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6 Tips to Help You Let Go and Move on When Your Marriage Is Over

Janis has extensive experience as a licensed professional counselor in assisting clients recover from the pain of unhealthy relationships.

The dreams held on the wedding day don't always last. They slowly fade during the course of a bad marriage.

The dreams held on the wedding day don't always last. They slowly fade during the course of a bad marriage.

Making Your Final Decision

There is a saying which goes, "all good things must come to an end." However, when two people make a promise of eternal love and fidelity to each other through the union of marriage, they expect the good to last forever. No one gets married to separate or to get a divorce. Most individuals take their vows seriously and expect to stay married as they plan to share hopes and dreams as one.

So when a final decision is made to end a marriage due to insurmountable circumstances, it is said to be one of the most painful forms of grief a person will experience, riddled with a myriad of feelings. Those circumstances usually include issues that cause deep-seated wounds such as:

  • a broken trust or deception
  • betrayal or infidelity
  • repeated abusive behavior

The ideal in most cases of marital conflict would be to stay married and work it out. It is not the preferred choice of the individual or couple to end their marriage, but there comes a time when long-standing denial dissolves and the reality of the situation comes clearly into focus. The couple realizes they've tried everything available to them to save their marriage, but too much damage has occurred. The eleventh hour has passed and it is time to move on, as difficult as that decision might be.

The poem at the end of this article illustrates the acceptance of this harsh reality. This acknowledgement marks the demise of a marriage which has come to an end. Coping tips are offered to assist you as you move through this difficult period.

Accepting the End: 6 Tips to Help You Cope and Move On

This article is dedicated to those individuals and couples who fought valiantly to save their marriages but it just wasn't in the cards. As long as you know in your heart you did everything to save your marriage, you've done enough. Here are a few suggestions to help you transition from being married to starting over and rebuilding your life:

  1. See your marriage as having had a purpose in your life that has run its course; make a list of what you've learned, how you've grown from the experience, and what you've gained from the challenges; use these insights for self-exploration and future relationship success.
  2. Acknowledge a mixture of contradicting emotions and allow yourself to feel each one, e.g., anger, loss, sadness, guilt, relief, failure, abandonment, fear and liberation.
  3. Monitor the duration of these emotions which may indicate serious symptoms of depression; contact a professional healthcare provider if the feelings worsen over several weeks and months, affecting your ability to function.
  4. Consider seeing a therapist to assist you in getting through grieving the loss of your marriage; coping with the end of a marriage is sometimes compared to the process of mourning a death.
  5. Connect with good friends for social support; try to stay active with your church, civic groups, and clubs; engage in hobbies and recreational activities; seek out therapeutic support groups if necessary.
  6. Count the blessings and cherish the good memories of your marriage; recalling the positive parts of your marriage history will help with the healing process by reminding you that it was not all in vain.

A Poem About the End of a Marriage: "The Vow"

Our vow as one, sealed with a kiss before God,

Held all of the promise of a newborn child,

Full of purity and innocence

The box of promise we created on that day

Beautifully wrapped in hope, adorned with

Ribbons of commitment and topped with

A bow of caring love, has fallen from the mantle

After years of neglect, the wrapping paper crinkled,

The ribbon tattered and bow crushed

The box reminds us of what might have been

With eyes wide open, we now see the truth of our marriage:

Something old cannot always be cherished,

Something new can bring painful revelation,

Something borrowed can become bruised and not returnable,

Something blue can evoke unending moods of sadness.

Our vow as one, sealed with a kiss before God,

Once holding all of the promise of a newborn child,

Lost its purity and its innocence.


Wedding Day Gone Awry - Therapists Share Their Expertise

When a Marriage is Really Over

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do I get my husband to come back home? My husband is 57, and I'm 43. He hasn't been affectionate, and we don't have sex. He is behind on paying bills. I got angry and asked him to leave. It was really ugly on my side. I totally lost it. Now I'm sitting here in a fetal position, and he has only been gone a day. I've tried to call him, but he won't even answer

Answer: It sounds like the focus should be on getting support for yourself. Counseling would help you sort through the feelings of pain and loss as you work toward deciding how to move forward without him. Marriage counseling would be an option as well.

Question: My wife of 10 years had an affair with another man for two months and then left me for another month to be with him before coming back and asking for my forgiveness. I really wanted to forgive her but I think the reason why she did what she did might be because we weren't really in love anymore and our connection had faded over the course of a few years. Why do I still feel so bad about not wanting to give it another chance even though 6 months have passed and I'm seeing someone else?

Answer: It sounds like the you still have an emotional connection to her even though you've moved on. Ten years is a long time to be with someone and not have an intense bond, even if you were no longer in love. Be gentle with yourself and take your time while you grieve the loss of a relationship that meant a lot to you in spite of the betrayal. You had hopes and dreams for a marriage with her that ended after a long investment, disrupted by broken trust. It had to have been emotionally devastating. In time, you will heal as you let go of the connection and move forward.

Question: Will my ex ever come back? We have a 15-month-old toddler.

Answer: It is very difficult when children are involved. The welfare of small children should always be the priority in a decision to end a marriage. You ask, "Will he ever come back?" He should definitely come back to continue his co-parenting duties.

Question: My wife says she doesn’t want to be married anymore and that she needs space. Should I move out of our home?

Answer: Before you make any decisions about moving out, it should be clear what "needing space" means. It may be that some things may need to be changed, resolved, forgiven, or improved upon. This could be addressed in marriage counseling. If the situation has come to a place where there appears to be no possibility of saving the marriage, then you can make your decision with a better understanding of what went wrong.

Question: My husband asked for time and space, but he said he will never leave me. What does this mean?

Answer: Needing time and space is a type of marital separation that doesn't necessarily mean the end of a marriage. Time away can help each person gain new perspective and opportunity for self-exploration. However, it needs to be clearly defined as to what "time away" means so that the goals are the same. Parameters need to be set with the intention of maintaining the integrity of the marital vows. For example, if the intent is to gain perspective and stay together, fidelity must be agreed upon jointly.

On the other hand, if "time and space" for your husband is a precursor to formal separation and divorce, then that is a reality that you will eventually have to accept. It is imperative that he communicate his intentions to you to not give you mixed messages.

Question: Me and my wife were married for 15 years and we have 8 sons now she says our marriage is over. I have tried to talk to her but she won't talk to me at all I think she is seeing someone else and I think she has spent the night with him I just can't let go I am still so much in love with her but she said she doesn't love me anymore. What do I do now that she doesn't love me anymore?

Answer: It hurts badly when a spouse has moved on from their romantic feelings toward their spouse. Your pain will not subside anytime soon so it's best for you to get help for yourself to address the grief and loss. After you take care of your own pain, you may want to suggest couples counseling to your wife to help both of you resolve any resentments and begin working on a co-parenting partnership. With a big family, you will need each other for parenting.

Question: While I was pregnant my husband cheated with mutiple women. I was informed on my birthday by her husband that our spouses have been having a relationship for a year. We have been together for ten years and have two children. He left and rented an apartment on my birthday and has not returned since. Do you think I should let go and move on as well?

Answer: I'm sure the hurt and betrayal you've experienced cuts deep. Making your decision about when to let go of your marriage will be affected by the betrayal you've endured and at what point you've had enough. You will need to weigh the pros and cons of staying based on whether the two of you, as a couple, decide to repair the damage and save your marriage. His decision to leave and rent an apartment gives you information about where he stands. I encourage you to take some time to process the impact this betrayal has had on you, with the help of a good counselor, who will help you grieve from the pain and empower you the make the best decision. I wish you healing and peace.

Question: How do I let go of my wedding vows? My wife left and never looked back. I’m having a hard time letting go of my wedding vows. I keep wondering if this is just a trial. I feel it’s unfair to anyone new that I date that I already promised to love someone for better or worse in front of god and the world.

Answer: Excellent question, one of the most difficult to reconcile when a marriage ends. This comes up often with spouses who are religious and regard the vow not just to each other but to God, family, and friends. It can leave one feeling guilty and ashamed of not being able to keep the promise.

The question I present to spouses struggling with this is, "Was it your choice to leave the marriage?" If not, allow yourself to let go of some of the guilt and shame about breaking the vow, especially if it was not what you wanted. A vow takes two; if your wife chose to break hers, you are relieved on your end. In time, you can grieve the end of your marriage vow, heal from the hurt, and open your heart to the possibility of making another promise to love with God's blessing.

Question: My husband said he wants out of our marriage. He said I should divorce him, or he will divorce me. But till now he still hasn't filed for divorce. What should I do?

Answer: You have to weigh the pros and cons of making the best decision for you and not base it on him. The best first step is to get legal advice on your options. You may also have to prepare yourself emotionally to accept the state of your marriage so you can move forward. Grief counseling may be beneficial.

Question: My husband and I no longer have a connection. Should I divorce my husband?

Answer: I cannot answer that question as it is a very personal decision. I do, however, recommend that you seek counseling to weigh the pros and cons of whatever decision you make about your marriage. Divorce is final and should be considered with discernment.

Question: We have been separated since October, our 3rd anniversary. We got into a big argument, and I called the police to resolve the situation. He has a drinking habit and said some ugly disrespectful things. He has gotten the majority of his belongings. In the beginning, I was so hurt; I love him so much. So I called him every day, and popped up at his job unannounced because he was ignoring me! I asked if he slept around, he said no, but he will not tell me where he is currently living. What should I do?

Answer: Your situation sounds very volatile at the moment. I would encourage you not to make any decisions out of emotion, anger, or desperation. Your separation is still fresh, and you may need more time to process your devastation and hurt. The tension between you and your estranged husband needs time to abate without any further provocation. I would suggest you begin healing by seeking out a good counselor to help you explore options by utilizing confidential support services in your community. Thanks for reading, I wish you peace.

Question: How do I know when is the time to move on from my relationship? I’ve been married for 2 years now, I have 2 kids. Since the beginning, we have had issues. We take a 2 months break, get back together, but he verbally abuses me. I want to get a divorce. What should I do about my marriage?

Answer: It sounds like the best course of action for you is to weigh the pros and cons of staying in an unhealthy marriage. What do you need for yourself and for your children and are those needs worth the sacrifices you have to make in order to maintain the family? You will need to take some time with a good counselor to help you sort through these issues before you can make a decision.

Question: My husband is leaving me. He is dating and with his mistress now. We haven’t finalized the divorce yet, how do I move on, date and see others with an infant and 4 small children? It is painful to see him happy with her and I’m not. I don’t have the time with a baby and I miss romantic interactions.

Answer: You're in a very difficult transition as you grieve the loss of your companion to an affair while having to take on family responsibilities alone. It would make sense that dating is not your priority right now. What may help is the support of family, friends, community, and a counselor to help you get through this period of betrayal and hurt. Take your time, move through it with support as you come to terms with the loss.

Question: Should I end our relationship because my husband has twice lied to me about his other women?

Answer: It's impossible to give you a 'yes' or 'no' answer. You have to look at how each decision will impact your life. Staying or leaving both have pros and cons, depending on your situation. I will say that if you're hurting, no longer happy, feeling betrayed or stuck and nothing has changed, it's time to make some decisions. Consider counseling for yourself or for the both of you. Couples counseling doesn't necessarily have to save a marriage but can give the couple a neutral place to explore with a professional, what options are available and what's not working in your marriage. I wish you peace and eventual resolve.

Question: I have been with my husband for six years. We have two kids but every Saturday he doesn't sleep home. Where could he be sleeping?

Answer: It sounds like you're looking to be validated for what you already suspect. There are several guesses you could entertain, for example, is he working a part-time job, hanging out with his buddies, drinking and unable to return home, or is he having an affair. Maybe it's time for you to confront him about this Saturday pattern to confirm your suspicions. If you're at a point of making a decision about letting go of your marriage, talking to a counselor may help. Weighing the pros and cons of such a decision takes time and discernment. Sitting down with a counselor to assist you in exploring your options might be helpful.

Question: My wife and I have been married for 18 years and have 2 children. I went to prison for a year and a half. She got pregnant by someone else, had an abortion but blames me for everything. I told her I still love her and willing to look past that but now it seems every conversation we have, she's always angry at me. Is my marriage over? I think she's just trying to start an argument to justify her leaving. Is there anything I could do to save my marriage or should I move on?

Answer: There are so many levels of betrayal, deception, resentment, and anger to sort through. Your situation is complicated which makes it difficult to make a decision. I hope you have taken the time to work through the grief of watching your marriage sustain so much damage. You will need to take time for yourself to explore whether it's worth saving at this point if you're the only one who wants to save it. You might try marriage counseling so that both of you can address these unresolved issues in order to make a decision.

Question: We have been married for 14 years but we havent slept together for 8 years now. My husband has total control of all the finances and I am unemployed. He is very controlling to the point that my family members can't visit me. My husband has been diagnosed with ADHD and takes medication. He is also a hoarder and heavy drinker. I want a divorce. What can I do?

Answer: These are very heavy issues in your marriage. You will not be able to make a decision alone. You will need lots of support, hopefully from family and friends. You could also benefit from seeing a counselor, one-on-one, to help you sort through the negative impact your marriage has had on you. A counselor can also help you identify resources in your area that will provide support from your community. These resources can assist you with decision-making. I wish you the best, thanks for reading.

Question: What is it if your partner won't have sex with you?

Answer: This is a very broad question. It could indicate many things. Without more information, I could not attempt to guess and give you an inadequate answer. I suggest you seek out a good counselor with whom you could go into more depth over a number of sessions as it relates to deciphering reasons for your relational problem.

© 2014 Janis Leslie Evans