Stuck on the cusp; how to step over?
November 5, 2012 7:11 AM   Subscribe

You decided to leave your marriage, which has had good times but also so many bad ones. You finally came to the point where you realised you had to get out; how did you go from realising it to actually doing it, despite the inertia of being with someone whom you still loved (just not enough to overcome all the negatives in the marriage any more)?

Context from two posts: one and two.

The tl;dr; summary of those posts: After a stupid incident in which I almost slept with someone other than my wife, and a period of counselling (both joint, which didn't do much) and individual (which is helping immensely) I've come to realise some unpleasant truths about my marriage. People have said in both of the previous threads that I have been the victim of an abusive relationship, and whilst I still struggle to accept that I do find myself seeing things in a slightly less rosy light than I used to.

I've just come back from a two-week business trip, during which I had some time to reassess how I felt about my marriage. At first I missed being at home, but after the first couple of days I started to really enjoy being on my own, making my own decisions and being around the people I wanted to be around.

On top of this, I had some in-depth conversation with a friend who once said that he didn't think I was making the right choice in marrying my wife. He pointed out that I am "never the same person" when I'm around my wife; that I'm quieter and seem to be enjoying life less.

After the two weeks I decided that I wanted to give things another shot, but that I needed things to dramatically improve. However, before I'd even got a chance to tell my wife about my feelings, there was already drama:
  • She admitted to checking my Facebook friends' public profiles to see if there were pictures of me with any women from the conference
  • Before I went away I asked her to get counselling, and to return to couples' therapy with me. She said that she'd rather leave. I haven't repeated the request yet, but when I did broach it (in a "have you thought further about getting counselling" kind of way) she rolled her eyes, sighed and said "No!" in an exasperated tone.
  • Whenever I've told her that I love her, she's said "but is that enough?"
  • Several times over the weekend she's said that she knows that I'd be happier without her, but that she'll never be complete without me.
  • Whilst watching a street performer in town, she made a bitchy comment about one of the members of the crowd. I didn't agree, but didn't want to start an argument, so I just acknowledged what she said with a smile, which she didn't see. She then announced that "maybe [she] should just walk away, since [I] obviously didn't care about [her]."
  • When I was feeling ill and tired in bed (having cracked a rib falling on some ice), she said "would you like to go to sleep?" I, thinking she was trying to look after me, said yes, and she got angry and turned her back - she had wanted sex but hadn't said so. I said I'd be happy to make love to her, but that I wasn't up for anything vigorous because of the pain; she accused me of wanting to humiliate her by making her beg. Eventually she apologised for her harsh words, blaming sexual frustration.
  • We have tickets for a big gig by her favourite band in a few weeks' time; she's said before that she'd go with someone else if I didn't want to (I'm fine with going, though I don't care that much about the band), but when I suggested a couple of weeks back that maybe we should separate she said she wouldn't go without me.
  • She's been saying things like "you're my life" and "I'd die without you", though she knows very well that I dislike such sentiments - indeed she used to share in my negative feelings about them
  • She's started making contemptuous comments like "Oh, yes, because you've proved yourself so trustworthy," and vaguely threatening ones like "if there's something you need to tell me you'd better do it now; you know that your lies have a habit of coming out in the end."
I've also noticed a growing weariness within myself, verging dangerously on contempt, when it comes to her dramatic statements. When she was too ill to work one morning over the weekend, she was reduced to stamping her feet and shouting because she didn't know how to phrase the text message to her line manager. Eventually I wrote it for her because she was getting so worked up; I remember thinking, though, that it was a bit like dealing with a five-year-old.

Having been willing to give things another shot before I flew home, I suddenly find myself feeling wrung out and ready to stop. Reading Too Good To Leave, To Bad to Stay whilst I was away, I noticed that many answers pointed towards me being happier to leave. I've even tried the coin test - "Heads I leave, tails I stay" and always finding that I want it to come down heads.

And yet I don't seem to be able to mobilize myself into actually doing anything about it. I tell her I love her (which I still do, despite everything; I just know I can't be with her any more and be happy) and I look after her and try to make her happy. I feel like I'm doing her a massive amount of harm now, that I'm stringing her along, or alternatively that maybe I don't really want to leave and that it's all just a lie.

How can I move myself forward from here?
posted by six sided sock to Human Relations (33 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
There's an old Seinfeld line about how a breakup (or, in this case, a separation) isn't like launching a nuclear missile. You don't both have to put your keys in and turn to make it happen. Whatever it is that you need to do, you need to do.

You can start by having a confidential (i.e. your wife doesn't need to know) meeting with a good divorce lawyer. And when I say "good," I mean "established and probably expensive" and not some shmuck six months out of Hollywood Upstairs Law School. They'll know the best way for you to handle this, and you'll need one anyway as I don't see this being a particularly amicable divorce. There's different regulations on what you do and what it "proves" in a court of law (i.e. moving out, kicking the other person out, draining bank accounts, whatever) and you'll need to know that stuff.
posted by griphus at 7:21 AM on November 5, 2012 [11 favorites]

Two things.

One, you need to work with your therapist on understanding that you are not responsible for her happiness. Once you are free of that, a lot of these false barriers you're putting up ("she won't have anyone to go to a concert with") will fade away.

Two, if you're having trouble telling her, I'd make a plan and put things in place to make it real and then tell her. She sounds unstable and potentially vindictive, so I'd start with a tentative first appointment with a divorce attorney. Make sure you can secure your independence (and hers) by understanding how asset distribution and interim support work in your state.

If you are planning to move out, go look at some apartments. I'm pretty sure walking into even the smallest studio and imagining yourself living there will feel like Nirvana to you.

When these things seem possible, you will be much more able to make them real.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:24 AM on November 5, 2012 [11 favorites]

I think you're beaten down and exhausted and don't want to face the fight that will ensue when you decide to tell her you're leaving. But do remember that after the initial blow-up, your day-to-day should get better as you're no longer beholden to someone who is so emotionally manipulative.

There's no easy way to do this. But it doesn't matter if she wants to break up or not. You're not getting what you want and need out of the relationship. It's on her as a separate human being to decide how to deal with this afterwards. It's on her to live her own life. You don't have to carry her anymore.
posted by inturnaround at 7:28 AM on November 5, 2012

You're going to get better advice than I can give you - the above two responses are already solid.

I've been on both ends of this, actually. The sooner you take action, the sooner you both can start healing. Be honest and gentle with yourself. Good luck.
posted by Thistledown at 7:28 AM on November 5, 2012

I feel like I'm doing her a massive amount of harm now, that I'm stringing her along

With respect, and after having read your past two questions, this sort of her-focused view of you trying to make a very personal and difficult decision is the point at which I'd be saying "Man, my mind is colonized and I need some free space to even be able to think about how to be me again."

I think it's good that you got some space on that business trip. If you're concerned about making such a permanent change, you can suggest a trial separation and I'd focus on a few key points.

- She appears to be unwilling to do the work required to meet you even partway as far as taking care of herself and her own mental well-being.
- She is openly uncaring about your own personal desires and feelings (hurt rib) and is disrespectful and fairly openly (to my read) contemptuous of you.
- Participating in unacceptable behavior (facebook stalking, tantrums) without making any attempt to moderate these things to your comfort level.

I know it's tough to feel that you are an an abusive relationship and far be it from me to say that you are in one (you can check here and see if things sound familiar). However, her controlling and contemptuous behaviors at the very least seem to be making you unhappy and uncomfortable and you may have lost perspective to just how aberrant some of these behaviors are because you've been living with them for so long. I have a person in my life who left an emotionally abusive relationship and it has literally taken him years to learn how to not make his abusive ex the center of his decision-making process even as she is awful to him and my heart just goes out to him.

If you have a trusted friend who can help you get a more me-centered view on this situation (and I concur, lawyer) that should help you take the steps you need to break the news and get out the door. There are many resources for helping you and while many of them are focused on helping women get out of abusive relationships, there is a lot of useful advice for all genders. Good luck, I think you are making the right choice.
posted by jessamyn at 7:30 AM on November 5, 2012 [11 favorites]

Do you have anyone in your life you trust completely who can help you? A brother, a good friend, someone besides Metafilter and your therapist? I think it would be really helpful to talk this over with someone in your real life who cares about you, and then enlist that person to help you make a game plan for moving out.

Women in abusive relationships are often advised to have someone else with them when they are physically moving their items out of the house, and given your wife's volatile behavior I think that might be a good idea for you as well.
posted by something something at 7:33 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

How to get it started? You just do it.

Go right now and look up a divorce lawyer and set an appointment. Start looking for apartments on craigslist. Grab a notebook and make a timetable and a plan for getting your stuff out.

Once you get the ball rolling, you'll be fine. It sounds like this is very much the best thing for you.
posted by zug at 7:34 AM on November 5, 2012

One way of framing relationships is thinking about whether you bring out the best in each other, or the worst. It sounds to me like you're both bringing out the worst in each other.

I think it's clear to you now that you would be happier without this relationship. Perhaps, since you love her, it would help to realize that in the long run, she would be too.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:35 AM on November 5, 2012

While you're looking for apartments, also look for some extended-stay hotels and storage space. I don't know where you live, but sometimes getting a new apartment on a moment's notice is not a possibility, but you do want to be out of that house as soon as you're able.

You can also crash at a friend's place, obviously, but I'd save up burdening your friends for when they shit really hits the fan. That and she can't come looking for you if she doesn't know where you are.
posted by griphus at 7:37 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's a moment where it really clicks for you and you realize, this relationship will never be better than it is right now. You're doing the work to improve in therapy and she refuses to do her share. It's never going to get better.

Now you start the process of moving forward. Start by making a list of things you need to do to move out. 1 - Set up your own bank accounts (which mail to your office). 2 - Research where you'd like to move. ... Start checking off one big thing and two small things each day.

This relationship is probably not ever going to improve. Your LIFE is going to improve immeasurable as soon as you start moving.
posted by 26.2 at 7:38 AM on November 5, 2012

MeMail me for a story of going thru it and a reasonable timeline for sanity.
posted by readery at 8:03 AM on November 5, 2012

Whenever I've told her that I love her, she's said "but is that enough?"

If that makes you feel even a fraction as horrible as that would make me feel in your situation, that would be all the motivation I need.

When you find yourself doubting that leaving is the right thing to do, remember how it feels. Immerse yourself in the bad feelings - don't suppress them. Let those terrible emotions fill your body and mind.

Then, remind yourself that when you leave, these feelings will leave as well.
posted by blue t-shirt at 8:21 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Others have more helpful advice about divorce itself than I can offer. But I've left a relationship where I'd become caretakery and felt responsible for his emotions. A big turning point was learning to disengage in small situations. "I'm sorry that X upset you, and I've apologized a few times already, but if you're going to stay angry, I need to have a bit of distance, so I'm going to head out to a movie." Much like your week away, beginning to not engage in the drama helped me understand how much more peace I could have. It took me a few attempts to learn how to not get sucked in like I normally would. Some of what then happened made clear to me that we needed to break up, but I don't think I would have seen those events so clearly if I had not begun to disengage. If I had not learned how to let his problems be his (while relating to those in a way I felt okay about, e.g., not cruel or harsh), I would probably have fallen back into my old ways and gotten sucked back into the relationship by some of the manipulation that then followed.

In short, I recommend that you begin to draw more boundaries about what kind of communications or conversations you won't engage in or put up with. It'll be good practice and may help you see everything more clearly.
posted by salvia at 9:11 AM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

OK, look, you love her, you want her to be happy, and you feel guilty and like you have to keep her from experiencing emotional pain. But you can't keep her from experiencing pain. The marriage is over. The situation is untenable. Any more time you stay is just prolonging the unhappiness for the both of you.

The breakup is going to suck. They just suck, and since your wife is dramatic it's probably going to be a dramatic divorce. But at the end of it you are going to feel better. You will be free.

Talk to your counselor about taking steps towards divorce; get some emotional support. Go see a lawyer and do stuff to protect your money. As suggested above, find a long-stay inn or a sublet; don't tell your wife where it is. Pack a bag with your sentimental/important stuff in it and put the bag in the inn. Then tell your wife and leave. Don't be swayed by her saying she'll leave, or that she'll die, or that she's going to walk out into the rain and her life will be empty forever. Just go.
posted by feets at 9:47 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

p.s. With regards to how to step over the cusp, I recommend projecting your imagination into the future. Imagine yourself one year from now and five years from now. You don't really believe this relationship has the possibility to get better. So, what if you stay together? What will your life be like? Will you still be walking on eggshells? Will your wife still be angry and dramatic? How will it look? How will it feel?

Now imagine stepping over the cusp. It will definitely suck for a while. But what will your life be like in one year? Five years? How will it look? How will it feel?

Good luck, six sided sock.
posted by feets at 9:54 AM on November 5, 2012

You're standing at the doorway of the plane with the parachute on. You thought it through over and over. You made the decision and put yourself in the position to do it. You know your life will be better for having made the leap, and you won't forgive yourself if you don't.

Close your eyes and jump. You'll be glad you did.
posted by cnc at 10:27 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

"I can't do this anymore."

That's how I ended it. It's not about her, it's not about you-and-her, and it's unarguably true.
posted by Etrigan at 11:01 AM on November 5, 2012

There is not Break-Up tax holiday. There is no good time for it.

Your previous questions elicited a lot of "run, oh god run run" advice from me.

So like any good run the hardest step is the one out the door.

Good Advice I try and Remember:

Breaking up is not an agreement.
It is not a negotiation. It is not a discussion.
It is not an act that requires consent.
You can only control your own life and your own future.
You are not responsible for your ex's anger, happiness or disappointment.
It is not a commentary on love.
It is not a failure.
posted by French Fry at 11:38 AM on November 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

Lawyer. Accountant. Rent new home/book hotel. Pack bags. "This is not working for me". Leave.

Three things:

1. You should only ever be in a situation where you behave vastly different from your own personality if it is a specific project or a job (involving prestige, skills, ambition or $$) - never a marriage or friendship. Marriage and friendships should be your safehouse from the rest of the shitty world.

2. Just because you love with someone, does not mean they are healthy for you (see: nearly all of the family-related questions on the Green).

3. Good luck! :o)
posted by heyjude at 1:21 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you should definitely split and as quickly as possible (after speaking with a lawyer that is).

I do think you should look at your part in how things turned out though - you sound like you could be very frustrating to deal with, like you might put people in no-win situations, and more like a judgmental spectator instead of a participant in your own life. You should work on improving your communication skills so that you can consistently message what is okay and what is not instead of randomly piping up. Not enough normal feedback combined with random negative reinforcement can drive people crazy and to eventually snap and just start saying random and painful things to get a reaction or fight back.

If you communicate well and are honest and respectful then even though it might not work out in future relationships, you can part with dignity and even possibly as friends.
posted by meepmeow at 2:03 PM on November 5, 2012

Everyone else has suggested really good things with regards to lawyers (def do this!) and having a friend along when you move out (also a good idea!) so I won't bother trying to speak to those points, but I can talk about what it feels like emotionally when you leave.

The hardest thing is just making up your mind that you're going. Seeing a lawyer will be very helpful with this, likewise the suggestions to go and look at new places to live. This sort of limbo you're in where you think it's time to go, but you're not out the door is really difficult, it's a state of being I find personally almost unbearable. Try not to blurt anything to her about leaving until after you've seen the lawyer, I agree with everyone who suggests your wife is likely to make your breakup as difficult as possible.

Once you've consulted with your lawyer, you'll make some preliminary plans about when and where you'll move, and how you'll take care of whatever things you need to take care of. Having those plans is like having a map for how to keep moving forward. Telling her will be hard. All you can do is try to remain focused on why you're leaving - that it isn't a whim, that you are very serious, that it is no longer negotiable. And then you just follow the plan.

It is normal to have mixed emotions about a breakup. It is a traumatic decision for everyone! You will probably have all kinds of remorse and second thoughts, which is why you need to be very careful and make a (mental is good enough) list of WHY this is happening. Your feelings may try to overtake you - you must allow your head to make the decisions for a while. It gets easier and easier until one day you notice how much happier you feel, and it's like being able to breathe again. Surround yourself with allies. Talk to people who support you frequently, and get them to say "you're doing the right thing." Be kind to yourself. It might not be easy, but you will be ok.
posted by thylacinthine at 2:43 PM on November 5, 2012

that it isn't a whim, that you are very serious, that it is no longer negotiable.

When my friend who was in a similar situation dealt with this, the interim part between telling and moving, was the most difficult. There was a weird combination of last ditch effort to "save" things (and promises made that were never made before, many of them were not made with the intention of keeping in my opinion) and really angry abuse, which made the last ditch efforts to save things even weirder and false-seeming. There was also a lot of shit-talking to friends/relatives, so it might be worth a little heads up for people if you have shared friends.

This is a good time to marshal some friends and/or acquaintances/family just to help keep you on an even keel and so you have someone else who can tell you over and over "You are doing the right thing." It's a terrible vicious circle, feeling that you are responsible for someone else's emotional well-being and then feeling like you personally are responsible for the bad time they are having when you withdraw your emotional and/or material support because you've had enough. However, breaking the cycle is ultimately not just good for you it's actually better for both of you to not be stuck in such a bad no-one-is-happy mess.

Make a plan. Inform her of the plan. Follow the plan. Realize that your brain, stuck in its bad patterns, may try to convince you that you are doing the wrong thing. You are not. Someone who refuses to help themselves or you and is openly contemptuous of you should not be in a relationship with you. I am sorry you are dealing with this.
posted by jessamyn at 2:57 PM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't have specific advice for how to make the break from it, but I will say that this situations sounds so much like my fiancee's first marriage. I knew him for four years before we got in a relationship. Everyone, not just one friend, felt he was so much more unhappy and "not himself" since he get involved with her, he constantly felt guilty for her not having any friends and not having a social life aside from him, he was in a constant state of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" in regards to everything and he was totally torn down and felt totally worthless for years because in her eyes he could do nothing right and she was quick to tell him. She finally asked for a divorce (so that she could be with someone else with whom she has already started a relationship... long story). He was upset for about a day, and then the relief set in... Relief that it was finally over. And when he started telling people their marriage was over literally EVERYONE had an "Oh my god, finally!" reaction, including his parents, his brother, his friends and his co-workers. One friend (who is the wife of the man who was his best man at his first wedding) high fived him when he told her.

Let me tell you... his life is so different now. He is a totally different person, but it is the person he was before he got entangled with her. Once you get out of the situation you will have so many moments of "How the hell did I ever put up with that?" and "We were so unhappy together, why did we stay together so long?". All the negativity and drama that you are getting weary of is just the tip of the iceberg. Once your're out of it you'll suddenly notice the lack of all the other dramas and negativities that you had just gotten used to and accepted as "life". I've been with my fiancee for a year and a half and he is STILL taken aback at how happy and easy and NORMAL our relationship is by comparison. On top of all that, all of his friends and family have made nearly non stop comments about how he is himself again for the first time in 10+ years. His mother has repeatedly thanked me for giving her son back to her and for making him so happy. His father, who is a very quiet and reserved man, gave me a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek when my fiancee's mother asked him jokingly if he approved of my relationship with his son. My fiancee couldn't believe it when his dad did that.

Tomorrow night my finacee is going out for drinks and to play pool with a friend tomorrow night and I'm all "Cool, have fun!" and he is still a little unused to my just trusting him and being happy for him to get out with his friends for "man time". I get so sad occasionally when he is so surprised or confused when I do something kind or just normal, like offer to get him a drink while I'm up or encourage him to hang out with his friends from time to time. Having him find basic kindness from his partner be so surprising and foreign is upsetting to me, but I am glad I get to expose him to how easy and happy a relationship can be.

Getting the separation agreement and divorce finalized wasn't easy and she kicked up drama from time to time and made threats, but even then he kept saying "I'd rather the short term stress of trying to divorce her than the stress I had being married to her.". And in fairness, she was extremely unhappy in the relationship as well, and while she is a fairly unhappy person by nature, she does seem at least somewhat happier out of the marriage as well.

So my point is that there isn't just light at the other end of the tunnel, it is very likely a huge sparkly discoball of fairy lights and rainbows at the end of the tunnel. You've been in this situation for so long that you've forgotten what "light" even looks like. You CAN do this. You BOTH deserve to be in a relationship that makes you happy, not one that makes you miserable. Getting a divorce seems daunting and like a huge undertaking because it is, but it is totally doable and so so worth the effort. The potential stress and upset that can come with getting a divorce is likely a lot less than the stress and upset and negativity that you're living day to day now.

I wish you nothing but the best and I really hope you find happiness.
memail me if you want to talk.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:03 AM on November 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

And keep in touch: let us know how you're going.
posted by thylacinthine at 1:36 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for all the answers. Talking with my counsellor a couple of days ago, she said that she'd never seen me seem more happy and confident than when I was talking about finding my own space, which was also encouraging to me.

My wife, I think, senses what's coming; she's been spending a lot of time saying that she loves me and making a point of saying that she's in love with me (and waiting for me to return the sentiment, which I can't. Once again the issue of counselling has come up, and this time she just flat-out ignored it. She asks me if there's a future for us, and I can only say "I don't know," which feels like I'm being harsh but is at least honest.

I've started looking for places to move to - there's actually quite a lot available within my budget, which was a surprise to me - and will be meeting with a lawyer next week.

Again, thanks for the advice; I'll let you know how it goes.

One question for meepmeow: You said
I do think you should look at your part in how things turned out though - you sound like you could be very frustrating to deal with, like you might put people in no-win situations, and more like a judgmental spectator instead of a participant in your own life. You should work on improving your communication skills so that you can consistently message what is okay and what is not instead of randomly piping up.
I'm intrigued as to what makes you think this - I took this to my counsellor and she said she didn't recognise me in it. Is there something I've said that's suggested that this is the way I am, or is it the fact that I've stuck around in this relationship for so long, even when there's been abuse?

For the record, I'm very open to looking at my part in all this and learning from it; that's why I started going to counselling in the first place.
posted by six sided sock at 5:09 AM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would take your counselor's perspective more seriously than one of our perspectives; she knows you personally and at length, while we are judging you based on three blocks of text.

I'm happy to read your update and hope you'll keep updating. Wishing you the best.
posted by feets at 10:47 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: People were right when they said that once I'd got the ball rolling it will feel easier; it's true; it does. I started looking at properties today and have already found one that I'm very interested in.

The thing that's weighing on my mind more and more is how to tell my wife that I'm going. We had an awful weekend which underscored my need to leave - she once again refused to go to any kind of counselling, saying that there was no point until I was "fixed." There was also some verbal abuse during sex that was pretty hard to cope with.

And yet I let it slide. I could have said "Right, I'm going..." and gone to family, but I didn't. I rather feel like that undermines my position as since then she's been perfectly pleasant towards me.

I realise that I'm stuck in limbo here and that I'm doing it to myself, so I guess the only thing I can do is keep ploughing forward until I put myself in a position where I can't go back on myself any more.

I'd like to thank all of you again for your support; it makes a huge difference.
posted by six sided sock at 12:23 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I rather feel like that undermines my position as since then she's been perfectly pleasant towards me.

No, it doesn't. The fact that she's not being abusive to you right this minute does not mean that her pattern of abuse is acceptable. This is your broken-brain thinking that the goal of this relationship is staving off abuse as long as possible, as opposed to the goal being something like having a mutually beneficial and satisfying relationship with a person who loves and respects you.

The fact that they are just not currently being abusive does not hit this bar and you should keep, politely, telling yourself that there will be a part of your brain that is trying to keep you in this unhealthy relationship and you should work hard to ignore it or enlist a friend if you are having a hard time with that. Verbal abuse during sex is against the rules and it's okay to tell her that later if you didn't tell her that at the moment.

You do not have to have a reason that passes her muster, and in fact you may not, you just need to keep moving forward with your plan. Best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 1:05 PM on November 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yeah, there is more frequently than we often realise a 'hang on a minute, that actually really upset me' button.

Being perfectly pleasant since doesn't magically undo the verbal abuse during sex. If you need a reason, there's one. I would label it verbal abuse, because I don't think she necessarily fully understands how much she's hurting you, but YMMV.

The unfortunate thing is, the opportunity may keep arising for you to say 'right, that's it, I'm leaving'. So it might be a moment that just happens in reaction to something once you've got all of your things in place. If you sit down in a specific moment with her to tell her, I would have someone with you for support - this is what couples counselling can be for as it's a lot of responsibility to place on friends/family, but I imagine that's being avoided because it is the obvious place to say it's over. If you choose to tell her on your own, make sure you have everything ready - that you can walk out and into your new place immediately.
posted by heyjude at 7:38 PM on November 13, 2012

One other note: Once you're on your own you will feel great. Like a giant weight has been lifted. I would caution you to be aware that it takes a year or two to normalize. Be wary of new relationships because there's going to be a few emotional pendulum swings ahead.

Treat yourself well. Good luck!
posted by readery at 10:07 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't need a specific event to leave, you need a date. You are leaving, you just need to set a target day and go. It doesn't matter if the day before is the best day of your marriage ever, because this decision is about the big picture and no single event is going to make up for how much the big picture sucks.

Your wife is mean and unstable and abusive and belittling. It doesn't matter if she's filled with other, nice, qualities: you do not need to be married to someone with ANY of those personality traits. You can have a better life without that. That's the big picture.

Pick a date, share it with us, and then go go go.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:33 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Another update from the depths, for those that are interested...

I've found a place that I love - a lower ground floor apartment about 60 miles away from where I live now: far from my marital home, but only about twenty minutes from my parents' house. It's in the inner suburbs of a medium-sized city that I've had a long-term love affair with, so there's plenty for me to do. I'm ready to sign the initial paperwork tomorrow, which is a big deal for me.

And now I get to the hard part. I need to tell my wife. I need to tell my parents. I need to tell my current landlords, because they know my wife and I very well, and it's going to be very odd for them to get a request for references without hearing from me that I'm leaving first. I have to make checklist upon checklist of things to take care of before I move, and things to take with me, and things to leave behind. I know that I have to work out what's going to happen to things like our car, which my wife uses daily for work but which I paid for using money I inherited from a grandparent.

I think this is the hardest part. Deciding to go was easy, and that decision has been reaffirmed several times since I made it (we had another bad weekend; it's a pattern that's been going on for over 18 months and it's what made me want to get relationship counselling in the first place all that time ago). But now I have to break the heart of the woman that I married and for whom I still care a great deal.

That said, it became clear to me this weekend that she too thinks that we can't do this any more. We both used those words in fact (and I was so close to telling her then that I was leaving, but she interrupted me and the moment was lost). I wonder how much of a devastating surprise this will actually be.

Hopefully I'll be moving out in a week or two. Until then, I just have to keep plugging along.
posted by six sided sock at 12:26 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

You're doing great. Keep writing those lists! And to try to frame this breakup as something that you are instigating (reasonably, in my opinion), and not something you are doing to her. Good luck!
posted by thylacinthine at 3:21 PM on November 21, 2012

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