I am so stuck. The time has come to end my marriage and I can't get the words out.
November 2, 2012 5:55 PM   Subscribe

I feel like I am experiencing sleep paralysis--I know I want to wake up but I just can't move. I've had no shortage of difficult life challenges over the years. Leaving a drug-addled, abusive family behind, holding dying loved ones, quitting cigarettes, I've ended LTRs in the past (and had them ended by partners too). I am not an over-thinker or an indecisive person and this feels so weird.

There's been ongoing couples counselling a couple times a week for the past six months, so we've tried earnestly to fix things. I don't need to rehash particulars here: I'm just plain done.

We're mid 40s, no kids, married 11 years, both employed. I have a solid support network that will be mildly surprised but available. I have a place I can go. Spouse does not have close connections with anyone but me, and that is something I do worry about, but it is not clouding the fact that it needs to happen. There is no history of violence or even anger really, so I'm not concerned about safety. In short, I should be able to do this.

Every divorce I've seen around me has had a villain to act as a catalyst: infidelity, drugs, violence. I don't have an example of a what a divorce without these things looks like.

But: How do I break this paralysis? How did you do it? Where do you find the strength?

Is it better to do it at home, or do I just say it during a counselling session? Or roll out these feelings over a few weeks? We've never even talked about separating--everything has been focused on negotiating needs and constructively fixing things. I tend to fall into fix-it mode during sessions (even when immediately before and after "I want a divorce" is stuck in my lungs trying to push air through my vocal chords).

I know there will be unexpected feelings and logistics that come up. I know it will be awful and hard. I want to be respectful and decent about it but at the same time I just want to get it done and I'm completely stuck.

(Thanks in advance for the inevitable counselling advice. I've taken advantage of it before the couples therapy (that's how I got this far) and will again after separation, it's awesome.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you'd benefit from individual counselling. You could still go to couples' counselling, if you wanted, and work through this with your own counsellor.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 6:35 PM on November 2, 2012

I haven't had the experience of ending a LTR myself, but I've been on the receiving end of that breakup a couple of times; both times were at home, and it seems to me now that in both instances, the other person had to work their way up to saying the words and finally just screwed up their courage and said them, a bit awkwardly but firmly nonetheless, with no going back. In both cases things were low-grade miserable for a long time without any really clear dealbreaker, much like what you've described. So I think if you have your mind made up, you just have to visualize yourself saying it, and then say it. Once you have, it can't be unsaid and everything becomes very much easier from that point forward, probably for both of you.
posted by treblemaker at 6:37 PM on November 2, 2012

Every divorce I've seen around me has had a villain to act as a catalyst: infidelity, drugs, violence.

Oddly, my experience has been the exact opposite. All the divorced folks I know have parted amicably, at least as far as external observers are concerned, without heroes or villains.

It may be that this is skewing your perceptions. It's totally possible for married couples to split 'just because'. We all get that marriages break down without it being someone's fault. It's actually much easier for everyone if friends don't have to take sides.

Recently I was at a party with a friend, the friend's ex-wife, the friend's ex-wife's ex-husband, and the friend's new wife, and they were all chatting happily. It happens.

As to how to approach it, I don't have much to tell you about that, except the sooner the better, and don't try to soft-pedal it if it's something you've really decided to do.
posted by unSane at 7:20 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can never get everything right, so just try to do it in the most comfortable way possible. If that's at home or if that's in counselling, that's up to you. The advantage of doing it at home is that it's private - there will be no third wheel watching - and it provides an opportunity for your partner to react however they feel. The advantage of doing it with the counsellor involved is that they can mediate - although springing it on them would be very difficult for them as well.

If you know you want a divorce, I would not draw it out longer than needed (don't, say, go down the path of asking for a separation if you know what you want right now).

If you fall into fix-it mode, don't make any guesses about what your partner wants you do to - ask them. Be as receptive to their feelings as possible and try not to attempt to save the day.

Talk to a lawyer in advance of anything.
posted by heyjude at 9:12 PM on November 2, 2012

I have been there. We were together for a dozen years (no kids), and we were just stuck. Not arguing a lot, but not happy and not moving forward, and eventually I was just plain done also. Something clicked inside, and my thinking flipped from "There's no way I could possibly do this to him" to "I need to do this for me."

I also did not have a model for how to carry it out (my parents went through a very bitter divorce), but I tried to treat him the way I would want to be treated. I told him gently at home and was firm about what I was saying. I asked him to move out when he found a place (and ultimately got him to agree to a timeframe so that he couldn't drag things out). He was shocked and distraught, and did not have much of a support network either, but he got through it. He finally got some much-needed counseling and started to build a support network. I let him come over and vent his anger at me (once) and then decided not to do that again - he could vent in counseling. He decided to make a career change after we separated, and we agreed on a financial split that would help him do that. I made some decisions out of guilt at being the instigator, but in the end it helped me feel like I was being fair. We didn't rush the paperwork, and ultimately he was the one who filed it because he met someone else and wanted to get the divorce over and done with. We're both remarried now, and both (I think) immeasurably happier.

I think the hardest part is now, when it's all building up inside you and you're agonizing over how to break the news. I think quickly is best, for both of you. Unless he's agonizing over the same thing, yes, it will be painful and difficult. But you can do it, and you can both get through it.

I feel like that day for me was the hardest thing I had done to that point, and also the best, like I was finally giving voice to the feelings I had had for so long instead of pretending (to us and to everyone else) that things were fine.

Hey, you got me to delurk. :) Not sure how memail works, but feel free to contact me. Best of luck.
posted by eseuss at 10:00 AM on November 3, 2012

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