Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | September 15, 2010

Divorce. Regrets?

When I started this blog, I was reluctantly coming to the realization that I was likely heading toward divorce, and I began following other blogs of people who were further along that road. When I would ask advice, both here and on their blogs, I knew that I was asking advice from a self-selected group of people who were already pre-disposed in favor of divorce (or break-up) as an option, because they’s already been through it.

Since then, as long-time readers already know, I’ve decided that yes, that is the direction my marriage is heading. I am doing my best to carefully navigate the Divorce White Water Rapids in the hopes that my children and I (and, for all that, my soon-to-be-ex-wife) will come out of this whole messy process as best as we possibly can.

Hmmm. I just mixed roads and white water rapids as metaphors. Go figure.

Well, in the meantime, a dear friend of mine is heading down the same tracks. (Trains, now!) She’s a little bit further behind me in the process, but she’s building up steam and catching up fast. While there is still reason to hope that my STBX and I are presumably heading toward an amicable split-up, the situation with my friend is a little more ambiguous — her husband is still expressing a desire to patch things up, and there’s reason to worry that he may react badly when he realizes this is a losing proposition.

My friend is desperately unhappy in her marriage, but she has said (as I have similarly said) that she could stay in her marriage if she had to… she could go on living like this, even though she’d be unhappy. And yes, kids are part of the situation. My friend has started talking to lawyers, and as such, the reality of divorce is starting to seep in. She’s worried: is she doing the right thing?

Of course, I’ve wrestled with this idea in my own situation, especially as it concerns my sons. They are blissfully ignorant of the troubles Penny and I are having. My boys have a “happy home.” Once we separate domiciles, they will have a much more complicated home life. Am I doing the right thing?

That said, despite my ongoing doubts, the decision to separate is made, and I recognize that while divorce is not ideal, staying together with Penny is not tenable. My friend has, I believe, come to the same conclusion in her case — that staying together with her husband isn’t really going to work — but she’s worried about the potential battle that may lie ahead.

And so, I ask you, dear readers: if you’ve gone through divorce (or separation from a serious relationship), with or without kids — and however amicable or nasty the process was — do you regret it? Do you feel you did the wrong thing?

I know I’ve asked some of you this question directly in private correspondence. I still remember your answers; they helped me to make my own decision. I may have even asked this question before here on the blog, but it’s a question that bears repeating. And besides, now I’m asking by way of trying to start a discussion that my friend can see.

[Yes, she reads this blog. And as a side note, she's expressed some curiosity as to what pseudonym I might assign her if I were to ever write about her. And now here I am, writing about her, and sidestepping the issue of a pseudonym for now. Picking fake names is a tricky business! Ain't that right, Kyle?]

I’m also going to ask the corollary question: if you were on the brink of divorce, and decided to stick it out, instead… do you regret that decision? Do you feel you did the right thing?

As for myself, I’m increasingly convinced that in my own situation, there is no *right* course of action. But there are various degrees of as-good-as-we-can-do-with-the-hand-we’re-dealt courses of action, as well as just-plain-wrong courses of action. I’m doing my best to do the best I can, but it’s difficult sometimes to admit that there is no real “right” answer that can be known ahead of time.

So, how about it? Divorce: regrets? Advice?

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Responses

  1. Most of my regrets surrounding my separation (we’re still not officially divorced yet – ugh) is how I chose to handle the situation. I didn’t give myself enough time to process and grieve before I attempted to move on.

    Divorce is SUCH a personal thing and I would never give anyone advice to do it or not do it. The only thing that I would ever say is that no matter which direction you choose – to walk away or to try and patch up an unhappy marriage – is to be very very sure that this is what you want to do. Because either road is EXTREMELY difficult.

    • Thank you, as always, for your thoughts, mommasunshine. And I agree… to divorce or stay together is a very personal, case-by-case decision. Still, it helps to know others’ experiences. As I’ve noted before, you and CBG give me hope that there might be a light at the end of this tunnel!

  2. I regret that “we” as a couple didn’t try harder, but he wasn’t willing to do so. That will always be a sore spot for me. But for all that it puts you through, I don’t regret it. Even though mine isn’t finished, there is a whole world out there and at the end of the day you and you alone are responsible for making it the expereience you want to make it. You either make it negative or positive.

    That being said I am with mommasunshine. I can’t give someone advice on what to do because it is a personal soul-searching situtation that doesn’t happen over night.

    • As you know, Shannon, I am similarly sore at Penny. Here’s to better days ahead for all of us!

  3. My regret was that I didn’t have the strength and courage to divorce him sooner. I think that would have changed my life greatly. At the same time, I have no regrets about where I am now.

    I am happy in this new relationship. I am happy with my soon to be husband. I am happy with the family we are building. And my kids are happy.

    My life is different from what I ever imagined it would be. And sometimes, that is a really good thing.

    • Yes, Nicki, you’ve certainly been on quite a roller coaster of adventure. I can’t help thinking that part of why things seem to be working out so well for you is your amazing sprit and attitude. And you have a couple of pretty amazing kids, too, for all that! :)

  4. I’m so happy to be here! Heh heh… ice cream.

    You’ve spent too long coming to the realisation that this marriage isn’t going to work, so add in those beginning stages of denial or trying to make things better or trying to accept things as the way they are (were), and the total time you’ve spent working towards a divorce resolution is even longer. This is the right decision. May not feel like it now, or for a while after it happens, but when this becomes a distant past you look upon from your future, you’ll know it to be true.

    • Yes, Kyle, it’s a decision that’s been years in the making. And as you acknowledge, it’s still difficult. [sigh]

  5. If you check out my blog you will see that The Ex and I are amicable. We share joint physical custody so I am never without seeing the kids for more than 5 days in a row…and neither is he.
    Do I regret it? NOPE!! It wasn’t my idea initially and yes I did try to hang on, but I don’t regret that he was stronger to leave than me. We weren’t happy. More to the point, I was very, very unhappy.
    As far as the kids are concerned, mine came through relatively unscathed, but only because their dad and I made it a priority to keep it that way. We make that choice every single day, I believe.
    I do not regret divorcing The Ex at all. I regret it happens–for my kids’ sake–because I think they deserve a well-adjusted happy family. However, I also think they HAVE that…it just doesn’t look like everyone else’s :) And that’s OK, too!
    It was really hard being a single parent after working from home for 11 years–having to go out and find a job…living on less money…but I did it. I’m stronger for it. I can’t tell your friend (or you for that matter) whether to get a divorce or not. I can say it’s painful and hard but I don’t regret it and the journey to find myself and get healthy and be HAPPY again.

    • Thank you so much for visiting and sharing your thoughts here, Soccer Mom. I’ve started reading your blog and appreciate your insights. And as with others on this thread, it’s reassuring to know that it is possible to go through this kind of mess and come out okay on the other side.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I echo what is said here on divorce being a personal decision and individual to everyone. For me, personally, it wasn’t my decision to make, so once it was made for me, in a sense, my realization was that if he didn’t want to try to fix it, and wouldn’t allow me to try to fix it, then I am better off – and worth it – on my own. I don’t regret anything, but I think he does. Regret is a terrible emotion, one you can’t easily replace, ever. I’d rather go through life knowing I didn’t regret anything, that I took chances that ultimately make me happy and offer a better life. I believe you are on that path.

    • Thanks, Jolene. I’d like to think I’m on that path, too… although I’m still travelling very slowly and carefully.

      It’s interesting that your ex might regret his decision. I suspect you’re right — both having read your posts on the subject, and having met you in person. What was he thinking? :)

  7. when the end of the relationship comes, it’s best, in my humble opinion, to recognize it, cut your losses and move on. it’s not going to be easy, but it’s damn sure the most honest response to the end of things. in the end, it’ll be better for all involved.

    my parents separated when i was 15; they didn’t divorce until i was nearly 18. i was the reason they finally signed the papers. i could not deal with the limbo one minute more, and i insisted that they do it. and y’know, it was way better for all involved.

    i don’t have kids. when i was finally able to file (yesterday, actually), i felt a twinge of sadness and sorrow for the past. but i also left the courthouse with a little more lightness in my being. the healing can really start now that the wound is finally finished being made.

    • You use the word “healing.” I could use some of that right now, I think. Part of why I’m feeling increasing urgency to move forward. I think I’m done beating myself up over past decisions, and am ready to heal.

      Thanks, magnolia!

  8. My 4 year divorcary approaches next month. The only time I question whether my divorce was the right call is when I am currently unhappy and weighing whether I am unhappier now than I might have been if I stayed in an unhappy marriage. And then I remember that I’m looking for, aiming for, happiness and the question evaporates.

    • That’s one of the key things about my marriage: it’s a known quantity. It’s bad, but it’s not hell-on-Earth. But there’s no prospect for joy as long as I’m in it. And friends began remarking a couple years ago that I seem to have lost any sense of happiness or joy that I used to (apparently) have in abundance.

      I hope you find your happiness.

  9. Excellent question, and one I’ve honestly never thought about, despite the thousands of questions I’ve asked myself on my million-word blog.

    My situation was much like Jolene’s in that the decision to divorce was out of my hands. But I think I can finally say, after 2.5 years, [World Premier Thought!] that I’m glad my ex made as clean of a break as she did. It’s made it much easier to move on, and I do believe that I’m better off now than I was then. (Talk to me if/when my current relationship ends, and I might have a different attitude!)

    So although the decision wasn’t mine, I still don’t regret it.

    • I wonder if, like Jolene’s ex, the former Mrs. Snark might ultimately come to regret her decision. I wonder if it would matter. Either way, I’m glad you’re finding a better life as you move forward. And it’s clear that you are! :)

  10. I have to say first of all that I agree with everyone that has said that separating / divorce is such a personal decision, that nobody should give you direct advise on.

    I am 2 years separated, I have just started the divorce process, my ex is happy to just continue in what I consider ‘limbo’ of being separated, dating others but not divorced. To me, it’s time for the final closure.

    I left the marriage, after a number of years of deliberating the idea and processing the potential of staying vs leaving like you have. I think when you’re at that stage, it already says it all. If you’re unhappy, you can’t make anyone else around you happy and that has just as much negative impact on your kids (if you have kids). My ex was unhappy to me, or disinterested, yet to this day she says she wasn’t, yet she never fought for us in the two years of threats of separation before I finally did it, nor did she ever fight for us after we split. I went through my first bit of doubt on my decision earlier this year and for the first time grieved the relationship, even approached my ex with my new found feelings and asked her to consider couples counseling. She said no. And how she’s treated me since, has now sent a clear message to me that the woman I mourned, was dead and gone, and to me, that speaks volumes. Ending it was the right thing for ME to do.

    I hope you find peace in whatever road you choose.

    • Thank you, C, for your very kind words. I wish you the best as you continue down the path you’re on. Please do keep us posted how things go for you and thanks for stopping by!

  11. I do not regret that I did what I had to do to separate myself from someone that no longer was in love with me and didn’t want to be with me. It was the best thing that could have ever happened, to ME. I would not recommend divorce to anyone. As much as you think it is going to be amicable, it is going to be fucking miserable. Even though I am a better man having gone through it, I wish I didn’t have to. I begged and pleaded for it not to happen.

    As far as your friend, why is she unhappy? In my opinion, if she is unhappy, then she should go to a therapist before she goes to a lawyer. Being unhappy just doesn’t cut it in my book as far as a reason to get divorced. I find it incredibly selfish. What are the reasons for her unhappiness? Is the husband abusive? Does he have an alcohol or substance abuse problem? Is he bad with money? Has he fucked someone else? Or has she?

    There is no such thing as bring pro-divorce in my opinion. Anyone that is has no fucking clue what they are talking about. It is the single most wretched and painfully miserable thing I have ever gone through in my life.

    • I must add a strong “ditto” to this comment and leave it at that.

      • I hear you (both), DivorcedGuy (and IntrigueMe). Your situation sounds a lot like mine, which is why it thrills me to read in your recent blog entries that there is, indeed, life after divorce.

        As for my friend’s situation… that is her story to tell or not tell. I’ve learned that I’ve apparently misrepresented at least one key detail (unwittingly, but I’m not going to go back and revise the post to make it more accurate), so I might be better off not getting any more specific. That said… I assure you that her situation is not simply a case of the seven-year-itch or the disappointed-housewife-blues.

        Thanks for stopping by, friend. It’s always good to hear your voice.

  12. I don’t know if you already read this blog, but it deals a little bit with the post-divorce feelings:
    http://izziedarling.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/a-backward-glance-while-moving-forward/

    Thought I’d share that…other than that, I have nothing to offer, other than to say – I don’t think divorce is bad if you are in an unhappy and unfixable situation, as long as you truly think through the ifs, ands, buts, consequences, what ifs, but maybes, etc. I don’t think enough people do that when they make the decision. You, of course, have.

    • Dee, thank you so much for that link. A very worthwhile read — a sober look at both the problems and the hopes that gets all intertwined in this kind of mess.

      And thank you for your faith in me!

  13. Dear Friend,

    I was divorced 17 years ago and have been happily re-married for 10 years. However, if the choice had been left up to me, I would have done my best to work out the marriage.

    My husband led a double life our entire engagement and marriage and there was a lot to forgive. But two weeks after he left, I had found the courage to ask him to reconsider our relationship, telling him I would forgive his infidelities and start anew. I loved my spouse. But he would not accept and so I was thrown into the very cold world of divorce and had to find my way to happiness. This is something so painful I would never wish it upon my worst enemy. I did not have children, thank God.

    There are many unhappy marriages these days but I personally believe that the difficult times are a springboard to a better relationship (not including abusive relationships). When a couple is dissatisfied, bored with each other, unhappy, fighting, etc., that is a challenge that, if addressed with a positive attitude, can lead to a new, refined level of marriage that would not have been possible if the challenge were not there to begin with.

    I believe in the preservation of the marriage relationship and an intact family. I know this is difficult because our society makes divorce so easy, but an intact family is best and a couple who overcomes problems and obstacles is a fantastic example for everyone. Please think about that. Your children will be crushed in a way you’ll never understand if you divorce your wife.

    I dedicate all my time outside my family to help those who are suffering through divorce. My website is DivorcedCatholic.Org. Please feel free to visit or email me. Would love to chat with you about this.

    Sincerely – Lisa Duffy

    • Lisa, thank you so much for sharing your insights here. I will likely take you up on your offer to e-mail you privately; your post certainly warrants a blog entry or three of careful, reasoned response. I suspect we could have quite an interesting dialog going before too long.

      Like you, I believe in “the preservation of the marriage relationship and an intact family.” I try to live with integrity, and keeping my word is extremely important to me. I believe that the benefits of working through the hard times typically far outweigh the costs. The difficulty in my situation, quite frankly, is that my wife decided some time ago that love/marriage “shouldn’t be this hard,” and she is either not willing or not able to participate in our marriage as a marriage. While we remain effective co-parents, and she considers us to be “good friends,” she does not want to be my wife. And here we are. I’ve been fighting to improve our marriage for years. I’ve tried many different things to be a better man, to be a better husband. Feel free to read through the blog if you’re interested.

      There’s much more to say, but I think I’ll stop at this point.

      Oh, no I won’t. Just one more small thing: one of the great ironies about our marital situation is that *she* is Catholic (I am not), and yet she is the one who thinks our society places too much emphasis on staying married.

      There. I said it. You can see why this might make me a little… cynical about certain subjects.

      But all that said, I appreciate your stopping by and your insights. I suspect you and I may end up having quite the interesting conversation….

  14. Honestly… if both people want to work it out and do WHATEVER work needs to be done… not just to maintain status quo but to actually FIND HAPPINESS again? Then a marriage is worth saving. Abso-freakin-lutely.

    But when only one of you is hauling around hope? Sucks. Hated it. After a year of doing that alone AND raising a toddler and an infant, I had to throw in the towel. It felt like I was dying a slow death.

    Divorce sucks. Period. But you can survive it. You can get through it and find your happiness. The kids? Well, it’s tough on them too but if they see that what comes from it is two happy and amicable loving parents, I think they’ll be just fine.

    • Thank you, T.

      It really is hard to keep the dance going when you’re the only one dancing, isn’t it?

      I can only hope, when this is all said and done, I’ll be as good a dad to my boys as you are a mom to your wonderful children. :)

  15. looking back, i can say with confidence that i stayed a year too long. but in the same way, i don’t regret that year, as horrible and miserable as it was. because i do *not* question my decision. ever, at all.

    i met a lady in a smoking lounge at the atlanta airport that was contemplating divorce. she was a wreck, shaking and crying and all to pieces, and as we talked, i put my arms around her and cradled her and whispered in her ear: “if you’re not sure, you’re not ready. when you’re ready, you’ll know”.

    it’s only fair to disclose here that a year before the wasbund was discovered in his emotional affair and i told him it was over, i gave him an ultimatum- therapy or divorce. i was already in individual therapy, and that helped me unspeakably in preparing for and enduring the shitstorm that is the ending of a bad marriage, or a good marriage gone bad. he agreed to go to therapy and never followed through.

    i still stayed, another year, just to see, just to make sure, just to really know.

    sometimes i regret that year, but i think i prefer that to having doubts or regrets about ending a ten year marriage.

    • Clearly, I’m with you in this regard, verybadcat: I prefer the notion of staying a little too long to try to save the marriage than regretting that I may have given up a little too soon.

      Thanks, as always, for your thoughts!

      (and good luck on your new business venture!)

  16. This is a really interesting discussion. As someone who is single and never been married and NOT knowing the intimate details of why any of the above people have decided to get divorced I can’t give an opinion…but a thought I had was this, (similar to TheDivorcedGuy) “When did an individuals “happiness” become the end all in this life?” Can contentment and fufillment come from choosing to something that is hard, or do we always try to get out of “hard” so that happiness ensues? And does happiness happen?

    Just some thoughts…I am impressed at how well and civil it sounds like you and your wife are doing in the midst of a pretty tough decision.

    • Joy, thanks for stopping by.

      I agree that our society does seem to treat marriage (and serious relationships of all kinds) like a disposable commodity — if it’s not keeping you happy, just throw it away and get a new one!

      That said, there are different kinds of unhappiness. While there’s more to life than temporary pleasure, marriage should also be more than an emotional death march. It’s entirely possible that I used the term “unhappy” ill-advisdely in this post. But “personality suicide” does sound a bit melodramatic, even if it’s more apt.

      As for civility… I can only hope that everything remains as amicable between us as we continue forward on this path. That said, I do think that a very strong factor is that we both are so very dedicated to the well being of our children. Maybe we’re not so dedicated as to be willing to live a lie, but we both realize that the best way for us to raise well-adjusted children is to remain civil, cooperative co-parents.

  17. I saw Delightful Eccentric directed you to a post I wrote two days ago. I am not in support of divorce. But I asked for and got one 5 years ago. And it was Very civil. I was beyond miserable and so skinny my parents thought I had cancer. I had to make my decision for survival and I didn’t want to model a bad marriage for my two daughters. While the aftermath is indescribable, I have never regretted my decision for a minute. My ex was and is a very nice man. But it didn’t work any way you looked at it. The children are of utmost importance. It is imperative they have someone (therapist) to talk to and keep what they say confidential. As for your friend, I’d think she would be needing to talk to a therapist. It is comforting to have someone who is going through the same shit at the same time, but do consider that your relationship with her could easily be misconstrued no matter how innocent. I will be thinking of you and praying for you. Really.

    • Thank you, Izzie (sorry… it just sounds too weird in my head to call you “izziedarling”. We’ve only just met!) for your comments. And for your post that Delightful Eccentric had linked to, above. It’s a damn fine post.

      For what it’s worth, I’m not in support of divorce, either, in general. I think I am in much the same situation as you describe (except for excessive weight gain in my case, rather than weight loss) and divorce is the least worst available option.

      As for your comments about me and my friend’s relationship… while “I’m not that kind of boy,” your observation is nonetheless well taken.

      Regarding having a therapist for the children: why is it important that they have someone to talk to confidentially? (forgive me for being obtuse; it’s the first time I’ve seen that aspect of therapy called out specifically.)

      Thanks again. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

  18. If your relationship is a good one, there is no question about continuing. You feel the benefit as well as know it. The sky is bright even on cloudy days, and you are elated even when things aren’t going well otherwise.

    Yet if your relationship is a bad one, it takes most of us too long to recognize it. We end up lying to ourselves that it will all work out if we just give it another try. The truth is you are only fooling yourself if you think so.

    You no longer have a relationship with Penny beyond co-parent. You’ve been trying to make it work for years, and this after she left you once before prior to your marriage. She must have had a reason to leave you the first time, and for whatever reason decided that returning to you was the better option than any or all alternatives. Maybe she discovered how much life costs on one’s own and wanted a meal ticket. But whatever the reason, you were at most second best. As many of your friends here would agree, you deserve better!

    So you continue down the path to leaving. Sure, you are going to have doubts, for you are in uncharted territory. It is a lot more complicated than leaving a girlfriend. But you ARE leaving. You have no other choice if you are going to have a happy life. Remaining will only cause you to ruefully wonder about what might have been.

    I know about this last in great detail. How many of us can cite the day, date, hour, and minute that one first understood that one should leave the relationship rather than remain in it to one’s detriment? Well, I can. Explaining how I know this would take up too much time. I’ll save that for a blog of my own someday.

    Don’t you become as me. Don’t do nothing about a bad relationship and stay put, frozen in fear, as I did. Keep going – and don’t look back.

    • ToppHogg, you’ve posted a number of eloquent, thoughtful replies on this blog, and have given me a great deal of food for thought. I’ve tended not to spend too much time commenting on the comments (mostly because I’m so pressed for time, not because I don’t want to expand the conversation!), but please know that I’ve sincerely appreciated all that you’ve given me to think about.

      For what it’s worth, yes, I think I let this drag on for years beyond where it should. But even if I’ve been frozen in fear for a very long time, I’m glad to have finally started to move forward. I may have thrown away these past eleven (twelve?) years on a bad marriage, but that doesn’t mean I need to throw away even one more.

      Again: thanks. And keep pushing me forward. It helps.

  19. Divorcing my ex was the hardest thing I ever did, even without any kids. I can honestly say it leaves me with no regrets at all, other than a regret that I waited so long to act.

  20. I do not regret getting divorced. I was so unhappy that I believe it was starting to affect my health. I was withdrawing, not socializing and I’d certainly lost my sense of humor. You might think you can carry on, but I’m guessing it’s only a question of timing.

    I wish I’d had the courage to address our issues earlier – I don’t know what the outcome would have been.

    • Mandy, everything you’re describing about yourself in your marriage applies to me in mine.

      Here’s an interesting thought, though: while I wasn’t necessarily “courageous,” I did try to address the problems in our marriage right from the outset. And I tried to address them in a number of very different ways. (see this post, for example.) And yet, here we are, eight and a half years later….

      All by way of saying, I think the outcome would have been the same.

  21. I don’t know if “regrets” is the is actually the appropriate question. In most cases the one actually wanting the divorce may have regrets but not strong enough to warrant a reversal of their decision. When my played out the most immediate question after all was said and done was “could I have handled any part of if differently?” not from the financial perspective but from the emotional side. Things are usually said in the heat of battle that carry with it ramifications for years to come. Staying in a relationship that is poor is not intrinsically any better than being divorced in my mind. Regrets will only make a tough situation even more challenging.


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