For many people, the decision to get divorced is one of the toughest they’ll ever make. But sometimes, lightning just strikes, and you know — as painful as it may be — exactly what you have to do. The Cut spoke with nine women, whose names have been changed, about their wake-up calls.
“After three years of marriage, we were fighting all the time, really bad below the belt fights. I was ready to call it quits but he said he’d do anything to fix it. I said that I would come back if we went to therapy, as a couple and individually. He agreed to both. For five months we went to marriage counseling, and I saw my own therapist, and he saw his therapist. But things were not getting better. Eventually, our marriage counselor asked if he could reach out to our personal therapists. First, he gave us forms to give to those therapists to sign — it’s like standard therapist practice when you’re going to discuss cases with another doctor. We both said fine, but weeks went by and my ex never provided a form from his therapist. Our marriage counselor asked if he could call my ex’s therapist and my ex said okay. At the next session, our marriage counselor told me that she had spoken to the therapist and, contrary to what my ex had been telling me and our marriage counselor for the last five months, this therapist had never met my ex before. The marriage counselor then told us that he could not see us anymore — he was unable to be impartial to our situation and unable to trust what my ex was saying. That was the moment that I realized that I was finally done too — there was nothing I could do to fix this.
Oh, he also made up a fake email address from this therapist to prove that he had scheduled appointments — it wasn’t her real email. It was a whole thing.” — Camille, 47, lawyer, Manhattan
“The second I found the receipt for the lingerie he’d bought her; it had her name on it because he had it sent to her home. It was tucked inside an Eckhart Tolle book on our bookshelves.” — Laura, 52, nurse, Boston
“When we were engaged, we decided to go out and play mini-golf on a Friday night. On the way there, we were seriously hit by a drunk driver. They had to use the jaws of life to get my ex out, and his elbow was severely injured. He slowly healed and we got married a few months later.
Years afterward, we got into a bad fight, which was nothing new, but this time, he proceeded to tell me that the accident was my fault because going to mini-golf had been my suggestion. That was his thing. Instead of communicating at the time the issue came up he would file it away and then use it against you later. Needless to say he was emotionally abusive, that was just one of many horrible things he put in my head, and we started the divorce process a few months later.” — Daisy, 45, disability advocate, New Hampshire
“After being married only a year, I discovered my ex husband was a sex addict. We’re both Orthodox Jews, and it moved really fast. We had one month of dating, and three months later, we got married. We didn’t touch before marriage. I wanted it to work despite the fact that he had a very bad temper and weird sexual habits. We went on a trip to Europe when I was three months pregnant, and I asked why he was always checking out other women. I just had an instinct. Then I started to look at his phone and other devices and discovered a whole world of sex that he lied to me about. From there, he went to intensive treatment, and I went to the partners’ program. I asked the therapist how long it takes for an addict to change their behaviors of lying and secrecy; she said the reality of it is that there’s a minimum of five years, and the addiction is just like any other addiction with ups and downs, and it’s something that really never goes away. I knew I would not be able to handle a marriage like that, especially with a new baby. It was then that I knew I had to get divorced. I don’t regret it one bit.” — Carole, 36, spa owner, Los Angeles
“I was soaking in the bath one night and my husband walked in and said, ‘Our marriage is over.’ He was in love with his physical therapist. I never even knew he was going to physical therapy, which was typical of him, keeping secrets from me, even harmless ones. So right there naked in the bath, I knew it was over because he told me so. It devastated me because he was the love of my life, but I slowly started to hate him when I processed all the lying and cheating he was capable of, which helped. He married her, too.” — Yasmine, 26, Uber driver, Queens
“I remember this so clearly. I’m a hairstylist, and I had worked a superlong day at the salon, at least nine hours on my feet already. My husband asked me if I could stay extra long to cut his hair. I was exhausted, it was like 8 p.m., but I said, ‘No problem.’ He had several issues to begin with — mental health, addiction, etc. — but we were on somewhat of an upswing and I’d really been fighting for our marriage. Anyway, as I was finishing his cut, I said, ‘Let’s go get a burger?’ I wanted a warm meal, and to be served after such a long day. I wasn’t asking for much. He fought with me. He wasn’t getting it — I was tired, starving, and felt like grabbing a bite to eat together. He said we could order in, but I didn’t want to have a soggy burger at home on our couch. He was being very hostile about it. He refused to consider my feelings. He complained that he was itchy and had hair all over him and … I knew in that moment I didn’t want to spend my life with this person. I didn’t want to grow old with him. If he couldn’t see that all I wanted, and needed, was to sit down and have a stupid hamburger, if he made even that tiny thing into a moment of hell for me, then I could not stay married to him.” — Scarlett, 40, hairstylist, Manhattan
“My ex-husband was 14 years older than me; we got together when I was soon out of college. I hadn’t had any other real relationships before. We had many ups and downs from the start. He worked in theater and was talented, smart, and quick-witted, but could also be obnoxious and rude. Also, his financial situation was not great and his work was unsteady; I was wearing a ton of hats to pay the bills. After 12 years of marriage, with all that history, I made the final decision.
We were on a week-long summer family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard — my mom had borrowed a close friend’s lovely home for this reunion — with my siblings, my nieces, etc. Our son at the time was 3 years old. I thought having a child together would help our marriage, and to some extent, it did. Until this trip. For some reason, even though my ex generally liked my family, he tended to get even more difficult around them. My mom was quite strong-willed and just as smart as he was, so they often butted heads. His sarcasm was more intense around them, especially on this trip; he took charge too much and was often really not pleasant. My older sister mostly enjoyed his banter and wasn’t bothered too much by him; but my younger sister had very little understanding of his difficult behavior and he angered her. I was still in my ‘But we are such good parents together, right?’ mode, and somewhat in denial, but one night (while my ex was with our son, putting him to bed), my younger sister turned to me and asked: ‘How much longer?’ I was taken aback. Then I felt shock, sadness, and anger — she and I had never even spoken about my marriage not being ‘good.’ I woke up the next day and decided, I’m out.” — Sophia, 54, magazine editor, Brooklyn
“He was a chef who owned restaurants and we were always planning our lives around his work schedule. I’m a teacher, but my job never meant anything to him. This was an annoying dynamic — the importance of his job over mine — but I dealt with it. For our two-year wedding anniversary, I planned a trip to Paris for the two of us. We really needed alone time, and to connect as a couple. I checked the dates with him and went into full planning mode. I wanted to eat at all the restaurants he studied in culinary school, and make it special for him. So I arranged the whole thing and it took time, energy and money: I got the best hotels, best reservations, everything.
A week before our trip, he nonchalantly told me we had to reschedule the vacation because there was an event at one of his venues that he wanted to participate in. I was like, ‘Um, no. You’re joking right?’ He was dead serious. In that moment, I 100 percent knew and accepted that he would never prioritize me or our marriage. He saw how his dismissal of Paris broke my heart and he still didn’t flinch. I texted my best friend that night, ‘I need a divorce lawyer.’ And the next day I told him I was leaving him. He barely fought for me to stay.”— Dafna, 32, teacher, Chicago
“I knew it was time to get divorced when my partner had another affair. He’s an actor and was always on location, and almost every single time he went away, there was something shady. Nights he wouldn’t call to check in, strange vibes with other co-stars at his premieres. I never had evidence but I had strong intuitions. I reached my breaking point when I saw a photo of him holding hands with someone — a producer on his film — on a gossip blog. Finally, some actual evidence. He tried to explain it away but in that moment, I was fully done. My parents live in San Francisco but they moved to L.A. to be closer to me and help me out with the kids, and I was so lucky to have them. It was the most painful, heart-wrenching thing I’ve ever gone through, but I’m in such a better place now — and married to a woman, which is a million times better anyway!”— Taylor, 41, stylist, Los Angeles