Do you feel guilty for divorcing a nice guy?

how to cope with guilt after divorce

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?

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 a 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.

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 means you don't date / act weird about dating

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. If you are not sure where to start, consider my video dating course How to Get Back Into Dating for Single Moms. I help you unpack all your crap around dating, and give you step-by-step instructions on getting back in the saddle — guilt-free.
  2. Poke around a online dating site. I'm also a fan of matchmaking services, especially for busy moms.
  3. Just 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. Trust me: good sex is not hard to find.
  4. Therapy can help (I'm a huge fan of online therapy, 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).
  5. 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 allllll 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.

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. I'm a fan of HomeBay, a site that easily helps you sell your home for a tiny fraction of the typical 6% broker fee.

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. Read: Toxic beliefs about being a single mom holding you back?
  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.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

175 Comments

  1. Amy on February 26, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    My ex and i were together for 10 years. Married for 1. 2 kids, a 9 year old and a 5 year old.
    I wont get into it… but towards the end i looked around and my 9yearoldson was so depressed, talking to my friends and neighbor parents why dad wont stop yelling at mom. Why dad wont stop making mom cry.
    My 5 year old daughter was there hugging me while im trying to push her outside while her dad is yelling. My son yelling at his sister in that same way my ex yells at me because thats what he knows.
    I didnt want that for my daughter to think thats an ok way to be treated by a man, i didnt want my son to think thats an ok way to treat any female ever in his life.
    So i packed everything and left when he went out of town for fathers day weekend last year.

    But when the fighting wasnt there, this guy is an alpha male. Funny, smart, handsome, amazing lover, amazing dad. He seriously is perfect in almost every way except when he gets mad. Every day after work was not tv time, it was time to be outside and hang out with the kids, with me. He loved us very much.
    But man, when he got mad, his word, he would rip you to shreads for hours and hours and hours. We once had an argument about my lack of cleaning the house(he was raise with a white glove inspection type of clean) that argument lasted 7 hours of him repeating how im a horrible mother, a hoarder, a slob, a pig. In the end of every fight i apologized for the billionth time, just for it to be finally over. I was drained. Completely drained.

    Thats how my son would scold his baby sister. Maybe not the length of it but he would hurt her heart in such a strong way.

    I feel so guilty. I cant get over it. Somedays i feel like i cant breath the whole day. Somedays my eyes constantly have tears streaming down. The worst is when my children beg me to go back that dad is nice again.

    My ex tells me he hates me now. That he cant stand the sight of me. That im an awful mother for doing this to our family. He tells the kids all about what their mother is doing to our family and how horrible of a decision shes made because its biblical.

    Hes turned into pure evil. But i cant get over this huge guilty feeling. It hurts. When i dont have my kids i dont want to live anymore. When i have my kids, its very special time spent together and it goes by way too fast. Im much happier without him but im now dying inside because i dont have my kids all the time.
    I cant live like this, not making it through the week without wanting to die, but then being completely happy on the days i have my kids.

    I just dont know what to do. Im lost. So so lost and just dont know what to do.

    • A Left Behind Husband on February 28, 2018 at 4:22 pm

      While I am a left behind husband, what you describe is ABUSE. Specifically it is verbal abuse. You do not have to put up with that behavior. Either he needs to get professional help with his anger issues, or you need to walk away from the relationship, guilt free. I do not say this lightly. I am totally against the author’s actions of this article “feeling guilty for leaving a NICE guy.” That does not seem to fit your situation based upon your description.

      No one deserves to be abused.

    • Frankie on March 9, 2018 at 2:48 pm

      If he was a great guy he would do whatever to make it right with you. I would give you a Taser and overtime when I got out of hand you could shock me back to my senses. I would do that to keep my family happy and intact :) Or some other strong bargaining chip.

    • Michelle Messina Bernard on May 4, 2019 at 9:34 pm

      Amy,
      You have nothing to feel guilty about!! Kids would rather COME FROM a broken home than LIVE in one. Hugs!

  2. Another broken husband on February 25, 2018 at 10:50 am

    Sad. It’s really sad that there are so many women ready to break up their homes and crush their kids because they’re chasing their hormones.

    It is so selfish and cruel to leave just over a general sense of unhappiness. You are adults. Your kids depend on you. I really can’t understand how you justify breaking so many hearts.

    But of course you’re miserable because there is no room for selfishness in a marriage. You’re unhappy, I get it….but it scares me to no end to know that someday, no matter how good I am to you, no matter how loyal and faithful I was, no matter how much work and bullsh*t I dealt with, that youd take the most important thing away from me (my home and family) and destroy not just my heart, but those kids who want and deserve mommy and daddy.

    Though it really must be difficult for you to know that you’re doing this. I cannot feel sorry for you. Typically we feel guilty when we know what we did/are doing is wrong. Especially in the cases of these good men. Their hearts and souls are destroyed simply because they were guilty of truly loving your selfish a$$3$. Thier love for you has become a curse for them.

    I’m also a victim of a walk away wife who somehow switched up over the years and decided that our good life wasn’t good enough for her anymore and checked out without letting me know until it was too late.

    I feel sorry for any man who might fall in love and want to marry you in the future. You have NO clue what love and loyalty is. A wicked heart cannot delight in doing what’s right so of course you’re miserable.

    You are incapable of true love and I feel sorry for these men and your kids. I know it’s not an easy choice for you so maybe you’re not all bad. I know that I have to pick myself up and move forward with love and forgiveness, but this hurts so bad.

    It feels like betrayal to know that we dedicated our lives to you, sacrificed so much for you. Would have taken a bullet for you and gladly laid our lives down to protect you…only to have u walk away because we’re somehow not good enough. We’re not perfect, but neither were you and honestly, if anyone settled for less, it was us.

    But yet we still fight for u even though our hearts and souls are paying a huge price. You see we know that true love isn’t about me. We put our family ahead of us even when we aren’t feeling it. We aren’t miserable though we also sacrifice because it’s not just about ME.

    You guys have become the selfish antagonists that you used to hate on those old lifetime movies. SMH lol

  3. sz on February 22, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    This is your only life and you have one chance to live it. You are NOT a bad person for doing what’s right for you. I am in the same position, however I have been dealing with a stoned alcoholic who never pays the bills, cleans the house – who has a negative attitude and acts like a 15 year old. I’m ready to be happier. Regardless the guilt is killing me. I can’t even get the words out to tell him. Anyhow, I’m glad I found this article. Ignore the haters – as they do not know what your life is like behind closed doors.

  4. Jen on February 2, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    This website is equal parts inspirational and infuriating.

    My author’s original post and several of the supportive comments uplift me and give me hope that I can follow my own heart and free myself to live the life I want and deserve.

    However, the judgmental, hate-filled comments really confuse me and make me protective of the author (which I’m sure doesn’t need me to shield her!). If your own daughter realized that she was in a broken and unhappy marriage, would you really tell her that she has to stick with it no matter what? And how can you be so bold to call the author or other commenters ignorant and selfish? Sounds to me like some of you may be projecting and need to deal with your own emotional demons.

    But let’s end on a positive note. Thank you for writing this. I appreciate the concept that your happiness is enough to justify change. I keep feeling like I need to force fights just so I can feel comfortable with my decision. There will be pain, but I have hope that it will be short lived and that just like the author said, “the net result will be positive.”

    • Jen on February 2, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      I meant “the author” not mine… :)

  5. Teaky on January 11, 2018 at 7:26 am

    Thanks for the article. I need to be reminded that the institution of marriage is as meaningful as mail order art certificate. People say it’s easier to stay in a bad marriage than leave. They don’t feel passion for their spouse any more so it’s time to divorce and find someone new to have passion for. That is immature thinking and as someone said earlier very small minded. You are trying to justify and rationalize your selfish decisions by saying you are showing your children how to take care of themselves. Yikes! That is pretty twisted. Be honest with yourselves. People feel guilty because they did or are doing something wrong. Period.

  6. Chris Matthews on January 7, 2018 at 4:19 am

    I feel Guilty and selfish for feeling the exact way you do, people think I’m crazy! I really needed this article! Thanks

    • Chris Matthews on January 7, 2018 at 4:20 am

      Female lol

  7. Broken on October 20, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Im in a similar situation where I have fallen out of love with my husband. We have been married 9 years and have 3 children, 8,5 and 2.
    He is very insecure and possesive but on the other hand he isnt a bad person, he doesnt drink, gamble or mess about with other women. Ive never felt happy as I find myself living his way of life for me. Im not allowed to dress the way I want, cant go out on my own to town or with friends anywhere. I cant even take the kids to the park or anywhere. I have tried supressing myself to keep him happy to keep the family atmosphere happy.
    I stay at home all the time and wish I could be myself just to experience what it feels like to be independent.
    I feel sorry for my children to be in this situation and hurt that I have put up with this for so long.
    I want a divorce but im scared I might hurt my children and regret what I have done.
    I have told him many times to let me live my life too but he doesnt seem to see where hes wrong. Hes happy to be this way. Over the years ive realised he doesnt really love me he is selfish and self absorbed. I mean nothing to him. He isnt romantic but expects sex whenever he wants. He gets annoyed if I dont do as he says or if I got against his rules.
    Im torn but I want out. Theres no love in me for him and I just cant be with him any longer. Just worried about how life will be after divorce and how will I be able to afford to live. We have bought a house but he hasnt even put my name on it and our marriage isnt even registerd as he didnt see a point in it aslong as we are religiously married.
    I just dont want to think the grass is greener on the other side and end up leaving the comfort me and the kids have

    • Frankie on March 9, 2018 at 2:34 pm

      Now this sounds like a lady that needs a good lawyer and a better man, I hope you can manage your situation “broken”, hopefully you can “scare him” into being a better man with the threat of divorce. He does not sound like the “good guy” we are all discussing here.

  8. JJ on July 19, 2017 at 5:46 am

    I think the problem is that our entire society tells women, “marriage will make you feel fulfilled. motherhood will give you meaning. you’ll reach the pinnacles of happiness if you get married.” and for most women, it’s not true. When they find themselves in the role of a wife and mother, the role itself feels constricting, so that even if they have a good husband and a happy family, simply HAVING a family, EXISTING in that role, makes them boxed in and they want to get divorced so they can start a podcast and have sex with other guys or travel the world and do an Eat Pray Love thing or whatever.

    If that’s what you want from life, then why didn’t you do some deep, solid introspection before you got married? Why didn’t you spend alone time seriously contemplating your goals and what you wanted from life, before you ensnared some poor guy in a marriage, made him commit his life to you, and then destroyed his heart when you realize that marriage wasn’t what you wanted? Why didn’t you just stay single?

    I’m less angry about women achieving their potential and dreams and happiness, and more angry about women waiting to realize that’s what they want, until they’ve created a family, which is kind of incompatible with having the most exciting sex life in the world or being free and responsible only to yourself. Having children and being married isn’t really entirely all about you, and your happiness. It’s partly about your happiness, and partly about theirs. So if you’re not willing to settle for anything less than ABSOLUTE happiness, then you’re not cut out to be a wife, and you’re not cut out to be a mother. And that’s OKAY! Not everyone has to be a wife and a mom. It’s not the end-all, be-all of existence. We have plenty of people on the planet already,

    The reason you guys all feel guilty for divorcing is because you really, truly are negatively impacting the most important people in your life, and that’s not something to gloss over or ignore. Your children aren’t better off watching you “succeed.” That’s not better for children than having a stable, secure family.

    I’m fine with you guys divorcing – do whatever you want. But I’m tired of the excuses about how it’s better for the kids, and I’m tired of hearing women gloss over their husband’s unhappiness, as if only the wife’s happiness matters.

  9. Jen on July 15, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    You know what makes me laugh? MGTOW. It means men going their own way. When a woman practices WGTOW the men get all upset. Screw you! I left I’m glad and I will never be in a relationship again! Happiest women I know r single. Raised my kids alone no AT either…..

  10. Lila on June 28, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    I think the saddest thing here, is the disrespect between men and women in the comments I’ve read. I’m in the same situation as many of these women but I’ve stayed with a good man, after 38 years of marriage, because of doubts, it seems there is always something worth saving. I’m trying to be the happiest person I can be on my own, and while my husband and I sleep in separate rooms and don’t have an intimate relationship anymore, we are friends. We have memories in this home and this life that we’ve built together. I commend those of you who do what you think is right for you, but we are all different. To the men that point fingers at these women: One cannot explain here all the details of one’s life, so understand that you are judging someone over a few sentences. I am sorry you were hurt by women. It must be really horrible when someone leaves you for what seems to be “a sudden” decision. Having worked in the therapy world, and I can tell you that what may seem a surprise to you would have probably been building up for a long time, and possibly your wife/partner told you many times what she was feeling, but you really didn’t listen. It happens a lot just because man and women speak and listen differently.
    Again, I’m sorry you were hurt by women and that now your opinion of some of them is so negative. I hope you are able to find women that you can share your happiness with, I really do. Men also deserve happiness and love.
    And to this women, think 1,000 times before jumping off. Try not to compare your situation to others, not on this post, not anywhere else. Your life is unique, your situation is unique. Your heart will tell you what to do, but please do so after you’ve exhausted every single possibility to mend something that seems incompatible or broken. My mother stayed in a bad marriage for 53 years. She died at age 89 with a deep regret to not have done in life things she wanted to do because my father was so controlling. It broke me. I engaged myself in counseling and psychology because of this. Hope that at the end of our lives, if we have something worth saving, we can say we did everything in our power to keep it going, and that if it couldn’t be saved, we can also say that we had the courage to move on. To each its own. Let’s be kind and helpful instead of critical and demeaning. That’s my hope.

    • PatyA on July 17, 2018 at 3:00 am

      Oh, Lila…the most compassionate comment that I’ve read in all this. Each life is different and we all have problems and solutions and we learn to carry our own cross. And we should learn how no to carry regrets for decisions made.

    • Michelle Messina Bernard on May 4, 2019 at 9:26 pm

      ABSOLUTELY LOVELY COMMENT. Very enlightened. I don’t know you- but I love you. I know this blog/article is written so boldly and maybe a little harshly. The author is trying to drive home a point & empower others who are struggling. The judgment is awful. Even if you don’t agree with her, don’t judge. As you said, we don’t know the whole story. Love is complex and relative. One person’s definition is not another’s. Seems a lot of these people are projecting their own feelings onto this author. A lot of envy and ugliness. Life is short. Everyone is entitled to live their life however they deem best. Live and let live. This article is meant to be a brief and encouraging summary. There is not way to capture an entire life and all its complexities here.

  11. DieSter on April 30, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Being unhappy is the hardest thing to live with. I knew from the first time I met my ex husband that I will never be fulfilled but I ignored that little voice in my head. When I agreed to marrying him i was 24 years old and naive. I didn’t think about how all this will backfire.
    I love him, he is the nicest person I know. He had his flaws, all of us do but I never doubted his love for me.I felt guilty that I couldn’t return that amount of love and affection. I didn’t leave with a hope of greener pastures but it felt like that was the answer for the both of us to salvage a bit of happiness before it is too late.I have realized that the problem is me, I am not marriage material. I like my own space. The kids suffer the most. Mine are now 8 & 5. They haven’t asked heavy questions but i know the day will come.I regret the pain I have caused this man. I will have to live with this guilt for the rest of my life.

    • Yin Ding on May 3, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      Sorry to hear another family separated. You feel how you feel and there is no way to deny your feeling. We can try to change our attitude so that we find true joy where ever we are (as Victor Frankl wrote that even some in Nazi’s Death Camp were able to, but how many in the world can do that?) Love is much more than temporary passion and spontaneous affection, intoxicating and strong as those feelings may be. A read of this blog seems to suggest that some people think marriage is a magic bottle that can capture the passion and prolong the affection, and that a marriage “fails” because the passion and affection inevitably fade. – I tear up when I read you writing “I never doubted his love for me” — that is the most beautiful and lovable thing I can ever hope to be able to say about my spouse, the parent of my children. The commitment underscoring that unwavering love and the undeniable courage supporting that commitment … I find that precious and can’t help but feel the tremendous pain now that it has to be destroyed and erased. Pray that he doesn’t give up on true love and will find a special someone who would truly enjoy and treasure his form of sustained love. Pray that your young children will find strength and peace.

  12. Jo on April 14, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    I hate to admit it.. They’re right. I was you at one time. Years ago, I left my wonderful, loving, generous, husband. I destroyed My, now, adult children. We lived in a beautiful home. We had a wonderful life. We were together for 20 years. He was the only man I ever loved. But in my early 40’s, I decided I wanted to explore a new, different life. He (understandable) didn’t want us to. So I left… Had my “fun… And now, 5 years later I am devastated for what I’ve done. I would give ANYTHING to have my old life back. I miss him and mourn him everyday. I made my bed. Now I have no choice, but to sleep in it… I’m never alone, but I’m Very lonely without him. I miss him every day. I believed he would always love, and take me back, if and when I was ready. But I was wrong. He has moved on. And wants nothing more to do with me. I can’t blame him :(
    I just wish I could take the last 5 years back. I would gladly give up 5 years of my life, to be with him again. I’m so heartbroken over what I’ve done. I live with a man now. But I can’t move on with him because I love my husband so much. I’m In a horrible pattern. And I’m a horrible person. I’m going to break his heart too.

    • Frankie on March 9, 2018 at 2:08 pm

      There you have it. I would like to hear more from Jo. Because I do believe a lot of this change of heart after years of marriage is a temporary thing and a trick of the mind to not appreciate what you have until you have lost it. Funny I have heard it before that it takes a woman about 5 years to regret divorcing her spouse, and it also takes about 5 years to get over losing a spouse. Then all is lost. Marriage is an investment in time and money and love. The payoff and dividends are grandchildren and a mate to share retirement years and memories with.

  13. Anony Mouse on April 8, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Clearly the majority of he men commenting have been scorned by a woman. As if men have never been unhappy in a relationship and left because it simply didn’t suit them anymore or cheat beforehand. Get out of here with your high and mighty moral superiority complexes, no one has time for you today. When they say good guy, why does this automatically mean she’s a wench? As if you’ve lived our lives and wished day in and day out you could be happy in your relationship. Day in and day out you tell yourself to just be happy. What is wrong with you? Why can’t you just be happy? So they say, take a pill. Change who you are and how you see the world. That will fix it. Oh he doesn’t need counseling, just you. You’re the one who’s unhappy. Why did you get married to begin with? As if people are not allowed to make mistakes and then try and live with them, and when they realize they can’t without making themselves or others miserable, they leave. Everyone needs a vacation. And let’s be honest we’re not getting the real mental health and communication skills we need in our most important years. So, what do you expect? I hear from clients time and time again how they just don’t know how to get through to their SO. They don’t understand why they act this way and that etc etc.

    I’m so tired of anyone out thinking they have any right to sit and point a finger. Seriously, who are you? Why do you feel it necessary to judge or shame? Will this push us to agree with you or fight against you? Have some respect for yourselves and stop commenting. You’re only fueling a fire. I’d like to see that 70% statistic and of those stats how many women were abused and how many were just fucking “bored”. It’s so cute how you take all these words of all these women and bring it down to a base sentiment that she was bored. Men really are from Mars.

  14. Lynn on February 27, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    I was married to a pretty nice guy. We got married way, way too young – I was 18 and he was 20. Married for 19 years, had two children. I was immature, and so was he. We both had been unfaithful at one point or another in our marriage. He traveled for work pretty much Monday-Friday. When the kids and I started dreading him coming home I knew that our days were numbered (our oldest child was in high school). Our divorce devastated him. I still feel guilty for putting my first husband through so much pain. I didn’t at the time because I wanted out – selfish I know. He also acted like so crazy when I left (everyone thought he would end up killing us both) that it somehow reinforced me getting out. I look back on that period and feel sad; and terrible guilt. He didn’t know how to deal with his pain except thru fits anger and rage. He was just doing the best he could. I know that now.

    He has since remarried and divorced again. I remarried 17 years ago. My current husband is a polar opposite to my first husband, and our relationship is based on respect and friendship first. My first husband and I were not friends – sounds really weird when I say that now; and we really did not respect each other. For a long time I have wanted to tell my first husband how sorry I am for creating so much pain for him. I think my apology might make me feel better but would make him feel bad and dredge up painful memories for him. I don’t regret my current marriage or life, I do regret hurting someone who loved me. I only hope for good things for my ex. I think the guilt is my burden to live with for hurting another individual to such a degree.

  15. stace on February 24, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    I have been with my husband for 7 years now, married for 3. We have had an easy life together with wonderful jobs, a house , travel and being generally comfortable. I have always thought him being a little dry / non-romantic , there were times when he wouldn’t go out of his way for me and it was always me that caved in to his likes. We would do things that he / both of us liked and enjoyed and never things just for me. I always planned all the fun activities, which he was reluctant to participate in yet was quick to criticise. When we did reno’s , it was all @ his pace and he wouldn’t hear me when I asked that we do things together. I was merely told to participate whenever I could and that he wouldn’t want to wait for me to come home before he started. He did not stand up for me to his sister that treated me like sh*t or his buddy that insulted me in my face. For the past year I have been feeling like he has fallen out of love with me and whenever something happened that got him out of his comfort zone, he would unleash at me (we don’t even have kids or have not had any hardships in life yet!). He did not acknowledge my birthday (except for wishing me so). When I mentioned it the following day, he became very mad at me and I ended crying (it was a big date!!), which got him irritated even more (oddly enough). He told me he did not love me anymore but then took it back. He has been telling me that all I want to do is have fun (I work 2 jobs, study, have a career and take care of the house) I addressed the lack of love . He said that if he gives me a finger, I will ask for an arm. I told him that it is stupid to control how much love you give someone, as if I only deserve a certain amount. The last straw was when we were visiting my family and he got aggravated at something and told me to shut up. I pulled him in the hallway and told him that I felt disrespected. He said that he was not sorry and that he was better than most guys out there and he will speak to me however he likes. We went to therapy but that did not help. It does not help that I always want to do things, whether it is travel or activities and that I am very driven, yet I feel like is dragging me down. He says that all I want to do is have fun. (I have a career, a second job, studying and take care of the house). I have asked for divorce. He is shocked, according to him. He agreed to it easily and it is me that always tries to talk to him and he says he is confused. I am done and so devastated @ how easily he has given up and yet again it is all my initiative (whether we stay or split). It kills me that a guy who married me is so indifferent to me, so passive

  16. Abandoned Dad on February 24, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Wow. This experience for me has been a major eye-opener, if anything to see the science behind the minds of both men and women. After all I’ve read online, it’s incredible to me that this is such a common thing where married women just get bored and want to leave their husbands, and I had no idea of the reality of the situation until my wife recently started the divorce process.

    I’m not going to claim that I’ve been absolutely perfect. I don’t know that anyone is, but part of growth in life is to always try to focus on self improvement no matter how great you are at something. I’ve made mistakes in the things that I’ve said at times,. These things never help a marriage but I don’t know that they are cause for divorce. The whole thing is devastating. My wife and I have been married for more than a decade. She begged for a ring, two dogs, the home, a child, etc. She’s had a pretty comfortable life for the past few years. She developed an addictive running hobby and disappeared from her family, often for several days per week, several weeks per month, got bored with her marriage, and it all came crashing down hard. Now she doesn’t care about our home, or her family, or even her two dogs. She’s become so cruel that she outright refuses to feed our dogs because “they are annoying.” What kind of person does this? In the end, our son is going to suffer and now our financial situation is going to be challenging when we finally are at a point of where everything should get easier. I contemplate whether or not I should have simply left 7 years ago when she stopped talking with me and disallowed even a simple hug or kiss, let alone any real contact, but I have always been dedicated to my wife and son. Instead of working on fixing marital problems, she accumulated years of trivial things to be angry about, in order to justify this behavior. It’s soul-crushing to have a son who is heartbroken because his mom is gone on evening trips with her friends instead having dinner with her family and putting her son to bed at night. She asks; “What did you do to fix things?” Truly, I don’t know what I could have done differently. Once a person “falls out of love” you can’t change their mind. They have to be determined to stick through it if they want a marriage to last.

    When we begin to break down the concept of marriage and make it so easy for people to separate, its whole purpose is lost. It’s inevitable that most women, even in “good” marriages, will come to find that the fairy tale is just that… A fairy tale. The jewelry and wedding industries perpetuate these myths to continue to get women to marry even in spite of crumbling framework behind the entire institution. It really nails home all of the fallacies that conventional media and literature has told us about female sexuality. Most women are clearly hardwired to be inherently just as promiscuous as men, or perhaps polyandrists or at the very least serial monogamists by nature. That’s okay, but the lies need to stop and this concept of “till death do us part” needs to be destroyed before more people are devastated when they devote their lives to someone who will not do the same.

    I come out of this knowing that I am going to be fine in the long haul. It still hurts a lot but it’s just the reality of the situation. Trying to discuss it with her just makes her more hateful. She’s already having online affairs with at least one guy from a dating site, and hasn’t even filed for divorce yet. She has more actual conversation, via email, with a complete strangers, than her own husband. I can’t stop her from leaving but the real tragedy is how she’s ruining the future for her son. I can support one home but I can’t support two. Maintenance / alimony laws make it challenging, if not impossible, for any man to survive this trap. I know that some of you ladies will claim that alimony laws are gender-neutral, but take a hard look at the statistics. It’s said that women file for 70% of divorce yet make up something like 97% of maintenance recipients. Marriage is clearly a one-sided contract. She can break it at-will, yet reap the rewards by bailing out on her man at a moment’s notice. My wife is pushing 40 years old. While I deeply value her role as a caretaker for our baby for a few years, I absolutely feel cheated by having to bear this burden when she leaves. I’ve supported her for the past 7 years but ultimately she decided long before she met me that her dream was to be a stay-at-home mom. Now she’s faced with the reality that her financial situation will never be the same because she lacked education / career ambition in her early years.

    I’m trying not to judge some of the ladies here but I can’t help but to outright say how appalling it is to me to see how some of you try to justify your actions and encourage others to abandon their family. You try to rationalize how it’s your personal freedom before all else, or how it’s “better for the kids” to force separation from their fathers and force a man to pay for your lifestyle afterward like some entitled princess. Many women these days are little girls trapped in grown-up bodies, seldom having to face reality, always living off of a man, whether it’s daddy or hubby. And those 40% (head of household) of you that are “wealthy single mommies” don’t have what it takes to be a real woman, responsible for her actions and loving of her husband. Just don’t do it. Stop messing with men and leave the good men for the good women. My mother worked full-time (more than one job) and raised two children on her own, yet she loves her current husband very much and they’ve been very happily married for about 20 years. But it was only after she’d been through about a half-dozen marriages throughout my childhood that she finally managed to fix what was broken. What were the other sacrifices?

    I love my mother very much but I refuse to believe that my father was 100% of the problem. Take a hard look at your own actions and own up to what you’ve done, or didn’t do, in your marriage.

    If anything, my son will know the truth when he gets older. I couldn’t protect him from the broken home that both my wife and I experienced, as children, but perhaps I can protect him from making the same mistakes by marrying. America has truly gone to hell in a hand basket.

    • Yin Ding on April 24, 2017 at 4:40 pm

      I am so sorry. Please stay strong for your son. You are right, those of us who gets drunk on the fantasy and bail out without putting serious efforts in the marriage do not deserve to be married to begin with (and definitely do not deserve to have kids). Unfortunately, we are also very good at making excuses for ourselves, so despite the truth in your words — they will likely fall on deaf ears. There are women out there who truly think that marriage is good and not disposable, don’t give up and your son should not either.

  17. Veronica on February 23, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    I googled “divorcing a good man” and i am. After Almost two years married and 4.5 years together, everything has taken its toll on me. We knew we didn’t have chemistry, weren’t best friends, weren’t having sex, and weren’t spiritually compatible….. But we were codependent and got married anyway. He’s not interested in a divorce because he values consistency and stability over actually intimacy. At the onset i was a single mom and i respected how willingly he stepped up and took us on as his family. But suffocating, depressed, have gained weight, and can’t manufacture this bond that i need as a very passionate person. Idk what to do because i honestly hate the thought of him being hurt. I love and appreciate him but I’d just have an affair to make up for what I’ve never gotten from my husband.

  18. Becca on February 22, 2017 at 10:33 am

    It’s nice to know I am not alone. I am not married but in a 12 year relationship with a wonderful man. We have a 2 year old daughter together. He’s my best friend and a good provider but I am not in love with him. I have been emotionally detached from the relationship for years and felt that I was trapped when I accidentally became pregnant. We decided to try an open relationship for a bit to spice things up and it only made it more clear to me that I can’t be with him forever. His family is like my family and I am heartbroken. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the courage to leave.

  19. Djay on November 17, 2016 at 12:31 am

    With all those comments from divorced women, I think I will choose to not marry.

  20. Zee on October 8, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I’m crying as I’m writing this comment. Those of you that has never experienced how bad it is to be unhappy in a relationship with “Mr. Nice Guy” will never understand how bad it could be. Yes, possibly I could have a problem and contribute to my failing marriage, but I have the right to be happy in this life like any other. If having a marriage is more important than living a happy life, please be my guest. Although I’m still unhappily married to my Mr. nice Guy because I do not have the means, courage, and strength to divorce him yet. I understand each and everyone of you guys, and I applaud your courage. Please try not to judge anyone, at least until you have experienced their situation. Thank you.

    • JMarie on March 30, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Thank you for this post! I can completely relate. I just can’t take that step to separate much less even express how unhappy I am because I just fake happiness. I told my nice husband three or four years ago that we MUST start marriage counseling, and he refused. Now he wants to, and I don’t! I’m done! Where was he three years ago when I needed him? Why do I have to be willing and devoted now that HE wants to try?

    • Yin Ding on April 24, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      I have experienced it. It hurts because I refused to face the reality — not knowing how to be a spouse and too prideful to learn. It hurts because I refused to be practical and rational and somehow thought my “feeling” reigned supreme — without knowing the simple truth that feelings change ALL THE TIME. Glass is half-empty or half-full, the attitude is key. It hurts because the deepest love ever was staring at my face (a love by choice — agape) and I somehow didn’t think it was love at all because it lacked “passion.” Anger is passionate, jealously can be passionate, happiness can be passionate, but they all flee. Love is not supposed to remain “passionate”. If we are not wise enough to enjoy the comfort of true love (and know that we both need to compromise to maintain it), then we do not deserve true love and we should apologize and let Mr. Nice Guy go.

  21. Dre Gregson on September 21, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Oh dear

    What did I just read. Marriage isn’t all sunshine and like the movies people. Sometimes it can be cruel unfair and lonely if your married to a person with this type of mentality. Now I understand people want things that make them feel good in life. A big mistake would be to keep it too your self and expect your unknowing spouse to be fine with your decision not knowing anything is going on at all. You make a commitment to God and your spouse on your wedding day for better or for WORSE !!!. I’m sure some of you are happier being divorced, from Husbands/Wives that you tire from. What you don’t see if the heart wrenching pain that causes that person and in the long run the children. Divorce Isn’t a good thing, now I understand that abusive relationships, affairs, drugs etc warrant a divorce when there’s no other option. But to celebrate the death of a marriage when you don’t know how its effected the spouse divorced from is just darn right cruel. Each to their own decisions, but don’t throw away your marriages because of selfish desires. It’s simple TALK to your spouse about what you lack in your marriage. My daughter was 1.5 years old when my wife ran off because I found out about her and plumber of all people, to have my daughter at that age say to me im sorry daddy im sorry im sorry please come home, will haunt me till I die. I HATE divorce and anybody who took marriage seriously would feel the same.

  22. Jenna on August 29, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    I support your descision I have a very similar cicumstance and I know how difficult it the choice is and all the confusion and guilt that is paired along with that choice but at the end of the day we only have one life on this earth

    • Emma on September 1, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      So true, well said.

  23. Confused on August 2, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    I am replying to this because I too am thinking about divorcing a “nice guy”. We met 23yrs ago and have been married for 17 of them. He was my first boyfriend/sexual experience and all of my firsts. When dating I knew that I was not attracted to him and that there had to be more to a relationship. I also had feelings of being attracted to women too. Because I did not know what to compare this relationship to while having guilt from possibly hurting him I decided to marry him. Once the children came I focused on them and not me. For years I would cry because I felt trapped. Two years ago I had an affair on him with a woman. She allowed me to feel a connection like I had never felt and only thought existed in fairy tales. I loved being with her sexually and as best friends. She has decided to be with her husband for the sake of her kids but I am feeling like it is best for me to get out of my relationship in order to explore my sexuality, to not cry anymore about the decision that I have made. He is a great guy, supporting, great looking and a great father. My daily questions to myself are: Are my children better off if their parents stay together? Should I continue to stay in this relationship in fear of hurting him? (then I would be doing the same thing I did 23 years ago. I want to have a connection with someone in and out of my bed.

    • Emma on August 6, 2016 at 3:41 am

      Thank you for sharing your story. In short: The best gift you can give your kids is a mom who is fulfilled and living her best life. There will be so much pain, judgement, friends and family who do not understand, and heartache. But it is a gift to you, your kids, and the world. Because you will then live your truth. Now, you are living a lie.

  24. J on July 14, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Emma,

    I was so glad to see your post about divorcing a nice guy. I definitely divorced a nice guy. But we were so young when we met and I got completely consumed in that relationship, lost touch of who I was, even how to form my own opinions without consulting him. After the divorce I struggled with that but have slowly come into my own.

    My ex recently got remarried and I found that this event had me looking back with rose colored glasses. As childish as it is, when someone came and scooped him up I started to look at him again with more fondness. Could I have tried harder, could we be living the good life if I had chosen to stay? But honestly, that’s the difficulty with divorcing a nice guy. There’s no black and white, he was evil and I left, so it’s much easier to think back with some fondness and almost forget what brought you to that decision in the first place. We really brought out the worst in each other. He was more like a crappy roommate to me than my partner and although he was always a good dad, we had struggled to connect as a couple outside of our kids. We were broken and tried to fix it, but we couldn’t.

    The part about reading this post that makes me sad is all of the very judgmental comments below. I met another divorced woman recently that said she had such a difficult time after her divorce from a nice guy because no one could understand. The truth is, a nice guy doesn’t mean a good husband to you. And that’s the bottom line. Everyone’s relationships are their own. This woman said she had to give up all of their mutual friends to her ex because they just couldn’t understand her or support her. So she did, and has since moved on and married a great guy whom they have 3 kids, but remained friends with her “nice guy” ex. My point is, each relationship is different. Each marriage has it’s own life…sometimes it has no breath left and there’s no reviving it. For those on the outside looking in, it’s so easy to say one is being selfish by walking away. But the truth is, if you stayed because the guy is nice, or because everyone else thinks you should, then you are the one who has to suffer in your own life and marriage. So kudos to all the women who face that condemnation and brave the unknown to live the life they want to live.

  25. Melissa on June 27, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    So glad to have found your site, Emma, and all of these comments. I have been struggling with the thought of divorce for a few years now. I have been married 22 years to a very good man. No one is perfect and he has hurt me in our past for sure. I have hurt him too. He wants it to work and I just can’t shake this feeling of wanting out. The children are absolutely the only reason I stay. I often wonder what is wrong with me. If I were to write down all of his good qualities, women would be lining up at the door to meet him! I am a very passionate, social person, and tend to thrive when he isn’t around. We were separated at one time and it was the happiest period of my life. I felt as though I could finally breathe and was enjoying the “real” me. However I came back due to guilt. Guilt over the fact that my children missed me when I was gone, guilt over the fact that he lost tons of weight due to loss of appetite, and was depressed. Damn that word “guilt!” It is so very difficult to deal with. It is sometimes hard to know if we are feeling guilt or unhappiness. I know to leave, I need to be selfish. I am an excellent mother and sometimes feel I need to sacrifice my happiness to make their lives complete. Then I think on the fact that children all leave someday….and then what? I know I am saying things other people have already said. It’s just good to say it out loud and a relief to hear from others who understand.

    • JMarie on March 30, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      I’m impressed by your bravery to separate in the first place. I just can’t seem to take the step it takes to separate. Or even mention that I think about separating. I’m so overwhelmed with guilt that I just fake everything. And it’s destroying me. I’m seeing psychiatrists and therapists and harassing friends for support. I just can’t take that first step, even though I need to for my mental health which is spiraling downward out of control.

    • Jessica on June 18, 2018 at 2:51 pm

      I have done excatly same but I m moving out again hoping is once and for all . I need to live my life and I got every right to be happy ful it is concern I think I have to bare it and face it but years down the line I will be living my life and most importantly I will be happy

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