Finally Ending Your Marriage

In an estimated eighty percent of  cases, the decision to divorce is made unilaterally. I’m not sure how that is measured but it would mean that in the rest of divorces the spouses presumably come to a mutual agreement that ending their marriage is the best option. That agreement doesn’t necessarily mean that the decision is made quickly, lightly or without pain. Often times it can still entail lengthy discussions and negotiations.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to my next guest, Stacey. Stacey and her husband were married for over twenty years and their divorce was a long time in the works. Here’s Stacey:

It had been coming for a long time, and I didn’t know how to let go.

Building consensus around divorce may take years.I had been really locked into not abandoning and not being happy. I never stopped loving my husband. I just wasn’t in love with him. I don’t know that I have it in me to not love people and I’m happy that way.

Our marriage was not fulfilling. We were very good with our son. We both really loved him and I really wanted to be a family. I really wanted to be a family. And we laughed and cooked together and that stuff was good.

I’m guessing, but I think it took me about five to seven years to really accept it was over. It just all goes so fast and I still didn’t get the clarity that it was over until my husband kind of sold me on it. I was like, “You’re going to sell me on this?”

He said, “We’re still both young and we should go and try to find people that make us happier.” It wasn’t that I thought that wasn’t logical. It was that he kept selling me on ideas that weren’t good for me.

I don’t know that he was wrong, but I just knew it was hard. It’s still scary, but I don’t live with somebody else’s anger now, although I had that in my son. I still am fearful, which I was in the marriage about money all the time, but I’m not walking on eggshells which I think I took with me everywhere I went.

Stacey has really got me thinking about when spouses might seek mutual agreement. I think some people may have more of a need to feel that the decision was consensual and that without their spouse’s “permission,” as Stacey puts it, it’s very hard, even impossible for them to take the definitive step and say, “I want a divorce.” I think having your spouse’s agreement helps with accepting the end of the marriage, and maybe reduces feelings of guilt.

Building consensus would certainly take time but I’m not sure that’s different from a unilateral decision – I was the one who really decided our marriage was over and it took me well over a year of my own introspection to come to that conclusion. There then followed many months of discussion with my spouse. At the end of all that he was still reluctant.

I think that some people make the decision unilaterally because they can’t face the pain and hurt that comes with discussing the end of their marriage with their spouse or because they feel that discussing whether divorce is right for you with your spouse would be unproductive. That’s how I felt. I felt it would be more helpful to discuss the question with a therapist and to get clarity on what I felt was best for me and why.

So I think it has more to do with decision-making styles and handling conflict than the underlying causes of divorce. What do you think? How did you and your STBX handle the decision to divorce?

Photo Credit: 2013© Jupiter Images Corporation

  • leeanne

    My husband confronted me with my emotional abandonment of him. We went to therapy for about a year after that, which clearly wasn’t working, especially for me. Like Stacey, I loved my husband as a friend, but I was not in love with him and I felt very unhappy in our marriage. He never did anything really wrong, so I couldn’t find what felt like a valid reason to ask for a divorce, when I knew it would be painful and difficult for him and for our kids. He finally made the call that he thought we needed to get divorced, which was a huge relief to me. I felt a lot of guilt about leaving him and breaking up our family. But, he said he really wanted a divorce so he could move on and maybe find someone else. Since the decision, things have gotten much better between him and me and we are able to be better co-parents and friends as we work through our collaborative divorce.

    • Mandy Walker

      Thank you, Leeanne for sharing this. Kudos to you both that you were able to build a better relationship post-divorce.

  • MLC

    The hard part would be if both spouses cannot come to a consensus or even if they do, one or both have lot of anger inside them towards the other. What do we do then?
    Also, any advise for stay at hom moms who have been home 15 years or so and now thinking of Divorce? What if the stay at home mom has not really managed finances, taxes and other issues pertaining to house, vehicle etc?

    • Mandy Walker

      MLC – on the anger issue, I would recommend that both of you go independently to therapy/counseling/coaching and do it before you start negotiating the division of assets. The negotiations are still difficult but easier if they’re seen as a financial transaction removed from the emotions. Not rushing into the negotiations and giving the dust some time to settle will help too.

      For SAHM, I would consider looking for work, even if it’s parttime – I’ve yet to meet a SAHM that didn’t have workplace skills. Consider taking some classes to update your computer skills, if necessary – your local library could help with these. They might be able to help you with classes for finances but otherwise get the book Your Money or Your Life. Dave Ramsey is another financial guru I know lots of people swear by. For household management … find yourself a trusted handyman:

      And hire me as your coach;)

  • Devastation

    I’m going through this right now. Acceptance is there, but it comes with complete and utter devastation. We’re each others first everything. First boy/girlfriend, took each others virginity. We’ve been best friends since we were 17 (now aged 30). We are basically the same person, we know each other so well. Her sister is the wife of my best friend, I’ve lost all my friends because of this. The first time my friends met my children was at their wedding (ex’s sister and my old friend) and I wasn’t there to introduce them, because of the break-up. We now have not spoken for 48 hours, which may not sound like a lot, but we’ve been in constant communication since we were teenagers. I’ve made mistakes, and said things I deeply regret. I’ve played my part in this, and accept that. She is my best friend, and I love her with all my heart, and planned to spend my life with her. But I think it’s over, and i’m almost ready to say goodbye. I apologize for this sloppy message, it’s 12.47am and I miss my wife and my children and had to vent! The pain is unbearable. Good luck all you guys/gals who are in my position. Feel free to email me, and perhaps we can help each other through this. All the best, everyone.

    • Mandy Walker

      Dear Devastation – this is obviously very hard for you. Unless there are compelling reasons to protect yourself, my best advice is to take this slowly and that means getting comfortable with the uncertainty. Most of the time there is no need to rush into a divorce decision. Give yourself and your wife some time and space to work on yourselves and then you can see if reconciliation is an option. Wishing you strength and courage.

      P.S. If you do decide your marriage is over, the next step is to prepare for divorce – don’t rush into the legal process. my coaching program, My Divorce Pal ( has a whole track with ten modules devoted to these preparations. And you’re also welcome to set up a free consult with me –

      • Devastation

        Thank you, Mandy.