“How Do I Leave My Husband?” Is This An Epidemic?

By Jackie Pilossoph, Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling, Love Essentially columnist and author

I feel like I’ve gotten at least a half dozen emails just in the past few days from women asking for the same piece of advice: How do I leave my husband? It leaves me wondering if women wanting out is an epidemic.


What I mean by that is, do women see and meet divorced, single women, or see divorced women on TV or in movies, glamourize their lives without knowing the reality, and then become inspired to follow suit?


One of my best friends who is also divorced and I have talked at great length about how some people see us and they think life is so blissful. They think, ‘They’re so lucky to have gotten out of their marriages, to be free, to be able to do whatever they want, ‘etc. etc. And we always say, “They don’t realize how difficult divorce and being a single mom is.” Other people’s lives always seem rosy to people who are unhappy in their own life.


Here is what I feel like I hear a lot of from women asking “How Do I Leave My Husband?:”

  • They got married really young.
  • Some don’t have kids.
  • They feel like as they’ve gotten older, they aren’t the same person as when they got married and now find they have nothing in common with their husband.
  • They want to be single, free, independent and live on their own because they never did that.
  • They no longer see the future they want with their spouse and feel like they have grown apart when it comes to life dreams and goals.
  • They want to leave but they feel immense guilt, especially because nothing is really that bad and they don’t want to hurt their husband.



So, how do I help these women? Do I tell them life is short and they need to do what’s right for themselves so they should leave? That they have my blessing? That’s not my place.


But do I tell them that they made a commitment for life so they should stay? That anyone who leaves is extremely selfish? No. I don’t feel that way, either.




The best advice I can offer is to make and defend both the case for staying and the case for leaving:

If you stay…


The woman who decides to stay has to work on two things: herself and her marriage. The marriage needs counseling or more counseling. There is no giving up. Counseling really can work if both people are committed to compromise, and if both individuals have self-awareness—the ability to admit fault for some things.


I know you probably feel really burned out and are very tired of trying to make something work that just isn’t, but if you stay you have to rally and work even harder for a healthier, happier relationship. Other than counseling, the couple has to act the same as they did when they were dating. Both have to make an effort to be thoughtful, considerate, flexible, and to make the other feel appreciated and respected.


Remember that no romantic relationship is easy all the time. You will have issues with anyone you date or marry. In other words, the grass isn’t always greener. In fact, it’s not easy to find true love. I’m not saying it can’t happen, though. It just doesn’t come around every week.


All this said, the worst reason to stay is because you are afraid of the unknown and/or being alone. Isn’t life too short to be scared?



If you leave…


If you decide to leave you are going to have to deal with a lot of stuff, especially at the beginning. Being newly separated and going through a divorce is awful. Sorry to sound so negative, but it is beyond horrible, especially if you have kids.


I’m not saying you should stay because you don’t want to go through the divorce. Because once you get through it, you could have a much happier life. Sometimes people say to me, “Oh, it must have been terrible going through your divorce. Was it the worst time in your life?” I answer, “No. Actually, looking back, the last year I was married—with all of our problems was worse than the first year I was separated.”


If you leave, you have to be prepared to be very independent, self-sufficient, and strong. You will most likely be going back to work (if you were a stay at home mom) and you might struggle financially. You will also have to maintain a relationship with your ex that could be like a rollercoaster, and feel frustrating, difficult and exhausting at times. You will also have to learn to live with the guilt you will feel for awhile.



The good news? It’s a very long journey, but if you make good choices, you could end up having an entirely different life, and one that you always wanted. You could meet the love of your life and feel very fortunate that you chose this path.


I guess what I’m trying to say is that nothing in life is a guarantee, so when you are deciding whether or not you should leave, you really have to weigh what you love and what you don’t, not just about the person but about everything. Listen to your gut. It will tell you the answers.


Here is something I feel very strongly about, and that I tell women who tell me they want to leave their husbands: Do not leave because you think you can do better. Ask yourself this question. If I am alone the rest of my life—in other words, if I never meet anyone, do I still want the divorce? If the answer is no, then you should not get divorced.


I’m not saying you will never meet anyone. That’s dark and not the way I think. But the reason for leaving your husband shouldn’t be because you want to find someone else. It should be because the two of you have exhausted every single possibility of making it work. The hope is gone. Or, because there is a deal breaker and you have no choice—repetitive cheating, alcoholism, drug or gambling addiction are just a few examples.

In either scenario…

I find that many women who want to leave their husbands think that the problem is him, when in reality, the issue is that she doesn’t like her life/herself. Trust me, I’m not defending anyone’s husband, but you really need to be self-aware and ask yourself if your unhappiness is because of you.


This is my advice for whether you decide to give your marriage another chance or if you really feel you need to leave: work on yourself. That might be professionally, spiritually, mentally, physically or something else. Make sure that you are truly happy with yourself. Then you can decide if you should leave your husband or stay. If you’ve always wanted to travel, do it. If you want a new career or to go back to school, make it happen. You might just find that your marriage gets better once you take action to make your life better. Or, it might magnify the problem that the relationship isn’t working.


In closing, both decisions—the one where you decide to stay together and the one where you decide to leave take immense courage and strength. Neither is for wimps. So, be strong, lean on faith, and trust your gut. You know you’ll make the right decision. You’ll just know.

Like this blog post? Check out: “I’m Tired of Being A Wimp” Says Women Thinking of Separating


Buy novels by Jackie Pilossoph



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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorce is a journey. Live it with grace, courage and gratitude. Peace and joy are on the way! Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

7 Responses to ““How Do I Leave My Husband?” Is This An Epidemic?”

  1. Nancy

    As always, Jackie, you are spot on…having gone through the divorce, I have achieved great contentment through continued hard work on choosing and implementing a healthy, happy life. It is a choice…either way.

  2. Jamie

    I like what you strongly believe and at the time of my divorce I thought very hard did I still want to leave even if the answer was I could be alone the rest of my life. At the time my answer would of been definitely yes, I was miserable. Now 12 years later I am alone and it’s not fun and I’m not sure. I might of stuck it out. So don’t know that in the throes of your relationship if that’s the right question.

  3. Louise

    There have been several separations/divorces in one of my groups of friends – at least three of us in the past 2 years. We are all ovarian cancer survivors between 50 and 70 and most of us asked our husbands to leave. Enduring a life-threatening illness changed us and our priorities. It also magnified the problems already existing in our relationships. I was surprised when I read about how often divorce happens when you’re dealing with illness.

  4. Stefanie Walker

    “When the grass looks greener on the other side, it is the Holy Spirit telling you to water the grass you are standing on.” I believe in this quote with my whole heart. I’m on the tail end of a 1 1/2 year divorce. Most painful time of my and my three young teenagers’ lives. (Besides when he left 8 years ago in a very similar fashion). It’s NOTHING I wanted. Period. I was willing to do anything to save my marriage and my family. Period. Without getting into the disgusting details, he left to satisfy his own selfishness. The widespread destruction of this has damaged countless relationships for him, including his family, our friends, his business, and on and on. Not to mention what it’s done to me and our precious children. Me – who he promised to love, honor, and cherish until death do us part. He did NO work on himself. He just flushed our beautiful life down the toilet in order to begin a new one. There have been MANY consequences for him. I WILL be great – most likely much better off. I am healing. I am already doing things that I never would have done as a married woman, including starting a new career. I am looking forward to whatever God has in store for me. But, it has been an EXTREMELY painful journey. Divorce and leaving your spouse is nothing to take like lightly. If you don’t do the work on yourself, you’re just taking your personal baggage with you. And, if you’re going to do the work on yourself, why not enjoy the self-improvements with the person you promised to be with for the rest of your life? Water the grass you’re standing on, and then see how you feel. Trust me, that’s much easier and way healthier than going through the destruction of a divorce. The rewards of putting the work in and having your marriage survive will be priceless in the end.

  5. Bev Walton

    I opted out of my 1st marriage after 12 years because my husband was extremely controlling. I wanted the independence and the freedom which you have pointed out. Looking back, it was not THAT bad. My ex was an excellent father. With counselling, it might have worked. The 2nd marriage was the most abusive in every sense of the word – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I tried to commit suicide and suffered a nervous breakdown. It took every inch of my being to get out of the abusive situation – always falling for his apologies and promises that it would never happen again. I got out. Over time, I started to heal. My confidence and self-esteem came back. I began to love myself again. And I was worth loving. I vowed NEVER to get involved with a man again. I was happy with my job, my daughters and my dog. I did find love again. I did remarry. And can laugh at myself for the promises I made myself to never to either again. What I do find sad, is that an ex-spouse wants out of the marriage, but then battles to move on – a case of I don’t want him, but I don’t want anyone else to have him either. A case of “you don’t know what you’ve lost ’til it’s gone?”


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