Sometimes it's a flash of insight. Other times, it's a slow realisation that the marriage is over. No matter what, it's a life-changing event. We asked divorced women to share the instant they knew that they needed to untie the knot.
1. "I had been married for six years, and at a company picnic I got up and sang with the band—I had sung and performed on stage pretty much all of my life, but had gotten away from it when I got married. After singing three songs to the applause and excitement of my co-workers, I ran to my then husband expecting him to be excited for me, but he was completely underwhelmed and said something to the effect of, 'Why do you have to do that?' BAM. That was the moment. Singing and performing made me feel happy and alive. His reaction? Not so much." —Mary Miller
2. "I had a dream so vivid that when I woke up, I felt different. In my dream, I was holding a glass milk bottle as it started to crack. I put my hand over the crack to hold it together, but then it started to split again, so I put my other hand over it again. It just kept happening over and over, so that I was left trying to hold this cracked milk bottle together—and then I realised I couldn't do it anymore. I dropped my hands and all the milk flowed out. I woke up from my dream, startled. I realised that I could not keep living my life the way I had. I could not keep the façade we had going any longer. We filed for divorce 16 months later." —Mandy Walker
3. "It wasn't a flashbulb moment. We were in couples counseling, and I was pretty much convinced that it needed to end, and I just wanted him to realise it, too, so that he wouldn't fight me on it. He finally made the decision that there wasn't any hope. I was both relieved and frustrated that I wasn't able to make the decision for both of us." —Karen Finn, Ph.D., a divorce coach
4. "I don't think you wake up one day ready. Rather, there are stages of preparing to do it. By the time you really know, and your soul knows, then you just implement it. It's kind of like deciding to get married—it just feels like the right thing to do. I was traveling with my sister in Ireland, and we were on the Hill of Tara, an exalted site. They told us that in Ireland they believe in fairy spirits, and I was like 'Yeah, yeah.' I laid on the ground and the sun came over us, and all of a sudden I was like, 'I don't think I can do this anymore.' And I just starting crying." —Debbie MacDougall, author of Divorce: The Comic Coloring Book
"It wasn't a flashbulb moment. We were in couples counseling, and I was pretty much convinced that it needed to end, and I just wanted him to realize it, too."
5. "It had been a long, difficult year—his father had died after a short illness, we'd been struggling in marriage counseling, I was deeply unhappy at home, and he was about to turn 50, while I'd just turned 40. I suggested a vacation in a desperate attempt to repair what was so broken. He resisted the idea as he resisted most of my ideas that involved change. When I pushed and asked him to choose a vacation, he chose the kind of party trip our fellow Southern Californians did for their 21st birthdays. I pushed again. We worked hard; we could afford a real vacation. We compromised on a weeklong cruise to Mexico. When we reached the first port, he refused to get off the ship until we had lunch. He was afraid of the water and the food in Mexico, despite my assurances (and those of the dumbfounded ship personnel). He was not persuaded. We sat alone on the deck by the pool eating overboiled hot dogs on soggy buns and sipping lemonade, while our fellow cruisers enjoyed lobster, shrimp, chips and guacamole, and beautiful icy pitchers of margaritas. After a few hours finally spent on shore, walking, shopping, bickering, he insisted we return to the ship for dinner. I went back to the lido deck with him, my state of disbelief palpable, and my anger growing with every step down every empty hallway. And that's when I knew. I could spend the rest of my life on the ship, never exploring, never savoring life, reduced to a soggy hot dog and empty hallways, or I could get off the ship. I could live my life. I got off the ship." —Teresa Rhyne
6. "My divorce occurred decades ago. One day I woke up in bed next to my husband and felt naked. I was, actually, naked—but suddenly I FELT naked—like, 'What am I doing without clothes in bed with this man?' The marriage had gone bad four years earlier, but that's when I knew it was time. It was over. That was the moment." —Cynthia MacGregor
"I suggested a vacation in a desperate attempt to repair what was so broken."
7. "I went through a major life transformation about five years ago when I finally admitted I was gay. I had been married to a good man for nearly 12 years and felt like I 'had' to stay married. We did everything we could to make it work, but it was just not a healthy marriage. About three years after I came out to my husband, while I was still trying very hard to stay in my unhappy marriage, I looked over at my beautiful daughters and thought, 'What would I tell them to do? If they came to me in this situation, what would my advice be?' I quickly realized that I would want them to be happy. To be authentic and genuine. To have a real partner in every sense of the word. It was at that moment I knew I had to be the person I would want them to be. I had to stop making fear-based decisions and start making brave, honest decisions." —Heather Vickery
8. "I remember the moment I knew I had to get a divorce. My ex is an incredibly gifted horse trainer, and when you train horses your timing has to be to the nanosecond in order to keep you and the horse safe. My ex was also an alcoholic, but I didn't realize the extent of it until one day, when we had been married for about 13 years, he came home and said, 'The horse training is getting in the way of my drinking.' I asked him to explain, and he said, 'If I drink the night before, then my timing is off the next day with the colts.' Any logical person would have said, 'Gee, then maybe I should stop drinking.' I asked him what he was going to do, and he said, 'I can do a lot of jobs where drinking the night before won't be a problem.' I knew then that my marriage was over because his addiction to alcohol was the most important thing in his life. I was somewhere toward the bottom of his list, and I knew I deserved better." —Terri J.
9. "I was sitting at home one day watching TV when I learned that a famous comedian had passed away from cancer, someone who I admired and loved watching. I looked up more info online and found a video he had posted promoting a movie; he spoke about the core message of the film being about how we needed to be good to each other—how we needed to move forward in life, enjoy every moment, and not leave anything unsaid or undone. You could tell he was sick and had been going through chemo. And I just thought, 'What am I doing with my life? I am nowhere close to the vision I had for myself. I have so much to say and do. We're not being good to each other. We're not helping each other. This isn't moving us forward, and it's not what I want.' I knew that was a turning point for me, and I knew I needed more." —Vanessa Gaboleiro
"His addiction to alcohol was the most important thing in his life."
10. "I was battling depression after my parents passed away, and then my husband of five years told me he was feeling guilty about being interested in another woman. We tried to work through it; we had promised each other 'for better or for worse,' after all. But then I suddenly had a moment of clarity when I looked at our situation from an objective perspective. Sure, I wasn't at my best, but I was a successful executive in New York City; I was easy-going, fit, attractive, smart, and social. I was only 32, and he was already turning his head to notice a 24-year-old? I knew then that despite his proclamations of guilt and his begging me to stay that I would not be enough for him. I suddenly felt calm; I knew I was worth more than he could see. I was sad, but I made the choice because I deserved better. We divorced within a year on amicable terms and haven't spoken since. I remarried five years later to a man who makes me feel more treasured than I could have imagined. Thank God for that moment of clarity." —Jen F.