How to ask for a divorce after 26 years?
July 19, 2008 11:30 PM Subscribe
How to ask for a divorce after 26 years of marriage? I want to do it in a way that causes as little pain as possible, and makes room for as much constructive problem-solving as possible.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
We got married when we were 28. After 4 months of dating, she gave me an ultimatum: marry me or I'll leave you. I liked her ok, but I was not in love with her. Still, I said yes, out of fear and insecurity more than anything else. I remember thinking at the time: If it doesn't work out, there's always divorce. Ha.
We had two kids. They brought us together, sort of, for a while. Now the kids are 16 and 17. I stuck around long enough to see them through adolescence. Many friends told me that was a mistake, that I should have just left. Be that as it may, here we are, and the time to leave is approaching.
She and I have never communicated well. At work and with friends, I can generally handle communicating on sensitive topics pretty effectively. With her, it has always been an immense struggle, and some years ago I gave up. Essentially, now, we don't even attempt to communicate.
She's against seeing a marriage counselor. I suggested it years ago, and she rejected the idea. She doesn't trust or respect them; she has contempt for everything to do with "psychology." She got her degree in science and considers herself to have a scientific world-view - no room for the "fuzziness" of psychology.
She has no friends. She worked at a couple of low-paying jobs several years ago, but there was always someone that she couldn't get along with, this always made her miserable (she couldn't draw boundaries or stand up for herself), and then she would quit. She hasn't worked for almost 20 years.
She was abused by her father when she was a child. She sees the world as ready to attack her. As a result, I have never found a way to disagree with her, or even to express a mildly different opinion, without causing her to put up such strong defenses that communication stops.
For my own sanity, I must leave this marriage. With the kids at the age they are, soon there will no longer be any reason for me to stay. At the same time, I want to do it in a way that causes the least hurt for all concerned.
I know that she wants to leave the marriage also - she has said, in the presence of the kids even, how much she is looking forward to the day when she no longer has to "serve" any of us. I called her on that once - was she saying that she wanted a divorce? She back-pedalled - no, she was just upset. That's a typical pattern: as soon as any of this submerged unhappiness starts to surface, she pretends it isn't there.
Is it even possible to communicate effectively under circumstances like this? We've developed a decades-long habit of not communicating, except about trivia. She will be understandably worried about money, which would make communication difficult for anyone.
I guess I could take the approach "Don't agonize over it so much. Just say it and get it over with." The thing I don't like about that is that it completely gives up on any attempt at coming to a mutual understanding. What I'd like to get across is, "Neither one of us is happy in this marriage. We should end it in a way that leaves both of us in the best position to move on. Let's talk about how to do that."
I have no idea how to get this message to her. I can't envision even how to begin a conversation on this topic without her going nearly into shock. She does indeed want the marriage to end, maybe almost as much as I do, but she's scared to death of what might happen (obviously, otherwise she would have left already).
Has anyone ever been in a situation like this? Or have advice on how to handle it? Any thoughts would be appreciated. For anyone who would prefer to talk about this over email, I set up an account at firstname.lastname@example.org.