How to Divorce....a year from now?
January 1, 2018 1:42 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I decided to separate about 4 months ago. After 2 weeks apart we've learned that we are pregnant. We've decided to stay together during pregnancy and at least the first 6 months after that. how can we make the best of this? Is this a terrible idea?

After trying out therapy for a few years and doing our best to mend things we decided earlier this year that we would separate. We came back to each after learning that we are pregnant. We both wanted to have a baby and though timing wasn't the best we are committed to making this work.

Nevertheless, my wife refuses to discuss separation/divorce until after pregnancy is over. While I am in no rush to start formal separation procedures, I think I would prefer better communication about to handle things and expectations about the future. I am also feel uncomfortable acting as a couple knowing that there's a divorce in the horizon.

Reasons why we decided to separate include lack of intimacy, lack of communication (see the paragraph just before this one), and very low amounts of sex for the last two years. (about once a month).

While I don't want to go through divorce procedures either, I do feel a bit uneasy about not having any discussions about it, and about the best way to co-parent after the fact. Also, I'm afraid that if she will not discuss the matter now, she could feel the same way after child-birth (which would make perfect sense but not ideal).

If it helps we are both 33 and this is the first child for the both of us. We've been married for one year but living together for seven. (Yes there maybe questions of why we married in the first place if we had all these issues but honestly that would be another long post). We are both gainfully employed though roughly double the amount of income she does.

What are some pieces of advice you recommend to handle this impending divorce and separation?

I want to be as sensitive and as fair as possible to my wife and my upcoming child and wish there was a good way for all of us to be ok.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
On the one hand, your marriage sounds normal if you have been together 7 years. Relationships are hard and they take work. It's normal to have DEEP things to work on at about this stage. So... IDK?

On the other hand, you seem entirely disinterested in working out your problems, you seem to dearly committed to a divorce.

Tell your spouse asap you want to separate NOW. Then move out immediately. Go to a mediator and hammer out the details right away about doctors appointments, birth plan, all of it. Now. Right away.

Your ex partner is about to become a single parent and they need to know that asap.
posted by jbenben at 1:53 AM on January 1, 2018 [54 favorites]

Also, I assume you would be pretending for appearance's sake? I can't think of anything more isolating, more emotionally destructive for both of you than this plan. You think your relationship is bad now? It will get exponentially more discordant, every misunderstanding and difference will be magnified to an untenable degree. It's a dangerous recipe, what you are contemplating. Please separate immediately. Don't hold your ex partner's hand during the pregnancy, she needs a support system that is 1000% on her team, not mixed firey emotions. Appearances are not worth it.
posted by jbenben at 2:22 AM on January 1, 2018 [22 favorites]

You didn't mention insurance? If yours is better than hers, that could be a reason to put off the divorce. Otherwise I think it's a staggeringly bad idea, but if the insurance is part of the calculus, that's a real thing.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:38 AM on January 1, 2018 [16 favorites]

If you are going to divorce, you should start the proceedings now. There’s nothing to gain in postponing the inevitable. Quite the contrary, as you’ll be functioning under the false pretense of being a couple when in fact you are not.

Having said that... I don’t know... you seem to go out of your way to explain why you’re separating as if you needed our absolution... you’re asking for strangers advice on the Internet... you’re in no hurry to start the process... does a part of you think this marriage is salvageable?
posted by Kwadeng at 2:44 AM on January 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I recommend couples counselling before you do anything just because you don't seem really clear on what you want either way. Hopefully it will help to clarify things and also give you a safe space to discuss how to handle it all going forward.
posted by Jubey at 2:55 AM on January 1, 2018 [7 favorites]

As a woman who was pregnant twice I can’t imagine anything more casually upsetting than living through all my acquaintances, friends and family congratulating my husband and I on our new chapter with a little one when things are about to implode. I’d feel like a fraud.

Pregnancy is both very very public and very isolating. She can’t carry this on for a year, I can’t imagine the stress and resentment and fear.

You either commit to shelving the divorce until you see how you function TOGETHER as parents (and more couples therapy) or you separate now. Right now. There is no middle ground that isn’t essentially a traumatic year long farce that doesn’t let anyone build the actual support system they are going to need.
posted by lydhre at 4:06 AM on January 1, 2018 [54 favorites]

You guys should go to couples counseling, whether you’re planning to divorce now, a year from now, or never. Regardless of which path you take, it’s going to be really hard and you’re going to need to communicate a lot better than you are now. Get professional help with this.
posted by mskyle at 4:22 AM on January 1, 2018 [9 favorites]

Your use of the first person plural to describe the pregnancy, along with other slightly circuitous turns of phrase, makes me wonder who is pregnant, the wife or you. (Depending on marriage laws where you live, you could be a woman). Also, it's not really clear whether you want the child or not. The reference to your mismatched incomes suggests that money is an issue to you, and this is totally understandable under the circumstances. Going by what little I know of your situation, the only advice worth giving is to go to couples counseling, as others have suggested. It's possible to divorce amicably that way. I am very good friends with my ex and think couples counseling had a lot to do with it. But do prepare yourself, if you go this route, to be very frank and direct about what you do and do not want, expect, and need. Otherwise, it's a waste of time and money.
posted by Morpeth at 5:17 AM on January 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Did you both want this divorce, or was it just you? I’m wondering about your wife’s motivation to refuse to discuss the impending divorce.
posted by amro at 5:18 AM on January 1, 2018 [23 favorites]

Your decision to leave is yours, and yours alone. This is not something you need her blessing for. Nor are you ever going to get it. Tell her you’re leaving and commit to sorting out coparenting with a professional. If you can’t do that...well, then commit to being her husband, 100%. There is no middle ground. This is how commitment works. There’s no magical way to muddle through entirely without conflict and have everyone be OK. Sorry.
posted by The Toad at 5:31 AM on January 1, 2018 [12 favorites]

My husband and I were married for 11 years when we brought our son home. In that time we had weathered a lot of stuff.

After months of sleep deprivation, breast feeding, etc. we had the worst argument ever. It was epic.

What I am saying here is having a baby can be incredibly hard. Whoever is bearing the child is going to experience labour, breastfeeding, saggy everything, hormones. Both of you are going to go through to experience of taking your hearts, ripping them out of your bodies, and placing them in a helpless tiny person. And that’s assuming good health for everyone. It makes everyone, especially the person carrying the baby, vulnerable in a very deep way.

I agree with those who are saying it’s either all out, or all in. I don’t know how you get to there from here. But yes, it is a terrible idea to try to postpone the end of your marriage.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:41 AM on January 1, 2018 [14 favorites]

I agree with Morpeth that the wording of your question leaves a lot of ambiguity around the situation that is making it difficult to answer. Was the decision to separate more yours than hers? Or vice versa? If it genuinely was equally coming from both of you it's odd that your wife is now refusing to discuss (ie progress) that decision. Right now it feels like you are trying to present facts devoid of emotion, but that's not going to work - you will need to face this new context head on.

Who stands to bear the majority of pre and post-natal responsibility when you separate? Who stands to lose out on having ongoing access to the child once separation occurs? If you can frame the discussion around mitigating these elements - as independent adults - you will be able to deal with the current situation (separating whilst becoming parents) as part of a continuum of change rather than two distinct sets of circumstance.
posted by freya_lamb at 6:33 AM on January 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

Maybe you could gently separate in some important ways, but demonstrate that, even though you are not necessarily going to stay married, she can still depend on you, and your child can very much depend on you, to take care of both of them. You can continue to live separately, but move closer and see or talk to her every day, stay on top of medical appointments, talk about learning about parenthood, etc.
posted by amtho at 7:13 AM on January 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

“Making this work” is the phrase that tips me over into “yep, terrible idea.” It’s not clear what the desired outcome here is. Make what work? Not a relationship, by the sound of it, and hopefully not a joint custodial thing with someone you can’t communicate with and, at least in this post, don’t express any fondness for. The fact that you both want kids does not sound like enough to get by on. And the pretending part sounds, to an outsider, like a pretty strange plan. Who benefits from the pretense?
posted by Smearcase at 7:35 AM on January 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

You guys need to bring in professional help here, like yesterday. I cannot stress this enough. The decisions you are making now will not only effect you and her, but an entire other life in about 8 months time.

I have been married 18 years, we had our kid 5 years ago. Believe me when I tell you that this situation has so many different possible outcomes that it is far far beyond AskMe's capabilities to counsel you on. Get a professional, bring her along, hash this out for as many sessions as it takes and learn to communicate.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:36 AM on January 1, 2018 [23 favorites]

I think it’s totally understandable that your wife doesn’t want to go through a separation and divorce while she is pregnant. Being pregnant is hard, it is extra hard to do major life stuff while you are pregnant. It is exhausting. Searching for a place of her own, etc, is going to be twice as exhausting for her. A divorce would be even harder for her to accomplish.

But that won’t go away when she has a newborn, either. So if you put off the divorce, you may be putting it off not for one year but for multiple years. And the reasons you are divorcing are not likely to get better. (It sounds like you are the one initiating the divorce, and the lack of sex/“intimacy” is one of the big reasons. Sex after a newborn is often even harder).

However, if any part of the lack of sex/intimacy was because you both were trying for a baby and it wasn’t happening and it was stressful, that might be exactly opposite. So it might make sense to see how you work as a family unit before deciding.
posted by corb at 8:35 AM on January 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

We've been married for one year but living together for seven. (Yes there maybe questions of why we married in the first place if we had all these issues but honestly that would be another long post). We are both gainfully employed though roughly double the amount of income she does

so, she doesn't think maybe losing her home and the majority of her family income is a good way to start off a pregnancy. and you think...what, leaving a pregnant woman is bad optics? (It is. but you cannot allow that to determine your decision-making.) if this is her position and her reasoning, do you agree with it or not? not just, is it hard to argue with without looking bad. do you agree?

if you have made a decision about your intention to divorce, you don't need to discuss it unless you are open to changing your mind. you do need to tell her. that doesn't require any cooperation from her except standing still for long enough to hear you. if she won't even do that, write her a letter. Her unwillingness to discuss it has no bearing on your obligation to inform her that her marriage is ending. You sound like you suspect her of wanting to stay married indefinitely, because the idea of a baby changed her mind and she thinks the reality of a baby will change yours. You can't allow her to think you're in agreement about this because it makes things easier for you right now, and you can't allow her to think it because you convince yourself it's better for her not to be upset. if you're not sure she understands your plans, you have to tell her immediately.

the four months/two weeks timeline is a little confusing -- is she a few months pregnant or a few weeks? if there is the tiniest chance that your reluctance to clarify your divorce plans to her is because you think she might reconsider the pregnancy, you must tell her now now now now now. delay for that purpose would be unforgivable.

as long as she's pregnant, you can and must provide her whatever practical and financial support you would have provided to a pregnant wife. If you're both willing to cohabitate and co-parent in the beginning, you should do that too; you don't have to be married or partnered to do that. but you can't mislead your wife about the future in order to make parenting easier for yourself. Telling her the truth will upset her and may devastate her. that isn't any kind of excuse for not doing it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:42 AM on January 1, 2018 [11 favorites]

If it were me, I would concentrate on the practical aspects instead of the emotional ones. I think it would be a good idea to live apart but very close, as in the same neighborhood. You would be close enough to help, but you both would still be living your own lives. You can leave the legal aspects of it all for later, but you both need some distance to work through your feelings.
posted by raisingsand at 8:48 AM on January 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Please please please please please leave now, as respectfully and kindly as you can. Please trust me that it will get very ugly if you try to power through another year. Also, please don’t insist in being there for the birth if the mother doesn’t want that.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 8:55 AM on January 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

You do need to think carefully about the financial aspects of this situation. Can she afford to live comfortably on her own? Babies increase expenses many-fold. Can you afford to support her and the baby, once you have moved out and have separate rent to pay, etc.?
What happens if she has to have a Caesarean and can't return to work right away (assuming you live in US, which has very poor maternity leave).
Get going on this. Leaving it until you have a tiny baby to support will make it all the more difficult. And as others have said, the pretense will kill you and all affection you still hold for her.
A mediator / lawyer could help, but separate ones for each of you, as you will find this very difficult, and need equal support.
posted by Enid Lareg at 8:58 AM on January 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree with the above poster that this is normal after 7 years of marriage. My overwhelming feeling is that your wife is hoping that after the baby is born you'll decide not to get divorced after all.

That said, it kinda seems like neither of you actually want to get divorced? if you did, you'd be doing it now.
posted by Brittanie at 9:10 AM on January 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

Have you talked to divorce lawyers yet? This is really important.
posted by k8t at 9:15 AM on January 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don't know what you should do. This sounds hard. Being pregnant (I'm tentatively assuming that she's the one carrying the baby?) adds a lot of hormones and emotions to the situation. I remember when I was pregnant, I intensely wanted security in many forms. I wonder if that's part of her desire to not discuss it. It's a time of (at times at least) feeling vulnerable.

The pregnancy / child is going to make this all harder and more complicated. If you or she think splitting now is hard, it's not going to get easier with a baby or toddler in the picture. That said, there probably is a window in which the intensity of the newborn time is behind you, but the baby may not be quite as bonded to the non-primary (e.g., in your case, the non-birthing) parent as they will later be. Maybe six months is that window?

Co-parenting with someone who refuses to discuss things... hmm... On the other hand, I do want to respect the vulnerable feelings she might be having if the hormones are flooding her body.

You guys decided to go ahead and get married, then to go ahead and have a child together, then to wait a year to split. I find myself wondering if there's a chance that the relationship can be improved. Are you confident in your couples' therapist?
posted by slidell at 9:22 AM on January 1, 2018

New Mom here. Happily married. We have had the worst fights of our relationship since the baby was born. We both depend on the deep foundation we had before the baby was born to get us through. People are going to tell you X thing WILL happen after the baby is born. No one actually knows, so take all that with a grain of salt. You may feel more committed/closer/happier after the baby is born. Just think about the possibility of having the worst fight of your marriage after the baby is here: how would you recover as a couple?

When I was pregnant, I really needed my husband as a sounded board, as someone who was excited as I was (or could listen to my excitement), and who could help me a lot physically. I also needed him to take over a lot of the financial/paperwork parts of our lives. What I’m saying is: find out what exactly your partner needs from you in terms of support (try to get specifics) and decide whether or not you can be that person. You don’t have to be married to be that person.
posted by CMcG at 9:30 AM on January 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


It is entirely likely your respective obligations to one another post-divorce may will be affected, possibly significantly, depending on whether or not there is a child "of the marriage."



*Please Get Legal Advice From An Appropriately Qualified Lawyer In Your Jurisdiction As Soon As Possible
posted by AV at 9:47 AM on January 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Also returning to suggest that, on a human note, you both be realistic about what co-parenting with your soon-to-be ex will involve and seriously consider whether it is the right path for you and for this child. Given the problems you have identified, can you honestly say your child will be brought into a stable and nurturing environment? Will the people raising the child be modelling healthy attachment styles and communication? Will the child receive the attention and consistency they need?

I agree with some of the other commenters above: your wife is probably hoping that the baby will change your mind about divorcing. That's a really unfair burden to put on another human, especially a new and tiny one. If you are certain about divorcing your wife, be completely, explicitly clear about this and do it, like, yesterday, so she can consider her options accordingly.

This is not to say children can't grow up healthy with divorced parents; of course they can. But there are some serious potential issues here. Don't make this kid bear the brunt of problems you yourselves won't confront.
posted by AV at 10:08 AM on January 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

New Mom here. Happily married. We have had the worst fights of our relationship since the baby was born. We both depend on the deep foundation we had before the baby was born to get us through.

This. Read this over and over. You can work on your relationship now, if you think its salvageable. But once the baby comes it will be a long time before you have the emotional capacity and time to really focus on your own relationship. Parents burn through a ton of builtup goodwill in those first couple of years because parenting is hard as fuck and will drive you to the edge of sanity even with healthy and normal kids. A shitty relationship on top of that is honestly unfathomable to me, I cannot imagine willingly choosing to bring a child into that mix. Therapy, now.
posted by gatorae at 11:54 AM on January 1, 2018 [11 favorites]

What is so true about divorcing with children is that you never actually stop having a relationship with that person. I very much speak from experience on this- even now with one kid in college I am still negotiating my relationship with my ex husband, as well as my kid's relationship. If there is anyway you can figure out a way to make the marriage work, I would suggest taking the pregnancy time to do it. I personally think that most marriages can get through tough times- sexual needs change over time, and they can also be met elsewhere, but it is also true that both people need to really want to work on their marriage, and are willing to do some hard work to make it work.
posted by momochan at 12:04 PM on January 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

Once the seperation/divorce bell has been rung it takes a lot of communication and hard work to unring it. Nothing in your question gives me the confidence that you have the communication skills or ultimate willingness to commit. The kindess thing would be to continue with the seperation (I assume one of you already has another place), encourage individual counselling for both of you, and you provide financial/logistical support to your wife's pregnancy. Ideally yes, you would have committed to the marriage once you discovered your wife's pregnancy, but you didn't and that opportunity was lost. You seem to feel you have no agency, first getting married despite what you felt were serious issues and seperating less than a year in, then taking over three months to actually seperate, secondly agreeing to a pretend marriage for now but not forever - these choices ARE you demonstrating agency but at the same time attempting to avoid responsibility for your choices. Commitment in marriage really is binary. Having one foot out the door during your wife's pregnancy (as it has been for almost half your marriage) is cruel to her and won't be healthy for you as she reacts to your instability right when she needs the most support. Parenting is a much harder commitment than marriage, you should focus your counselling on building parenting skills - you can cause real damage to child you are not committed to raising.
posted by saucysault at 12:22 PM on January 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I basically did this, for money reasons. Although in our case the pregnancy was planned and it became clear that the marriage was over during the pregnancy.

If we could’ve afforded it, I would’ve definitely separated during the pregnancy, and that is what I suggest that you do as well. Legal divorce is a completely different matter. You need to find a family lawyer immediately, and you need to go through the various options you have in terms of custody, child support, and similar. It may be that if you are going to end up wanting custody long-term, it will be substantially better for you to stay married and living together throughout the pregnancy and early infancy.

Sharing a child with someone you don’t get along with is really, really terrible. So while I hear that this child is wanted, I would reconsider whether this is a situation you really want to bring a child into. I know that you have limited ability to influence the situation if you’re not pregnant, but if you decide that this is not what you want, you should be very clear very quickly.

Also, I hate to bring it up, but sometimes situations where there is not sex in a marriage are due to one partner having an extramarital affair. Paternity testing is likely a good idea, both in order to firmly establish your paternity as soon as possible, and to rule out the small, but important, possibility that you are not the father of this child.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:39 PM on January 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

Also, I really can’t think of a less practical time to start something like a separation than when a baby is six months old. You probably don’t understand this because you’re not a parent yet, but the time when the baby is still inside is basically the most convenient time you’ll have to do things for a number of years.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:46 PM on January 1, 2018 [17 favorites]

OK, so, I am in a somewhat similar situation, FIVE YEARS IN.

Let me just say that my daughter is my source of energy and essentially the reason I do anything at all; including getting out bed.

I am so emotionally spent and have so much low-grade PTSD right now that I wouldn’t wish this shit on my worst enemy. I wish I were dead like 16 hours a Day but my baby (uh actually she’s 5) gives me purpose.

I live in a very mild sort of hell and please please do not do this to your baby, partner or self.
posted by clseace at 7:35 PM on January 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

I should probably also clarify that we very much did NOT legally marry EVER which makes like the hugest difference. I don’t have to technically get divorced though I have to do a bunch of other crap.
posted by clseace at 7:43 PM on January 1, 2018

You mention a few years of therapy, but don't mention if it was couples or individual or both. I would sincerely recommend individual therapy because it sounds like your fundamental question is "do I want to remain in this relationship (under the terms it is currently offered)?" and "how do I treat her and the impending baby in a way that is true to my values?" And those are questions that an individual counselor could help you answer for yourself. Couples therapy is not so helpful if one partner has a rock solid grasp on their goals and boundaries ("I will not discuss this until after the baby is born") and the other is still finding their way ("what would be the best path forward? I think I might prefer to start talking about potential plans?"); it's a lot more helpful if the other partner is similarly clear about what they want (for example, "I want to separate and divorce as soon as possible, and I would like to discuss logistics and co-parenting.") Individual therapy can help you solidify your goals and boundaries so that you can give the couple's counselor something to work with.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 8:14 PM on January 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

"We came back to each after learning that we are pregnant. We both wanted to have a baby and though timing wasn't the best we are committed to making this work."

This, combined with your not being in a rush to formally separate, has me wondering what's making you so committed to making this potentially extremely messy situation work but not the marriage. I can't think of anything more painful and confusing and exhausting than spending the next YEAR of your lives pretending to be a couple and acting like a couple and living together like a couple and preparing for your first child like a couple. Your wife will need emotional and practical support throughout her pregnancy and after birth, and it seems from your question like you're already checking out emotionally. Without knowing any other details about the issues in your relationship, it seems pretty clear to me that separating ASAP is the way to go and that you need to move out. If your wife is unwilling to discuss or accept this now, get yourselves in therapy or mediation to help sort out the logistics of your separation and discuss expectations and goals around coparenting. There's no way to guarantee that everyone in this situation will be ok - on the contrary, you should expect that things will not be ok for a while. The only good way for anything to get to place where it can feel ok is clear and open communication. That is the kindest thing you can do.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 9:42 AM on January 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

Please consider the future actual human being here, not the snuggly baby you and your future ex are picturing right now. Humans grow up into adults with issues. Give your kid the best possible shot and don't have this one. Wait until you're stable.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 10:19 AM on January 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

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