I Chose Divorce For A Simple Reason

I didn't recognize it at first.

Woman slightly smiling, happy to no longer be married after divorce Oko_SwanOmurphy | Canva

My marriage was crumbling. I was doing everything I could to keep it together but my home was no longer soothing. It felt cold. It felt comfortably uncomfortable. The leather chair in our home office didn't hug my body. It felt awkward and stiff as if I’d stepped into someone’s chair.

The phone rang. It was my uncle who was a priest. He was like another father to me, pun intended. He was my mother’s brother. He rescued me after my dad left me. It was his hand that reached down for mine. He was the one who held it so that I could resume skipping beside him. I owed him a debt. He filled the void of a 5-year-old’s insurmountable loss. He sang to me and with me. He made me feel like I was the most wonderful little girl in the world.


I lamented my situation with him. His voice was the first comfort I felt in my uncomfortable home. It’s hard to forget what he said next.

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I lost my mom when I was only 28 years old. I wanted to remember more of what she said to me. I wanted her back. I wanted to see the twinkle in her eyes, as she insisted I eat her shepherd’s pie. I wanted her to tell me everything was going to get better. I wanted to sit with her over a cup of tea and Irish soda bread. I craved her brand of love. Especially then, when my marriage was falling apart. I needed her.


My husband’s physical presence was an illusion. He walked past me each morning and each night. Words came out of his mouth but he was not there. He had internally walked out of our front door.

I was grateful for my uncle and that a piece of my mom was still with me. As a priest, I had never witnessed my uncle judge anyone. He was devout in his own beliefs, yet he was tolerant of everything and everyone. But he was still a priest. He could tell my joy was fading. He knew I was not being treated properly. Instead of overtly telling me to leave my husband, he implied the need to get out of a bad situation.

“The Holy Spirit gave you the gift of joy,” he said. “Do not let another human being take it from you.”

I scribbled his words on some torn paper. His health was failing, and I wanted to remember his advice. 


I Chose Divorce For A Simple ReasonPhoto: fizkes / Shutterstock

“Colleen,” he said. “You’re whole life you’ve been a happy girl, and all you’ve ever wanted is for everyone around you to be happy. But if the situation calls for it, you can be feisty.”

His last comment made me laugh. He was not wrong. I had a bit of my New York mother in me. I didn't get mad very often but I could be feisty if the situation called for it. If I thought there had been an injustice, or if I’d been pushed too far.


It was difficult for my uncle to see me unhappy. Or as I begin to refer to myself, as half-happy.

I believed I was keeping my secret. At least, from those I hadn't shared it with. I had two worlds — the outer illusion and my inner truth. The public perception and our home’s reality. I did what most people do. I hid my marital problems from the world. I was living a lie.

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One day I was on the phone with one of my high school besties. I was relaying to her what another friend had told me. I was upset enough to repeat it, but I was not exactly sure how I felt about it.


“She told me I’m not fun anymore,” I said. “I can’t believe she said that,” said my friend. “She’s not wrong,” I said.

The friend who commented had begged me to leave my husband for years. She hated that he made me cry. She hated that he ruined my birthday and other holidays. It was hard to get mad at someone when they were telling you the truth. Hurt? Yes. Her words stung and felt unkind. She had lost patience with me continuing to tolerate the intolerable.

She didn't want a half-happy friend. She wanted the happy friend she’d known. She liked her better. Can you blame her? I can’t. I liked her better too. Except, for being a little loud and talkative, she was fun. I mean over the top, joy of life, funny girl, fun.

I hid my marital issues and stayed until my friend was correct. I was half-happy. I had allowed myself to become half-happy. I thought keeping my family together demanded it. The irony? I became half-happy because I couldn’t please an unhappy man. I should clarify. He was a man who was happy, as long as I did what he wanted. As long as he was in control of everything. As long as our world was about him.


But I had dreams. I quieted them for a while until I got older. I no longer wanted to sacrifice my entire life for the vision of another human being. I had married him believing we would build our dreams together. I didn’t realize one person would take precedence over the other. I thought it would be a Yin and yang of precedence.

I didn’t see it happening. I didn’t recognize the self-sacrifice. I didn’t know that I would feel lonely living in another person’s world. Until I did.

I didn’t know my marriage, because the type of man I married, would require making another person happy to the extent it required all of my happiness. I know that sentence was a mouthful. I wrote it that way intentionally. It’s supposed to feel disjointed and be a run-on. It’s meant to verbally convey the frustration, angst, and devastation that accompanied marrying the type of man or woman that I did — A severe personality. A person who isn’t happy unless they get their way. A spoiled personality.

I was young. I married a difficult and controlling man. I didn’t realize this, nor did I understand what it would require. I didn’t know I would need to fall in line with his demands. But my nature was as my uncle said it was. I derived joy out of others being happy. I’m not touting myself. I’m not a saint. I’m human. I have lots of flaws but being high-maintenance isn’t one of them. I have the joy of life my uncle referenced. I’m typically content. I don’t require a lot. I feel naturally happy.


I took this gift for granted until I lost it. It was impossible to regain after I allowed myself to become half-happy. It was a struggle. It’s ironic. I tried so hard to make someone happy that I became unhappy myself.

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I’m not alone. There are plenty of men and women out there like me. Individuals who have married people they can’t please. I’m not speaking in the conventional married couple sense. I’m not talking about a spouse who says, “There’s no pleasing him or her,” when they haven’t tried to. I’m speaking about dealing with controlling, difficult, and spoiled people.

I’m not talking about a man who ignores his wife and then says, “There’s no pleasing her.” I’m not talking about a woman who won’t let her husband do anything and then says, “There’s no pleasing him.” You get the point. I’m talking about people who have genuinely given away their happiness to the overall cause of marriage. People stayed because they believed if they alone tried hard enough, they could save the day. One person rescuing a relationship alone. Or tolerating the intolerable from another person for too long. Until it robs them of their natural joy of life. Until they lose all perspective on whether it’s worth staying or going. Until they become comfortable with what’s uncomfortable.


We can’t make other people happy. Happiness is a personal choice. It stems from our inner being. It’s determining what we need for our fulfillment and purpose. It’s feeding our internal desires. It’s being content with who we are. It’s having a healthy self-esteem. It’s feeling as if we have some degree of control over the outcomes in our lives. It’s a sense of gratitude. It’s a feeling of optimism. It’s possessing enough self-protective instincts and boundaries to ensure this.



I had some of these things. I neglected others. All of these things stem internally. But my husband’s happiness stemmed externally. His happiness was derived by getting his way. His happiness relied on me ensuring his world operated one way. His way. There’s a word for this — Spoiled. We understand what constitutes an over-indulged child. They become demanding and grow into formidable adults. They want to be in control and are used to manipulating others. They understand how to ensure the outcome they desire. They’ve perfected it.

We can’t make another person happy. Before years of research and counseling in the fields of love and relationships, I wouldn’t have believed you. The Colleen on the phone with my uncle would have said it’s untrue. I had a long history of doing it. At least, I thought I did. I wasn’t, it was a Band-Aid. I was delaying the tantrum. Until I became half-happy. And had one myself…called divorce.


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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. Her bylines have appeared on The Good Men Project, Scary Mommy, NewsBreak, Medium, MSN, Yahoo, and MamaMia, where she writes about relationships, parenting, and divorce.