What you think is the right way to ask for a divorce? Does there have to be a justifiable reason beyond just feeling incompatible? Is it okay to ask for a divorce if you feel yourself falling in love with someone else?
I often wonder how things might have been different for me emotionally had my ex just been upfront about his unhappiness in the marriage. We went through 2+ years of marriage therapy, but he lied throughout and the cheating was happening simultaneously without my knowledge.
At the time, I felt our marriage (or really any marriage) could be saved if we both were willing to put in the effort. In hindsight though, despite the cheating, I do see that we were incompatible in many respects and I contributed to the prolonging because of my strong belief that marriage should be fixable (other than mental illness, violence or substance abuse), was best for our three young children, and should be forever.
I often think that I would have been just have devastated had he just said he wanted to end the marriage ahead of the cheating given my prior beliefs. He did in fact say this a couple of times during his cheating, but then would take it back. The cheating gave me a reason to feel the end of the marriage wasn’t my fault, whereas I would have taken it as my fault had he left prior to the cheating. I do believe though that all the lying did prolong this process, deeply affect my sense of trust, and tested my sanity.
Despite this, now I feel neither one of us was “at fault” for the marriage ending as we were inherently incompatible and even if he hadn’t cheated, we should not have stayed together. I didn’t have the vision to think that I could be happier with someone else (or on my own) or that my children would be okay or even better. Now that I am on the other side, I think it would have been a terrible tragedy to have stayed in that marriage feeling lonely, misunderstood, and unappreciated. We both enjoy very different activities, we have different values, and we don’t share a common vision for our future.
What are your thoughts on what is the best way to exit a marriage when you discover that you may have made a mistake or no longer fit together? Society seems to continue to see divorce as a failure when in fact there are many benefits and the hope to find a more suitable partner when you are at a stage where you know yourself better.
Dear Happy Again,
You raise an interesting issue. I think most chumps feel that we would have much rather our cheaters had given themselves an honest out than cheat on us. The issue gets muddled, however, with your question of who is at “fault” for a marriage ending. I think that creeps dangerously close to the blameshifting We All Brought Issues To the Marriage That Compelled the Cheater to Cheat narrative. Let’s untangle this.
There is a big difference between the upset of being romantically rejected and the upset of being chumped. Of course, both suck. And to be chumped is to be handed both shit sandwiches simultaneously — romantic rejection AND betrayal. Unfortunately, society conflates the two experiences into one experience and judges chumps for their grief.
Okay already! Get OVER IT. He chose someone else. It happens!
She doesn’t love you that way anymore. I guess you weren’t compatible. Stop hanging on!
As if being chumped was an issue of sour grapes. Or we didn’t get asked to the prom. Like we lingered too long after the Loves Me timer went off, and it’s time to exit the stage already.
The grief and anger that comes from being chumped is about being deceived. It’s fury at the theft of our reality. At the humiliation and disrespect and endangerment. It’s horror at the wasted years and the sunk costs and the continued investment into what we thought was a secure, stable relationship. And chumps aren’t stupid to have assumed commitment — we were promised monogamy, either through marriage or mutual agreement.
Yes, it’s sad and terrible when a relationship ends. We grieve. But cheating is about NOT ending a relationship. To cheat is to eat cake — to perpetuate a situation of having BOTH the marriage and the fuckbuddy(s). Your husband let you go to marriage counseling for over two years, flailing about trying to find the cause of marital unhappiness and neglected to inform you of his cheating. TWO YEARS. He didn’t leave the marriage because it’s just so gosh darn hard to leave a marriage. He stuck around because of cake.
Anyone who is THAT miserable in a marriage can have an honest conversation, call a therapist, or call a divorce lawyer. He didn’t do those things — he cheated on you and feigned commitment — not just to you, but the fiction of “fixing” his marriage. Yes, you are fundamentally incompatible — he’s unethical and you aren’t.
What you think is the right way to ask for a divorce? Does there have to be a justifiable reason beyond just feeling incompatible?
Incompatible is such a useless term. Aren’t any two people incompatible at some level? I hate dry, ugly desert landscapes. My husband loves them. I love restaurants that serve locally sourced, artisanal root vegetables. He loves barbecue. When I wake up in the morning, I want to be left alone — at least until the coffee kicks in. My husband wakes up wanting to have intense philosophical discourses. Do we both want to smother the other with a pillow some days? Sure. But on the whole he’s awesome and I’m lucky to have him. I hope he feels the same — that my overall wonderfulness outweighs my more irritating qualities.
Most people set the bar for divorce pretty high — abuse, cheating, untreated mental illness, addiction. But think about it — those issues mean that your partner is not available for a relationship. Abusers don’t love you, they love power. Cheaters just love themselves (and purported fuckbuddies). Mental illness, if untreated, creates chaos. And addicts love substances. Bottles have no needs.
A penchant for artisanal root vegetables, on the other hand, is not a deal breaker. You can work around my beet love. If you want to divorce me because I like beets, okay. Then you’re probably pretty shallow. But I’d rather know this about you, because what if something really hard happens and you have no devotion to me? If you can’t handle BEETS for fuck’s sake, what about cancer? Please, leave already.
Happy Again — good people try and make relationships work. Wise people know if they have anything to work with. No one can hold up a relationship by themselves. I want to answer your question both ways — yes! divorce over any frivolous reason you want! and no! don’t divorce unless you have a damn good reason!
At the end of the day, if someone wants to divorce you? LET THEM. Anything else is the pick me dance, and I never want to love someone who doesn’t love me back ever again.
Is it okay to ask for a divorce if you feel yourself falling in love with someone else?
We don’t just “fall in love” with other people. You’re drinking the cheater Koolaid. To get to that point, you’ve made a thousand decisions to cross boundaries and “leave” your marriage. Attracted to other people? Sure. We aren’t dead. But in LOVE with a person? That’s intimacy. And if you have intimacy outside your marriage, then you’ve cheated, at least emotionally. But yes, ask for a divorce. The longer you eat cake, the worse of a cheater you are.
What are your thoughts on what is the best way to exit a marriage when you discover that you may have made a mistake or no longer fit together?
Exit honestly and with a fair or even generous settlement. (A nod to the fact that the break up was your idea.) If you don’t disrespect your partner with lies and infidelity, then I can believe in the conscious uncoupling that’s so in vogue these days. You can even stay friends in a superficial sort of way. (I mean, you just divorced me over root vegetables. If we’re not compatible for marriage, then why friendship? You didn’t cheat on me, but then again, neither did the kid who just bagged my groceries.)
Happy Again, the best way to exit — is to actually EXIT. Keeping the door open is cake. When you enter a new life, remember to shut the door behind you.