I grew believing that marriage would be amazing. I’d fall in love and the two of us would have a beautiful wedding and then live the rest of our lives in bliss with kids and a nice home and vacations and lots of laughter.
And then reality set in.
My marriage started off with the fairytale but things went sour really fast. Instead of an amazing hubby, I got an alcoholic, which meant a home filled with chaos and abuse. The more I felt belittled, the less I liked him. At the end of the day, the only way to fix anything was by getting out.
There is a fine line between trying a bit harder to make a marriage work and pulling the plug entirely. And where that line should be drawn is different for each person. But there are a few signs that showed my marriage was in deep trouble and wasn’t fixable.
1. We couldn’t make plans together
My ex and I loved hosting parties and going out. But as the relationship deteriorated, I dreaded making any plans that involved other people or that cost any money to cancel at the last minute. I literally never knew from one moment to the next if we would be getting along.
One time, we scheduled an 11-day cruise but got in a huge fight a few days prior. I refused to go. I stayed home instead and I experienced something I hadn’t with him in, well, forever...peace. I tasted what life would be like without him and it was nice.
Another instance, we invited several people over for a dinner party. Earlier that day, we got in another huge argument. When our guests arrived, we couldn’t sit at the same table together. To make matters worse, he openly ridiculed me in front of everyone. It was horrendous and embarrassing.
When one of the things I originally liked best about “us” (our love of socializing) was over, it was bad news.
2. Abuse reared its ugly head (physical or emotional)
I have a good friend who was abused by his wife. She literally beat the shit out of him one night. It was the last time it happened. He left the home immediately, filed a police report and got custody of the children. (If this happens to you, you must do the same. Make sure you notify the authorities so you have a record of it. You’ll surely need it for the legal battle ahead of you.)
While my ex never hit me, the emotional abuse I endured was just as damaging as physical abuse-- the wounds were just harder to see and recognize. I started journaling and keeping detailed logs. It helped. I saw a therapist and joined a support group. I started plotting my escape.
3. There was contempt
When I was still married, I went to Alanon and individual therapy. I thought that if I changed the way I behaved around my ex, that perhaps he would change, too. My therapist told me something very powerful: once contempt had entered into a marriage, it was almost impossible to fix.
4. The sex sucked
When things fall apart in the bedroom, it’s probably falling apart everywhere else. Initially, my ex and I had sex several times a week. But the more chaotic our marriage became, the sex became almost intolerable for me. It got to the point where sex was a chore and I “put out” just to get him to stop screaming at me for a few minutes. Still, I found ways to stay in control of my body and feelings while having sex, even if it was in a passive way. I wish I had a camera on the ceiling because it would have been comical to watch me during our “intimate” moments. I would literally make faces, write my name backwards in the air, mouth words (like “boring”)… Towards the end, I refused to kiss him during sex. When a friend asked me what I’d do if I found him having sex with another woman, I realized that I would be relieved—it would finally give me the “out” I was looking for. That wasn’t good news. I realized how little I cared about him anymore. All goodwill I once had for him had vanished.
5. The thought of life without him became dreamy
I used to drive around our neighborhood and attend open houses. I would envision how perfect the house would be for our two daughters and me. Several times, I made out a budget for life without my husband. I called an attorney and paid $300 for a consult on how to prepare for a divorce. My future dreams and plans didn’t include him.
...At the end of the day
All of these signs show how desperate I was in my marriage. But yet I hadn’t left yet. I was still holding out hope that things would somehow magically change and our family could heal. I didn’t want to put the children through a divorce. I wanted a functioning family. One evening, I was saying goodnight to my 11 year old daughter and she asked me in a very sincere way, “Mommy, why do you let Daddy treat you that way?”
That question rocked my world. In that instance I knew that staying in the marriage wasn’t benefitting the girls either. The way my husband was treating me was unacceptable. It wasn’t ok for me, and it wasn’t ok for them either.
Divorce is horrible. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I realize that there are worse things than a divorce—and a bad marriage is one of them.