To the spouse who is leaving

Categories: Family and Marriage.

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


  1. Kim Borowski

    Hi Patrick. I’m XXX’s sister. I hope XXX 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

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

  3. Ann

    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

    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. Anna Pastronyk

    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.

  6. Patrick Ward

    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.

  7. Beth

    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.

  8. Dan

    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.

  9. Laura

    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.

  10. shay

    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.

  11. Patrick Ward

    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.

  12. shay

    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.

  13. Ed

    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

  14. diane

    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?

  15. Patrick Ward

    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.

  16. Patrick Ward

    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.

  17. Hi,
    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.

  18. alan

    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

  19. Dave

    HI, I am married 29 years. I checked out of the marriage some 15 years ago. We haven’t argued in 20 years, just put up with each other. I long for living alone…..sometimes I wish I could just die, just to be alone. My wife is an excellent person, our extreme differences make doing things together, tuff for me. I really don’t enjoy doing things with her, but make myself to make her happy. My happiest times at home is when she’s not there. She adores me, and often says she couldn’t live without me. The past five years my desire to just start over is becoming overwhelming. I have no desire to be married ever again. I try to think back on why I married her in the first place, but I don’t really have an answer. She wasn’t the best lover I ever had, she was not my soul mate, it was comfortable, and I was at that age that is seemed like the right thing to do. We have never had children. Do I have right to destroy another persons happiness for my own selfish desires? She would have to leave the home she loves so much, she may have to go to work again! She would be destroyed. I don’t feel I could live with the guilt, so how do I coupe? How do I make it another 20 years until I die? I have tried to put more into the marriage…..the truth is I really don’t care. If she left me tomorrow I wouldn’t even feel bad. When I am alone it feels great, I am much happier, and feel like for while a weight has been lifted off my back. The last few years I find myself drinking as soon as I get home from work just to get by. When I am by myself I stay up later at night and have more energy, and don’t feel the need to drink at all. I am so stuck. I have never expressed to anyone the secrete of my true feelings on my marriage.

  20. Gabriela

    You seem like a moral person, so you might want to rethink this post in terms of the high rates of addiction and spousal abuse causing problems in marriages. This is just what a victim of someone else’s addiction or anger needs to read to stay in a dangerous situation out of fear of what others will think of them and their “immoral” decision. You could be unwittingly convincing victimized individuals to remain in marriages that will result in only more pain or death.

  21. Patrick Ward

    You make a good point regarding the necessity to leave in some relationships. See my other post on commitment. . Nevertheless, everyone should be fully aware of the possible consequences of their choices in marriage and divorce.

  22. Tree

    Hi, I’ve been married for 23 years. Our children are gone. There’s been infidelity in the marriage on both parts, and my husband is a narcissist. I love him dearly, but he does not listen to reason. He thinks everything is my fault. Recently, he verbally attacked me for almost 2 hours while we were driving out of town. It got so bad that I started crying yet he didn’t care, but kept yelling, cursing and screaming. It was a nightmare Everything was about him. I felt threatened. There was no compassion. I noticed his other side, after the youngest left for college because he never does anything around the house but work. He got angry when I asked him to take out the trash. He took it out a week later, and fuss the entire time. He gets angry if I ask him to do anything around the house. We’ve been empty nester for only 3 weeks, and he’s become dormant. I feel like it will only get worse. What should we do.

  23. Patrick Ward

    Tree,I highly suggest that you ask your husband to attend marital therapy with you. Another suggestion is to read “Boundaries in Marriage” by Henry Cloud. That book has many helpful suggestions for “guarding the good” against harmful behavior.

  24. Leigh

    Hi Patrick,

    I have been with my boyfriend for 5 1/2 years now and I have no idea what to do. Do I stay do I leave, I feel myself asking this question every day. Everyone keeps telling me I need to leave him once and for all, however I would love your professional opinion. For as long as I can remember every time he goes out with his friends he stays out till about 5/6/7 am in the morning, or until I wake up and call him to come home. I know he just with his friends however I find it disrespectful, selfish and unfair.HE usually does this once a week on the weekend. He is 34 years old and I am 25, yet I don’t ever act like that. I should also mention we have no children. It has always been an issue and every time I bring it up he either:
    1) Pretends to not understand why I’m upset
    2) Throws a hissy fit and says I’m the one being controlling and selfish
    or 3) Brings up things I do that are wrong in the relationship
    The thing is I don’t care that he goes out, its time he chooses to come home at, which I have explained so many times. It has gotten to the point where when he does go out I can’t sleep and I physically feel sick. I have tried numerous times explaining to him how I feel and he just ignores the situation. I recently left the house we live in together and went to stay at my moms. He still after 4 Days of me being gone can not commit to coming home at a reasonable time. I have told him this is a deal breaker and I cannot continue to live like this. He ignores the direct question every time I explain this is the only way I will come home. Am I wasting my time fighting with a man who doesn’t want to grow up and take my feelings into consideration? Am I being selfish? Is this normal? Everyone just keeps telling me to leave him already because he will never change. Even after me being gone for 4 days its still more important for him to go out till whenever he wants drinking with his friends then to have me at home.

  25. Patrick Ward

    Leigh,I suggest you figure out what type of relationship you want to have with him, and share that vision with him. If he wants the same thing, then you can both move in the same direction. Sounds like you need clarification through a crucial conversation with him. You cannot commit to potential, but only what you have. I think the book “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend would be a good resource for you.

  26. Mom85

    Been thinking of leaving, he has had 2 affairs one lasted the first 3 years we were married tried to get him to consoling therapy he won’t stick to anything hasn’t change much just got better at hiding it !!! My pregnancy consisted of him cheating while I was most vulnerable it been 5 years and I’m still here my kids are getting older and I don’t want them to see mom living like this hurting cause I hurt or thinking it is ok to cheat! I do love him but I don’t think I’m in love with him please any advice

  27. Patrick Ward

    Thats a tough situation. I recommend you read “The Divorce Remedy” by Michele Weiner-Davis or “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud. These books have good advice for you personally to use the control and responsibility that you have in your marriage.

  28. Marjo

    Dear Patrick,

    I am in so much pain. Married to my husband 16 years, two teenage boys 15 and 13. We fought a lot, however I wanted to find solutions whereas he reiterated the problems. A doom and gloom attitude. However, I was always committed to make it work. He emailed me for a divorce last summer on our son’s graduation day from elementary. He said it was “all my fault”. He said there was no one else. He said to our son “I should have left her when you were in her tummy”. All summer he spent 5 hours a day at the gym, a martial arts class twice a week as well while I was on auto-pilot and just trying to survive and take care of the kids. I was so shocked. “There was no one else “he said, “can’t you see it’s YOU I want to get away from?”. He remained in the house for 4 more months and left on our Canadian Thanksgiving day. Moved into a house he purchased two blocks away. I found out there was someone else. It crushed me. He was so mean the last year together. He stopped talking to me. Never said my name. When I asked him what was wrong he would say “you’re angry and abusive”. I would cry and he would turn up the tv volume. He has been gone for four months and has filed for divorce. He is a new man, physically fit, new wardrobe, new everything. We are both 53. This woman separated from her husband as well. She is 12 years younger with a 7 year old. Do these relationships last? The boys don’t know. He still says there is no woman. But there is and many people know. When he introduces his “new girlfriend” do I act towards the kids that sh is someone new? They both suspect there was someone else as well. This has been the most difficult time of my life. I am so depressed. I value your response. Thanks in advance.

  29. Patrick Ward

    Very sorry to hear of the devastation to your family. The comment “we fought a lot” says there was likely a build up of negativity that undermined commitment. The fact is, it takes two people to make it work but only one person to leave the marriage. One person can’t be blamed for the relationship problems because it takes both to interact. The answer to your question about whether or not his new relationship will last is that it will probably not work – his life has just become more complex. We can’t hit the “reset” button on our lives. Instead we just experience the accumulation of our choices and their consequences. I encourage you and your children to get into counseling and into a supportive community. Also, I recommend two books: “The Divorce Remedy” by Michele Weiner-Davis and “Growing Through Divorce” by Jim Smoke.

Want more advice about Family?

Schedule an appointment to talk to Dr. Ward & Associates for advice and help on working through your issues in a friendly, private, and professional setting.
Make an appointment today »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>