Why Divorce: 5 Reasons to Leave

By Hope Katz Gibbs

Preface: Never Cut What You Can Untie

Why divorce? That’s the question I started asking myself in November 2005 when I had the first inkling that I wasn’t happy in my then 10-year-old marriage. I pushed the thought aside to focus on my kids, who were 6 and 10 at the time. We were, and continue to be, in love with each other. And a line by French moralist Joseph Joubert kept running through my mind: “Never cut what you can untie.” I didn’t want to hurt anyone, but I did want to be happy — happier than I was at the time.

Like many parents, I pushed my feelings aside. Instead, I spent the decade that followed talking with dozens of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances about their marriages — asking those unhappily married what it was that enabled them to file for divorce or what kept them from it. Couples who were happily married intrigued me even more. I wanted to know their secrets! And I wanted to share them with others.

Those conversations inspired me to create a trilogy: Why Divorce: 5 Reasons to Leave • Why Marry: 5 Reasons to Say Yes • Why Remarry: 5 Reasons to Do It Again

Packed with case studies based on interviews with women and men who have been through these experiences, we thank everyone willing to share their stories to help others who are working their way through the process. The books also include guidance from experts. For example, in Why Divorce, you’ll hear from divorce attorneys, mediators, financial planners, marriage counselors, child therapists, and others who offer tactical, heartfelt assistance.

So let’s start with the end.

Table of Contents: 5 Reasons to Leave

I’ve often been asked why I wrote: “Why Divorce?” I am not a therapist, psychiatrist, or mental health professional. I am not an attorney, financial planner, life coach, or lifelong friend. I am a journalist, a yoga teacher, and a newly minted Martha Beck Wayfinder life coach whose mission is not to judge anyone’s decision to divorce or stay married. As I have traveled through the decades of my life, I have talked with more women and men than I can count who have struggled with this painful decision —my parents included. My mission for this book is simply to tell the tales of those willing to share their stories as case studies to help others know they are not alone.

INTRODUCTION: 108 FIRST DATES. Because I’m asking so many people to be vulnerable and honest, I feel it’s important to share my own, which is why I made it the introduction to the book. It’s a tale I call “108 First Dates — and one perfect lover.” As you’ll read, six months after leaving my husband, who remained my best friend, I found myself curious about re-coupling and logged onto my first online dating website: JDate.com. My husband grew up Catholic, and I noodled the idea that perhaps this Jewish girl from Philadelphia would be better mated with a member of the tribe. Nope. Six months after sorting through offers, countless conversations, and friendships with several men, I realized it wasn’t the religious component I was searching for. It was a spiritual and soulful one. Still optimistic, I joined Match.com. Over the next year, I went on 108 first dates. Really. Many were in person. Some were email, phone, or text exchanges. Through it, I learned more about who I was, what I was looking for, and what was possible. Here’s how it played out.

CASE STUDIES: Enough about me. The heart and guts of this book/website is to investigate what inspired you to divorce. What events led up to this big decision, how did the messy middle go, and what has your life been like since? Perhaps most importantly, what advice do you have for others? I’ve broken the reasons into 5 categories, some of which may resonate with you.

  • The 3 As — Adultery, Addiction, Abuse. If your partner is mentally, physically, and emotionally harming you — that is no way to live a happy, healthy life. These situations are painful in many ways, and while it’s still difficult to leave, it’s a clearer path to the door.
  • The fourth reason, Angst, is a muddier dilemma. In this instance, your partner is struggling with something intense — be it depression, anxiety, or another emotional or perhaps physical challenge — and either won’t deal with it and/or is taking the struggle out on you. While not quite as emotionally belittling or physically dangerous as being abused, it’s a sticky situation because you know that leaving your partner could make their emotional state worse. But you are feeling miserable and want to end that pain.
  • The fifth reason, “I’m setting a terrible example for my kids,” is perhaps the toughest — or maybe the easiest — a reason to leave. Why? Because you know the marriage isn’t right, your partner isn’t doing anything egregious. At the depths of your soul, you know you aren’t with the person you want to be with for the rest of your life. By staying, are you setting the right example for your children? Maybe. Maybe not.
  • What’s your story? Perhaps you have another reason that might help someone struggling with the question. If so, you are invited to share! Click here to fill out our questionnaire, email it to us, and someone on the Inkandescent Publishing team will contact you.

ASK THE EXPERTS: “Educated people don’t stay in unhappy marriages,” insists social anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of “Why Him? Why Her? Her research is the power behind the Chemistry.com questionnaire, so when I heard Helen speak about her work and subsequently interviewed her for my magazine, Be Inkandescent, my thoughts began crystalizing around my reasons to leave. Helen’s insight inspired me to be looking for other masters in the relationship industry. Regularly, I add interviews with those experts so they can share their insights with you, including:

  • Internationally renowned Gestalt therapy trainer Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D, author, “Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration and Safety”
  • Divorce Attorney Rachel L. Virk, author, “The Four Ways of Divorce: Litigation, Negotiation, Collaboration, Mediation”
  • Lauded Certified Financial Planner® Marguerita Cheng, a specialist in helping people make their financial way through divorce
  • Plus: We have advice from child psychiatrists and psychologists offering ways to help your kids manage the change, Realtors helping recent singles navigate the housing market, and life coaches sharing ways to navigate emotional hurdles and find your authentic self on the other side, among others.

RESOURCES: For many, the decision to divorce is one of choice. For others, their lives are actually in danger due to abuse. In our Resources section, you’ll find organizations available to help no matter which of the 5 Reasons to Leave apply to your situation.

PARTING THOUGHTS: Perhaps the most important parting thought I can leave you with is my gratitude to you for spending time with us, for having the compassion to learn about other people’s stories, and for those of you who shared your love story for having the courage to do so. There’s no way around the fact that leaving your loved one (no matter how much you want to) is one of the most difficult decisions and experiences of your life. When we connect in this way, I believe we’ll all know even more deeply that we are in this together. Wishing you only health and wellness, and invite you to keep sharing! Click here to send me an email.