I Can’t Do That to Him

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” Brené Brown

One of the pervasive thoughts that keeps women stuck in indecision is that if they made the decision to end the marriage that it would destroy their husband and he would never recover. So, they assume they cannot possibly leave (and they don’t see a way to make the marriage better) so they stay and suffer.

One of my clients recently expressed this to me about her situation: “He’ll be in so much pain and I don’t think I can do that to him.”

His Experience is His

One of my clients decided to end her marriage of 31 years and it hurt her husband. He didn’t want the divorce, he didn’t want to lose his wife, but she had gotten to the point where for her there was nothing left.

Fast-forward 9 months later and her now ex-husband had stopped his excessive drinking, began working out and eating healthier and lost 55 pounds. He was feeling great in his body again and was thriving physically.

Another client decided to end the marriage of 11 years from a husband who was perpetually depressed and untrusting. Because of his fears and insecurities, he really couldn’t be present for her or their two young kids, which left her taking the lead on all things related to the kids.

Fast-forward six months later and they’re now co-parenting together and managing it beautifully. He’s now making sure they have their favorite cereal for breakfast, packing their lunches and getting them ready for school in the mornings. He even braided his daughters hair and went with her to talk to the teacher about their son.

She told me this never would have happened had they continued in their marriage. He’s now stepped-up as their father and his relationship with the kids is getting stronger every day. He’s even reading self-help books.

The reason I share that with you is because both of these men felt emotional pain when their wives made the difficult decision to end the marriage. But the emotional pain didn’t last and they fairly quickly stepped into their lives in an entirely new way.

Even when there is deep emotional pain, most don’t get lost in that pain. Eventually most people pick themselves up and move on in a new way. In each of these scenarios, I could argue that their wives choosing to leave the marriage turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to them.

We don’t know what his experience will be; we’re not fortune-tellers. And his experience is not ours to manage. We can have compassion and still honor the answer that feels right for us.

If the fear of the impact to your husband is what’s keeping you stuck, let’s see if there’s a fit for you and I to work together. If you decide that your answer is to end the marriage, you won’t let the fear of hurting a good man keep you both from stepping-up in your lives in a new way.

i cant do that to him