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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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We have a 2-year-old son. The guilt I felt for breaking up our family was massive and almost paralyzing.

Sad looking woman wearing hat

Marital Mess: I was collecting tile samples, consulting space planners, and selecting countertops for a massive home remodel when it hit me: I could dive headfirst into demolition of my home, and spend the next year burying my marital dissatisfaction in building permits and paint swatches, or I could take an honest, painful look at the true foundation of my marriage. I couldn't ignore how our relationship had deteriorated, and I realized: perhaps it wasn't my house that needed the overhaul; it was my marriage. The past four out of six years had been especially rough, and the promise of a shiny new kitchen brought zero solace. I wasn't sure I could survive. In my gut, I knew I had to make a change.

So I tossed my tile samples and weighed my options.

Previously, any thought of separation devastated and terrified me. We had tried individual therapy, couples therapy, working on it on our own, not working on it, I even moved out of our bedroom for the last three months, but nothing broke our pattern. I hoped he would fight for our marriage; he became ever more passive. The barriers of resentment and hostility continued to grow and divide us. Then one day, separation didn't scare me anymore, as if the scales had finally tipped. Separation seemed to be the only avenue we hadn't tried, and our only hope.

I believed that we just needed to step back and take a look at ourselves, to truly appreciate each other. A marital time-out. I knew that I harbored the hope that he would eventually see what a catch I was, how much we had to lose, how much he loved me. He hasn't. And I'm not sure that he ever will.

We have a 2-year-old son. The guilt I felt for breaking up our family was massive and almost paralyzing. Our son had been acting out lately because the tension in our house was omnipresent. It ultimately came down to this: I didn't want to model a marriage to him where Mommy and Daddy stay together for appearances and just for him, all the while resenting each other. I didn't want him to think that this is what marriage is. I hoped for more for him. I know marriage is incredibly hard work, but happiness, teamwork, and love don't look or feel like this.

We agreed to a "controlled separation." That's when you lay out the parameters of the separation so that both people know what's expected of them, like ground rules. The only thing we didn't agree on: dating other people. I wanted to, he didn't. It became the straw that broke the camel's back. (But that's a whole other blog entry ...)

No one ever plans on getting divorced. But, here I stand now, on the precipice of a new chapter in my life. Single mom. Impending divorcee. Two new identities I never anticipated. The only certainty in life is change, and as scary as it is to be starting over a single mom of a 2-year-old, I know that the best mom I can be is one who is happy, unafraid of change, and willing to make choices to put my own, and ultimately my son's happiness, first. 



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88 comments so far | Post a comment now
chris December 9, 2009, 4:05 AM

Even though I believe in marriage and together and blah blah blah, I still think that you are doing what is right for you and your family. No one should be force to stay in a situation that is sad and unhealthy. I wish the best for you, your child and even your ex.

Bonnie December 9, 2009, 11:44 AM

You should feel guilty for breaking up your family! That guilt is healthy and should keep you from doing the wrong thing!!! Marriage isn’t about being “happy”. It is a commitment that you made for life. The “happiness” will come later after you have worked hard for something and made it work. Whatever is wrong will come up again with someone new! Of course no one ever thinks they will get a divorce, but the big mistake is ever even considering it as an option! If he isn’t abusing you physically or cheating, it shouldn’t even enter your mind!!! And you are really kidding yourself if you think this could possibly be the best option for your child! I really don’t mean to sound so harsh, but if you are writing about this for all to read, then I am assuming that you want some feedback. I hope you are getting some really good counseling, and that you have friends and family who are telling you the truth about divorce. It is NEVER the best option…for you or your children!

Annie December 9, 2009, 12:09 PM

Whoa, Ladies! While I absolutely agree that marriage is really hard work, it has to be hard work on BOTH sides. I realize we’re only getting one side of the story, here, but it appears like Hubby isn’t even trying. Like my mama used to say, “It’s almost impossible to pedal a bicycle with one leg…and even then, you can’t do it for long.”

If she can honestly say that she tried, and tried hard for her marriage and is not getting the support or effort from her spouse, than I believe she’s doing what is best for her son and herself in the long run. Languishing in a broken mariage for years, with only the “hope” of it getting better is no way to live.

Marriage, is a commitment, usually before God, where we pledge to love and care for one another forever. It is a sacred covenant. However, if only one person holds those vows sacred while the other won’t even try, it isn’t a marriage any longer. A marriage takes two people, committed to each other and to making it work. A marriage cannot be made of one.

I wish her luck and peace.

Natalie December 9, 2009, 12:39 PM

Sounds like her husband may either be depressed, or is controling. He won’t agree to dating even though you are separating? Does he want you or not? To me, it sounds like he just wants control. Just wants things to be status quo, but not work to keep each other happy. So, given all of this, unless he is just a jerk, it sounds like he might be depressed. Have you looked into that possibility? I can’t imagine someone not puting in any effort, but still not be willing to let go…something else is wrong.

Faith December 9, 2009, 2:13 PM

Ok I am the first to admit marriage is HARD WORK. There will be good times and man oh man there will be bad times. I do not agree at the first sight of conflict pack it in and run for the hills…by NO MEANS, but four out of 6 years you are not connecting with YOUR HUSBAND???? Where is the common ground that brought you two to the alter in ther first place. If your Faith (if there is one) is not your foundation, then yes I agree leaving will most assuradly look like the best way out. But when you have a child (ren) then you both FIGHT you FIGHT with your last breath for the love, commitment, the family. God does not like divorce, but KNOW THIS God does not want his children to be miserable either. Allow him (God) to take the reigns and IF that is HIS WILL then no matter what choice you “think” you decide believe me when I tell you HIS WILL—-WILL BE DONE. My prayers to you and your family.

tennmom December 9, 2009, 3:39 PM

I was married for 15 years before being widowed. Our daughters were 3 and 5 at the time.
I’ll say this: if he were alive I SERIOUSLY doubt we would still be married. His attitude and actions changed drastically after our daughters were born. He resented having my full attention taken away after having for the first 8 years of our marriage.
I met a wonderful 44 year old bachelor (no kids either) a year after losing my husband. We dated for two years and recently celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary.
“New” husband loves me & my daughters, my daughters love him. We do NOT have any of the problems I had during my first marriage.
This man is willing to spend 3 hours of his day driving to & from work so we don’t have to live in a city I detest and wouldn’t want to raise our daughters in. He also whips up delicious gourmet dinners 2 or 3 times a week.
I think the author of this post made it clears that she gave it her all but her husband evidently didn’t. Life is too short to live in an unhappy marriage.
What kind of message does that send to a child? I wouldn’t want a son or a daughter to grow up thinking the way her husband acts towards her is acceptable.
Children watch their parents more closely than we realize. I think my daughters are much more likely to end up in happy, healthy relationships than they would if I were still in my previous marriage.

mary December 9, 2009, 5:55 PM

i just read the should i stay article, my first thought is does HE really want to be in this marriage? If you have tried therapy and both sides have really tried i don’t think you would be having this prob. My next thought was when it came to seperation was does he have someone on the side and by telling you no for dating if thats his way of keeping control over you. I firmly believe that all options have to be looked at and tried before divorcing and truly looking at what went wrong and when then see if you can rectify the situation or not.

mary December 9, 2009, 6:00 PM

i just read the should i stay article, my first thought is does HE really want to be in this marriage? If you have tried therapy and both sides have really tried i don’t think you would be having this prob. My next thought was when it came to seperation was does he have someone on the side and by telling you no for dating if thats his way of keeping control over you. I firmly believe that all options have to be looked at and tried before divorcing and truly looking at what went wrong and when then see if you can rectify the situation or not.

Bri December 11, 2009, 10:13 AM

You’ve made the right choice, a choice that you will not regret. Children are very perceptive and there is no doubt that your son was sensing the growing distance and hostility between you two. You are absolutely right to leave, and I commend you for your strength to do so. From someone whose parents stayed together many years longer than they should have, you have done your child a HUGE favor by not setting this example. I was forced to stand by helplessly as my parents were in a loveless marriage full of conflict that eventually escalated to multiple infidelities, court drama, custody battles, etc. I STILL have issues with men and relationships as a result of this because I was never shown a better example of what love is. This choice will allow you to meet the man of your dreams, and build a future with someone who is just as committed to you as you are to them. Stay strong!

DYW December 11, 2009, 2:18 PM

I almost could have wrote that letter myself. The only difference is we are not divorced, just seperated. I do love him and wish we could work the marriage out, but it takes two working 100% of the time to make a marriage work and I dont feel that my spouse does. I think he likes the idea of a family but doesnt want the full responsibility of being a provider to our family. I have prayed and am leaving the situation in God’s hand and will move when He says move.

been there December 24, 2009, 5:55 AM

Self-centeredness is the biggest killer of relationships. Dating will not resolve the underlying issues you BOTH harbor. Did you try marriage counseling with a ‘family oriented’ therapist?

Divorce forever changes the child no matter how much you “love him and put him first”. They are never the same.
I am both a victim of D and now D’d due to being so short sighted seeking “my happiness” and being misled by a feminist therapist. Too late for me but maybe not for you. My kids are not the same but I am happy - yea, right!

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