All married couples fight. Sometimes the fights are helpful, sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are part and parcel of hashing out the “big issues” that come up in relationships, when raising children, after having been together for a long time. But when the fights aren’t helpful, and instead just harm each other and the relationship, and have been doing so for a long time, they could also be the sign of a bigger issue: the end of the relationship.
Many couples can point to a “moment” they knew when their relationship is over. Sometimes it’s a fight. Sometimes it’s an off the cuff statement that hits deep. Sometimes, it’s the first fully truthful conversation in a very long time. Here, three dads talk about the “moment” they knew their marriage was over.
She knew, but I was afraid to admit it.
I went through a divorce almost 10 years ago and, for me, I knew it was over after several years of couples counseling. What became apparent was maybe we weren’t the best fit for one another, which was helpful to understand even though we had learned a whole bunch of new coping tools and techniques for our relationship.
The moment that it was truly over for me was when we were in the car, and I was just so unhappy lately that it became obvious to my wife. I had been so focused on a new car I was planning to buy. It was a sole factor of happiness for me. We went for a ride to get ice cream, and it was just the only thing I could talk about. I’m sure it just made what I was holding back more obvious. She said, “I feel like there is something you aren’t telling me and that’s that you want to leave but you don’t want to hurt me.” I could not deny this. I was unhappy. I had finally come to the point where I knew it was over and I needed to start the process of us separating and working towards divorce.
I knew what I needed to do and I knew it would be painful but I wasn’t sure how to do it. Like many people, I didn’t want to do it right before Thanksgiving and Christmas but once the rabbit was out of the hat, there was no going back in. That night we cried together, held each other, and held our hurts jointly in a vulnerable space together — which was not the norm for our relationship and that’s why it stood out. That night was very tender and sad. That next day her hurt became anger and she told me she wanted to move out and within 24-48 hours at most. Luckily I had some friends that I had told I might need to stay with them if things unraveled and I was able to move there for a bit until things solidified.
—William Schroeder, 41, Texas
She told me she would never kiss me again.
I knew from the multitude of little signs that the marriage was ultimately doomed, since all of them amounted to one thing: my wife’s refusal to ever acknowledge that my concerns had merit or to subsequently change her behavior, which stayed the same or steadily deteriorated. But two of her comments, made a few days apart, were it for me.
We hadn’t kissed on New Year’s Eve because our son hurt himself and distracted us. Two days later, I approached my wife in the kitchen saying, “Hey, we haven’t had our New Year’s kiss this year.” It was obvious that I intended to kiss her. She turned and remarked with almost bizarre serenity, “Not only am I not kissing you now, but I’m never kissing you again.” She went back to munching on the cracker in her hand as if saying this was no big deal. I was so shocked and hurt that I turned and walked out without a word.
She’d been sleeping with our son in his room for a few weeks due to some issues he was having, but that had passed, so I remarked that she could sleep in our room again now that his issues were over. She said, “I’m never sleeping in the same bed with you again.” I had the same reaction. I knew I wanted a divorce. Apparently, she was thinking the same thing, despite being two months pregnant with our daughter, and within a week she announced she was in therapy and that she was moving out.
— Randy, 47, Maryland
After her birthday dinner, her lover was in our house.
My ex-wife asked me for an open marriage. If anyone knows me, that’s not anything I would go for. We were living our own separate lives in the house, trying to raise the kids and do that sort of thing. I made the decision to move out, to give myself some space, and my ex wanted me to live in the basement. I was like, no. I pay for everything. If I can’t live in my own house in a reasonable manner then I’m just going to get a new place. So, I did.
For the longest time there, I held a small hope that she would come to her senses, all this nonsense would stop. It was around the time of her birthday, I took her out for dinner, just as friends. But probably, I thought more. She was going back and forth from the bathroom, texting.
I knew she had her own life going on. We had a nice time, it was kind of reminiscent. As I was driving her home, she looks in, we’re at her house. Someone is walking upstairs and she freaks out, thinking she has a burglar in her house. Then all of the sudden, she remembers that she’d been texting her man. He was there. And of course, I lost it. I lost it. It was 11 o’clock at night in this upscale neighborhood, and I’m just screaming my head off at the both of them. It was at that point that my brain just settled, and I recognized that I was done. I wasn’t going to allow myself to stay open to anything other than moving on with my life. That was the day that did it for me and helped me kick the habit.
— Dr. Manish Shah, 47, Colorado