Some marriages end by mutual consent. That happens when both parties decide that the marriage isn't working and they decide to end it. In cases like this, neither is devastated. There may be some grieving and some lifestyle adjustments to be made, but for the most part, neither is left with tremendous pain to deal with because they were not dumped.
There are other reasons that are obvious when marriages end. When one person is abusive, an alcoholic, a compulsive gambler, a drug addict, a criminal, or a deadbeat (or some other trait that makes a marriage unsafe and unhealthy), it is justifiable to end a marriage. When two people fuss and fight all of the time and neither is happy, a divorce may be the best thing for both. The reason for this divorce is clear to both people.
There are many cases, however, when
the reason isn't clear. Sometimes when a marriage is trudging along with
no obvious problems, one person hits the other with a divorce. The other
person is shocked and stunned and left trying to figure out what happened.
It may hurt to read this page because divorce is a painful subject, but it may also give you some understanding that you are not alone in what is happening to you. Everyone's situation is different, but there are some common threads that run through most marriage breakups.
Why Does It End?
Who knows for sure? Each case is
different, and the reasons vary.
People fall out of love. Men have
mid-life crises. Women do also, but usually not as noticeable. People
are tempted by others and commit adultery. People have emotional affairs
to alleviate the doldrums of marriage. Issues from a spouse's childhood
create insurmountable problems, many not recognized until way into adulthood,
but those issues have a profound affect on a person's emotions and their
behavior. Lack of commitment. Lack of ability to keep vows of "for
better of worse". Financial problems. Affairs. Job stress. Climbing
the ladder of success. Death of children they can't cope with. Mental
or emotional abuse. Physical abuse. Lack of mutual values, or a change
in values in one or the other. Men are womanizers. Women love to collect
men. Success causes one to outgrow the other. One doesn't grow and change
while the other does. Failure to do things together and work together
on mutual goals and accomplishments. The Grass is Greener Syndrome. Different
values and morals. Children or lack of children and wanting them. A spouse
changes and they can't cope. Inability to be intimate. Rotten provider.
Sexual dysfunction. Mental illness. Addictions. Selfishness. Situations
enable affairs. Lack of moral or religious convictions. Ease of divorce.
Human Nature. Finding out a spouse is gay or lesbian. Finding out about
a horrible criminal past. Then, there is the classic case of the wife
working to put the husband through college or med school or law school,
and then the husband outgrows her, leaving her with nothing but broken
The common thread in most of the marriages that end is this:
One of the persons
in the marriage (or relationship) will, seemingly without any warning,
tell the other, "I don't love you any more", and then say they
want a divorce.
I was told this. I know of many others who were told the same thing.
In other cases, the marriage seems to have gone bad at times, but it goes on for a long time with one or both trying to make it work. Both people know they have a lot of problems, but they either keep trying, or for some reason, can't leave the marriage even though they aren't happy. Finally, one gets the courage to end it. The other is very devastated.
It happens all of the time, all over the country, to people of all ages.
How it hurts! They
go on to say, "I still love you in a way, but I'm not in love with
you." To heap even more salt on the wound, they may say, as my husband
did, "I haven't loved you for along time." "I should have
left 15 years ago, since that's about the time I stopped loving you."
have heard from many people who say their spouse told them that they haven't
loved them for a long time. It seems to be the modus operandi for many
husbands who leave.
If it has happened
to you, know that you are not alone.
Looking back, there were signs and
red flags that I was in total denial about. I was totally unaware of the
affair, and had no reason not to trust him. You will no doubt be able
to look back and see some of those red flag signs in your marriage in
A lady wrote to me in May of 2005 and told me this:
"My husband left two years ago after almost 35 years. Of course it was my fault. He even used the "15 year" comment! I loved that on your site. He was only happy when I wasn't around, etc. Stupid me, realized he was having some sort of mid life crisis and actually worried about him! He had made a disaster of his business life and lost practically everything we had ever had. I worked and paid all living expenses, mortgage, etc., for the last 10-12 years of the marriage. Our home had to be sold in the settlement and I felt so sorry for him that I divided the proceeds. He immediately became successful, bought a lavish home and the girlfriend came out of the closet. Makes me wonder how many assets were concealed while I was paying the bills and he was planning his new life. Anyway, life goes on and I've decided I'm better off without him. He has no character - discovering that was the biggest hurt of all. Sorry to ramble on so long. Again - thanks for all of your words of wisdom. Every middle-aged "dumpee" should read them!"
There are as many different stories out there as there are divorces.
This brings me to a subject that I have avoided since I started creating these web pages about divorce. To mention it seems materialistic, but often the wife is left without her fair share or marital assets. Now, don't let me hear from a lot of you men who think I'm accusing me unfairly, please. In quite a few cases, the man is the person who controls the finances or who makes the highest salary. It is he who wants the divorce, so he lies about his finances. I've heard too many stories about what a man does to safeguard his assets. He squirrels away funds in other banks. He lies about his assets. He may even put things in his new "girlfriend's" name or in out of town banks or different bank accounts.
Men, by the time they decide they
want out, decide that they don't care to share their hard-earned money.
So, if you always trusted them, don't now. Do everything that you can
to protect yourself financially, and never use their lawyer.
He also said that when one spouse is really critical of another, it's usually because they are feeling guilty about something they have done. I do remember that my husband was extremely critical of me during our last year together, and later I found out that he had been having an affair for quite a while. With his actions, he had put me on the defensive, decreased my lack of self esteem, and kept me in a constant worry about our relationship. I often asked myself, "How could he treat me this way if he loved me like he said he did (and he did say he loved me)? Perhaps it was that he felt guilty and was taking it out on me, trying to make me get angry at him and thus allow him to think, "Well, if she is going to be that way, I won't feel guilty about having this affair. If we argued, it fully justified his affair."
(And do you know, after thirteen years of wondering about this, in writing this out in 2005, it clarified again why he treated me like he did. At the time things are happening to us, we aren't clear-headed enough to see things as they really are because emotions are so strong and we are in emotional chaos.)
The next common thread
is the "Cold Stranger".
Once they finally tell
you they don't love you, their actions towards you change. They start
to treat you like a stranger. I've heard a lot of people say that they
can't understand how a person who used to be so loving can treat them
so impersonally in a split second. They are torn up about it. It's like
there has been a line drawn and the dumper won't cross it. As a matter
of fact, they don't even treat you as warmly as they would a complete
stranger. They shut off all emotions and most communication.
In order to understand, you need to know that their actions are their way of cutting themselves off in order to do what they want to do, and that is leave you. If they "played nice", they know that you would see it as a glimmer of hope and that you wouldn't accept their leaving, so the unwritten rule is to cut off all emotions so that you will know they mean business.
Be aware of any changes in behavior. Be very aware of changes in affection, daily habits and appearance. If they try different methods of being intimate, unless you have discussed making changes together, and use different "moves" or "positions", these things could have been learned from the "other" person.
Sometimes they play games with you to string you along for one reason or another. Those reasons might be to try to make you feel better, but mostly they may be nice so you won't be vindictive in the divorce settlement. Below are some of the things men and women have done after saying the don't love their spouse and want a divorce. All of these things didn't happen to me - I've heard from others that they happened to them.
Before things ended, my husband used to pick arguments with me, or goad me into getting upset. He behaved in ridiculous ways. I look back and think that he did it so that I would get mad and we would have a big fight, giving him an even more justifiable reason to want to leave. Another reason is that he didn't want to come across as the bad guy and ask for a divorce; he wanted to drive me to the point where I would want one. His thinking, I believe, was that if I filed, he wouldn't have to give me as much in the settlement. He was critical, cynical, and emotionally ugly. Even through all of that, I never envisioned that he didn't love me. I thought we were just going through a very bad time and that things would get better. Red flag? Denial? Certainly. You bet.
Your situation may
be different; your spouse may behave in a different manner. Actually,
my daughter is going through a divorce at this particular time. She and
her husband fought all of the time, yelling and cursing at each other.
There were various dynamics that I won't go into, but suffice to say that
there was trouble in their marriage. Once something happened that made
her realize that she could not stay in the marriage, and moved out, they
have gotten along very well. They both still love each other on some level,
and so far are remaining friends even through the settlement negotiations.
She was the dumper, he was the reason she could not remain married to
him, and he is hurting the worst. This is not to say that she isn't hurting.
It is also hard on her. It is a case of a couple who realize that they
aren't good for each other in marriage, but who are still fond of each
other as people they have shared close to twenty years together.
How can you cope with all of this? Nature has granted us something called "Denial". It's a protective mechanism that keeps us from accepting what is happening. At first, we don't believe that they don't love us. Most of the time we think that we can fix everything. We believe that we can reason with them and talk them out of leaving. We try to bargain with them using everything we can think of to get them not to leave. All the while, they act so very distant, and usually don't give any hope. Usually their mind has already been made up.
Gradually, we have to begin to accept the inevitable... it is over.
Things that you can do to help yourself and protect yourself:
The future is up to you. Right now, your future may seem hopeless. It isn't. You will gradually heal from this, and you will get on with your life. You will eventually have an even better life than you had because you will have grown and learned and you will be a better person. Trust me and trust the process. You won't still be in the patterns of a dysfunctional marriage. Besides, it isn't fun living with someone who doesn't love you back. Everyone deserves to be loved and be able to return that love.
Remember, you ARE
a worthwhile person. If you aren't, become one.
Back to my Divorce Recovery Page.
This page was
created September 5, 2004