General Question

spendy's avatar

When do you truly know that divorce is the only thing left?

Asked by spendy (1446points) April 2nd, 2008

When you fight daily (or every-other-day, at best) and the word “divorce” is thrown around loosely, when is enough enough? It seems there must be a breaking point and everyone has to evaluate their own relationship…but what if you’re a “fixer” or someone of that nature? It’s always easier (not healthier) to convince yourself things will change. I’m currently wearing my Wish Bone where my Backbone should be…so what if I need to schedule the necessary transplant and what about consultation or pre-op treatment?

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33 Answers

samkusnetz's avatar


like any other major decision, i think you’re never truly going to know that divorce is your only option until after you’ve decided whether or not to get one.

if you’re the fixer type, then i think you have to ask yourself if you really are doing everything you can to try to fix things. and if you are, and your spouse knows that you are, and it’s still not getting better, then it’s time to take a good hard look.

i know that sounds reductive, but i genuinely feel that the only way to address a gigantic issue like divorce is to look at it not a something huge, but as something simple. because it really is simple. i’m not saying it’s an easy decision to make, just that it’s not a complicated decision. in fact, it might be the best example of how far apart “simple” and “easy” can get.

you’re fighting. are you fighting over something, or just over anything? do you have good moments, too? do you talk about your troubles during your good moments? when you do, do you start fighting right away, or can you get some good discussion in there? have you seen a marriage counselor? considered it?

good luck with this. my wife i and have been together seven years, though only married for two, and while we never got remotely close to splitting up, we have definitely had our fights. they only get better if we can talk calmly, so i guess my real advice is that you should find a way to talk calmly, and see where that gets you.

keep us posted, ok?

gooch's avatar

When you have to call the cops and you are not willing to get help as a couple.

mzgator's avatar

when you start throwing the word divorce back and forth like it means nothing at all to each other….you do not realize what that does to each other. It makes divorce seem as though it is the only good option at the time. It is rare that a divorce solves your problems or unhappiness, especially if you have children.

Take time to reflect together the reasons you got married. Take the time to really decide if these problems can be worked through. Take time to see if both of you are truly committed to working this out.

A good marriage is fun and one of the best gifts you can give each other. It also is hard work. All marriages have times of conflict, even the best ones.

mzgator's avatar

To continue…my Grandmother told me years ago, as long as there is no physical violence, and as long as you can say. You still love your spouse, there is always hope. Do not give up, only because divorce sometimes sounds like the easy answer for a way out. Good luck.

In my opinion there are too many divorces that could have been prevented,

Vincentt's avatar

While I might not be the best person to give advice on this matter, I’d suggest you first find a relationship therapist. A third opinion by someone who knows might help a lot and also give you a clue so as to when divorce might really be the best option.

Angelina's avatar

It seems like you want to work on your marriage, to “fix” it, as you put it. What if you tell your spouse that despite your daily arguments and the tension, you’re still committed to the marriage and would like to fix it together? I think that affirming your love and commitment could go a long way in breaking that stalemate and getting the both of you on the path towards reconciliation. You don’t have to be the sole fixer.

It also sounds like you’ve had a communication breakdown. I’d like to echo the other posters and suggest that you see a therapist together. In the short term, there’s a great book on marriage entitled “If the Buddha Married” which addresses exactly the kind of problem you’re describing here. I highly recommend it.

Another short term suggestion: sometimes little gestures from my spouse have helped me feel better when we’re not getting along all that great. I’m not talking flowers, I’m talking about something more basic, like making tea and taking it to your spouse, or volunteering to make dinner and then make a nice one. Showing that you still bear good will and tenderness towards your loved one when things aren’t going all that well is, I think, an important illustration of sticking around “in good times and in bad.”

cornman's avatar

Find and read “The Peacegiver”. Sorry, don’t know the author. If you are the fixer-type then look at yourself first. You can’t fix someone else until that person knows you are coming from a spirit of love.

syz's avatar

My husband and I went to couples counseling (and I am seriously not the counseling type – I do not share ). It didn’t save our marriage but it helped us both understand what was going on and what we were doing to each other.

I hung on too long – after the shock of being on my own and ending the marriage was over, I was tremendously happier (and still am).

Only you can judge when it’s time.

cwilbur's avatar

You’re fighting, and you’re throwing the word “divorce” around. So sit down, preferably when tensions are not running high, and talk. Do you both think you have something worth saving, and are you both willing to put in the effort to save it? If the answer is “no” to either of those, then divorce is the answer. You cannot repair a broken relationship unilaterally.

And if you do decide to get a divorce, be gracious to each other, and treat each other according to the spirit of what you once had. The nastier you are in a divorce, the more you hurt yourself.

skfinkel's avatar

Ban the word “divorce” and “should” (as in “you should”) and see if that helps. From what I see, divorce seems like a sad alternative for two people who can love.

scamp's avatar

First of all, let me start out by saying I am a fixer type as well. I was married for 22 years to an alchoholic. When I was young and naive, I just thought he liked a beer or two after work and on the weekends. Many people told me I should leave him because my life was going to go down the tubes if I didn’t. But I was one of those “stand by your man” types, and I was not about to give up. Over the years, his drinking got to be more and more of a problem for both of us. He lost job after job until one day he had an accident at work which left him permanently disabled. He fell off of a ladder because he was drunk at work. that was in 1987, and he hasn’t worked a day since then. The fixer in me wanted to take care of him, but all I was doing was enabling his addiction.
I even made the mistake of raising my daughter with him because I didn’t want her to be the product of a “broken home”. Looking back, I truly regret staying so long, because it did more damage to her than if I would have left and struggled to give her a better life on our own.

We talked more times than I care to remember about getting help, and he was not willing to do the work. I thought I could do it all for us, and found I was sadly mistaken. As his health deteriorated because of the years of abuse he put it through, he started having a series of heart attacks.

It wasn’t until one day when a well meaning neighbor asked me what I was going to do when he died, that I got the slap in the face I needed to wake up. I was a stay at home Mom, and our only income was his disability from social security. The second he died, my income would stop, leaving my daughter and me destitute. I brought this up to him, and the only thing he said was“you’re smart, you’ll think of something.” That’s when I realized that my daughter’s and my future was up to me. He would not be a part of it, nor did he care beyond where his next beer was. I gave him a full year to try and deal with changing, and decided to leave.

Since then, I have moved to a new state, gone back to work, and I feel like a ton has been lifted off my shoulders. I am now a medical administrator, and have found a meaning to my life I never would have thought possible.

I’m sorry for going on and on with this, but to sum this up,. it takes both partners working together for a marriage to work. If your spouse is willing to do the work required, you may be able to save the marriage. But if like me, you are trying to fix things on your own, it sadly is brokien beyond repair . Only you will know when it’s time to throw in the towel. I hope that my example will help you decide whether or not you are clinging to the hope of something that may not be in your best interest.

iSteve's avatar

Try a temporary separation period. You’ll know after that.

Zaku's avatar

Scamp! You’re ”sorry for going on and on like this”? That was awesome. You’re so generous for sharing your story with everyone that way. It was very clear and perfect, as far as I see. Thank you!

scamp's avatar

Thanks Zaku. I tend to rattle on sometimes, and then I begin to wonder if I’m giving too much information.

spendy's avatar

Scamp, thank you so much. Your “rambling” made me cry and really hit home. My husband doesn’t drink everyday and hasn’t fallen off any ladders lately (though I’m to the stage of evil daydreams…) but what you said really resonated with me. Pardon my attempt to add some il-timed humor to this not-so-funny subject. I truly appreciate what you shared and the things you said have really started a new thought process for me.

@sam –
you’re fighting. are you fighting over something, or just over anything? – pretty much just money, but that allows him to make it about everything, since everything (to him) that is important costs money.
do you have good moments, too? – we do…or I should say, he does. I can’t seem to let go of the hurtful things he says in order to actually enjoy the “good times” we have. His mood is on a constant rollercoaster of UP down UP down, and money is the “trigger”, if you will. When he’s happy, he’s not the same person. He talks to me about the hurtful things he says and claims the inability to control his mouth. For instance, we decided I would stay home with the kids and quit my full-time, professional career. Now, he says I don’t contribute and berates me for it. The latest comment? “You’re a leech and you contribute nothing to this household.” Later when he apologizes for the argument and says he loves me, my response is, “You love a leech who doesn’t contribute?” He laughs and says, “Oh hush, you know I didn’t mean that.” I feel like I’m at Worlds of Fun riding every single rollercoaster back-to-back. It’s exhausting.
do you talk about your troubles during your good moments? – We’ve tried that, and it always results in either another fight and hurtful stabs for him to apologize for later, or him reassuring me that he “doesn’t mean it”. We both have checkered pasts, but the difference is that I’m not willing to throw his in his face. On the other hand, I’m also tired of wearing mine across my forehead.
have you seen a marriage counselor? considered it? – I would definitely consider it. He would not. I’m not one to psychoanalyze or throw medical terms around, but I’ve been watching and even journaling lately as well as having done some research over the last few months. My impression? Textbook. Bi-Polar + Narcissist = trainwreck. He is very frequently irrational and unreasonable…which makes any arguement a nightmare. Try arguing with someone you can’t reason with – not easy, practically pointless. Then try dealing with that person on an up and down cycle of mood swings. Big, unpredictable (much like the random high school lunchroom foodfight) mood swings. Think there’s any chance of convincing a Narcissist that they’re Bi-Polar? or anything else beside perfect and right in every way? This is my life. Banging my head against the wall seems much less frustrating.

The sadest part of all of this (aside from the entire situation in and of itself) is that our relationship is SO new. We were married Jan 12 of 07, and got pregnant on our honeymoon. Our son is almost 6 months old. My daughter (5yrs old in April) is also in the mix. She loves and gives him unconditional love…and he’s basically the same with her as he is with me, only not on the same scale. Very up and down though. It wasn’t this way in the beginning…I never would have guessed. It just began about 7 months ago and escalated from there.

I want to work this out, I’m just confused about how to get to the place we need to be in order to do that. He would never accept help. That would mean admitting fault or weakness, neither of which are options for him (or his ego). I always knew he was prideful and confident, I just never imagined it turning to arrogance or growing to the point that I’d rather crawl under a rock than stand next to him. We fell in love very quickly after discovering our connection and were friends for about a year prior. It was an instant connection and mutual feelings that it was “right”. Now it’s so different, even just a little over 1 year later. But, I just can’t walk away from him. He’s this wonderful, loving, passionate man who does everything in his power to exude love for me and our family when (and only when) he’s not having another one of his tantrums. Something inside me says, “Just block it out…this isn’t him,” and I want to just sweep it under the rug and mutter “chemical reaction” to myself in an attempt to make it okay. It just hurts so much and it’s not healthy for me or our relationship. I can’t continue to go on like this…

I’m sitting here typing this and noticing our smiling faces jammed together in a little picture frame next to the computer. I just wish we could be happy like that again. It just doesn’t seem realistic.

spendy's avatar

@mzgator + cwilbur – I really should have clarified in my question (or soon after) by saying that we’re not really “throwing around the word divorce” as much as I’m playing catch with it. But (as I roll my eyes) he’s always sorry and loves me more than anything in the world. Did I mention he also wants to start having more kids? Not even, not now…

spendy's avatar

I should probably also mention that this is my 1st marriage and his 3rd. I guess it’s true what they say…if they are totally sarcastic A-holes. lol I shouldn’t be joking.

scamp's avatar

@spendywatson My heart goes out to you. From what I just read it sounds like he is very abusive towards you. Saying that he didn’t mean the words he said later on is really just a cop out in my opinion. I lived with a man for a little over a year that was wonderful the first six months, and then thought I would make a good punching bag. Afterwards, he always cried and said he was so sorry, and told me he loved me. But it never got any better. It only got worse. I’ve learned since then that abusers follow a pattern, and I’m seeing something in what you say that makes me concerned for your safety.

Was it really a decision of you both for you to stay home with the children, or was it more his idea than yours? I am asking this because controlling types seem to like to take any ways of gaining freedom away from their victims. Do you know any of the details of his past marriages? Was he abusive to the other two wives as well? He may not have gotten physical with you, but verbal abuse is just as real, and actually harder because the effects are longer lasting.

Here is what I suggest you do. Start putting away as much money as you can and prepare a plan for leaving him. You may not want to leave now, but if and when you do, you will need some money put away for an emergency. Find out ahead of time where your local women’s shelters are in case things escalate and you need to leave in a hurry.

I can hear people thinking that I am going way overboard with this, but it’s always good to be prepared, just in case. Another very serious thing to consider is how much damage this relationship could do to your children. If he is doing the same thing to your daughter at such a tender age, it could leave life long scars on her self esteem. It also may lead to her thinking that it is the way men treat women, and is acceptable.

If he is willing to do some counseling and work on this, you may be able to save the relationship, but he has to earnestly want it for himself. If he doesn’t and he agrees to go just because you want it, he may come to resent you even more later on. I urge you not to make the same mistake I did and stay too long in a bad marriage. If you can see something worth working on, then by all means work it out. But, if you can’t, don’t beat a dead horse. Take whatever action you can to improve your life and the lives of your children.

Please feel free to send me a private message if I can help you in any way.

spendy's avatar

Scamp, thank you so much for the advise. I’ve been thinking those same things myself and have resisted actually saying them outloud. I guess that just makes it more real, and that’s scary even though it shouldn’t be. And yes, I loved the idea of staying home but he really pushed more for it. I guess I’ve known all along that it was one more way for him to isolate me. He’s got a habit of that. I never lay down for him and just take it, I’m a fighter and have been in an abusive relationship before (but physical, not emotional). I never EVER thought I’d be in this position again and can’t stand for it. I’m not the type to seek this type of thing out and should make clear that I don’t and won’t ever “identify with being a victim” as most women who make this repeated mistake do. I just feel I need to put that out there for anyone thinking “Oh, she’s been abused before…” It will stop if I have to leave in the night and never look back. I have such a great support system and many places I could look to for help if I was in a pinch or anything emergency-related ever happened.

I’ve actually be journaling his behavior for about two months now and hope that soon I’ll have enough info/journal entries collected that sharing it with him would make an effective impact. He’s not a stupid man…and has much good in him. But, that said, if he can’t come to a point where he realizes his own behavior and wants to get better, then there’s no need to stay. My children are too important. Thank you, Scamp, for everything you’ve said. I will keep you posted.

cwilbur's avatar

It sounds to me like this situation is just not plain working for you, on average. He needs to understand that, and understand that you’re considering leaving, so that he knows what’s at stake.

And I agree with what you said in your last paragraph there, especially as it resonates with what I said earlier. It takes two to mend a relationship. If he won’t even acknowledge that there’s a problem, there’s nothing you can do but walk away.

spendy's avatar

@cwilbur, thanks and you’re also right. This isn’t something I can do on my own, or should have to even if it were possible. I wish I knew what to do to wake him up…but I guess letting him know I’m considering leaving would be the best thing. If he’s not interested or rational enough to process that, then there’s no use in beating myself up over it. It’s enough to know I’m doing all I can, and that’s all anyone can ask.

Vincentt's avatar

OK, unbelievable that I didn’t think of my mother’s relationship before, but here goes.

My mother had a relationship with a man which was quite similar to what you are describing (with the difference of this not being a marriage and arguments not being about the money).

This man did agree with relationship counceling, but once there he wouldn’t really cooperate and often just left. He also often threatened not to come along.

He was also quite the narcist, and used to have mysophobia. Though the latter had been diagnosed as “cured” some twenty years ago, he definitely still had/has a form of it. In short: he was really hard to live with.

This carried on for several years (I think about five years that he had been living with us), and though they argued quite a lot, my mother also was a fixer and thus tried to, well, fix it. The problem was that he did not cooperate.

A little more than a year ago, the relation ended, and he moved out without even saying goodbye.

The important part of the story is what happened afterwards, to me. I was an extremely quiet, introvert person and did not really socialize. However, I had never realized this might be because of him. In the last year, I’ve noticed a tremendous change and I’m not the same person I was a year ago. It really changed drastically for the better.

So I guess the moral is that, for the sake of your children, something needs to be done before they are affected in their development. Something like this can have a tremendous effect. If your partner really does not want to cooperate, I’m afraid the best option might, indeed, be divorce. However, be sure to have him know this, too.

Unfortunately, I cannot really give reliable advice on how to fix this marriage, since my mother’s relationship did not work out as well. However, I do hope my story shows that something needs to be done.

Best of luck.

spendy's avatar

Thank you for sharing that Vincentt. I’m glad things are going so much better for you.

samkusnetz's avatar

@spendywatson… he said: “You’re a leech and you contribute nothing to this household.”

forgive me for oversimplifying, but get the hell out of there. this is not something that you ever say to a person you love. if my wife ever said that to me, i’d be out the door. i can’t even believe it. i am so so sorry for you to be in the position you are in.

my heart goes out to you.

aaronblohowiak's avatar

@spendywatson: have you thought about going back to work (perhaps even part time?) Besides communication, clear boundaries are important. You need to let him know that talking down to you is not acceptable and that you do not need to tolerate it.

spendy's avatar

@sam – we are definitely on the same page. It’s just not right and I shouldn’t be talked to that way. And it might even be different if I were one of those out-of-control, dead-beat moms. You know, the kind that ignore their dirty children and dirty house and tend to themselves while collecting food stamps and welfare (not to stereotype, because I was once a hard-working, single mom in a position that demanded supplementary assistance…so to anyone like that, nothing personal). The problem with his comment is that I cook (and pretty darn well), keep an immaculate house, and stay at home 24/7 with our two children, tending to their every need. He has this terrible problem with diahrea of the mouth…and almost never thinks before he speaks. It sounds like I’m making excuses…but (like I said) I believe it’s a sickness/chemical imbalance. I hate to diagnose, but that’s my feeling…and it’s still no excuse. He needs a wake-up call and some real help or this will end quickly.

@aaron, I’ve really been considering working again. If it weren’t for the kids, I’d be job hunting right now. With a 6 month old, I’m just not sure how comfortable I am with leaving him somewhere…and my husband’s shift work is too hectic for any employer to be able to count on me where a regular schedule is concerned. He bounces back and forth from midnight shift to day shift with very little turn-around…and I’m sure that’s also not helping his mental state. I couldnt’ do what he does if I had to and I do believe this is a contributing factor that throws gas on the fire. Most of the time (though, less lately) he’s a happy-go-lucky, chipper guy – totally loving and normal like anyone else. That’s not to say there aren’t “moments”, but it’s all generally stress-related, expected stuff and nothing out of line or abnormal for the average working man/husband/etc. It’s when he stumbles on to one of his triggers that things get hectic. He needs help and trying to figure out how I can contribute to the solution is tough…but I can’t decide for him, I know that. And one thing I can guarantee is that things will either be resolved very soon, or we will be leaving (the kids and I). He’s good about putting a kybosh on the bickering when we’re not alone, but no kid on earth needs a mother around who is affected like this. I don’t feel like the same person when I’ve exhausted myself by constantly having to manage him.

scamp's avatar

@spendywatson You might want to consider a work at home program. Several of my friends do it and that is their sole source of income to raise their children. they do customer service type stuff on their computers. If you are interested, you could pm me and I will send you some links.

That way you could earn some money, and he doesn’t need to know about it.

skfinkel's avatar

Even though it might be difficult, I hope that you can somehow suggest without rancor the idea of going to get help together. Having a “witness” might help him better see himself and what he is doing. And perhaps then he will see what is at stake, and if he really tries, change enough to make you know that at least he is making an effort. The fact that he has been married so many times might make him suspect that there is a tiny thing or two he might want to look at in himself.

spendy's avatar

@skfinkel, I’m totally with you on that one. And I believe there may be a few things for him to look at in himself, as you said, I’m also not of the belief that I’m perfect (which I know you didn’t insinuate). I’m just putting it out there. I know we have our work cut out for us, and we both have to own this problem…although he may happen to own a little bit more property in this neighborhood. ;)

MrsC2Be's avatar

when you can honestly say you’ve given everything you have to give. unless there are exterme factors such as abuse etc. then you’d have to just get out of there

Aster's avatar

When there is escalating physical violence respect is Gone and it’s time to buck it up and split. If there is No physical violence but you have this “dead” feeling and your s/o refuses to get counseling and, like others have said, the word “divorce’ is being thrown around it’s time to go. Its hard but what a wonderful relief when you get your new place. joy

emeraldisles's avatar

as I was told when your at the point where you hate them and can’t stand to be in the same room/ live in the same place anymore

emeraldisles's avatar

as my mom says its better to end it before you really do hate them or if the respect is gone and they are a pathological liar.

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