Recently, I’ve been contemplating divorcing my husband.
I’ve been daydreaming about it — breaking free from the confines of marriage and being single again. I think it’s something a lot of married people go through from time to time, and although it’s a difficult thing to talk about, it shouldn’t be something we feel we have to hide or be ashamed of.
I’ve jumped from one monogamous relationship to the next since I was 16 years old — and being free and single has been looking nice and shiny as of late.
Even though my relationship has been going through a really rough patch, I still want to try to work through it. Part of that means giving myself some time and space away from my partner. I’ve needed it, especially after the debacle where I checked his phone and found texts to another woman outlining some pretty hurtful criticisms of me.
In an odd turn of events, that very woman is out with my husband in my living room right now. She and another woman are here to do some work with him on a film project. They are both gorgeous, smart, talented ladies, and it’s difficult not to feel like I pale in comparison as I hide away in my bedroom and tap away at my keyboard, unleashing my lone-wolf writer thoughts.
I’m supportive of my husband’s artistic goals and dreams. I want him to do film projects, and I’m happy that he’s working with one of his best friends (even if I’m still a little bitter about some of the conversations they’ve had about me).
He was very respectful about asking me if we had plans, and would I mind if they did their work here?
I told him to go for it. No problem at all.
The one thing that kind of irked me is that he cleaned the entire house in preparation for them coming over today.
Our house is typically a disaster zone. It’s a very small space of just under 800 square feet total, and we’re outgrowing it fast. The clutter closing in on us produces some real anxiety for me. Not everything “has its place” anymore, and as much as I try, I just can’t keep up with everything or get organized.
I’d love a little more help. And this weekend, I got it. My husband scrubbed the toilet and the shower tiles. He decluttered and cleaned the kitchen and living room. He did it all. And I’m so so grateful for the work he put in, because a lot of men are still used to the woman of the house doing most of the domestic work.
At the same time, I do feel some sort of way about it. I kind of want to get snarky and tell him that he is more than welcome to clean the house even when his hot-ass actress friends aren’t coming over. He can do it as a way to help and care for me.
I’m feeling both utterly relieved that my house is in order, and utterly peeved it wasn’t done for me.
Marriage is a complex mess of juxtaposing emotions. I love him. I want to leave him. I don’t want to throw away this marriage. I want a divorce.
Which voice do you listen to?
The Trauma of Feeling Trapped
Sometimes, the trauma from my previous marriage, which I’ve worked so hard to heal from, still rears its ugly head in my current relationship.
I was so reluctant to get married again because of the horrific experience I had with my ex-husband. He was manipulative. He was verbally and psychologically and sexually abusive. He was controlling and had a horrible temper. Sometimes he scared me because I couldn’t predict what he might do next.
My first marriage got so bad that I had to eventually flee from my home with my toddler in tow. We found a safe space staying at my sister’s house for a while, fortunately.
When most 22-year-olds I knew were graduating college, I was working through my first divorce and shifting from stay-at-home-mom to working single mother. It was the right thing to do, but it was a hard road that my friends couldn’t relate to. I knew I’d made the wrong decision getting married so young to a guy that had manipulated me.
And I didn’t want to make that mistake again.
Although I knew I wanted to experience romantic relationships after that, I was certain I wouldn’t get married again. The damage had been done. No matter how good the guy I met was, I wanted to always have an out and not get tied down legally.
Fast forward to over a decade later. I’m with a man who is worlds apart from my ex. I’m never afraid of him. He never controls me or abuses me.
And this past August, despite my fear of commitment, I married him. I did it because he wanted it, and because it would allow me to share some really important benefits with him from my job. And also — I thought that he deserved to have everything he wanted.
But recently, I find myself feeling trapped in my marriage yet again. Like a sort of marital claustrophobia. I find myself wanting out sometimes. The fact that I feel the need to take care of everyone around me gets overwhelming — and it’s a feeling I’m sure many married women and mothers can understand.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a lot more like my husband’s mother than his romantic partner. Or maybe a platonic roommate who usually does way more than their fair share of the work. To the men out there: I don’t think I have to tell you how much that kills the sexual vibe in a relationship.
And it’s not just about the housework, the paperwork, the bills, the grocery shopping, the child care tasks, and the appointment scheduling — most of which falls on me. It’s also about the loss of a sexual connection. The loss of romance.
It’s gone. Poof.
Apparently, being cornered into more of a mom role than a partner role kind of sucks the wind out of the sexy sails.
Sometimes, as much as I love my husband, I feel like we might be happier living apart. Sometimes, I just want to leave him. Then he’d do his own laundry, and I could focus more on our intimate relationship instead of mothering him.
Giving Myself Space When I Need It
One thing that really helped me recently was getting the hell out of my house. I booked a hotel room downtown for one night — just for me. No kids, no husband, no anxiety-inducing clutter.
It was one full night for me to just relax and have some alone time. I enjoyed doing some creative work, watched bad TV, ordered in a delicious dinner, sipped a bottle of sparkling wine, and even had some sexy self-care time.
I wanted to give myself a little pampering to help my mental health. And I only experienced a teeny bit of guilt for spoiling myself. But don’t worry — I got over that pretty quickly.
I understand that this might not be something everyone can do. It’s a privilege that I was able to financially afford a mini-staycation all to myself.
To those women who aren’t able to or prefer not to spend the money on something like this — I think staying the night with a friend or family member who is understanding of your need for a break would be another great way to give yourself a little fun and self-care.
It may create tension for you and your spouse. I know my husband was a little suspicious at first, especially since we’ve been having so much trouble. That speaks to our trust issues, and that’s another thing we need to work on.
But after we talked about the reason I wanted a night away openly and honestly, he was understanding of it and overall supportive.
And let me tell you — it worked. I can’t explain how relaxing it was to be in my own clean, quiet space and do whatever I wanted for hours. It was like getting an instant hit of calming medication for my brain and body.
I came back to my husband the next morning, feeling refreshed and ready to tell him all about my night.
He knows he’s welcome to take the same time for himself too. That it goes both ways. Sometimes, a little space and independence make the heart grow fonder.
Some Healthy Takeaways
If you’re having a rocky moment in your relationship (or a rocky few months, like me), it helps to be as self-aware and as realistic as possible.
Don’t ignore or deny the issues or negative emotions you’re experiencing. The more you repress them, the more they will fester and grow and hurt both you and your partner.
To this end, I’m aware that my husband and I would really benefit from couples therapy, and I’m on the search for a professional who would be a good fit. Likely someone who specializes in polyamorous or non-traditional relationships.
But remember to also monitor your capacity for dealing with emotional trauma. It isn’t healthy for you and your significant other to talk about all of your issues and complaints with each other all of the time. There’s not enough energy in the world for that. Sometimes, you need (and deserve) a break.
Take breaks for yourself — like time away, or even just different activities you love to do that get you out of the house and away from the spouse.
And also take breaks as a couple. Just because you’re working through tough issues doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still enjoy doing fun things together that aren’t all about “working on the relationship.” Have a date. Spend time talking about things you enjoy. Go out together with friends.
Achieving relationship goals is important, but it’s also about finding a healthy, happy balance that works for both of you.
This piece first appeared on Medium.
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