What to Do When You Feel Selfish for Wanting a Divorce


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.

getting divorcedThere 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.


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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?”

wrong for divorce

“Feeling Selfish for Wanting a Divorce” image by Laurie

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.


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7 thoughts on “What to Do When You Feel Selfish for Wanting a Divorce

  • A man

    Please, please modify the section of the blog about asking a divorce lawyer whether you’re being selfish. They are hearing a one-sided story, first of all, second, they are not in any way trained to be marriage counselors, third, they are financially biased, and finally, they have a personality of wanting to side with you to win – that’s inherent in a lawyer – and they want to win your case as soon as you bring it up.

    Individual therapy can help, but bear in mind that our therapist will hear only a one-sided story. Both husband and wife can each be in private therapy saying that the other is abusive or crazy, and accomplishing little.

    Please, please consider marriage counseling (or go to your pastor) to try to solve the problems in your marriage. Divorce is worse than most people imagine it to be. And I can think of few people I would like to be with than my wife, who is divorcing me.

  • him

    Actually, I think most divorces are caused by selfishness on both sides. Also, I think that mental illness is present in most divorces (one who ran divorce recovery classes mentioned that 80% of the students in his classes had at least one partner in the marriage with a mental illness).

    I’m going through a divorce now while I say this. I look back at the things I did that helped spur this on that I could have avoided, and feel ashamed. I look at the effect this is having on my kids, already traumatized by the death of their sister. And bear in mind that I am still furious at my wife for leaving with 3 hours notice to move 200 miles away, and leaving me behind with the kids.

    These things, including mental illness from PTSD, can usually be worked through as long as people are physically safe.

  • Laurie Post author

    For me, it’d be wrong or selfish to get divorced when my husband genuinely wants to change, grow, and save our marriage. If he doesn’t want to change, then I wouldn’t feel selfish for wanting a divorce.

    Getting a divorce is such a personal, important decision! Nobody can tell you if it’s right or wrong to get a divorce. This article is only intended to give you a few things to think about, not tell you what you should do. Only you can decide what you should do.

  • Diane

    My husband lies all the time then when I get mad and yes scream and yell. And he yells then screams I’m crazy and goofy, this past time he even called me a fat ass. He leaves when we fight, goes to his daughters house, comes back I find a t-shirt that says ALMOST SINGLE. HOW WOULD you feel anyone ?

  • michalnorred

    We have no savings. When we moved into our new place about 1 1/2 years ago. We agreed that we should build up an emergency fund, then try to start to pay our bills, for our credit is terrible. All of these things have happened, I don’t know if I will because I can’t even start any discussion with him about finances.

  • Angela

    I do feel selfish for wanting a divorce! I’ve been unhappy for years. I have tried to break it off on more than one occasion, to always be convinced that things will “get better”. Every promise is nothing more than words. I’ve heard “I’m sorry” so many times that I don’t even acknowledge an apology from him anymore. They are nothing more than words…

    But when I look at some of the things that make me unhappy, I feel guilty. That they are things that shouldn’t be important to me because they are little, petty things. But at the end of the day, it’s the little things in life that make life what it is.

    We have very little communication. I have, for the most part, cut off all of my emotion to him. I’ve had too! Because I was starting to make myself sick. I’m fairly certain that he thinks he has me over a barrel financial. He pays our rent (which is really cheap), the rest is up to me. When I ask him to help me out with some of the bills, he gives me a hard time.

    We have no savings. We have never had any savings. When we moved into our new place about 1 1/2 yrs ago. We agreed that we should build an emergency fund and then try to start paying back some of our bills because our credit is awful. None of these things have happened and I don’t see where it ever will because I cannot even approach any discussion with him regarding finances.

    I don’t know what to do or where to start….

  • christy

    It’s not wrong or selfish of me to a want divorce, cause he lies about everything. If he told that it was raining outside i would go see.