The End
How Does It End?

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.
You wouldn't be reading any of these grief and divorce pages if you were O.K. with the divorce, or you initiated it. If you are reading this, you are one of the people they are intended for... those who are left hurting and not understanding what happened or why the divorce is happening.

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.
Here are some of the reasons:

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 dreams.

A sign of the times is a big contributor. It is too easy to just give up and not work it out. This scenario happens all too often.
In this disposable world, people have become disposable.

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.
Sometimes, before they get the nerve to tell you this, they start acting distant, treating you badly, making accusations, picking fights, criticizing you. Sometimes, though, they are good actors. You have no clue. When that is the case, they have been making plans for change, usually for a long time and have gotten their things in order and are ready to end it. The shock to you when you are told is devastating. It is heartbreaking. You don't understand why. You think that it is all a dream and that you will wake up from it.

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."
Gee, where was I all of that time not to notice?
And why did he lie about loving me all of those years??? Methinks the love was there until close to the end, and that's when they shut down after they decide to finally leave. They seem to have to shut down their emotions in order to carry out their plan to leave.

I 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.
The coldness and the treatment like a stranger is a killer.

If it has happened to you, know that you are not alone.

This same scenario is happening every day all over the country.
It's what they all say when they want out of a marriage. It's probably true that they don't love you anymore, although at the time, it took me a long time to accept it as reality. After all (and this may be the way it happened to you), almost up until the day they tell you they no longer love you, you will have thought that your marriage was solid and they probably told you that they loved you. Maybe the marriage was not great; maybe you were going through a rough spot as all marriages do, and you believe that things will work out and will be fine again. After all, you believe in marriages lasting forever, and thought your spouse did, also.
Maybe you weren't even going through a bad time. Maybe things seem normal to you. Maybe the other person had just been going through the motions until they get up the courage or reach the right time for them to leave. It usually doesn't happen overnight.
The person who leaves usually has been thinking about it for a long while.
They have thought things out privately without letting you know how unhappy they are.
Never mind the fact that the two of you have still been making love, that they have told you that they love you, there are plenty of indications that love is present, and you continue to discuss your future together. I remember being told that he looked forward to us growing old together not too long before he dropped the bomb. Your spouse may not have been having an affair like mine had been having when he wrote that to me, but I believe that he was in the affair even then. He later told me that he told me things like that because it was just easier that way. In effect, he was not only a cheater, but a dishonest and a blatant liar.

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 hindsight.
Another thing is that you may have been in denial. You want to marriage to work, you love them and assume that they love you. You miss those signs that surely were there because you either didn't want to hear them, didn't get their meaning, or you really didn't notice because you tend to set the tone of the marriage by what and how you feel. This is normal.

Before you beat yourself up for thinking that you are responsible for their unhappiness, don't buy into that entire thought. You are not responsible for another person's happiness. Happiness should come from inside a person. They may be unhappy with their life, but don't assume responsibility for their lives. Mature adults need to assume responsibility for their own happiness. This is not to say that you shouldn't try to make your mate happy. That is part of being in a partnership. It is part of loving someone.
However, if a person isn't happy in a marriage, it may be partially your fault, but it is something that comes from within themselves. The type of marriage they are in may not be what they envisioned. Things may have happened along the way to cause unhappiness. Maybe it just turned out that you don't have things in common anymore, or that the person wants or needs a different type of person. You are who you are, and if you aren't ugly or mean to them, if you are a good person, if you are happy in the marriage, if you care about them and their wants and needs, then it is they who aren't happy.


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.
The e-mail from the above person just points out the fact that this does happen. My own brother (God rest his soul) bragged to me about how he lied in court about all of his assets. When his ex-wife went to court to get more child support (they had four daughters), he systematically planned to stop working as much so his income would go down and he could say he couldn't afford to pay any more. Unfortunately, Karma got him, for circumstances caused him to eventually lose his business. He died a sad, broke, terribly ill person. I can't help but wonder...

2005 Addition
I was watching "The View" one day when John Travolta was talking to Star Jones about his marriage to Kelly Preston. He said that couples should get together at least every six months and tell each other what you need from them because life changes, and if you don't know what your spouse needs, you can't provide it.

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.
Now, by this time you are not only in shock from them telling you that they don't love you, you are hurt by the way they are treating you. It's like they just don't care, and never did care. They show no affection towards you, and in some cases go out of their way to be ugly or disagreeable. Usually they act like a complete stranger once they have made the break. They become very cold.

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.

  • They say they will "date" you after they leave.
  • Some even have the gall to still want to have sex with you, which is selfish on their part and extremely cruel to you. If you allow this, there goes your self esteem.
  • Sometimes they are having sex with their (whatever) that you don't know about, and having sex with you, which makes you very vulnerable to STDs.
  • Sometimes they aren't having an affair; they just don't want to stay married.
  • Sometimes they are having an emotional affair with a friend to fill a need they think that you aren't filling.
  • Sometimes they say they aren't having an affair, but really are, and make you feel ashamed that you accused them of it. How dare you???!
  • Sometimes they want to continue living in the same house because they are cheap and don't want to pay for a place to live. Seeing them day after day and not being able to communicate or have a normal, loving relationship is cruel. Make them move out.
  • Sometimes they still sleep in the same bed with you before they move out, but they act like a stranger and display no intimacy. This is not only cruel, it is stupid if you put up with it.
  • They tend to make everything your fault and make you feel unlovable.
  • Wives who didn't work because both decided she should stay home and be the mother and homemaker suddenly find themselves alone and having to get a job to support herself.
  • Fathers not only abandon their wives, but their children, too, at least for a while.

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:

  1. Once you accept that is is really happening, you need a support group. It can be your parents, brothers or sisters, or good friends. Someone who has been through a divorce will be able to relate to your situation better than someone who hasn't, but even so they can still be there for you.
  2. Make some calls to local churches to ask about Divorce Recovery Groups or Workshops. Baptists and Methodist churches often conduct them year-round; others may, also. I cannot stress how important this will be to you and how much it will help.
  3. If it is economically possible, the person who wants the divorce should move out. Their staying around is just too painful.
  4. If that isn't possible, don't sleep in the same bed. It is too painful for you. Make them sleep on the couch or in the guest bedroom.
  5. Get some emotional support. Talk to family members, talk to friends. You have got to have people who love you and can help you get through this.
  6. If you are depressed, get some help. You can't let yourself pine away, especially if you have children to take care of. See your family physician and ask for antidepressants.
  7. See a therapist if you are having a hard time coping.
  8. Take care of yourself physically. Eat right, get exercise, and get enough rest. Don't neglect your personal hygiene. (Look back over the signs of depression.)
  9. Make the most of your "Time in the Desert". Read a lot of books on divorce and relationships and self-improvement and make yourself a better, stronger you.
  10. Get a good lawyer so your interests will be protected. Don't assume he will take care of you even if he says he will. He will be looking out for his own interests. Don't use the same lawyer. Men are well known for lying in court about their finances. I've heard many a tale from women. Most try to come out of a divorce with as many of their assets as they possibly can.

The Future

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.
Have a good and happy life. There a life after divorce, so don't give up hope.


Back to my Divorce Recovery Page.



This page was created September 5, 2004
Updated June 1, 2005; July 23, 2007; January 27, 2008.


All content on this page except that credited to others is Copyright 2004 - 2008 by Linda S. Nix and may not be copied, published, printed or reproduced in any manner without explicit written permission. This article is meant to be helpful, but should not be considered to be advice from a professional.
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