The "how" and the "who first"
July 3, 2014 8:02 PM   Subscribe

While my concerns about divorcing my spouse are numerous, there are two in particular that I could really use some advice on.

I'll just dive right in: I'm ~30 years old, no kids, and after several frustrating years of marriage to my first husband, I'm going to tell him I'm moving out.

Issue 1:

The consensus among people who know me well (parents, friends, coworkers, etc.) is that I'm generally a reserved, cool-headed, conflict-averse person. My husband's personality is the polar opposite: he's excitable, emotional, extremely quick to anger, and although he's not violent, he certainly doesn't hesitate to use tone and volume in a conflict to intimidate the other party into submitting to his will.

If that's what I can expect, how do I tell him I don't want to be married to him anymore? Has anyone reading ever said "I want a divorce" to someone with anger management issues? What did you say, and how did it turn out?

Issue 2:

What happens after I tell him is complicated by the fact that we work for the same company. We work in different departments, but they both fall under the same umbrella-organization within the company. Our supervisors are different and we almost never see each other. However, he outranks me professionally, and we do have a lot of mutual coworkers.

I had a conversation with HR yesterday about the safety of my job if we separate. The response I got was that hiring, pay, and termination decisions have nothing to do with what goes on in an employee's personal life, so neither of our jobs would be in danger if we split (although it may be uncomfortable enough that one of us-- probably me-- will leave voluntarily).

I kind of want to talk to my supervisor about all this in advance. Above all else, THE THING I care about in this situation is my financial stability. I need to keep this job at least until I have another offer, which could take months. Ideally, we'd just learn to coexist-- I really like my job, and I don't want to change positions, but I also don't want this situation to create or prolong an uncomfortable work environment, and I have a feeling that "ideally" isn't gonna happen.

So in which order should I do this: tell the boss, then tell the scary husband? Or husband first, then the boss? Can my husband have me fired? Can two people work together like this for just a handful of months?

Thanks in advance for your advice.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have an employee assistance office or ombudsperson at work? HR is not necessarily there to help YOU, just the company. An EAO may be of use to you for that sort of thing, though, and can remain confidential.

Get your resume, etc. together. As much as you might like to stay where you are, you may not be in a position to do so, for a variety of reasons.
posted by Madamina at 8:13 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Tell your husband first. This is not something he should hear about from his boss.
posted by pseudonick at 8:13 PM on July 3, 2014

Good lord, you should tell absolutely no one at work before you tell your husband, what are you thinking? In fact, you're on a clock right now since you told someone at HR. Do you think they're going to keep that secret?
posted by empath at 8:19 PM on July 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

I've worked with two couples who split up. In both cases the guy left the organization within a few months. (In both cases it was the woman who left marriage.) If you are fearful of your husband you are wise to make HR aware ahead of time so your employer can be prepared for any fallout. As for the actual leaving part, see a lawyer first to find out your rights then pack your bags and leave a note.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:36 PM on July 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

First, you tell the therapist you have yet to make an appointment with. You said you are conflict-averse, so I guess you don't have a ton of experience with the type of major conflict upon which you wish to embark. I'd do that and then the lawyer.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:00 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well.... Have you hired a divorce attorney yet?

You don't sound convinced you are safe.

Get IRL advice from a professional. Not your boss or HR department. Not your friends or parents. Hire an attorney ASAP and follow all directions.

posted by jbenben at 9:03 PM on July 3, 2014 [18 favorites]

My husband has anger mgt issues and I told him 2 weeks ago I want a D. He initially said NO and said he would be totally uncooperative. .not sign anything not move out etc etc. Then when he realized that wouldn't stop me he switched to other tactics to attempt to stop this process. Finally he has switched to i will be nice and hopefully you will change your mind tactic. So far no outbursts of terrible anger or yelling. But lots of crying on his side. It's a horrible experience.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 9:11 PM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you're calling your husband scary, then you need to marshal your resources. Yes, you should tell your husband quickly after securing appropriate support at work. He outranks you, works at the same company and has issues with anger management, intimidation and impulse control.

Get your crap together - lawyer, financial accounts, work resources. Then tell him in way that makes you feel safe.
posted by 26.2 at 9:25 PM on July 3, 2014

Talk to an attorney first and maybe a therapist. Really really really. Have a plan for what you want to do after... Move out, keep house, how finances are gonna be split. THEN tell husband. Work will come later.
posted by k8t at 9:40 PM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Unless things are dire, if it were me I would get another job before I formally left.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:27 PM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Perhaps have a bolt hole you can go to that night? Depending on the degree of anger he diaplays think about moving out anything breakable/precious to you before hand. Don't tell him when he's had a drink if this is relevant.
posted by tanktop at 2:40 AM on July 4, 2014

Good lord, you should tell absolutely no one at work before you tell your husband,

Huh? HR departments have confidentially requirements. And a good supervisor won't say anything if the OP asks him/her not to. This is not too big a concern, though telling him sooner rather than later is a good idea.
posted by Melismata at 5:00 AM on July 4, 2014 [12 favorites]

Lawyer. Lawyer. Lawyer. Plan this like D-day. Lawyer. Get all your finances in order.

You need to feel that you are making decisions in a command position; a position of safety.

You may change your mind, but you should do it from a position where you are in control and not from emotional and physical intimidation. If you proceed with the divorce this even more so.
posted by jadepearl at 7:16 AM on July 4, 2014

I was in an extremely similar situation. First, I'm assuming you're in the US, this advice may be different elsewhere.

1. If you are able to wait at all (i.e. you're not in physical danger), I strongly recommend finding another job or source of income later. You will need this for the lawyer and other expenses. Start putting away as much money as you can. Develop contingency plans - can you borrow from your parents? Sell your car? Do you have pets? What will happen to them?

2. Get a lawyer. You will need to pay them a retainer, anywhere from $1000-3000. Ask the lawyer what you can legally take from the household and the bank accounts when you leave. This may depend on whether you are in a community property state or not.

3. Seek help at a domestic violence center. This may come before #1 or #2. They can help you find a lawyer and financial resources. Even if he has never been physically violent, if he is intimidating you, he is abusive and they will help you. If you need a restraining order, they will help you.

4. Get a therapist. You will need one now, to help you set your boundaries when you interact with him. You will need one after you leave, for emotional support and to help you with the grief of losing the person you loved (or the relationship you wish you'd had).

5. You do not need to have a conversation with him if you are determined to leave. Just leave. Say you are leaving and you are not going to discuss it. He is just going to draw you into an argument. He does not get to yell and shout and intimidate you because he's upset. I would personally grab my things when he is not home, and then tell him by phone after you've left.

6. Get your own place. Tell no one where you live, including work, especially if you're still working together. Get a PO Box and give that address to your workplace. You do not know how he is going to react. Even if he has never hurt you, you can't say for sure that he won't snap.

7. The work thing throws a wrench in this, which is why I strongly recommend finding another job first, but if you cannot stick it out and must work with him, tell no one anything that they don't absolutely need to know. And really, they do not need to know anything unless you are physically afraid of him and he needs to be kept away from you. The more people you involve, the more drama ensues, and who knows what lies he will tell.

8. Gather your support network. You will need it. Even if you have mentally checked out of the relationship long ago, it will be really hard. To be brutally honest, the months after you leave will be the worst few months of your life. But it will be worth it to not have to live with an angry person every day. Imagine coming home to a peaceful house where no one yells at you. This is worth any financial instability, I promise.

Please feel free to email me anonymously at, I have more to say that I don't want to share publicly. You will be okay! You are doing the right thing and it will feel awesome.
posted by fantoche at 7:46 AM on July 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

Oh - and the reason you need a lawyer first is because you are intimidated by him, and that will be a tremendous disadvantage if you try to negotiate with him yourself. Your lawyer is your advocate and she or he does not give one single shit what your husband thinks of her or him.

Since you are in different departments at work and theoretically don't have to talk for work reasons, I would refuse to talk to him once you've left and route everything through your lawyer. He is manipulative with your emotions and he has every reason to be even more manipulative now.
posted by fantoche at 7:50 AM on July 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

The most helpful thing for me when I was in almost your exact situation, down to working with my ex but him having much more seniority than me (although he didn't have seniority over me) was to go to a women's shelter and talk through my options there. We were not married so I did not get a lawyer, but had we been married I would have gotten legal help immediately before doing anything else.

I thought that it was ludicrous for me to go to a women's shelter. "I'm not being abused," I thought to myself. Spoiler alert: I was totally being abused, but I wasn't ready to admit it to myself. And that is OK. The point is that a shelter can help you. They've seen it all, from the women who are having their kneecaps broken by their husbands to the women who are being mercilessly screamed at by their husbands who are quick to anger for incredibly minor "offenses," to the women who are actually abusers themselves. They will know what to do and how to handle it and they can help you.

I avoided my ex at work successfully and then he left about a year after I left him. I wish that I had been able to leave my job; I would have done so in a heartbeat, but I had very good reasons for staying and leaving would have been an incredible mistake for my career. I am glad I stuck it out but it was really hard. If you can, start looking for other work. HR may only be able to do so much. Avoid your ex-husband and do not talk to him after you leave him.

What fantouche says about getting your own place and keeping the address a secret is great advice. Actually, all of fantouche's excellent advice above is spot-on, and I would follow as much of it as you can.

Best of luck to you on this journey. It is hard but it is incredibly worth it on the other end.
posted by sockermom at 8:08 AM on July 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

5. You do not need to have a conversation with him if you are determined to leave. Just leave. Say you are leaving and you are not going to discuss it. He is just going to draw you into an argument. He does not get to yell and shout and intimidate you because he's upset. I would personally grab my things when he is not home, and then tell him by phone after you've left.

YES. This is so important. You absolutely don't have to tell him in person, or tell him alone in your house, or let him have a long conversation (read: screaming fest) with you about it. Your safety and emotional health are top priority.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:57 AM on July 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I used a marriage counselor to communicate that I wanted a divorce. Your husband sounds very similar to my ex-wife. I found that having a neutral, moderated venue to express myself was the only way to communicate what I wanted.

The logistics advice above is all very sensible. You need an attorney. Expect a lot of expenses over the next few months.

Good luck to you. This is a very hard thing (certainly the hardest thing I've ever done), but you won't regret your decision when all is said and done.
posted by MyFrozenYear at 7:01 AM on July 5, 2014

I don't get why you think you have to tell anyone at your work about your personal problems. Carry on with total professionalism and, if your STBX doesn't do the same, let that fall on him. You can't be penalized for any bad behavior he exhibits on the job.

As for how to notify your H: I moved out, then sent batshit crazy STBX-wife an email saying I was divorcing her, followed up in due course by notice from my lawyer. I saw no need to tell her in person and endure her vitriol. Having learned later that her reaction to my move was to take her wedding rings to the garage and smash them to pieces with a hammer, I think my plan was the correct one.
posted by charris5005 at 7:08 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

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