12/09/2010 10:43 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One Woman's Story of How She Dropped the D-Word

Things had been not great for a while when I started thinking about leaving him. We weren't fighting, we weren't at each others' throats, we both just seemed to be getting casual with our marriage. So it didn't surprise me that when I said "I'm just not happy with this relationship", his response was "Ohh, that's too bad", followed by another few moments of eating in silence before changing the subject. It made a weird sort of sense that when I asked for space, I was able to move onto the futon in our living room without a single protest from him about how he wanted to sleep in the same bed with me. My vocalization of unhappiness, like a lot of things in our relationship on both sides, passed without much fanfare.

Our decision to marry wasn't completely insane. Before I started realizing that marriage- no, that love meant feeling passionately about someone, and that never fighting with a spouse was not something to brag about, we had gotten along just fine. We were good friends, we supported each other, we had similar values- all the good stuff. What was lacking was any interest in each other's thoughts, hopes, fears, or dreams, and I didn't realize how big of a deal that was until well after we were married.

We'd moved from our comfort zone of friends who lived in our building to a new town where we knew no one and had to strike out on our own. Instead of forging new ground as a team, we explored our surroundings separately. Slowly, forcing each other to hang out with the friends we'd made at our respective jobs fell away, and our social lives diverged. Getting home by dinner time, or even by bedtime, stopped mattering. I would feel a twinge sometimes that we should be talking about the fact that we seemed to be functioning so happily without each other, but it seemed too awkward, and the house was already so quiet. It seemed easier not to make a sound.

The silence helped me to realize that I felt completely and totally outside of my own decaying marriage, and I couldn't seem to find a way back in. I couldn't look at him and conjure up those old feelings of love and affection, I couldn't figure out how to approach "us" as a unit anymore. Seeing him just felt sad.

I put myself in therapy, started talking out the logistics, informed my family of what I wanted to do, and began scraping the little bit of money I made into a "moving out" fund. I mentioned one day that I was unhappy and added that I wanted to do something about it, and he told me to do what I needed to do. I found a roommate on craigslist and picked a day to move in. Our conversations had dwindled down to basics about getting cat food.

I picked an evening, practiced saying the word "divorce" in the mirror, coached myself on how I would stay calm, and then waited for him to get home. I sat him down and told him that I would be moving out of the house and filing for separation. We hadn't slept in the same bed in about two months, hadn't touched in possibly longer, and after I told him, it was the first time he looked at me in the face in as long as I could remember. It was as if he remembered that I was a person again, rather than a housepet that was indoor/outdoor, and increasingly outdoor. It felt nice to be noticed again, and to notice him again, even if what I saw was complete and utter shock. I told him that I respected him and that I didn't want to do him wrong financially or any other way, and he started to cry. I asked him if he was happy in our marriage and he again looked shocked, as if it hadn't occurred to him to even wonder. My insides churned.
He begged me to stay, begged me to change my mind, begged me to go to couples counseling, and I cried as I told him that I couldn't do any of that for him. I knew I'd made mistakes by not speaking up more, not speaking up sooner, and not fighting for my own affection. For better or worse, I was simply done, and I apologized that I didn't know how to open my heart back up again.

After about an hour of discussing the basics and crying, he asked what we should do then. I suggested that I needed some air, so we walked together down to a gay bar a few doors down from our apartment. We'd never been there before, and the bar was stuffed with a colorful regular clientele. After a few minutes of sitting there quietly, a man near us casually asked if we were married, and when we responded that we were about to divorce, he studied our tired, tear-stained faces, and decided that we were telling the truth.

For the next two hours, every single person in the bar told us their thoughts on love, and on marriage, and on the seriousness of a partnership with another human being. They weren't being pushy or preachy, somehow they just realized that we needed confirmation that we were doing the right thing. Drag queens, gay men, lesbians, and everything in between- we soaked it in, let their romantic ideas wash over us. We nodded quietly and sipped our drinks, as they were speaking a language that we could no longer understand with each other.

After everyone was talked out, we walked to a home that would soon no longer be our home, our heads stuffed with other people's words, with fear for the future. But for me, it was a fear of being alone, and not a fear of being without him, which confirmed for me that I was doing the right thing. And on top of the fear was a thought of being independent again, of taking care of myself and learning how better to take care of someone else someday. I looked forward to the thought of never again letting a relationship with someone I cared about get this far out of my grasp again. I settled onto the futon for the last time. "I think you're right" he said, just before he closed the door to his bedroom. "I think this may be the best thing to do".