I’ve been keeping a secret from everyone I know. My husband, my best friend, my family. I haven’t even written it down until now.
I want a divorce.
I met a great guy in high school, and we started seeing each other. Things got serious fast and we moved in together, and that was it. I’ve never dated anyone else. Hell, I haven’t ever been sexy in any capacity with anyone else. Kissing, heavy petting sex, you name it. We didn’t marry until about a year ago, but we’ve considered ourselves married for a long time. Until recently, we were trying to get me pregnant. I really care about him and love him and want good things for him. But I also want good things for myself, and more and more it looks like that’s not going to happen with us together. We’ve been over these things in the past, they’re still problems and they’re problems I can’t swallow anymore. I don’t know if I’ve changed or simply reached my limit, although I guess it doesn’t really matter.
I’m afraid to talk to anyone about this because everyone thinks we’re that couple- the one that makes it forever.
I feel terrible about not telling my friend. She paid for some things that would help us with getting pregnant- nothing big, just a few tests to see when I was ovulating- but I feel guilty that they’re sitting on my shelf, being wasted. Every time she mentions the future and includes my husband, I feel sick.
I have never been on my own as an adult. I have never supported myself. We went from living with our parents to living together, and every thing I see in my future right now is terrifying. I don’t even have my own bank account right now. I don’t even know how I can tell anybody. I know that I should, and I really do owe my loved ones honesty. But if I tell someone, then it will happen. Like, really happen.
I want to stay with him until the end of the semester, partially because he needs the support financially (assuming I find myself capable of working) and partially because I want to say this wasn’t some whim of mine, that I tried. But also, we have been going through some financial straights and it’s possible the stress might be getting to me. I don’t really think it is but… I just don’t know.
I am more scared than I have ever been right now. Both cars are in his name, although one is effectively mine he might get petty for a while. The house is his parents’. I think I’d go to Dad’s, but my younger sister just moved out of the house after moving in because a relationship ended, they just got that room back. Plus, I have a dog that is coming with me, no matter what. Probably a cat, maybe all of them (there are three).
How do I tell my best friend? How do I tell anyone? Should I even bring it up if I’m still not sure that I’m sure? I know this will lead to fights, fights we’ve had in the past, problems I have that have never been resolved. What do I tell him, when the time comes? Am I going to be okay? I have never even broken up with anybody. I don’t know how to do this.
-I don’t even know how to sign this
I am so sorry that you are dealing with all of this. Let’s triage this situation.
First priority: Do not get pregnant. One thing you know for 100% sure is that you are not ready to be a mom right now, with this man, in this situation. You say you were trying to get pregnant “until recently”, so maybe you’ve handled this already, but if not get yourself a reliable form of birth control NOW and use it, and do not have sex without it. If you go with something like an IUD or a Depo Shot it has the advantage of being something you can’t “forget” to take and that can’t be tampered with, but I’ll let you work that out with your doctor. This is a decision you can make now for yourself without having to talk to anyone besides a health care pro, because you should absolutely not get pregnant right now and that is the most important thing. While you’re there, you can ask (your university? Your women’s repro health center?) to recommend you for some counseling. You’re going to need that, too.
Second priority: Get some new people on Team You. These people include a counselor of some kind (right now, get one) and a lawyer (at least identify a few you can call). You need someone outside the situation, someone who has no stake in your marriage working out or not working out (financial, emotional, appearances) to talk to who is only on your side and who can give you unbiased advice and a good sounding board. Your parents, his parents, your best friend who bought you “make a baby” gear, and your husband are not going to be unbiased. You will have to talk to all of them eventually, but first you have to figure it out for yourself.
Third: Open a bank account. Even a small one. Yours. Yours alone.
You can get a bank account, a counselor, and a reliable form of birth control within the next week or so? Good.
Now some conversations need to happen, and they are awkward ones. If you think that your husband might hit you, threaten you, do bad things to you financially, or act out in any way, you tell your counselor about that and listen to his/her recommendations for how and when to break the news. You might need to have someone with you. You might need to do it after you’ve already left the house and found a safe place to live. This thread is a wealth of recommendations, stories, and resources.
In either case, I would suggest writing yourself a list of talking points and a list of stuff you would and would not be willing to do and specific things that you want/need. (Getting pregnant = UNWILLING. Marriage counseling? Maybe. Moving back in with your dad for a while? Maybe.) Also do some journalling about the difficult conversations you’ve had about your problems before. How did those go? How did they end? Who decided when they ended? What tactics did you each use to get your point across? Did you get derailed? What can you do to stop that happening next time? Share that stuff with your counselor. Safeguard your passwords, clear your browser history, and be extra careful about privacy.
If you think he’s mostly going to get angry/sad and that you can handle the conversation, here is one possible script, and let’s start with pregnancy/parenting because it is the obvious anxiety and the easiest to swallow. Sit down with him and begin serious talk:
“Husband, I am having a lot of anxiety about becoming a parent, and I have decided that I am not ready to get pregnant.”
“Some of my anxiety is about myself – I don’t feel ready to support and care for a baby – and some of my anxiety is about the future of our relationship. Before we talk about that, I want you to understand that we are going to stop “trying” to get pregnant until we figure things out. I am going to go back on birth control/we are going to stop having any unprotected sex. Do you understand and agree?“
People can get REALLY, primally, scarily manipulative about this stuff, which is why I am hitting the pregnancy thing so hard and recommending that you have foolproof birth control in place before this conversation. No one is more fertile and ready to seduce as the person who does not want a spouse to leave, and you have to make that a dealbreaker for him and for yourself. A lot of us are alive and walking the earth because of tear-stained makeup sex.
Then you need to be honest with him and lay out your doubts and your needs. And tell him what you’d like to do about them. Keep in mind that the subjective feelings case works better than the logic case. By which I mean owning your subjective feelings – “I feel anxious about getting pregnant…” “I married you because I loved you, but now that we are married, these feelings and problems aren’t going away, and I need to do some more work - going to school, learning to support myself, spending more time by myself and figuring out who I am – before I commit to being a wife and a mother” – is kinder than listing things he did wrong.
Where there are possible solutions? Offer them. Maybe you can meet with a couple’s counselor (though if you are members of a conservative church and either or both of your families are involved in that church, don’t go to their counselors. Go to a secular counselor that YOU choose) and try to work some things out. Maybe you can move out and separate temporarily. Or, if you are sure you want a divorce, and you sound pretty sure in your letter, lay it out there. “I am willing to go to counseling and/or have a temporary separation to see if this can be saved, but you should know that I am thinking seriously about a divorce.” You don’t have to make it work out. Wanting to leave is its own reason for leaving.
The conversation is going to suck. It’s going to be awful. He’s going to ask why? (With reason, that doesn’t make him a dick, it makes him a human). And you’re going to have to say “I don’t know why, but I do know how I feel, and that’s that I want to leave.” If he doesn’t want to split up or acknowledge the problems, he will promise you ANYTHING to get you to take it back. You basically have to go to the place of “I need these things so badly that, yes, I am willing to hurt you, person that I love, in order to get them, and that sucks a lot and I am so, so sorry, but I still need them.”
I know part of your anxiety is telling your parents and friends. Tell them some version of the truth. Howabout: “We’re having some problems around money and me feeling not ready to have kids, so we’re taking some time to sort things out and see if we really belong together.“
When I look around at the people I know who are divorced (and many of my very favorite people are divorced) what I see as a pattern is a (messy, wrenching, draining, financially rough – no one said it was easy) year or two of painful grieving, regret, second-guessing, and self-reinvention followed eventually by peace, happiness, new love,new life, hope, and every good thing. It sucks to be left. It sucks to do the leaving. But time does its work and you move on. Whatever happens you’ll be ok and he’ll be ok in the long run. In the short run, don’t make a kid you don’t want, don’t stay in a marriage you don’t want to be in, and trust that you have a better future than this ahead of you.