I just asked my husband for a divorce and he is in complete denial about it.
May 29, 2012 6:20 AM   Subscribe

I just asked my husband for a divorce and he is in complete denial about it. It's like I never asked. How do you tell someone you want a divorce when they won't listen to you?

I say "asked" but I really was completely emphatic that I want a divorce, there is no hope of the marriage working out, and that it is over. He seems to be ignoring that fact completely. We can't move just yet but we're in NYC's ridiculous rental market so if we want to move we need to get started ASAP.

Complicating this is that I am a stay-at-home mom of one toddler. I have some savings of my own (thank god) and have a job offer lined up, but there's no way I can just move out to a new place without his knowledge or cooperation. My income will be so new that I'll need his help to get a lease and I want us to remain living within walking distance of each other for my child's sake (and would prefer us to have as much joint custody as is practicable with a toddler).

Should I sit him down and start throwing logistics at him? Wait until I find a new place and then let him know? (seems like a jerk move, except that I ALREADY TOLD HIM, plus like I said I want to live near each other).

I have called a divorce lawyer. Should I tell him that? Wait for advice from them?

Of course a major reason why I want a divorce is that he rarely listens to me or takes my feelings seriously, so this is funny in a sick way.

Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have called a divorce lawyer. Should I tell him that? Wait for advice from them?

I think this is the best route, yes, as well as looking for a new place in the meanwhile. Your lawyer will know the best way to go about organizing a secure-as-possible future for you, whereas dealing directly with your husband carries a lot of risk (he could just go back into denial, renege on promises, etc.).

I'm so sorry to hear you're going through this. Take care.
posted by fraula at 6:26 AM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yes, this is what lawyers are for. He might be able to ignore YOU, but there's no ignoring a served set of divorce papers. You should be prepared that once he is forced to face this, he might refuse to help you get a lease or to help you leave him in any way... Do you have family or friends you can rely on? Your lawyer might be able to refer you to some agencies to assist with that as well.
posted by Eicats at 6:36 AM on May 29, 2012

My income will be so new that I'll need his help to get a lease and I want us to remain living within walking distance of each other

These things might be nice, but you can't force him to cooperate. If you're serious about divorcing (i.e. this isn't just a power play to get him to pay attention to you) then you need a plan B. If the divorce hinges on his agreeing to live close by or cosigning (is this what you meant?!) a lease for you, then he can prevent it by merely doing nothing.

How do you tell someone you want a divorce...?

You've already told him. There's nothing left to do but proceed as best you can.
posted by jon1270 at 6:39 AM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wait for advice from your lawyer.

Being told your spouse wants a divorce is probably a major shock to the system. You decided this some time ago, but he just found out. If "just" is like, last night or this morning, it's quite possible that he needs more time to process it, and moving on to discussing logistics with him today would be a jerk move and a futile one (because he's not ready for it).
posted by J. Wilson at 6:45 AM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

The Seven Stages of Grief for Divorce
Some may be emotionally stunned, unable to form or express strong feelings about the divorce or any other aspects of their life. Others may refuse to believe it, insisting instead that the process of divorce is simply a prolonged dispute.

Following disbelief, a family member may actively deny or literally forget that the divorce is taking place. According to Anger Management Resources, this is an unconscious attempt by the mind to protect an individual from the pain of loss. A spouse may make new, repeated attempts at romancing their partner in an unconscious attempt to prove that the threat of divorce is not serious.

(The lawyer sounds like a good idea if he is at Stage Two and you need his support, for Stage Three is next...)
Anger is a common response when faced with significant decisions in which a person has little or no perceived input and will have a potentially negative effect. These circumstances often generate feelings of helplessness, which can fuel an individual's anger.
posted by nickrussell at 7:07 AM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

When this happened to me, the idea of divorce was unthinkable to me. I mean that literally. I could not think it.

I knew the marriage was in trouble, but I couldn't conceive of us not working together to get back on more solid ground because I loved her deeply; I believed she loved me too; and I couldn't imagine that she would throw it all away when all our problems seemed so obviously fixable to me.

When she said "I think we should separate," the only thing my brain could hear her say was "I think we should try living apart as a way to fix things." And my response was "Well that's not going to help! We need to be together and talking to each other if we want to solve this!"

I eventually had to deal with it all, of course, but it was only many months later, after the divorce, when I suddenly remembered that day and was thunderstruck to realize what she had actually meant way back then.

Basically, having everything that matters to you torn away by the one person you made yourself most vulnerable to, the one person in the world you were sure would never do that to you, is really difficult to process. You have to be clear and consistent about it, and remember he's not the one who chose this. He's way, way behind you in terms of his thinking about the marriage, and he's going to need some time to catch up to where you are.
posted by Naberius at 7:16 AM on May 29, 2012 [22 favorites]

Of course a major reason why I want a divorce is that he rarely listens to me or takes my feelings seriously, so this is funny in a sick way.


You can't expect a relationship to function better during a divorce than it does during a marriage.

I know a woman who was upset because her unreliable husband didn't follow through on picking up divorce papers from the courthouse. His behavior and her upset over it just a continuation of the pattern they'd had for several years. She didn't see this until I pointed it out.

You're in a better position because you do see it. But the next step is to do something about it.

That's what an attorney is for. He may not pay attention to you, but hopefully he will pay attention to a letter from an attorney.

I'm so sorry that you have to go through this, but it sounds like it is for the best. Good luck to you.
posted by alms at 7:18 AM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Please remember, no matter how much you want to separate yourself from your spouse, you have a child together, which means you are permanently connected. Even if he suddenly disappears from the face of the Earth, you will have to deal with your child's questions, feelings, needs. Since he's unlikely to disappear, the sooner you start setting up the structure of how you will communicate with each other the better. You CAN'T simply "leave it up to the lawyer."

And it's nice that you have some money, and the prospect of a job, but ***Child Support*** is a huge issue, and should be one of your first concerns. I say this from personal experience: I was able to support my kids, my ex was an artist-who-didn't-look-back, so I just accepted that he couldn't pay any support. My now--adult kids resent their father for not helping out; I wish now I'd been more pro-active about getting at least some token support.

Divorce is unbelievably painful. Our culture treats it as a choice with about as many consequences as getting a new tattoo, but it is hardhardhard. My sympathy to all of you.
posted by kestralwing at 7:25 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

IANYL -- and you need to get an education from your lawyer, quickly. You should not assume that you are legally entitled to what you think are your savings. (You may be, but you easily may not be.) You should not expect that your husband's lawyer will let him guarantee a new lease for you absent at least an interim agreement covering all spousal support and child support bases. You need to make a close consultation about the timing of your return to work: implications for spousal support, child support, child custody, etc., are all quite profound.

Also, in general, on denial -- it ends, and it doesn't always end on your timeline. Your husband could go to work today not believing his getting divorced, and by the end of the day he's sent his assistant over to move his stuff to a new studio apartment, he's removed himself from every credit card you jointly have (resulting in them being canceled in most cases), and his May 31st direct deposit has been canceled and he'll be cashing a paper check at the teller.
posted by MattD at 7:39 AM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Wow, I could have written every word of this. I told my husband three months ago and he literally hasn't spoken to me about it once of his own initiative since then. My therapist noted glibly: "He hasn't been your partner in anything. Why do you expect him to be your partner in this?"

Anyway, YMMV based on how angry you think/fear your husband may be (mine's been abusive), but what I'm doing is just step by step:
- Hire a lawyer. Let your lawyer know about the possible pace of things. This step is for you, so you know things are moving, and you know what you need to do to protect yourself legally while things are calm.
- Interview mediators if this is a route you think you'll go. It can be the best route all 'round (custody discussions, child support issues, etc.), and also has the benefit of you being/appearing thoughtful and not aggressive while keeping things moving.
- After you've narrowed it down to 1-3 mediators you like, encourage or invite your husband to meet them on his own and make a joint choice.
- If none of this produces any movement, have your lawyer send a neutral, cooperative letter to your husband introducing him/herself and asking for the contact information for his lawyer. Ask your lawyer to include an offhand sentence or two about the predicted timeframe (e.g., "We'll plan to be ready for an initial meeting by June 15th.")
- I would not simply serve papers unless you'd tried all of these things and maybe a few more. Many people, men especially, experience "getting served" as demeaning and get enraged. It sets a bad tone to start with. If you really want to facilitate a good co-parenting relationship, hold off on serving papers.
Good luck!
posted by Yoshimi Battles at 7:41 AM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

there's no way I can just move out to a new place without his knowledge or cooperation. My income will be so new that I'll need his help to get a lease and I want us to remain living within walking distance of each other for my child's sake

To some extent, you are going to need to reframe your thought processes about this. You aren't life partners anymore, and your expectations that he will help you with these things may not be realistic.
posted by gjc at 8:35 AM on May 29, 2012 [12 favorites]

you should look into placement assistance from the local womens shelter or family assistance organization. no credit history should not be a problem.
posted by Gungho at 8:38 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Things are not going to go the way you think they are going to go--the only thing you actually have control over is what you do. You should operate under the assumption that you will get zero help from him. Figure out a way to get a place to live without him (I'm sure there are support networks out there for women in similar circumstances--Gungho has a good suggestion), be prepared to not live close to each other and have to work out a custody arrangement, etc. Work through your lawyer while remaining as amicable as possible.
posted by Kimberly at 9:14 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since you have a child, and unless you are leaving because of abuse, maybe read this and make sure you understand what problems divorce will solve, which ones it won't, and what new problems it will create. Good luck"
posted by onlyconnect at 10:18 AM on May 29, 2012

Call a lawyer now, and let that lawyer take the lead.

One small extra item to consider: please try to make it a rule between the two of you that no matter what else happens, neither or your soon-to-be-ex will say or do anything to disparage the other where your child will see or hear it. It'll be hard to bite your tonge sometimes (especially at first), but it will be better for your child in the long run. And eventually, it will also make the split easier on you, too.
posted by easily confused at 12:51 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lawyer. You can ask for a divorce, demand-one or even act as if you are currently seperated - but it isn't official until there is paperwork. And - you cannot leave it up to him (the unwilling partner) to get the paperwork started.

I *used* to believe that my spouse would be reasonable - and some days she is - however, ultimately it will be the lawyer than ensures everything proceeds without too much "drama".

Expecting assistance, or fairness shows that you still have faith in people - but in reality, who knows what he will do, if you do not have the clout of legal support.
posted by jkaczor at 4:30 PM on May 29, 2012

From the OP:
"Thank you very much for the help. I talked to an attorney who seems fine, but I am overwhelmed by the cost of her advice. I think that if we can both be civil a divorce would be doable, but if we can't, a divorce would more than bankrupt me, it would put me on the street or in seriously awful housing. I don't really know where to turn in that regard. I volunteer for a women's shelter and I know about public benefits in intimate detail, they're not going to be of much help. Thanks for the reality check about not being able to guarantee that things will go well.

We discussed it again tonight and agreed to hold off for a few months and see how my new job works out and discuss it again then, when the financial picture is more clear. I have been up-front about my misgivings about the marriage for a while now, since an incidence of physical violence while I was pregnant. I don't consider him abusive but that (and a few other things) really shattered my trust in him. Maybe I'm wrong and I can get that back, I don't know. It doesn't look like I have many good options here either way besides holding on and waiting until childcare is more affordable or until I can get a better job (he knows this is my main concern, I am not hiding it from him, which is perhaps stupid of me.) If anyone has any advice about dealing with this kind of stalemate I would be very grateful."
posted by jessamyn at 5:51 PM on May 29, 2012

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