Do you feel guilty for divorcing a nice guy?

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Recently a mom emailed me:

I feel so guilty for leaving my marriage. My husband is a really, really nice guy. He is a great dad, loves me a lot, has a good career. There was nothing really wrong with our marriage. I just didn't love him any more and wanted out. 

Now, our divorce is almost finalized, and we have all been so devastated — especially our kids. Now they have to schlep back and forth between two homes, go through the pain of having divorced parents, my ex is devastated, his parents and our friends are devastated, and we are both poorer having to support two homes. Even the dog looses since she stayed with me and misses her ‘dad'!

Of course I am very sad about all of this, but I just could not be married to him any more. We are not intellectual or professional peers — I am growing a digital business I am passionate about, while he is 100% content in his middle-management corporate job with good benefits.

I stopped being sexually attracted to him years ago, even though he is still a very handsome and fit man. Instead, I find myself fantasizing about and/or flirting with men in my professional circles who are mentally stimulating to me, understand my career and creative drive and ignite in me something I think I never experienced with my husband — deep, feminine PASSION (some of these guys are fat or old or not handsome — and I still find them so, so sexy!). These are men who jibe with my own growing social circle of equally driven and creative people — people who my husband never really connected with or felt comfortable around (even though, in all his decency and devotion to me, was always kind to and made an effort for).

I don't have any commitment to any of these men, but simply feeling that way around them made me realize that by staying in my marriage. I am missing out on something I deeply crave and long to nurture. Now, on the other side of my marriage, I see that I may not ever find that kind of romantic connection that I crave, and I may be lonely. I see those I love most suffering because of this decision, and I am left feeling selfish, guilty and all-around rotten.

In short: I wanted the divorce — so why do I feel so sad?

“Remember that just because one feels guilt, doesn't mean they are guilty,” says Michelle Pargman, a Jacksonville, Fla., licensed mental health counselor. “Guilt is energy that can be used to further explore what one can do differently in the future. Grief is helpful to identify as a byproduct of divorce — whether the loss comes from the relationship itself, or the lost expectation of what was the original vision for the marriage. Once we acknowledge these feelings, we can address them — whether through individual counseling, group support, or identifying mentors, religious/spiritual leaders, or friends.”

Can't decide whether or not to leave him? Struggling with horrible guilt after filing for divorce? Consider online therapy platforms. BetterHelp has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Prices start at $35/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Financial assistance available. Use this link to get 10% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>

Listen to my Like a Mother episode on this topic:

I have heard many similar stories, all of which resonate on some level. I am glad I am not married to my ex, even if he is a good guy. Lots and lots of reasons, including some mentioned above by my emailer. But there are times when we are getting along, when we are chatting like old friends at the kids' T-ball game, the kids are exhausted from schlepping back and forth between our apartments, I remember all his good qualities and all the benefits of marriage, and I think:

Can't we just be adults and make it work? Can't we just agree not to fight any more? Be in one home, be practical, get over this trite, adolescent notion of forever soulful romantic love, have no expectations your husband will fulfill you and just be realistic already – FOR THE KIDS' SAKE? 

Then he will blame me for my kid tripping in the hallway of my apartment and getting a bloody boo-boo on his head, or cancel a visit with the kids last-minute because he wants to see a concert and all those cozy notions are thrown out the window quicker than a Las Vegas divorce.

Maybe it means I'm selfish. Maybe it means I can't control my anger. Maybe it means I am an indulgent adolescent artist, but I don't want to be married to my ex-husband so I am not married to my ex-husband. We were great together in many ways, but we also bring out the worst in one another — something that neither of us are committed to overcoming. Also: I just don't want to be married to him.

Also, also: That is OK.

All these feelings are totally normal, even if they are conflicting. Sit with them all, and feel them all. They are all part of the grieving and healing and celebrating process that is a breakup or divorce.

Going through a divorce now? What to ask for in negotiations, so you land on your feet

However, I see women get stuck on the divorce that they very much wanted and see the value in. Explicitly or implicitly, they feel guilty and that guilt holds them back?

“I want to divorce my husband but I feel guilty,” or “I wanted the divorce why am I sad?”

Is this you? Here is the answer:

You feel bad / guilty / ashamed because one or all of these:

  • You ended a relationship that you committed to (broke your commitment), and the reasons are likely your own happiness
  • Women are taught that our highest calling is to sacrifice for family and children. In other words, we are taught early on that our happiness is frivolous and selfish.
  • We are told from all sides that children in single-mom homes suffer and are being punished for their parents' inability to keep a marriage together. Mothers always take the blame for this nonsense.
  • Wives are instructed to be the glue in a marriage — a straying husband, or unhappy husband, or frayed marriage is pegged on her letting herself go / not being attentive enough / being a bitch and nag / not good enough.
  • You are legit grieving a relationship that once brought you great joy and comfort.
  • You are legit grieving a relationship / dream / family that you very much wanted, that was part of a dream and a plan and an assumption about what your life would be — and no longer is.
  • Even if on an unconscious level, you take on the sexist shaming of moms' sexuality. Any desire you may have to date, find romance, get laid, test the dating waters, poke around on a dating site — or be public with a man you are deeply in love with (and maybe cheated on with) — is met with a bountiful dose of society's madonna-whore complex when it comes to mothers: We are told that good mothers are virgins, and our children will shrivel in horror should they be subject to their mothers' expression of womanhood.

Again, all of this is normal. Work through your rotten feelings, and understand where they come from.

Therapy, of course, helps millions of people. Online divorce can be great for divorced and single moms, since, when compared with traditional, in-person counseling, online therapy is more affordable, convenient, and more private (you don't have to worry about running into the PTA mom or your neighbor outside the counseling center).

BetterHelp is a leader in online therapy, with costs starting at $40 per week, for unlimited sessions via chat, email, phone or video. Choose from thousands of licensed and certified counselors for yourself or your teen (they also have couples counseling). Rated A+ from the Better Business Bureau, and with a FREE 7-day trial (no coupon code). Check out BetterHelp now >>

Is guilt a reason to stay married?

Guilt is a reason to stay married, but it is not one that will inspire either of you to truly work on making the relationship a thriving, committed, connected one.

What is divorce guilt?

Divorce guilt is simply feeling bad because you chose to leave your spouse, initiate divorce, or otherwise believe your actions caused the end of your marriage.

Why do we feel guilt about divorce?

While I am here to tell you that it takes two people to make a relationship work, and both parties have a responsibility for a relationship not working out, there can be some overt actions that society tells us are very wrong and very much puts the responsibility on one spouse. These include:

  • Cheating
  • Addiction
  • Physical and emotional abuse
  • Extremely bad management of finances — including wracking up debt, overspending and inability to keep a job / refusal to work
  • No sex
  • Simply wanting to leave to live your own life

Understanding guilt before divorce and after divorce

If you feel guilty for leaving a marriage, really beating yourself up, here are a few things to consider:

  • Be honest: Is your husband really working on this relationship? Or has he passively given up, too.
  • Is he happy? Be honest.
  • Do you worry that if you leave, he will hurt himself, or otherwise be miserable? (Co-dependent alert!).
  • Do all your friends and family think this marriage is really bad for you and urge you to leave? Listen to them. We are often our own worst judges.

See where I am going here? I get that you feel bad, but our society has established it as women's jobs to keep our men happy, fed, laid and our marriages intact.

In reality, you are a woman with needs and desires and since we can now earn our own money, vote, and own land in our own damn names, marriages mainly serve as a source of emotional and sexual fulfillment. Once that is gone, there isn't a whole lot of reason to stay

How long does divorce guilt last?

Divorce guilt lasts as long as you choose to, though it does take time to get over a big breakup. A good solid year is a generous measure of time to grieve. Therapy can help.

8 reasons online therapy is great for moms (and questions to ask before signing on with a therapist)

How divorce guilt holds moms back

Where feelings of guilt related to your divorce get messy, is when you hold yourself back in implicit and explicit ways. You stay stuck. Here are common ways women's divorce guilt keep them stuck.

Divorce guilt can make divorce more expensive and painful

If you are just starting out on your divorce journey, regret or guilt can manifest in all kinds of toxic ways that make the divorce process that much more painful for all parties involved — including hiring litigious attorneys, play dirty and cost everyone money and heartache.

If this touches a nerve, take a deep breath. Ask your higher power for grace, kindness, and forgiveness — of him, and yourself. Seek out the lowest-conflict divorce you can. This might mean working with a mediator or filing yourself for divorce online. You may need to hire a professional to make sure the filing is complete, and everyone's interests are represented, but starting off on your new co-parenting journey with the least amount of drama, and spending the least amount of money, will pay off in so many ways.

There are many quality online divorce companies that will help you accomplish an uncontested, low-conflict divorce for modest fees. CompleteCase will provide all of the required filing papers, as well as detailed instructions for how to file in your state, for a flat fee of $299 — including secure cloud storage of these documents. Check out CompleteCase now>>

Divorce guilt can hurt your co-parenting relationship

No matter how you feel about your ex, or your marriage, or the end of that relationship, if you have kids together, here are the facts:

He will be in your life forever.

The sooner you figure out how to co-parent amicably, the better. Read these rules for successful co-parenting — no matter how toxic your ex.

You may find that he is a better dad post-divorce, and now that you don't fight with him any more, and have the kids half the time, you are a better mom.

You might like him again (it has happened).

One of the first co-parenting apps, and widely used app, OurFamilyWizard, which features chat, information storage (like pediatrician and teacher contact info, prescriptions, etc.), and financial record-keeping. 30-day free trial, discounts for military families, and a program to provide OurFamilyWizard free to low-income families. Each parent can add unlimited numbers of other people for free, including children, grandparents, step and bonus parents, as well as attorneys.

Try OurFamilyWizard for free for 30 days now >>

Read OurFamilyWizard review on Wealthysinglemommy.com >>

Divorce guilt keeps you from dating and finding love (and fun!)

PSA: Moms are women. Women are sexual, mature adults who need companionship, sex, and romance. Maybe you simply are not ready to date yet, and that is ok.

But are you not dating because of guilt? Do you feel like you don't deserve to be in love?

Do you feel weird to have a sex life with someone who is not your kids' dad?

Do your friends and family lay on the guilt about taking time away from the kids to date? Or worse — do they pressure you to hurry up and get married again while you are still young — and create a “real” family again for the sake of the kids?

Maybe you are dating, or even have a partner — but hide this part of yourself from your kids, shrouding that whole, very important part of yourself in shame — which I promise you: your kids pick up on this whether you think they do or not.

Here is what you will do:

  1. Poke around a online dating site. I'm also a fan of matchmaking services, especially for busy moms. For serious, long-term relationships, eHarmony stands out, with its deep personality profile (free), verified profiles, video dating, and 100% members focused on committed partnerships. Get started with eHarmony's 3-month free guarantee >>
  2. Get laid. Post-divorce sex is often mind-blowing. This is my experience, as well as that of thousands of women I have connected with. Dating apps are great for this. Or wink at that cute guy in your building — or ask a local mom for a referral. Friends with benefits may be a good fit for you. You can try it all out! Trust me: good sex is not hard to find.
  3. Therapy can help. Learn about all the top online therapy sites, which comes with all the same benefits of regular therapy, but for a fraction of the price, and with the convenience of text, email, phone or video connection).
  4. Hang out with the right people. Maybe spend time with the funny gay guys at the gym, or join my closed Facebook group Millionaire Single Moms, where single mothers chat openly about all kinds of sexy things without an ounce of shame (the threads on anal sex always leave my jaw dropped), while also supporting moms struggling through guild and shame.

5 friends every single mom needs — and where to find them

Divorce guilt means you hold on to a house you can't afford

Women can be weird about real estate, and there is a good reason why. We are conditioned to be the matron of the home, positioned to be responsible for creating a cozy home in which memories are created and stored for generations.

That is beautiful and possible for some people.

More likely, a house is a money pit that becomes a big-ass mistake in a divorce.

Ask any divorce attorney: Women fight tooth-and-nail to keep homes they cannot afford when they divorce.

A house is likely your biggest financial asset, and should be treated as such. When you divorce, and if you owned a home with your husband or partner, any equity in the home is likely communal property, and is to be split 50/50, typically with a sale.

Instead, I see moms holding on to properties they can't afford in the name of:

  • Shielding their children from the stress of moving house (fact: research finds that financial stress / poverty is the #1 biggest risk factor in divorce)
  • Maintaining a lifestyle she believes she is entitled to / the couple sought while married (fact: you're not married to him! You need a new dream now!)

My advice in 95% of these situations: Take that money run!

Why?

  1. If you can't easily afford the house, you have no business being in it. You are now 100% responsible for your lifestyle and financial security. This is an incredible opportunity to set big goals and find success that you could not previously imagine. That is really hard if you struggle to pay a mortgage, taxes and utilities on your house.
  2. Cut ties to that old life. No matter your feelings about your relationship, and the end of it, it is imperative to accept that that relationship is over, and you owe it to yourself and your children to live in reality, and move forward to a new, hopefully more fulfilling life. New scenery is in order.

This article will help you decide whether to keep the house, or sell.

Divorce guilt means you hold on to keepsakes you don't use

Legally, anything considered a gift in marriage is the property of the gifted — including any jewelry. I hear so many women who are really broke, or otherwise struggling to move on from divorce, also holding on to household items, furniture, an engagement ring or other things they do no use or enjoy for the sake of posterity.

My general rule: If you are not using it, it does not bring you joy, or otherwise serves as a dark reminder of unhappy times — get rid of it. And no: Your kids do not want your engagement ring. It represents a failed marriage, and likely heartache for them. They don't want that shit!

Here is how to make money via feng shui and declutter every room in your house, and my own experience with selling my engagement ring for the most money.

What do you do with this extra, guilt-free cash? Invest in making your life better!

How do you cope and get over guilt of divorce?

The best revenge is living your best life — and sometimes you need to take revenge on yourself.

What I mean is this: Today you feel all kinds of shame and guilt for wanting to leave your relationship. Fast-forward to next year and your life is incredible: You are in shape, feel great, dating a great guy (or dating a lot of guys), thriving in your career, your finances are shaping up and your kids are doing AMAZING.

All your fear and guilt around your divorce now have to contend with the facts. The fact is that you and your family are better since you divorced.

Stop arguing with yourself!

I have been divorced for close to 10 years now. Holy shit is my life a thousand times better than when I was married. I shudder at what my life would have looked like had we stayed together.

I want to explore my sexuality in a way that is impossible with him — and oh yeah I did.

I want to be with people who support my huge professional ambition and creative pursuits without competing — again, impossible with him.

I want to be with a man who easily forgives and easily laughs, and easily picks up his dirty fucking clothes and just puts them in the hamper. Score!

I am thriving professionally in a way that I was impossible for me in that partnership. I am creatively free and fulfilled, which could not have happened in that marriage.

I just don't want to be married to him. End of story. I don't have to explain myself to anyone — including me!

The end of that relationship was painful for so many people. And being divorced is hard for him, me and my kids in lots of practical ways.

But the net result for all involved is positive. I am thriving and my very best self now — and I, my kids and those in my orbit benefit. Is that selfish? Adolescent? A mentality of post-feminist, navel-gazing Gen X/Y/millennials?

Maybe?

I don't fucking care.

I am glad for it.

And I free you to be glad for it, too.

Not quite there yet? Do these things now:

  1. Consider therapy with a company like BetterHelp. Read: BetterHelp online therapy review
  2. Focus on your own self-care.
  3. Hang out with people who get it, get you, and see happiness in you when you don't have the courage to see it yourself. Again: Millionaire Single Moms on Facebook.
  4. Decide that tomorrow you will wake up, the guilt will be less than the day before, and that it may take a long time for it to be 100% gone. That's cool.
  5. Find success stories about other thriving single moms. I have a bunch in my book, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin).
  6. Pay attention to how you identify yourself. You know those women who have been divorced for 30 years, and in the first 2 minutes of meeting someone new they unload that their husband left them for another woman / abused her / was living a double life / etc.? Don't be that woman. She has one identity: A victim of divorce. You are not her. You are an adult with full control of who you are and your happiness. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise: YOUR HAPPINESS IS CRITICAL.

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.

234 Comments

I want a divorce. But I will have to move back home and live with my mother. Ugh. I live in a very expensive area that I cannot afford on just my income. Stayed together all these years for the kid. She’s raised and I am not sorry that I took that bullet for her. Now I am so miserable but I am terrified of having to sell all the stuff and move back to my hometown (I hate) to regroup. I have let myself be isolated so I have no friends. I am totally alone. And he is a great guy for someone and a good provider. We just have absolutely nothing in-common. We were young and got pregnant. We would never have ended up together otherwise. How do I get the courage to do this all by myself? I am literally totally alone.

Is what you did OK?

Well, no. You hurt a bunch of people, including your close family members, kids, husband and set their lives on a very difficult path. Any person who enters into a relationship of any kind with you, business included, should be wary of your ‘flaky’ behavior.

Does this mean you deserve to be thrown in jail? Does it mean you aren’t meant to be loved? No, nothing so dramatic as that.

What you deserve is heat. How about a few insults? Some distrust. A lot of people won’t be your friend or enter into business with you. You can certainly do whatever you like, but it’s not free of consequence. You hurt people by making bad, selfish weak willed decisions. Just because you didn’t have malice behind it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Imagine you vomitted all over someone’s expensive leather couch, or you knocked over a TV. What you’ve done is some order of magnitudes greater than that. You don’t deserve a free pass.

This comes across as a pretty nasty and controlling reply. It’s just that you don’t agree, nothing on the commenter.

He/she’s right, it bears on her character, and people should act accordingly. If you thnk it’s fine, then do business/start a relationship with her. If you think it’s bad character, say so and avoid her.

No, it’s childish thinking to assume actions don’t have consequences.
It’s childish thinking to shrug it off.

After you’ve done something as cheating, you should acknowledge for yourself that you have done something really hurtful, feel remorse, and acknowledge the pain you’ve inflicted on your partner. Because being cheated on is tremendously hurtful. Denying the pain you’ve inflicted, or even denying the cheating behaviour altogether, shows a big lack of integrity on a cheater’s part.

My gf date me for over a year then dump me, never left her husband, mad at me cuz i slept with another girl after she broke up with me.
so bad

Although I’m not a single mom I could completely relate to your post, in terms of my last relationship. We were together on and off for 5 years and engaged twice. He was the quintessential nice guy and on paper and in everyone else’s opinion he was perfect for me. But I knew something just didn’t feel right for me. I found him boring and complacent, because I craved adventure, travel, passion and ambition and he was very “settled” with his mediocre job he liked to complain about but do nothing to change. He was always tired and easily stressed and was quite happy with me making the big bucks at my high powered job while he came home at 5, played video games online against teenagers and then complained about how stressful his day had been.

Worse, there was no sexual passion and he wasn’t into sex whereas I totally was. I can relate to enjoying the attention of other men who stimulated me mentally and emotionally and who would have loved to have sex but my fiance was at home feeling stressed and being bored. We finally ended it and it was the best decision of my life. He is a good guy but is not the right guy for me. I still wish him all the best in life and in finding a more compatible partner.

As for me, after a couple years of being a single party girl I met my now-husband. He is exciting, sexually adventurous, mentally stimulating and everything else I could ask for in a partner. It felt and still feels like the perfect fit. I was 30 when I met him and now I’m 35. We have a toddler and another baby on the way and I love raising children and fulfilling other life goals with my perfect partner. I am so glad I didn’t marry or procreate with my ex or I probably would have never known the truly satisfying relationship I’m in now. And more importantly, I wouldn’t have been being true p6y8y7y,

Thanks so much for your honest note — reminds me of my college boyfriend, who was so sweet, smart, cute would have been a great dad. But not for me. Hard for most people to understand, and I’m glad to hear you found a great match!

Thanks! I found your blog by your outsourcing the laundry post and enjoy all of it. And I don’t know what happened to the last part of my prior comment but it was supposed to say true to myself!

Thanks, Emma, for once again being so brave as to say what so many of us need to here. You’re on the forefront of our next feminist wave. And, yes, I had guilt for divorcing a nice guy too. But I also believe that he and I will be friends and family for life; and that that’s what’s important–the commitment to our kids. Meanwhile, women should be happy and sexually-fulfilled. We need to model being whole for our children. I can’t wait until we all view divorce as progress and a brave attempt at truly living this glorious life.

I wish my husband was a nice guy, so I would never asked for divorce, but my story is very different, in fact I have waited around 7 years to finally ask him the divorce, I tried all this years to work on our marriage, but I’m convinced this is the right way to go! I want out!!! I need out!!!

I am going through a divorce with two young boys. One being under 1. I discovered my husband was seeing prostitutes on top of our relationship just not being a healthy one. I stayed with him for a year following the discovery and wanted to see if things would change or if he’d try harder. He didnt. He wanted me to just act as though I didn’t find out anything and also blamed me. Even with this, I am going through the regret phase where I am questioning my decision to divorce. I know I deserve better but it is that fear of the unknown ripple effect. My soon to be ex keeps asking me am I sure as if I am making a bad decision and he’s the victim. I don’t know, I’m not at the “fuck you, I deserve better “. I have my moments when I’m reminded but it is a struggle.

I’m just confused. She wanted out, she left him, he was devastated. Then she says in order to get back together she would have to beg. Why? She left him. Wouldn’t he be begging her? I may have misread.

Hey Emma, it’s been a while. I have mixed feelings about this one. Yes, life is short. I understand the urge to pull the plug on a mind-numbing dull marriage.

Yet, I’m betting most of the women here knew what they were getting when they married Mr. Nice Guy. Perhaps there were cases where the ex was a dashing bad boy when they were dating and turned into a couch potato once married. Or maybe he made it seem like he was more ambitious than he really was. But by and large, my guess is what you saw when you dated was pretty much what you got after you married.

I’m not denying how you feel. If he was as dull as watching paint dry, I believe you. But consciously or subconsciously, some of you pulled a bait and switch on Mr. Nice Guy. A defining training of Nice Guys is they play by the rules. And specifically, by your rules before you moved the goal post.

Peter is correct. Decades of self-help and unrealistic expectations have had a powerful influence. The way a fair number of women talk negatively about their husbands doesn’t help either. Complaining begets more complaining.

But, it is what it is. I sincerely wish you all the best.

Great points, Harry (and great to see you again!). Bait and switch, or simply that life and people change, and what worked at age 25 when everyone was single and childless doesn’t work at 40 or 50 or 70. None of us have crystal balls about who we will be — or who our partners will be — or what we will need in the future. And as you and Peter point out, the world is changing so much, so quickly in unforeseeable ways. All relevant.

I don’t disagree Emma. This still puts guys in a bind anyway, though. They can get married but run the risk of ending up divorced for vague reasons, while losing half their assets and seeing the kids every other weekend. But if they opt out of the whole getting married, having kids, and buying a big suburban house and tons of useless stuff paradigm, they’re raked over the coals as Peter Pans who won’t “man up.”

So men get married, have kids and buy big suburban homes to avoid getting ‘raked over the coals’? What does this even mean? If this is not what they wanted and only did it to appease others, then that is the foundation for a build up of life-time resentment. Marriage should be between two people who love each other, Enjoy each other, and want to support and do things for each other while maintaining their own individuality and supporting the other in doing so. There should be no obligation to stay together if either parties’ needs are not getting fulfilled and the other party is not interested in fulfilling them. Don’t overlook the fact that you are reading a forum where mostly women are posting about leaving their marriages. I will bet if you hop over to a similar forum with posts by men, you will also see that they too leave their wives for reasons of being unhappy. What about those women who are ‘put in a bind’ because their husbands choose to leave? Life and circumstances change all the time. The status quo is not for everyone (or at least not for those who recognize the vortex they may find themselves in and decide to change it).

Emma,
This article resonated with me. I called our marriage over from a very low point after trying to make it work for two years. Our children suffered under our tense, conflict-fueled interactions. I hadn’t slept properly in months due to the stress of indecision and deep unhappiness. My hair was falling out and I could barely eat. My daughter asked me when I was going to stop crying. I knew I needed to do something to change the situation and separation was the only way to care for myself and become the good parent my kids needed. Today, I am happily divorced and have a new normal. My own peaceful house, a happy, stable disposition, my health and a new normal. The kids are good. And their dad is in their lives in a bigger way than he was when we were married. I will admit that I miss being married. And sometimes I wonder if I didn’t call it off, what would have happened. Sometimes I feel guilty because I took these vows and thought divorce was a failure. What can I say? Things change. I think feeling guilt as a mom is pre-programmed. If I didn’t feel guilt about my divorce, I’d feel guilt about something else. It’s important to remind myself of the facts: I did the best I could at the time and can’t regret the past. Especially because I am much happier and you can bet my kids feel that. My 8YO daughter doesn’t ask me when I’m going to stop crying. In fact, she tells me that she can see I’m much happier.

Great topic AND comments, Emma!

While I understand the preachy crowd’s rap about it being selfish, self-indulgent, morally weak, etc., to walk away from one’s vows, in all fairness, larger cultural forces are at work. I assert that we’ve literally been rewired, arguably, neurologically, by 30-40 years of being bombarded by self-help books, programs, gurus and more, reminding us that “you deserve to be happy” (which, in the long history of marriage, has only very recently been a stated goal of the institution), along with visions of the “Ideal Partner” and the “Ideal Relationship” (which, often, bears little resemblance to reality).

Together, these things have rocketed our expectations of a mate into the stratosphere, as well as having us forget that the grass isn’t always greener. And as a 50-something unmarried male (with a number of long-term relationships under my belt), I’m no better than your letter-writer in being able to resist those forces. Add in having the financial wherewithal to leave a marriage, and perhaps the knowledge that you’re still attractive (and as such, have “prospects”), and, in the face of a lack of desire, excitement, common interests, etc. in one’s marriage, and with our newly rewired brains, keeping one’s vows (broken by half of your fellow Americans) starts seeming increasingly pointless.

Sad, perhaps, but I think it’s less a character weakness than a radically shifted paradigm – one that has created a new norm.

This is brilliantly articulated thank you. I am 10 years on from leaving a ‘good man’ and I can honestly say the grass is no greener on this side. You exchange one set of unhappiness for a different set. I suspect it is the human condition. Now instead of constantly seeking to change my circumstances in search of an elusive satisfaction I try to be be in the moment, appreciate what I have in other words the age old advice – count my blessings

I needed this article today! Yes I do feel guilty, but I also don’t want to be with him anymore. I wish I felt like this less and could just move on more easily. I never married my son’s father and I thank god for that everyday but we have done some bad bad things in the process of tearing each other apart and he just wants me to give in and go back to him so he can control me more. I’m so not into being controlled and need the freedom of not being with him. The guilt and mind games are not enough, but these feelings today she wrote are real feelings that could not be more true in the depths of my mind while going through a somewhat similar experience. Thank you!

Thanks for chiming in, Brandi. Be strong — you know what you need to do, and best of all YOU ARE ALREADY DOING IT! Keep on keeping on. It gets easier.

If I had a relationship like this where there was nothing really wrong with him at all, I would do everything in my power to make it work. Obviously, if we still couldn’t get it together, I’d still go through with a divorce. It might be better to part as friends than to build hate between each other. I would let him know what needs weren’t being met and talk about it.

I didn’t marry my children’s father so there was no divorce but it was a horrible, god awful, terrible, dysfunctional, bad, bad, bad relationship. So if I even had something there with a nice guy, I do everything I could to make it work.

Who is to say that these women didn’t do everything they could to make it work? Always easier to judge, and grass is always greener on the other side.

This post is exactly what I needed as a mother of two who is in the process of divorcing a “nice” guy. Despite marriage counseling over the years, we grew steadily in different directions and are no longer remotely compatible. I even tried ignoring the problem for two solid years, hoping it would go away. It didn’t. My guilt over deciding to end it and the subsequent effect on our kids is overwhelming at times. However, a dead marriage shouldn’t be a life sentence just because the other party is a decent person. I’m a decent person, too! I also know from childhood experience that it doesn’t do kids any good to see their mom (or dad) stay in a miserable relationship. Thank you for the reassurance that there is life and happiness on the other side.

Great post!

My ex is a wonderful guy, but a little bit too Peter Pan-ish.

He is still one of my best friends, yet it is a HUGE relief to be able to walk away from his drama and not be tied up in it.

My sincerest hope is that he finds a woman who truly appreciates all that he has to offer in a way that I wasn’t able to.

I have to say that I am kind of shocked and a little jealous of all you women who were once married to good men. It is so hard out here trying to find a decent man to go out with, much less start a serious relationship with. My child’s father and I were engaged for a year, but he left us before my daughter was born. I can’t imagine being married to what this woman described as a great guy, having a wonderful father and role model for my child, but ultimately leaving him because the men at work make me hot and horny. I guess the reason I am still single 10 years later is that my daughter comes first in everything I do. I can’t imagine putting a sexual fantasy before the needs of my child.

Unfortunately, when some of us are unhappy sexually, it comes out in other ways. We end up short-tempered with our kids and resentful of our husbands/boyfriends who may be willing to take care of and be great towards the kids, but they aren’t willing/able to meet our needs. Kids are almost always better off with two happy parents than with one miserable, resentful parent and one who’s blissfully unaware or who’s happy despite the other parent’s feelings.

Read through all these comments and imagine a men’s forum having the same discussion. “You know if I don’t feel sexually excited by her anymore it’s most important that I be true to myself”. “I was always attracted to young women after all and she just doesn’t do it for me anymore” The guy would be looked at like the selfish jerk he is.

“I can’t imagine putting a sexual fantasy before the needs of my child.”

No one is saying that.

I worry your idolization of your child has prevented you from attracting a quality man.

It’s different, but my ex-husband isn’t the one I feel guilty about leaving. I keep having pangs of guilt related to leaving my last boyfriend. We’d been together for over two years and friends for a while before that. My kids love him and he loves them, but it was to the point where I was constantly questioning if he was with me to be with me or because he cared about my kids and didn’t want to hurt them. We would go WEEKS without sex and he lives less than five minutes from my house. He would show up for other things, like Christmas and shopping, we would go out to eat, but I felt like he wasn’t attracted to me anymore.

He keeps texting and emailing me to say he still loves me and will always be around, but I just don’t feel happy with the relationship we were in, and he doesn’t see anything wrong with it.

Courage and Faith! I could have written most of the letter above. Yes, I was married to a “good man” – an overall nice guy, good provider, great father and handsome to boot. And I was unhappy and felt caged. There was so much more I wanted to do/experience in my life and I knew I couldn’t do in my marriage.

I found my courage in my sons future who were 8 and 5 at the time. I recognized that if I didn’t have the courage to be true to myself and take the risk to live my full potential despite what others may think/say, then how could I possibly be a role model to my sons for them to achieve everything they are possible of if I played it safe and let my fears rule me.

Fast forward 3 years… Ex is happily remarried, our sons are thriving and I am happier than ever and my life is moving forward positively. Fortunately, the Ex and I are true co-parents and share equal custody, time and expenses for the boys.

A good divorce is possible.

Thanks for sharing this story! As a divorce coach who works with clients who struggle with the guilt of leaving a marriage that checked off all the boxes of what a “perfect” marriage was, this story hits home.

Here’s the thing—a marriage requires that both partners are happy and healthy as individuals…then, and only then, can their marriage–and the unit–be happy and healthy and productive. And when one partner can no longer be healthy and happy in that relationship, it doesn’t seem fair to anyone–to the spouse, to the children, and to the person who needs to leave–to stay in that marriage.

At that point, then everybody is living a lie. And that’s setting an example to the children that it’s okay to not be happy and to not speak your truth, and to live an un-authentic, fake life. Some people may call that selfish, but at the end of the day, to me that seems like being courageous and honest and self-aware.

And if you did divorce a nice guy, that’s great–because then your ability to co-parent and work together in that matter is so much easier than there being custody issues.

Nobody’s saying that choice of leaving, but more often than not, the right choices are never the easy ones. Best of luck to you!

Well said……after 26yrs, 3 children college age, moving several times and being married to a man devoted to his job, it was over. I needed someone to have a relationship with me. My marriage was a commitment. I believed in the vows. Believed it should be a partnership for life. But in the long run, I was alone in a marriage and needed to make myself a priority. It had become mundane, no affection, no friendship just ships passing in the night. I would lay in bed at night and sob and he would just go to sleep. He was so detatached and unpretentious to our children. They had moved on and just accepted dad was at work or to tired to be present for them.
Two years later, after the divorce, the cloud has lifted. I’m almost 60yrs old now. My children are happy and moving on with there lives. They have accepted that relationships don’t always work and sometimes you have to move on. I can say I am happy! Yes, it’s hard to be alone, to loose friends because their uncomfortable with me being single. Hard to not have the income I did and to be independent, but I’m a better person for that.
I know what I want. I know what I need. I know what I’m looking for in life and my future relationships. Yes, I’m judged because of my decision. But it was my decision. My ex was a good provider, he tried to be a good dad. He just wasn’t a good partner. I wish him well and hope he finds happiness. I am strong and I will be good. I am on my path………

Thank you for publishing this!!

In 2011 I started feeling like something was missing from my marriage (passion, respect, attention). My ex worked so much that I became accustomed to taking care of our daughter, our home and our pets by myself. I worked full time as well. My frustration eventually turned into resentment which then lead to a few bad decisions for my exit strategy. My ex was surprised by my unhappiness.
I moved out and took our then 3 year old daughter with me. He had agreed to this and we set up a schedule for visitation.
I hurt a lot of people with my decision to “break up” with my husband. It took me a few years to manage the guilt that I felt.
I left a “good guy” for the unknown. He’s slowly becoming less bitter towards me. We have the most wonderful 7 year old girl that is incredibly understanding and well adjusted.

Mostly, it takes a lot of courage to make a move like this. I felt selfish and empowered at the same time.

If anyone is going through something similar right now, please realize that you’re not alone.

Thank you for sharing. I agree — takes A LOT of courage.

A lot of people might read this and say: “Why didn’t you tell him you were unhappy? Did you try to work on it with him– alone or together? Therapy?”

Just curious what you tell people who no doubt ask.

I told him that we needed to spend more time together as a couple and as a family. I told him that I needed not just more sex but more intimacy as well. Nothing that I tried ended in our satisfaction. When I told him I wasn’t happy we did try counseling that ended up not being successful.

We went to counseling 3 years earlier. I couldnt do anymore counseling, nor did I want to. I figure that I no longer wanted to be married and I didnt want to be convinced to stay just because he wanted me to stay. I do go to counseling for me to work through the guilt and I told him to do the same. He says, Ive broken him and he cries everyday. That really hurt and all I could say was Im sorry.

That is tough but honestly -he is responsible for his own happiness and sounds a little manipulative. Hopefully he is just going through the grieving process and will move on.

Thank you! I am going through this right now.. Its so hard because he does not want to let go or grasp the fact that, although he is a great father and friend, i want to end it. I have a 4 year old and he will be devastated.. It is so hard to choose yourself. he was not perfect and neither was i but i always gave all of myself .. i loved whole heartedly and had to keep pulling him back to us. he would ignore and here in the end did something that i found very hurtful and disrespectful. I finally decided.. i deserve the love i give. If i can give you 100 % of the love i have … raise our child.. push you to do better .. support ANY idea you have .. listen when you need to speak.. then you know.. i deserve the same. It came to a surprise to him, that we were falling apart… he has since started doing ALL of the things i wish she would have done years ago.. throughout our relationship. He does not understand why i want out. Why i will not try “one more time” I have been trying for years.. and it just got old. I shouldn’t have to tell you how to love me.. i shouldn’t have to tell you hey.. remember us?? its to the point where i love him as a friend and father to our boy. The guilt KILLS ME.. its on my mind ALWAYS and i dread that i am making a mistake. I feel guilt for “breaking up” our family and am trying to live with him so the change is not so bad for our son. This is proving difficult since he refuses to let go. im so glad i came across this article. I don’t feel alone.. ughgh i just want to be happy .. i want EVERYONE to survive this.. especially our son. it seems like FOREVER away. Thanks again.

IT’s like I wrote this. Thank you for sharing. I feel sooo guilty. After 8 years of marriage where it’s been turbulent from the beginning and me telling him for years that I wasn’t happy, he now is like, “where is this coming from?” And now-NOW- he wants to make it work. It makes me feel guilty and RESENTFUL. Really, now, buddy? I wish the righteous rage could quell the guilt but it doesn’t. I don’t know what to do.

This seems to be really common – women expressing their discontent for years, and only when they file for divorce the guys start to take them seriously. What do you make of it?

I too have been married 8 years. Jan 2, 2017, I asked for a divorce. Hardest thing Ive ever done. He doesnt want it. The guilt had me bound and still does but therapy is helping and when he moved out this past weekend. I actually had a deep sigh of relief! Its hard, I definitely know but with time, it gets easier. Choose you!

Thank you for this. I told my husband tonight that I just do not want to be in this marriage anymore. I originally told him on valentines day ( I sound awful right?) after he came home complaining about work for the 6th straight month. I want to be free and not in this marriage anymore, but he is such a nice guy and we have a 10 month old daughter. That part really kills me, but I refuse to be an unhappy mommy in a relationship that I just don’t want to be in. Also.. I am just not sexually attracted to him. There is no real reason why.. I’m just not and am sick of forcing it. I told him from day I saw him as a friend, but he just kept pursuing and I guess I just “gave in”. Thank you again for sharing!

My ex-husband and I grew up together. We have known each other since we were four years old. Our parents socialized together for years and years. Our families spent holidays together……ok you get the idea, except that I couldn’t stand him growing up. Fast forward to when we started dating which was immediately after college. I didn’t realize it at the time but I felt trapped, so when he proposed 4 months after dating, I rationalized and romanticized it by saying that we didn’t have those requisite “getting to know you” years. It was supposed to be this beautiful fairy tale. What I didn’t do, was listen to that voice that said that this wasn’t right, from the very beginning. Then, you blink, and 20 years have passed by. You’ve adapted. You’ve raised kids. You’ve built a home together. What you haven’t done, what I didn’t do, was recognize that something was missing and how unhappy I really was. I needed more. Wanted more from my marriage and from what this really nice, great guy, could give me.

So, no, I NEVER feel guilty about divorcing a great guy. And he is a really nice, great guy. For someone else.

Thank you so much for sharing. I have been married for 27 years, my children are 25, 23 and 20 and yet I still feel so guilty for saying just yesterday that I want to leave.

He is a good guy to so many. My daughter, who has never gotten along with him now says she is heartbroken for him and suddenly wants to stay with him.

I tried so hard to stay because of the children. I want to be vulnerable with someone in a relationship and because of how is when I have been that way I just can’t with him anymore.

The guilt I feel is overwhelming. Thank you, this post and your reply helped.

Yes, I have a little different situation but the same guilty feelings are there.
My ex and I were not together very long before getting pregnant and he and I haven’t been a couple since my son being born (5yrs old).
Lately with working overtime everyday him at 2 jobs, my son back and forth to whomever is available is driving me crazy and exhausting and I feel so bad for my son.
His dad is so great with him, so patient, so involved in his school.
I feel like I’m making things so difficult by us in separate households. Then I drop off my son and have a conversation and remember all the reasons why I can not stand living with him!

I wonder … do you think that annoyance will subside in years to come? Do you worry you may look back and think you were petty or hasty? I’m not at all suggesting you were, just want to know what YOU think :)

Nope! Glad I divorced mine. We were young when we married but loved each other so much. I just knew in my heart I that lifestyle we lived wasn’t something I wanted or needed in my life. Marriage was never my goal. My goal was making money and creating a business for myself. He wanted me to be a traditional housewife. When we met, I had a career. I have no desire to ever be a housewife nor stay at home mom like his mother was all his life. Nothing wrong with a housewife, thats just not for me. Not everyone is cut out for it just like marriage isn’t for everyone.

What? This is what is wrong with society. You made a commitment to your husband. Then you Get bored. So forget the commitment? Weak mined. Yes. If you make the promise of marriage and don’t commit, you are a bad person. Marriage is WORK- and its selfish to put yourself first before your children. You will be miserable. And deserve it.

I just read your post and it was so comforting. Because I am married to a really, really nice man and I DON”T WANT to be married ANYMORE!! Unfortunately, I’m in a space right now where I have to build up support for myself before I can leave, or ask him to. This will take time. I am struggling so much with the guilt and shame of what it will do to him and our daughter when I tell him it’s over. No one will truly understand because he is such a NICE GUY. But they don’t have to f*ing live with him! So thank you for your post, every word resonates and I think you are so brave.

I’m going through the same thing. We have been married not even 2 years, and have a 10 month old daughter. I feel SO guilty.. but I just do not want to be in this marriage anymore. I’m 30 years old, and my mother passed away from cervical cancer when she was 29 (I was 8). I refuse to live my life any other way but in my truth. And if I stay married I will be living a lie. Thank you for this post.

I am in the exact same boat. Almost 30, been married under two years and I want OUT. I can’t bring myself to say it because he is a nice guy, loves me and has done nothing wrong but…… we are just more like friends and i just dont want to be married anymore.

How have things turned out since your post?

I left my husband after 27 years. He is a nice guy, good job, good father and there was nothing really wrong with our marriage other than I just didn’t love him. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Its now been 3 years and I still feel the guilt everyday. It just never stops. I have come to believe that I will never have another day in my life when I won’t feel bad for what I did. Honestly my advice is to just stay. The guilt will never leave so just stay and try to find another perspective on the relationship. What is the point of leaving if happiness just cannot be found. I know some of you would think I am crazy for thinking like this but I am so tired of the guilt for causing others pain.

I have never wrote on anything like this but I am going through the same thing and have no one to talk to. I feel like I am going crazy. I’ve been with my husband for 19 years and have never felt I was in love with him. He is a great guy that my family loves and he loves me in a way that no one else ever has but I don’t feel the same way about him. Did you get the courage to leave?

Yes I left. After 19 years. Just 1 month ago and I love being in my own place. I knew in year 2 that I was in the wrong marriage and wanted to leave ever since. I tried over the years, I really did. But I continued to live this lie for 19 years. Now, I finally get to live my truth. And the guilt is something you need to work on in order for it to go away. It may not ever go away completely, but it can be reduced so that your life and your decisions are not dictated by it. Guilt is not a reason to stay with someone. Follow your heart you only get one life!

Hi Tracy..it’s amazing how u left after so many years. I am leaving my hisband too after 17 years and I have so much guilt

I’ve seen how screwed up kids turn out when their parents stay together “for the kids.” If you as a parent cannot model a healthy and happy relationship with your spouse, then you NEED to divorce. Preferably, you need to divorce before the relationship becomes so poisoned your divorce process becomes toxic and spills over into a bad co-parenting relationship with your kids.

Trust me on this. Had my in-laws split up, my own marriage would not be in deep, deep trouble. They stayed together and it absolutely wrecked their sons, both of whom are on their second marriages.

Thank you for posting this! I just told my husband I wanted a divorce and so much of it is because his parents are so dysfunctional that he does not have the tools to be in a marriage, and he refused to get help with me for years. The guilt is overwhelming though, because I so badly do not want to abandon him. But I can’t wait around and keep on accepting bad behavior and a bad marriage. ESPECIALLY when kids are involved.

I’ve been the provider fir my family for 22 of the 24&1/2 years we’ve been together. 24years of unfulfilled promises yo get a real job and help out. But yet he’s enjoyed everything’s because I was married to a good man who loves me. Waits on me hand and foot. I am also married to a man who doesn’t make love to me once a month is the norm. He cannot provide for me. And now with our youngest of six being 14 I am counting down the days til I am free. Or so I thought. I am actually looking at boarding school and freeing myself because I’d rather be alone than ignored and neglected in my own home. Enough is enough.

I am MUCH happier after my divorce (not yet finalized). My ex left me. I was just content to allow him to “online cheat” many times and keep forgiving him. I didn’t want a divorce, I thought we could make it work, basically I thought I could change him. He was a liar, lazy, cheated and had trouble keeping a job. He withheld sex from me (find out later he is a-sexual). Even his family doesn’t like him. We tried counselling, it didn’t help because he said “why am I always to blame?”… well it was mostly his issues we were trying to work on but he was in denial and defensive. He couldn’t “man up” to anything.

A few years later, I am still single, but I know who I am. My son sees him regularly, but he knows his dad lies sometimes. My ex is engaged, even thought we are not yet divorced. I can see a pattern with him and I see that he did me a favour by leaving.

Many people have told me that I can find better than him, and I know I can. I am not in a hurry.

Nope, I do not regret our divorce. I deserve much better.

I am going through a divorce with two young boys. One being under 1. I discovered my husband was seeing prostitutes on top of our relationship just not being a healthy one. I stayed with him for a year following the discovery and wanted to see if things would change or if he’d try harder. He didnt. He wanted me to just act as though I didn’t find out anything and also blamed me. Even with this, I am going through the regret phase where I am questioning my decision to divorce. I know I deserve better but it is that fear of the unknown ripple effect. My soon to be ex keeps asking me am I sure as if I am making a bad decision and he’s the victim. I don’t know, I’m not at the “fuck you, I deserve better “. I have my moments when I’m reminded but it is a struggle.

Kate what is truly selfish is showing your kids that one needs to make sacrifices for his or her happiness. Is that the kind of role model you want to be for them? Yes marriage is work and a commitment to the other person but these are all just rules society has made up. The true relationship is with yourself and being honest about how you feel. Sometimes people grow apart or go different directions in life and the marriage expires. There is no medal of honor working through something that your heart doesn’t want. True strength comes from being honest with yourself and your needs.

I’ve been married 29 years. I have screwed up many times and I think my husband walks on water. I got married at 16 and I do feel like we were perfect for each other. We have changed and to be honest me much more than him and not for the better. He has been the glue that has kept me together and I love him but question am I in love. I would have left me a long time ago. I feel like it’s over but I’ve never been on my own and I petrified. I will never know unconditional love like I know with this man but I am being so unfair to him. I told him this morning he deserved to be happy.. I just need to find the strength to move on even though it will kill me and him both.

I disagree. You did what was best for you! You are NOT a bad person. I am in the same position and I am happier knowing that my divorce will be final in April. You go girl!

Honor your life…. I would never want my children to think you have to stay somewhere that you are not fulfilled. When you become a better you, you are better for your children.

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