December 2022: Abandonment — Stephanie of Philadelphia says, “I felt like he viewed our marriage not as a partnership, but as a competition.”

I was unhappy in my 22-year marriage, I think mostly because we were different people at the core. Although we ended up staying married for decades, I filed for divorce the first time when our son was 1. We just kept trying. I kept looking at the good stuff. He was funny, outgoing, charming — and he was often very sweet to me. He made me feel beautiful and special.

Our love affair started quickly. We moved in together after knowing each other for only three months and married 15 months later in 1994. I remember staying up very late and just talking. We liked going together to car races, partying with friends and just enjoying the newness of each other. But honestly, the relationship was prone to volatility. I never felt like we were on solid ground. Rather, our relationship got pretty toxic. Drinking and recreational drug use was a sizable part of our lives. I blame the alcohol. He came from a home with an alcoholic father and I grew up in a home with an alcoholic father. Perhaps it was familiar ground.

So while I’d cite addiction as a real problem in our marriage, what hurt me even more is that I felt like he viewed our marriage not as a partnership — but as a competition. When we shifted into that dynamic was often confusing and always exasperating! I felt abandoned by him, and yet we just kept trying. After seeing three therapists over 20 years, I finally decided the time had come. He was increasingly complacent and apathetic, and I knew in my gut that our survival as a couple was not a priority for him. But he didn’t see it that way. Even after two decades and a gazillion dollars paid to therapists, when I finally said I was leaving he asked, “What if I change?” Deep down, I knew that if he wanted to make a change, he would have done it already. And, truthfully, we both knew there was no real way to make our marriage work.

What kept me from leaving sooner? Fear of financial hardship, fear of retribution. Fear. Fear. Fear.

Today: My only regret is that we should have divorced him sooner. I’ll admit that being single again was tough for the first few years, but every time that I got scared I would remind myself that whatever I was facing was better than living in a dead end marriage. That life was full of resentment and anger.

And guess what, I remarried! It took a while to adjust to living with a functional partner. I was carrying around a big chip on my shoulder, along with a big bag of emotional junk that didn’t serve me. I know I was dealing with PTSD from living in a war zone for all those years. My new husband and I went to counseling prior to getting married. We both had to learn how to be in a mutually caring and functional relationship after being numb and going through the motions for so many years.  It was so helpful! I am now happy, loved, in love, healthy and completely present with my partner!

As for my spouse, he continues to repeat his old patterns. In my opinion and observation, he is still complacency, and blames his unhappiness on me. The truth, in my eyes, is that he left our marriage almost before it started. He just stayed physically, and that wasn’t acceptable to me. I always felt like I’d been abandoned, and that was a truly terrible way to live. Our son is in his 20s now. He lives with his Dad. We are on opposite coasts, so it’s hard on me because my son and I have always been very close. But this is part of life.

  • Age: 53
  • Years married: 22
  • Date of your separation: December 29, 2015
  • Date of your divorce: Feb. 6, 2017
  • Number of kids (ages): 1 age 22 years