Nine Women Talk About Their Divorces

Best Divorce Advice

Have you ever ended things with a serious partner? We asked nine women about their divorces and separations — the pros, cons and how they made it through. Here are their honest, thoughtful answers (and if you’re up for sharing, we’d love to hear your experiences, too)…

On knowing it was the right decision:

“Our relationship had been going downhill for a while, and we thought a baby was the solution. We tried to conceive naturally, but I was always secretly relieved when my period arrived. We even saw a reproductive endocrinologist, but when the time came to take the medication and schedule the procedure, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Admitting to myself that I didn’t want him to be the father of my child was the final straw.” — Maria, 37, marriage of six years

“At some point I didn’t feel I had a choice — I was so deeply unhappy. We went to therapy for a year, but it only made things seem more hopeless, since so many of our differences were laid bare, and we were unable to surmount them. During this time, we had bought a weekend house, and I was busy furnishing it, finding antiques and picking wallpaper. But then the house was ready, and I realized I didn’t want to actually be there with my husband. That was a wakeup call. My feeling is that if you’re getting divorced, you need to feel that you’d rather be alone than in that relationship.” — Grace, 39, marriage of six years

“I was visiting my mother and had terrible stomach pains after a night out with my kids. I figured I had food poisoning, but my mother insisted I go to the ER. They did a cat scan that was ONLY looking at my belly, but it caught the very bottom of my lungs. There was a three-centimeter mass in the base of my left lung. The cancer was back. I had a lobectomy and five rounds of debilitating chemo. I was blown away, destroyed. I decided that if I lived, I was going to live 100% my way. I didn’t want to work somewhere, live somewhere, or find myself in any situation that didn’t feel spot on. That’s when I knew I had to leave my marriage.” — Casey, 44, marriage of 15 years

On experiencing grief:

“When our marriage was ending, my mind felt like a movie reel of the best and worst times. On days where I missed him, I thought of the good moments — trying to get to the hospital on time for the birth of our children. Or when we’d get breakfast at the diner and we would put our firstborn in a hook-on high chair attached to the gingham table, and we all just laughed and laughed together. You want to shout, ‘Remember when?! Remember when we had these times?!’ The flashbacks are overwhelming. But, then on the days where I was angry or hurt, I thought of the other moments, the times it wasn’t working and would think, ‘Oh, I should have known then’ or ‘How did I not see that?'” — Robin, 50, marriage of 25 years

“The hardest part was letting go of the future we had imagined. We had bought a home and planned to have kids. Ending that dream, and not knowing if I would ever find love again or have children, was in some ways harder than the breakup itself.” — Maria, 37, marriage of six years

“When she left, I was on the verge of tears every single moment of the day. But time passed, and it got to a point where the sadness was every other day. Then it was four or five days. Then it was weeks. You truly never think this relief will happen, but it does, even if it’s in waves. On an especially hard day, my friend who had gone through a divorce told me, ‘Well, now that’s one less breakdown you’ll have. You’ll have only so many breakdowns, and look, you’re one step ahead.’” — Amy, 43, relationship of 15 years

On navigating financial freedom:

“My separation required a lot of strategy, because it was an abusive relationship. Even financially, the split was really difficult to plan because my ex had full control of where the money went — even my paycheck’s direct deposit went to his account. I didn’t have a penny to my name. I work in the service industry so I started stashing my tips away a little at a time, so that I could have a cushion for when the time came. One day, I came home from work to find the cash in a neat pile on the coffee table in front of him. I made up an excuse for what I was saving for, and had to start the whole process over again with a better hiding spot. I had $800 when we finally separated. The day after he moved out, I applied for a credit card, and got approved with a $500 limit. I opened a checking account that he didn’t have access to, and to my shock I was able to afford the rent and bills on my own. I was excited to find I was making a lot more money than I even knew, but also devastated because I had allowed him to convince me that I wasn’t responsible or smart enough to have any control of my finances for so long. I finally recognized myself for the first time in seven years.” — Rachel, 34, marriage of seven years

On newfound independence:

“There’s this scene in Home Alone where the kid Kevin McCallister wakes up after his entire family has left for their vacation without him. And, at first he panics and tears through the house in distress, realizing he is all alone. ‘I made my family disappear,’ he sulks. But then, there’s this moment where he pauses, and really takes in the empty house. ‘I MADE MY FAMILY DISAPPEAR!’ He shouts again, but this time with the widest grin you’ve ever seen as he runs through the house jumping on beds with a bucket of popcorn. That series of emotions is how I feel every morning when I wake up and remember what I’m going through.” — Robin, 50, marriage of 25 years

“The first thing I did was redecorate my entire apartment. I hunted antiques on Craigslist and wallpapered my bedroom. We agreed that he would take the TV and I never replaced it. Instead I did yoga in the spare room and listened to podcasts and audiobooks. Changing the space felt therapeutic and necessary for moving on.” — Rachel, 34, marriage of seven years

“One of my favorite parts of my marriage was holding hands at night after a long day. We would lie there, silent and exhausted, and my partner would place her hand on mine. When I told my sister how THAT was what I missed most, she said, ‘What if you hold your own hand?’ And she exaggeratedly gestured her right hand reaching over and grabbing her nervous left hand. We sat there laughing until tears were streaming down our faces. If that’s not a metaphor for a breakup, I don’t know what is.” — Amy, 43, relationship of 15 years

On talking to kids:

“That moment we told our children? That. Was. Hard. I did a lot of research and wrote a draft of what we would say, which started with, ‘Your dad and I are a really good team when it comes to being your parents, but we are not a good team when it comes to being a couple.’ The minute I said this, my nine-year-old daughter started crying. My heart shattered. Then, not even an hour later, she asked me if she could dye her hair purple. I said yes. On our walk to the salon, I told her, ‘You know that there is probably no other day ever I would have said yes to purple hair?’ With a big smirk on her face she said, ‘Oh, Mom, I know!'” — Tina, 44, marriage of 13 years

“A family therapist helped us strategize how to tell our daughter, and she gave us the great advice that little kids just need to hear the concrete, logistical details about who is living where and where they are going to be, and that we didn’t need to explain our feelings or the decision. Sure enough, our daughter was totally focused on having two apartments, and how exciting that was. We made her a clear physical calendar showing her the weekly schedule so she knew when she’d be at each place. Then, as she grew older, we answered her deeper questions as they came up.” — Grace, 39, marriage of six years

“It’s the time to create new traditions. I started taking my kids on road trips, just the three of us. We would get in the car together, and I would say, ‘Left or right?’ And we would have no idea where we would end up. One time we ended up at The Alamo in Texas. One time we ended up at Mall of America. One time we saw a billboard for a place that said, ‘We have 100 pies,’ and we went and got five pies each. Those trips feel like a lesson for our family: Life doesn’t go according to our plans, but you make the best of it together.” — Stacie, 50, marriage of 15 years

On splitting time with kids:

“The hardest part is that I don’t get to be with my daughter all the time, since my ex and I share joint custody. That has stayed hard. It’s been eight years and I can still get teary when it’s time for her to go to his place.” — Grace, 39, marriage of six years

“To my surprise, what I was most of afraid of turned out to be the biggest perk of this 50/50 co-parenting set up. I was terrified of the weekends where I wouldn’t have the kids. I thought I would be miserable, sitting depressed in my apartment second guessing my life’s decisions. But while I do miss the kids, I am excited to have weekends to myself, to recharge, spend time with friends or simply sit on my couch and read. I had completely forgotten what it felt like to be just me. It’s glorious!” — Tina, 44, marriage of 13 years

On taking a step forward:

“My husband of fifteen years told me he didn’t want to be married any more. I was turning 40, and I had two young kids and a law practice, and it felt like so much change at once. I needed to remind myself what I was made of. So, I started training for a marathon. Who knows why that’s the thing that I chose! I haven’t even ran a half marathon! But, I trained and trained, and when the race came, I ran the entire thing. During those last four miles, my legs didn’t want to run anymore, and there was this disconnect between my body and mind. Every step I told myself, ‘Just pick your leg up.’ I said it over and over, ‘Just pick your leg up.’ It took that moment to realize how much control my mind has over everything else. I finished the race, smiling ear to ear. People were collapsing and crying around me, and I was like, ‘Time for some chicken-fried steak!’ It was a triumphant turning point in my life.” — Stacie, 50, marriage of 15 years

On advice for others:

“This sounds so corny, but this is what you do: you wake up with the sun, you make yourself a spinach omelette for breakfast, you drink a lot of coffee, you put your head down and work, you take a lot of walks, you watch your alcohol intake, you go to bed early. You talk to people. You ask for help. It takes all of what you’ve got to keep going, but you’ll make it through.” — Robin, 50, marriage of 25 years

“When someone tells me they are getting a divorce, I say, ‘CONGRATULATIONS!’ If you’re doing it, you need to be. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. The best thing that could have happened for my kids. And the best thing that could have happened to my ex. Everyone in my family became who they needed to be from this situation. We all became the heroes of our own journey.” — Stacie, 50, marriage of 15 years

Have you gone through a separation? What was your experience? Any advice you’d share for someone going through it?

P.S. A seven-step guide to heartbreak.

(Illustration by Julia Rothman for Cup of Jo. Some names have been changed for the privacy of the people interviewed. And a big thanks to Megan Cahn for her interviews of Maria and Grace.)

  1. I am, and always will be, in love with my now ex-husband. Always. I’m certain of it. I’ll wonder what he does on a daily basis, who he’s met, and if he’s found true love. The good side of me truly hopes that he’ll heal from “so many of his behaviors” in his 61 years; the other side of me simply and selfishly wishes that he’ll heal, and then come back to me…that he won’t find anyone else.

    I don’t know what God has in store for me, or for him, yet I’m supposed to be “excited” for the future. I want a future with him.

    The irony of it all is that I’m the one who wanted our divorce. I knew from the beginning that he would break my heart. I hoped from the beginning that I could be the one for him. I recognized that his reputation within our County left people wondering “why” I would say “yes” to him. Oh, it was so easy to say yes. Three years in (1 1/2 of which was marriage) and something wasn’t right. There were little signs everywhere. I thought that we’d established that his past was his past, and that he didn’t need to have any of his fuzzy behaviors with me. I believed that with a broken heart, I would’ve stayed, no matter what.

    Then, comfort became complacency and we stopped laughing. We stopped telling stupid jokes at 3am in bed. We stopped dancing in the kitchen. We split up our chores, going separate ways on weekends. He stopped looking at me when we were out in public; his eyes wandered. And one day, mine did too. …to his phone.

    There she was: in a text photo. She was in a bikini, smiling, holding up a fish she’d caught. She was there in the emojis: the hearts and the kisses. She was there in the phrase “I can’t wait to see you”. He was there too; he couldn’t wait to see her also. At that moment, I knew that I’d never be enough. This was in early February. In March, I asked him to leave. Six months later, we signed our divorce paperwork, and I’m alone.

    Ladies: you know when it’s time. You know that if you stay, you might be in danger of spending a lifetime filled with unhappiness, or in tirelessly working for someone who was never yours in the first place. Strong women make strong decisions. If this helps: I believe that you’re strong. I also know that you’ll be frightened, lonely, sad and desperate. You’ll negotiate within your heart, soul and mind that you can make it right, because the sixteen other times you tried, you were “this close” to a full reconciliation.

    I am, and always will be, in love with my now ex-husband. Always. That part of my heart is reserved for him. The rest of me, is for me…and the two young men who helped me to be strong in my decision.

    Your children and your family and friends will understand and unconditionally love you. So do I. With Godspeed…

  2. Amy says...

    I have had a very rocky marriage. As long as I remember, my husband, cheated on me, lied, abused, blamed me for everything. Finally after many trial separations, I moved out for good. Sometimes I wonder, why was I taking that abuse from him for so many years just to keep my family together. We have been married 17 years with two kids. I left my kids with him and moved out to my parents living near by. I am trying to be financially independant, so soon I can get my kids to stay with me. We are yet to file a divorce but I guess thats inevitable. He clearly seems to have moved on, as such he was never into me in the first place. My question is why do I feel this grief in my heart? I knew he never loved me. I wonder what could I have tried differently to keep my family intact. The answer is Nothing. I still have not shared with any of my friends, that my marriage has broken apart, although all my family members know amd my side of family totally supports me. Is it normal to feel this way. I keep my self very busy but gosh at 44, it’s like starting your life all over again!

    • R says...

      Oh gosh, Amy. This sounds hard. Sending you love and light.

    • TMAT says...

      Amy, you feel grief over the things you wanted to work. No one who gets married thinks they will one day be forced with the challenge of divorce. We build a life with this person, we share dreams have children build a community around us and one day that all is no more. My grief was for my children, for not being able to keep their family intact. But what I have learned is your children would rather see you two happy and apart than miserable together. It’s okay to feel sadness, a marriage ending is like the death of a loved one and you should mourn the same way. You will go through all the stages of grief at some point, my advise to you is accept whatever stage you are at. If it’s anger FEEL the anger that is perfectly ok! You are going through a life changing gut wrenching event and you have every right to feel how you are feeling just don’t suppress it. Part of healing is moving through your grief and dealing with it head on. You will get through this.

  3. K R B says...

    I have visited this page many times over the past year as I have slogged through the legal system toward my own divorce. My divorce will hopefully (finally!) be finalized next week. I know this is not the case for all, but I am very much looking forward to the end of this complicated, drawn-out, expensive process.

    I would love to see a COJ feature or hear from other readers about how they “recognized” the official end of their own marriages – rituals, “celebrations”, etc. A quick google search on the topic is unhelpful – particularly because in my case, my ex is refusing to be involved in this divorce process (he is basically MIA), but I would still like to mark the day of the finalization with a small meaningful ritual, just for me.

    • Taja says...

      I just read this and saw it’s quite recent. Has it happened yet? Did you celebrate? Hope you came to a peaceful and memorable conclusion!

  4. Rachel says...

    I am so grateful to have come across this page where women are giving each other positive encouragement through such a devastating process.
    To say my soul is shell-shocked is an understatement. My divorce is still underway. I moved across the country, put career goals on hold to marry the person I had been with for seven years (Lived with for four). Six months after the wedding he wants a divorce because I didn’t see what he needed in his depression. If by depression he means right after the wedding becoming hyper-critical, condescending and sexually objectifying…then right. I guess I didn’t handle that well. At some point he admitted needing a wedding to prove something to everyone. I was told I didn’t ‘meet his expectations’ and that my lack of career ambition was why he needed to go. It didn’t matter that I finally had the clearing post-wedding and started going after things again. I still feel crazy that it went from my failing to understand mental health issues – to I never understood him to – we were never a good match/we are so different. It didn’t help to find messages from an older woman who’d ‘got his depression’. Where the hell am I? Starting over again for the second time for one person. He had suggested being friends at some point down the line but how do I reconcile things I’d given up and happy years I thought we had to the monster he became post wedding? This would all make more sense if we had been miserably married for a few years but everything has happened so suddenly and with such cruelty.

    • Tucoya Matheus says...

      @rachel I am four months separated and two months shy of my divorce being final. We were married almost ten years when he told me he wanted to leave. There were times when I blamed myself for him leaving wondered what I did wrong, there were times were he made me feel like I was the reason he was leaving and I was the problem. Trust me when I tell you if you are feeling this way you AREN’T the issue, HE IS. You also can’t make someone stay who doesn’t want to. The very best thing that I can tell you in what feels like the hardest moment of your life is that you will be ok. I know that it doesn’t seem or feel like it now but trust me you will be. Every single day you get through count it as a blessing even if it took everything in you to get through it. I look back on where I was(barely able to get out of bed) and where I am now which is looking forward to my future and if I can do it I know you can too.

  5. Laura says...

    Been divorced 20 years. It is still painful because he wanted out of the marriage. At the same time, I am very happy that I am not with him anymore. It’s funny that he rebounded into another marriage shortly after the divorce finalized as it was like the one he left, only worse. (Greener pastures on the other side of the fence,? so the saying goes. lol). More painful because I was the one to tell my children of the divorce and tell them it wasn’t their fault. Then they betrayed me, by living with their father and stepmother and he had sole custody, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t have visitation, as he was the one to make all the decisions, not me. Today my children are adults, and they blame me for not talking to their father when they were growing up. I did not put myself on that pedestal. If only I could tell them how it all happened. But it will never be, until I am old and frail and forget what I was supposed to do while going up or down the stairs. or its much too late. They don’t appear to care.

  6. Laura says...

    This (original) post came at the perfect time for me, and now I look back on it and want to tell you all how much better life gets after the mess of divorce. My husband left a year ago, and the divorce was final in October. My not even 3 year old son was diagnosed with special needs at the time, and I learned that my (then) husband was sleeping with another mom at our preschool, who was also his acupuncturist— helping him treat mental illness and trauma. It was a mess.

    Fast forward to now, and my heart has healed so much. I’m so happy to not need to care for my mentally ill ex-husband. My son is thriving. I keep catching myself laughing, and it really did take a whole year for that. I did all the paperwork, repainted and arranged our house, and sold all of the furniture from my marriage. My career is thriving, and I’m just starting to dip my toe into the dating pool. So….I’m grateful. I have a feeling the future will be really, really bright. Ladies, I want you to know that it can get so much better, even when the love you really, really wanted to work ends.

    • Amy says...

      Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for sharing this! You are giving me so much hope for my future. I’m so glad that life is working out. I wish you every happiness. You deserve it all.

    • Sarah says...

      Thank you for sharing this Laura! Similar boat as you it sounds…
      It’s funny, when this post originally came out I was so torn (and even commented here about it!) as to what to do with my marriage. Now, 9 months later, I just signed the separation agreement and feel a relief I haven’t felt in 13 years. Not going to lie, the last 5 months have been brutal, and the last 2 weeks in particular (as we were signing and moving out of our marital home with our toddler son) have been sad in a way I didn’t expect. But, I know things get brighter. I know I will be okay. I know this was the right choice. And, I am so thankful I found the courage to walk away from something I know could never fulfill me or make me happy in the way I truly want to be.

    • TMAT says...

      I am two months separated from my husband and every single day feels like it’s never going to end. We have been married 10 years and have two boys. He is insisting on a divorce(he has recently met a woman who is also separated from her husband) and I suspect she has alot to do with his decision in leaving. I’m heart broken. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel but right now all I see is darkness. I have been attending therapy and even found a divorce support group full of woman with similar stories. Just hope one day to not feel like this….

    • C says...

      TMAT – I’m so sorry that you’re feeling that way. My divorce situation is long and complicated and there have been times when I felt like I couldn’t keep going. But each time I’ve felt like that I’ve looked back and realized how far I’ve come, and every day is another day forward towards hopefully healing. Sending you good thoughts — you should be proud for finding yourself the therapist and support you need to get through.

    • Juliet says...

      Thank you so much for this. My husband just told me 5 days ago he doesn’t want to be married to me anymore. We are still living together for the time being and it’s all I can do to get out of bed every day. So much is up in the air, all the practical considerations of a separation, and I don’t know how I am going to face it while dealing with this heartbreak that is bringing me to my knees. October 2 would have been our tenth anniversary. I will turn 50 two weeks after that.

    • S says...

      Thank you, Laura <3

    • heather says...

      Laura, there same here. The first post came out a month after I kicked my husband of ten years out of the house. I’ve visited this post so many times in the past year, re-reading the comments from the women and just feeling not alone. I spent the year dealing with the awful feeling of not wanting to get divorced, not wanting to tear my family apart and put my children through the trauma, and not being able to possibly consider staying with a man who kept showing me that he was not capable of honesty, faithfulness, and commitment.
      I’m now five months past the divorce. While the divorce felt like a death, life now feels like a re-birth. Getting divorced was the most excruciatingly and awful thing that I’ve ever gone through – and it was the absolute best decision. I am so much lighter without the weight of a dysfunctional marriage. My career is also thriving, I am closer than ever to my strong and resilient children, and I have joy in my life again. It’s been a long road, but the light and joy on this side are worth it.
      Ladies, if you’re going through this – keep going. My heart is with you in the darkness and the light on the other side.

  7. I misread the title of this article, and thought it was “Nice Women Talk About Their divorces.”

    I laughed aloud when I realized my mistake.

    I love hearing nice women talk about things.

  8. Eleonora says...

    When I saw this article, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was just what I needed, as I had recently broken up with my boyfriend of 4/5 years, at 37. It was a dark period and I was so closed up, retreating in grief, seeing only very close friends, I couldn’t get myself interested in anything. I am better now, I just restarted writing (my journal, and a letter to my ex), I guess it’s part of the healing process. And of course I wanted to write to thank Cup of Jo and its wonderful readers for their profound and helpful post and comments.

  9. Bernadette says...

    I know this post happened long ago, but my boyfriend recently broke up with me, and I found myself perusing CoJ’s breakup posts. Our relationship had been rocky (we’re both in law school…amidst other things). Anyway, it was still such a shock, and I’ve been feeling so abandoned and jaded lately.

    Anyway, I just needed to know that this deep ache of sadness would end and that such heart wrenching pain was normal. I was so taken with Robin’s list of what you do. I copy-pasted it to my sticky-notes on my computer, and whenever I feel like I am about to burst or I start feeling that pre-deep cry breathing coming on or I just feel so deeply sad that someone I loved so much didn’t have it in them or I feel confused by the answers that just can’t be answered, I read her words. Each time I focus in on a different motion or action she lists, and I remember that the heart heals and the growth and pain is a sign of the beauty of being vulnerable and willing to take a risk and love. But her clear list of steps to get through the day and allow time pass is such a needed reminder.

    I find myself re-reading the comments and break-up posts, and sometimes I feel like I’m wallowing, but then they also feel like the most supportive shoulders. Thank you!

  10. Eva says...

    I am currently just filing for separation. My husband lied to me for many years due to gambling and I had to a take control of the finances. Even though I definitely stopped loving him around that time, we had 2 babies already, so I figured he would get help, we would pay off debt and move forward. Cut to a few years later. We now have a 3 and 6 year old. He was just dx with bipolar. He is on his own journey with taking meds, not taking them, being delusional and angry. I want to be free so badly but I worry about my kids all the time. And I also enjoy where we currrently live because it’s our home and easy for me to get to work. Sadly, I cannot support home on my own. So lately I’ve been completely in a miserable funk of 1. Divorce 2. Bipolar stuff and worrying about if my kids will inherit 3. Moving. 4. Realizing that I’ve focused so much on my young kids and my husband these last 6 years, I don’t have many friends. We just got out of debt and I was looking forward to travel but now have to pay lawyers for a separation. I’m scared always. Crying always. My family is a bit sick of me really, and I don’t blame them. Everyone says I will be happy again once we are separated and I’m on my own with kids. But I don’t know if that is true. I will be 40 in 1 year and feel like everything I’ve worked for is either going away or will be Constantly tainted by my husband and his diagnosis. Everyone is giving me tons of advice but I wish I had someone to hug me and tell me that no matter what, it will be better. I will do well. I really need encouragement right now more than advice.

    • Amy says...

      I don’t know if you’ll see this but I just wanted you to know that I am going through a very similar situation. I have no advice. I’m not sure if/when it gets better. It’s just so hard and I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Sending love and strength ?

  11. Audrey says...

    I came back here today, after commenting on the original post because, well, I’m having a bad day. I managed to do some positive things over the weekend: painted the rooms in our house that felt the most “his” or “ours”; rearranged furniture … and was feeling ok about that. Then, the lure of social media, and posts from friends catching him on tour, having a meal before a show … and I feel it all over again: sad/lonely/unable to accept that after 25 years he just up and walked out with no real explanation — just left. truth is, I’m painting and rearranging furniture because I’ll probably have to sell the house. He got a fair amount of money out of me and my years of hard work. and I got … left behind

    • Meredith Ketts says...

      I hope that in time, you don’t feel left behind. Maybe this is a gift to find your own feet firm on the ground, on your own path. I am grateful for my divorce 8 years ago, I wasn’t expecting it either. I love my life even more now and I don’t think anyone could make me feel abandoned again because I found that everything I need for happiness is within. Good love to you.

    • Erika says...

      I’m so sorry. After 11 years of marriage and 5 years of divorce, I still have bad days, too. And I always will. But let me say this: don’t give away your power. Own it. Own your good days and own your bad days. And then fix them, if you can. If you can’t, then just get to the next day.

      And it is okay to sell the house. I had to, and that fresh start was the best thing I ever did to move my life forward. It doesn’t have to be a negative.

  12. My husband left me nearly 2 1/2 years ago and our divorce is finally in sight. While the huge waving red flags began during our less than one-year dating period before we married, I was attracted to my mind, he to my body, mind and spirit, and I thought the kinks would work themselves out after we married. The second red flag was on our wedding night and the day after. He somewhat coldly said we couldn’t go to breakfast at this quaint inn in the heart of a scenic tourist area. We needed to return home so we could go to work the next day and he could also attend his college class as part of finishing his bachelor’s degree. No time for breakfast after our disappointing, slam-bam, go to sleep after his satisfaction wedding night?! The dissatisfaction not only increased, we chose to have two children — our happiest, smartest project together — and although I realized he was an extreme introvert who excluded me from most of his activities, we stayed together until he became a drunk-at-night, executive-by-day, drunk-all-weekend alcoholic, which he blames the marriage for. Our divorce decree will be three moths before our 40th anniversary. I’m okay most days, wouldn’t want him back. I don’t work, so he pays my rent, health insurance, car payment and car insurance until I am 65 around the date of our divorce. Life is improving, onward!

    • Eva Lopez says...

      Wow! I can’t believe your marriage was 40 years! I’m in 31 and mine is ending and that’s pretty long too. I’m scared and happy tho. Eva

  13. saranis says...

    When my heart was broken, and by broken I mean hit-by-a-truck devastation, I ‘happened’ (I believe it was divine intervention, I really do), to see an article somewhere like the NYT’s that said science had proven that heartache/grief/emotional pain, etc, was a legitimate form of measurable physical pain that was greatly helped by pain killers even if just two aspirin. So I would go as far through the day as I could and when I was too overcome to continue, I’d give myself permission to take two aspirin and go to bed. And it helped so much.

  14. Anne says...

    I am in the midst of a divorce from my husband of almost 8 years. We were together for about 6 years prior to that. No kids. It has been the most awful experience of my life. Our relationship had been bad for a long time, with lots of emotional abuse — but then it got worse with physical abuse starting in 2015. He convinced me that I was trying to sabotage his success even though I’d dedicated myself to helping him and had financially supported him for years as he tried various business ideas. He came into the relationship telling me that he has suffered from depression since childhood, and then decided that I suffered from anxiety/OCD and pressured me into agreeing and going to therapy. He tried to leave me a few times and I begged him to stay, promising him that I’d work harder to be less anxious. Things got better for a few years but by late 2017, we were hardly talking and I knew he had to be sleeping with other women because of the way he’d told me I’d ruined his life and we basically weren’t married anymore. While he was out of town, a male friend of mine confronted me about his feelings for me and how he could tell I was miserable. I hesitated but then began to see him romantically, an affair which lasted maybe a week or two until my husband found out. Shortly thereafter, I discovered troves of evidence of my husband’s two, months-long affairs (2015 and 2018) as well as evidence that he’d slept with another woman just prior to our wedding. This was vindicating and devastating. I moved out so that he could stay in the house and try to sort out his next steps, since he’s financially insecure. He spent the next many weeks tormenting, harassing, and being downright evil to me, my family, and my friends. He also went into a psychiatric hospital after attempting suicide multiple times and laid all the blame on me. I’ve spent a ton of time examining my role in all this, because I don’t want to fall into the emotionally lazy “what a cheating jerk!” mindset, which lets me skip over the full range of personal growth I deserve. What has been most powerful in my journey is the realization that he has Borderline Personality Disorder, something I’d barely heard about until recently. It explains how he was so passionate and charming but also so abusive and hurtful. I feel guilty for leaving him, silly as that might sound, because he’s sick and no one is stepping up to take care of him. I took care of him for so long and couldn’t figure out how to ‘fix’ him — but now that I know what’s wrong, I feel bad for leaving him even though all of my intuition says that I have to save myself. I can’t even guess how long it would take him to accept this diagnosis, much less get treatment for it. And it’s not my fault that he has this. That took me weeks to say. It’s not my fault. It can’t be my job to be his caretaker any longer, I’m so tired and he’s been really awful to me. But I want him to get help and still care about him. Some of the thoughts shared here have been so helpful to me — around trusting your body (my gut ALWAYS told me I deserved better), having faith it’ll get better, and knowing that I’m not alone. I hope CoJ addresses this topic more soon, because it’s not discussed with this degree of nuance and grace in hardly any public forum. There are a lot of us out here dealing with not only infidelity but also mental illness, which adds such a complex layer of emotion to marriage.

    That male friend of mine is an incredible empath who has spent countless hours supporting me through this, and I’m very much in love with him. He is the kind of person I now accept that I deserve.

    P.S. Another shout out to Esther Perel, whose State of Affairs book is groundbreaking. She is a visionary.

  15. Courtney Andresen says...

    I recently helped my best friend through a divorce. Like AH said, managing her family’s reactions was incredibly challenging for her. I felt like she had experienced a death. It is awful to see someone I love hurt so intensely.

    She found an app called Mend, which is a self care app for heartache, very helpful. It held her accountable to take care of herself. I’m glad she had a daily helper to get through the difficult time. I only share because what a crazy world we live in that there is an app for everything! Hopefully others will find it helpful during difficult times and prioritize healing themselves.

  16. Lori Marie says...

    When I was in my late 20s, I lived with someone for 4 years. I always assumed that he was going to be my life partner. One morning while reading the news, without looking up, he said, “I don’t want to live with you anymore.” I thought the world had ended. Really I did. I was ill with anguish.
    About 20 years later, I was having lunch, catching up with a couple friends from that era. Their conversation turned to him/what he may be doing now. I COULD NOT EVEN REMEMBER HIS LAST NAME. One foot had gone in front of the other until when I looked back over my shoulder, I had truly moved on. We had a good laugh.

    • H says...

      Hi Lori,
      I have to tell you something…I keep coming back to this post to re-read your comment often. Having experienced something similar recently (late 20s, long-term relationship ending, me devastated), I take great comfort in your words. Right now it feels like the world is collapsing, but I know with time it will just be part of my journey. Thank you for sharing xx

  17. Anon says...

    I am so sorry to hear this…
    It seems to me that many times this happens…
    Families sometimes react like it was all your fault and that you should have never let this happen. Especially when they appreciated your partner.
    It seems to me that it can be rough on them because they too are losing a son in law or a brother in law and they too have shared some love and life expectations with your partner.
    But there must be a way to show appreciation to the ex and still support to you.
    They shouldn’t have to choose, love is love. It’s not because your relationship with him was over, that they would stop love and be caring for him.
    But they should be able to support you, respect your choices and your grief and really be there for you.
    Sometimes wonderful people do not get along.
    I find that when it’s best for both partners to separate, it’s not a failure of love, it’s still love in it’s the best expression (wishing the best to the other).

    • AH says...

      I love this: “I find that when it’s best for both partners to separate, it’s not a failure of love, it’s still love in it’s the best expression (wishing the best to the other).”

  18. Cindy says...

    1.5 years after my almost 12 year relationship ended (and truly broke me), I finally ventured out into the dating world at 47 years old. After meeting Mike on (after a few other meet-ups with men I didn’t consider partner material) I thought “yes! I found him!”. And he felt the same way. We became exclusive, vacationed together, loved spending time with each other. After almost a year of dating, I moved in with him. Last year, he bought a house and we moved into that together. I had surgery and he helped me recuperate. I thought I could finally trust him after holding back for so long. Then, on May 12, 2018, I found a picture…and it wasn’t me. I found more pictures, hundreds of texts, proof of phone calls made and received, picture/video messages sent. I found out he was planning on seeing her at the end of May when he travelled to Charlotte NC on business; actually he was extending his trip to see her. I found out he had booked a flight to Charlotte for March 2-5, changed it 40 minutes later to Raleigh/Durham (that’s where she lived closest to) and then reserved a one-bedroom lakeview balcony suite at the Umstead Resort Spa close to RD. He was spending almost $3000 on the room alone. For 3 nights with another woman. I found out he had met her on October 20, 2017 when away on another business trip in Alabama. Claims it was totally innocent; nothing physical happened; he was simply helping her out. Then he admitted it made him feel good that a younger woman was interested in him and valued his opinions. He can’t understand that she saw $$ when meeting him. He isn’t shy about telling people what he makes and that he is very successful. She has a fiancé and an 8-year old son (whose father is in prison). Of course she wanted a savior, a financial benefactor. She did in fact get money out of him and tried to get him to buy a “vacation home” in her area. She tried to get him to extend his trip even longer to spend more time with him. She is still trying to contact him by email, phone, text, IM, etc. What hurts me the most is the time he took away from me and us by giving it to her. To this person that meant nothing; that he had no history with; that did not value him at all. Also, that he had these communications with her while he was sitting next to me in our home; while we were on vacations together; while i was trusting him and never thinking he would ever EVER do anything like this (his ex-wife cheated on him and he swore he would never do that to anyone).
    I am in the process of deciding what to do: stay or go. If I stay, I have to accept that he may do this again. When someone shows you who they are, believe them. BELIEVE THEM. He has shown me he is a betrayer, a liar, a dishonest and dishonorable man. I deserve better, I know. If I go, I have to start again, at 50 years old. I don’t know if I have it in me right now. I don’t know if I can do either right now. I feel so lost. I feel so defeated. I feel like such a fool.
    He is still lying to me; I believe in my gut he is still communicating with her. He refuses to call her and tell her IT’S OVER; LEAVE ME ALONE; I LOVE MY GIRLFRIEND; WHAT I DID WAS A MISTAKE AND SO VERY WRONG. But if he loves me like he says he does, shouldn’t he do that willingly?

    • Sam says...

      Oh I am so sorry to hear. I was in exactly the same situation a bit over one year ago. Found pictures, airplane tickets and all the prove. I confronted him and still he kept lying that nothing physical happened. Did not know what to do and wanted to have a time out for a bit. During that time out the decision was made for me since he bought an expensive house for his mistress where they still live together. I am still struggling putting the pieces together but when time goes by it gets better and better and there are some days that I feel happy again. Eventually it is their loss because he is missing out on time with our little kid and she is with a liar and betrayer. They deserve each other and they will get their karma and hopefully one day I will find someone who respects me because I deserve better and so do you.

    • Sam says...


    • Lesa says...

      RUN RUN RUN as far away from that horrible snake as you can. He is still lying to you and will keep cheating. Of course he is still communicating with her and sleeping with her, and probably other women too. I’m so sorry for your pain. You only have this one life. Spend all your energy taking care of your heart!!!!!! RUN!!!!

    • Mica says...

      I don’t make a difference between physical and emotional. So what if nothing physical happened? If you are thinking, dreaming, wanting another person, that is betrayal nonetheless.

  19. beth says...

    I am in the midst of a separation/divorce right now. It’s not my choice, and it’s very painful for me and my 5 year old son. I’m realizing how much I have put up with the last 7 years with my husband, his disrespect and minimizing of my work and time has become toxic. I think I will emerge better and stronger, but right now it’s just a lot of sadness and anger. The worst part is that it’s affecting my ability to be the best mother I can be, because I am constantly disappointed and hurt by someone I thought was my partner.

    I’m mostly commenting so that I can follow along on this topic in the coming weeks/months/years. Thank you xo

    • I haven’t started the separation process but I really empathize with what you wrote. I also worry about how divorce will affect my daughter, but I feel strongly that in the long run, it will be much better for her not to witness the ways my husband shows his disrespect and antagonism for me. Internet hugs to you if you want them.

    • KW says...

      I was you.
      My son was 6. We had been married 15 years and my husband at the time decided he no longer wanted Our Life.
      It was difficult but I/we survived.
      My son is now 16. He and I have a very strong bond. His dad and I went back to being friends… in the beginning. Lots of people don’t understand this. But, I see it as evolution. The reasons for walking away are perhaps easier than if there’d been an affair.
      My son gets a first hand look at how separations can work. This is important because, statistically, he will probably not stay married. Yes, I think he’s a bit wary of relationships. However, I’m not entirely certain that’s not a bad thing. Lack of privacy, too much trust, over sharing are all issues young people seem to experience these days.
      Look at this as a New Chapter. An opportunity for a life you can craft for yourself and your daughter.

    • Jq says...

      I see you mentioned you were following your initial comment, Beth. First, love that. :) Love to you. I have a question then, since you’re tuned in to this comment. I hope CoJ continues to talk about divorce and marriage situations because it’s so important. I’m hopeful they will because I think this article hit a lot of nerves in so many of their readers (450+ comments, and I got that feeling of yes. thank you, guys. when I was reading it. I’ve been checking in daily for like 8 years now. What abotu you? :) Anyways, what would you say is a good gift for a close friend who’s going through divorce? Like a house warming gift. She just moved in with her 7 year old daughter, and my son and I are visiting for the first time on Monday. I want to bring a gift, but feeling a little stumped. My gifts can’t just be something general, I want to nail it because she means a lot to me and her ex husband just so happens to be MY husband’s longest childhood friend. (We all still live in the guys’ hometown). So I feel like I could easily be paired on “his” side even if she was a bridesmaid in our wedding (so was he;) ) and I know once we’re in the same room (we had coffee a few months ago) we are like clicked, friends, no doubts and it’s all good… but I think she might have some reservations about really opening up to me (of course!) because of my continued proximity to her ex husband. But I pride myself on being a caring friend and I show that in little personalized texts or gifts that speak to my personal relationship with them, so she has nothing to worry about in terms of personal things she wants to tell me. I literally want to get something made that says Team Avery so she knows my true allegiance lol just between girls, you know haha like, no worries.
      Anyways, I’m even thinking like a wind chime, something to make her new space feel HERS. I’m going to frame a small little frame of her daughter when she was a baby, but I’d like to bring something else too. Dinner maybe. Any suggestions? I am only asking because this CoJ article has continued to stick with me so much, and google pissed me off to no end with the two results I clicked on for “gift guide newly divorced woman new house” being completely worthless (thumbs down):

      All the best to you,

    • Caroline McGrath says...

      JQ, to your question about a gift: I just moved into my new apartment with my 8 month old last week. I think a beautiful gift to give to your friend with a little girl would be a gorgeous, soft, cozy throw blanket to snuggle up with on the couch. I know it might not be what you were quite thinking as far as letting her know you’re “on her side,” but it will go a long way into making her (and her little girl) feel at home. As for something that screams “Team Avery”: tell her you are. Be explicit. Tell her you love her and support her in this and everything, and that, despite your husbands’ relationship, you’ve always thought of her as a close friend. Showing that through gifts is a lovely thought, but in a time like this, you really want to, and often need to, hear it. Then offer your help in any way, but be explicit: offer to babysit, play date, cook dinner, take her out, pick up groceries, fold laundry, listen to complaints, scrub her bathroom! You’re a good friend in putting so much thought into this, and she’s lucky to have you. Tell her you love her and that you’re proud of her (whether or not she initiated the break up, she’ll want to hear that). Best of luck!

  20. AH says...

    One of the hardest things about divorce can be how your family reacts. You hope that your parents/siblings/extended family support you no matter what, but that doesn’t always happen. My divorce brought out the best in some people, and the worst in others. I was extremely disappointed in my parents during my divorce, and I felt alienated and worthless for a long time after. They loved my ex, and they often made me feel like they wished he was their child instead of me. I knew I was losing my spouse when I divorced, but not the relationship with my parents. My relationship with my parents has improved, but I have realized that their love is not unconditional. I know that my divorce was hard on them too, but to me, they forgot their role as my parents. Anyway, I just think that for some people, the family dynamic can be one of, if not the worst part about a divorce. It definitely was for me.

  21. Lesa says...

    I have been a divorce attorney for 20+ years and I have so much compassion for what people go through when they decide to get a divorce. I’m divorced myself and know how painful it is to make that decision. I have watched countless people grow and blossom through the process though, and the mature ones learn to be good co-parents (it takes both of them!). Kids do best when their parents can sit together in the stands watching them play ball (or whatever), acting like friends, especially when the new partners come along and they all sit together. It takes real maturity to put the kids first.
    We also try and find the humor in every divorce case we handle – it is so good to laugh through the tears. I’ve had many clients say they had no idea they would laugh so much going through a divorce. I’m happy I can bring a little sunshine to a tragic situation. The bottom line is that we only have one life – being in an unhappy marriage is such a waste of precious time. You can be happy again. Take care out there!

    • Pearl says...

      No one mentioned the practical side of divorce. What advice would you give a recently separated couple with no children about how to negotiate the divorce process?

  22. Jess says...

    I was with my ex-fiance for 10 years from the age of 20. We broke up nearly 4 years ago and remain friends.
    We had always been best of friends. But we stopped growing together and didn’t “do the work” when things became stunted. Companionship just wasn’t enough, not at such a young age. I had began my Masters, changed careers and had less time for the relationship. We had always worked around his schedule and overseas trips as he was from the other side of the world. We stopped working through things together and the pendulum swung too far to the independent and separate side.
    When he told me he didn’t want to have kids anymore I said we needed to talk about it and I needed to think about it and whether we could really have a future together. Deciding to end the relationship was HARD. I took a week overseas to process things and whilst I’d made my decision I still had many doubts. I even suggested getting back together about 4 months later. I partied a bit in the months that followed and ended up in a bad, short-term relationship. But eventually I picked myself back up, invested in myself, my health and career and things turned around. Now my life really is on track for what I wanted for my future. It was a process, definitely, but I learned sooo much and it was the right thing to do.
    Be courageous, true and remember that this too shall pass. Listen to your gut instinct. And you CAN end a relationship in a way that means you don’t destroy all ties with the person. Whilst we weren’t the right life partners and parents of each other’s children, he is my friend and that is all I could have hoped for.