Leaving a man you’ve loved for years isn’t just a physical move out of the house…it’s a painful emotional break. These tips on how to leave a man you love but can’t live with will help you decide if it’s time to say good-bye.
Here’s how one woman describes her struggle: “My husband and I were married for 17 years when we separated,” says Shannon on Does He Love You? 7 Signs Your Marriage is Over. “This year I filed for divorce but he reached out to me and told me he wants to save our marriage. When we were married there were no issues relating to abuse or infidelity, but there were issues relating to commitment to family and putting family first. When we were married I felt like I was both the man and the woman of the home, I felt alone, single most of the time, and very unhappy. I worked from home, so I would stay on my computer much later past the end of the work day. In many ways I blamed myself, as I let some of the issues go on for much longer and allowed my husband to make excuses for him not pulling his weight in the home. He wants to work on our marriage now, but I feel like it’s too late. I’m exhausted. How do I leave this man after all these years?”
I don’t have any answers, but I do have a few thoughts to share. Below are my questions and ideas for women who are considering leaving their husbands, plus more of Shannon’s story…
“My husband and I took vacations at different times during the year,” she says, “because I planned mine around the kids’ schedule and he did not. I hated my life after a while, I would get upset when he came home, and I just wanted to be alone, since this was how I felt in the relationship. We tried marriage counseling, but the therapist was inconsistent and so was my husband. My husband would not move out of our rented home, so I took the kids and left.”
Before reading my tips, remember what Gloria Steinem said: “If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?”
If your marriage doesn’t suit you, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have no choice but to change yourself or leave the relationship. For example, you may need to change how you think about your circumstances. How? By going to a different relationship therapist, or exploring marriage coaching instead of counseling. Perhaps you need to try on a few different pairs of shoes before you make any decisions about separation or divorce.
Or, maybe you just need to leave.
How to Leave a Man You’ve Loved for Years
Here are some suggestions for leaving a relationship that’s been over for years, inspired by Shannon’s experience with her husband.
“After months of silence and being separated, we are in communication because of our three year old,” she says. “We have been open about dating other people during the time that we were apart, as I felt there was definitely someone out there who could be a better man to me. At present we are no longer dating other people, and I feel like I owe it to my husband to see how he has changed and to see if there is a chance for us.”
Face the fear of not finding love again – but don’t let fear control you
I’ve been stuck in bad relationships because I was scared nobody else would love me. I didn’t realize that there are plenty of good men who would love to love me, and who would be good for me! My self-esteem and self-confidence was rock bottom, and it held me back from moving on to bigger and better men. Before you can leave a man you’ve loved for years, you need to face your fears of being alone.
Maybe you’ll find happiness in another relationship…and maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll spend a few years as a single woman, or maybe you’ll find that you prefer to remain single for longer than that. Use this time to reconnect with yourself, to learn who you are, and to grow into a healthy, strong, joyful woman of God.
If you’re anxious about not finding another man, read How to Deal With Your Fear of Being Alone.
Deal with guilty feelings for leaving the man you’ve loved for years
Sometimes women stay in bad relationships because they feel guilty, or don’t want to leave their boyfriends or husbands in a bad financial, emotional, or social situation. This is misplaced guilt and faulty reasoning! Don’t let negative emotions such as fear of what people will think, fear of criticism, or guilt and shame keep you trapped in a bad relationship.
If you do struggle with guilt, find ways to work through it. Write about how you feel. Talk to a counselor. Share your thoughts with your wisest, most trustworthy friends and family members. Give it to God. Take time to be alone with yourself, and listen to your still small voice. Who are you, where are you going, and how do you want to live? These are all valid thoughts that need to be explored if you’re thinking about leaving a man you’ve loved for years or decades.
What decision brings you alive?
When you’re thinking about leaving a man you’ve loved for years, you may be focusing on the negatives and fears. Give yourself time to focus on the answers that bring life, joy, peace, and healing to your existence.
I don’t have any answers for you – I can’t tell you exactly how to leave the man you’ve loved for years – but I do have a few questions to help you work through the process. You’ll find that finding your own answers has a much greater effect than asking for advice – especially since I really don’t know enough about you or your marriage to tell you what to do.
Clarifying questions about your relationship:
- How is your relationship affecting your behavior, thoughts and emotions?
- How does staying in this relationship keep you safe?
- How does this relationship give you power and control?
- What would you experience if you gave this relationship up – if you left this man?
- What would it take to make this relationship painful enough that you’re ready to leave today?
- Which path – staying in this relationship or dealing with the loss and grief of a breakup – leads to more life, possibilities, and purpose?
Go where the life is. Find ways to clear noise and clutter of unhealthy attachments, bad relationships, unhappy people. Listen to the still small voice of God – of divine wisdom and power! Be quiet so you can hear.
Accept the help you need to leave the man you’ve loved for years
Here’s a sobering thought from Gloria Steinem: “If women have young children, they are one man away from welfare.”
You may need to apply for social assistance or accept financial help from the government – but that is better than staying in a bad, unhealthy, or abusive relationship. When I was a child, my mother and I were on welfare for most of my childhood – but my mom was single, free, and independent (well, as independent as you can be when you rely on the government for support). I’d much rather have grown up on welfare than with her in an unhappy marriage.
Own up to the choices you’ve made and aren’t making. Don’t let past decisions ruin your future, or affect your decision on whether you should leave this man you’ve loved for years. You will grieve the losses that accompany the pain of emotionally detaching from someone you care about, but you will be alive and growing a healthier future. You will be Blossoming.
Start asking questions
“God may be in the details, but the goddess is in the questions,” said Steinem. “Once we begin to ask them, there’s no turning back.”
Where do you want to be living in a year from now? What do you want to be doing? Who do you want to be loving – and who do you want loving you? Often, focusing on our goals – our wish list – can give us motivation and strength to do what we need to do…even if it involves letting go of someone we love.
Asking questions opens up new possibilities, new ways of thinking, new ways of being in the world. Also, I recently learned that women respond to love in different ways than men, which makes it even more difficult to find the strength to leave a man you’ve loved forever. Is it possible that you can figure out how to leave a man you love but can’t live with by learning how he gives and receives love?
Questions to ask yourself about your life:
- Who am I now…and who do I want to become?
- If not now, when?
- Who do I admire?
- What did I want my life to be like when I was young, naïve, idealistic, passionate?
Questions leaving a man who isn’t good for you:
- What am I getting out of this relationship, which I know is bad for me?
- Who is watching me in this relationship – my kids, nieces, neighbors, family members, friends? What are they learning about me, about life?
- What would I do about this relationship if I knew I would not fail?
You don’t need to know the answers to these questions right now. Just sit with them, let them simmer in the back of your mind. Write your thoughts in your private journal. One day, you’ll be ready to make a decision to be strong and leave your partner…or be strong in a different way, and stay.
Are you struggling to find the strength to leave a man you’ve loved for years? I encourage you to listen to your heart and your instincts, and do what it takes to create a life that makes you happy and fulfilled.
Back to Shannon’s story:
“I know sometimes it is said that we should not stay in a marriage for the kids, but I feel like I have an obligation to try,” she says. “I want to see if we can reconcile to make our family whole. We live separately, and I do not feel that this should change at this point. He has asked me out, and he comes to spend a few hours with us. We plan on starting counseling. I want to take things slow, I feel really confused about everything and the reconciliation process, I am just taking baby steps at this point. I don’t think this is just because I don’t know how to leave a man I’ve loved for years…I really think I’m doing this for our family as a whole.”
How to Know When to Leave a Man
Deal Breakers: When to Work On a Relationship and When to Walk Away by Dr. Bethany Marshall can help you decide if you want to leave this man you’ve loved for years. Knowing if it’s time to go is a difficult decision, even in the most toxic relationships.
This book will help you decide what’s a deal breaker – things you can’t live with – and what you can live with because you don’t want to leave the man you love.
I welcome your thoughts on how to leave a man you’ve loved for years, but I can’t offer personal advice or counseling. It might help to write how you feel about leaving your marriage, though, and perhaps get feedback from others. Writing is an excellent way to figure out how you feel, and to process your emotions.
If you struggle with your emotional connection but know you need to leave him, read How to Let Go of Someone You Love.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.