Divorce is not usually decided in one blow-out moment. It’s often a collection of little problems that build up over time, until finally a couple can no longer take the stress and unhappiness. And once the dust has settled and a person is able to look back on their marriage with a clear head, they may even be able to pinpoint the moment when they knew their marriage was over.
Of course, this may not be the case for everyone. Some men and women may examine their ended marriage for years and still wonder when things went wrong. But others, usually after enough time has passed and with the help of therapy, are able to identify the moment when their marriage took a turn for the worst. And, if they’re lucky enough, they’ll be able to use that knowledge to make their next relationship thrive.
To see just how powerful hindsight can be, I spoke with 17 women about their former marriages. These brave women shared the exact time they could tell their marriage was over, with such complete candor that you feel like a fly on the wall of their relationship. Their stories are collectively heart-stopping. They’re a raw, unvarnished truths of some of the most intimate moments in people's lives; the moment they knew their marriage was going to end.
"The day I came home from the hospital after giving birth to our second daughter, I needed help getting our kids in the car to take our toddler to the park — I was recovering from a C-section. My husband refused to help me, and when I asked again and teared up he said, 'If this is how it's going to be, I don't think this is going to work out.' I put my kids in the car and as I was driving to the park I told myself, 'I will not be doing this in five years.'"
2. Jane E.
"She had taken me to Paris for my birthday and we were knocking around Montmartre when she ducked into a low-ceilinged shop. I strolled down the boulevard to meet her and when I went in, she was cramming something into her backpack. I asked what it was, and she was highly reluctant to show me. Eventually she did– a present for the other woman. We'd made lists of who we were buying for, and if she'd put this "friend" on her list I wouldn't even have thought twice, but the woman's absence was conspicuous and the secreted gift even more so ... I knew from that day on that after nearly 18 years together, after taking Canada's government to court to change the constitution regarding same-sex marriage, we were cracking ... I fled about six months later."
"Not when I found out he was using again, not when I left with our son to try to save myself and our little boy. Only after that. When he called to tell me he couldn't come be with us until he fought the demons on his own. That if he couldn't get better on his own he would always hate himself. I knew then the marriage was dead."
4. Lesli B.
"I think I finally realized my marriage wouldn't last when he didn't defend me when he heard someone say negative things about me ... And I wasn't surprised."
5. Ann K.
"While supporting him and his retraining, hearing him talk about his new friends in school whom I have never met and who have never met me, calling me 'a real bitch.' ... That was the beginning of end."
"I knew my marriage wouldn't last when my husband, who'd worked away during the week for the past few years, got a job just done the road from our home. I remember sitting with him at his moms with our three young children and saying how strange it would be to have him home every night. He had the strangest expression on his face that I'll never forget. Only weeks later he went abroad with "work" who turned out to be his girlfriend of 14 months."
7. Gloria E.
"When we were driving over the Skyway Bridge with my oldest daughter (who was not quite two at the time) on the way to Easter dinner with in-laws, and the word 'divorce' formed in my head and I didn't recoil superstitiously. We lasted eight more years, went on to have twins, did two years of counseling, but something cracked that day and I knew."
8. Mary M.
"When we went to the courthouse to get married and I thought, 'Well. I can always get a divorce.' That was my first husband."
9. Tammy B.
"First was when I started hoping he wasn't going to be home that night. Second was when he spent money on crack, and lied about it."
10. Sara R.
"With my ex it was standing in my little sundress at the park waiting for our family to arrive I thought, 'Well, this is just my first marriage.'"
11. Lisa D.
"When I reached for his hand to tell him I was pregnant and he pulled his hand away from mine."
12. Natalie D.
"When I found text messages from my then husband to another woman where he said "I L U" to her."
"When that car was sailing through my back fence towards my bedroom, I knew."
"After it was his turn to go for individual counseling to save our marriage, he came home from the second session and said, 'She's a bitch and I'm not going back.' It took another five years - and another baby - for things to really tank, but in retrospect, that was the moment it ended."
"[My] first husband was away on business for two weeks. He called to say he was on his way home. When we hung up, I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Total dread that he was returning even though I he missed him and things were "fine" before he left. That was the beginning of the end. Stayed married another few years but it was sad."