Knowing It’s Time to End Your Marriage

Esther Adler didn’t leave her abusive marriage earlier in part because she didn’t realize she had options, she didn’t see or wasn’t ready to accept that she was being emotionally abused. I asked her what happened to change that, how did she know it was time to end her marriage? Here’s Esther:

[contemplate1] I bartered with a college girl. She used to clean my home once a week and in exchange, I did like a yoga-Pilates kind of class. Most of the time I wasn’t there, I was either teaching or taking class. She would come in and clean for two or three hours. My husband wasn’t working, and he would let her in and just talk to her, most of the time.

You'll know when it's time to leave your marriageThis one particular day, I didn’t have class for whatever reason, I came home early, and she was in the middle of cleaning. When I came home, my husband left, and I just started talking to her, spending some nice girl time. She stopped cleaning and just looked at me. She had one of those looks where you know something big is going to happen, but you have no idea what, and I got freaked out. I didn’t know what she was going to tell me. Then she said, “How do you let him treat you like that?”

I’d heard that before, but it was just something, for whatever reason, unexplainable, and maybe it was because she was a total stranger. I remember thinking to myself, I’m racking my brain, “Oh my God, I don’t get it, he was on his best behavior.”

In that moment, I realized how easily I’d given my power away. It was so obvious to her, like it was to so many other people, that I didn’t see it. That’s when I realized that maybe I could do something about it. I asked her, “I don’t know what to do, we have kids…”  She said something like, “either put him in his place and don’t let him talk to you like that, or just get rid of him, move on.” I was so mad it was that simple to her, so like DUH.

It’s hard for me to come up with a very specific “why was it this girl” versus the five other women along my marriage that had said the same thing but I realized that I had choices, and I realized that I also had self-worth.

A few weeks later, I actually started the process to file for divorce. It was something that he knew because throughout the marriage, I had said “I want to leave” many times, but I didn’t know how. This time I actually went and spoke to a few different lawyers and started the process, and told him that we’re going to get divorced. We were separated in the house for about a year and a half to two years, and we told the kids together about two or three months after that initial conversation.


This is another one of those “catalytic moments.” I’ve talked to many women who have struggled with the decision to end their marriages. Sometimes that struggle goes on for years. Then something will happen and in that moment everything becomes clear. You have clarity in a way that never existed before and it brings the true state of your marriage into sharp focus.

A few examples of other catalytic moments: For Emma, it was her husband uttering just one certain word; for Kristi it was when her husband smashed a treasured picture; and for Suzanne it was seeing her young son’s hands against the window pane wanting Dad to come in and play.

If you are in that contemplating stage, my advice is not to get stressed out about making a decision or agonize about if you should leave: when you are ready for divorce, you’ll know.

If you initiated your divorce, did you have a catalytic moment? Will you share it?


You can read more about Esther Adler’s book, Breaking the Chains to Freedom and her work at Esther Adler. Her Twitter name is @EstherWarrior.  Esther Adler, author, speaker, trainer helps you turn the most devastating events in your life into your biggest opportunities. She focuses on letting go of grief, trauma and pain, through unique movement processes, helping you gain true freedom and ultimate peace.

Photo credit: 2012 © Jupiter Images Corporation

  • Lynn

    My catalytic moment came in the middle of the night.  While my husband slept next to me, I opened my and was instantly wide awake.  Two thoughts crossed my mind:  yes, he’s doing it again, and: does he understand what he’s done?  A week or so before I started to suspect my husband of 24 years had slipped back into some practices he promised to end.  Still, I didn’t want to believe it.  I kept telling myself he wouldn’t do that to me,  to us, and didn’t he understand what it would do to our marriage?   My heart was still giving him the benefit of the doubt.  But in that moment, my subconscious mind knew the truth and was sending me a loud message.  Over the next few weeks, I took action and came to learn that not only had my husband slipped back into old habits, it was worse than before and he was essentially living a double life.  I asked him for a divorce.  He was stunned and pleaded for some time before I took legal action.  I don’t take divorce lightly, so I agreed, but more to give him time to adjust to the news than any second thoughts I was having.  I eventually filed and we’re now working through the divorce process. I’ve done a lot of thinking in the months since then about the years we shared and the life we had built.  I have no regrets that I married this man and still value the life we had together for more than 20 years.  But I have no regrets about my decision to divorce him.  The truth about my marriage came to me that night in my sleep and I’m glad I listened. 

    • Mandy Walker

      Thank you for sharing this Lynn. Not only is this a good example of a catalytic moment, it also demonstrates the importance of listening to your inner voice. All too often we quieten it, discount it or just don’t even hear it and all the while it’s telling us how best to take care of ourselves. I wish you strength and courage as you work through your divorce.