My Husband and I Did Not See Divorce Sneaking Up on Us Until It Was Too Late

Jill Eng

It has always made sense to me why my marriage ended. But if I were to describe to someone else how we truly never saw it coming I believe they would think we were blind and in denial of our problems.

It’s a hard call honestly.

I think it’s more an issue of the fact that sometimes, even when there is strife inside a relationship, if the good still outweighs the bad then red flags do not appear.

That is how it felt for me at least.

And I would venture to say for him as well.

We were always extremely compatible and combative.

The latter wasn’t much more than typical bickering — which honestly was present upon our first falling in love.

I am feisty and express my opinions aloud. It is how I get things off my chest. With age and experience, I have tempered the style in which I lash out but I don’t believe M (my ex) was terribly put off by it from the start of our romance because he married me!

He tends to appease the one angry with him (brushing it under the carpet of his emotional landscape) or simply zone out.

So we fought in our habitual way. I tried to control his behavior — especially once we had kids — and he mostly tuned me out, or sometimes abided.

It wasn’t unusual for us so I am not sure that is what led to the drifting apart.

Well I am sure it didn’t help.

Having children made it harder I believe, as they grew older and the tensions became deeper.

And yet I have no idea that that is it at all.

One thing that having children did contribute to in terms of our losing connection with each other is the fact that we are naturally so different and there was no longer the opportunity to indulge in finding common ground.

We were inseparable when first together, and for years until we had kids.

It is interesting to recall that because it slips my mind.

We just loved being together and hanging out.

(I have written an extensive story on why our marriage ended here but didn’t touch on some of these topics.)

M was an incredibly attentive father in terms of time spent with the kids and giving me breaks when he was off work.

At one point he only had a four-day work week which gave me the opportunity to put more time into developing my careers on those other three days.

Or even just when there was the two-day weekend during the other years he worked a normal schedule.

This meant that when he was free he was with the kids and I was gone, and when he was working I was with the kids and he was gone.

This is not unusual in a marriage, but it meant for us that we did not hang together much as a family.

Or when we did, we divided up the kids — like at bedtime — since we had two.

Also, we did not have a lot of things we enjoyed doing together as a family because our ways of being with the kids were dissimilar.

I had a quiet, chill presence with them, creating and facilitating an environment where they played alone or with each other, exploring their interests.

Even when we went to the playground, I was more of watcher. I gave them what they needed love-wise, but I observed.


He has more energy than anyone I’ve ever met and is a busy, doer-type guy. He would always be engaged with them either on hikes, outings, or projects in a way that was too hyper for me.

He was also extremely competent as a parent — equal to me in terms of attending to them (it was like they had two moms) so he would take them on trips and I would stay back home to work and build my career.

I never minded any of this. It was fantastic to know they were with him being taken care of and productive — since he would expose them to activities that were not natural to me.

However, I think he longed for family time in ways I did not realize and felt alone perhaps.

I don’t know. But it was the only way I could get a hold on working since otherwise I was home with them.

In other words, he was my childcare instead of us hiring an outside person or putting them in daycare. That would have never made sense for us being that he wanted to be with them and had the energy and inner resources.


So all that early relationship time we used to spend together, nourishing our love, was instead poured into the kids.

I don’t think this is uncommon, just that his uniqueness in being so capable as a parent, divided us up while raising our children.

And in terms of our dispositions being different when we were all together, I believe it wore on us.

It pushed us apart.

It was like a giant wedge that only highlighted the ways we did not jive instead of uniting us around our beautiful babies.

I mean we did appreciate that — and we still do — as we are close as a family in our divorce.

In some ways more so than when we were married.

(Our time together is less frequent — so we appreciate it when it’s there — and since we lost our marriage, we are quick to take a pause and appreciate that which we fell in love with, to begin with.)

Toward the end of the marriage, the wall only became more pronounced. We had less time to deepen whatever it was that initially drew us together and it was in our face regularly how little there was to share other than our offspring.

It was the elephant in the room and we were completely oblivious.

We each became more motivated in developing ourselves in the world over our marriage — when there was a childcare break.

And then it was too late.

Intimacy became strained, though we were each fighting for it in our ways. I felt he had checked out, but I understood why, in a way.

It never occurred to either of us the marriage itself would take the brunt and fall out from under us.

This is basically what happened, via some details I am leaving out in this story.

We tried.

The good outweighed the bad until it snapped and that is fine. It makes sense to me.

We rode out the joy as a foursome living under the same roof for as long as it was gifted to us.

It is true neither of us imagined divorce was in our future, but that can happen when relationships are no longer being fed.

I could see, by that last year when we were in couples counseling, that although he was perhaps attached to the construct of marriage, I was pointing out that could only work if the relationship itself were thriving, or at least alive.

When we got down to the bare bones of what we each needed from the other, it was evident neither could change who they’d become.

It was sad and hard to accept. Nevertheless, it was staring us in the face loud and clear.

We also were not afraid of divorce once it was on our plate as a strong possibility.

I believe we had confidence we would master it lovingly, as we have.

And our solid foundation allowed us to thrive as a foursome.

Neither of us takes that for granted because I suppose something could steal that away as well.

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I am a mindfulness author and teacher. I blog on healing from emotional trauma, guilt, anxiety, divorce, relationships, women, writing, parenting, and gratitude.

Portland, ME

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