Agony Aunt for Mums

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

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.