Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Once again I’m writing about my marriage.

Things with Gil are not good. It seems I always come back to this.

I’ve tried in every way that I know how, but I get discouraged when I look at him and know he has little ownership in our problems.

He’s made it clear over and over that he has no interest in marriage counseling, and I don’t know that I am open to that avenue at this stage.

Gil has engaged in some destructive behaviors that I’m hesitant to go into detail about on this blog. Things in this area will improve for some time, but some serious stuff in relation to these behaviors has occurred recently and is forcing me to take (once again) a serious look at staying together.

I do not want to write or talk about any of this. I want to avoid it, and I want him to change, but I’m intelligent enough to know that he will not take the steps necessary to facilitate a real change.

My fear is that we will continue until a real crisis occurs that will force him to examine his problems. I’m afraid for both of us and I have a responsibility to my children to keep them safe.

I’m sad, scared, and I feel alone. I never dreamed I’d be in the situation that I’m in, and if anyone else told me that these things were going on in their marriage, I would tell them to leave. I’ve always thought of myself as a strong person, but right now I feel like a pathetic wimp.

I’m hoping that writing about some of this will comfort me and give me direction. I’m not very linear in my thinking, and when I’m under stress, I have a hard time knowing and deciding what to do first.

Thanks for listening. I am talking to my therapist, and she’s helping me with a plan, but I need a safe space to confront some of my fears, and I’m limited in how much I can tell friends and family at this point. I know that ending things will hurt both of our families terribly, and if I’m honest, this is one of the main reasons I’ve stayed as long as I have.

The other part is that in spite of Gil’s problems, he is a loving and involved father. Our kids adore him, which is another reason I’ve put this off for so long. I want to believe that we can make it work.

But…I’m tapped out. I’m tired. I recently celebrated my thirty-eighth birthday. I owe it to my kids to take care of this situation so that I can be a happy, and whole parent. Trying to fix this marriage has sucked a lot out of me, and it has taken my focus off of them.

I feel strongly that splitting up is the right thing to do, but I’m still figuring out the best way to go about it.

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11 thoughts on “Should I Stay or Should I Go?

  1. In many ways I could have written this post. Life is hard, and staying married is very hard, even without mood disorders and substance abuse (not that those are your issues). I have been married 34 years this September. I find myself often wondering if I should stay in this relationship. I have no real advice, but I do have some questions that may help. Does he value you? Do you? If you had no children, would you stay? What do you fear? Disappointing family? Hurting Gil? Is he capable of change? Can you accept this yet feel it is your duty or your doom?

    I feel for you. You are definitely in a difficult spot and one no one should have to face. I see you haven’t posted for a couple of weeks. I hope that means you are working on you and your plan. I wish you all the best life has to give. Remember, you deserve to be loved and happy.

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    • Thanks so much! Wow, you’ve given prompts for several more blog posts. 1) sometimes I feel he values me but other times not at all.
      2) I probably don’t value him in the ways he needs. I do love him and sincerely care about his well-being, but I’ve become rather slack in conveying my feelings to him. I’d guess he doesn’t feel valued. 3) I’m not sure we would have the problems we have if we did not have children. We’re worn out, spread thin financially, and don’t have much left for each other. 4) I fear leaving him and realizing I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. a&b) But additionally, I don’t want to hurt him or his family. 5) I think he is capable of change, just not sure how motivated he is to change at the moment. 6) I think that’s where I am now — accepting that him changing (or not) is not my responsibility. I don’t feel that it is my duty to change him or stay with him. I want him to want to be the best person/partner he can be. I also don’t feel obligated to stay with him just because we’re married. In other words, I put my happiness and my children’s happiness above staying married just because….. I think people get into a lot of trouble when they can’t look outside the confines of marriage. I view marriage as a partnership, NOT a straight jacket. Both partners have to work at it. Often, one partner says, “Well, we’re married, and that’s just the way it is” instead of viewing the commitment as something that requires effort.

      Right now, I’m working on getting a job, managing my anxiety, and coexisting peacefully with Gil. Will I leave? I honestly don’t know. My feelings change daily which tells me I’m not 100% ready. So yes, I am working on a plan, and I’m definitely feeling stronger.

      Thanks again for the kind words. I can tell from your writing that you’re feeling much better — makes me happy and hopeful. 🙂

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      • So glad my comments prompted some questions for you to examine. I’ve heard stories about people’s divorces, but I think staying together and actually working through the problems is harder. But it takes two to make it work. If only one of you is working on changing the dynamic, chances for success are pretty low.

        Dear Abby used to use this as a test: Would your life be better without him?

        Honestly, the only reason I’ve actually stayed married is because he and my son and grandson are all I have and they would always be the ones I turned to if I needed something, so why leave. But that’s me and my situation.

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  2. Thanks for putting it out and sharing the hard parts. I’m so with you on this, as you know. My kids are at the ages now where it’s obviously affecting them. The girls advised me to get out of the marriage “while you’re still young and pretty”(love them for being kind! at that age I’d have said I was ancient). My son, at 12, was crushed with sadness over hid dad moving out. I feel guilty, even though I didn’t actually force it. Now, however,even he is aware of how peaceful it is here. I’d hoped to set an example for my kids about how to succeed in overcoming issues and how to make relationships work. Instead, they learn how to survive the ending of a marriage. If they can witness it as a courteuos and kind parting then they will be better for the lesson. For myself, I just want to act with integrity and insist on the same from anyone I let into my world. Be good and accept only the best for the mother of your children!

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    • I know what you mean, especially about peace in the house. I feel like a big weight is lifted off my chest every Monday after Gil has gone back to work. My oldest even said ths morning, “Mom, you’re a lot more fun when Dad’s at work.” I don’t know about fun but I’m a lot more relaxed. I, too, am hoping for a “courteous and kind parting.” Not sure if that’s possible, which is a big reason I’ve stayed this long. I wish you the best.

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  3. I just read your post three times, trying to think of the right words for what I want to say – and I can’t.

    I just want you to know that reading this actually made me hurt. We don’t know each other, so I don’t want to assume I know how you’re feeling, but the way you describe it…it’s SO familiar.

    I don’t have any answers or any wisdom. I’m still feeling out my situation. There’s no easy or even clear path to fixing things – not when kids are in the picture. My husband and I ended our relationship two years ago and knew then that we’d be getting divorced (that there was no chance of reconciliation.) But we actually haven’t legalized it yet because we simply can’t manage that yet financially…not with two little kids, a shitload of student loan debt, and the cost of living in the DC area. We just can’t manage legal fees right now – much less two residences. I can live with my parents seven hours away – but then the kids don’t see their dad much (and he’s a great dad.) There’s no straightforward answer. I feel like, post-split, I’m on a better path, but it’s like I’m walking through fog with a tiny little lantern and I have to just pick my way baby-step by baby-step. Things are definitely easier than they were two years ago, but it’s still daunting and kind of scary.

    I CAN tell you that closing the door on the relationship was the best thing we ever did – even though the alternative for us has been this long-term pre-divorce limbo state. Making the final break was truly awful. Being the one to finally say “enough” and make the change is horribly, horribly difficult – especially when your partner is unresponsive and resentful and unwilling to make the changes that are necessary to fix things. For me, I finally realized that my life was going to be what it was with him – unless I left. He wasn’t particularly happy, but he was content with things as they were. He didn’t want to make changes, didn’t think he needed to – regardless of what I wanted or needed. The only way to improve my life in that scenario was to simply give up and sort of roll over…or to leave. I couldn’t just give up on my own life, on the potential for wonderful things – so I left. But I ran myself into the ground trying to fix things first. I had to – for myself, and for the sake of these two little kids who loved us both so much. I had to be able to KNOW inside that I did absolutely everything in my power to salvage the kids’ chance to have their parents be together.

    Ultimately I think valuing yourself, NOT sacrificing yourself, is a tremendously important and vital lesson to give your kids. Having a daughter was what really hit that home for me. Not that I didn’t want to pass that lesson on to my son as well – but I felt the responsibility inherent in raising a little girl in relation to what was going on with me and her dad. He was unresponsive; he didn’t value me; he demeaned me in the way he blew me off and didn’t take me and my life/feelings/concerns seriously; etc, etc. Those are bad things, marriage-killing things. But when you think of what you’re teaching your kids by the way you live?? That, for me, made the crucial difference. I didn’t want my daughter to think it was okay to be with somebody who made her feel the way I felt – because that’s what her mom did. I didn’t want my son to think it was acceptable to treat his partner that way – because that’s what his dad did, and his mom accepted it.

    I’m sorry this is such a long comment…such a ramble. I’m just trying to express that you’re not “a pathetic wimp” for not making changes. Staying with something until you have nothing left to give it is a pretty awful place to get to – but sometimes it’s what you have to do. Just like sticking with a situation longer than you’d like to, to keep your kids near their dad, is a brave and loving act. But I also really believe that leaving that situation when you’ve reached the limit of what you can deal with (when you’re “tapped out”) is a loving thing to do for yourself – and also for your kids, truly. If we, as parents, don’t teach kids the importance of valuing themselves, how will they learn it? And what will happen to them in their lives if they don’t learn that lesson? I admire you.

    I also want to say that I think this situation you’re in, that I was in (and still am somewhat, though not so painfully these days) – it really is incredibly lonely. I can absolutely verify that (for whatever that’s worth.) Ending a marriage is such an isolating experience. The act of breaking with somebody you thought you’d be with forever is difficult enough – but then you have to face so much negative judgment! That was actually really shocking to me. I didn’t expect it. I expected more support from friends and family. My parents (fortunately for me) were wonderful. But in my experience, most other people tended to assume that, as “you guys SEEMED to be so happy!” we (and especially me, as I was the one making the break) didn’t try hard enough to fix things. Or perhaps (my personal favorite) that I simply “want too much.” Meaning that I’m immature or have unrealistic expectations about life and marriage and intimacy. It’s very difficult.

    Music and writing have been the things that have really gotten me through the worst of this stuff – given me the most support. (Here’s a link, if you get a chance to check it out: http://therumpus.net/2011/02/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-64/. This particular piece of writing has helped me a great deal.) Blogging helped too (once I started blogging) – just as a way to get things out of my own head. I was having anxiety attacks and stuff; that eased a little bit when I started writing more regularly.

    I had somebody tell me when my ex and I were splitting up that “we’re all responsible for our own happiness” – meaning, if I wasn’t happy in my marriage, it was MY fault. That’s complete crap. It’s impossible to be happy when you’re dragging a dead weight along with you every step of your road. It’s exhausting and demoralizing. And it limits you in every way – as a person, as a parent. Even as a potential friend to your husband (if you want that.) You don’t know what’s possible if you’re held down by things that don’t (and won’t) work. Two years after the fact, he and I have actually salvaged a friendship. We’re even thinking of starting a business together – and we’ve always been excellent co-parents. Removing the thing that didn’t work (the marriage) has freed us to enjoy the things that DO. That’s been a huge revelation to me about how to live life.

    I can actually keep going (I think I’ve already written as much as you wrote in your post! Sorry about that.) So I’m stopping. But I want thank you for writing. Knowing that other people are going through/have gone through things that I have/am helps me a lot.

    I wish you so much luck as you work through this.

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    • Wow. Thank you so much for this thoughtful response. I’m truly humbled that you would take the time to write this to someone you don’t even know. I can’t begin to convey how much I appreciate it. It helps more than you’ll ever know. I’ve read your response three times, and each time it brought tears to my eyes. You really do have an understanding of where I’m coming from. I have lots more to say and hopefully can blog more later, but please know that I’m pulling for you and your family — it sounds like you and your ex are coming to terms with what your relationship is. I admire that and hope to have a good co-parenting relationship and friendship with Gil one day. I think I’ll print out a copy of the link you sent — SO very helpful.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you, again! I know you have a lot going on, but you’re such a powerful writer, and I miss reading your blog. I know you’re writing somewhere, and I hope I’ll have the pleasure of reading much more of your amazing work in the near future.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this, I’m sure it wasn’t easy. I felt similarly when I was in the process of splitting up from my ex-wife. It was a terrible feeling. In my opinion, you have to do what you can to make yourself happy and insure you are a whole person emotionally. I struggled with this before leaving my ex, it absolutely sucks, but the light at the end of the tunnel will shine bright if you stay true to yourself.

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    • Thank you so much, Marshall. It wasn’t easy to write, and as you know too well, it’s even tougher to live in the wreckage of a soul-sucking marriage. It helps tremendously to hear from people who’ve been through splits and have come through it. I read some of your blog yesterday, and I look forward to reading more. All the best to you as you continue to move forward.

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      • The hardest part for me was trying to keep life in perspective. I always tried to tell myself that no matter how difficult my situation, there is someone else in the world who is worse off. It helped me. Good luck to you.

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