When You’re The One Who Doesn’t Want The Marriage

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“I don’t want this marriage anymore.”

I can’t imagine anyone wants to hear this. It’s heartbreaking. It’s scary. It wasn’t part of the plan.

I don’t know what it’s like to hear the words come from someone else, but I heard them come out of my mouth as I said them to my partner of nearly 20 years.

It was heartbreaking. It was scary. It wasn’t part of the plan.

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I had said I do years ago, and now I was saying I don’t. I can’t. I don’t want to. While there was a bit of relief in being honest and revealing my unhappiness and need for something different, there wasn’t joy or even a sense of validation. I was hurting someone I love. It didn’t matter that I had been hurting for a while. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t in love. It didn’t matter that I no longer felt an emotional or sexual intimacy with this person. It didn’t matter that I was starting to feel more resentment than compassion and patience. All that registered was that I was choosing to hurt another person with words they didn’t expect or want to hear.

For too long, I had hidden my discomfort. To be fair, I have always been good at this in many aspects of my life. I also recognize it wasn’t fair that I didn’t speak up sooner. While my partner recognized that there had been a disconnect, she was willing to power through. She was willing to wait it out until things got better. I just could not do this.

I think she felt blindsided. How did it get to this point? Was there anything that could have prevented this end? Why can’t we work on this?

I have been working on it. I have been on a long journey of healing, of sobriety, and of growth. As I grew, I seemed to move away and out of what was once home. I felt like a hermit crab that had become stuck in their own shell. The shell itself was perfectly fine; it just didn’t fit anymore and in order to feel better I needed to expose myself in an effort to find a new home. I outgrew the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. It hurt to admit that. It hurt more to say it. It was absolutely crushing to hear it.

On the surface, my marriage seemed wonderful. In fact, most people complimented our ability to communicate and work well together. There was no abuse or infidelity or arguments about money or the way we were raising our kids. It was all fine.

But at some point, “fine” didn’t feel like enough. Sobriety lit a fire, lifted a veil, and put a very bright spotlight on all that I have been missing and all that I want to discover. I am not sure if I became a different person or if I was finally able to reveal exactly who I was always going to become. Either way, I began to settle into knowing myself. And in doing so, I became unrecognizable to my partner.

How I wanted to spend my time changed. My goals changed. What I envisioned for my future changed.

Was that fair? It depends on who you ask. I know it felt unfair to her. I was the one driving the end of a relationship she wanted to continue. She felt like the passenger on a very miserable trip.

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We tried counseling and that helped us communicate in a safe and guided space, but I had already made up my mind. I had been unhappy long enough to know I needed, wanted, and deserved more than this person could provide.

Should I have tried harder? I don’t know.

It takes two to make a relationship work. I actively overcompensated and romanticized elements of my marriage in an effort to make up for the shame of my drinking and the guilt from the lack of feelings I thought I should have for this person I married. I was actively trying not to feel lonely with someone while she was passively hoping to never be alone. I had been trying hard for a long time. I was trying to avoid hurting anyone. I know she wasn’t actively trying to hurt me, but passivity hurts too.

It sucks to be the one causing the pain, to be the one making choices and saying things another person does not want to hear. It sucks to know I will potentially be perceived as the asshole who walked away from a stable relationship and who disrupted my kids’ idea of what their family was. It sucks to know I hurt people I love so that I could stop hurting.

I wanted nothing more than to protect all of the hearts, but mine was the one that needed the most attention and protection. I know that choosing myself will ultimately be what is best for everyone.

Resentment and a sense of loss were eating at me. I need to be seen and taken care of in ways that feel affirming, natural, and easy. No relationship will ever be without work. But should it require so much trying? It’s hard to take responsibility for my actions and for the upheaval and pain I have caused.

I know neither one of us are solely the asshole or the victim. I also know to want something else means acknowledging what I don’t want.

“I don’t want this marriage anymore.”

It’s hard to hear those words. It’s hard to say them too.