Your marriage makes you very unhappy, but you feel selfish or wrong for wanting a divorce. Here are a few suggestions for coping with your feelings about getting divorced.
There is no clear-cut yes or no answer to that question (“are you wrong or selfish for wanting a divorce?”). And, I’m a stranger who has no right or authority to tell you whether or not you’re selfish. But, I can give you a few things to think about.
Getting Divorced Without Ruining Your Life: A Reasoned, Practical Guide to the Legal, Emotional and Financial Ins and Outs of Negotiating a Divorce Settlement by Sam Margulies is an excellent resource on getting divorced. I always recommend books at the beginning of my articles, because I firmly believe there is so much wisdom and insight in books! If you’re headed towards divorce whether you like it not, learn as much as you can about getting a divorce.
Are You Wrong or Selfish for Wanting a Divorce?
Yes, in some cases wanting a divorce is wrong or selfish. Take Jill’s husband in When Your Husband Wants a Divorce – But Won’t Leave. I actually know them both in real life (I’ve changed their names), and I think he’s being an incredible jerk for dragging his wife and three kids through his midlife crisis. He’s not happy, he doesn’t know why he’s not happy, but he’s certain his unhappiness is his wife’s fault.
And yet, if you ask his friends if he’s wrong or selfish for wanting a divorce, they’d all say no. It IS his wife’s fault that he’s in an unhappy marriage – she’s awful to be married to. Figuring out whether divorce is wrong depends on who you ask. Sometimes divorce is selfish, and other times it’s the best decision you could ever make.
A Divorce is Selfish When You Have No “Real” Reason for Leaving
Are you bored with your marriage or life? Are you unhappy with your job, personality, or family? Are you unhealthy emotionally, physically, or spiritually? Do you need to shake up your life a little? Are you going through the proverbial midlife crisis, menopause, or existential angst?
Then yes, you’re being selfish for wanting a divorce. A divorce isn’t the answer to your unhappiness or boredom. Divorce is devastating for your spouse, kids, family, in-laws, friends, and even your colleagues. Divorce is like an amputation – you and your loved ones will never be the same.
Do you have a “real” reason for leaving your marriage and getting a divorce? If you’re a Christian, read The Only Reason for Divorce in a Christian Marriage.
A Divorce Isn’t Selfish When You and Your Family Are Being Hurt
“I have a hard time leaving my marriage because I feel like I am abandoning my husband through the hard times and I vowed for better or worse,” says Nicole on my article about loveless marriages. “He is addicted to drugs. He started very shortly after we got married. I want to leave because I am so unhappy in this marriage. My husband doesn’t provide anything for me financially, emotionally, or any other way. I have always been the bread winner which wasn’t a big deal but I would have to hide my keys, money, bank cards, and checks because he would take money out of the account for drugs.”
I don’t think the “for better or worse” applies when your husband isn’t acting like a husband. I don’t think Nicole is being selfish or wrong for wanting a divorce, because he is not contributing to a healthy marriage or happy home life.
“Sometimes he would be gone all day and then call me at three in the morning to pick him up from wherever he was,” says Nicole. “He sometimes would leave in the middle of the night and I would cry and worry not knowing if he was ok. Eventually I began doing drugs as well and began to do it with him just so I would know where he was and so that he would no longer steal from me. I have lost my job, car, and house because of drugs….We have been separated for over a year, trying to make things work but recently he has gone back to drugs. I haven’t heard from him in four days. He sold his cell phone and someone else answered it. I am fed up and miserable and too afraid to live with someone like that because I don’t want to start doing drugs again. I’m seriously thinking about divorce because I want better but feel as a wife that I am giving up on my husband when he needs help. Am I wrong or selfish for wanting a divorce?”
No, she is not selfish for wanting a divorce. I don’t think the “for better or worse” marriage vow means your husband can do whatever he wants while you stand passively by his side. It’s not selfish or wrong to want a divorce when your spouse isn’t living up to his end of the wedding vows, if you’re in danger or being hurt, or if he isn’t interested in making your marriage work.
Sometimes divorce is selfish, and other times it’s the best decision you could ever make. The best way to figure out if you’re being selfish is to talk to someone in person – some objective, wise, and who can see the big picture. A counselor, perhaps, or even a divorce lawyer who isn’t just trying to peddle his or her wares.
Still thinking about divorce? Read Should You Leave Your Husband? 3 Signs It’s Time to Go.