The #1 question I hear when I talk to clients about whether to divorce or not is, “How do I know if I’m making the right decision?” (Or past tense, How do I know if I made the right decision?)
I remember this feeling all too well.
When I considered leaving my husband, I had this gut instinct that I knew I had to do it – I was just too unhappy to stay. But self-doubt would always creep in, and then fear, and then the pleading from my children, family, and even my ex – all of that was hard to battle, preventing me from staying true to myself.
So if you’re getting so many questions like, “Are you sure you want to leave?” or “Marriage is hard, you should stick it out,” I want you to do something for yourself.
Go to a quiet place.
Close your eyes and breathe.
And talk to your inner spirit – what is she saying to you? Do you feel this gut instinct that you no longer should tolerate bad behavior? Are you convinced that your partner will never change, no matter what you say or do?
Here are some other metrics for you to consider:
You do not feel safe in the relationship – this not only applies to your physical safety, but also your emotional safety. If you do not feel safe in speaking up without getting yelled at or it starting a huge fight, then you are making the right decision.
The love you had for your partner is just gone – I always ask my clients, what if your partner suddenly became that person you wanted them to be? Would you love them again? If you feel that too much damage has been done, the trust has been broken, and there is zero love for this person, then you are making the right decision.
You have tried, and tried, and tried some more, yet nothing has changed – yes, this is the definition of insanity! If you have gone to couples counseling, and your partner is unwilling to make any changes, refuses to take ownership of his/her feelings, always blaming you, then you are making the right decision.
Your partner is addicted – to women, to men, to porn, to alcohol, to drugs, to buying things, and refuses to get help. If yes to any of these, then you are making the right decision.
Your children are witness to awful things – if they are getting emotionally abused by your partner, or seeing you both fight incessantly, if they see YOU fearful, then they deserve a happier place to live, so yes, you are making the right decision.
When you are asking yourself whether you are making the right decision, I’m going to be that you are, but it’s FEAR that is holding you back. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of financial burden – all of those things will work themselves out. Lean into those fears and just accept them for what they are.
When I asked myself this same question years ago, I look back on it and realized that I was terrified my kids would never turn out okay – that they would be in therapy for years, and their lives would be ruined.
Just the other day my 10 year old son were in the car together, and I asked him, “When you are a grown up, what’s the one thing you will look back on in your childhood as the worst thing ever?”
I asked him this based on the coaching that I do, and as grown-ups, we all have that one traumatic event that we won’t forget.
He said, “Oh mom, that’s easy.”
I braced for the answer. That the divorce scarred him for life.
“When you took the Play Station away from me last year. I’m STILL not over it!”
I laughed and responded, “Really? I was thinking it would have been the divorce!”
“Yeah, it was tough for like 5 minutes,” he said. “But that was so long ago, I’m over it. Besides, you and Dad are SO different, I can’t imagine you being together. All I remember was the fighting, and now you and him are both happy. That’s all that matters to me.”
So there you have it my dear friend, you being happy IS all that matters.
The early days and weeks into my separation, it felt so strange to not have my husband in my life. Granted, I wasn’t in love with him anymore, but for years I was the one responsible for managing the family, getting the kids to and from their activities, managing play dates, cooking dinner, etc.
We both had full time jobs, but his office was an hour away, and I worked locally. So newly separated, and on the days he had the kids in his custody, I STILL picked the kids up at school, took them to his house, and get this… I even made dinner for him!
For five days a week, I was the one leaving my office at 4 pm, taking the kids to their practices, and made sure they had everything they need for school the following day.
At one point my boss said to me, “If you’re getting divorced, why are you helping him so much?”
Well for one, I felt guilty. I didn’t want the kids to suffer, or deal with a different routine now that I was no longer seeing them every day. I also felt bad that he had an hour commute, where I didn’t, and adding more to his plate seemed like the wrong thing to do.
At the same time, he was going after shared custody. He made sure I had as little of “his” money as possible. He wasn’t paying child support. Not to mention that I CHOSE a local job (with less pay) so that he could follow his professional dreams. And because I was helping HIM out, I had to make up the lost billable hours by working at home, late into the night.
Doesn’t this sound completely insane?
But I bet you completely understand it, right?
It took me a while to realize that I was enabling him, and that the mental control he had over me still continued way after we separated. I was the one who always helped, sacrificed for my family, and went that extra mile. The word “no” wasn’t in my vocabulary, especially with him.
I finally sent him a text, just like that, out of nowhere:
“The kids have karate at 4 pm on Mondays. Baseball on Tuesday. Game this Saturday. Those are your days, so you will need to assume responsibility for them.”
“You know I have to work and I can’t get home that early! Please, I work so hard to provide for the family, you know I can’t do this.” (I’m pretty sure I heard violins in the background, playing along to his pity story).
“Figure it out. This is the life of shared custody. Welcome to my world.”
Truthfully, it pained me to hand this responsibility to him – I didn’t think he would pull it off. It also took away my importance as that “sacrificing mother.”
But if child support was based on the number of days I had them, and he was making sure I had a limited financial award, why on earth would I make it easy on him?
It wasn’t about making him “pay” or getting him back, it was about standing up for myself.
When you are separated or divorced, you are in charge of YOU. You are no longer anyone’s care taker, unless you have children.
You don’t have to negotiate. You don’t owe any favors. You aren’t family any more. There should be consequences for everything your ex does or doesn’t do – and they are his consequences, not yours.
You shouldn’t have to remind him of events that the kids have. He owns a calendar, so he must use it. You no longer need to buy his mother a Christmas present. If the kids have a day off from school, and it falls on his day, then HE must take the day off, not you.
Of course – and this is a BIG footnote to all of this – if you have a healthy, trusting relationship with your ex, then by all means, work as a team and do things for each other. In fact, maybe just quit reading this because it doesn’t apply to you – kudos for working things out!
But, for most of us, we tend to let things slide. We say, “just this once,” or, “If I don’t remind him of the recital, he may forget, and that will hurt my daughter’s feelings.”
If he forgets the recital, then you teach your daughter the importance of expressing her disappointment with her father. You are also teaching her the reality of her father’s less than perfect attendance rate, and because that’s how HE is, you don’t need to protect his image or reputation.
Don’t overcompensate your ex’s inability to be an adult just to please or protect your child. It’s exhausting, and you will never win. So stop doing it.
Your ex is your ex for a reason. Live your life, learn to say no, and make your own rules.
And then… imagine what you will do with all that free time.
It was 1998 and I waited nervously in my doctor’s waiting room. The blood tests were in, and I was convinced something was wrong with me. I thought I had cancer, a thyroid imbalance, or my ovaries weren’t releasing the proper hormones. I needed a medical reason to explain why I didn’t want to have sex with my husband. After all, I was only 25 and married for just one year.
The doctor came in and gave me the news:
“Lindsey, there is nothing wrong with you. You are perfectly healthy.”
What? No, something is wrong. Then why don’t I ever want sex? This was not what I wanted to hear.
He told me it was psychological and encouraged me to see a therapist. I ignored his recommendation and took “sex boosting” herbs, read books on how to “sex things up,” heck, I even watched porn. Nothing worked.
After nine more years of a near sexless marriage, I finally saw a therapist. I discovered my “low sex drive” had nothing to do with me, but rather, deep rooted issues I had with my husband. Had I blamed myself less, and taken more time to examine my marital problems, perhaps my marriage could have been saved. But I am now remarried and let’s just say, my sex drive is doing just fine. Why? Because when I entered my new relationship, I openly discussed these 5 issues that can affect your willingness to have sex, not your sex drive:
- You are angry: There’s nothing like a good fight that will put sex on hold. Who wants to be intimate when you’re pissed off? But how mad are you? Anger can last a day or for many years but regardless, if you’re mad, you will withhold sex as a weapon for your fight. If your anger can’t be resolved in a conversation with your husband, then talk to a coach or a therapist. Anger not only affects your sex life, but your health and wellbeing.
- You feel controlled: Whether your husband is outright controlling of you and tells you what to do, or if he is more passive aggressive in his controlling behavior, nobody likes to be controlled. While we may be tempted to give in sexually, just to “get it over with,” sex is a very unenjoyable experience. When we are controlled, the one thing we control is sex. It may not be a conscious action, but controlling sex can give us power in a powerless relationship.
- You don’t communicate: when communication between you and your husband is only about the kid’s schedules or what to buy at the grocery store, you need a lot more words of love to reignite the sex spark. Being told that you look sexy and beautiful can go a long way. If you want to hear that, start by telling him how good he looks when he goes to work – men do like to hear it! Stroke his ego and hopefully he will catch on to pay you a compliment in return.
- You just aren’t attracted to him: Perhaps he has gained 20 pounds since you married him, and his physical appearance has declined. I truly believe that it is every married couple’s responsibility to uphold their appearances so the physical attraction remains intact. Yes, we all age, but are you doing what you can to look attractive as well? If weight gain is an issue, be honest with him. Suggest a lifestyle change for both of you. Set a goal to run/walk in a local 5K, go on an active multi-sport vacation, try kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. Being an active couple can really make a difference in your appearances and your communication.
- You are stressed: Let’s see, you work a full time job and spend your free time in the car carting your children around from game to game, and you have no time for YOU. Stress and anxiety can put a major damper on your sex drive. It is crucial to commit to 1 hour a day for some down time – go for a walk, do yoga, meditate, go shopping, get pampered and look pretty.
As women, we do a wonderful job blaming ourselves for the lack of romance in our marriage. Naturally, we are givers so when we can’t give, we think something is wrong with us. Irregular intimacy in your marriage can be normal, but weeks and months of a sexless marriage is an indicator that something is wrong in the relationship, not with you. Talk to a therapist or marriage coach before it’s too late!
I don’t know what it is about women, but when we’ve made up our mind about divorce, the decision is made. It is done. We can suffer silently for years, filling the void in our marriage with girlfriends, new hobbies, or our children.
But then comes the day when you decide you’ve had enough. It hits you with such clarity, you wonder why the decision didn’t come earlier. After all, you haven’t been happy for years. You hardly speak to each other. You’re almost sure he will agree to it.
But then he begs you to stay. He promises to change, go to marriage counseling… he will do anything to save the marriage. And you’re thinking, I have given you endless red flags and opportunities to change, yet now, as I’m walking out the door, you want to save the marriage?
In my divorce coaching practice, my female clients are often shocked by how she is begged to stay, despite the misery in their marriage. Here’s how you can be prepared for what might happen, and what to do if you still want out:
In the beginning, when you first tell him your wish for divorce:
1) He will seek counseling or encourage you to go with him: Perhaps you’ve been to counseling and even suggested marriage counseling long ago, but now he’s ready. Everyone can benefit from therapy no matter the stage in their life, so encourage him to go. Don’t rule out going to therapy with him even though you still want to end the marriage – a good therapist can act as an effective communicator on your behalf and help you feel heard.
2) He will read books and ask you to read them: Your personal book shelf may be filled with self-help and marriage recovery books, yet not once has he volunteered to read them… until now. He is suddenly playing catch-up while you and Oprah are already virtual BFFs, having taken all of her online courses on self-improvement. Rather than deflect his suggestions, encourage him to read your favorite book, without promising the outcome he desires. You never know, he may have an Ah-ha moment.
3) He will send you flowers and cards: During your marriage he’s only sent you flowers twice, but now he’s sending you flowers twice a week – what gives? At this point, he is acting out of desperation and trying everything to change your mind. My clients tell me that incessant flower-giving is the biggest turn-off, out of all their husbands’ attempts to save the marriage. Just remember, he is human and doesn’t know what to do. Respectfully ask him to stop and abide by your boundaries and wishes.
When all of his nice efforts fail, it may start to get ugly:
4) He will get passive aggressive: He will begin to act as the victim and blame you for all that hasn’t worked. And if you’re already feeling low and unsure, you will begin to doubt yourself, which is a passive aggressor’s end goal. He is already feeling threatened and insecure so he may “question” your ability to mother, keep a stable home without him, or manage the finances, and you secretly wonder if he is right. He may say, “No one will ever love you, like I love you.” Fear and anger are driving his manipulation tactics, but the key is for you to not engage. Calmly respond, “I will not engage with you while you are angry,” and walk away.
5) He will be in denial: You may have already told him that you or he needs to move out. You have called an attorney and suggested he do the same. But he is in complete denial and comes home from work as if nothing has happened or is going to change. Continue to press him about his next steps, give him a move-out date, and email him your plans about dividing assets and child custody. Soon enough, reality will catch up with him and he will acquiesce to your wishes.
6) He will accuse you of cheating: For the purpose of this article, let’s assume you haven’t cheated. But expect him to go through your phone and email looking for evidence to prove that you have. He might be so convinced that there is someone else that his relentless questioning may make you wonder if you did cheat but you forgot. Lock down your phone and email – he does not have the right to invade your privacy, even if he is your husband. And once again, do not engage by answering his questions or accusations. Have a calm answer prepared and continue to use the same response every time this issue arises.
7) He will get clingy and/or mopey: For years you and he have lived separate lives, but now he wants to do everything with you. He volunteers to go with you to the grocery store, be your date at that fundraiser that never interested him before, or plan a trip to your favorite winery. And when you turn him down, he will act mopey and sad, which is another form of passive aggression. If you have truly made up your mind, don’t let his clinginess make you feel guilty or allow you to change your plans.
The transition period from when you tell him you want a divorce to the actual separation will be one of the hardest parts of your divorce. Your mind and heart will be challenged as he begs you to stay, especially if there are children involved. If possible, allow the separation to happen sooner than later so that you may mitigate bad behavior between both of you.
“If you enter a relationship because you were in the process of escaping from something unpleasant, then the basis of this relationship may be more about what you do not want than about what you DO want.” –Esther Hicks (author; Law of Attraction guru)
I hear this question all the time: “What if I will be alone forever?”
As human beings, we cannot be alone. It is proven that solitary confinement is the worst form of torture for prisoners, and it has damaging consequences to their mental health. Our brain can actually shrink if we do not have human contact.
So of course, the fear of being alone feels extremely valid.
But there is a funny thing about this fear of being alone, and how the Universe responds to your fear. I have studied many books about vibrational energy and it is proven fact that the more fearful energy you emit, the more the Universe will send it back your way – this is, essentially, the Law of Attraction.
When we are afraid, we kick into survival mode. We think very much in the short-term rather than having a calm outlook on the long-term.
Here’s what your brain might be telling you:
- Stay where it’s safe: This means, if you are in an unfulfilling marriage or relationship you would rather stay in it because you at least have someone, rather than be alone. While you don’t really want to be in that relationship, your fear of being alone makes your brain tell you to stay put.
- Quickly find someone else: Because your fear tells your brain to think only short-term, you instinctively feel the need to find someone else so that you’re not alone again.
So as you can see, the fear of being alone does you more harm than good! In her book, The Vortex, Esther Hicks says it beautifully:
“If you are constantly feeling bad about yourself or about your life and you enter into a relationship with another to make it better, it never gets better. The Universe will not bring you someone who feels better than you, it will bring you someone who is less than you or someone who matches your current vibration about yourself.”
The more you focus on the lack in your life, the more lack will come to you.
So try this: I want you to start designing your life today. Rather than focusing on whoisn’t in your life, focus on who is and who is going to be. How can you be grateful for your existing friends and family? In a year from now, where do you want to live? Where do you want to work? What new friends do you want to meet? Who is that awesome person coming into your life that is going to rock your world?
Today you have the permission to be the architect of your life. Start sketching it out. Dream BIG. Who’s telling you that you can’t have it all? NO ONE!!!
By designing your life, you are telling the Universe that you are accepting abundance. That you are allowed to have it.
By being afraid of solitude, you are telling the Universe that you are willing to settle. That you aren’t good enough to have abundance.
If you shift your consciousness to what is coming versus what isn’t there, you are instantly replacing fear with gratitude and trust. You won’t be alone be forever because you already know and expect that the Universe will provide for you!
You can do this!
There is something deeply ingrained in all of us that requires us to have closure. We need it when we leave our job, experience a death, if we fight with our best friend, and especially if we loved someone and the relationship ended. Closure may be a healthy conversation as to why we acted the way we did, or it can provide us answers for why the bad behavior. It offers us insight as to what went wrong so that we can learn from our mistakes.
After my divorce, I fell madly in love with a man, but the relationship ended in utter heartbreak. One day we were having brunch sipping mimosas and literally the next day we broke up because I found out about his infidelities. I needed to know why, when, how, how often – I needed answers to help me figure out where I went wrong. I requested a meeting with him once the f-you emails and texts died down (yeah, I can get a wee-bit angry), and he obliged to a meeting.
I expected him to say sorry, to explain the root of why he did what he did, and to shed light on why he didn’t love me the way I thought. But all I really got from our meeting was a few blank stares on his part, and very little explanation. He said something like, “Lindsey, it is what it is. I’m not sure why I did it.”
I left our meeting with more questions than answers and I was just numb from the lack of information.
So how did I get closure from this very hurtful event in my life? It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it probably took me a year. But through empowering myself with knowledge from other experts, I learned this:
• I had to forgive him. This meant writing a letter to him that I never sent, but telling him that I forgave him.
• His actions didn’t define who I was but who he is.
• Our relationship provided me with a valuable lesson of what not to do. And you know what? I never dated that kind of person again.
• Wanting closure gave him all the power to my feelings. Rather, I accepted the fact that I won’t get closure, and for some weird reason, that gave me closure.
If you still need closure from a narcissist in your life, think about why you need it. Then, journal exactly what you want him to say to you, as if he were sitting in front of you. As you write it all down, you may discover that you are giving him VIP access to your heart, your feelings, and your mental clarity. Why does he deserve such admittance? He doesn’t!
Now start focusing on all the amazing things in your life. Be grateful of today’s great gifts and not mindful of yesterday’s mishaps!
If you need closure from your ex, let me know how I can help you by replying to this blog!