September 18, 2009 Comments (20)

To the spouse who is thinking of leaving…
I’m going to be saying some things here that I want you to know and consider. These are words of wisdom and counsel that I believe you need in what is one of the most critical periods of your life. Before you make any lasting decisions about your commitment to your spouse and your children, you need to be aware of the consequences of your decisions.
You are likely angry or frustrated about many things right now. The fact is most people are not solving any problems or getting any peace by leaving the marriage. In fact, you are probably creating many more problems. If you have children, this is especially true.
Maybe you will find happiness with another person. Regardless of which person you are with, your spouse or someone new, the same work on your SELF is necessary. If you remain the same, you will have the same type of relationship again. Whatever problems you didn’t resolve and work out with your spouse will need to be worked out with someone else I guarantee it. The only way this isn’t true is if you can find someone to overpower and bully around the rest of your life. That isn’t a marriage and it’s not Love. You may feel less vulnerable and more in control in such a relationship but that isn’t a loving relationship and will therefore be less rewarding and less meaningful.
Marriages definitely have their ups and downs. These ups and downs are tied to several outside influences. Finances, health, family stress, job stress. Divorce will not magically solve these problems! Furthermore, when the passion and intimacy in a marriage is suffering, it’s easy to fantasize that someone else out there will better meet your needs. Unfortunately, that’s all it is – a fantasy. As soon as real, everyday life sets in with a new relationship the same old problems will be there too. “Marriage is agreeing to a set of problems” is a quote I use often. There is no problem-free marriage out there folks! ALL problems are solvable if both people are truly committed to the marriage. Boredom, abuse, affairs, addictions, betrayals, can all be resolved if both people are willing to change and let go of resentments.

What I’m getting at is that divorce will not make you happy. Research shows that people who leave their marriage to fall in love with someone else end up less happy than those who decide to fall back in love with the person with whom they have created a family and a history. Most problems that drive couples apart can be boiled down to problems in managing conflict, problems with fear, and poor stress management. Like Arnie told Jack in the movie “Family Man”: “Don’t screw up the best thing in your life just because you’re a little unsure about who you are.”

Before you quit the marriage, try really making it work. Pour some energy into it. All marriages take compromise, a give and take. Learn the skills necessary to live in long term compatibility. There are plenty of classes, books, DVDs, and workshops available for marriage education.

In the larger scheme of things, your marriage isn’t just about you and what you think you need (We often get our needs and our wants confused). Marriage is more important than the individual. It’s more important than your spouse. It’s the basic building block of our society, and when divorce occurs a block in the foundation of our society crumbles. Dr. Bill Doherty, leader of the Families and Democracy Project, has this to say about marriage and society:
“The effects of the decline of marriage on society are striking. The failure of
parents to marry and stay married leads to more crime, poverty, mental health
problems, welfare dependency, failed schools, blighted neighborhoods, bloated prisons,
and higher rates of single parenting and divorce in the next generation. Nearly every
major social problem has deep roots in the failure of adults to form and sustain healthy
marriages. There are other causes of these social problems, of course, such as economic
dislocations and the decline of civic life and social responsibility in the United States,
but the disconnection of childrearing from marriage ranks high on the list of what
ails our society and our communities.”

So please, be aware of the consequences of your decisions. Think hard and long before you walk out of the marriage to which you once committed yourself.

For more helpful information on marriage, please visit

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  1. Kim Borowski says
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Hi Patrick. I’m Jenny’s sister. I hope Chadd reads this and gets a lot out of it. I’m very confused right now as all of us are. My poor sister. I love her so much it hurts. Thanks for posting this and for helping in any way you can. It is appreciated and much needed.


  2. Patrick Ward says
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Kim, Your welcome for the post. I believe that several people could benefit from this information – including those close to our hearts.

  3. Ann says
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Your article shows great insight and the results of action without deep thinking and consideration of family are so very true. I believe courses stressing these ideas should be given to young people in high school. Principles can be applied to life actions besides marriages. Well written and easily understood. thank you

  4. helen says
    Posted June 7, 2010 at 2:01 am

    I wish this could happen for me. My hubby, through many faults of mine no longer feels the love he once had for me. He is leaving soon. We have three little children. He will not attend counselling or read any literature with me. How on earth do I make him see sense?

  5. Patrick Ward says
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Helen, here is another resource you might find helpful:

  6. Anna Pastronyk says
    Posted March 30, 2011 at 12:50 am

    Wow. You have on your website that you don’t take sides, you take the side of the marriage. That IS taking a side. Divorce CAN make you happy, when you are getting away from abusive or manipulative situations. I’ve lived it and I can say I am happier and do not regret my decision on any level. I hope you aren’t advising people to blame themselves and tough it out through bad situations. I’ve never read such a one-sided view from someone who is NOT supposed to take sides.

  7. Patrick Ward says
    Posted March 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Anna, thanks for your comments. I don’t know where you read on my website that I don’t take sides. If you come across a therapist that claims he doesn’t take sides, then that therapist can only reflect, not direct. Even then, a therapist will choose what to reflect, and this is a subtle form of direction.

    I encourage you to read this post by William Doherty:

    I also encourage you to read my article on commitment, as it addresses some of your concerns about what I might be telling my clients.

  8. Beth says
    Posted April 6, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I cried when I read this article, as I often do these days. I have made mistakes in my marriage that has resulted in my husband leaving me. We have two young children. I blame myself, as he wanted to try and begged me, but I was too stubborn. The day he walked out the door, I knew I was wrong for not trying, and have begged for him to try for the last 7 months, as he keeps finding reasons to delay our divorce. He says when he begged me, I told him to “get over it,” and it was only after he left that I wanted him back. He claims he is not sure what he wants, but still refuses to seek counseling with me. I know he still loves me. I have forwarded this article to him, as I do any information I find that may make hime realize our children deserve a family. Thank you.

  9. Dan says
    Posted May 28, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    I am a husband who is thinking about leaving my wife. We’ve been married for eleven years, and it has been a good marriage. Recently I reconnected with an old girlfriend, one with whom I never had closure 24 years ago. We were perfect for each other, but at the time, she was 400 miles away at college. Then we lost touch. For years I held a torch for her, wondering where she went and what she was doing, but never expecting to see her ever again.

    Reconnecting was like stoking the embers of a flame that had never died. She’s divorced with a son. When we first spoke on the phone, it was as if those 24 years had never happened. We knew that the feelings we have now were wrong, that I was married and nothing should ever happened, so we tried three times to cut off all communications. It didn’t work. We’ve been on the phone and texting every day since.

    I feel that she was the one that had gotten away, the one that was my twin flame, my soul mate, that we have always belonged together. She feels the same. I don’t know what to do because I have always been faithful to my wife, and we have always had a good marriage until now.

  10. Patrick Ward says
    Posted June 1, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Dan, the limerence you are experiencing with the old flame is something to refrain from responding to. You say you have a good marriage. There is some reason why you married your spouse. Take a look at this article:

  11. Laura says
    Posted July 14, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Hello Patrick. My marriage has been in trouble for two and half months that I knew of now he is not willing to try. Our marriage had been great in the past. Things like time together seemed to get lost in teh day to day goings on of life. Neither of us are or ever have been involved with anyone else. I plan to show him this article. I desperately want to work it out for us and our children. He refuses counseling. I pray daily for Gods will to be done in our lives. I hope this article speaks to him.

  12. shay says
    Posted December 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Hi Patrick, I don’t want another man. I just want a piece of mine and happiness if that means I will be by myself for the rest of my life. I go to work, home and church that’s it. He is always gone I am tired of talking about him never being at home or nothing. I have to do everything myself an on my own. The only thing he wants to do is sit around and tell me what I need to do. The only thing he does is Eat, Sleep and Go. That is his whole agenda from Sunday to Sunday. I can do bad by myself. We are the only ones at home. We both work and get off at the same time. No finicial help nothing. That’s why I am going to leave him and not look back.

  13. Patrick Ward says
    Posted December 5, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Based on what you have written, it sounds like your husband has already left you emotionally, and therefore you have been functioning as a single person for quite some time. If your husband is not aware of your feelings, I suggest that you make him aware, and then give him some time to see if he cares about the marriage.

  14. shay says
    Posted December 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I have talked to him and told him how I feel, and he got mad at first but I think he has relized that I am not playing. He has stopped going all the time and has started doing some things that he hasn’t being doing in a long time. I don’t no how long this is going to go on but I am willing to try to make my marriage work. Thank you for your advice Patrick. I will keep you posted on what is going to go on.

  15. Ed says
    Posted August 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my heart aches with others.
    My son has MS and has lost his ability to perform in the bedroom. She has abruptly left him and is blaming him for everything and has changed her attitude and continues to tell him how happy she is… knowing that it hurts him. Any advice to offer my son? he is devastated by her actions.
    Thank you Ed

  16. diane says
    Posted August 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    My husband left 2 months ago after almost 21 yrs of marriage, I recently found out a few days ago, that there is someone else and this began a few months prior to his leaving, he apologized to me but admits that he checked out of the marriage a long time ago, during the time we spoke he brought up the subject of sex and his needs not being met,hates clutter and needs some kind order in the house a daily rountine or something, the subject of his needs for sex has been discussed many times in our relationship.He admitted that he had not really loved me for a long time, but stayed because of obligations to his daughter. this is the third time he has left, The first time was a few months and the second time was over a year, he filed for divorce but then dropped it and came back home. some 15 yrs later this yr; he left in june and has filed for divorce, he has had issues with his dad’s past abusiveness, depression and sexual addictions. I need help in letting go, I should be the one who wants a divorce, how can I love and want someone like this in my life?

  17. Patrick Ward says
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    When people are guilty, they will often work very hard to convince someone else that the problem is their fault as a way to soothe their guilty conscience. Sounds like your son’s estranged wife is doing that. I recommend that your son go to counseling to get some support in coping with his MS, and all the collateral damage that is occurring in his life because of it.

  18. Patrick Ward says
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Why someone would stay in a situation like yours is complex and not due to just one reason. However, a common reason is that the spouse who continually gets hurts yet stays has taken responsibility for their husband’s (or wife’s) unhappiness. You get the message “I’m not happy and its all your fault.” Once you can realize that you have no responsibility for making sure he is happy, you are free to set better boundaries. Boundaries that guard the good within you. For more on this topic, I recommend the book “Boundaries in Marriage” by Henry Cloud.

  19. Shay says
    Posted August 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I’ve been married for 10yrs, I got married at 23.
    My spouse and I were bestfriend’s, I wasn’t looking
    For a boyfriend. He grew on me and I fell for him.
    But I overlooked so much in the physical department
    and didn’t know what I would want later. He is a great guy
    and my family loves him and think he’s perfect for me. I
    use to and I often think if I told people I was leaving
    Him everyone would be shocked! I’m not perfect by any
    means, our relationship seems to be me needing to work on
    me and has felt one side since I can remember.

    I fun cheated on him and kissed someone else 3 yrs ago
    and he forgave me. We never dealt with why, regardless it was wrong
    And I still feel like our relationship is missing something..
    I’m not sure why but I have no motivation to make it work besides our
    child…that’s it…I think not sure.

  20. alan says
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Hi Dr Ward…I have a visit with you coming up this next week probably alone it was supposed to be for my wife and i.. she has backed out for I had procrastinated as most men do going to Doctors ..I did make the appt but maybe too late.I will be there If only to help my self..I know she loves me very much and I love her very much.I’m a good man honest hard working all I wanted is for us to grow old together..I have never give up on her.. even though she has had some rough times. I know I can be the man she dreams of .. .. Thank you see you soon

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