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How to Leave a Man You Love – But Can’t Live With

How to Leave a Man You Love

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

How to Leave a Man You Love

How to Leave a Man You Love – But Can’t Live With

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.”

How to Leave a Man You Love - But Can't Live With

How to Leave a Man You Love – But Can’t Live With

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

How to Leave a Man You Love – But Can’t Live WithDeal 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.

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250 thoughts on “How to Leave a Man You Love – But Can’t Live With”

  1. my husband cheated on me for 3 and half yrs with the same woman he would spend the weekend with her and also he say he going to work and go to her house and don’t go to work loose his job by been at her house and not going to work she told him don’t come over if he don’t have no money.He paid bills at home then she spend the rest of his money he has until he get paid again and he kept going over her house he loose two jobs behinds her the last job he lost was in OCT of 2018 that when she said he will be back when he get a job.He started back to work the end of April 2019 but he not working now do to an injury she text me on my free phone the day after Christmas and told me to tell him he don’t have to answer his his phone are come over and give her some money for Christmas and he don’t have to come over no more he won’t answer his phone. I said he won’t have a phone because he can’t pay the bill without a job and i’m not paying it every time he called her she will call me and when he came over she would let me no that i can’t stop him from coming to her house and that he will always be her man and one day they will have a child together she told her friend that she mad at him because he hasn’t call her are came over to see her. I was there when her friend told my husband but her friend don’t no that I was his wife he said I was his cousin and I gave another name the woman that in love with my husband live in glad stone missouri and my husband don;t go no where unless my mom are my aunt call my phone for him and they pay him gas money are his son come and get him car don’t run on air and she won’t put gas in it and he don’t have no money.

  2. Hi I’ve been with a man for 3 and a half years and have a 4 month old baby with him. In the beginning things were amazing and I was more in love than I had ever been after about a year he stopped trying, he spends all his time playing computer games and working and even before baby was born our relationship was lacking physical intimacy. This is a 38 year old man not a teenage boy, I resent him for making me feel so alone throughout pregnancy and now. I’m not sure if I still love him though he says he loves me. He’s said he’ll work on us a hundred times but nothing changes. If I leave him I’ll move in with my mum for a while until I can get my own place but that move will make it hard for him to see his son as he works nights and it will also add financial pressure on him as hell have to pay more rent. I’d feel guilty about these things. Should I stay and try and work on it?

  3. Wait, why can’t you go out anywhere by yourself? Are you disabled? Does he stalk you or something? Is it actually dangerous to go alone to the store or work or whatever? Or did you mean, “I FEEL as though I can’t…”?

    That might be a good place to start: maybe add, “I feel as though…” before those, “I can’t” statements, to help you break free of the idea that it’s not even worth trying, because it’s just impossible. “I can’t” is a LIE we tell ourselves often when we know it will be hard, so we avoid starting.

    Maybe question why you use such self-defeating language to emphasize your feelings of conflict and desperation… because “can’t” is not really the truth, it’s deceptive thinking. I think you need to challenge those passionate but inaccurate thoughts with reality.

    For instance, why do you feel like you “can’t live without him?” Is he just so entrenched in your life that it’s exhausting trying to remove him? (If that’s the issue, take it one thing at a time, in bite-sized pieces.) In reality, you were born without him, you CAN live without him. The question is, why are you choosing not to (at least partially)? What is it you get out of the relationship with him? What do you feel you need that he gives you?

    He “still” controls you, implying that he controlled you when you lived together, too. So ask yourself why you are *allowing* him to control you? Is it easier than making your own choices? Is it just what you’re used to, so you’re comfortable with it? Is it something else? What do you think would happen if you stayed out, and let the phone ring unanswered at night? If you do want freedom from him, delete him from your social media and phone, email, etc., change your number, and/or block his if he keeps calling. Relax in the peace, meditate, read, dance, rearrange the furniture, have a friend over and order pizza, or whatever gives you peace of mind and a feeling of satisfaction in making your own choices. Then DISTRACT yourself by doing something YOU enjoy, or something that takes focus and concentration, so you can’t let your mind wander back to him.

    You might try telling yourself you don’t WANT to go over to his place just to end up miserable on Monday (not “I shouldn’t,” but, “Ugh, I don’t want to feel miserable later,”), and plan an enjoyable, fun weekend–and don’t tell him where you are, either. Can you make plans for the weekend with someone else you won’t cancel on (a new friend, if necessary, or volunteer where you’re needed, or maybe ask for overtime at work, etc.)? Can you take a weekend trip to see out-of-town family, or take a Girl’s Weekend with a friend? Heck, if you’re anywhere near me, I’d go, assuming I don’t already have plans…… 😉

    “Love is patient, love is kind…” Do you know that Bible verse? I read something a while back that I found helpful. It suggested taking that verse, and replacing every instance of “love” with the person’s name. “Joe is patient, Joe is kind…” etc. (You can do it with your own name, as well, and see how well you love, too.) I can tell you, just from what you’ve written here, that he doesn’t love you. He might be passionate about you, he might like spending time with you, he might miss you when you’re gone… but he’s not willing to make the kinds of sacrifices for you that love requires.

    Give yourself a chance to get to know YOU, without his influence. Who are you, what do you want from yourself, from a relationship, from life? Do you like yourself? If so, remind yourself why, and it may be easier to let go of this guy who doesn’t love you. If you don’t like yourself, then maybe you’ve figured out why you run back to him, and maybe taking the steps to be your own woman would be a good beginning. And you can work on becoming the best version of yourself, a person you do like and can be happy being.

    You’re already out; you did the hard part. The only real way to know if you truly “can’t” live without him… is to actually TRY living (and here I mean truly LIVING, not just surviving) without him for a while and see what happens (just make sure you give it enough time to grieve the relationship, and work on doing things you enjoy, not dwelling on the past). One day at a time. You CAN do this. 🙂

  4. So he thinks threatening you with a firearm is no big deal? Does he think the LAW would see it that way? Maybe he could try that kind of threat with a police officer, or someone carrying a firearm. No? Why, because it might be TAKEN SERIOUSLY by any normal, rational human being, and he’d either stop that stupidity and backtrack immediately, or find himself faced with a real firearm! Yet, you’re somehow okay to threaten in the same way, and he dismisses your completely normal reaction as “dramatic,” as though you’re overreacting, so that he feels like the “reasonable” one. But he’s not. Reasonable people don’t threaten to pull a gun, even when faced with a breakup, or even a divorce!

    Your feelings are absolutely correct. You are not being selfish or unloving or unreasonable or overreacting by leaving him. You’re smart to get out now! Do what you must to survive, but make a plan and do quietly get out of there. Don’t warn him or tell him you’re planning to leave, as he could just take that threat up a notch. If he’d only done it once, in the heat of an argument, and then apologized as soon as you brought it up (or before you did), then I could maybe see giving him one more chance, depending on the situation. But more than once, AND dismissing you like it’s no big deal? Yikes!

    There is absolutely NO justification for those kinds of threats. You know it, I know it, and he should know it. Being scared when someone says something like that is NOT being dramatic; that is being a normal human being, responding just as most people would. If he really doesn’t mean it, wouldn’t ever really pull a gun on you, and if there’s no reason to fear what he says… then there’s also NO REASON for him to make such a meaningless threat and, at BEST, he’s lying to control you! As I stated before, any NORMAL, rational human being would feel fear and take it seriously when someone threatens to point a gun at them. Especially when they say it more than once!

    That is not just him “being dramatic” when he makes a threat to keep you in line, either; it’s manipulative, verbally and emotionally abusive, irresponsible, and dismissive of your feelings (which is another red flag)! It’s not at all “cute” or excusable in any way. It’s toxic. And if he can’t see how WRONG it is to make threats like that to control you, it will NOT get better. As soon as you stop taking that threat seriously, he’ll likely have to step it up to the next level (like threatening to kill himself, or threatening you with a gun in his hand), so that he can get that control back, scaring you into submission again. That’s not love, that’s not a relationship–that’s tyranny. And it’s certainly not a good foundation for a marriage!

    I’m sure you already know all of this, but sometimes it helps to hear someone else confirm it.

    Especially when the guy you’re supposed to be able to trust, who is supposed to love you and protect you, is telling you that your feelings are invalid, and that questioning his bad behavior is wrong. How is THAT reasonable or respectful? Of course you care about him, and you want him to love and trust and protect you, too. But it’s in conflict with what he’s saying, and that’s hard to accept. And it hurts.

    If someone else asked about it, he’d likely say he “didn’t really mean it,” that he “would never really do it,” maybe even that “you should know” that he wasn’t serious. Then WHY threaten it in the first place? Because it works, because he knows in the moment you WILL think he’s serious, you’ll be afraid of him and back down, and then he “wins.” Because he wants to shut down the conversation because it makes him feel vulnerable or afraid or whatever, and he doesn’t like that feeling, and he wants to feel strong and in control, and that threat makes him feel like he could keep you from leaving, even if you’re a prisoner or slave instead of an equal.

    You should never have to live with someone who threatens you OR dismisses your reasonable concerns like that. You should be able to feel safe in your home and in your relationship. He should treat you as an equal, not someone to control and dominate with fear. You are NOT the one who’s being irrational or unreasonable here.

    But you know that already. Trust yourself.

  5. I have been married for 8 years no and dated my husband 2 years before that but I feel Like his been hiding his true self while dating. Being married to him so exhausting I can’t take it anymore am so depressed and so sad all the time. We have 4 kids age 2-7 very young. He treats us so bad. About 4 months ago I found out about him having another family and used all our savings on paying back his depth and his family. While I have been struggling with kids, school and working while pregnant I feel so betrayed by him and his abusing me financially and verbally and emotionally. I been trying to move out but I have no money and job me and the kids are struggling so much while his over planning on going to vacation to visit his other family. I just want a divorce but he won’t I feel like this marriage is not good for me his never home talks shiit about me to everyone including his family. His family they are all disrespectful to me and he never says anything to them. He never helps with the kids all he does is go to work from 1pm to 5am and when he comes goes straight to his room and locks his door like me and my kids are invisible to him even on his days off he spends time with his friends and never comes come unless he wants to sleep. Am so over this marriage I don’t know why his treating me like this I cut him on lies and cheating on me so many times. I have kids with no job so moving out is hard for me I don’t know what to do anymore:

  6. Run as fast as you can and get away before he kills you start trying to make your escape plan and don’t tell anyone who would tell him were you are please leave before its to late he will kill you he means that I’m telling you this because this happen to my cusion

  7. Hello I’ve been in a Relationship for 2 years with the man I love so much but the way he treat me is not good at all..just yesterday we were talking about marriages and Divorce.. He then said to me if I wanna leave when we married he’ll point a gun at me of which is not the first time he says that.. I’ve been scared since.. Today morning I tried to express my feeling about the gun thing..told him he scared..He just said I’m being dramatic..I just want out can’t live with a man who threatens my life..

  8. Im not sure exactly how I am going to get this done because my boyfriend has been my friend for 30 years and my live in boyfriend for 8. I am just not in love with him anymore. I love him only as a friend. There is nothing else there. I have outgrown him. He stays being on the same level and I have moved ahead. He lives in my house so I can’t move out. I think Im going to have to stay with my daughter for a week so he can know Im serious. Its the only answer I have. I know for a fact Im done though because I dont even want to argue anymore, I mean Im just over it all. I want to end this peacefully. I know its going to hurt him because I know Im the best thing that has ever happened to him, I dont say this out of conceit. I say it because its the truth. I tried my hardest to help him become a better man but its never going to happen, He is an alcoholic, who barely works and is an asshole to everyone. I tried to leave him once and he got sober for 2 1/2 months and that was it. Nothing since then and keeps getting worse. I just cant do it anymore.

  9. I have been in a abusive relationship (verbal) and unfaithful for 5 years. I just recently left and got my own place, but i still go and spend the weekend with him because i love him and i feel like i cant live without him and because he wont let me go.
    He still controls me even though im not there anymore. I cant go out any where by my self, he calls me 2-3 times at night to make sure im home. I know its all bad and i have found things at his house that indicate he has other women over when I’m not there, but i love him and he says he loves me and i just cannot let go. I’m NOT happy, I’m MISERABLE , WHY WHY am I still with him, why cant i let go!!??

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