Are you the bad guy if you want divorce?

Today, I’m starting a new series and would like to introduce you to Heather-Marie. By way of background, Heather-Marie got married right after she turned 18 and was married for seven years. Sometimes she jokes that it was really only three and a half years because her husband was in the military and was gone for about half the time. It’s now been 11 years since her divorce and like Elsi Dodge, she remembers grieving for the loss of the relationship . I asked Heather-Marie if she was surprised by the divorce. She said no.



From the Flatirons, you can see forever
From the Flatirons, you can see forever

I wasn’t surprised at all. Actually I wanted the divorce. I wanted it really badly. But I was so young and, at the time, I had this idea that I didn’t want to be the bad person, the bad guy. I didn’t want to ask for the divorce. I didn’t want to be the one causing the problems.

I was in law school at the University of Colorado in Boulder at the time and one day after classes, I drove up on the top of the Flatirons where you look out over the whole city. I got out my car and I prayed,

“Dear God, I feel like you want me out of my marriage but I’m not going to do it. So if you want it done, you have to find another way. Amen.”

Within one week of that conversation with God, I found out my husband was having an affair.

Sometimes you just feel like you’re going the wrong direction in life and you need to get turned around but you’re not sure how to do it. Then something changes and that’s what happened to me.

Even though I wanted the marriage to end, I was not at all prepared for the experience of going through divorce. I think wanting your marriage to end and wanting to go through a divorce are two incredibly different things. You might want your marriage to be over but nobody wants to go through the divorce part.

I think my divorce was comparatively easy. We had no children and we didn’t really have a lot of assets or property. We did the divorce ourselves without a lawyer involved. So it was amicable and we agreed on everything. Yet, it was still one of the darkest and most painful periods I can remember in my life.


I suspect that many of us empathize with what Heather-Marie expresses here. Speaking for myself, I had concluded my marriage was over and I wanted out but it was a long time before I bring myself to tell my husband. All the time, I was waiting for some cataclysmic event, that would give me an easy way out and I wouldn’t have to be the “bad guy.”

I don’t like to think of it as being the “bad guy” now. I think that often the person who pushes for divorce is the courageous one, the brave one, the one who’s willing to force a change. What do you think?

It’s been 11 years since Heather-Marie’s divorce and right now, she’s starting up My Divorce Shower – a resource to guide and support women through divorce. (The website is under construction but coming soon) Her goal is to create a ritual around divorce to help the people involved accept it. There’s plenty more on that to come so do come back and visit ….



  • Big City Dad

    Wow, great post. I completely identify with Heather-Marie. I wanted out of my marriage for a while too but was hesitant to pull the trigger, both because we had a little girl and because I wanted to make sure I did everything in my power to save it. Eventually, like in HM’s situation, God did for me what I could not do for myself. My Ex’s affair became evident, she became completely resistent to outside help, and the fighting in front of my daughter became more that I could bear. I finally blurted it out in the middle of a fight (without my daughter there) even though I had not intended to. I’ve not once felt like the Bad Guy in all this. The Ex claims she didn’t want to get divorced yet she was completely unwilling to work on the marriage, rarely spent time with me or my daughter, and was having an affair. Who’s the bad guy? Staying in something that unhealthy makes you the bad guy for yourself. It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made, but given the same circumstances, hindsight would only make me do it sooner than I did.

  • Cori

    This IS a post that speaks to me so loudly. I am constantly told by my ex “you wanted this”. I am constantly told by my parents “we just can’t accept what you’ve done.”

    I am… their minds….the bad guy.

    But what they don’t realize is that I struggled for years on the inside, trying to find feelings that really were never there to begin with (we married young because I got pregnant). I WANTED to stay married to my children’s father and have the perfect family that lasts forever. Yet my family treats me like I woke up one day after eight years and just decided I didn’t really want this life anymore and wanted to throw it all away. I viewed my choice as selfless, in a way. Selfless in that I cared enough for my husband as a person that he deserved to find a woman who would love him the way he deserved to be loved. Selfless in that I didn’t want my children to see mommy and daddy’s relationship deteriorate before their eyes. Selfless in that I walked away before I became tempted and added infidelity and mistrust to the long list of painful reasons for the divorce.

    Yes, I am called selfish……..though my ex will admit now he is much happier (except for the reduced amount of time with our children) and I have never looked back. I made the right decision, am happier than I have ever been and I had the courage to make a change and risk being labeled the bad guy.

    • Mandy

      Yeah .. I heard the same words from ex and while I did want the divorce, it was because I felt there was no hope of change in the marriage and I didn’t want to carry on living a lie. Maybe with time your parents will come round and understand your decision. Just curious, have you talked to them about the difficult times in their marriage?

  • Cori

    Great question, Mandy. I haven’t….though I was in the midst of some of it when I was a teenager. I remembering wishing they had gotten a divorce as unhappy as they made each other. I am in a wonderful relationship now and I have hope that if I get married again, that my children still have a chance to see what a healthy, happy relationship can be.

  • StudentMama

    Lately, this is exactly how I feel and what I’m told. “You don’t want anything to do with me anymore” and “Just say it – you’ll never love me again.” Unfortunately, it’s not that cut and dry – I didn’t just wake up and stop loving him!

    Despite my (ex) husband’s infidelities – I have become the bad guy, wanting out, and not wanting to try. Somehow the year that I stayed after his affairs becomes a year that I didn’t let him heal the right way. We all make our mistakes, but there is a reason for it all. I can honestly say that I tried, and I’m not sure why it’s so difficult for him to let go now.

    I can only imagine what he is telling his family, but I cannot worry about that. I know that I’m doing the right thing. For once, I believe – to the depths of me – that I’m doing the right thing!

  • pooja

    God,How i identify. I am in the exact same situation. I want to get out of my farce of a marriage but I don’t want to be the bad guy. And whenever i consider leaving everybody tells me – “you’ll never get a great guy like him. You are not trying hard enuf to make this work..etc etc”. Nobody is supportive,there is noone to talk to. Yet,I wonder how good it is to remain in a relationship where I feel nothing for the guy, where neither of us are happy. I hope I find the answers soon. This post and the comments have given me the courage to atleast start thinking about being the bad guy.

    • Mandy

      Hi Pooja,
      A marriage that isn’t working is a sad and lonely situation. Probably a stupid question, but it’s always a good starting point, have you and your husband considered/tried couples counseling? If not, then I would recommend you start there. It could help you both decide what you want and what is best for both of you. Kristen’s series is another set of posts you might find encouraging.

      Think about your future and be strong.

  • Renate

    I'm so glad I stumbled across this thread. My husband is an alcoholic (supposedly in recovery) who has gone through 10 jobs in 11 years, putting us way in debt. He never spent time with our kids, was emotionally abusive, controlling (all while I supported us)paranoid and verbally aggressive. I've wanted out for a long time but he kept promising to change, do better, blah blah blah. It never lasted., and I just got lonelier and angrier. I didn't want my kids thinking this was the way a marriage/father should be. Two months ago I discovered he'd relapsed, in a BIG way. I want a divorce, he told our child he doesn't want it. So now I'm the bad guy. And NOW he's super-dad, suddenly spending all this time with the kids. I plan on filing next month, I want it done so badly but I'm so sad for the marriage I thought I would have. I really hate this.

    • SinceMyDivorce

      Hi Renate – I'm glad you found my site. I'm sorry you have to go through this and yes, you are grieving for the loss of your marriage. You are not the bad guy – you're the one with the courage to make a change for better and for happiness. You're the one who's going to show your children true love. And you will find peace, happiness and contentment again. Your children will notice the different atmosphere at home once you're not living with your husband and they will know you're not the bad guy. The next few months will be very hard for you but there are lots of women here who will support you. Be strong and believe in yourself. Hope you'll come back and visit. Let us know how you're doing.

  • JLH

    Thanks for the information. I have a question. I’m dating a fella (wonderful man) who is amicably separated. We met in church 2.5 years ago and have been dating 1.5 years. He bought his wife a new townhouse and he remained in the home they shared. About 3 weeks ago, his wife ent an e-mail announcing the split to all family members. However, when I asked my boyfriend about the divorce, he said they have never seen an attorney and he doesn’t want to be the bad guy. His parents divorced when he was in high school and it was very ugly. My fella and his wife agreed several years ago to stay together until their son was grown – even though se said she no longer loved him and wanted him to be happy with someone else. (The son is now 22.) Although I love this man, I’m afraid I’m being taken advantage of. He may never divorce. Does he still love her? He says “no”. Thanks a million. I have never married (lots of divorce in my family) and I so want to be in a happy, stable relationship.

    • SinceMyDivorce

      I don't see filing for divorce as being the bad guy – I see it as being the person with the courage, the person who's willing to make the leap so both people can move on to better relationships. I think you're right to be concerned that he may never divorce. Sounds like it's time for an ultimatum.

  • Susan

    I feel like Heather before she learned about the affair.  I´ve been with my husband since I was 21.. 6 years together, 3 years married.  We have very little conflict in our marriage and I know my husband would completely shocked if he knew that I wanted out. I don´t know how I can really articulate to him what is wrong.  I just have realized that our personalities don´t really match, I love socializing and adventure.. and he is a complete introvert who I feel often holds me back. And.. after 6 years together that initial blind passion has of course faded. If we had more responsibilities, namely kids, I might want to fight harder to keep us together. But… I am 27, with no kids… I feel like now is the time to get out… otherwise I will spend the rest of my life peddling along in a so-so marriage.  However, my husband is 7 years older than me.. so I guess he might have different feelings. I just don´t know how to tell him…..

    • Mandy Walker

      @Susan – I would not be surprised if your husband has some idea that you’re not happy. It’s time for you to have an honest conversation with him. Unless your mind is already made up, that conversation is about your unhappiness within the relationship and his perspective … it shouldn’t be a straight jump to, “Our marriage is over.”

      Start preparing for that conversation by asking yourself why you’re afraid to tell him? Is it because of how he will react? How do you think that will be? Are you afraid to tell him because you’re assuming responsibility for him and his well-being or are you afraid to tell him because you’re afraid of being on your own. Figuring out why you don’t know how to tell him is the first step.

      Does that help? I encourage you to use my Community (I’m trying to grow that) to pose the question and get help and input from other readers. I know having the thought of having that conversation is intimidating but you have to confront this … it will bring about change. You won’t know what that change is but it’s the best way of changing the current situation.

      • Finally

        What if you got the courage to tell your spouse that you want out but he continues with trying to make the marriage work? He sends nice emails, texts, Facebook posts etc? He says marriage has no expiration date, and my reasons for leaving just don’t seem good enough. Here is my reason, I am no longer happy in this marriage because we see things differently, I love him but not in love with him, and I simply think we have served each others purpose. It infuriates me that he doesn’t take me serious and will not move out even when I tell him with all seriousness. He says he understands and will go but he never follows through with what he says. When I come home, and see him I’m guilt ridden! I don’t know why when this is clearly what I need to do!

        • Mandy Walker

          Finally, I would tell you that your husband isn’t truly listening to what you say. I think you should start preparing for divorce – getting your own credit card, getting your own bank account, securing your accounts, educating yourself about your finances etc… and go see an attorney about your legal position. Once you tell your spouse you’ve been to a divorce attorney, it’ll be a wake up call that you are serious. Check out my ebook Untangling From Your Spouse on Amazon for more information on how to prepare for divorce. ( and/or contact me for free 30 minute New Beginnings consultation :)

          • Finally

            Thank you! My counselor told me the same thing. I will take this as confirmation because I too was thinking maybe this should be my next move. I will refer to the book.

          • Mandy Walker

            Finally, have courage and be careful. No matter how well you think you know your spouse, you won’t know how he’s going to react to your news.

  • Lisa

    “Are you afraid to tell him because you’re assuming responsibility for him and his well-being or are you afraid to tell him because you’re afraid of being on your own.”

    This is where I stand.  I know I want out.  I know I am done with our marriage.  We have little conflict, no communication.  What’s holding me back?  I know this will crush him and hurt him so badly.  How do you handle that?  I have been his “everything” – he has very few outside friendships (mostly that I maintain).  It’s exhausting.  I just want to be done.  Help.

    • Mandy Walker

      Hi Lisa,
      It’s a hard and difficult conversation but it sounds like an open, honest discussion about how each of you is feeling is overdue. You’re worried about hurting him but what would be more hurtful – to tell him now or to continue for another ten/fifteen years and then tell that they’ve been a sham and you only stayed with him because you didn’t want to hurt his feelings?

      He is a grown adult and needs to be responsible for himself. You can help him with that and still provide friendly support but you don’t have to stay married to him. Quite possibly if you weren’t married you would have more energy for this but I would be very careful about drawing clear boundaries and making sure you weren’t falling into co-dependency.
      If you have concerns that he might become suicidal then you should research a therapist that you can refer him to immediately. If you have health insurance coverage check for what assistance might be available through that. You can also advise his friends of your planned conversation and ask for their support.

      The other question that is also quite helpful is to ask yourself “What is worse situation that could happen?” Then you can prepare for that.

      Hope this helps,