I Thought About Leaving My Husband A Million Times — But This Moment Finally Did It

There’s a moment in every marriage when the straw breaks the camel’s back.

unhappy woman with husband behind her Elena Bush / Shutterstock

I left my husband after eight years of marriage, and I foolishly returned when he promised to go to marriage counseling.

I was young. I had enough boundaries to say enough, but not enough to permanently say goodbye. 

That’s the mistake I made.

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When we are young we are still complete individuals. 

We haven’t yet fully morphed into this body of two that is seemingly inescapable.


We are feisty. We have a little screw-you in us. We still think we can do it all.

The idea of being alone isn’t remotely frightening.

But because I stayed, it began a cycle that most marital misery leads to: the million times you think about leaving before you do.

It’s the result of staying a couple of decades into a marriage.

You put up with things you swore you would never put up with. You become familiar with unhappiness.

You tolerate the intolerable ebb and flow of a relationship that’s not working.

You give a person a million chances, which is what leads to the million times you think about leaving.


They say that most people won’t tell you they left for an expected reason. Instead, they will say they just don’t know why they finally left.

One day their spouse left the cap off of the toothpaste and they just lost it and walked out.

I believe this.

It happened to me.

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The covert reason I was going to leave my husband was because it felt lonely being married to him. The overt reason was that once I told him I was unhappy and lonely and thinking of leaving, I unconsciously started a war.

My husband began uncharacteristically drinking and getting angry.

It was intolerable and something I was unwilling to live with.


But I didn’t leave.

I told myself he didn’t have a long history of this behavior. He must be a good person in a bad place.

How could I leave him like this? How could I end our relationship based on behavior he had never exhibited?

But don’t get me wrong, I kicked him out the first time he scared my kids and me.

He left for three months and then promised he would go to counseling. The problem is that began a cycle.

He wouldn’t keep his word and I would again tell him that either he address what was bothering him, stop drinking, go to counseling or leave.

Each time he chose to walk out that door while our children cried beside me.

But I wasn’t really leaving my husband.


These were still a part of the million times I thought about leaving.

The times I felt lonely, the times he ruined holidays, the times he ignored me, the times he hurt me the same way over and over again, the times he made me cry, and the times he was cold and cruel. 

I thought about leaving a million times.

I even visited a divorce attorney.

But I didn’t want a divorce. I wanted him to leave for a few months and realize what his priorities were and address whatever was making him act so unlike himself. I wanted to stay married.

I loved my husband, but I was miserable.

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And then one day it happened: He left the proverbial top off of the toothpaste.

We were driving our oldest son to college and my husband wouldn’t stop complaining. At fifty, he declared he was too old to be making this nine-hour drive.

I tried to joke at first saying there are 90-year-olds who drive themselves to Florida. 


I turned to see our son’s expression in the backseat of the car.

His look of sadness infuriated me.

I told my husband he was making our son feel bad and he needed to stop.

My husband didn’t stop. He just wouldn’t put the cap back on the toothpaste.

It seemed like a little thing complaining about a drive. It wasn’t as covert as being lonely or as overt as drinking and being cold and cruel.

But it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

I got home from that weekend and made an appointment with a divorce attorney.

I thought about leaving my husband a million times before I did.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes bout love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.