You two are fighting a lot, sleeping in separate places, not having sex, nor really even talking to each other any more than you have to.
You haven’t felt like yourself—the person you remember being growing up—in months. Maybe years.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how you got here.
That’s probably because no one thing caused this. It was a series of many tiny, mostly undetectable moments over the course of months and years, many of which you’ve forgotten about. There may even be things you don’t realize are on the Reasons Why This Is Happening list.
Maybe one of you had a sexual or emotional affair.
Maybe someone very close to one of you died.
Maybe you lost a job or are having financial difficulties.
Those tend to be the big things that camouflage all the little things.
Maybe addiction problems are driving a wedge between you. (Maybe even stuff you don’t consider to be addictions, like video games or pornography.)
Or, maybe you’re a little bit like me and can’t pinpoint exactly where everything went off-track. You only know you’re several years into this marriage and none of it feels like you thought it would back when you said “I do” in front of everyone who mattered.
There’s no one-size-fits-all diagnosis or a specific One Thing that kills a marriage. But the laundry list of “little” things that break relationships and the hearts of those in them all tend to live in the same bucket, and look and sound the same as everyone else’s story.
In other words: No matter what your particular set of shitty-marriage circumstances looks and feels like, you can rest assured that you’re not the only one.
I Was You Once
I don’t talk about it much. In fact, I don’t think I ever have. The time I considered divorcing my wife.
Maybe because it doesn’t fit the narrative of her leaving me and the gargantuan cloud of fuckness that infected me for a long time afterward because it turned out to be the last thing I ever wanted, and the worst thing that has ever happened to me.
It was, like, bad.
I cried sometimes and felt like a massive loser and failure. Like I’d let everyone down. And to this day, I have significant shame issues any time a life situation forces me to acknowledge my failed marriage to someone new.
My little boy. My parents and family. Her parents and family. Our friends.
And later, any married person.
It’s easy to feel like you’ve failed all of them, or like you don’t measure up to all the people who didn’t mess up like you did.
(It gets better when you realize that they actually DO mess up and simply mask it well, OR mess up at other life things that you have a good handle on. You’re a human being with inconvenient thoughts and feelings, as well as certain fears, anxieties, insecurities and personal vices. Everyone has that same list of suckage. It’s the minutiae that varies from person to person. You’re not a freak or fundamentally different than anyone else. Promise.)
I totally considered initiating a divorce with my wife.
I was sleeping in the guest bedroom. She wasn’t particularly nice to me. She didn’t make me feel good. She wasn’t interested in doing anything with me. We never touched one another. After several years of marriage, she’d sometimes leave for work in the morning or go upstairs to bed at night without saying a word to me.
I thought she was a cold, cruel, unforgiving shell of a human being who didn’t like nor love me.
I didn’t think it was fair that I felt the way I did because of how she was treating me. I didn’t think it was fair that she had advocated to get married when I was still young and scared only to be acting this way now. And it seemed obvious that being single again, or maybe with someone else, would drastically improve my day-to-day life experience, mentally and emotionally.
If we didn’t share a beautiful son, and I hadn’t spent the previous 30 years vowing to never get divorced like my parents, I’d have walked out like a huge moronic asshole, and spent the rest of my life telling people over bar drinks what a raw deal I got, and how unlucky her next boyfriend or husband will be.
The Hard Questions
It took me a long time and a bunch of misery and depression to piece the mystery together. To be able to tell the REAL story.
And had it never hurt, maybe I’d have never asked myself the right questions: What have I done to cause this? What could I have done differently to avoid having my marriage and family fall apart? How much of this might have been avoided had I made better, less-selfish choices?
Those are hard questions.
Not if you lie to yourself and others like I would have had I kept blaming my wife for everything and feeling sorry for myself like a helpless butt-hurt victim.
They’re hard questions when you’re willing to tell yourself the truth, even if it’s inconvenient.
Those are the answers that gut you from the inside. They’re the ones that make you throw up with tears streaming down your face.
All those times you told her she was crazy or wrong simply because she disagreed with you. All those times you chose video games and poker night to sitting next to her. All those times you chose fun excursions with your buddies and left her alone, yet never invested a similar amount of time and energy to planning fun things for her and you to do together. All those times you jerked off to porn or thoughts of someone else instead of investing that desire and energy into the person you once loved and wanted so much that YOU asked HER to marry you.
They’re the uncomfortable truths.
The ones that keep you up at night and generate all those What Might Have Beens.
A stronger, more courageous, and all-around better version of yourself emerges once you’ve asked and answered all the hard questions.
Because it typically turns out that you weren’t the stupid idiot who married the wrong girl.
The inconvenient truth is typically that you were the stupid idiot who didn’t know that all those things you were doing instead of paying attention to your wife and marriage were a lot less harmless than you’d thought.
All those things you thought were stupid and petty and nagging, yet would have been so damn easy to accommodate with a tiny bit of graciousness and unselfishness, weren’t so stupid and petty after all.
You didn’t know it would all lead to this moment right now. Standing there with puke on your chin, snot dripping from your nose, and salty tears you never realized were trapped behind those red eyes.
And then it happens. Something unexpectedly good in the midst of all the soul-sucking shittiness.
Because now you’ve got a real chance.
Should you divorce your wife?
Who can say?
Before we start to guess, I’d ask you to first take off the mask and make yourself really uncomfortable playing Devil’s Advocate against your self-preservation instincts.
You’ll know you’re on the right track once you start to squirm. You’ll know you’re in the right place once you identify the moments that seemed so benign and unimportant at the time, but actually changed the whole world.
The kind of moments that might crop up again, and give us an opportunity to right a few wrongs.
An opportunity to be courageous.
An opportunity to be men.
Should you divorce your wife?
We can talk about it later. Though the truth is, when the time is right, you’ll already know the answer.