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Problem Corner: Is It Selfish To Want To Leave My Partner?

Agony Aunt for Mums

The Problem

Agony Aunt for Mums
Agony Aunt for Mums

I don’t really know where to start, you asked if my unhappiness is affecting the atmosphere, well I’m sure at times it does, I know I can be lost in my own thoughts and feelings and sometimes snap at those around me unduly. 

I met my partner when I was 16, though we didn’t get together until I was 21, he was a recovering addict at the time but shortly after the death of our son about a year later he started using again. Then he stopped. Swapped for alcohol etc, had a terrible time. I’ve supported him through so many therapies, 3 failed rehab attempts to get him off the methadone, he’s walked out after afew days each time. The last time killed the last bit of love I had for him. That was dec 2011. 

See as he’s had these problems he’s not worked, so has been around a lot for the kids and has been very involved and despite everything he is an amazing, attentive and devoted dad! Which in a way makes it harder for me, a lot of dads work, have little interaction, doesn’t leave a big whole in the childs life if they’re not living together day in day out. Whereas I feel like splitting with my partner is going to be a bigger and harder blow to my kids because he’s so involved with them. 

As everything stands, I know I’ll be ripping everyone lives apart and causing such heartache just because I’M unhappy. And that feels so selfish and heartless. I come from a long long line of couples that stayed together forever. Its a very deep-rooted introject I have that you stay together no matter what. And that’s hard to shake!! 

Like I said before, if I could see my unhappiness was affecting my kids then I could be out as I’d feel Id have a justified reason. As it stands I feel like I don’t have a leg to stand on. But I’ve been unhappy for years, and feel things are getting to a point where I just cant keep it all in anymore, somethings got to give, I need ot make a decision and stick to it and get through it. But I can’t make a decision. Feel like I go round and round in circles, and it always come back to the same question ‘what type of mother puts their happiness before their childrens?’ I don’t want to be that bad selfish mother. But I don’t want to be unhappy either. 

Here’s some more information I got from her:

  • They get on well at home, but when they argue it is physical from both of them and the kids have seen it once.
  • The kids are doing well at school
  • She has Fibromyalgia and is now 29
  • He is still lieing about things, which she has found out by snooping, but hasn’t confronted him


My Answer: The Worm Has Turned


I have thought about this long and hard lovely, I’m a big fan of marriage, but not at any cost, so I’m also a big fan of divorce.  It is a very tricky situation and I totally see why you are struggling.

This is very typical of what I call ‘The worm has turned syndrome’.  Women will take so much, over and over again, that often men think they can keep behaving badly (and vice versa).  But we can switch off VERY suddenly and very TOTALLY.

You seem to think that you are being selfish, but I think that you are STILL turning a blind eye to behaviour which is not acceptable from him.

You have been with him so long that you can’t see the difference between what is ‘normal’ (i.e. no man/woman makes the perfect partner) and what is unacceptable.  My parents were alcoholics, and although he is a great Dad, it may not be as ideal as you think for them to be growing up with him.

Plus being an addict, he is probably deeply manipulative and knows exactly what buttons to press.  I don’t think it is helping him to let him keep getting away with it.

Someone can be a wonderful Dad, but terrible partner.  He can still be a wonderful Dad when he’s not seeing them every day, but he won’t be a terrible partner any more.  (I’m not underestimating that there are downsides to this as well, as the grass is never greener).

The bottom line is that your relationship is emotionally, mentally and sometimes physically abusive and bad for your health as Fibromyalgia is proved to be stress related; you will be initiating the fight/flight response in your body permanently whenever he is in the house.

I think that you should look on the fact that your kids have had a very good and close start with your husband as a good thing.  It means that  whatever happens and however he behaves in the future with his addictions, they will always have that as a good strong foundation and know the good side to him.  This will be important as they grow an adult relationship with him.

Plus is sacrificing everything that makes you who you are, an example you want your children to follow?  Or staying in a relationship which will be exasperating the illness that you have?

I always say “it takes as much work to leave a relationship as to stay“, the problem is that you are in a nowhere zone at the moment.  From what I know of you I think that you would be up for some relationship counselling or coaching?  I reckon it would be a really good idea to get an objective party in to help to explain how you feel to him.  It might not fix it (probably not, although stranger things have happened), but it will give you some support and a mediator during a difficult time.

Don’t panic about time.  Something else that I say is ‘a relationship isn’t over until it is over‘; there’s no point rushing out, because issues need to be dealt with.  No decision should be made in panic; but that doesn’t mean that a decision shouldn’t be made.


The steps I recommend are:


1) Talk with a friend and write a list of what is unacceptable in his behaviour; you need the friend to highlight to you what is not acceptable and make a list of the things that you need to change.  No you can’t promise that this will make you fall back in love with him again, but it’s worth doing, and if they are reasonable requests they will probably do him good anyway.

2) Focus on yourself, getting stronger, feeling better about yourself; that way there is no wasted time.  Work out what you are not doing because of him or where you are being held back and get it started.  Stop being held back.

3) Explain to your partner that you are very unhappy, and that it stems from that time a long time ago and that if there is any chance of lasting you guys will need help.

4) But whenever talking to him about it, make sure you DO NOT use the word YOU.  I talk about it in this post about how to turn around a disrespectful relationship.

5) Start going to relationship counselling/coaching together.  Not necessarily in order to stay together, but to make sure that your issues with each other are resolved and if you split that it is not acrimonious.  You can sell it to him as how important it is for him to be able to retain as good a relationship with the kids as he has now, which would be badly affected by the split being acrimonious.

6) If he says no to counselling or coaching, then that is a deal breaker; you are not happy with the situation and you need a third party to monitor his behaviour because of the addictive and manipulative personality.

7) If he says yes, but then there is always a reason to not be able to go; that’s a deal breaker too.

8) Hubby needs to get a job!  Even just a part-time supermarket job; just something that gets him out and about.  If there are no jobs, then he needs to volunteer somewhere.

9) Set a deadline of when you will call it a day if there is no progress; probably 1yr.

10) Make some practical plans and do some research about how to go about divorcing him.  This doesn’t mean that you aren’t putting in the effort to the relationship, just that it will stop you panicking about wasted time.

11) It will be tough, there is no doubt about it.  And it WILL be tough on him as he has been with the children day to day.  There is a daddy blogger who was a stay at home Dad who you can read to see the reality of it.  Not to stop you.  But so that you know.

12) Very gradually when the opportunity arises chat to your kids and show them examples of where it has worked when parents divorce.  After all it can be very good for them to get proper quality time with each parent separately and there are many, many success stories.

13) With the whole ancestors pressure I would like you to take each couple in turn and write down the DOWNSIDE for each of them and their families that they stayed together.  You need to see that there are pro’s and con’s to staying or going.  But the important thing is doing what your heart needs, because a person with a dead heart is no good to anyone.

14) To help you feel like your life is making progress, sit down and think about 3 things you what DEFINITELY to have achieved when you are on your death bed.  Yes, it maybe selfish, but is staying in a mentally and emotionally abusive relationship really what you want one of them to be?  When you have picked your three, remind yourself of them every morning; this is a little trick I teach in my book ‘6 Steps To A Sparkling You‘ as it keeps you focussed on what you want.

15) Write down the DOWNSIDEs for your children for you to stay with your husband with the relationship as it is.  There ARE downsides, because there are downsides to everything, even chocolate.  I just want you to get a more balanced perspective on the situation.


Keep in touch lovely, and let us know how you do; you can always add an anonymous comment.

Plus check back in a few days as I’m sure that this story will hit the hearts of many Mums out there who will be able to add their twopennyworth to my ideas.

We’d love to hear back from you in 6-12 months time to find out how your story progresses as well.


19 thoughts on “Problem Corner: Is It Selfish To Want To Leave My Partner?

  1. I’ve been thinking about this since I first read it – am so sorry for the delay. I think Lisa’s answers are great but I would add that the mother is the sunshine in the world of the family. When it shines brightly, it is healthy for everyone. When it is not allowed to do so / can’t, darkness sets in and, long term, this is unhealthy for the family. Good luck with the transition – it’s an essential one. You need to be healthy and happy so that your kids can be xx

    1. Thank you for your reply!! I really do appreciate it! That metaphor of families and the sun is really lovely. Its made me teary-eyed, I’ve not felt like the sunshine for a while now. But I know I should!! Things have progressed a little since the orginial post, I’ve realised after finding out about yet more lies that I just can’t go on like this. It breaks my heart that I’m going to rip my kiddies world apart, it really does, I have to keep blocking that part out and focusing on all the positives but it hard. I don’t want them to hurt, my job is protector, I’m supposed to stop their pain not cause it!! But at the same time, I don’t want to be broken anymore! So I’m going to do this, make a new future and change our story so we can all hopefully have a better ending!

      Thank you again, and many many thanks to you too Lisa xxx

      1. I’m really pleased you are making the changes lovely. Do the exercises I mentioned so that the panic calms about hurting your kids. I didn’t want to say ‘leave the bastard’ until I felt that you had made the decision. But I honestly do not believe that a situation which is hurting your soul so bad, can be good for the kids.

  2. I agree with Anya. That is what we are taught in Kundalini Yoga. It is like the home is a bowl, and the mother dictates the size, texture of that bowl and holds the space and the energy.
    If Mum is not nurtured to do that the home that is a house of cards falls down, as it did when I had PND.
    My husband was horrible as a result so I felt EVERY day feeling angry.
    Being angry EVERY day when you are ordinarily a joyful person aint fun.
    Recently I accidentally changed (as a result of a healing) and I got the shock of my life and he changed too. Then he had 3 weeks off work, and it proved what I’d suspected: the job he’s had since 2009 has REALLY effected us. The last 3 weeks have been lovely and things MIGHT be on the up for us.
    I am no longer angry every day and it is so freeing.
    It’s taken me till now to comment as I just didn’t know what to say when I am so wrapped up in my own stuff.
    The only thing I can advise is to look at things with new eyes and work on yourself and see if it creates a shift in the energy around you.
    Sometimes people aren’t meant to be together, but don’t feel guilt. Just feel love as it can dissolve and transform the hardest of situations.
    Liska xx

    1. Wow gorgeous @Liska I love that image of the bowl and I am so pleased that things are turning around for you. As a spiritual person I think that partnerships can ironically often be difficult; maybe we are a bit too sensitive at times. I hope that it keeps working for you.

      I was thinking more about this the other day …. ‘when is it right to stay and when to go?’ … and I think many things can be healed/resolved like your situation, but there are situations like my reader where their paths are meant to go in opposite directions; it’s time she stopped healing him and looked after herself. You are so right; she doesn’t need to feel guilty about it at all.

  3. I agree with what Lisa’s said, you need to be happy and healthy for the children. I have a very manipulative relative and I’ve had to cut ties completely due to various events, it was painful at first but I feel so much better in myself for doing so. The children can see I’m happier for it – even though they never knew what was going on, they sensed something was afoot – and we’re all calmer as a result. SN issues aside of course.
    Wishing her well.

    1. Thank you so much @Jeanette, that is so helpful to hear. It’s so difficult when someone is so sneaky and manipulative isn’t it. Well done you for sorting it out, it must have taken so much bravery.

  4. I am no expert so this is just from the heart stuff really based on things I have learned over the years.
    You can’t wait for an addict to change. They do it only when they are ready and in the right mind-set to do so.
    You are worth so much as a woman in your own right as well as as a mum. Don’t let you disappear in an attempt to be a perfect mum. Sometimes good enough is just fine.
    You have physical health issues and these need caring for. Lisa clearly knows more about your condition and tends to have her head screwed right on so well worth listening to.
    Children are remarkably adapatable. That does not mean that their needs should not be thought long and hard about but it does mean that even after the worst of starts (and I have seen this personally) they can come through positively.
    More later

    1. @Kate, thank you so much, you are SO right about ‘good enough’ being perfect. I have to remind myself of that often too, in fact I’ve been quoting it to myself in the mornings for a few weeks recently!

      1. Thank you to all of you for your comments!!! The time you’ve taken out to reply really is appreciated!
        I’ve hit a bit of a dip in my resolve again, after my last reply I discovered yet more stuff and ended up confronting him outright. Which was massively scary, I think I lost a stone in nervous sweat. But I kept him calm, we talked a bit but I find it hard to open up compleately as 1, I’m always trying to stop a kick off and 2, for some reason I can’t fathom, I still find it hard to say what I know will hurt him, despite all the hurt he has dished out to me. I did manage to get out though that I don’t trust him AT ALL where money and drugs are concerned, explained abit how I’m constantly paranoid etc and that it was killing me, some days feel like I’m going insane with it. But then my boy came down saying he couldn’t sleep and the conversation got put on hold. That was thursday night.
        Since then my stepson has been here, its been my partners birthday and easter. We’ve had a nice weekend. And so now all the doubts and panics and fears have. Set back in, the mummy part of me is ruling again, and I’m so mad with myself as thursday I was so determind to end it all. Now I’m feeling guilty again, and my brains working overtime telling me if I coiuld just make it like that all the time then it would all be ok. But I know logically I can’t, I know he’s been on best behaviour etc. So here I am, stuck in my own nightmare circle of going round emotionally battering myself, mummy self Vs Myself, each hating me when the other is more prevalent. Right now I wish I could just run away, but I know unfortunatley I can’t run away from myself.

        I’m sorry for the gutspill, again. And thank you all again for your replies xxx

        1. I’m destroying myself, all by myself, and I’m the only one who can stop it, I know that SO WHY CAN’T I JUST DO IT?!!! *bangs head on wall in frustration (not really, don’t panic) WHY, after all these years of him constantly hurting me, do I find it so hard to say the words that I know will hurt him back?! Where the hell has my inner bitch/strength/resolve or whatever gone?! Sometimes I think about writing all this in a letter, but how bad is that?! Sometimes I think maybe I’m the problem, maybe there’s some weird part of me that can’t let go of the relationship for my own reasons, maybe I subconciously need this anguish as my way of punishing myself, or because I’ve lived in it so long that I don’t know what will happen if its taken away. Maybe there’s a part of me that knows without him, I’d have to focus on myself, and I’d have noone to blame anymore for the mess that I am inside my head, maybe that’s why I cant let go. I don’t know, I’ve anaylsed myself and tied myself up in so many emotional knots I dont know where I am and what’s right anymore. And here I am again, battering myself and punishing myself and I don’t even know what for. I feel like such a failure, I’ve failed to help him get better, failed to provide the best future for my kids, failed at being Me. I wish I could get out those two words, Its Over. But they stick in my throat 🙁

        2. Oh honey you are being so hard on yourself.

          The reason I didn’t say ‘LEAVE HIM NOW’ was because like I said, these things take time and a relationship isn’t over until it is over.

          Why? I think we need to get used to the idea, and that it’s healthier to give it time to settle into our psyches sometimes. Plus there is something about timing, which can be really important. I think that there is always the right time for stuff and jumping the gun doesn’t work.

          Re hurting him. Is it really doing him any good letting him get away with this? Is it giving him any reason to sort himself out? Is it giving him a chance to be living a healthier lifestyle for his kids in the future?

          A letter isn’t such a bad idea actually, many people find it much easier to write down their feelings like that. Alternatively, consider my idea of getting an intermediary to help … they should be able to help you say what needs to be said.

          Why you are beating yourself up so badly is another question. What do you feel guilty about? Have a look into your deepest thoughts. Face your fears and remember that even if there are reasons for you to feel guilty for getting yourself and your partner into this situation, doesn’t mean that you have to stay in it. At the end of the day we are all adults and have to take responsibility for how we react to situations and your other half is no different. It’s time you let him grow up.

          Go back to the steps I suggested lovely, and gradually day by day take little steps towards your freedom. I’ll be here everytime you need help with them.

  5. Here is the link to Refuge who help all sorts of people get out of all sorts of situations – You can phone them and they will talk things through with you as much and as often as you need. They know how to keep you safe, know the patterns of these things and are so experienced will not fail to support and help you to do what it takes to do what matters. Personally, and speaking from experience as well, I wouldn’t bother even trying to tell him anything. Conversations with this kind of person are a waste of your time and energy. You’re going to hurt him by leaving. It doesn’t matter what you do or say. Save your energy and your time and words for something more positive and fruitful. Good luck. Get out! xx.

    1. @anya thank you so much for your comment, it helps so much to hear from people who have had experience. I agree with you totally.

      1. Thank you for the link. Since my last post I have plodded along pretty much the same. Nothing ore has been said about the incident I contfronted him about. I was offered support from a local womens charity but I had to ring them and a combination of not liking talking on the phone and just feeling stupid like I didn’t know what to say stopped me. Things are quiet at the moment at home. I can’t say how things will progress. I’d like to say I’ll split soon but I’ve been thinking that for years. Feeling abit like I’ll never find that thing inside me that’ll snap and do it. I think its missing or broken. Feeling quite hopeless, and I’m sorry to people that have spent time and effort trying to help me, imcluding you guys. Thank you for your efforts xxx

        1. Nooooo honey don’t feel guilty, we totally understand, that’s why I gave you ideas of things to do in the meantime. A relationship isn’t over until it’s over, it just takes time that is all.
          Focus on yourself, getting strong, getting healthy, getting back to who you are. Make things a little more difficult for him gradually, stop him from getting away with being manipulative and using you, gradually build your assertiveness and boundaries back up.
          We will be here, however long it takes.
          We will be here even if you don’t leave him.

  6. This is a sad post to read. One that many men and women must go through every single day. I believe that if one half of a relationship is not happy then it is a must that they have to leave. Children or no children it is a must otherwise the children would see 1 parent unhappy, the adult would be unhappy and the children will be unhappy. It is sometimes better for all to leave. x

    1. Thank you @jennifer – I agree, although it’s sometimes worth seeing if it’s resolvable, but once there’s no solution then totally with you.

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