Deciding You’re Done

A writer that has contributed somewhat regularly to APW over the years is in the process of getting a divorce. She offered to write for APW as she works her way through this process, to try to demystify something often treated as shameful. As always with difficult topics, the editorial team is working with the writer to edit her work in a way that allows her to share her experiences and that feels safe. But to add another layer of protection for everyone involved, she’s decided to write under the pen name Prudence. We’re calling her series Resigning Wife. I know you all will treat her with the same care and kindness that you show to all writers who discuss difficult issues here. With gratitude for her bravery…


by Prudence

In January, it will hit you that you are married. Really married. You will be in therapy, for what you initially thought was a sleep problem that would need just a few weeks of behavior changes. It will suddenly feel safe enough to start to realize some things about your situation. You don’t feel loved, for example. You know that he loves you, but that isn’t enough. You are white knuckling it and you are so, so tired. Wish you hadn’t realized these things. Not that they aren’t true; wish that you hadn’t realized them.

He will say that you not feeling loved is your own failing. Try your hardest to swallow that, to be better. Wish you could just be happy with what you have. Don’t wish things bigger; wish yourself smaller. Say that in therapy and see how it goes over. (Heads up: It will not go over well.)

Under no circumstances are you to tell anyone any of this. Things are great. We are so happy. You aren’t going to carry on your family legacy of divorce. You aren’t going to be the first person in your graduating class to end a marriage. If you decide this, maybe you can hold it together a little longer.

You will hold it together for five months. You won’t make it to your third anniversary. When you cry about this to your best friend, about how this makes your failure come into much sharper focus, she will tell you that you have been in love with this man for seven years and you have done everything you could to stretch yourself, to make yourself fit, and there is no way to push the car up the hill by yourself if he won’t help.

Go to your old college for the weekend and see all of your old friends. Let a few shots of marshmallow-flavored vodka soften your tongue, and then confess to a couple of people that things are kind of not great, exactly, maybe. In the morning, be amazed that you couldn’t even be honest under the influence of marshmallow-flavored vodka. (I mean, really.)

Tape the bottom of a moving box together. Sit on the kitchen floor and cry for a few minutes. Wish for the luxury of having an apartment big enough where there would be a place he couldn’t hear your sobs. Stand up. Wrap three coffee mugs. Leave the rest. Leave the hand mixer he bought you for your birthday, the one he surprised you with after you made him a cheesecake with a wooden spoon. Leave almost everything. Remember the cross-country trip you made with him when you moved, taking only what would fit in your car. Appreciate the symmetry.

Tell yourself that you really shouldn’t be crying anyway, because this is your idea. You were the first one to say it, gave it as one of two options the same day you woke up, saw your wedding ring on the nightstand and it was suddenly to heavy to pick up.

Make a list of reasons to stay. He’s letting you keep all the money. He wants to help you out until you get on your feet. When you try to backtrack when things get scary, he won’t let you. He says not to diminish what you want, because you aren’t happy. Weigh these things against the fact that you don’t feel loved. Double-check the math.

Your friends will come forward, friends you haven’t talked to in a long time because it made it harder to delude yourself about things. Your phone will start making more noise than it has in a long time. Several people will call you after you casually text them that you’re pretty sure your marriage is over. You feel like this is text-able news. You are still delusional.

You will get offers to stay with people all over the country. You will divide up your cats. You will take all of the family photos off the wall. Your husband will come pick you up off the floor while you cry, will hold you upright because you’re so far gone you can’t stand. It will be the hardest he’s hugged you in a long, long time. You will need to finish packing. Quickly.

Photo Gabriel Harber

Prudence is in the process of getting a divorce from her husband of almost three years. She’s currently on the road sightseeing, writing, and engaging in general vagrancy.




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  • Flamingo

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I find it very, very helpful to read all of these stories – where things go well, where they are all right, where they don’t work out, instead of just reading about the nice parts of things.

    • This is my absolute favorite part of this post. Although the entire post just tore my heart out and, Prudence, you are wonderful in many ways.


      Here it is:
      “She’s currently on the road sightseeing, writing, and engaging in general vagrancy.”
      THAT is sheer, raw power.

  • Thank you for being brave and opening yourself and your heart at this time of confusion/grief/loss. You write beautifully and tell an important story: Losing yourself to someone is never worth it, and finding yourself can be a long, painful, process. Sending lots of love and support your way, and looking forward to your next missive.

  • Kristen

    I was extraordinarily lucky that when I went through this process, I had already stopped loving him. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for Prudence and I am sending her a big internet hug. I hope that amidst the mourning and healing she is doing that she feels the flashes of excitement and freedom and the evershining HOPE that comes when one has realized there is actually more love to be felt than what one has been given so far.

    Prudence, I don’t know your story or you, but I know what its like to fundamentally know there should be more in a marriage or relationship than what is there. I know what its like to realize you’ve given all of yourself and he hasn’t even given half. I’m pulling for you as I’m sure are countless other folks here who want what is best for you because you are a beautiful person. You’ll find what you’re looking for, I promise, because you’ve already recognized what it is that’s missing. Good luck!

    • C

      I can identify with so much of Prudence’s story, as my partner and I separated, got back together, and are struggling again, barely past the three-year mark. As I weigh my options, I needed to hear these words. Thank you, Kristen.

  • Emmy

    Oof. Desk tears. Especially those last three sentences. Leaving is about the hardest thing ever, but it’s usually so very worth it in the end. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us—your bravery and openness is appreciated. Hang in there.

  • SJ

    I feel like I’m a few weeks from writing this same post.
    Three years into my marriage and I’m realizing that from almost day 1 I’ve felt like something was lacking. I know he loves me, but I don’t feel loved.—That’s exactly what I’m going through. He tells me that I should just be happy. He can’t understand why I would complain that he only kisses me when I request it.
    There is so much good in our marriage, but I’m afraid it’s not enough.
    I’m not sure if it’s even fixable. I’m stuck in this place where it’s too good leave and too bad to stay and every option terrifies me.
    It’s such a relief to know I’m not the only one.

    • Kristen

      Hugs to you. I had all sorts of unasked for advice to give, but I figured a hug, even an internet one would work best in this situation.

    • N

      In nearly exact same spot. So much good, but something isn’t right. And everything is scary. We’ve been together so long, that’s it’s hard to see life without him. Sending support your way.

    • Q

      I was in this situation about 5 years ago. Nothing was wrong in an obvious sense, but nothing was right either. He wouldn’t give affection unless it was requested and was averse to any physical affection in public (hand-holding included). This was the most obvious sign of the problems we were having.

      I tried to fix it, but he thought I was being ridiculous. Needy.

      Eventually, I ended it. I felt like an idiot and an abandoner and then, slowly, and through therapy, I felt better.

      I’m not giving advice, rather sharing my experience. You’re not alone in feeling this way.

      Hugs and best wishes for your happiness.

    • Aly Windsor

      I don’t normally recommend self-help books but this one is actually really helpful for this exact situation:

    • Aly Windsor

      I don’t normally recommend self-help books but this one is actually really helpful for this exact situation: “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship”

      • Justanotherblue

        Yeah, that’s a great book. It helped me very much in my last relationship. I highly recommend it.

    • L

      I’m here, too.

      I started going to therapy on my own just to have a neutral third party to help me sort out my feelings after finding out that my husband, with whom I still live, was in the early stages of an emotional affair and wanted to separate immediately. Not because he loves her, but because he doesn’t know if we are fixable. I don’t know either, but I’m trying not to read into that to mean we are doomed, but just that we are lost. We need a compass–to find out way back together, or maybe, to figure out how to be alone after 8 years (inc. almost 2 of marriage).

      He’s come around to realizing we should leave it all on the court, so to speak, and has agreed to joint therapy. So much good, not enough good right now, indeed. The plus side is we agree that we can’t continue as is.

      Individual therapy did wonders to dig up where my feelings of being unloved started and confirmed that we needed to do some major work to get past this. That this wasn’t something we would grow out of or move past on our own (I thought we were just in a valley and that a peak had to be just ahead by virtue of time marching on). That it was born of gradual discontent and resentment, which were initially masked by all the good. Little things that festered into a boil over the last six months.

      But we have a strong foundation of love, respect and friendship, so we may be able to find our way back. We might not. Either way it won’t be resolved in a matter of days or weeks, so I have resolved to live in the moment, day by day. And that might be the biggest lesson I learn: I can’t fix everything on my own, immediately. And that’s okay.

      I share this because I’m learning about the importance of doing this work for my future relationship (with or without him) and learning to be okay amidst the unknown (not permanently or even long-term, of course). I’ve taken comfort from Manya’s recent quote: “ease and joy are two separate issues.” My greatest hope is that there can be joy born from this process: of learning to love more deeply, or learning to let go.

      In short, this is my unsolicited plug for solo therapy! Good luck.

    • K

      Also here. This saddens me greatly, to see there are several of us going through this. It is also strangely comforting, knowing that I’m not the only one questioning their relationship.

      I’ve recently come to realize my partner has been emotionally abusive for several months now. During the bad days, I want to run, but during the good days, I want to stay. Yesterday, my best friend told me she’s tired of hearing about it & not to talk to her about relationship issues anymore. It’s a lonely & confusing place to be.

      Thank you all for sharing. I value & admire this community more than I ever thought possible.

      • Please talk to someone. I’m sorry you can’t talk to her. But please talk to someone. You deserve someone on your side, to listen as you work things through.

  • KINA

    Thank you so, so much Prudence. Sincerely wishing you all the best, and wishing the same to everyone else out there in similar situations. You are not alone ladies.

  • Kathryn

    “Your husband will come pick you up off the floor while you cry, will hold you upright because you’re so far gone you can’t stand. It will be the hardest he’s hugged you in a long, long time.”

    … These are the actions of a man who loves you so deeply he’s willing to let you go rather than see you unhappy. Dude may not be very good at expressing himself, but I don’t buy that he doesn’t love you.

    I know this commend is going to be *phenomenally* unpopular. I’m saying it because true friends tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. I think the problem here is your therapist, not your husband. Throughout your post, what I see is support and love from your husband, far beyond what would be expected for a guy whose wife is leaving him. A lot of people get divorced for very good reasons. But a lot of people also get divorced who don’t have to. From what you’ve said today, I don’t think you have to. If you don’t feel loved, try discussing the “five love languages” with your husband and see how he can be better at expressing himself in ways that speak to you.

    • Clarissa

      I think it’s really easy to come to any conclusion you want when you’re reading a heavily edited piece like this. But I’m going to trust that Prudence, for whom this was obviously not an easy or lightly made decision, knows her situation better than we do. We’re not her friends; we’re part of this community, sure, but we’re internet commenters, and it’s almost laughable to think that with this one tiny glimpse into her marriage, we’re equipped to tell her what to do.

    • I don’t think it’s our job to judge her decision or offer advice where it is not requested. We have 711 words before us. We know absolutely nothing. Prudence has been brave enough to share her story with us; let’s honor that by being respectful of what is likely one of the hardest decisions she’s every made.

    • JT

      I think it’s really important to remember that posts are like one or two still frames from a full-length film. They give us a wonderful opportunity better understand other women and ourselves by offering unique points of view and snapshots of others’ experiences. However, I think they really don’t give us enough information to make judgments like this. I believe your comment is coming from a good place, and Prudence’s post has done a beautiful job of illustrating the complexity of relationships, marriages, and the grayness often involved- there is often no black or white, easy decision. Prudence has given us a gift by opening up and sharing a small part of a very personal journey and, honestly, I’m not sure it’s relevant whether *you* “buy” that Prudence’s husband doesn’t love her or that you believe a lot of people get divorced that don’t have to. I think the overall ideas about how we can help ourselves feel loved within our relationships and what goes into making the decision to get a divorce are topics that the APW community can discuss with thoughtfulness and insight, but not when it is framed as a judgment about someone else’s decision or path.

      • k

        Also, when someone loves you but spend most of their time making you feel like crap, their love is kind of beside the point. In my experience, partners who treat you badly are *very* nice to you whenever you’re thinking about leaving, but once you stay, they revert right back to “normal,” and there you are again spending an insane amount of time crying in the shower, on public transportation, etc. Oy.

        • Q

          yes to this whole comment. I agree too much to just leave it as an exactly.

          and public transportation ugly crying is the best in some ways when you spend most of your day pushing down your feelings

          • Kristen

            Feeling unaccountably light knowing I’m not the only person who cries on public transportation. Thank you ladies!

          • anon today

            oh my gosh, ugly crying on the plane home from a broken LDR – yes. to the point that the kind southwest airlines flight attendant guy offers you a box of tissues. you may have just kissed and made up, but in your heart you know how you’ve felt for months, and you don’t want to feel it anymore. been there.

        • Absolutely. How someone feels can never be taken in isolation, especially when they are not taking actions that make those feelings come through appropriately.

    • Jessica

      I know it’s easy to think that, but I agree with Clarissa. This post is made of several paragraphs. Think of how many thousands of paragraphs it would take to truly understand the last seven years of this author’s relationship (or the work with her therapist).

    • Sarahrose

      Prudence, thank you for sharing your story. It’s so hard to try to explain something as big and in some ways inexplicable as the ending of a relationship, and I think you’re so brave for being willing to do that. Know right now that you are a comfort to so many people reading this — especially because your story is not one that easily fits the simple narrative of divorce, i.e. he was a terrible person; we were destructive for each other, etc. Sometimes a relationship can be not bad at all, maybe you might even call it fine — few conflicts, little anger — but ultimately it’s not good. Not worth staying for. It can be very hard to recognize that, much less say it out loud. And you are helping people say it to themselves.

      I am placing my comment in this thread after Kathryn’s simply because I want to point out that I think this is the reason why Prudence included the passage Kathryn quoted: I don’t think it was an unconscious slip that illustrates that he really does love her/that she really should stay with him. I think Prudence is simply acknowledging: he’s not a bad guy. There was love in their relationship. But it wasn’t enough.

    • “‘Your husband will come pick you up off the floor while you cry, will hold you upright because you’re so far gone you can’t stand. It will be the hardest he’s hugged you in a long, long time.’

      “… These are the actions of a man who loves you so deeply he’s willing to let you go rather than see you unhappy. Dude may not be very good at expressing himself, but I don’t buy that he doesn’t love you.”

      yes, i think that’s totally true – in fact, prudence says as much in the original post (that the problem is not that he doesn’t love her). but i think this is one of the biggest relationship myths we are taught in our culture: all you need is love. which is, excuse me, bullshit.

      love is a dandy place to start a relationship, but all on its own it isn’t anywhere near enough to sustain it. this myth keeps people in really unhappy, unhealthy relationships all the time. and in a lot of ways it is a lot harder to end a relationship when you both still love each other, but that doesn’t necessarily make it anything other than the right thing to do.

      • Jenny Wren

        This is pretty much what I got from the piece as well- that her husband is a good man, that he loves her and she loves him, but that they just no longer work as a couple. I think it’s sometimes depressing to contemplate the idea that love cannot trump a basic personality mismatch, or a fundamental incompatibility, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
        We instinctively want our relationships to end with a bang rather than a whimper, because those tend to produce easy feelings that we know how to process. But I personally think it’s far more preferable to leave an ailing relationship when you are still capable of acknowledging the good in each other- it will be harder, but ultimately I think Prudence and her ex will benefit enormously from not having those negative feelings and emotions about each other.

        • Tory

          Yes, and we all want to believe things like “love conquers all” and “love is all we need.” But it doesn’t, and it isn’t.

          • The Bull

            Omnia vincit amor translates to “all conquering love” as well. Check out the original poem by Virgil. The hero dies because of unrequited love.

          • Sorry reported by accident. Actually agree

      • Becca

        I remember saying once to my fiance, while talking about another married couple of our acquaintance who were considering divorce, “Just because two people love each other doesn’t mean they should be married, or even a couple.” He looked at me funny at first, but I think after considering it a moment he got it.
        I definitely agree with Lady Brett’s comment and thank her for giving me the more eloquent words to help me explain this unpleasant but real fact of life (to friends stuck in failing relationships and to my future children).

    • I believe Prudence mentioned having a best friend in this post. I’d be more than willing to bet she’d disagree with you regarding what “true friends” tell each other.

    • js

      I believe Meg asked us to be supportive. To treat this post with respect and to create a safe place. I hope you’re never faced with the kind of criticism and judgement you’re passing on a stranger, if you’re ever faced with a difficult choice.

      • Beth

        I think you’re confusing respect with agreement. Since when does respecting someone automatically mean you must agree with them? You can disagree with someone and still be respectful. It’s the way you disagree with someone that should be seen as disrespectful, not the fact that you disagree with them.

        Kathryn felt that perhaps more advice was warranted based on what Prudence had written about the love and support clearly shown by Prudence’s husband through the process–as the post was written. It is true that this is a small snippet of a much larger situation, and we don’t have all the information, but I actually agree with Kathryn.

        • js

          I think the point is being missed. I don’t know what Prudence did or didn’t do to save her marriage. Neither does anyone else but the two people in that marriage. It doesn’t seem to be up for debate whether or not she gets a divorce; this is happening. Just because he’s not a bad guy doesn’t make him the right guy. It helps to illustrate, to me, why it was so hard for her to come to this decision. Nothing is really wrong, but everything is broken. I can totally empathize with that. It’s not a how-to manual for everyone else’s life; just her truth. The fact that they’re sharing their first real physical intimacy when he hugs her as she’s leaving, in my opinion, speaks volumes. It really got to me.

        • meg

          You may agree with Kathryn, but neither of you have enough information to come CLOSE to making any sort of a judgement on this relationship (or any relationship you’re not in, or deeply deeply involved in, to be frank). Essays like this don’t come with a “check if you agree or disagree” button at the bottom. Prudence is sharing a bit of her experience, that’s it. You can think about that. You can weigh it over in your own mind. You can think, “Huh, if that were me writing about my relationship, I’d stay.”

          But hey! You know your relationship. You know *who the people are*, which you don’t even know here. You know if your partner is emotionally abusive or not. You know if one of you has had an affair or not. You know if one of you is physically abusive. You know your family histories. You know who has lied to who and about what. You know how you treat each other every day, and what you can work through and what you can’t. You know if your partner has any INTEREST in working it through, or if they just don’t care to. Etc, etc, etc.

          My point is, you know none of that here. So it isn’t on you to agree or disagree. It isn’t on you to give advice. That misses the whole point of why essays like this are written. They’re to share parts of our human experience. full stop.

          • Hannah

            As always, I love the frankness, bravery and grace with which these comment boards are monitored. What a uniquely and wonderfully led community. We’re all so lucky.

            And Prudence, a million and one thank you’s for sharing your stories. What a gift. I’m praying for cures for your pain – maybe in the form of friends and family who miraculously understand how to love you well in this time.

            By the way, to Katherine and others who feel the need to state their agreement or disagreement with Prudence’s decision…it’s very freeing sometimes to take some time and *really* recognize that you’re not responsible for anyone else’s actions. During my parent’s divorce I spent years condemning or defending various actions that each of my parents made. I was very distraught over whether I could “support” my mother’s decision to leave my father in good conscience. What a crashing wave of relief when I finally realized that it was in no way my responsibility to determine the morality of my mother’s decision! My mantra about my parents’ divorce became this line from a country song, “I’m not saying it’s right or it’s wrong, but maybe it’s the only way. Talk about your revolution. It’s Independence Day.”

    • there’s a difference between the kind of love that makes for true friendship & caring, and the kind of love that makes for a good, healthy romantic relationship. the second cannot exist without the first, but the first can absolutely exist without the second.

    • I reread that passage of this heart-wrenching post a number of times because that must be a very hard thing, if not the hardest thing, to see all of the ways your partner does love you when making such a difficult choice.

      • Hope

        My ex husband and I rode together the first time we went to divorce court, sat next to each other and held hands. We loved each other but that wasn’t enough and we couldn’t stay married.

        • Christina

          I read this as Prudence getting at the point that there is a difference between FEELING love and being loved. Two different things. If your partner is incapable of making you feel loved, communicating his/her love to you in a way that resonates with you and makes you feel it, then things are really hard. I read the “5 love languages” as the original commentor recommends, and this seems to be the basic premise of that book as well. My issue with the 5 love languages and with the initial post is that sometimes these two things cannot be reconciled no matter how hard we try. Saying “hug = love= feeling loved” is an oversimplification.

    • meg

      Let me just frame this by saying that I know what this situation is, or we wouldn’t be running any of these posts. Of course, I understand that fromt the outside you can only ever know the very broadest of strokes of the picture, only people on the inside know what’s really true. You’ve only read 711 words (thanks for counting Kyley!) which means in real life terms you know next to nothing. You have an artistic frame of a few moments of someone’s experience. You don’t have any details, any emotional truths, names, locations, history, nothing. You’ve got a hug. Hugs are nice. Hugs don’t make a marriage. And while its pretty safe to assume her husband loves her, that doesn’t make a marriage either.

      What I can tell you is that Prudence has real life, actual, true friends who are holding her up through this, along with her therapist. None of them are the problem. The problem here is actually the way people feel that it’s right and good and fine to jump to conclusions when people’s marriages end. IE, this comment. I’ve watched people leave abusive husbands, and they always hear EXACTLY what you just said. “Oh, I can tell he loves you.” Well, great. He also hits her every night, and you don’t know that part.

      That isn’t the case here (as far as I know). But I do know enough to see just how far off base you, and the 27 people who said exactly here, are. Thanks to the rest of you for your support and kind words for Prudence. This part of the conversation is so important to have, because it’s this kind of shaming that traps people in nightmares.

      • Del678

        When I said *exactly, I was not saying “Shame on Prudence”. I was saying, “This post and comment hits on some emotional responses that I also have because of my experiences” and “that’s a great book for anyone in a new relationship to read, I talked about it with my now fiancé on our second date”.

        True, the original commenter framed the discussion in completely the wrong way – making it about Prudence, not Kathryn’s own experience – but a better response would have been “Hey Kathryn, it is more respectful and productive to frame your views in your own life experience, rather than as a judgement on Prudence. Thanks and look forward to hearing your experiences and discussing hte ahrd issues with you.”

        • meg

          You’d make an excellent comment moderater! I actually stand by all the things that I said, but I also think what you’re saying is perfect and true, so I’ll just say it here:

          Hey Kathryn, it is more respectful and productive to frame your views in your own life experience, rather than as a judgement on Prudence. Thanks and look forward to hearing your experiences and discussing hte ahrd issues with you.

          If you want to be a volunteer moderater, I know a site that needs another one :)

      • Jeannine

        Why is there a comment section then? This is an artistic piece, but it’s not in a literary journal to be read as literature, it’s framed as a person presenting information about divorce through her experience. Moreover, by using the second-person singular, the post actually does have the impact of putting each of us as readers in her mindset–which allows many, in fact most, of the readers here to empathize with her, but some to think, “no, this is where I diverge.” Why can we not talk about the divergences? Is there a way that we can discuss in the comments policy how we can have a conversation about thoughts that are tangential to Prudence’s experience, but nonetheless brought up by reading her post? Is there a way to disagree with the path the author writes about having chosen for herself without it being judgmental and unsafe?

        • meg

          I’d love for you guys to talk about your personal experiences. I think that’s a great discussion to have. And yes, I think you can talk about things that are tangential to her experience and brought up by reading the post. But no, I don’t think there is a way for you to disagree with the path the AUTHOR has chosen for herself without being judgmental and unsafe.

          First, there is no way to say, “I think you shouldn’t get a divorce” without judging the author. You can say “I thought about getting a divorce when I didn’t feel loved, and here is why that would have been a mistake.” But beyond that, you have no idea of what the details are here. You don’t know if he hit her every night, and that’s why she felt unloved. You’re simply not in a position to disagree or agree with her choices.

          However! While you don’t know her situation, you do know yours. Talking about how you felt unloved and how you chose to fix it is an important discussion. I think the Five Love Languages are super important. I think talking about the fact that love isn’t the only thing that makes a marriage work is super important. But you need to talk about that in your own voice, not make assumptions about the writers life.

          Look, we could have shut comments on this piece. That’s something we do sometimes. But we trust this community, and we didn’t think that was the right choice. The conversation we had here allowed people to feel less alone. It allowed people a safe place to say that they were in abusive relationships, and feeling pressure to not get a divorce. It gave us space to have THIS conversation, the one about why we judge people getting divorces without knowing all the facts (because this happens all the time in real life). All those conversations were and are important, and I’m glad we left the comments open to have them. In fact, this thread got reported by readers enough times that it was automatically pulled off the site. We went and dug around and found it, and put it back up, because we thought it was an important conversation to have.

          So please! Let’s talk about your experiences. Lets talk about your general opinions about marriage. But no judging the life choices of someone you don’t know. Or at least, no judging them here. Go have that conversation with your partner and your friends, and figure out what you think that way. That’s valuable. This is not the place for it. The writer can see your judgement here, and that’s not ok.

          • MTM

            I’m going back and forth on this. My initial reaction was very similar to Kathryn’s, but I also learned a lot reading through the comments. While Kathryn’s wording may not have been perfect, I think she did identify a more global issue about resiliency in relationships — there was a commitment made, there were vows and those are important to see through until you can’t anymore (which may be where Prudence is). I think where there might be some differing perspectives is with the finality of the decision: (1) there zero hope for reconciliation now that the words have been spoken and people moved or (2) that because the final papers aren’t signed, there’s always the option to hit the pause button and work together on the relationship and on themselves. When Kathryn said there were a lot of people who get divorced who don’t have to, I did not perceive that as being judgmental, but more providing the statement that it’s okay if you change your mind in this process, it’s okay to take another look at your decision, that maybe starting the divorce process was the needed shock (and communication pathway) to the relationship to get her partner supporting/loving her in the ways that she needs. People get very polarized when their loved ones are going through this process and try to steer people in one direction, but I think that there’s a lot more gray and uncertainty that the individual/couple goes through and they should feel supported on whichever path they choose.

      • Veverka

        Sorry I hit report when I meant to hit exactly! #tinysmartphonescreen

    • My ex showed me more tenderness and compassion when we were breaking up than he ever had during our relationship. He did love me, but in the way one very good friend loves another, not in the way he needed to for us to be a couple. None of his actions at the time meant we were wrong to end things. He was (and is) a good guy and we had a good relationship, but it was never going to be great, and we both deserve great. I’ve found it with my husband and, from what I hear from a mutual friend, he may have found it with his current girlfriend. I hope he has. I remember wishing at the time that he’d cheated on me or done something awful to make it easier to leave, because walking away from good but not great is hard. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

      • Indeed. Someone doesn’t necessarily stop being a good, caring person just because you’re breaking up with them. It’s almost maddening, and was also the hardest thing for me to deal with when my husband broke up with me years ago while we were still dating.

        The last words of Prudence’s piece really hit me in the gut, because I was so, so angry with my newly-ex-boyfriend for hugging me so, so tight when I couldn’t stop crying, and for telling me that I was strong, stronger than this, and I would be okay eventually. He has always been a compassionate man and breaking up didn’t change that, but neither did it mean that breaking up was the wrong choice at the time.

    • April

      I know you’ve gotten a lot of replies on this one, but I just wanted to put a finer point on one part of this discussion: that situations that are abusive and absolutely awful can involve large amounts of kindness and good-heartedness.

      I know this from my personal experience with my own separation. Because of the insidious nature of abuse and human psychology, it’s sometimes easy to confuse kindness and decency. One can be kind and not decent.

      If this can happen in an abusive situation and be confusing, how much more confusing it must be in a non-abusive situation. It is a state that is perhaps unknown to many people, which is why it’s so important that she’s writing about it. And important that you brought up your question about it, so that you can hear perspectives on it.

    • April

      I know you’ve gotten a lot of replies on this one, but I just wanted to put a finer point on one part of this discussion: that situations that are abusive and absolutely awful can involve large amounts of kindness and good-heartedness.

      I know this from my personal experience with my own separation. Because of the insidious nature of abuse and human psychology, it’s sometimes easy to confuse kindness and decency. One can be kind and not decent.

      If this can happen in an abusive situation and be confusing, how much more confusing it must be in a non-abusive situation. It is a state that is perhaps unknown to many people, which is why it’s so important that she’s writing about it. And important that you brought up your question about it, so that you can hear perspectives on it.

  • Someone Else Today

    Prudence, thank you for this- it’s beautiful. Your candor and bravery are inspiring.

    Sometimes reading these types of posts are really hard, but lately they’ve just been affirming. It took me almost four years to really be able to talk about what went wrong in my marriage. When I left, I only knew something was wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on why it hurt to wake up every day and why I couldn’t stand for my husband to touch me. Once I actually realized I was afraid of him, it got much easier to get over the guilt I felt for leaving him. I blossomed back into myself after I moved out and the feeling was…fantastic. In therapy I learned to name the things I liked about myself (oh right, there are things that are just me and mine and they are not ugly or hideous as I had been told) and I realized I am a pretty cool person, just being me. I was informed, in therapy, that I had been abused. Took me years to believe it.

    Thank you, APW, for embracing all of what marriage is- including its endings.

  • More internet hugs to you!

    This post was pretty much me 3-4 years ago and, cliche as it may sound, I promise you that it does get better and that it is ultimately so very, very worthwhile.

    I’m not sure if it’s an inherent desire to not seem ungrateful, or an apprehension regarding the fact that we do, in fact, deserve happiness (it’s probably some amalgam of both), but so many people find themselves feeling strapped and stifled by the pressure to keep up the narrative of “we’re such a happy couple and everything is fine.” As the author and several of the responses have already noted, you often know, deep in your gut, that things are not fine or, at least, feel sufficiently off as to foster discomfort.

    It’s likely going to be a rough go of things for a while, but you will undoubtedly learn volumes about yourself during this time. Listen to yourself; be patient with yourself and constantly remind yourself (even and especially when you don’t believe it) that you deserve to be happy.

  • berdz

    “Tell yourself that you really shouldn’t be crying anyway, because this is your idea.”

    This immediately reminded of one of my favorite Dear Sugar quotes: “Be brave enough to break your own heart.” (

    Proud of you.

    • Yes.

      To add another Sugar quote: “Wanting to leave is enough.” (More amazing quotes from Cheryl Strayed here:

      Prudence, you are brave and awesome. I was also you a few years ago. You are doing the right things, to get out of there quickly, go to therapy, and contact your friends. Now is a good time to rely on the support of friends and family who love you. It amazed me how much (some) people will show their strength and compassion during difficult times. Lean on them.

      Also, it was not your fault. You did not fail. You are SUCCEEDING at being yourself.

      And that is a lady with some seriously awesome shoes ;)

      <3 <3 <3

    • Katherine

      Apologies, Berdz!! I meant to hit “reply” & hit “report” instead!

      Anyway, Dear Sugar fan fistbump. I love Cheryl, and I miss her regular posts. I hope when her book/speaking tour is over with, she’ll get back to being “Sugar” as soon as possible. I actually have “Be brave enough to break your own heart.” as part of my most recent tattoo. I needed to have that strength be part of me forever.

  • Blimunda

    Two friends of mine met at my place. They fell in love and became one of the most wonderful couples I’ve ever witnessed. I waited for the day I could officiate their wedding. I was as sure about their relationship as I am about mine.
    They stayed together for 7 years, and then she had to make the decision to leave.
    It was a real pain, because I love each of them dearly, but I also loved the couple they made, and this entity does not exist anymore.
    It’s very hard to accept that sometimes things change for the worse even if you had no idea it would happen. Seeing what happened to my friends, I thought for a minute that I can’t really know it will never happen to me, but I can’t process it.
    You’re a brave person. I hope writing this helps you accept your loss.
    More internet hugs. Thank you.

  • js

    My heart was pounding the whole time I read this. It’s impossibly real, unbelievably scary. It may be my biggest fear. To fail; to be left. I only want to say I’m sorry, even though I don’t know first-hand, and I hope it gets better. This is why I read APW. You guys don’t ignore marriage, in all it’s parts. Also, though we are not friends anymore, I wish I had been kinder to my best friend when she went through this. Good luck, Pru!

    • meg

      Just a kind reminder that a relationship ending (or being left!) is not failing. We so often confuse ending and failing, and that confusion keeps us from endings we need (and new beginnings).

      • April

        This. this, this.

        That is why conversations like this are so important. Healthy separations need to be on display in our society, so that we know how they look and feel, and consider them an option. That strengthens the construct of marriage, because we have the right standards for staying.

  • Prudence, I promise you that there really, truly is no way to push that car up that hill if he won’t help. It takes guts to leave your husband. It takes something that VERY few of us in the world have to put yourself out there in the most vulnerable way–to write about it so that we may read is daring, generous, and selfless. It stuns me that people are able (and so willing!) to pass their judgments on the whole of your *marriage* from your very first post in this series, but please accept my most sincere thanks and admiration for your candor. I’m so looking forward to the next post.

  • N

    I just wanted to say thank you to APW for posting the hard stuff as well as the butterflies and rainbows. I’m going through something very similar and it’s so good for me to read this as well as the comments of support from the community.

  • Meigh McPants

    So many hugs to you, darling Prudence. Thank you for sharing this breathtakingly hard moment in your life. I know you have all of our support in this difficult time. Continue to trust yourself and I know things will get brighter for you.

  • C

    After 10 months of marriage and four years together, I moved out. I moved out for all of the reasons Prudence listed. I felt unloved and like I lost my once vibrant and confident self – the person my husband fell head over heels for in the first place. My husband and I gave each other a week to think and in that time, we talked with our families and friends. After four days, I told him it was over – that I would never be made to feel as unworthy and unloved as I did in our marriage. I was devastated. He was devastated, sought personal help with a therapist, went and talked to the priest at my church (he’s not Catholic) and did everything in his power to heal and understand himself and, in turn, become a better friend, husband and partner. We did not speak for a month. Then we did. Slowly, we made our way back to each other as I began to realize that it takes two people to make a marriage work or fail. I recognized a lifelong pattern of pushing away those closest to me in a moment of conflict. I never addressed conflict with anyone – I simply closed the door and left. Did I really do my best in our marriage? Had I let myself go and love fully and openly without reservation? The answer was no. So, with the help of our psychotherapist (couples counseling), his therapist and support from our family, we tried again. Our second year of marriage–up until now–seemed to negate the first year with a lot of love, communication and laughter in our home. It seems we experience months of bliss, followed by a short period of uncertainty. The same thing happened in our first year – a sharp decline in affection and emotional/physical intimacy in March and June. My husband has experienced acute uncertainty in himself and his future for many years, which is turn is transferred to my and our future. He is making an appointment with his therapist to help him sort out the conflicting feelings locked in his mind.

    We’re approaching our second anniversary and I feel like that lost girl again. I don’t recognize myself. I feel like we’re back where everything fell apart. I’m not sure how we got here. I love him with my whole being but I scared. How can a marriage be sustained when fear takes up permanent residence? I don’t know what a normal marriage is. I don’t know how normal the ups and downs are. Every time we seem to get in a rut with work or other commitments, our relationship suffers from complacency and boredom. Which, I hear, is pretty normal. Why do I feel the need to run away anytime we hit a low point? Can anyone else relate?

    I loved this post for its candor and courage. Best wishes to the author.
    (And, thanks for reading my lengthy comment.)

    • Anne

      I don’t know that I have the same desire to run away when we hit a low point, but you should definitely not feel alone in having ups and downs. I had probably about a year and a half where I was pretty unhappy with my life — it had little to do with my husband, but I essentially took it out on him, or rather, he was the one who really felt the effects of the fact that I was unhappy. The things that were making me unhappy were started by circumstance — not getting funding I should have gotten, having to transfer graduate programs, feeling like working hard wasn’t getting me anywhere — but I had a hard time dealing with them. I’m just starting to come out of that, and although my husband never complained about it, I know it contributed to some of the disagreements we were having. I think part of the way to deal with ups and downs in marriage is as you said, to reflect on whether there are external reasons you might be feeling the way you are. But I also think ups and downs are normal, and being aware of them is what helps you make things better.

    • Copper

      Marriages are all different, because the people in them are different. Maybe try to figure out what’s normal for you, instead of what’s normal for “a marriage” broadly? It sounds a bit like this back and forth may be a part of your normal.

    • KINA

      That’s perhaps the scariest thing – in some ways there is no “normal.” All there is is what’s acceptable to you and what you want out of your marriage. I had serious doubts in my previous long-term relationship, but I had to wait until I was ready, until I had gained clarity., to leave For me (though I wasn’t married), I eventually realized I just wasn’t happy, that our relationship was making me unhappy most of the time, and that just wasn’t acceptable to me. But it’s okay that you can’t figure it all out now. As hard as it is, sometimes I think you have to continue on the journey until you reach that moment where you know it’s time to let go or keep fighting. I hope that helps. Wishing you the absolute best.

    • L

      I wrote the epic comment above, and I relate to a lot of what you wrote. We are in the process of hitting the reset button like you did a year ago, and I worry about what you said, that we’ll fall into the same rut once we aren’t in crisis mode again.

      I highly recommend Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. I’m early in this process, but he talks about how conflict often reveals our issues, but how we act in times without conflict is what glues people together.

      Fixing the latter is more impactful than the former, in his research. As I understand it fixing conflict and communication around that is one step to improving your marriage, but learning to strengthen your marriage when you’re not in conflict or a rut or bored or fill-in-the-blank with negative emotion, that makes the difference. It makes me think that in your months of bliss, the most work can be done. (insert “I’m not a professional” disclaimer here.:))

      • L

        Ugh, that should have said ‘epically long’.

    • C

      Yep, me too. After 3 years of marriage and what seems like more ups and downs than a marriage should have, it’s tough to know when it’s worth sticking around. I haven’t figured it out myself. But last week my therapist gave me some good advice: when you have the urge to quit, stop and notice your mood, your thought pattern. If you’re in a good place mentally and emotionally, then that decision to walk away is coming from your best self. If you want to throw in the towel in times of anger, loneliness, or sadness, you’re letting those negative feelings make the decision for you. Such a big decision should be made when you’re in a good place if possible.

  • Lan

    I love that this site is about marriage and not just weddings! Thank you.

  • Copper

    “It will be the hardest he’s hugged you in a long, long time.”

    Oh. That part hit me hard. When I was leaving a man I’d lived with for 5+ years, even though we weren’t married, that was the same. He let me go because he knew I needed more, and I remember thinking that goodbye hug could never be too tight, and if he’d held me like that every day instead of just at the end, maybe things would’ve been different.

    • Anon

      “It will be the hardest he’s hugged you in a long, long time.”

      That line got me too. I had this hug after 7 years together and 3.5 years living together. I was taken aback by the intensity of that hug but still I remember it. I probably always will.

  • Katrina

    I don’t know why one can feel like it is a failure, but I’ve done so for a while. We got divorced last year and it is only now that I’m feeling like myself again. He was violent verbally, told me I’m nothing and lots of other wonderful things. He was narcissistic, which I didn’t understand but afterwards when in therapy; no wonder we got married so quickly after having met. He charmed me when necessary, then left me alone in moments when I needed someone at my side the same way as I always used to support him. I moved out for a couple of weeks, tried to make him see that he really needs to work on his problems or I can’t keep going. He shaped up for a short while and everything went back to his abuse. Now I’m wondering how I could try to help him for so long, when I lost so much in the process. I don’t regret things, but sometimes wish I had never met him. He took a lot from me without even remotely giving back. I’m also thankful for the fact that there are no kids; I don’t have to deal with him for the rest of my life, but it is a chapter I can close completely. I’m almost done picking up the pieces, suturing back my heart, ready for a new man, but never again at the expense of “me”, of feeling loved and appreciated. If there is any signs at all of me getting the doormat treatment, I’ll be out sooner than you can say “Cheerio!”. It’s pretty fantastic to know one’s self-worth these days. And I will never again think to myself “Wonder what his day was like, will he be in a really bad mood when he comes home?”, because there is something called filtering for the sake of others, optimism over pessimism, kindness and consideration over selfishness. I know, I never was selfish, but he was so for two. I’d rather live alone, childless, than in a crappy relationship.

  • Thank you for this beautiful piece. This is such a common experience, but you hardly notice it among all of the bridal magazines, engagement photos and shiny objects. I’ve had friends go through the same thing who didn’t know how or where to express themselves for fear of being shamed. This will help women everywhere to notice that they’re not alone. Thank you.

  • just A, today

    This post was so moving and so scary to read. My heart goes out to Prudence and I wish her as much support as she needs as she works her way through this difficult situation. And at the same time, this post terrifies me, because so many little things from her post hit a little too close to home for me, right down to dividing up the cats. I’ve been teetering on the brink of this for the last 6, 8 months or so and it is terrifying. It’s so hard to know what to do when your relationship doesn’t meet any of the culturally “acceptable” reasons for ending a marriage – there’s no abuse, no cheating, nothing like that, things are just . . . off. And when you know he loves you, and you love him, but it’s just not working. Take all of the ‘too good to leave, too bad to stay’ stuff mentioned by some of the earlier commenters, and add in a healthy dose of ‘but if I leave, I’ll never be able to have a baby in a reasonable time frame’ (which, yes, I know), and yeah. This post hit pretty hard.

    • Catherine B

      Internet hugs to you too.

    • SarahT

      When I was going through my divorce I broke up all the things I was really scared of and looked at them one by one. I wrote them down, and then they were more manageable. And I kept telling myself I was brave enough, I could do it. I would think about the really hard things until they didn’t scare me so much. At one point I realized one of my fears was not making it financially (we had 4 kids). A light just went on and I thought-if that’s the biggest problem I have I will be ok. And once that phrase was in my mind a lot of the fear went away. Whatever it was I would think-if that’s the worst thing I have to deal with I will be ok. I also read a lot of biographies where people did much harder things, which helped! Hugs to you. From another APW post “You are stronger and braver than you know.”

  • Eliza

    This is heartbreaking, Prudence. But how strong and courageous you are to realize that you need more. All the best to you, from my little corner of the country.

  • Hugs to you! I just can’t imagine. Your happiness is worth it, better days must be ahead. May peace & comfort be yours during this difficult time~

  • Emily

    Thank you. I need this right now.

  • Stephanie

    OH MY GOD. I needed this today.

    I told him yesterday that I want a divorce. He’s bargained it down to a separation + counseling, but I know I won’t be going back.

    And I don’t think I have to. He raped me twice, and yes the last time was over a year ago, but I still hurt. Everyone I know is telling me that divorce is so so bad, and he’s not doing it anymore, so why leave?

    My head is so muddled right now. I just want to find an apartment ASAP, and just stay there for a year, and not talk to anyone.

    • Jeanine

      “he’s not doing it anymore, so why leave?”

      Good God, I am so sorry people are telling you this.

      Protect yourself. Be brave! We are proud and support you!!

      • Copper

        Seriously, who are these people telling you this??

        I completely agree with those saying to get your own counseling. Do not let people badger you into staying with someone that you know is bad for you. Including/especially him.

        • Stephanie

          Our families are super conservative – divorce is never an option. Separation without remarriage is okay. So that’s my background. :(

          I have a couple feminist friends that are helping me, thank goodness.

        • Copper

          You know what’s never an option? Rape. Rape is never an option. You are already deep into not-an-option territory here. And if your family needs to hear that, send them here.

          • EXACTLY.

            Ahem. Also, keep those feminist friends close by. And keep your family’s and non-supportive friends’ opinions far, far away. As much as you love them, they don’t get a say in this.

        • Parsley

          Also, from my experience, I would say that it is totally legit to say whatever you have to say to get out of the situation safely (like, “yes, I will go to counseling with you” or “yes, I will stay in touch with you”) and then set boundaries later that actually work for you, even if they are different than what you agreed to at the time. Sometimes we say what we have to say to escape. And sometimes we don’t actually realize what boundaries we need until after the fact.

    • Aly Windsor

      Sister, rape is a deal breaker. Get yourself individual counseling to help you leave for good. I guarantee you that any kind of life will be better than being married to your rapist.

      • meg

        Much love to what Aly said. Because it sounds like no one may be saying this to you in your flesh and blood life: you don’t owe him separation or counseling if you don’t want to do it. She’s right, get counseling, do what you need to do to give yourself the tools to leave for good. Get out. I’ve virtually got your back (with a knife).

        • Yes. You owe him nothing, and you deserve to get out.

    • Q

      I’m so, so sorry. It’s brave to leave when you know it’s wrong.

      Divorce is hard, but it’s not worse than enduring abuse. Rape is not okay.

      I hope you can find a supportive group of people to help you during this difficult time. Maybe consider talking to a therapist on your own, if for nothing else to have a safe space for an hour every week.

      Good luck with everything. Hugs over the internet.

    • No matter if divorce is “so so bad”– guess what? Rape is infinitely worse.

      Protect yourself, do exactly what you need to, exclude non-supporters from your deepest circle of confidence if necessary.

      Much love and support.

    • Those people are wrong. You are right.

      Here is a list of resources for dealing with violence: In case you want someone to talk to, or logistical support in leaving.

    • Some people we are not meant to share our lives with, in any way (as friends, family, spouses). People who cause physical violence to you, who make that mistake more than once? It’s probably the hardest thing ever and people will throw shaming ideas at you but waking up and not being afraid is worth it. Not worrying about someone else respecting the sanctity of your body and your safety and health? That’s monumental.

    • anon

      Stephanie, from one survivor to another: do what you have to do. Your health comes first right now.

  • S

    From reading all the comments, I now have more questions. I’m happy APW is a place where you can navigate the good and the bad because we all know that everything is not lollipops and gum drops. While the author has bravely shared with us her story and since more pieces on this topic from her (or anyone else) will be written in the future, I’m curious to know in general, how do you know your spouse doesn’t love you? Love Languages were mentioned earlier and while it may seem all self-help “ish”, it does go a long way into learning more about yourself and how you express your love to others. It may not always be in the way we are typically used to. So, how do you know if your spouse is making an effort or not? Could it be that we’re just not patient enough to see it and caught up in fantasyland or “keeping up with the jones'”? Because its ingrained that every marriage is supposed to feel great and there’s such shame in divorce or even admitting that you and spouse are going through a rough patch for fear of seeming like a failure in our society. How do you truly know when to throw it all away when it’s not a clear reason like abuse or cheating? I hope these questions will be explored more here.

    • k

      I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I had two long-term relationships (one six years, one four) both of which I left about two years later than I should have. In neither case did I actually doubt they loved me, as they could and in their own way, but in the end it came down to this: you may love me, but when you also tend to keep your friendships with women on the verge of being sexual (but not quite there), belittle me in public, can’t be relied upon to do what you say you will do or not do what you say you won’t do, repeatedly do things that hurt me despite having been told calmly and directly that they hurt me and then explain how I shouldn’t be hurt (either by the things themselves or that you don’t care enough not to them), then it just doesn’t matter if you love me or not. To hark back to the comments on Manya’s thread about the marriage she should have left, I was miserable all the time and feeling that if I just worked harder I would be less miserable, but I couldn’t conceive of working any harder than I was. So while this isn’t how I came to the conclusion those boyfriends didn’t love me, it’s how I came to the conclusion that they weren’t making anywhere near enough of an effort and it was time to walk away. Hope that helps.

    • I’d point out the difference between knowing someone loves you and actually feeling loved. Especially if you’ve said you don’t feel loved, and the response is something like “that’s your problem, not mine.” Not something I can speak to with any clarity, but I think that difference is very closely tied to Prudence’s post today.

    • meg

      It’s a much deeper story, and I think we need to let Prudence share what she shares here, as a writer, and work the rest out with her therapist. This isn’t a good time for us to ask for a tell all.

      I do, however, think that this fantasyland question is a good question, and one that I’d love to explore here. It’s not at all what’s going on in this situation, but it’s an excellent excellent question to explore. (Though at the end of the day, it’s a question that individuals need to answer in the care of a medical health professional).

    • Jen

      I think love for me is being open and willing to communicate. My partner is the kind of person who hides his feelings and need so this was a big problem for us. We almost broke up about a year ago because h had just hid so much, but he was willing to talk about it and work past it. Even though he still doesn’t express how he feels as much as I’d like, the point is he is trying to and that is why I feel loved because he listened to how I felt.

    • i don’t think it will ever be something you can measure and quantify, but sometimes when you reach the breaking point it is alarmingly clear what the right thing to do is (sometimes it is not). at least, that’s my personal experience from breaking up with someone when we both still loved each other dearly – at some point it simply became clear that while we loved each other (and still liked each other) we had tried everything we knew to do to make the relationship work, and it simply didn’t. it was one of the hardest things i’ve done, and for a while it was a lot harder than staying together had been – i guess what it came down to is that we were out of options. that, and a hope that the drastic change would open us up to better futures. which it did – where she is one of my best friends and we are both happy in our relationships.

    • Copper

      I think one thing that makes this so hard is actually all the freedom we have now, and how it’s redefining what marriage means for us, both as individuals and as a society. It used to be that marriage was your support, it legitimized your adulthood, it was one of those things there was no going back from like virginity or education—you couldn’t unring that bell, you couldn’t unknow that stuff, you couldn’t put that genie back in the bottle. So there’s this perception out there that people “used to work harder at marriage” and well, it’s because they HAD to. And sometimes they were trying to work through things that were just not ok (see a few posts above). But they had to anyway.

      And now we have the freedom to say, you know what, this is too much, too far, or even just not enough for me. I’m done. And we can say that for whatever reason in the world we want, or no reason at all, because we can all survive without marriage now. A woman is a self-supporting unit capable of living without a man. So it comes down to, what are the reasons we have chosen to live *with* them in the first place? What do we each believe marriage is FOR now anyway? And if it’s all about romantic love and warm cuddly feelings, then yeah, that’s something we’re not going to feel all the time.

      But if we can define what that something more is that marriage means to us, that’s the reason we got into this game in the first place, then I’d say the line is crossed when the situation no longer meets our definition of what marriage is to us, what it is for. When we’ve already broken faith with each other in some way, then it’s ok (in my eyes) to dissolve the contract that has already been broken by one or both, because then it really is just a piece of paper.

  • Amy

    Prudence, I love you. Thank you for the gift of sharing this journey. I’m 4 months into my divorce process and am so appreciative that you are sharing your experience.

  • Julie

    You recognized it, tried to work it out. You did do what you could. No guilt or shame in that.

    Least you didn’t stay in that limbo state for long….I did the same; counselling, second guessing, stuck it out. I was in that place for 3 years…..

    Sending virtual hugs!

  • Justanotherblue

    Dear Prudence (ha) I know you must be feeling so many things right now. Five years ago I was in your shoes, ending a 10 year relationship after three years of marriage because it wasn’t awful but it wasn’t right either. I’m thankful that you have a good therapist, and supportive friends to lean on. Many of mine turned their backs on me; I wasn’t being beaten or cheated on, so what was wrong with me that I needed to leave. And how dare I cry about it? You know your own heart and mind, so don’t let others tell you that you lack the right to do what you need to do to feel whole, or to grieve the loss of your relationship even if it was you who had to leave. I hope you find your way to whatever it is you need to be happy. It does get better in time.

  • Anonymous

    My mom told me that when the movers came after the divorce was final, that she and my father hugged each other and cried together. Even though he’s a terrible man who always wants to be in control (he knows what you want to order at the restaurant. No, you definitely won’t like that dish you think you want), and beat her while she was pregnant. Something about the end of a marriage that was so definitely wrong, much worse than the OP’s story sounds, still was sad when it ended.

  • Prudence, thank you for sharing so openly and beautifully. Wishing you lots of love and support in the coming months.

  • Maria

    Oh this brought tears to my eyes. Wishing you strength and peace as you go through this.

  • “Your husband will come pick you up off the floor while you cry, will hold you upright because you’re so far gone you can’t stand. It will be the hardest he’s hugged you in a long, long time.”

    This makes my heart hurt. As someone who makes decisions with my heart and then second-guesses with my head, I know the feeling of wondering if you’ve made a mistake. And maybe that’s not what you felt in that moment but that’s what I have felt and I know it’s hard.

    Thank you for sharing your story and your self. It sounds like you have an amazing support system – take some time to feel the love of all those who love you.

  • Prudence,

    I’m proud of you. What a tough, horrible, awful decision to make.

    If you’re out on the road and need a place to crash in Colorado, hit me up, okay?

  • Katie

    It is so amazing how alone you feel the moment you walk out that door, and then you read pieces like this and realize so many other people have been and are in, the same exact place.

    It took me three years to work up the courage to even admit divorce was a possibility, and another two years of individual and couple’s therapy to make the choice. I was so ashamed, and so scared that I would lose friends that we shared. That the people I loved would judge me and be disgusted. And I’m talking deep, visceral, disgust. I was sad that I couldn’t make it work. We loved each other, and we still love each other, but it wasn’t the kind of love I dreamed about. We were not each others’ other half: we didn’t turn to each other with most of our struggles and fears and hopes. And over time, I came to realize that we didn’t share many core values. Core values that I don’t think I fully appreciated when we began our relationship in college.

    I didn’t tell him that I was choosing to file until I had worked through all of that, until I felt like I had done everything I could do, that he had done everything he was going to do, and that I was willing to risk never having some of the things that I associate with marriage instead of staying in one with him. Even after filing, we didn’t tell anyone. He didn’t want his family to know until it was necessary. I found my own apartment, and scheduled movers, and finally, amidst all that stress, broke down. I needed support and help and love, and so we began to break the news to our families. We had plenty of those long, tight, hug moments in those final weeks, too. Like I said, we still love each other… neither one of us wants to watch the other hurting. But he was not a husband to me, and I’m sure I was not a wife.

    This is a super long post, but I want to say if you are in the same spot, I wish you courage. Divorce is a tough, and often long, road. I hope you can find a way to forgive yourself for having things you need in life, and to not be ashamed of that, because you are human after all. It may not feel like it right now because a sour relationship can affect you, but you are still the same woman who your family and friends love, and that is worth protecting.

  • Tammy

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I needed this so much. Thank you. Hugs, support, and good vibes are being sent to you from me.

  • Liz

    Thank you. I wish I had more words to tell you how much it means to hear your story and maybe someday I will find the words. But for now, thank you.

  • Wonderful writing. Having been there and got the t-shirt, I so get what her friend has said about her trying for so long to stretch and fit – my friend’s similar advice was to tell me I wasn’t Sisyphus so really, why should I condemn myself to rolling that rock up the hill. I think that was the moment that I had my reality check,although only because I was ready, and I think that is the key thing, although Prudence is still heartbroken, she was ready…

  • Guest

    I never knew that unhappiness was a reason to end a marriage, and I wish I had known. I always knew the so, so tired, unloved feeling, and being held responsible for that feeling, but I agreed to hold my own feet to the flame, in my lack of understanding of what happiness was and why it mattered. So I stayed for 18 years.

    In leaving, I gave myself to my children for the first time. I am a whole person. It is so important to be who we really are in the world. Happiness matters.

    In my case, my willingness to numb myself enough to push through came directly from childhood issues where I was asked to do the same thing.

    Healing happens, thank goodness, and articles like this are important for getting the conversation about healthy separation out there, so people know that separation can be a good thing, and not a failure. Thanks for writing about it.