Wendy's Blog

Are you struggling with a divorce?
My friend “Brian” is going through the crazy time common during a divorce. Driven blindly by guilt, he’s making himself more miserable than he needs to be. He moved out, then guilt over “abandoning” his 18 yr old high school senior drove him to move back in. It took a lot of courage – and a lot of pain – for him to move out in the first place. What will it take to move back out again – if he wants to in the future? In 1994, my therapist told me, “When the pain is bad enough, you’ll leave.”

I did. And it was extremely difficult to end ten years of marriage.  Since then, I’ve observed many friends struggling with this awful decision.  In retrospect, I see three things that make leaving a bad relationship so incredibly difficult.

1. The End of the Imaginary Future. During happy moments, my husband and I made plans for what we’d do when we were old and had grandkids. How we’d hold hands as we shuffled through parks. If I left my marriage, who would hold hands with me? The fear that my imaginary future would never come to pass made me stay put for a while.  Can you relate to that?

2. Enormous, Unfathomable Social and Familial Pressure. Even if divorce is “accepted” in society, each of us knows in our hearts that a divorce is a failure. Doesn’t matter whose fault it was, who files first, it is a failure because it means either a) you chose wrong or b) as a couple, you lacked the skills to overcome whatever went wrong. That’s why the guilt and social stigma keeps people trapped in misery sometimes.

3. Fear of the Unknown/Fear of Change. That whole thing about the Devil you know about the one you don’t. For women with kids, they have to factor in whether or not they believe their husband will help support the kids, and to what extent, and what effect will the loss of that father have on the child(ren). For others, it’s the worry that no one will ever love them again, or put up with X behavior or something.

It’s a hugely difficult decision. Making it is one thing, executing it is another and choosing to stay the course once the going gets rough is VERY much another, as poor Brian has discovered.

I have heard, loved, cried with and comforted so many friends now, and over and over it really does come down to the words of my therapist so long ago: “When it hurts enough, you’ll leave.” I think people who have become accustomed to high levels of pain from their childhood have a worse time making the decision to change thing or get out, for obvious reasons. If you’re wrestling with leaving or being left, may I recommend strongly you get help from objective third parties (people who don’t know either of you) and also read well-balanced information on the topic? My special report for people facing divorce, “When ‘I Do’ Becomes ‘I Don’t!'” is carefully created from the best I’ve learned about the subject in the 18 years since my marriage ended. (You can read a sample by clicking below)

Take good care of yourself. Ask yourself if it’s your high pain tolerance that’s making you endure this OR if getting help or getting out (if things cannot be changed or one party is unwilling to change) would be better for your life, your health and your kids.

Click below for a FREE sample of Wendy’s Special Report on Coping with Divorce

  1. Hi Wendy, You hit on so many good points here. The one that hit me the most is When the pain is bad enough you’ll leave. It may be that no truer words were ever spoken. I still love my soon to be ex-husband as much as ever but sadly the pain became bad enough. The second point that stood out to me ‘people who have become accustomed to high levels of pain from their childhood have a worse time making the decision to change thing or get out, for obvious reasons.’ So very true. This was an all around excellent post, these are just the two things that really hit home the most for me. I’ve already left, and have been seperated for almost a year now, but the pain over it is still at times as fresh as it was the day I decided to leave. I have gottin to the point that the good days, and the ok days do outweigh the really bad ones. So for now I take one day at a time, and am slowly moving forword with life. Thank you for the encouragment.

    • Hi Vickie,

      Thank you for writing and congratulations on your bravery. It IS a very difficult decision. I read somewhere that 1) More women initiate divorce than do men and 2) Most women have been thinking about it for a VERY long time, hinting, pushing for counseling, etc. – sometimes for YEARS – before they finally reach their pain threshold and pull the plug. Yet as a single woman, I’m surprised how many divorced men I’ve met who said, “And then one day, she just woke up and filed for divorce.”

      Yeah, right. I don’t think any normal person takes marriage nor divorce lightly.

      Best wishes to you. May your life overflow with love, joy and peace.


      • I agree Wendy…It’s not like one day we just say we want a divorce and thats all there is to it! I know from experience, I have put one foot out the door plenty of times,praying and hoping that he would catch on and “want to change”. Then would do all the routines to please me and then about a month or so end up at the same place we started or maybe worse. I looked at my relationship as “same crap diff day”. Divorce is something that I had tried for many years, about 15 to be exact to avoid, but in the end all the years of tears,pain,heartache had just made me stronger person to have to go forward with a divorce….and needless to say NOT EASY AT ALL! But just taking One Day At A Time…literally…Thanks for all comments I can really relate.

        • Jennifer,

          This is what psychologists refer to as “the honeymoon cycle”. I went through dozens of them in my marriage, and so have most of the people here who were/are married to addicts, abusers or losers. If you map it on a calendar, you’ll see how predictable it is! Frankly, I think the only way for you to decide one way or the other is to get some counseling. Even a clergy person, but please, do get some help.

          Wishing you the strength to make the right decision for yourself,

  2. Maria Bishop says:



    • Hi Maria,

      Well, in my experience men with kids are happier to date women with kids. Most parents prefer to date other divorced parents, in my observation. So I guess the question for you is what is the deeper issue that is preventing you from moving on? Certainly you know intellectually that “they” are not all the same!

      Wishing you a life overflowing with love, peace and joy,

  3. i agree on the ”when the pain is bad enough you will leave”. But what happens if you do and due to selfishness he doens’t leave you alone / does not accept the fact that the relationship / marriage is torn apart (hurts too much for both of us)nevertheless he cannot accept it and does not let me go on with my life and get over it?
    very frustrating and painful.
    Yet he recognizes the fact that we should be apart because we hurt each other with jealousy and insecurity (we have talked about our problems over and over again for over 3 years and nothing has changed) but on the other hand i cannot make a move in my life without him being in the way and he always finds a way to contact me whether is at my working environment or outside my house!
    Pffff a very long story!!!!
    what do i do??

    • Oh, Shina, you know the answer inside yourself! Remember the bullies at school? How did you get them to leave you alone? You stopped feeding them with your reactions, no matter how much it hurt inside. I’m so sorry you’re hurting. Only you can get out of this, and it will be a testament to your mental and emotional strength that you do.

      Wishing you courage,

  4. Dear Wendy,

    It strikes me when I hear women talk divorce, it seems that the male party ‘always’ is
    a. the culprit
    b. the nitwit
    c. the person who’s goal it is to make it the female party as difficult as possible
    d. not caring for his children and isn’t willing to share in the costs of his children as much as he can
    e. the greater egoist
    f. etc. etc. etc.

    That hurts. And I am sorry to read this, but even you, Wendy, is doing this. You don’t say it literally. But your words “YEAH, RIGHT” in your reply to Vicky carries a message of contempt towards these men.

    It might be so that the painlimit (“when the pain is bad enough, you’ll leave”) of the men you described, for any reason whatsoever, simply is much higher than that of their in their eyes too fast departing women. Or perhaps these men are better able to put (moments of severe) pain in perspective. Or – I was very good at this and many women are too – perhaps these men shut themselves off from the feeling of (soul-)pain in order to survive. Not realizing by doing so, they also disclaim the feeling of love.

    Writing this, I realize the following: shutting oneself off from (psychic) pain may be the way by which the ones who, as you say, “have become accustomed to high levels of pain from their childhood” learned to deal with severe (soul-)pain. But by not letting yourself feel pain, you are only able te feel maybe just a little bit of love.
    A relationship based on none or just a little feeling is perhaps easier to maintain than a relationship based on strong highs an lows in feelings.
    My marriage lasted for 24 years……

    • Hi Arno,

      Thanks for your comments and insights. It is statistically verifiable that in the US at least, more women file for divorce than do men. It is also becoming evident that for every man who comments on my posts or forwards them, there are at least 3-4 women. And seeing as I’m female, I do look at things from my gender’s perspective. But I am quite conscious of the mistakes I made in my marriage and subsequent significant relationships, and I firmly believe it “takes two to tango”. I do not universally suspect all men of misbehaving! I’m sorry if it came across that way.

      To your greater point, though, I do think that the mutations of “soul pain” certainly do manifest in the way we live our love relationships. Thank you for your excellent post.

      I wish you a life overflowing with love, joy and peace,

  5. I just divorced after a 30 year marriage – and the last 5 years was a struggle spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically… I have peace about my decision, and I know I did the right thing, but I did not make it lightly. I have a very dear friend going through a similar experience right now. My friend is trying to ‘do the right thing’ for all of the wrong reasons and is not happy. In fact, it would be accurate to say my friend is seriously depressed about the situation and there is a constant battle going on between heart & mind. It is very unhealthy physically, emotionally, mentally, and I can totally relate to these circumstances. Please pray for my friend to have the strength to follow their own advice.

  6. Wendy,

    I asked my husband for a divorce, he moved out, and two months later I realized I really didn’t want to be without him and didn’t really want a divorce I just wanted him to change. He wasn’t much of a spouse but rather a room mate. After two months apart he realized everything he had done or hadn’t done and is making strides to change. Although he hasn’t moved back in yet and it has been almost 5 months of him being out, I believe that our marriage can be saved.

    I had a very hard time seeing what it was doing to our three children and remembered how I felt living with parents who were not together. I didn’t want that for my children if there was still a chance. I stand firm on for better or for worse and sometimes think that divorce is an easy way out for some (not all). This is just my opinion and it could be from living like I did growing up too.

    Great article tho and could help someone.


    • GREAT news, Dawn! Sometimes, it seems to take a separation for both partners to realize what they had and what needs to change! Good on you both! There are substantially MORE situations where one partner believes that he or she doesn’t need to change a thing – it’s all the other person’s fault; or denies that the relationship is anything but perfect. (Mine had both those problems)

      Each person has to make their own decisions and deserves respect for them. Breaking up a long term relationship is never easy, but some people are addicted to the drama, the pain, the suffering and refuse to grow or change or let it go.

      Good luck to you and your family!


  7. Great points. My husband left me a year ago after having an affair with his co-worker(they are still together). I went to counseling and I have faced some real truths about this relationship. It wasn’t that healthy and I had not felt loved or appreciated(mostly I think it didn’t help he decided this said co-worker was going through a divorce and he was “such a good friend”). I now struggle with my daughter and what will happen with her and our future. That is my biggest guilt. And I also miss the safety net of having a traditional family, but the pain threshold was and is too high.

    • Teresa,

      Wow! I can so relate to the “traditional family” comment! I was in a very, very, very conservative Fundamentalist Christian cult, and my husband worked for them. When I told the minister I was leaving my esteemed husband, he told me I’d be throwing away my eternal life and the chance to see my deceased children in the afterlife. That kept me silent (and crying when I was alone) for a few more years. In a way, you have gotten a GREAT GIFT by him leaving, because if his heart was never in it, it would have shown your daughter that women don’t deserve to be treated with love or respect or gentleness, and that they should just endure it. Look at what a gift you’ve given her! Congratulations on this chance to show her a strong, independent, self-loving mother!

      Sending you both love and best wishes,

  8. 36 years, you are so right the three points you mention, plus one other the fact that it was you that finally gave it up and left…it is so painful no one can imagine it. three and a half years later and still have those days where i struggle thankfully they dont come as often now. My life is still not really together and i still love him, i guess i always will, most of my life has been with him, but like you said the pain just got too bad for me to stay, letting go of it is so hard, thankfully time is a healer

    • Linda –

      I don’t think leaving someone who can’t/won’t be present and work on a relationship (or themselves) is proof that you don’t love them. It’s just that you cannot put yourself through the pain anymore, the wishing and hoping that somehow, they’ll change. Nobody changes unless THEY want to, darn it! I think the less you let your mind fret about what happened, and the more you apply it to thinking about what you want NOW, the happier you’ll be.

      Sending you a big hug! You’ll get through this.


  9. Hi Wendy,

    Thank you for this. I am a 30 year old woman and I am going through a very painful divorce initiated by my husbad, one in which I tried desperately to prevent. My husband and I have been married for 5 years (today is actually our wedding anniversary) and we have a 10 month old. I find it difficult, some days more than others, to wrap my head around how I ended up here… in this marriage with a husband that no longer loves me. I often battle with the thought that no one will ever want me again… who will want a single mom with a very young child. I fear that my husban won’t take care of our daughter the way he should… what if he has another family one day and those children take precedence over our child? I also have deep guilt about being divorced at this age, after only 5 years in a marriage… what will people say about me behind my back as opposed to what they say to my face? Do they think I am a failure, that I don’t care, that I am selfish? All these things enter my mind on a daily basis and I find it makes me angry. Angry for even worrying about what others think and say, and angry because of the hurtful things that I know others will think and say.

    Either way, I try to take a deep breath and remember that I have to be strong for my daughter. I try to take one step at a time, but often find myself tripping over my own two feet in search of a reason to why this is happening to me… to us.

    Thank you for your encouragement on how to overcome and make it through this difficult time. The sorrow I feel is comforted by your words of wisdom.

    • Hi Kalee,

      I can relate to your fear – I felt similar things when I divorced my husband. But after 18 years raising a daughter alone, with less than $6,000 in child support paid TOTAL in all those years, I can say that your life will be far richer, happier, more peaceful and even more joyful than it would have EVER been married to a man who wasn’t in love or wasn’t in love anymore or who wasn’t able to stand by his commitments (or whatever).

      In the RESOURCES section above, you can get a copy of my 19th book “Soaring Solo: on the Joys (yes, joys!) of being a Single Mother”. It will give you a new way of looking at this part of your journey ahead.

      Sending you and your little girl much love and joy,


  10. Thank you for posting this, i feel like I can totally relate. Thing is, I came to terms on finally filing for divorce, and I am okay with it now. (will I have my moments?) I do think alot about the “what ifs!” I care for him, and do love him, but it is different now. We actually get along much better now than we did when we were struggling with our marriage. I will def read the free sample! Thank you

    • Good morning, Gigi

      I think we ALL think about the What Ifs. That’s normal. Think about all the What Ifs in other decisions that affect other areas of your life – “What if I’d gone to a different university?” “What if I’d been born to different parents?” “What if I’d gone there just 20 minutes earlier?” “What if I’d never started this addictive habit?” Stuff like that is part of the human condition. For me, I try to get as much data as I can, evaluate it, weigh it with what my heart and mind want, and then make the best choice possible. I’m CERTAIN that’s what you did with your divorce. Maybe the best decision is to stop feeding the What Ifs and realize what’s done is done.

      Wishing you a life of love, joy and peace,

  11. I recently have decided to divorce my husband of 25 years. I havent got à lawyer yet but im trying to Work at that. THE best point i got out of this article is that would if i cant find (im 48) anyone to love me And that terrifies me. Im so unhappy though. I just need the courage to file.

    • Hi Vickie,

      I’m sure that’s a very, very difficult step! You have my sympathy and probably that of many other readers who are in your same boat. I chose not to remarry for many years while I raised my daughter to young womanhood, so I consider that I’ve really only been “available” since about 2006. I can say that it has not been easy to find what I want – my standards have changed. I married the first time because he went to my church, was tall, handsome and had his own car and his own apartment – and a real job! What more could a 19 yr old girl want? I suppose we’ll all be a lot more careful the second or third time around.

      There are plenty of men who are single at our age, too. You’ll find although the “game” is different, the number of players is about the same.

      Sending you best wishes for the courage to make the right decision,

  12. I am filing after 19 years of marriage and 26 years together. It wasnt until last year I finally realized that I wasnt a wife but was more of another mother for him. I took care of everything and yet it was never good enough. Years of emotional abuse took its toll and I emerged out of my shell to say I am not taking it any more.

    Both of us went to counseling on our own and together. But it only helped me become a stronger person and realize it is not my fault.

    We have 2 school aged kids yet raising them in such an unhealthy family environment is not good for them. It is hard, much harder for him, but I see peace ahead.

    • Hi Other Wendy,

      Congratulations on making a difficult decision! I respect the choice you’ve had to make. I don’t know how old you are, but I can tell you many of your kids’ friends will also come from divorced/blended/whatever families. I do think there’s a WHOLE lot better chance for them with one healthy, loving, attentive parent than two crazy, angry, dysfunctional ones. Obviously, children raised in happily married homes is everyone’s first choice, but seeing as that appears to be rather hard to achieve, I’m certain you’re making a good decision for all.

      Best of luck to you and the children,

  13. My divorce was final recently. When I read your line about “When the pain is bad enough you’ll leave.” We were married nearly 18 years when I finally decided enough, that nothing was going to change. But when your children decide (with a little help, I might add) that you are the bad one and they want to stay with dad (they were old enough to decide), how do you move on from that? What’s worse, they won’t even talk to me now. I die inside a little each day. I just can’t convince them to listen to my side. Where do i go from here?

    • Annie,

      I don’t know your situation, but I can say this: that the kids eventually figure out which parent is lying and which one isn’t, and then later, that both had blind spots.

      Wishing you and them peace, love and joy,


      • Thank you Wendy. Just to give you a little better insight: My ex was such a control freak for the 18 years we were together, and extremely manipulative. If I was 5 minutes late getting home from work, he was calling me (and not because he was worried about me), would check the mileage on my car, if I bought anything without him being with me, i was spending too much money, but when we were shopping together, he would be like “why don’t you get this,” or “get what you want.” In a nutshell, I felt like I was married to two different people. You just never knew who you were going to get from one minute to the next.

        I know in my heart that’s what has happened with my children. I just wish I knew a way to get through to them, without pushing them away further.

  14. Sandy Wilson says:

    Wendy, I have been separated for 7 months after 21 years of marriage I finally had enough and asked my husband to leave. I was losing my mind dealing with his alcoholism and infidelity for 5 years with the same woman. He didn’t support the family for years. I felt so guilty for years that I was the problem, so I put up with it. I see a therapist to help me cope but I still see the man I married underneath the alcohol and I struggle everyday with the thought of living without him. I am taking it one day at a time. Your comments are so right on and I love hearing from other people going through similar problems. Thank you.

    • Alcohol abuse affected my marriage greatly too, Sandy, and my former spouse still believes he’s never had a problem. Apparently, the term “Functional Drunk” applies in his case. Sandy, my reflection after almost 18 yrs out of the marriage is that addicts manipulate/find people who can be manipulated into believing their behavior is caused by the enabler. Sounds like you still struggle with that. There’s a book called “Co-Dependent No More”, which I haven’t read, but which is supposedly good for this; and then of course Al-Anon. I attended two of their meetings and was surprised that out of the mouths of others, I heard my same life story! That was uncanny! I respect that you’re working with a therapist – I’m sure you’ll see that the only thing that you did “wrong” was not stand up to it earlier.

      Wishing you peace, love and joy,

  15. Thanks for this wonderful insightful post. I am separated after 31 years of marriage to someone who was/is a good provider, a nice guy, and a good father, but who just never “got” me despite 31 years of me saying what I needed. Finally, as you said, the pain was too much and I got over my fear of the unknown (to a certain extent) and I moved out. That was a major wake up call for him, and we started marriage counseling again (the third time in 31 years but with someone new who really is excellent) and now he finally seems to “get” what I have been talking about and wants to change. The problem I am now having is that I am having a hard time opening my heart to him. When he wants to touch me, I cringe, and I just can’t think about being physical with him. I know we can’t possibly reconcile if I can’t get past this, but I just don’t know how to do it. I am having a hard time thinking he can really change his whole mindset about who he is and now be a positive person, attentive, soulful. I am scared to death. It took a lot for me to get the courage to get out, and now that i’m out, I have to think long and hard about whether or not I really want to get back in.

    • Teri –

      I have a girlfriend who felt like her husband never “got her.” They’ve been married 25+ yrs. To my sorrow, they stay together. He does everything he can to be kind, but he’s missing the piece she really needs. She talks about how she can’t even think about being physical with him. I believe time will tell. Change is easy to create for a while, a bit harder to sustain. Give yourself some space is my best advice. You’ve earned a break to think through carefully what you really want next.

      Wishing you love, joy and peace,

  16. I have just read ur blog and omg it is soo
    spot on that when the pain is too much you
    will have the courage to leave as that
    happened to me 13 years ago after been married
    for 17 years, I got the courage to leave,
    and i’m so glad I did as we are better parents
    apart, and I have become a better parent
    and a stronger and better person on my own
    and I’m amazed at how many things I have
    achieved on my own and I am proud and honouref
    to be a women and ladies you can achieve anything
    when u set ur mind to it..
    Don’t be afraid of change as everything happens
    for reason.. I have 2 beautiful girls who
    are now 29 and 21 years old and I
    am so proud of them, life is what you make of it
    and it does get better as they say time heals
    So go out and enjoy life
    and appreciate all the wonderful family and
    friends that keep you going.. Life is too
    short so try and enjoy every minute of it.. I wish you
    all love peace and happiness xxx

    • Maria – Thank you. I was curious about your comment that you were better apart as parents. For me, that was true because their dad (and shortly after our divorce, he and his new wife and her daughter) had my child a few weekends a month. It gave me time to catch up with my housework, my business, my friend and myself – and that “break” made me a better mom, for sure! Also, without him to attend to, I had a lot more time and energy to lavish on my then-baby girl.

      I wonder if that’s what you meant with your comment, too?


  17. Thank you for this wonderful, insightful blog. Your answers are so thoughtful, considerate and personal. I have been separated for 11 months after 21 years of marriage. His alcohol abuse, laziness and issues with insecurities just became too much for me and I asked him to leave. He complied and it gave us both some breathing and thinking space. I truly feel that to stops the relationship from deteriorating further and preventing any further ugly, unforgettable episodes is also love and not a betrayal of the relationship. My problem is that while I have found my peace and have become stronger and more sure, he on the other hand is not doing well. He is still prone to episodes of excessive alcohol, depression and at times ill health. I wish he were more at peace. How can I be happy if he isn’t? Am I expecting too much to want him to be at peace and amicable in this separation? We have a 17 year old who is fine with the separation. Please advise.

    • Hi Mina,

      If you’ve been reading my work, you know I’m not a psychologist or anything like that. However, I will say this: it seems to me like if he isn’t surviving too well without you, this is a GREAT chance for you to let him sink a tiny bit under the water so he learns to swim. You can’t give your whole life to trying to fix someone who doesn’t make efforts to save themselves! That’s classic co-dependent behavior – I know it because I lived it, too. Really, it’s not your fault nor your responsibility to “fix” or “save” or “rescue” this grown man. Did you read my earlier post on “Put the Oxygen Mask on yourself first”? Click “Wendy’s Blogs” off the home page and scroll down – it addresses your exact issue.

      Mina, this may be the kindest thing you’ve ever done for this man – letting him figure out how to be responsible for the mess he’s making of his own life.

      Wishing you love, peace and joy,

  18. I am currently going through a divorce. My husband of 19 years 22 being together has filed. We have an amazing 4 year old little boy and I sit here wishing I could turn things around. I understand how we got here and some makes sense and we have both acknowledged our faults and the mistakes we made that got us to this point. I want to try to make this work – he is tired of trying. I still love him very much which is what makes this so very hard. We still live together – but he has not slept in our bed in 8 months.

    I am worried about so much – worried about my son and what this will do to him. Worry about my sanity, worry about where my husband will end up.

    We have tried counseling and it did us really no good. He is tired and he is done. I don’t want this – but I know that I can’t stop this if I want any chance of us remaining friends once the dust settles. We have both agreed that we want to be friends and be a part of each other’s lives – but we can’t continue this relationship. We are not ending because we stopped loving each other….we are ending because we lost sight of each other and stopped trying to close the gap. It is too big to bridge now and I am loosing the man I love.

    Pain is awful and it really sucks.

    • Oh, Melissa, I’m SO sorry to hear this! How awful after so long, and with a small child. However, as hard as it is to hear, you know in your heart it’s better to be separated or even divorced if one party is no longer capable of being in the relationship. You want your son to grow up seeing a good example of a man loving a woman with his whole heart. Now, after the divorce is final, you’ll have a chance to show him that.

      Wishing all of you peace and love,

  19. Thank you so much for all this amazing advice…i have been soo lost and tried all avenues..have worked on myself so much and finally i have become a little stronger each day..it is very draining mentally and physically i have been through two seperations and now four children later i have finally learnt !what men not to go for!and to start loving myself and making myself and kids better!..still scary thou..I find it hard still to sleep alone and not to have affection in my life..also that person to talk too..but praying and hoping that God will take care of that soon! Blessings to all you lovely ladies and esp Wendy for setting up this wonderful blog…much love..

    • Thanks Andrea. How true your statement “I have finally learned what men not to for and to start loving myself…” It’s possible to spend a lifetime and not learn this lesson. Brava to you!

      Wishing you a life overflowing with peace, love and joy,


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