Marriage obviously bad but why can't I leave?
June 25, 2010 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Why can't I pull the trigger on ending the marriage?

Married 8 years. Always been up and down. Fights, yelling, arguing, and yet some amazing times. I've seen amazing love, concern, caring, generosity, effort, sincerity. But I've also seen/been the brunt of emotional/verbal abuse, selfishness, not sure if he's depressed/bipolar or what, laziness, disrespect, screwed up priorities, sometimes even as far as going "wow. Do we REALLY have anything in common beyond some laughs?"

I do know he loves me. But I think it's some sort of mixed up love. I honestly feel like I'm the replacement mother opposed to the partner/wife that I should be viewed as. During bad arguments I get accused of being exactly like his mother, giving him no support (which usually means to him shut up and hear his tirades--which I won't). I think he also likes the fact that I make more and well, he's got a pretty good life. He's contributed to bills but also his idea of priorities with work are golfing, going out, etc. over working extra or on the days he should work.

We had our son 18 months ago and towards the tail end of the pregnancy, fighting increased and the "hmmm" regarding this marriage became a huge question for me.

Then as soon as we brought the baby home it was a HUGE "hmmm this just isn't right. His priorities are screwed up, I am sick of the way he argues (yelling, blamming me, zero accountability or apologies)" and since then I've been more or less obsessed with figuring out this marriage. Fix it? Give up? Is it worth it? Is this going down a road to misery and god, can I live with him for another 30 years? I've entered therapy trying to sort all of this out INCLUDING figuring myself out and fixing the negatives I instilled in this marriage (my admitted lack of patience, arguing style, passion/affection because I'm just so bitter/angry at him, etc). So I'm not saying I"m a joy to be with either. I'm learning a lot. But I've also seen 4 lawyers and know that I have 2 years to make a decision since the reality is any marriage over 10 years makes logistics legally very hard on me (alimony, 401k, etc). Sorry but I also need to know the impact since I'm losing everything if I divorce (50% split). He will only be responsible for nominal child support since he makes sig. less.

But that's just it. The issues. Therapy was tried 5 times. Didn't work, he said it was pointless unless I was the one who was fixed.

Fighting is all about me, my fault, I caused it, etc. even if it means out of the blue WTF arguments that he started. I try my best to ignore or calmly deal, but his style is to accuse, overblow, blowup, and just get childish/immature to the point where I shut down and not deal with him.

Since the baby, we hardly see each other. His rationale is he watches the child 2 days but watching isn't quality. It's our son running around while he's texting, FBing, or working. So I come home, he immediately leaves for the gym. I go to bed. He remains out and usually goes out with friends to the bar. This is M-F.

If it's not that schedule it's "hey I talked with so and so and we made plans to go to X" sometimes I'm included. Sometimes not. And if I/the baby are included, it's totally like we're the 3rd wheel because he made plans with them first. We discuss nothing.

He feels obligated to help a friend out to the extreme all because he helps us with some house duties such as babyproofing. DH's personal/work car is his. He pays for it. Friend who is his employee, doesn't have a car. So he uses DH's. Fine. DH uses mine sometimes when I'm at work. Fine. But after work? He GIVES his friend the car and we're left with one. If my car, which I told him we have to watch the miles since I have zero money to get a new one, needs fixing and it's going to inconvenience him where his friend has to drive him to get my car and it's a long time before it's ready....he gets mad at ME because my car, needs, time to get it repaired is causing his friend to wait for the car. Hello, it's DH's car in the first place. Tough. No car, no money to afford one on his own, too bad. Not my problem.

Money. He is bad at money management. He won't work with me to get things in order. His business is always up and down, thus money is up and down, thus my stable income is 100% relied on so....why work more? I make enough to cover mortgage, etc. Living pay to pay? Who cares? He got invited for golf---he goes. If he can't find a nanny/sitter on his day to watch our child, he complains that he doesn't get to do anything and damn it, it's unfair. In short, ridiculously selfish, childish, bratty, spoiled teen attitude when in reality, he doesn't realize that he JUST went golf last week. Boo hoo he can't go golfing again for one day.

Money is also a concern since retirement? Hell no. It's all because of me and my efforts. He refuses to figure out a way to get his own CD, IRA, whatever. Even if it's $25 a month.

Priorites with the child. Does he take him to the park to release some energy? Nope. And he wonders why a tantrum is now an expected thing around our house over every little thing. He wants to go out. Can't find a sitter. Thinks of anyone to watch our child--even if I dont' know them or it's a friend of a friend of a friend or some 14 year old. His needs need to be met over the safety/logic of a STRANGER watching our kid.

Lazy. Zero housework. Zero outside work. I do it all or he pays someone to do it. Or it doesnt' get done.

So why stay?

I. Don't. Know.

I've never broken up with anyone. I'm scared of who the hell who is normal would want a 38 year old w/ 1 young child. I have a history of picking losers obviously. And my therapist said I have never seen a healthy relationship since I grew up in one of the most fucked up houses she's ever seen (made her cry when I told her the abuse I witnessed, etc).

So does that mean I'm doomed for failure? Great. With a kid, I don't even want to try out of fear of what lazy, addict, etc. will I wind up with if I married one (yes he is a pot smoker; sorry, not my thing). I'm terrified for who I will expose my child to.

And lastly divorce logistics. Every lawyer said because I make more I owe 50% of the house equity, maintanance via the 401k, pension, paying for HIS lawyers. I will only get 20% child support. When someone doesn't make much, I'm expecting $200 a month at the most. Not the point for me since I've been taking care of our child's needs.

So with all this mess and negativity why am I staying? I understand my fears. Therapist said I'm living a life of excuses. Maybe she's right. I'm miserable but it's also the fact of life that he's going to flip out if I serve him. With all of the cash going out the door in the divorce, how will my son and I live? I know not destitute or in a bad situation but still--can we afford a house, bills, etc and be ok?

I don't understand why I stay. I don't know why I let fear override me instead of giving me what I know in my gut we need. And I don't know why I let excuses after excuses guide me down a road of this in the first place or not seeing an exit when it's right in front of me.

I mean, I'm even questioning if this is really all me being just intolerable to what a marriage/relationship is like yet my gut is always telling me "dude, you and your child deserve better. This is fucked up unfair, not a partnership, yes he's using you, and you are wasting your life."
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (49 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Therapy was tried 5 times. Didn't work, he said it was pointless unless I was the one who was fixed.

That's the dealbreaker for me, right there.
I'm divorced and remarried and the moment I unloaded myself of the burden of my first husband it was amazing, like I'd signed on for a life of misery and then was suddenly released.. married again and very happy. Find your joy.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 3:35 PM on June 25, 2010 [9 favorites]

Sounds like you already know the answer.
posted by too bad you're not me at 3:36 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

you're existing in a false dichotomy. it's not "either this asshole or the next asshole". it can be "i'm going to leave, with my child, and i'm going to dedicate my time to making sure i am emotionally stable and a good role model." if you do that, then you'll start attracting and being attracted to better guys. but that's even beside the point - why are you so worried about your next relationship? isn't being single preferable to this?
posted by nadawi at 3:37 PM on June 25, 2010 [6 favorites]

I've been there.
I fought hard to prevent the breakup of a bad marriage because I thought it still had "potential". Ending a marriage is like pulling the life support plug on a dying loved always think "What if it could have gotten better?" It's an incredibly tough decision.
And I won't lie to you...going through a divorce is a whole lot worse than living in a dead marriage. It's hell, but it's a temporary hell. Eventually there will be no more lawyers, no more financial statements, and no more days off work to attend court.
After that you'll have to readjust to an entirely different life. Even if it's better, the fact that it's different makes it incredibly stressful. This could last a few years.
I can only tell you how it all worked out for me. I adjusted. I started dating again (too soon at first, but no harm done). I eventually met an incredible person who is a joy to live with. And I got married all over again.
There's no doubt it was all worth it. I hope it works out for you and your son.
posted by rocket88 at 3:41 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm scared of who the hell who is normal would want a 38 year old w/ 1 young child....So does that mean I'm doomed for failure? Great. With a kid, I don't even want to try out of fear of what lazy, addict, etc. will I wind up with if I married one... I'm terrified for who I will expose my child to.

You know who wants a single 38 year old mom? A 38 year old mom married to a loser! You seem to be hesitating to DTMFA because you're afraid of attaching yourself to another asshole, but that isn't an inevitable situation. You can be single and survive. You can be single and happy!
posted by sallybrown at 3:43 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm terrified for who I will expose my child to.

You're already exposing your kid to a relationship that's really toxic. Get out already. And stop thinking "I will die alone/end up with a jerk." I swear to you, that's not how it has to be. Break this cycle for your child if you can't bring yourself to break it on your own behalf.
posted by rtha at 3:43 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't understand why I stay.

It's the old "the devil you know vs. the devil you don't" conundrum, I think. You know instinctively that leaving -- no matter how much it may be the right decision -- will be very difficult, both emotionally and logistically. But what may be tripping you up is that you don't know how difficult all the tasks and feelings facing you will be, and therefore you don't yet know how you'll cope with all of them. I think it's pretty natural to find this a daunting prospect. But I also think it's crucial that you find a way to push through it -- to reassure yourself that whatever happens -- no matter how hard -- you can handle it.

my gut is always telling me "dude, you and your child deserve better. This is fucked up unfair, not a partnership, yes he's using you, and you are wasting your life."

I give you permission to listen to your gut. It's the truth.

One book that may be helpful to you as you get together your thoughts and plans about leaving is Cutting Loose.

Good luck. Yes, it's going to be hard. Yes, you can still do it. (And yes, there are warm, wonderful, supportive, emotionally adept men out there who absolutely do have the capacity to care for you and your child. But you'll never get to meet them this way.)
posted by scody at 3:44 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

So why stay?

You're staying because you're scared to leave him. Do it anyways.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:48 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try and think about your kid. Your anger and disgust with your husband has come through loud and clear here, and you don't want your kid to see that kind of anger/disgust every day. So why break up? Because staying in this kind of marriage is absolutely toxic to a kid and will have untold future consequences for him. You know how you said when you were growing up you never had a good example of a healthy relationship? You don't want your kid to fall into the same situation, so thirty years down the road he's having the same conversation with his therapist.

If you can't let go of the disgust and anger, then for the sake of your kid, you have to let go of the marriage.
posted by bananafish at 3:50 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I would say leave the loser. Marriage is supposed to make you happy (most of the time, we all have rough patches but if the entire marriage is a rough patch GET OUT). I don't know why people see marriage as a life sentence with no time off for good behavior. If you are truely miserable, get out, get divorced, let tjhe financial chips fall where they may, and don't even think about the next guy for a couple of years. Take care of yourself first!
posted by MsKim at 4:02 PM on June 25, 2010

From how you write, it seems like you're explosively angry. You seem to hate him and just hating him seems to make your life even harder. I'm not saying you should stay married to him, but you need respite from this situation, and you need to learn how not to be so angry and frustrated and miserable. You have to let all of your anger and disappointment with him go, because it's not healthy for you. Don't let whatever he does affect you.

And go ahead and get divorced. How does he feel about getting divorced?
posted by anniecat at 4:14 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Every day you stay in this marriage is a day you are modelling to your child that this is what a marriage should be like. Does that consideration change your analysis?
posted by KathrynT at 4:24 PM on June 25, 2010 [15 favorites]

Your marriage sounds very much like mine before I gave up and dumped the loser.

It took me eight years to realize that yes, he was capable of providing me with the things I needed, he just wasn't interested enough in my happiness to actually do so. My ex didn't respect me enough to do the things one does for a real partner, things like help, listen, communicate, quit whining, make sacrifices, regularly work a day job, etc.

Yours has already stated that the only problem in your marriage, as far as he's concerned, is in your head. There's no surviving that.

You have a stable job with stable income. You do all the chores. When he pitches a fit hard enough, you back off. He gets to commandeer your car, he gets to go golfing whenever he wants, he gets to not provide the household with income, he doesn't have to do chores, and all this with no observable consequences.

Sure, maybe you're cranky, but that's not his fault, it's just that you're a bitch, right? He thinks you're trying to change the rules by "suddenly" requiring more out of him than you used to; it's probably something to do with hormones and the baby, nothing to do with him.

He will not change unless he has to, and he won't have to as long as you're picking up all the slack.

Warning: when you leave him, he'll probably be deeply shocked, hurt, and surprised. After all, you never required [insert normal adult behavior here] before, so why should today be any different? He'll tell you that he Never Really Understood how important these things were to you. He'll tell you that it's your fault for not making him understand that you wanted him to work a day job and bring home money and do the occasional load of laundry and not leave the kid with strangers!

You will probably never be able to forgive him for the things he didn't do when you needed him to.


During our Very Last Talk, a couple weeks after we'd separated, my ex asked me why I was leaving. I told him for the thousandth time that his behavior screamed total disrespect, that he treated strangers better than he treated me, that I was no longer willing to pay all the bills and do all the chores, and that I just plain wasn't interested in being his mommy any more.

I spoke for ten minutes, heart on my sleeve, tears on my cheeks, using concrete examples, and reminding him of his broken promises. When I was finished, he said, with total sincerity, "So, let me get this straight. You're throwing away eight years of marriage over stupid shit?"

The moral: if one of the people in the marriage believes that the other person's basic human needs are "stupid shit," there's no fixing the marriage.

Best of luck to you, girl.
posted by goblinbox at 4:27 PM on June 25, 2010 [102 favorites]

You seem to assume that being with anyone, even if it is this horrible person, is better than being with no one. One of the most important lessons I think you can learn is that this is false. And you learn it from experiencing it.

You can be fulfilled in yourself, with your life, without there being a love interest involved. You can be happy, and healthy, and you can give your child a successful start to life all on your own. You don't need someone.

Sure, if you leave this man, you may someday (maybe soon after, maybe years later) find someone who makes you happy and that you want to spend your life with. But don't think of it as a necessary thing, the next obvious step to seek out. It's possible, yes, but all that's truly necessary for you to seek out is a happy life.

You're not happy with your life shared with this man. You will be happier without him. Forget about any future men (they don't matter right now), forget about what prospects you'll have for dating (it's completely unimportant). Do what will make you happy.
posted by meese at 4:28 PM on June 25, 2010 [6 favorites]

And my therapist said I have never seen a healthy relationship since I grew up in one of the most fucked up houses she's ever seen

You have a chance to make your own healthy family, and most importantly, making sure your kid grows up in one.
posted by clearlydemon at 4:33 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

You can't pull the trigger because you're more afraid of what will happen if you leave than what will happen if you stay. Don't be afraid of leaving. You deserve better and so does your child. Get out. Good luck.
posted by stennieville at 4:37 PM on June 25, 2010

If this helps -- and I hope it does, because it's true -- take it to heart. You are in danger. This man is, if your description is accurate, undiagnosed and mentally ill. Even apparently loving men will kill wives and children if they are mentally ill to the point that it makes sense to do so. Am I saying that I believe your husband is capable of it? No. I don't know anything like that. Neither do you. He is an unknown quantity. He snaps, he shifts, he is changeable. Save your child and save yourself.

Also, take it from me: I have been in bad relationships, and I have been alone. Being alone, in comparison therewith, rocks.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:39 PM on June 25, 2010

Fix it? Give up? Is it worth it?

You have a husband who has bailed on therapy five times and said it was your fault. YOU CANNOT FIX THIS. Give up, it isn't worth it.

As to alimony, etc, it's not that I'm downplaying the financial realities of divorce, but nothing is worth this. You get one life; don't fucking waste it.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:41 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

He's shown you what his pattern is. Either you leave, or you sign up for a lifetime of same shit, different day. The immediate aftermath of ending a marriage is no fun, but your daily situation sounds like no picnic.

Your next relationship should be with yourself. Once you've got that sorted a bit more, then you'll be in a place to make better choices.
posted by ambrosia at 4:44 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd also never seen a healthy relationship and I realized I wasn't capable of even recognizing what one was until I got divorced. Divorce is hell, it is utter hell and it will put you through the wringer but you have gone above and beyond for trying everything. Do it for you and your kid.

he said it was pointless unless I was the one who was fixed.

Biggest red flag ever.

Don't focus on what your life might be like, just take the first step and start filling the papers out. If your husband is anything like my ex, he will beg and plead and promise to change once he realizes you are serious. But from what you're saying, your husband is living in his own little comfort zone by his rules. It's not a relationship at all. Good luck, you seem to have a good direction for starting over... keep going in that direction.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:44 PM on June 25, 2010

When I was finished, he said, with total sincerity, "So, let me get this straight. You're throwing away eight years of marriage over stupid shit?"

Mine told me in all sincerity that what he wanted was the last four years of his life back, after he'd caused a car accident that disabled me for the rest of my life and generally been a right shit who resisted therapy for most of the relationship.

They are always very sincere about these things, and that's nice, because it makes it that much easier to walk away.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:44 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

My mama always says, "The pain of living with a jerk is greater than then pain of living without one."

Get out; lead a jerk-free life.
posted by functionequalsform at 4:54 PM on June 25, 2010 [6 favorites]

It's a "devil you know" kind of situation, I think. Divorce is a big change, and change can be scary as ALL hell. Especially taking that first step towards it.

At least that's why I didn't leave the guy who was treating me like crap for 4 years.

But today I realize it was one of the best things I ever did, and so many guys came after that were so much better. It was hard, it was chaotic for me for a while, but once I took a breath and plunged it really wasn't half as scary as I thought it would be.

It's a change, and change can be scary before you take that deep breath and plunge. But you can do it. I promise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:56 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Why can't you pull the trigger?

When making a big change there are two questions to ask. One is, what do I want to get out of this? The other is, what do I want to avoid wrecking with the changes?

It sounds to me like what you want to get out of this is to stop feeling anger, grief and resentment in your marriage relationship. There are no guarantees that if you kick him out of the house and start divorce proceedings that the angry and sad feelings will go away. They might even get worse, since the chances are you will still have to deal with him about the child and the furniture, and the in-laws and the paper work and the friends. Divorcing him might push him out of your head so that you can start looking forward but it might also only result in a continued situation of frustration but with bigger expenses. If you'd like to see him devastated and upset for a change and he is vaguely pleased instead, a divorce is counter productive. If you'd like him to change in order to salvage the relationship when he realises you are really honestly giving him an ultimatum, and he can't or won't change, the divorce won't make you feel better. So while you do want to get out of the trap you are in, divorce is no guarantee you will actually make it out of the trap.

Now things you don't want to wreck is your own future financial security by having to give away all your retirement and equity and that stuff. Also, I assume, you don't want to make things hard for your child by making it difficult for his father to love him and be with him, and for him to love and learn from his father. (Likely with your feelings hot and angry, you may be thinking that the guy has nothing to contribute to your child, but honestly, for your child the best case scenario is a good relationship with his Dad and a divorce, especially an acrimonious one can make that hard.)

So is there any middle ground where you can stop feeling angry and used and freeloaded upon, and yet not give up even more of our resources to the guy?

There are a lot of steps between staying miserably in a bad marriage and divorcing the guy to get out of it. There are such things as separation, open marriage and more. If you find yourself unwilling to do the whole big final thing, maybe you could explore some of those options. It's not like you need to divorce him quicky so that you can marry someone else before your second child will be born illegitimate! Is there any way you can go on with the marriage and yet disengage from the relationship?

Here's my suggestion: Start being measurably and deliberately selfish. Figure out what he brings in to the marriage financially, subtract that from the totally you bring into the marriage and consider the difference yours personally to use in ways that don't automatically give him a chance to get his hands on it when/if you divorce. Invest in yourself, such as in education. It sounds like the security of savings is what you want most, but there are other ways to invest in future security such as investing in your health -what if you bought personal, non transferable medical insurance or used some of that extra money to work on becoming really healthy?

Also, you might want to try changing the stuff you do with him. He makes plans to go out assuming you will go along with them? That's not unreasonable, as long as you are comfortable making similar plans and assume he will go along with them. You can change the way you operate but you can't change him. If you are divorcing him it doesn't really matter if he makes plans for the pair of you to go out Tuesday and you shrug and let him know that you've made other plans but hope he has a good time.

If he's not doing his share of the child caring... well that's his loss, isn't it? It's not an imposition to spend time with your kid. It's an opportunity.

If you can cut loose from him emotionally maybe you can have your "marriage" and your happiness and your 401K too.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:16 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know, by not leaving you're silently teaching your kid that this is how relationships are supposed to work. (Believe me, it's hard to un-learn the bad relationship skills your parents teach you.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:17 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can see how the financial hit you'll be taking when you divorce is making you think twice. But you asked lawyers, and that's a good first step towards protecting yourself financially. It won't be 'fair' but it sounds like you'll survive.

Everyone else has already explained quite well why it makes no sense emotionally for you to stay, so I'll also encourage you to do the math on why it makes no financial sense to stay, either.

Everything asset that's already gone into the marriage is a sunk cost since it sounds like you're in a community property state. Everything you have not yet done or contributed to the marriage is something you can save, something you can still keep for yourself and your child. Let's say you put in 30 hours a week to your marriage in the form of uncompensated domestic labor on top of your paycheck that you contribute. Let's value that labor at a fair nanny wage, $15/hour. If you wait a year, that's $20,000 worth of extra services your deadbeat husband gets on top of everything else he will win in the divorce no matter what. Stop subsidizing him.
posted by slow graffiti at 5:34 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Has your husband ever been checked for Adult ADHD? Your post sounds as if it could come verbatim from an ADHD forum that I've visited. The skewed priorities, the bad money management, bad time management, difficulty relating to you...all can be signs of ADHD. Do you think you could talk him into getting checked out by his doctor for this?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:36 PM on June 25, 2010

First, realize that you don't have a marriage with this man. Ending it will be much easier if you can see this clearly. Sure, you are married to this man, but you don't have a marriage with him.
posted by milarepa at 6:34 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Instead of talking to lawyers, find a good financial advisor that has experience in rebuilding lives post divorce. Find out what steps you can take now. For a start, stop supporting him. He needs to pay 50% of the family bills, so you need to reduce your standard of living to what he can afford. You might want to consider reducing your income if your employer will grant it a reducti in hours temporarily. Even if not, This means you have more money left over from YOUR paycheque.

Sell the house, you are going to have to anyways, may as well cash out the equity now while you have say in where it all goes. Again, talk to the finacial advisor about what is the best thing to do with the moneywhen a divorce is pending. You have a stable job, getting another mortgage should not be too much of a problem for you, especially if you use the equity money to boost your credit score. He can stay behind the the apartment you rent after the house sale but before serving divorce papers. This may be a harder option but consider looking for a job in a state where the divorce laws are more fair to you.

Recognize your own role in this too, you have a problem with him driving your car, then keep one set of keys to it and don't give them to him. He can drive his own car if it is that important to get out.

I think if you feel you have a better grip on your money and future financial planning you will feel better about the divorce.
posted by saucysault at 6:41 PM on June 25, 2010

Gah, sorry for typos, iPhone+toddler = lack of proofreading
posted by saucysault at 6:43 PM on June 25, 2010

The skewed priorities, the bad money management, bad time management, difficulty relating to you...all can be signs of ADHD. Do you think you could talk him into getting checked out by his doctor for this?

The answer would be "no." The OP's spouse doesn't thinks that he's the one with the problem, judging from this statement: Therapy was tried 5 times. Didn't work, he said it was pointless unless I was the one who was fixed.

I have ADHD. And with all my faults -- the interrupting, the long-windedness, the impulsive decision-making (ask me about the time I bailed out of work one Friday afternoon to catch a flight to Philly to interview for another job), the procrastination -- I have always been self-supporting. And when I lived with an SO who had children, he and I divided up chores and made plans together for our free time, trying to balance grown-up and child-friendly activities.

This guy, OTOH, sounds like he's the OP's second kid, not her husband/co-parent.
posted by virago at 6:50 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I've been having this conversation with a friend of mine for years. I'd send her this link, but odds are very high that her husband might find her reading it.

I suspect a good chunk of your reluctance is that if you want a divorce and go after it, it's putting your husband into the category of "open enemies." Once you declare it over, he'll go after you with everything he's got, call you a bitch, and pitch a battle that may drag on for years, right?

That will probably happen. I'm not denying it. You may put yourself through another year or two of hell and lose money just to get rid of him.

But two more years of hell as a price to pay to get rid of him in your daily life (as opposed to indefinite hell that you're living in right now anyway)? And to get out before your kid starts to grow up and realize that daddy should and will treat mommy like crap, so he'll do that with his girlfriends too? Might be worth it.

I've been suggesting to my friend that she start planning quietly to leave her husband, and then spring it when she's ready. It might help to have planning in place, money stashed, etc. so you are prepared and can get used to the idea.

I wish you luck.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:11 PM on June 25, 2010

It seems to me that you have put in all due diligence and you've considered everything solemnly and you should go forward with the divorce.
posted by XMLicious at 8:33 PM on June 25, 2010

And my therapist said I have never seen a healthy relationship since I grew up in one of the most fucked up houses she's ever seen (made her cry when I told her the abuse I witnessed, etc).

You know, by not leaving you're silently teaching your kid that this is how relationships are supposed to work.

It's very difficult to be the one to break cycles of family history.

There is some consolation in the fact that you've been the provider for your family so far. That affords you a lot more opportunities than many others in similar circumstances.

Good luck
gentle aside: there are many men who don't like golf
posted by minkll at 9:30 PM on June 25, 2010

Please do not start hiding money. I don't know what state you're in, but in most, that is bad juju. Talk about this to a lawyer.

Many of your concerns about taking the first step appear to be financial, and that makes sense if you are supporting your husband and if you stand to lose money in a divorce.


1. Right now you are supporting your husband. And in return, he is making your life miserable. Even if you end up paying some alimony after a divorce, you will still come out ahead if you get to be happy without him.

2. By prioritizing your financial situation over your happiness and the emotional development of your son, you are telling yourself and him exactly how much you are both worth. Is your mental health and a chance at happiness worth what you could lose in a divorce? Is your son's?
posted by freshwater at 10:30 PM on June 25, 2010

Re: Who'd want a 38 year old single mom. I do. My partner is 33 with child. It's awesome and I love having the kid around. I'm pretty sure i can't be the only one.
posted by Hastur at 11:23 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

There are shedloads of decent guys out there who would be happy to meet, have a serious relationship with someone 38, 40, etc. (who's a good catch), with a young kid.

Quick, happy story: One of the most enjoyable articles I've written was about a guy who was in his early 40s, gainfully employed, responsible, etc., and about 6' 5", 250 (not overweight), looked like a bad-ass biker. He was known to his friends, appropriately enough, as Big Dave. Dave was big. So he goes to a motorcycle parts swap meet, a petite woman catches his eye and he strikes up a conversation. Turns out she was there with friends, had some interest in Harleys, single, a nurse, late-30s, had two young kids... and they fall in love... and decided to get married where they met, at the swap meet.

They absolutely could not have been sweeter. She said she couldn't imagine meeting someone decent who would want a serious relationship with her because she had two young kids. Big Dave said he had always wanted to be a dad, felt like it was too late to procreate with someone, feared any woman with kids would take one look at him and run.
posted by ambient2 at 12:07 AM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

I take issue with the way you've phrased your question. You say "why can't I?" but that's not true - of course you can. It's just that you've been a victim of his psychological abuse for so long that it's taken away your realization that you have free will.

What you have to realize is that you CAN leave. You can make a change in your life right this minute by taking your child and walking out that door. Of course, check with a lawyer first before taking any action but please just remember - you and your child are free. You can have any life you want to just about. Do you want the one you're in now?

I have known many women in similar situations to yours. Every single one who has left is happier now. Every single one who has stayed is still miserable. He's made it pretty clear that this is not going to get any better. That's not to say that it won't get worse.

Every second you stay you're making a choice. Is it the right one?
posted by hazyjane at 12:14 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite] is clear that you totally despise your husband. You have zero respect for him and it seems he has zero for you. I must warn you..after you actually tell him that this is the end he will pull out the stops and likely go all nice on you. When he understands that you are serious..he will suddenly see that you needed something better and he'll do last ditch things to try to make the marriage survive. I am guessing this because he's got it good now and would miss the status you have given him. He truly is riding on your coattails.

Speak to a lawyer and a CPA or financial advisor and get your ducks in a row. THEN tell h that you want a separation. That eases him into it and gives you both an opportunity to get used to the idea. Most separations end in divorce, but if you put it to him as a "trial" separation perhaps you can get through it without histrionics. He may very well discover that he loves living without you as much as you are likely to love living without him. It can all be done graciously and without fanfare. This is like a bad business partnership...cut your losses and make an "executive decision". Have dates this: "ten days from today I want our trial separation to begin..I will help you find an apartment, you may visit the baby on such and such days (etc). This is a trial to see if we will feel better on our own (etc)". Practice all this so that the delivery is firm without yelling.

And if you wind up waffling--come back here and everyone will set you straight again. Don't waste your young life with a hateful man who does not deserve you.
posted by naplesyellow at 12:30 AM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Either way, quit with the anger, disgust, and blaming. You're an adult and you have total control of your life. You can tell him how to treat you, or if he won't, you can just leave. So, make a rule for yourself that you can't sit around angry at him. If you do that, many interesting things may happen in your head and you may be able to leave or at least have the answer to your question.
posted by salvia at 12:48 AM on June 26, 2010

Also: the man is a drug addict. Stoners will swear that pot "doesn't count," but it does. He's not crazy or sick, he's a stoner. He values his bag above anything else. Walk, and don't look back.
posted by goblinbox at 1:16 AM on June 26, 2010

I've never broken up with anyone.


Someone close to me has just broken up with a 'first love' as a 30+ yo, and they simply do not know what virtually of us know - there is a better life ahead, but there is a bit of pain to endure to get there.

You seem to be in a similar situation. Take confidence in the certain knowledge that:
1. the pain is manageable;
2. the pain goes away;
3. life gets better (not always easier, but much better).

Good luck, you know what to do, you just need to take a deep breath, and do it.
posted by GeeEmm at 4:10 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sure, it's possible (although not likely) that after your divorce, you'll never meet and fall in love with a man who is willing to take on your child. But if you don't separate from your husband, you will ABSOLUTELY never meet such a person. If you extricate yourself from your marriage, at least you'll be in a situation where you have a chance at eventually finding a loving, hard-working and supportive partner.

It's understandable for you to be worried that your husband will try to fuck with you during custody/child support negotiations after you decide to leave him. But that's really no reason to stick around. Your husband is psychologically abusive and he seems to have very little respect for you. An abusive man will find ways to use your love for your child against you whether you divorce him or not.
posted by arianell at 4:48 AM on June 26, 2010

You're pretty much a single mum now, why not do it for real and enjoy the good things about having a close, relationship with your child on your own terms. Who knows what can happen down the line?

My mum divorced my actual father when I was two, after years of broken promises. She says that when I was born she knew she couldn't excuse his behaviour anymore, but it took her some time to sum up the courage and resource to make it happen. I didn't have very much as a child, but I was spoiled rotten with love by a happy, independant woman who worked hard and provided for us both. I never once felt like I was missing out on anything and I just remember our small home as full of light and fun.

She I was nine when she met my stepdad and I love him to bits. He'd been through the wars too and their relationship is very much based on mutual respect and consideration. They'd both learnt a lot about choosing partners and it shows - they had their 25 anniversary last month. And what's more, I'm grateful she didn't make me suffer the consequences of living with the man who was not capable of stepping up.

You can do this, it'll be hard but you sound pretty strong to me. I bet you'll surprise yourself.
posted by freya_lamb at 5:07 AM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've told much of my story on AskMe before and my decision was admittedly easier because I do not have a child. But I will say this: getting divorced WAS a significant financial hardship for the first few years. Much smaller place to live, old car, not a lot of money for fun. After a while I started jokingly telling myself I was paying a "happiness tax" - I had less money by golly but I was happy & free! It was so worth it you cannot believe. I have grown and changed and become stronger and more successful because I am not weighted down in misery. You and your child have a wonderful life ahead of you! You will feel so good once you are free of this toxic marriage. Good luck to you both!
posted by pointystick at 5:34 AM on June 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

I think you know you're going to get divorced. So start planning for it. Take back your car keys and tell him his friend may not use it, and he may not use it so that his friend can use his. That's just absurd. Stop additional contributions to mortgage, pension, etc., and put the money into this car or a better one. You'll likely each keep your cars, but split house and pension. Document the value of his business, if he's self-employed.

If you have joint credit cards, have them canceled. Get individual ones. Tell him you're going to stabilize finances because of the economy. Wayyyy too many people get screwed when 1 partner gets pissed and charges up the cards. Stop subsidizing his lifestyle; put any money into care for your child, and making sure you're ready for divorce. In fact, make sure he's paying a fair share of groceries and utilities.

At divorce, try to get some house equity set aside in trust for the child's needs for college. I don't know why more people don't do this.

On a personal level, stop fighting, and start living your life as you choose. Literally, walk away from fights. If/when he screws up, say "It's not appropriate to leave Baby with some guy's girlfriend's Mom, who I don't know. Please stop that." Give him 1 - 5 minutes of discussion, then say, "We can talk about it tomorrow. I'm going to wash my hair/ Play with Baby/ etc" and walk away. I did this with my now ex-, and it worked really well. Fighting went down, fun went up. And 6 months later, he left. I don't know why he needed the fighting, but he couldn't stay without it. and other reasons, blah, blah. I changed myself, and it changed the balance of the relationship in a very good way, but he couldn't stay with that. I am very glad we divorced, even though it was very hard for me to get to that point.
posted by Mom at 7:45 AM on June 26, 2010

This man is soul cancer. He is eating your life and when you are old you will have nothing left but anger, hate and regret and a fucked up kid. Cut this cancer out of your life. It is scary as fuck when you sit in the doctor's office for the test results. But when you come back for that followup after surgery and the doctor is smiling, you walk outside into a bright clear day and you can start living again. So: get the surgery started. Fill out the forms, contact a lawyer and make it happen so that your next bright clear day happens as soon as possible.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:16 AM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Not that I disagree *at all* with those who say that being single is better than being in a miserable relationship, but my parents divorced when I was young and there were always plenty of guys interested in my mom. Some with kids who lived with them, some with kids who lived with their moms, some with no kids, some with grown kids. The ones I ended up meeting seemed like fine, normal guys; some not too interested in me and one much more reliable than my dad. (This in the US.) Anecdata, but still: if you decide to date, that'll work itself out.
posted by ecsh at 10:32 AM on June 26, 2010

One thing that might motivate you is to look at your little boy and decide what kind of role models you want for him. It sounds like DH isn't one of them, and neither is a woman who stick around and put up with it.

Not saying it'll be easy--but the right thing and the easy thing are just not the same thing this time. Best of luck to you.
posted by agentwills at 5:50 AM on July 1, 2010

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