is wasting in a relationship in which she is the only invested party.

You are about to do something unspeakably shitty. You don't get to, and frankly, can't do it, in anything resembling "unshitty". You're the bad guy. Might want to sit with that thought if you actually think there is anything but pure shit ahead in the near future.
posted by peacrow at 8:07 PM on November 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


This really isn't a decision that ought to be made without talking to one's spouse first.

This is a decision that is often made without talking to one's spouse first.

If you've made your decision, you've made your decision. I doubt that counseling will change your mind, especially if you don't want it changed. (And it seems to me like you don't.) Don't expect your wife to take it well, at all. She's under no obligation to.

Since once you do this you'll be unable to provide her with any emotional support, to make the transition as unshitty for her as possible make sure you provide plenty of financial support, so at least she doesn't have to worry about that too. And don't string her along, or build up false hope that there's any chance of making things work, if there isn't.
posted by themanwho at 8:13 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the responses and apologies if I offended by not capitalising. I'm a bit of a mess tonight and I typed it quickly without thinking.

To make it clearer ("I have tried to explain to her that I'm unhappy, which backfired catastrophically and I stupidly backpedaled because I felt bad."):

I've tried to talk about my feelings several times. She gets very emotional and defensive and nothing productive comes out of it. I've thought about counseling but I'm not sure how effective it will be. I am open to it, though.
posted by saraswati at 8:21 PM on November 12, 2012


Sometimes counseling is about saving a marriage, but sometimes it just about learning how to say good bye in as safe and healthy a way as possible. To be "effective" it does not have to save the marriage -- it has to give you a way to move forward in life and in the relationship, which may well mean getting out of the relationship.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:26 PM on November 12, 2012 [28 favorites]


I've tried to talk about my feelings several times. She gets very emotional and defensive and nothing productive comes out of it. I've thought about counseling but I'm not sure how effective it will be. I am open to it, though.

Which is why a counselor may be needed.
posted by Sal and Richard at 8:36 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Counseling can be a great help in ending a relationship as amicably as possible, particularly where things like money and timetables need to be negotiated.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:48 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Go see a marriage counsellor by yourself for a session or two first.
posted by it's a long way to south america at 8:53 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having recently been in basically your wife's place in a similar situation some 8 months ago, I think i can say from experience that peacrow speaks the truth.

Also, +1 for the counseling. i went with my ex after the initial break up and it was a good way to put some of my mixed up thoughts and emotions into something more decipherable.
posted by i less than three nsima at 9:16 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Consider attending a relationship counsellor both by yourself and with her. Not to resurrect the relationship but to deal with the issues surrounding the breakout and the ongoing fallout that will ensue.
posted by Under the Sea at 9:29 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


You owe it to yourself and to her, and to the vows you made, to try counseling first.
posted by Dansaman at 11:18 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I left my very dependent spouse, I organised his cash, provided spreadsheets and lists about how things were done, suggested he see a GP and a psychologist, and then accepted no blame or responsibility.

Unfortunately my daughter chose to live with him instead of me, and ended up taking over many of the adult responsibilities, but she has moved out since, and it looks like he's learned (somewhat) to take care of himself.

You can only do so much.
posted by b33j at 12:35 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Echoing the suggestion for counseling.

Right now you're thinking about getting out. Fact is, you'll be in each others' lives for some time to come. Even if you walked out today, you'd be significantly in each others' lives for at least a couple of years, probably, as the divorce and financials got sorted out. So, walk out in a total mess and you'll be dealing with the repercussions for a long time. It's worth it to yourself to work to get you both to a calmer place if splitting up really is the right decision.

Another thing to consider: the repercussions will almost certainly follow you into your next relationship if you don't really delve into what's going on now and see your part in the problem. Marriages are two-person dances and when there's a problem, both people are involved in getting into the difficulty. It's positively classic that a person divorces spouse #1 because of problem X, meets and marries spouse #2, and lo and behold, problem X reemerges and kills the second marriage too. You take your baggage with you.

Lots of people get emotional and defensive when a spouse says they're unhappy. Lots of people deliver the news that they're unhappy in ways that are unnecessarily hurtful and blaming. Obviously we have no details about the conflict between you, but this is such a very, very common problem that many, many books have been written about it. John Gottman's Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is a classic (as a starter, think about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse). My husband and I found Terry Real's New Rules of Marriage to be really helpful when we were stuck so hard in our conflict that we couldn't get ourselves out. FWIW, we separated for a year, I thought we were headed toward divorce for real--now we're back together and actually doing really really well, and those two books get a LOT of the credit.

Good luck.
posted by Sublimity at 4:31 AM on November 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


If you are dead set against trying to patch things up or make them better, do this as quickly as possible. Better quickly than dragging things out to assuage your own guilt. The quicker you are out of the picture, the quicker she can get on with her life.

You should get counselling to help you figure out how you got in this place in your life. You can't honestly believe starting and ending a marriage inside of 3 years is the result of healthy relationship skills. I would work on that.
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:47 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Offer to work with a mediator of her choosing to hash out financial splits before turning to lawyers.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:11 AM on November 13, 2012


I also think you need to look at counseling. I thought it wouldn't work between my spouse and I (including a small issue of fidelity on my part) and it helped us so much. Something to at least try - I went in thinking that if it doesn't fix things then at least I could try. I'm very glad it helped us and we're back together.
posted by Danithegirl at 10:22 AM on November 13, 2012


Why on earth is your wife willfully unemployed? If she found a job, she would no doubt be less clingy and dependent (in both senses of the word) on you. Before you make any definite decisions, please urge her to become employed. It would do her self-esteem a world of good.
posted by BostonTerrier at 11:39 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


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