When to say I want to leave
November 28, 2018 10:10 PM   Subscribe

Like many this time of year, it seems, I'm at a point where I want to tell my spouse that I want to leave. Problem: When to do it. Specifics below the fold.

You've largely been consistent and patient in your advice on my several questions about my relationship so far. Now I have a real conundrum with a pressing deadline, and I've already had my therapy appointment for the week. I would love some advice.

Here's the deal: My spouse had told me a while back that their therapist wanted me to come to an appointment soon, prior to our allegedly restarting couples therapy, to have an initial conversation. I say allegedly because I wasn't holding my breath for this to happen, since they haven't gotten around to setting up any couples therapy sessions in the entire year and change since I returned from our separation. (That had been one of the few things I requested when I returned, that they be the one to set it up if they wanted to do it, since I had put a lot of time and effort into trying to set it up and manage the process previously, and they didn't even do it after a year. They finally did the other few things I asked for, all of which are almost entirely for their own health, right after the year expired, as if they were waiting me out.)

I've been talking to my therapist about this just about every week, in the meantime, and had even taken the step of writing a draft letter recently stating my current thoughts and why I feel like I need to leave. My therapist and I agreed it might make sense to read the letter to my spouse at said appointment with spouse's therapist. I figured I had plenty of time, since they probably wouldn't get around to it for a while, and could basically pick my time to do this, bringing it back up when the timing made sense for me. I wanted to hold off for a few other reasons as well.
1. There was Thanksgiving (which my spouse didn't even end up coming to with my family, as they had what I can only describe as an anxiety attack about Thanksgiving with my family that churned up pain from their chronic illness, so for the second year in a row, they opted not to come to my family's Thanksgiving).

2. Then there's Hanukkah coming up. I wanted to get through the holidays first, to not create lasting bad holiday memories for my spouse.

3. I also was hoping that my spouse would finish the job interview process for another position at their workplace before I did this, so they can't cop out of getting a position with more hours that pays better just because they feel hurt.

4. I wasn't psyched about the prospect of dissembling and holding in my true feelings for 2 more weeks, and I don't really want to exchange gifts at this point, but I was willing to do so in service of these aspects of the bigger picture.

5. I had thought it would be nice to be able to pick my time on this, so it didn't disrupt my work. I already asked off for the first week of January with the idea that if I had this discussion in mid-December, I could have a bad 2 final weeks of the year (as I do think it'll be unpleasant after I share that letter) while work is less demanding, then spend the first week of the year on packing up my stuff.

6. I had also hoped to consult a lawyer locally before I shared my feelings and ideas about wanting to separate indefinitely, so I could be prepared to quickly move ahead with a plan.

7. I had wanted to complete a course of treatment I've been undertaking for my own health, which I anticipate I will hear this week is all set.
Well, then my spouse got all proactive all of a sudden today. They went to their therapist and came back tonight with a few things they would like to do.
1. Have Hanukkah dinner this Sunday with their family

2. Go to their therapist with me on Saturday

3. Have their friends visit and stay with us in mid-December.
To be clear, we've basically been spending next to no time together, in our separate corners of the house, for days and weeks, with interaction occasionally around meals, if one of us wants something at the store, and who's getting up when to shower. We aren't sleeping together. So I'm trying to figure out how to proceed.

Pros to doing this on Saturday:
1. I get it over with, don't lose my resolve, and don't live a fiction for the next 2 1/2 weeks more

2. I don't have to do the present exchange of Hanukkah that my heart isn't in at all

3. I don't end up setting up December plans with their friends that would push off moving ahead by another half a week of December

4. I can maybe plan to move ahead more quickly

5. I don't wait for setting up a legal appointment that might take time to get anyway

6. I move toward my goal. I have a self-imposed deadline of doing something about this well ahead of an event mid-month in January, a bit of a milestone by which I want to have this done
Cons to doing this on Saturday:
1. According to many articles this will ruin Hanukkah for my partner forever allegedly

2. Doing this will almost certainly disrupt my work for most of December rather than half

3. I won't have had time to consult a lawyer with current questions

4. My spouse won't have had that job interview yet (and so might undermine their chances at the job if they're dejected from this)

5. We'll have to immediately cancel or otherwise deal with Sunday dinner plans, and I won't have that last opportunity to see my spouse's family (who I like a lot). (Though to be honest, I've kind of been treating every time I see them like potentially the last time I'd see them for a long time now. That's part of the issue here, really.)
Third option: Propose doing this next Saturday, still during Hanukkah, but a bit later. So I ruin Hanukkah either way, but at least this way get the benefit of a little more time to deal with things (and a greater possibility that they might have done the job interview by then), while not waiting so long that definite plans are in place for their friends visiting.

I'm leaning toward waiting either until next Saturday or until after their friends visit. But as anyone who's read my past questions or my MetaTalk comment today knows, I've waited and hemmed and hawed years already. I lean toward self-determination on this, but I also am afraid that it's not really self-determination and picking my time but rather that I'm getting strung along; that if it's not this stuff, it'll be something else; that if I wait too long, then that milestone will come along in mid-January and I'll have blown my self-imposed deadline and been sucked into more celebrations that I'd be faking.

So: What would you do? What should I do? When should I do it? Or is there another option I'm not considering? Thanks as ever for your advice and patience.
posted by o_O to Human Relations (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think that you should make an appointment with a lawyer and then move from there. This is super important outside of the when question. Also this isn't going to be a shock to your partner. So breathe easier.
You can also say that you don't feel like celebrating with his family.
And refuse the friends visiting. Tell spouse that it isn't a good time.
posted by k8t at 10:23 PM on November 28, 2018 [21 favorites]

I can’t speak to the issue of consulting a lawyer, but you know there’s never going to be a perfect or even good time for this, right? Are you sure there will be a therapy appointment in a week? If you are fully committed to this path, then I think it’s time to start walking it.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:46 PM on November 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

Oh God, just do it. Now. If they're home, walk into their room and rip off the band aid. There is no good time but you know it's over, they know it's over. Do everyone a favour and let it be over. Your partner will not be surprised by the revelation, just when and where you do it.
posted by Jubey at 10:58 PM on November 28, 2018 [24 favorites]

2. Then there's Hanukkah coming up. I wanted to get through the holidays first, to not create lasting bad holiday memories for my spouse.

...1. According to many articles this will ruin Hanukkah for my partner forever allegedly

you can keep quiet and mislead through silence for a couple more weeks if you want and if it's more convenient for you. in the long run it will make no difference at all. but you cannot make the unilateral decision to keep up a false front through the holiday AND blame it on your partner as if they effectively forced your hand. you can't add this to your list of justified resentments, because it will not be justified.

3. I also was hoping that my spouse would finish the job interview process for another position at their workplace before I did this, so they can't cop out of getting a position with more hours that pays better just because they feel hurt.

"cop out" wtf, you'll be done, it'll be none of your worry what their job details are. they will not "feel hurt" in some babyish pretend way you can roll your eyes at, they will just be hurt for real. so what? the beauty of leaving is that isn't your problem.

rather that I'm getting strung along

you are the one doing the stringing. you've been done with the marriage for ages. just make it official already.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:23 PM on November 28, 2018 [18 favorites]

A glance at your previous questions show you've been wanting to leave for years - like you already moved out for a summer and dated other people. You should tell them ASAP so you can both begin the process of starting new lives. I understand the wanting to wait for a right time, I've done exactly that before myself - there is no right time, it was still awful. Hanukkah won't be fun with you both living as you are, distant but in same house, so at least if you split they can spend the time with family or friends. Good luck
posted by JonB at 11:53 PM on November 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

Your spouse will blame you for your timing ruining his life, no matter what the timing is. Spouse and probably some other people will tell everyone that you are a bad person. They will use your timing as proof, casting everything you do in the worst possible light.

Nothing you do can change that. It‘s a choice between leave + be the bad guy or not leave. It is futile to try and manage his opinion of you.

Hopefully, this frees you to make the decision that is best for you.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:54 PM on November 28, 2018 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I do think you need to get it over with if your mind is made up, but I would personally want to let the spouse get through the job interview without this rattling them. How soon is the interview? I think it would be harsh to do this right before it. If it's not for a while, then that's different.

Based purely on your pros and cons list, the cons list seems to have much more compelling reasons to wait, including seeking advice from your lawyer, and the pro list sounds like you were trying to come up with stuff because a lot of it is the same reason: you're ready to get it over with and move on. I'm not sure what difference waiting a couple weeks would make if you already don't talk or see each other. But I'm not sure the timing will make a huge difference in the long run, as long as you don't do it right before their job interview and sabotage that.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:16 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

See a lawyer first. Really. You've been dealing with this for a long time. A couple of extra weeks isn't that big a deal. Making sure you initiate the divorce from an informed position could prevent a lot of difficulties later.
posted by quince at 12:18 AM on November 29, 2018 [8 favorites]

There's no right time. Forget Chanukah. End the relationship. Be respectful, direct and decisive.
posted by latkes at 1:00 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Your partner surely knows that the relationship is nearly dead. Seeing an attorney first is important self-care. For all that is holy, please make that appointment the number one priority on your list. You can tell your partner any time. Literally any time. So tell your partner after you have prepared for your future and own best interests by getting legal advice. Take care!
posted by Bella Donna at 3:30 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm sorta going through this right now.
1 - See an attorney first. I only had a 30 min phone conversation, and it gave me SO much useful information. So much. And although the info was priceless, the call didn't cost me a penny.
2 - the sudden movement and friend visit sort of smells like manipulative behaviors to avoid the inevitable, or at least delay it.
3- Not sure if this is applicable, but in the US, alimony tax laws are changing effective for divorces finalized Jan 1 and after. I think it'll be too late to get it done by December 31 even if you start now, but just so you're aware.
4 - Don't let the job interview be a factor. There's always going to be something in the way.

Good luck.
posted by Fig at 4:15 AM on November 29, 2018 [10 favorites]

Regarding Chanukah & your spouse’s job interview - it is not your job to manage your spouse’s feelings like that. (I say this as someone who also misguidedly tries to manage people’s feelings sometimes.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:57 AM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

the Hanukkah thing is the reddest of herrings, omg. If you stay a few more weeks you'll be "ruining" NYE, Valentine's Day. Maybe they'll never enjoy green beer again if you tell them before St Pat's! Whatever. Cross this one off the list.

The job interview thing is also not really your problem. Your spouse has been "copping out" of everything for years. Yes, they will blame you for this, whether it affects the interview or not. Again, whatever.

The only thing that matters is the lawyer consultation. I'd check and see if you can get on the phone with someone before you tell your spouse, ideally. If not, then not. You can tell them you're divorcing them before you have that consult; just DON'T do anything else like leave the marital home.

But DO get a copy of all your financial records before you tell them; that should only take a few minutes if all you have is bank accounts, a day or two if you need to gather more paperwork than that.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:11 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

You're not going to ruin holidays forever. Just go do it.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:46 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's fine for you to do it now, but it's also fine for you not to move heaven and earth to change your plans just because your spouse decided today, after a year, to suddenly get proactive about shit. If you want, it is fine to just get through the holidays on the schedule you'd planned and felt good about, and then deal with all this.

The two things I strongly recommend you do no matter what are:

1) See that lawyer ASAP

2) Do not have the friends visit. Even if you weren't planning to leave and everything were just status quo - do you want friends visiting and staying in the awkward household where you're barely speaking? You have this stranger's hearty encouragement to say that between holiday stuff and your health stuff and spouse's job hunt and general stress, you do not feel up to houseguests. If they want to come to town and go out to dinner that's cool, but you just aren't up to houseguests at the holidays. Boom. Done. Now you can go ahead with the separation right now or in a few weeks, but either way, that source of stress is out of the equation. If you want, this can be the response to therapy as well - "I'm glad you want to do this, but there's a lot going on right now and I'll be better able to participate if we can do this in a couple of weeks when life calms down a little."

The rest of this, any way you do it is fine. You are not going to permanently ruin the concept of holidays for your spouse, they are responsible for their own emotions, there will be other jobs if this one doesn't pan out, and assuming you are not a neurosurgeon, the world will not end if you're slightly off your game at work for a couple of weeks because things are rough at home. Do it now, do it on Saturday, do it two weeks from now - do whichever version gives you the greatest sense of relief when you think about it.

It's okay, and possibly well past time, to put yourself first and do what you need to do to move ahead with your own life in a way that feels good to you. You don't have to work to your partner's timetable, or anyone else's.
posted by Stacey at 6:45 AM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

The very fact that such things were delayed until the last minute shows the respect your partner has for you, and a best-case of future behavior. Just barely negligible. And possible "it was only a week or two past the deadline," statements, despite a year (!) timeline.

I've commented in the past, that generally I'm a believer that if saying you want change isn't enough for your partner/spouse isn't enough for the change, then they shouldn't be given a chance when you so "then I'm leaving / I'm quitting." If they can get you to walk back from the threat of quitting/leaving, then they know they don't need to do anything you request until you pull out the big gun again, and then, and only then are you worth negotiating with.

As you point out your spouse seems to have magically gotten their shit together - great, that will be great for their next partner and they should keep their shit together. But it's too late for this to be good for you. Expect wheedleing about this after your letter.

Prioritize your point 6) - see a lawyer. Seriously, call around, and you should be able to find *someone* today or tomorrow who can see you for a consult, even if you won't necessarily move forward with them, so that you can get your pressing questions about logistics handled. If you already have a lawyer, and they don't have an appointment, ask if there can be an appointment for an extra fee and consider that.

Then go forward with your letter this Saturday.

Yes, your spouse might blame you for crashing their interview/holiday. But if you wait two weeks, then maybe you mess up their 2nd/3rd interview. If you wait 4 weeks, then you mess up an interview with a new company, or their first few days on the job, etc. There willl always be something. Short of his parents dying in the next few days, I don't think the "something" at this point is worth giving some time for.

I agree, do not have friends visit (unless you will 100% be out of the house/apartment by the time they'd be around).
posted by nobeagle at 7:19 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Reading your history is exhausting. Staying isn't going to make this any easier. Make a plan to leave as soon as you can.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:04 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like you've already decided to go. I think that reading the letter/informing your partner at their therapists' office is a good idea, but not yet. It would be best to do all the necessary planning before you tell your spouse. See some lawyers and choose one, make copies of the tax returns, figure out where you'll live, and so on.

When you do tell them, you don't have to do a lot of explaining, beyond "I'm unhappy in the marriage and don't see a future for us." Definitely don't repeat yourself; however much you say, you're doing it to express yourself. You can't make them understand or agree.

For the holidays, just say you don't want to do gifts. The only reason you have to give is that you don't feel like it. Just say no to holiday dinner with his family, and no to having his friends stay. You can tell the truth...that you two haven't been communicating much or even spending time together, and you don't feel good about the relationship.
posted by wryly at 10:52 AM on November 29, 2018

You have been miserable for a year and a half based on just the timestamps of your ask. End it. If you need to go talk to a lawyer first, do that, but you're not doing anyone any favors with this long drawn out, fake "happy holidays" thing. I doubt your partner is fooled, and it sounds like you're already even barely talking.

The analogy that springs to my mind is you keep clamping on more bandages on an infected wound instead of taking them off, cleaning it out and letting it heal. If things haven't improved and you're so endlessly exhausted by it, just end it.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:31 PM on November 29, 2018

Best answer: I have been in a situation similar to your for 25 years. If it's over, it's over. Get out now while you're still young.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 12:46 PM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've been thinking about this, and I read through some of the answers and your earlier posts. I know it feels like you are deciding when to leave, but this is all still part of deciding to leave. You said more than a year and a half ago that you were having decision fatigue. Until you implement the decision, you are still in that space. I suspect you are exhausted from all this emotional wrangling. Until you tell your spouse and you actually take steps to leave this relationship, you haven't really decided to do it, not really. Trying to figure out the best time is just another delay tactic, I think.

You've said you want to write and read a letter to your spouse about why you want to leave. Here's the thing. Your spouse knows now, or won't ever know or understand. Is there really that much more to say? Sure, go ahead and write and read the letter. But it shouldn't say why you want to leave. It should say that you are leaving. Yes, you can say why. But how can they not know already?

Are you still holding out hope that they will change and be the spouse that you want? Accepting that that won't happen is incredibly painful.

It's really hard to leave. You keep going back, over and over. It's really scary to do this, I know. But it's time, I think, to just do this and get it done. There is no good time to end a marriage. But there is a good time to start the process for you and your spouse to move on, to heal, and to begin your lives without each other -- and that time is right now.

There are plenty of reasons not to do this now, sure. But the best reason to do this now is that you want and need to do it, and you're just going to have to take that big, gigantic scary step now or live with his misery forever.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:53 PM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far, as ever.

I did speak to an attorney today. It brought back some details I'd forgotten from a consultation I'd had about a year and a half ago. For a number of reasons, the legal advice is to wait to get into this until after my spouse's job interview, and meanwhile, gather financial info, gather background info regarding the history of my spouse's health and treatment, double-check insurance details, etc. The attorney also suggested that going to some counseling sessions together again in the meantime would not be the worst idea, to at least open up lines of communication we might be able to fall back on during all that is to come. I view that with some trepidation, as I feel like I would just still be sort of playing a role of someone who is interested in engaging with that process again, rather than being entirely honest about how I'm not. But like many of you—and I think you're correct—they also suggested that it's likely my spouse has a sense that things aren't going in a good direction, so maybe honestly engaging with that reality is something to work toward.

But yeah, it doesn't seem like immediately marching in and reading my letter to them about how I want to leave is necessarily a prudent course of action at this point, given all the contingencies here that make a difference in how legal separation or divorce would play out. I hear those of you who say "Just do it," but the financial and health specifics actually do make this tricky in a legal sense. Do this too hastily, in a way that leads to negative employment and health repercussions for my spouse, and I could put myself in a bad financial situation indefinitely. Of course, the longer I stay, the worse that can get, too. This is certainly a double-edged sword—rather despair-inducing, really, as it feels a bit like I'm being held hostage to my spouse's health and lack of initiative. But I can be patient a bit longer before fully engaging with this process.

It was also very useful to talk to the attorney to get a sense of how various assets and their disposition (e.g., the house we own) might affect the current situation. It does sound like most people separate in some way before filing for either divorce or legal separation, and that's an interesting problem. I had been thinking about separating, then leaving town, starting to date again in a different city, etc. But it sounds like at least some of the initial proceedings would require that I be local, or able to return, to attend meetings with attorneys, any court dates, etc. I'm not sure how long that would go on, but it's also probably not as bad as I'm imagining.

Still, that might also change my approach to initial separation...and also lengthen the time until I can move forward in my life. It could take up to a year for all of this to be resolved, which wasn't really news to me, but also tells me I need to move ahead as soon as I can.

As for the friends coming to visit, I am going to wait and see a few days—it's entirely possible that idea might disappear anyway, as a lot of things my spouse brings up tend to do. I don't want to get into a big thing about it, with this job interview looming. Regarding Hanukkah, I wouldn't mind seeing my spouse's family again, though it will be with some sadness, as usual. I can bear it. And maybe I can suggest that any gift exchange between the two of us be significantly lighter this year, as I'm not up to it after a lot of life events we've faced recently. I feel like I'm just walking on eggshells until the job interview occurs, after which I can start to proceed.

So that's what's up. Thanks again for weighing in!
posted by o_O at 7:09 PM on November 30, 2018 [5 favorites]

According to many articles this will ruin Hanukkah for my partner forever allegedly

I had someone break up with me immediately after a holiday, personally I felt like my holiday would have been better if I hadn't had to deal with their fake expressions of pretending as if they wanted the relationship to continue, making excuses to spend as little time as possible with me during the holiday, and it would have been nice to avoid the emotional labor of having to try to negotiate a plan for the holiday with them. I think my friends would have preferred it if they had not come to the holiday either, as it was obvious that they didn't want to be near me and this was very uncomfortable for everyone.

On the upside, they were so horrible during the holiday that I was very done with the relationship at that point. If I had happened to have a job interview the next week I don't think the breakup would have hurt my chances for that at all -- but I think that would have been the case if they had broken up with me before the holiday as well. And I did get a lot of support from friends after the breakup, because the person had treated me very poorly in front of my friends and family.

The next year my thoughts around the holiday were something like "thank goodness I don't have to deal with this person", but I would have liked to have a nice holiday by not having to deal with their BS the previous year as well.

I won't have that last opportunity to see my spouse's family (who I like a lot)

This is not a good way to leave your spouse's family with any sort of good memory of you. Pretending to them as if you want to continue to be a part of their family and then leaving right after the holiday will not paint you in a good light. If you just want a last social opportunity for yourself with them, fine, but if you want them to think well of you it would be best to start pulling back a bit. It's flu season, you don't have to make yourself a big part of the holidays this year. Later on you can write them a nice letter about what they mean to you.

It seems like you have put off making an appointment with a lawyer for a long time, but have now gone in -- so, while you might wait until after Hanukkah, there's a lot of holidays coming up. Don't use them as an excuse.
posted by yohko at 4:03 PM on December 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

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