Deciding to end your marriage is a difficult decision often fraught with what-ifs and doubts. This is when a separation can be helpful.
My current guest, Carol Round was married for twenty-eight years. During that time, her husband had repeatedly talked about divorce. In fact, it seemed like a seven-year cycle but he never pursued it. Carol wanted the marriage to work. Eventually, it was Carol who said she needed to get away. She wanted a separation just to evaluate where they were. Here’s Carol:
I just left him a note and I left while he was at work. I felt like if I told him to his face that I was leaving, that I would probably let him talk me out of it and I didn’t want guilt. I just needed to get away.
I was a teacher so it was in the summer and I was off and I moved into to a girlfriend’s house in a neighboring community about 20 miles away. She was also a teacher, but she was going to be gone on a trip to Europe. So, she let me stay in her house.
He didn’t react to the note at all. He didn’t call me. He didn’t come by.
I don’t think it surprised me.
I think in the back of his mind he knew it was coming, because I had been withdrawing from him, which is what he did to me and I wasn’t doing it as payback. I just had so many years of resentment built up. Not just because he wanted a divorce every seven years, but because I worked full-time. He worked full time. I did everything for him and the boys. I took care of him. I did everything and I can be resentful. When the boys were younger, he’d go out and do the chores, take care of the animals, but as they got old enough, he let them take care of the animals. He might go out and help some or I was out helping with the animals on top of the cooking and cleaning and laundry. The times I would ask him to do things. It was like, “I can’t believe you’re asking me to do that. That’s your job.”
After about two weeks, I went back to visit. I had a lot of guilt. Our youngest son was home from college and he was staying with his dad. Our oldest son was married and lived in a different area of the state. I asked my ex how they were getting along and he said, “Well, we’re keeping up with the cooking and the laundry, but if you’re not home by the middle of next month, I’ll have to hire someone to clean the house.”
Now although he said it jokingly, after I left to go back to where I was staying, I took a walk and I thought, “That’s all I am to him, is someone to take care of you.”
I realized I had been nothing but his mother for 28 years. I took over where his mother left off. I got up the next morning and I went for a walk and I thought, “You know, I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in a marriage where I don’t feel loved. I feel taken for granted, wondering when the next shoe’s going to drop and he’s going to decide he’s not happy, he wants out.”
Afterwards he took a day off from work and he came over and wanted to take me out to lunch. When he walked in the door, I said, “I want a divorce.”
He said, “I want to buy you out of our place.”
When I left him I was only separating from him. I wasn’t even contemplating divorce. The final straw was the visit. That’s when I felt like it’s not me that he loved, it’s the fact that I could take care of him.
We would still be married if he had said, “What can I do to make it work?”
The Divorce Coach Says
If you’re on the fence about your marriage, a separation can be very helpful although it’s important to approach it with an open mind. Being physically separated can create enough of a shift for the relationship dynamics to change between you and your spouse and it could open up a path to reconciliation.
Separating can be a challenge financially so house-sitting, or staying with friends or family is a way to make it work and it’s probably better than committing to a lease for a fixed period of time.
Having young children can also make separating a challenge because ideally you’ll want to set it up so that you and your spouse share parenting. That means making sure your temporary accommodation is suitable for your children to visit or maybe you could work a nesting arrangement.
Does leaving with a note seem cowardly? If that’s what you’re thinking then I’d encourage you to explore where your thoughts on that are coming from. It could be the notion that if you have bad news to tell someone, you need to tell them to their face.
I’m going to say that if leaving with a note makes the difference between leaving and not leaving, then leave with a note. Leave whichever way you can – with a phone call, with voice mail message, with a text message, even with no message. It may hurt your spouse especially if they weren’t expecting it but it’s the beginning of a hard conversation.
What happens next will be very telling. I think the silence from Carol’s husband was all she needed to know what she could expect from her marriage.
Paying attention to how your spouse reacts, what they do or don’t do, what they say or don’t say can bring you the clarity you need to make your decision but you have to be aware and observant, and you have to be prepared for an outcome you may not want.
Carol Round has been a writer her whole life and now writes the A Matter Of Faith blog where she shares inspiration thoughts for daily living. She is the author of Journaling With Jesus.