86 thoughts on “Your Lessons

  1. This is a “learning about myself and about marriage in general” lesson.

    I am the kind of person, that when I set a goal, I make it happen. My top goal had always been to have a good marriage. I put my all into making that happen. I gave everything I could give. i did all I could do.

    When, at the 19yr mark in the marriage, my husband made the decision to leave for another, I got slapped in the face with the reality that I didn’t have control over making a marriage work, no matter how much I wanted it or how hard I tried. If one person wants to end the marriage, the other person doesn’t get a vote. It’s going to end. Period.

    My lesson learned was that it takes two people to want a marriage, for it to work. It only takes one to end it, no matter what.

    I had to shift my idea of what I had control over and what I didn’t. If it involves another, I don’t have control over the outcome. I can influence, but I can’t control it.

    Another major lesson for me was learning to ask for help. I was use to being pretty independent and being the one giving to others. Now, as a single parent, raising our daughter, with ex-husband moving across the country, and my not having any family around, I had to humble myself and ask for help. I couldn’t reach around everyting by myself. It wasn’t an option. This was a lesson in having to get comfortable with asking and receiving help.

    Both of these were tough lessons in reality. I had to adapt, integrate and adjust to both. Not an option. Definitetly was a time for putting on those “big girl panties” and to grow and move forward.

    1. I know that I tried very hard to make my marriage work at considerable sacrifice for over 30 years. What I couldn’t ultimately see was the pain I would face following its total collapse. I doubt I will ever permanently recover and this is difficult to admit, but the pain from the emptiness, the regrets and the injustices I endured will likely shave years of my life. It is astonishing how noticable physically I seem to be falling apart. I’m aware of many of the issues and remain focused on them all. Yet, the struggle feels overwhelming and I’m slowly giving up. Knowing what I know now I still don’t think the knowledge would have saved the relationship in terms of making it better. I just might have been better at living with it. The major lesson is this: Most couples succeed in many ways in partnership, finding homes, raising kids, caring for pets, paying the bills and wading through chores and holidays. But the other side is tending and nurturing the personhood of the other. This does not mean one has to embrace the things that define the other, like a love of sports, gardening, camping etc. But both people do need to embrace the ‘nurturing’ part of it. This needs to be constant and it has to provide for new passions that come along the way. I think people over simplify this using terms like ‘compromise’ or ‘unconditional’ love. That is frankly too vague. A couple needs to separate the relationship into partnership and personhood. Those terms are definitive. Each person must understand the components of what these mean. A partnership implies mutual agreement in an endeavor, but its components also involve, feelings, negotiations and the ‘process’ of that expression. This is what a couple must devote time to early in a relationship. They must see the importance of partnership with an instinct the other trusts and convey it each other. Then there is phase II – personhood. It’s less important to grasp all the complicated things that make up personhood – people are complex, funny, irritating and beyond. Allowances have to be made for this, and that comes from the nurturing. It comes from recognizing the ‘charm’ in having to tell your spouse its garbage day every single Friday for 30 years, and complaining about it the exact same way every time. When you see the charm you feel the comfort in oneness. This is what I always thought Erma Bombeck recognized. The one thing some women never get is how much men lov’INGLY’ enjoy rolling their eyes about something their spouse does when talking among themselves. If they understood the inherent ‘Erma Bombeck’ that lies within the soul of many men it becomes easier to understand the importance of nurturing, and therefore doing it. Sadly, it is only through the pain of my failures I figured this out. A successful and functional partnership absent of the personhood nurturing leaves behind the frustrating search for emotional support giving birth to the winless power struggle pushing you over the cliff of desperation and into the abyss of regret. Self-esteem takes a huge hit, or worse, a rigidity from that point on that eats you alive.

      1. You have some lovely insights. Are you channeling dear Erma?:)

        The pain from the collapse of such a long relationship is absolutely intense, but it does not have to be permanent. It sounds as though a good step for you might be to forgive yourself. Remember that it doesn’t always need to be a struggle. When trying to stay above water, sometimes you dog paddle and sometimes you float.

    2. Caterina this so resonates with me. I too found out I had no control when the other person wants out. I am raising my daughter alone but luckily have my parents to help. I can’t imagine doing it without their help.

  2. um … what lessons have i learnt ? … that believing all will work out because it happens – after being in an abusive marriage for 18 years i could have just become a sad statistic … but i got out and now am happily with my partner and yet have never felt so free so confident and just so happi ~x~

      1. yes… it does but i am so glad i took the chance – the worst was that i had to leave my three oldest with my abuser … but thank god they came back to me – we have had such a good weekend just chilling and laughin x.

  3. I cannot say I learned anything. I found the courage to get a divorce after 36 years of abuse, and am the moderator of an abused survivors group. I wrote about my life and won a scholarship, and am a Freshman at the University where I work. I have written my memoir, Ghost Child to Triumph and my poetry book, Sanctuary of the Soul……..where I put a lifetime of suffering into pages. My endorsements take my breath away: Elie Wiesel, Wayne Dyer, Nikki Giovanni, Drs. Alice Miller, Larry Dossey (14 in all)….the only fear I ever had was that of being alone and after 7 years it is just as painful. I believe we are here to make a difference, and I have been working like a “Trojan” to get the message out there regarding verbal abuse. I made a YouTube Video and my story was i more than 1 newspaper……www.churchabusepoetrytherapy.com…what happened to me because of the divorce……..almost 20,000 hits now, not only did I go thru a divorce (excruciating), but I had to fight a whole church who voted me out of membership, with my name up on a big screen, followed by the words, “Conduct Unbecoming a Child of God.” Called to a meeting of deacons and asked “Are you still havng sex with your x?” No boundaries (I had allowed him to live in my house following divorce. I fought the spiritually abusive system for 18 months to try and stop the pastor (of disaster, LOL) from “counseling’ any more women going through divorce, because 2 of his “counselees ” were suicidal because of his skills!

    Feel free to contact me, anyone…..am not too techie, so won’t be able to find this site again, probably! e-mail: carleton@oakland.edu

    Kind Regards, Alice
    Over comer, wounded healer, Veteran, student at age 65, moderator of abused survivors group, dancer, singer, author, etc.:)
    http://www.soulpoetry.org (poems of anguish, healing, hope, comfort and celebration)

  4. I was in a relationship with my first husband for 5 years, and only married for one of those years. He was verbally abusive and extremely manipulative. I thought that the day that I made the decision to leave was the best day of my life. No longer did I have to:

    Be confident that he would approve of my words before they were spoken
    Ensure he would approve of my clothing choices
    Avoid speaking to other men
    Keep my feelings inside – to avoid a fight

    I will be the first to admit that I had an extreme amount of anger and resentment built up after our divorce. I was finally free, and was not going to let another man have any amount of control over my thoughts, feelings, and being.

    I soon realized that the anger I was harboring was like poison within me. With a lot of conscious effort I turned that anger into motivation to live a happier life. I let it go. The day I decided to let it go and live my life free from anger….THAT DAY was in fact – the best day of my life 🙂

    1. Thank you for your story, I read it in full tonight. One month ago, upon returning from an out of town job, I discovered my wife and another man together in our home. I am at the 30 day point of realizing my marriage is over. We separated and I have moved into an apartment while we contemplate our next steps. This is not the first case of infidelity on her part, five years ago a similar affair became a domestic nightmare when her lover’s wife discovered it, called me (again, out of town on a job) with the news then proceeded to harass and stalk our family for over a year. I think the crisis then made me aware of many problems in our relationship impacted by the demands of my job and both of our psychological makeups. But when you are attacked by an outside force, a man’s instinct is to protect his family at all costs. A huge problem I see now, looking back, is that the actual causes of her infidelity on both our parts were not dealt with effectively. I could forgive, but never forget. I became disassociated, and less attached to our marriage in a mental and physical way. (Who needs the hurt?) This of course only produced a corresponding detachment on her part, which she sought to cure by going out with “the girls,” drinking and seeking gratification for those things I could not, or would not, provide her willingly.
      Finding her in bed with another man was shocking, but not entirely unexpected. The scene played out like a bad TV movie, and my initial reaction was that of “well, that happened!” and dismay, before the anger, pain and depression set in later. The signs had been there. In fact, I suspect she may have wanted – consciously, or not – to be caught in the act, and maybe staged the event. I was coming home that night, for Christ’s sake, and she knew it. Four months ago, right before Christmas, she sent me text messages while she was out, perhaps we should separate, we didn’t wait long enough before marriage, etc. I became so furious with this texting, I demanded she come home and confronted her with fury. How dare she! Break up with me like a teenager after 12 years?? Our marriage could have ended that night. I sat on the couch, vexed, furious, tearful. I wrote her a plea, our marriage is not worth giving up on. We have two boys, 6 and 11, a home together, years of history. We reconciled, to some degree. For two months I thought things improved. Then downhill and this.
      I am at a place now where I too must choose to look at her actions as a gift. One that allows me to see truthfully that I have been deceiving myself. That I must work on myself and move beyond anger, fear, denial. I must take actions that allow me to accept the reality that our marriage does not work and that to continue to live a shadow play is not for me. I am raw, licking my wounds, but dedicated to fully improving my life, my relationships with my sons and family, and becoming a better partner in the future. Thank you for your lesson and your honesty. I truly believe the ultimate gift you can give yourself is honesty – to thine own self be true.

  5. So far I have read only about woman that were hurt by their husbands. There are many men that out there that have been hurt by their former spouses. I am one of those men. For ten years I loved and cherished a woman day and night. We had difficulty conceiving but were blessed with a wonderful baby girl. That is when the real symptoms surfaced that eventually destroyed the marriage. She was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr, a medical condition that is categorized as CFIDS, Chronic Fatigue & Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. In 1991 the Center For Disease Control did not recognize this medical condition. Today they do and millions of dollars in grant monies have been spent researching the disease. The cognitive reasoning ability of the affected individual is all but destroyed, in essence, the person cannot make rational decisions, they cannot think. At the time,the courts in California did not recognize Epstein-Barr as a medical problem and a twenty-six month old little girl was prevented from seeing her father for over twelve years. During this time of absence, her mother indoctrinated her to hate her father. The child is a young lady of nearly twenty-four years of age. For all of the past twenty-one years, she has seen her father for a total of 350 hours. She has been diagnosed with severe PAS, Parental Alienation Syndrome. There is mild, moderate and severe levels of this complex. So much for a father-daughter relationship. As for me, a gentle, caring, loving soul found this crumpled, hurt, bewildered man and gave him purpose to love again. My wife Barbara and I celebrated our nineteeth anniversary April of this year. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful woman to not only help me through the hurt and pain but to give of herself and carve out a new life. Yes, there IS life after divorce, but you must be willing to be vulnerable to pain and hurt. You must open up. You cannot drink water with closed hands, they must be cupped and open to catch the waters of love.

    Michael Goldwater, USN (ret) BA, MFS, 2L

    1. You are so right that this is not a gender issue. The pain goes both ways. I am so sorry to hear of your loss of a relationship with your daughter, but I am glad to hear you are working on moving forward.

  6. Amazing! As hard as my marriage and divorce were, I have gained a ‘gift’ by reading, with much sorrow, what the above people have gone through. How my heart goes out to all of you. I cannot imagine going thru what you have been thru. All the best to all of you and myself too. 😀 And thank you Lisa for helping us to find comfort, peace, solace, healing and even humor with your blog.

    Indeed you are a teacher and a writer! We have learned with you and through you.

  7. I really connect with your story.

    I surveyed over 100 divorced women and completed interviews with over 20 women living happier after divorce to write a book giving hope to those going through the ugly, painful aftermath of a relationship breakup. A few of the women had situations similar to yours, although every heartbreak is unique. As I read the comments I understand how much sharing our respective stories helps others and ourselves.

    I appreciate your openness to share your story and help others see that there can be happiness after divorce. Thank you. I look forward to your postings! LivingHappierAfter.com/blog

    1. I agree that sharing the stories can be helpful, as it helps to know that we are not alone in the pain and that we can grow through the experience. Thank you for your contribution to this end:)

  8. I am looking for a group in NYC where I can meet others like me who have been financially devastated by divorce. People who figured out how to repair what was broken. Does anybody have any thoughts or suggestions. I realize I was too forgiving and assumed too much. Through it all I had found it difficult to believe I had to treat my wife of 13 years like the enemy within. I had lead a very successful self made career but was very dependent on what I had built. As it was torn apart and fragmented cost tripped all at a time I need greater fiscal responsibility. I put everything I had in my family and can barely hold on making one sacrifice after another. My own situation is more unique then what might be thought of as obvious or even uncomfortable decisions I have to make. To make matters worse I found myself in a relationship with another woman with a serious substance abuse (alcohol) problem that lasted two years. Bad luck bad luck and more bad luck.

    I am a very competent individual and yet this situation is far more complex then I could have imagined.

    🙂 pushing forward…

  9. As someone who is facing this painful phase in my life currently, your blog comes as a great inspiration. My husband of 3 years and 8 months sent me an email 23 days ago saying he has filed for divorce. It was totally left field, I was never expecting it. He has refused to communicate with me in any way or form since then, and I am unable to reach out to him. I do not want a divorce, I believe in the vows we took, but I cannot walk the path alone if he is not willing to try. I do not know what to do or how to deal with it, I have no family support on this matter (my family lives abroad). I am hoping reading your story, and the stories of similar victims of love, will give me the strength to hold on to hope and move on. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  10. I learned the opposite from what Caterina (Response 1) learned.
    When my husband left me for another woman (alienator), people pretty much had the same basic idea: it was over, there was nothing I could do about it, it takes two to save a marriage…conclusion: there was no hope for reconciliation.
    I ignored those people and took my own path. He said that he was calling the shots now. I took back my power and gave myself a vote. I contested the divorce. It worked. He stopped the divorce quickly, but the emotional blackmail from the alienator kept him cycling for over three years—in which he came and left multiple times.
    My story is not one of a lying narcissist or sociopath however, mine is about the mental breakdown and depression of a wonderful man. The personality disorder aspect of my situation was the alienator—think Fatal Attraction.
    I knew and accepted that I had no control over him, but that did not mean I was without a vote. I learned that I am a person too and thus I get a say in what it is I want. Even if the divorce had not been stopped and I would have thus had no power to stop it from going through, I still had a voice. I became the stable and calming force in his chaos—an attractive force away from the alienator and something in which he could find security and reassurance.
    I learned that it takes one to save a marriage—up to the point where the other is not only willing, but also able to work together to rebuild. We could not rebuild without a partnered effort, but alone, I was able to prevent our marriage from destruction during the chaos.

    1. It sounds as though you were able to see through your husband’s actions to see the pain below and that you were willing to be supportive while he worked to right himself. That takes quite a bit of patience and understanding on your part and he is lucky that you were willing. And, you are lucky that he was willing to put in the effort on his part. Not everyone has that option.

      I do notice one thing in your response. You classify the other woman as “the alienator,” but do you also see your husband as responsible for his choices in the situation?

    2. What?! Are you mad ?… of course death do us part; just live separately .

      Your husband won’t ever stop cheating because you allow it.
      Like, you’re a doormat.

      Honestly, he sounds like he fake the whole emotional/mental issue to please you & get what he wants. He always gets what he wants.

      I am Seriously puzzled & just can not believe you’re fighting for a man & marriage that does not want you or exist.

      It’s obviously, a marriage of convenience for him .

      Like, why would you or anyone except that… Willing put up with this INFEDILITY & deception.

      1. I think for some people, adultery is a way of being and, for others, it is symptom of something else that temporary in their lives. I have known and corresponded with many couples who have been able to heal and move on from the latter. Ultimately, the core of any marriage is unknowable to anyone other than the couple. We can only peek in the windows that are open into the marriage and make our best guesses about the floorplan.

      2. I never allowed him to commit adultery–infidelity is the choice of the cheater, not the betrayed.
        And I’m not fighting for anything. I am in a healed marriage and during the crisis I was peacing for my marriage; fighting yields fighting.

        My husband, like many others, has stopped cheating. That does not mean there is a guarantee it won’t happen again–but that is true for every person in every relationship. That doesn’t mean I think it will happen again, but I now know that he is capable–even though he is a changed man.

        You are making assumptions about what my husband wants and what my marriage is about–based on what? On your negative experience or observations? Some pessismism? A believe in the false idea that once a cheater menas always a cheater? Do your homework and study infidelity beyond your own observations and expereinces or anecdotal “evidence” before making such generalizations.

        I was not the one begging and pleading, he had to want me and he had to get rid of the alienator to have me–I eventualy left until and stayed at a separate residence/ He left most times, but once he left the alienator, he refused to stay somewhere else and I had to compromise. Fortunately my Grandmother needed a caregiver. I returned home for a few days every few weeks to go to counseling with my husband.

        We are doing well now.

      3. I’m far from negative .

        Just plain logic & trust.
        I’m young & was researching the divorce rates & life of divorcees .., is it better to stay or leave.

        Did you honor your vows ? YES
        Did you commit Adultery ? NO

        So, … why was it okay for him to walk out & walk-in as he pleased ?

        The ” Alienator” a.k.a Mistress is only there because she is in demand.

        I am baffled that a woman of your stature would allow this blasphemy in your home & presence. ( judging from your writing )

        How can you possiblely look at your husband the same ?
        His hands, lips, money , time & affection was spent on in and around another woman!!!!!!!
        While you were faithful & loved him unconditionally.

        Other than that, I honestly respect your choice. It appears when you love .. you love for the right reasons.

        That is one lucky man.

        D

      4. I certainly did not ever say it was okay for him tow alk in and ot as he pleased and he didn’t. He walked out as he pleased and in only when I allowed him in–which obviously was too soon on multiple occasions.
        Is it better to stay or leave does not have a generic answer that is the same for everyone. Logic requires specificity–look at each situation to determine what is best rather than generalities. It is illogical to make a determination about what I should do or have done based on what others did or on statistics. In the beginning I told myself that if only 1 marriage in a million recovered, I was going to be the one.
        And the alienator was not a mistress–that implies a more accepted relationship and a relationship in which she was a kept woman–such as him providing her housing or something. Adultery-mistresses are still alienators, but not all alienators–or even most–are mistresses.
        A mistress is the head female of a household. Sorry, but I really hate that term–personal pet peeve.

        What blasphemy are you under the impression I am allowing? (And why is that in the present tense?)
        I’m in a monogamous relationship–now.
        And had I kicked him to the curb, that would have been blasphemy in my belief system. What baffles me his how our society discards marriages and how people think that someone of “my stature” as is judged from my writing wouldn’t do that? What stature is that, are educated women supposed to kick’em out and those who are more dependent supposed cling?

        People often think I should have left because he didn’t deserve me. Apparently it did not matter what I wanted. I didn’t matter even though I was the one who had not committed adultery? I somehow deserved divorce because of his sins? I deserved the pain that accompanies divorce–on tpo of the pain I was already getting as a betrayed spouse?
        No. I deserved to have a fulfilled life and to have a choice in that life. My choice was to take the path of fulfillment within my marriage and along with it, the risk that it could still end.

        Why would I look at him the same?
        I looked at him in different ways before the crisis than during the crisis and now different ways than both after.

        People make mistakes. And yeah, adultery is a big mistake. Sweetheart behaved badly; that was his behavior, not his character. I was witness to the weird psychological changes at Bomb Drop and for the next few years. Memory loss, depression, cycling (like a bipolar) behavior and I chose to have faith in the core man I married.

        I hope that I love for the right reasons. I was never desperate for him or willing to do anything–I was willing to do what it was going to take. And during the crisis I set aside eros and focused on agape.

        My marriage is not blissful sunshine and roses now; it’s real and it is stronger. Sometimes a scar forms cracks that weaken and sometimes a scar becomes a place of greater strength due to the bonding material used to heal it, but the scar itself remains.

  11. I use the term alienator because I don’t like acronyms–OW, OM, OP, it’s gender neutral, non-derogatory and the definition needs little explanation. It’s not meant to imply he lacked responsibility.
    Both are responsible for their choices and need to be held accountable. She pursued him and he refused to stop seeing her for a few years. He snuck around and at times flaunted his infidelity. Midlife Crisis is no picnic.

  12. Out of an abusive relationship…Verbally and slightly physically. Cheated on. 2 children and their mother. Never married but 4 years together common law.

    My lesson was that no one can save me but myself. No one can change him but himself. Its starting to seem you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
    There’s no point in dwelling on the “ex” because self acceptance and change for the better is more important and should be focused on.
    and to quote Avril Lavigne… “love hurts whether it’s right or wrong” , Its a matter of deciding whats worth putting up with and if it involves sacrificing yourself as the person you are or want to be. Someone who loves and respects you should never make you sacrifice your self respect. People will talk let them because when it comes down to it, If they didn’t do what you had to then they aren’t half the person you are. Your “ex” will most likely do anything he can to demolish the foundation your building for yourself…. the only person who can give him the power to do that is you.

    So yeah, didn’t know if thats exactly what this page is looking for but there it is ^^

  13. My husband is moving out today. After 18 months of dealing with his depression and him blaming me for everything that is wrong with the world, we have agreed a trial separation. We will have no contact for three months – it is going to be the hardest 3 months of my life. In that time I hope he can get his health under control and see that we are worth fighting for. But if not, I am learning that I cannot contol his happiness, but I can do what’s necessary to find myself again. I am devastated, but it helps reading all of the stories on here – you are a strong group of people; thank you for sharing your stories x

    1. I wish you peace and clarity during your separation. You are so right – you cannot control his happiness and he cannot be responsible for yours. What you can do is choose to be happy regardless of the outcome.

      Thinking of you:)

    2. Shannon, my wife had just left 4 days ago on what was just supposed to be a short separation. As I too had some depression issues I needed to deal with. But I knew there was someone else in her life. As of today we have settled on a divorce being what she needed for her. If you are interested you can see my story at http://andybawcum.wordpress.com/. I wish you all the best in your marriage!

  14. I am going to have to say that I have learned on crucial thing that astounded me! I have a choice! Me, the choices were always made for me never by me. EVER! So, learning that I have a choice brought me to pack up and move 2,500 miles away and start a brand new life. Been here 8 months now and my choice is to embrace these changes and I also choose to quit feeling so darned sorry for myself! I also have chosen to change how I feel about myself. This is a hard task. But, I choose to work on it! Thanks for your post!

  15. I found this blog a year or so ago when I was feeling incredibly alone and gullible for trusting someone so much. I felt like the only one that ever had a cheating spouse. The shame was complete. So lesson one was that I wasn’t alone and lesson two was that am stronger and more compassionate that I realized. Life has moved forward!

  16. I wasn’t married, but I was in a relationship for 5 years. When I met him, I was 15. So now, I’m 20! I know, I’m too young, and don’t have to worry about anything, people keep telling me this all the time. But it doesn’t mean that is not hurting. It is – big time! Out of the blue, one day he told me that he didn’t want that anymore – that he needed a “time” alone. I told him that we had to break up instead of this. He accept easily, of course! I was on a tough time of my life. I was with problems in my family, and suffering with anxiety. But he left me even in a moment like this! I felt very lost! I had no identity, no life alone, no friends close to me ( I left them to be with him all the time). I went to therapy. Trying to undersatand and deal with those things. I started to move on. I met people. I made new and Great friends. And I get better. My ex was in a new relationship with an older woman that was a single parent of a little boy. I was hurt about this, but I move forward. He started to look for me. He texted me. He called. He went in my house. And I never stopped him of getting close to me. One day he told me that he left her, and that he wanted to be with me again. I accepted. I believed. Don’t sai me why, cause I don’t know, but I did it! He was different! He lived new things. And he started to “test” me. He asked me for doing things that I wasn’t used to, he asked me about child, about how I live my life. He was Trying to make me a different person and that pissed me off. We started “dating”, but 5 das after, he told me that he could’t do that anymore – again!! We broke up and days after I found when he was with me, he was with her too. I was very angry, very hurt and lost again. I started to picking up the pieces again and moved on. Months later, I was suffering with anxiety again, and he looked for me again. I was fragile, vulnerable. He offered me help, support. He told me he was beside my side, that he needed to correct the mistakes of the past when he left me at the moment difficult. I believed. I accepted again. Like the first time he gave up again. Told me he could’t do that. So I told him to go away for good. To forget me. To leave me alone. It was last week. And know I’m here. Lost again. Sad again. And sorry again foi putting myself on that sittuation again! I have no idea how to move on know, have no idea how to forget him and heal all the scarps he left. But my first lesson is – when it’s over, it’s really over! And my second lesson is – we have to look for people in our lives that can respect us and value ourselves. My third- people don’t change. If he shows you all The time he is selfish and an asshole, believe him! I’m in a really difficult moment, but I know that better things and people are coming!

  17. Very interesting blog! I see so much that is all too familiar and so much that rings all too true.

    After 13 years I returned home from a business trip and was greeted my husband’s announcement that he had made the unilateral decision that we would be getting a divorce. He promptly walked out, hired an attorney the next day (unbeknownst to me at the time), and never returned or contacted me again except to retrieve material possessions and demand (I use this term loosely as it escalated to verbal and physical intimidation, and on occasion, all out threats of violence) that I agree to his extraordinarily unreasonable financial/settlement demands. He simultaneously refused numerous inquiries about the possibility of even discussing any course of action short of throwing in the proverbial towel, e.g. counseling, etc. His reasons? I was (and always had been) too flawed/insufficient/inadequate to make him “happy”. I did not provide him either the quantity or quality of attention that a wife should, e.g. cooking, cleaning, ego stroking. The marriage had been a mistake from day one, but he had felt compelled to endure the misery of living with me out of a misguided sense of obligation.

    All of this should not have come as a shock to me since I had been greeted with complaints of that sort seemingly out of the blue approximately once a year for roughly 10 years and with increasing frequency during the preceding months. But as the saying goes, denial is not just a river, my friends. Moving into larger homes, buying vehicles and boats, and taking expensive vacations (all bankrolled exclusively by me) seemed to improve the situation – until they didn’t.

    It’s been over two years since he walked out. I know that he indeed had unrealistic expectations going in that I could/would fill the shoes of his ever-doting mother who to this day has never told him “no” or demanded anything of him (he – at the age of 40 – has lived with her rent free, allowed her to clean up after him, do his laundry, buy his groceries, and cook all of his meals all of this time). I, of course, did not and could not ever have measured up since, despite my valiant yet repeatedly failed attempts to fulfill all of his wishes/needs, I was also asking him (albeit quietly and infrequently) in various ways to try being my equal/partner while simultaneously attending to my career (he drifted between dead end, low-paying jobs so I felt that I had no choice).

    Considering that backdrop and the onset his Bi-Polar Disorder (complete with numerous threats of suicide, assault, a suspected affair, drug and alcohol abuse, and paranoid delusions regarding, among other things, law enforcement hiding in the shrubs in the backyard snapping photos) 3 1/2 years prior to the “announcement”, it’s actually surprising in retrospect that the marriage survived as long as it did. Of note, I succeeded in getting him medical treatment which consisted primarily of anti-psychotic and antidepressant drugs, but that was never entirely effective and not without its own untoward side effects including a persistent nearly zombie-like, flat non-personality/absence of emotion aside from unexpected fits of hateful anger aimed almost exclusively at me. After about 2 years of living in that state I began to cave under the pressure of being his caretaker (and the social isolation that came with it) and somehow felt, I believe due to some survival instinct, compelled to distance myself by spending more and more time at work, at the gym, with friends and colleagues, etc. Somehow in the process, I also began to slowly, almost imperceptibly, grow a sliver of a spine, i.e. voice opinions, feelings, interests not 100% congruent with his/what he deemed acceptable. Hence, his growing dissatisfaction and ultimate departure.

    But here’s the revelation: For all of the controlling, abusive, manipulative advantage taking as if I was a doormat, whether undertaken by conscious choice or a function of uncontrollable mental illness, he never did anything to me that I did not allow. I did not and never could have “fixed” him, but I absolutely must address that part of ME that tried and tried and tried again. I must address that part of me that allowed, even dare I say sought out, that type of relationship. I must address that part of me that chose complacency, a (thankfully temporary) virtual emotional death, and ultimately some version of passive-aggressive behavior over decisive action. I must address that part of me that attempted to take on every burden associated with being an adult married couple without absolutely demanding help. I must address the part of me that tends to demonstrate love by giving and doing whatever another desires rather than behaving in a manner that most would expect of an affectionate female (his complaints were not devoid of legitimacy). I must address the part of me that listened to curse-laden rants about my alleged stupidity and the fact that no one would ever love me because I had no inherent value as a human being but never once responded because I believed it! That’s what I am attempting to do now. I hope to get some ideas/pointers here!

  18. This is my experience: The relationship starts full of enthusiasm like most any other exercise with partners running towards the same perceived goal…that is winning someone’s heart while warming ones own heart. Many times the woman would like a few things changed like shaping up the fellow to be responsible and committed and putting away some of those single life adventures. And the man many times just wants nothing to ever change like the fun things that made the chase so much fun…those outfits she wore to catch your eye, and the body that fit into them…barely. And lots of love making, not to be confused with sex! After the marriage begins many men resist change and many women do change. You are still dating and trying to win each other but one or both begins to believe that the ending to this story has already been written and then one or both stop trying to win each other! I knew my marriage was over when my wife lamented one day that she felt she was wasting too much time trying to win me when she already had! But I carried on trying to win her except she had moved on to complacency and the focus on “Me first”. A relationship that is not moving forward with that winning each other drive is doomed to become stale, selfish, platonic, and futile. By that time sex is a function of reflex and love making is over, and one begins to create the cover story for the end to something people believed in even after you stopped believing. There worse things then feeling lonely and that is feeling lonely when someone is with you!

  19. Now, let me do it once more and that is face myself in the mirror with each click on this computer. First of all Lisa, I read your book in 12 hours and all I can say is cheer up all the way. My story is complicated and my book about my Unconventional loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption will be out soon. I didn’t marry for love like most of you in here. No, Marriage I viewed then as a Refuge and thought the love will follow from the infatuation that seemed to be. Well, it didn’t and so I stayed in there for 6 drastic years where I was abused in every sense by my ex, myself and my family. I had 2 children in that marriage and lost two others. One thing led to the other, I met men from different corners and with some it was a one night and with others it lasted a couple of months. Yes, Hell knows no furry… Then one day I thought it was enough. I often tried reaching out to ex, family etc but no one cared. I told my 3 little boys what I had done and what I was going to do. I took mine back and left at my mother’s and left the other two with their father. It was devastating for me and all the fingers pointing at me, I left the country. My tale leads me to Belgium where after sometime I found love again. I am coping, we are both coping because my partner is also from a fresh divorce in his case, his wife of 8 years left. I used to love reading thrillers until my life became one.

    1. Wow. I used to say I was living a soap opera. There are some things that are better left for the big screen than real life. I am glad to hear you’re doing better and best of luck on the book!:)

  20. I don’t know what I learned. It’s hard to say now. I filed for divorce, I was incredibly unhappy, invisible, lonely. We had good moments, only few and far between, but when they were – they were memorable, joyful, real. For the most part, he wasn’t happy either – he drank and was depressed, even though wouldn’t acknowledge it. He was angry a lot, too, and I was resentful and tired. I thought that being out of this relationship would be best for all. So, we are now divorced, divorce is still fresh, but we have been separated for a year now. He is happy now, healthy, pretty much moved on. He is a much better parent now than he was while we were a family. Me-wise – he hates my guts, because I filed, I guess. I hate his just as much – I guess, I resent the fact that all the things that I dreamed about with him – trips, friends over, having him cook sometimes, spending time with out child, and other things – they were not possible when we were together. they only became possible when he got rid of me. It’s hard to face that I was the culprit in his unhappiness. I am trying very hard to just let go. some days are more successful. Some are a bust.

    I am OK, I can breathe easier and I am glad there is no tension in my home. But I am very, profoundly sad that we didn’t make it. I think what we had was a giant cluster of miscommunication, and much of it could have been remedied if we only were able to talk. We were together for eight years and have a beautiful child together, there is too much history, familiarity, similitude, and for all the damage that he’s done on his part (and he pulled his fair share of awful), I only remember the good, and that’s what’s killing me. That we should have made it work, but instead we have one epic fail. So, yes, life is OK for me right now, it is even easier in many ways, even though I am now a single mom. Good days are slowly outweighing the bad ones, and my abbreviated family is beautiful and vibrant and doing good. However, personally – I cannot imagine ever being with someone else, having any sort of relationship again, I still grieve over the demise of my marriage, I blame myself for everything, wishing I were a better person and better partner, that I should have had lower expectations and demands, better capacity for forgiveness and compassion. After reading the stories above – I didn’t have it all that bad, compared to everyone who commented, but I was not happy. There were reasons, but – perhaps – that’s just me, the unhappy from within, and not at all him. Probably just that.

    The strange thing: I cannot imagine being with him again either, even though I’d rather – I can’t imagine there will be anyone out there who would want to tolerate me. I just think some part of me died and I now be much better off removed from most interactions, romantic or not. That’s where I am, it is a tide, really. In the morning I feel that what I’ve done was fearless – I found courage to get out of a sad, lonely and depleting relationships; and in the afternoon I think that I misunderstood the concept of marriage, and if I could only keep my mouth shut, and if I only appreciated it all more…. and so on.

    1. It sounds like you’re in a place with amazing growth potential. A time to reflect on where you have been and what you want to create. Take some of those “wishes” that you have for your past and see if you can turn them into lessons that can be applied to your future.

      Glad to hear you’re breathing again and the good days are coming more often:)

    2. Kit, your story in particular resonated with me: ‘I am trying very hard to just let go. some days are more successful. Some are a bust. I am OK, I can breathe easier and I am glad there is no tension in my home. But I am very, profoundly sad that we didn’t make it. I think what we had was a giant cluster of miscommunication, and much of it could have been remedied if we only were able to talk’.
      I’m curious as to how you are now, 2.5 years on…do you now feel like you’ve been able to heal and grow? Wishing you all the best. X

  21. Today my divorce is final. Sad and at the same time relieved. Finally away from the lies and deception. I miss who I thought he was not who he turned out to be. My dreams died the day I found out about his secret life, but I learned I am strong and deserve more than he could give. I am still learning and hope to find my happiness, someday.

  22. I left my husband of ten years five months ago, I wanted to do it long ago… but I felt stuck. I had to get a job that paid enough so that I could support myself and my daughter. I moved out with my daughter. Everything just fell into place in order to make that happen. It was hard to leave but the thought of staying felt harder.. I just had to pick my hard and move forward. I really hoped my leaving would wake him up and shake him up and encourage change on his part. Instead he is and always has been passive aggressive. I was sick of having to have the balls in the marriage.. and my arms were tired from doing all the heavy lifting. We are in counseling and co-parenting our 9 year old daughter… I know people say that they stay for the kid.. I left for the kid… I left because I was becoming a bitter, resentful, angry wife & Mom and I was oh so unhappy and I thought that even though it has been a transition for all involved, I think growing up in that toxic household would have been more detrimental in the long run. I asked myself one questions.. if my daughter was in this type of relationship would I want her to stay?

    We have not made any decision’s regarding divorce, but I know we have to decide something soon. We can’t stay in limbo forever. We are in counseling and while I have a heartfelt interest to fix what is broken, its not happening.

  23. Your blog has cut me to the heart…. I’ve been struggling with an addiction to pornography for over 15 years now, so I have become the expert at lying, deceitfulness, and hiding something. My wife has been threatening to leave me for years, and most recently I could tell she was deadly serious… so I made the vow to stay clean for 30 days, and remind myself why I love her, and also how an addiction to anything can tear relationships and families apart. And I made it through! I’ve still got a long road ahead, but things are looking up every day. Thanks for following, and stay strong. Looking forward to reading more.

  24. A year ago today my ex husband sent me an email ending our marriage. We had been married for only 3 months after being in a 10 year relationship. I still get people saying “how is married like or how are the newly weds doing” my heart is still so broken and struggling to move forward

    1. How tough for the end to come so quickly on the heels of a beginning. Have you developed a one-sentence, memorized response to people’s inquiries? I found that helped keep me from dissolving into sobs when people asked innocent questions.

  25. I’m not sure what I learned, other than that it can happen to you, and it can happen to a guy.

    My ex- started the conversation late at night by telling me that she “didn’t love me, and never did.” It was a month after our 12th anniversary. Two hours after that pronouncement, with me exhausted and in a pool of my own tears in the fetal position on the floor, she told me she was having an affair with a man she had met a month earlier.

    The second thing I learned-and what was hardest for me to accept-was that I could never trust her again. She continued the affair through couples counseling; it only ended when his wife found out. She asked me to leave a couple of months later with the promise she would see a therapist; she stopped after two weeks and began “dating” the man who would become her second husband. I was crushed when I asked to meet her 45 days after our separation-having finally learned of the length of the first affair- and she showed up with a hickie on her neck!

    In the end, she broke every promise she ever made to me. I held out so much hope that the person I thought I had been married to would somehow reappear-obviously- and ended up feeling like a fool for doing so.

    I had just moved to New York for her job when this happened. I was unemployed, in the middle of a doctorate, and she cut off financial support within five months after our separation. I couldn’t afford legal representation and our therapist told me to just get away as fast as I could. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in three and a half years. I rebuilt from scratch, with the help of friends and family, and I guess that’s the third thing I learned.

    You don’t know your own strength.

  26. Thanks for sharing your story. I just found it and it helps. My husband of 16 years informed me needed to be alone and was getting his own place 2 days before our lease was up, when I thought it would be renewed. I get no answers as to why and every answer is “I don’t know” when I ask what he wants or what makes him happy. He refused my offers to try counseling. The hardest part is not knowing what he left for. Many people believe he must have someone else or thing. I have no answers yet, but continue to try and move on. I now know that we are over, but have no divorce yet, as I have to save up the money for an attorney. I was not working when this happened and had nowhere to go. He had no problem getting his own apartment and giving no regard to where I would go, along with our child. This happened 7 months ago.

    1. So sorry. It must be so difficult to be in that limbo state, especially when it came on so quickly. You’re smart to focus on moving on even without having all the answers. The answers often aren’t as important as we believe them to be.

  27. I learned that we all have the potential for good and bad inside of us. I learned that I cannot control the choices of others. I married someone good who turned bad. During the horrific collapse, I learned that I would have to fight hard to retain my goodness. It would’ve been a million times easier to fall away into bitterness and anger and hatred forever. But I learned that joy is worth fighting for, and it is self-fulfilling – I faked joy until I felt it return. I learned self-respect. I learned that I don’t need a crappy husband. Not to be happy, or to take care of myself, or to raise three beautiful children. I don’t need a crappy husband to radiate life. I learned that a crappy husband interferes with EVERYTHING and is a major obstruction to the blessings of the universe getting through. I learned that crappy-husband-betrayal can be a beautiful gift. Before I gave my heart to this crappy man who tried and failed to destroy me, I simply didn’t realize how capable and strong I am. Now I do. I suppose I should send him a cheesy thank-you card, like from the “crappy self-immolating husband” section of the Hallmark store or something…

  28. Similarly I looked to the concept of starting a blog as a way to try to at least find some way of expressive healing and understanding. The way to MoveOn and way to deal with what almost feels like a very crippling and paralyzing hurt. Unlike you who speaks of over a decade of marriage, my story sadly he didn’t make it quite a decade. Amidst The excitement and inspiration just four years ago in 2011 when it became legal for same sex couples to marry in the state of New York, I married The person that I considered my partner, my best friend, my source of calm, a man I would soon call my husband. Fast forward three years later, The purchase and renovation of a brand-new home and having personally survived cancer, five major operations which included two spinal surgeries, I woke up to the bouncing up a check in our checking account which made absolutely no sense considering our joint take-home each month was more than $13,000. Still wanting to believe in the person that I thought I married I didn’t listen to my close friends or an attorney who wanted me to sign a divorce paper instead I went home believing that in asking a simple question I would get an honest answer. Today I am the defendant in the folder titled divorce action filed the very next day after confronting my husband and I have come to learn that such betrayal began not only in recent years but always existed in the world my husband lived even prior to having met me. Despite mounds of evidence that points to mortgage fraud, insurance fraud and high-value hidden assets, I’m entangled in trapped in the world that has branded me with a Scarlet letter because there is an association to the word divorce. I am being sued by doctors and hospitals for high balance medical bills that are left unpaid because Insurance monies intended for them have miraculously disappeared; the equity in our home mysteriously dissipated and a home equity line of credit maxed to the hilt yet I am still the defendant and sanctioned Buy a legal system that is beyond broken that shows at present little regard for fiction sold in a court of law. But despite all that the most difficult and unbearable of my existence is the paralyzing of not even a reason as to why or how someone could do this to someone else. Only three weeks after the first learning of a petition for divorce being filed I laid at the age of 34 in the stroke unit of my local medical center and being told how lucky I was that I had a stroke about his doctors would never know that I have a 3 mm cerebral aneurysm yet the very first full day in the stroke unit I’m served the formal complaint for divorce. And even today with the simple innocence of maintaining a blog, A sort of journal and personal reflection that I made one day look back on to say that I overcame I have court motions hanging over me for contempt with claim that such defames my spouses character as “afterall, he’s a schoolteacher.”

    While intellectually I know time is the remedy for everything I’m not so sure how easily worn heels through this and with as much pain as I’ve known in my life and needing to persevere this is a pain that is manageable. I do however following your posts find some moments of inspiration and so wanted to thank you for that.

  29. Left my husband last December. Thought we’d always be together. My “soul mate “. He was a drug addict, a liar and he abused me. I say all of that with love now. I forgive him. Saw him just the other day on Easter weekend. We have kids together. He invited me in for coffee and to watch the kids hunt Easter eggs (it was his weekend) . He’s clean now and I’m glad. But it really REALLY hurt! Seeing him healthy and strong it really hurts. I’m happy for him, but I’m also so pissed that he couldn’t have done that for me. Am I being selfish? He kindly told me that he just wasn’t happy in our marriage and didn’t know why. And that he was sorry and that there was nothing I could have done. Yet he still wants me back. I don’t think that’s true though. He’s not sad, he’s content and creating his future. Your blog was great. Very motivating to get on with my life!

    1. That would be hard to see. The reality is that each of us becomes “better” when we’re ready to do it for us. We can’t do it for another. Even though it’s difficult to see him healthy now without you, it will help him be a better father.

  30. I am separated for four months now and never going back. I have learned that society’s dictate that we must seek marriage and children and hang on and make it work no matter what does not help anyone. I am a sociable person with many friends and family and I became very very isolated and thought I was the only one who was so unhappy. I worked for years in the marriage to try to do what my husband said he needed from me (ever increasing demands that were actually ludicrous, but I came to think they were okay) and it was never enough for him and felt terrible. Yet I continued to think the worst thing that could ever happen would be to break up the marriage and the family. So I stayed and tried and tried and tried even though I was doing all the work and he was just sitting back criticizing. On New Year’s Day he asked for a divorce. I don’t think he actually wanted it, I think he was hoping I would do even more for him, out of fear. I was very upset, but after about 12 hours I realized this was my opening and I took it. He tried to “reconcile” several times – his idea of reconciling was to ask me what else I could offer him if he stayed and to say we should stay for the kids, but never to say anything positive about me or our marriage. I said no each time and was completely clear in how I felt in my heart. I realized it had been over for years, I just kept trying to resuscitate it because I thought the alternative was unthinkable. Well now I am living the alternative and it is 100 times better. Yes it is disruptive for the children and for me and I have to rebuild financially and the process of disentangling after 13 years of marriage is no small matter. But it is less draining and debilitating than being in a marriage that is on life support and only one of you is doing CPR and while you are doing CPR you are being told you aren’t doing it right. It is way less draining to care for two actual children than an adult who acts like a child and whose needs are bigger than a child’s needs. I am beyond relieved it is over. I feel my world has gone from black and white to color. My work now is to make sure I don’t lose my voice again and to understand how I let it get to where it got. I was afraid of an ending that actually was for the best.

      1. You are welcome. Thank you so much for your website which is so helpful for me to read on a regular basis.

  31. I cannot say I learned anything. I found the courage to get a divorce after 36 years of abuse, and am the moderator of an abused survivors group. I wrote about my life and won a scholarship, and am a Sophomore (mental health field) at the University where I work. I have written my memoir, Ghost Child to Triumph and my poetry book, Sanctuary of the Soul……..where I put a lifetime of suffering into pages. My endorsements take my breath away: Elie Wiesel, Wayne Dyer, Nikki Giovanni, Drs. Alice Miller, Larry Dossey (14 in all)….the only fear I ever had was that of being alone and after 13 years it is just as painful. I believe we are here to make a difference, and I have been working like a “Trojan” to get the message out there regarding verbal abuse. I was invited to present my paper, Society’s Hidden Pandemic, Verbal Abuse, Precursor to Physical Violence and a Form of Biochemical Assault….at the Michigan Counseling Association. If anyone would like a copy: carleton@oakland.edu
    http://www.churchabusepoetrytherapy.com…what happened to me because of the divorce……..almost 20,000 hits now, not only did I go thru a divorce (excruciating), but I had to fight a whole church who voted me out of membership, with my name up on a big screen, followed by the words, “Conduct Unbecoming a Child of God.” Called to a meeting of deacons and asked “Are you still having sex with your x?” No boundaries (I had allowed him to live in my house following divorce. I fought the spiritually abusive system for 18 months to try and stop the pastor (of disaster, LOL) from “counseling’ any more women going through divorce, because 2 of his “counselees ” were suicidal because of his skills!
    Kind Regards, Alice
    Over comer, wounded healer, Veteran, student at age 68, moderator of abused survivors group, dancer, singer, author, etc.:)

  32. I learned:

    The world needs the inspiration of people who’ve overcome adversity. I want to be one of those people.

    More than anyone else in the world, I deserve my own love and affection.

    Deep pain can be a catalyst for tremendous growth.

    My gut knows the truth before my head does.

    It takes two to make a marriage, but only one to end it.

    Put one foot in front of the other. Press on.

  33. Almost 3 years ago my wife of 11 years left me for another guy. Beyond finding her “soul-mate” she said I was controlling, manipilative, passive aggressive, etc… She said so many things about the marriage ending being my fault that for a while I believed it all. But slowly I did get smarter.

    So I guess I learned the following 1.) No matter how much my ex says things were my fault, it ain’t all my fault…trust me! It takes two to make a marriage work. It was both of our faults…Maybe I did more….Maybe not…. But it’s both
    2.) I need to take the time to acknowledge my mistakes in the marriage.
    3.) work on forgiving the other person and humbling myself so I can ask for forgiveness. I was not a perfect spouse! Forgiveness doesn’t mean they were right, it just sets u free.
    4.) whatever reason she gave me for leaving is valid to her. I had/have a choice to accept it and stand, or just move on with my life. I chose to move forward. Happiness does exist without them.
    5.)I can love another person again!
    6.) finally, when you get the news that they broke up with the person they left you for, it’s ok to do a happy dance, but then realize that now their reflective journey will probably begin. Although it’s easy to rejoice in their situation, it’s better not to judge and stand clear of the mess.

  34. Lessons Learned: After 26 years ( 24 Married ) I learned no matter how much adoration, respect and Love you bestow upon your spouse it can all come crumbling down. A day after Christmas I received a ” I want a divorce”. No explanation, no reasoning and no to an offer of Marital therapy. I blamed myself for the end of our marriage. I had accepted what I believed to be “normal” traits of Marriage; broken promises, lies, no support, no communication. It wasn’t until I located an absolute wonderful marriage therapist that I have learned I was not to blame for the collapse of my marriage. The “Red” flags were there from day one. I just wasn’t able to see them. My eyes are wide open now to the full color spectrum. Hopefully soon I’ll be ready to immerse myself into the dating world. I’m excited and nervous but here goes!

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