Some marriages do seem to explode overnight but many divorces don’t happen suddenly. They are years in the making. Sometimes the plan to leave is quite specific and detailed. Other times there may still be a plan but it’s more milestone driven such as when the kids have left home or when the debt has been paid off.
My current guest, Candi was married for thirty-five years. She was certain for many years that her marriage would end but she wasn’t able to leave until things fell into place and her path forward was clear. Here’s Candi:
The last ten years of the marriage, I was definitely sure that it was going to end.
I stayed at home with the kids until the youngest one was in the sixth grade and then I was working but it just wouldn’t have been enough. We were saddled with debt that I was trying to pay off. I had gotten a car that had very high payments and I was like, “Oh, boy.” There was just no way that I could do it, so I waited and waited. I always in the back of my mind thought, “Well, maybe he’ll turn around and turn into a responsible adult and I won’t have to leave this marriage,” but you know that’s never going to happen.
He knew for the last three years. I left him four years ago but only for six months, because I was floundering on my own. He was still making my car payment, because I couldn’t afford that. Then, he started to tell me he wasn’t going to make my car payment and I was going to lose my car. I was like, “Gosh, I’ve got to move back home until my car is paid off so that I don’t have to worry about that anymore.” If I moved back home and shared the expenses with him, then he would have the money to make the car payment. So I did move back.
I decided to leave when I was finally financially able to. He’s been self-employed for a very long time. That was one of the reasons why I didn’t leave him when our kids were younger. His business was mostly cash, so of course it wasn’t declared. He showed to the IRS that he ran his business at a loss, so I knew that if I went to court to try and get child support, all of his paperwork showed he didn’t make any money and I would never get anything.
His income was very sporadic. It wasn’t like a weekly paycheck. He made money here and there. Sometimes he’d make a lot and then he’d go for a few months without making anything at all, so in order to move out and be able to depend on a weekly or bi-weekly or monthly amount of money from him, I was never going to be able to do that. That’s one of the reasons why I stayed in the marriage until the kids were grown. I didn’t need to worry about that anymore.
If you’re in this position, then I would encourage you to make a plan:
- Start by identifying all the reasons why you feel unable to leave at the current time.
- Then for each reason think about what would solve your concern.
- Then ask what you can do to make this happen.
- Now put some dates on these. Don’t think of them as deadlines but rather target dates.
This might be discouraging if you have a number of reasons and your timeline is running into double digit years but stick with it. Start with the resolution that has the shortest timeframe. Focus your energies here. Then move onto the next one. As you move through your reasons and the obstacles become fewer, some of the other obstacles may not seem as impossible as they did initially.
I would actually do this exercise on paper, like a mind map. I like this because it’s very visual, it’s a simple one sheet of paper and it also reflects the disorder and interconnectedness of everything. This isn’t going to be an orderly progression. Then I would put my mind map in a safe place and bring it out every few months to update it. During that process I would see how my thinking was changing, whether things that I had initially thought were obstacles where no longer blocking me. You may also need to add new obstacles.
This can be a very stressful process so you might turn to a trusted friend or family member to help you create your plan or consider working with a divorce coach, like me :). It’ll be worth it. Having a plan like this may help you keep everything in perspective and to cope with the emotional stress of your marriage.
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