Some marriages are outwardly dysfunctional and yet those couples stay together, often to the bewilderment and frustration of friends and family. This shows that deciding to end your marriage is often a complex, multi-faceted decision.
Today I’d like to introduce you to my next guest, Tina Swithin. Tina was married for about seven and a half years. Although the divorce has been final for several years, Tina and her ex are still embroiled in a custody battle for their two daughters now aged six and eight years old. Tina knew she wanted her marriage to end but says she didn’t want to be the person to do it. Here’s Tina:
One of the reasons that I wanted to end our marriage was because I knew how dysfunctional our marriage was and I did not want my daughters to grow up thinking that that was what marriage was about.
I lived my life under his thumb, completely controlled and afraid to eat a bight of fettuccine, because he would criticize my weight. I weighed 117 lbs., but if I ate something with too much fat or too much sugar, I was criticized and the thought of my daughters growing up in that environment terrified me.
However the event that really brought about the end of our marriage would be our financial world collapsing and finding out that he basically robbed his parents of their retirement funds, he stole $90,000 from his brother. We were in therapy during all of that and I wanted out. I wanted to walk away from our huge fancy house, I wanted to go have a normal life and he couldn’t handle that. He wanted to keep pretending that we had money and he wanted to ride this house out until they came and barred the doors closed. I basically said, “I’m leaving, you’re welcome to come with us, but I’m going to go rent a house within our means.”
Our therapist knew what was happening and supported me in my decision to stop living a pretend life.
The therapist wanted to give him a psychiatric evaluation and that’s when he walked out. I don’t remember if we were in the same car or different cars but once we got home that night he called the therapist from his cell phone and told him our marriage was over. He said that I had manipulated the therapist into thinking something was wrong. He didn’t want to know that anything was wrong with him. In all honesty he’s really the one who made the final decision that the marriage was done.
We had both said the marriage was over back and forth several times, so when he said it, it didn’t mean a lot, because I was used to hearing it by that point. But having him tell the therapist that it was over, it was that piece I was waiting for, that, “Okay, we’re done,” and it was a huge relief.
I think I had been holding on way longer than I should have and I didn’t want to be the one to end it.
I was still in the mindset of, “We have two children and they’re very small.” We had so much going on in our world in terms of finances and losing our house and everything else. I knew that I wanted the marriage to end, I just wasn’t ready to do it at that moment, but when he did, it was a huge relief that it was done.
At that point we were still very amicable and we agreed to do the nesting agreement. I have multiple sclerosis and he had told me, “We’re not going to file right now; we’re just going to live separate lives. You can stay on my health insurance and we’ll deal with the paperwork later.” It took many, many months for the paperwork to get started and he actually went and filed.
Lots of people struggle with not wanting to be the bad guy, not wanting to be the one to make the final decision and they live hoping their spouse will make the decision or do something that somehow forces your hand, such as having an affair. It’s also not uncommon to fantasize about your spouse passing away. It would be an easy way out.
I have a different perspective on situations like this.
Saying you want a divorce doesn’t end the marriage. The marriage is already over.
Filing for divorce doesn’t end a marriage. It’s already over. Filing is simply starting the process of formalizing the end.
Saying, “I want a divorce” (and meaning it) will be one of the most difficult statements you’ll ever make. You might even find that it’s harder than anything that comes after. It takes courage and it takes strength but that isn’t what ends your marriage.
Tina Swithin describes herself as a one-time victim now survivor. She’s spent the past four years in a horrific custody battle with her ex who she believes suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You can read about her journey at her blog, One Mom’s Battle and also in her book, Divorcing a Narcissist.
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