What Nobody Tells you about Leaving your Spouse.

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walking away let go goodbye back man body / Vato Bob

Divorce is a b*tch!

We often comfort (and placate) those who have been jilted or wronged by their spouse, but how often do we empathize with the party that left?

I normally judged the marriage of others and vowed to never get divorced. I would “never be one of those people.” Until I left my 14-year marriage.

We were naïve about our issues and assumed our relationship was better than most. As co-existing roommates, we had a blast together—traveled the world, ate lavish dinners, accumulated comfortable bank accounts and built a stunning home.

Until, one day we realized it hadn’t been working and I brashly left the home in what we agreed would just be a “temporary separation.” What ensued the following year was the ultimate trial and testament to my strength and willpower as a human being.

I suffered physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.

I took a risk and lost everything I once loved. I felt powerless from the pain and anguish—and I simply broke. My spirit shattered and the worst parts of my personality emerged.

All this was happening as I was establishing my practice as a certified holistic health coach, a career I had been training in for 15 years.

I focused on planting positive karmic seeds while attempting to keep my head above water and help others in need. After all, I was a natural healer and caretaker, as well as an inspiring educator, writer and researcher. People had no idea I was drowning in my own grief, sorrow and regret.

I succumbed to the momentous realization there was no fixing it, or “going back.” Life had officially changed in the worst ways, but forward was the only direction available.

I was forced to finally learn the number one lesson that had always persisted—learning to let go.

Nobody properly explains what happens when one decides to leave the marriage, regardless of the complicated circumstances or the huge amount of love still felt for “your person.” Despite the innocent promises made at the altar, couples’ therapy attempts, late night pleading, promises to be better, tears and anguish.

Here’s what I caution you: you must be prepared.

>>> Be prepared to feel free and play a little, but quickly realize you are in shock.

>>> Be prepared to get pummeled by beautiful memories you don’t even recall making, to experience regret, anger, loss, grief, numbness and hatred, to beg, plead, bargain, compromise and get rejected repeatedly, to feel immense pain in your entire body to the point you’ll swear you are splitting in half.

>>> Be prepared to unleash your inner crazy and judge yourself harshly for your reactions.

>>> Be prepared to lose the ability to smile, let alone breathe like a normal person, to come face to face with your childhood trauma, to question your existential purpose and consider ending it all.

>>> Be prepared to doubt every aspect of your marriage and promises made, to lose the person you thought you once knew, for sleepless nights, nightmares and zero motivation to get out of bed in the morning.

>>> Be prepared to involuntarily starve yourself, or indulge in a series of epic carb extravaganzas, for others’ harsh judgments and apathetic attitudes, to be alienated by some friends and family—they ultimately choose sides, to defend your position and accept the harsh criticism and nasty opinions.

>>> Be prepared to hate yourself and give in to the noisy lies of negative thinking, to embrace terrifying fear in a whole new way.

>>> Be prepared to reinvent yourself .

>>> Be prepared to fail and want to end your life because it has lost all meaning, to hit your absolute weakest threshold of vulnerability and plead for reconciliation, to get rejected (again) and drink heavily or submit to your unhealthy vices—it’s okay, you can detox later.

>>> Be prepared to see the person who once promised you the world give their heart to someone else, to be broke and rebuild your net worth.

>>> Be prepared to hit rock bottom and crawl back to the top.

Sounds horrific?

It is.

However, the good news is, once you’ve become intimately acquainted with circling the drain of anxiety and depression:

>>> Be prepared to reinvent yourself—again.

>>> Be prepared to forgive yourself and move on when the time is right for you, to learn compassion for other’s pain and give them the love you were never given, to respect the sh*t out of what you’ve endured.

>>> Be prepared to greet the new you—you fought so hard to become this person, to love again when your heart acknowledges it’s safe to come out and play, to never make the same mistakes and cherish the hard lessons you were forced to learn.

>>> Be prepared to realize that life is a series of moments strung together to teach us powerful lessons, to forgive and find inner peace again.

>>> Be prepared to reinvent yourself—again and yes, once more. 

If you don’t believe you can endure these steps, then I urge you to disarm your ego and try everything in your power to mend the broken aspects of your marriage. It is vital to remember why you fell in love with each other and reclaim what once bonded the relationship.

Divorce isn’t for the weak-hearted. It hardens your spirit and destroys the deepest aspects of your soul. I would have certainly made different choices had I known.

We all make huge mistakes but eventually, when the tears stop coming, we are compelled to find the value of the consequences.

And the experience has made me more compassionate and a gentler holistic health coach for my clients affected by relationship stress.

Now, I’m prepared.



30 Life Lessons from my Post-Divorce Year.

How to Beat your Divorce Fears.

Author: Atali Carr

Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Vato Bob/Flickr


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About Atali Carr

Atali Carr is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and has developed ‘The Vibrant Method’ to reach her personal health goals of self-healing, healthy aging and weight management. She reached her healthy goal weight of 125 pounds after shedding 30 unhealthy pounds in six months and transformed her body into a lean, vibrant, healthy physique. She credits her daily yoga practice and Buddhist-based spirituality for keeping her soul full of love and compassion in order to serve and help others heal and reach their personal lifestyle goals.

When not working, researching, writing, or self-improving, Atali loves to spend her time traveling the world, developing delicious recipes, cooking for friends and family, exploring all that life offers and taking care of her five dogs who masquerade as little human beings covered in fur.


29 Responses to “What Nobody Tells you about Leaving your Spouse.”

  1. David bowman says:

    I’ve never read anything that so closely named what I experienced. Reading this helped being release for me. Thank you

  2. Megan says:

    My ex boyfriend and I have been together for 9 years. We weren't married and we both knew this relationship would end eventually. He's moving out next month. We have 2 kids and I barely have a job because I was a stay at home mom. 2 weeks ago I hated his guts,and now I'm reliving every happy time we ever had. It's horrific. Your piece has given me some hope that eventually I will be stronger. He's planning on just moving away, so I don't know how my young children are going to handle it. Hopefully they will be stronger than I think.

  3. Melanie says:

    This sums it up.

    I left my marriage three years ago and this is the first article I have encountered that describes the steps and emotions experienced.

  4. Terri says:

    The last two years of my life are described almost perfectly in this article. I’ve been trying to explain it but most don’t/can’t begin to understand. I signed a lease, moved out and started nursing school at my ripe old age all in the same week. I was married 32 years. Talk about tumultuous! I’m really working on moving forward and realizing my authentic self but there are nights I think “I just can’t go on…”

    Thank you for writing this.

  5. Smriti says:

    I am so touched… So so so touched . This is my story . Seperated for 3 years now and on last thanks giving we decided to process for divorce but finally this year I took the step and filed divorce just a day before thanks giving. I thought it wouldn’t be that difficult as we are already seperated for 3 years. But when I handed him the papers, I could not control my emotions … I was so so so vulnerable. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you very very much.

  6. Naomi C says:

    I couldn’t have said it any better. Best article I’ve ever read. You literally said every word my heart could never articulate.

  7. Amanda says:

    I think what you have put so clearly into words is what comes to pass at the end of any authentically profound relationship, not just marriage.

    I was never married, but am struggling through and towards what you have described. Intellectually knowing that you are not the only person living it pales in comparison to evidence that you are not some damaged anomaly because you are going through it

  8. Tanya says:

    Thank you for writing this and sharing what it really feels like to go through this process. I’m the one that physically moved out of our home and filed the papers, but in reality my husband had left our marriage emotionally some time before. The highs and lows and challenges you describe — I’ve experienced them all in the past 3 months. Thanks also to the commenters who have shared their stories. It really helped.

  9. sadie says:

    It’s been seven years this month and last night we attended our son’s holiday concert at his school, and I went home and thought about how far we’ve come in our relationship as non partners. I left, I made that decision. So many people think that as the one who leaves, I’m automatically happy because I had the controller in my hand. But it’s still a Big Deal, and it still hurts. This is perfect, thank you.

  10. elizabeth says:

    This was so incredibly true.

    Thank you so much.

    The only yhing i would add is that wheb there are kids involved it seems to trigger an increase in the abusive behavior from your ex. And your remain tied to them through out. It is so important that we don’t silently accept this abuse because of leaver’s guilt.

    Thank you so much again. I can feel how much this will help me already.

  11. YL says:

    Powerful. My eyes were tearing as I read this. It’s been 5 years and I’ve been through all the emotional roller coaster. It was hard. But I have no regrets leaving because I finally found myself and I dare say I’m the best version of myself now. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Elaine says:

    This is "if I would of known then what I know now" articles. I left my husband of nearly 20 years (together a lot longer) in March of 2013. His drinking and outbursts had gotten out of control (no I'm not putting blame on him we both had faults in the marriage ) and told him I'd come back if he got help. I was devastated when he told me he didn't have a problem that I was the problem. Things quickly became ugly as soon as I filed for divorce. Though I kept hopeful every time he said we needed to talk. Then in May 2014 he told the kids he had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, he passed away exactly 2 weeks after telling them. The hardest thing to do was going through boxes upon boxes of pictures of all the memories we shared and forgotten. Its so easy to forget the good memories when things are going bad. You seem to focus on all the negative things instead of what made you fall in love with that person. I went from grieving for the loss of a marriage to grieving for the loss of a husband, the father of my children. I can't say if I knew then what I know now would of changed anything but I hope people who read your article will be more educated and prepared. As I was not prepared, but truthfully, nobody is ever fully prepared.

  13. Nicole Lind says:

    This article perfectly describes the pain I have been going through the last 2 years. I really wish I had read this 27 months ago. I probably still would have left my husband but maybe I would have been a little more prepared or at the very least not as shocked about everything that is happening to me. Very REAL article…….

  14. Crdevine says:

    Thank you so much for this. It is the first thing that i have really been able to relate to and has spelled all of my feelings out so perfectly. It has been 7 months and it gives me hope that this may get easier.

  15. Jackie says:

    Divorce is the “D-word”…”DEATH”, IS what it is & grieve is what needs to be done.

  16. Thats just great stuff!
    Your "be prepared" list is powerful, cool and endlessly useful in the face of any sort of loss really. It is an invitation for getting to knew the deeper aspects of ourselves.

    Thank You!!!!!!

    • anonymous says:

      Thank you for the thoughtful article. It was especially soothing to read about being the person to leave experiencing this pain. I’m not one to enjoy being coddled, but people are much more flippant about the loss when they realize you were the one that left.

      I also want to thank the other commenters. I screenshot one (#17) as a reminder for myself later and found others to be helpful in differing ways, as well. Even though I am in a lovely relationship now, my heart remains more wounded than I wish to admit; out loud or even to myself.

      Thanks, everyone.

  17. Christie says:

    Just remember to keep moving forward once the decision is made, ALWAYS remind yourself of WHY the divorce went through when you start feeling sentimental, depressed, guilty, etc… And don’t act hastly on your emotions whether it’s nostalgic of how you USED to be, or make a bad decision out of hate or jealousy. Just focus on reinventing your self and, refuse to stay in the past and allow yourself to go through new doors and have experiences. Yes, you will miss familiar holidays, weekends, old vacation spots, restaurants – but still, choose to move forward and before you Know it years will pass and you will have a “new” familiar. But, DECIDE TO MOVE FORWARD NO MATTER HOW YOU FEEL at this moment.

  18. Carole says:

    I thought I was weak to be so affected but now understand ,if I'd read this then it may have helped,but at first it can be exciting,new and I tried to act fine ,but then all that you wrote happened,I would rather not have gone through that hell.it's total madness.I thought I'd made mistake but found out the truth along the way,and has put me off relationships I found more real love with cats than men!!!

  19. Cecil says:

    Sometimes those of us who have trouble letting go, have to have something wrenched from us. And though it is extremely painful, when that thing, relationship, etc, is gone and we realize that it's pointless to hang on, then we can let go. Divorced 18yrs ago, last year, finally got some of my belongings back from spouse, after meeting with her family to help move things. No one died, but one fell on hard times and thought enough to give back those things that had been held hostage. They are only things, but the feeling was what was important. There is, at least to me, all of the feelings/stages of reasoning, anger, how could they do this to me, abandonment, trying to reconcile, only to realize that it was pointless. Once you reach pointless, no matter how much you think you care for someone, you come to the realization that nothing you've done or could have done would have made a difference; to forgive yourself for whatever failings you perceive you made, and start working on your own character again. Realize your own self-worth, and that there is someone out there who will value that worth. Like seeing the top of the mountain, and the forest between you. You must pass through the forest before you can attempt to climb the peak. The forest will strip you of all you don't need for the journey. Only the day of our divorce, after the verdict was made did my spouse's attitude soften towards me. Only then did the realization of what was happening sink in, though I tried for years to make a difference. Be careful of how many sticks of dynamite set off by your head it takes to get your attention. Too many years of grief, anger, mistrust, and abuse, are just nails in the coffin. Don't cross a line you can't get back from. If you are a caregiver, empath, be careful of taking care of someone so well that they condemn you when you fail. Give your pearls to someone who will not trample them into the mud. In the end I was the one who did not see the person I served and paid too high a price for that lesson. Learn to discern the character of those you are attracted to and have the spiritual sense to understand whether or not they are toxic for your life, and if they are, let them be who they are and move on. The cost is too high.

  20. Rachela says:

    It`s 2,5 year since I left after 10 years. And it is exactly what I`ve been thru. Knowing this before, I would never ever change my decision, but I wouldn`t feel like a creep, like the only one person in the whole world experiencing such a hell… Even though I`m in love now – with the Beautiful Man I always wanted my ex husband to become… – I still sometimes feel this bloody pangs of misery when memories of Big First Sincere Sweet Passionate Love come. It happens very rarely, but still. I`m learning to live with that, because I finally accepted that I`ve never stopped loving my ex and this exquisite extreme Love I felt cannot dissolve into nothing. It was, it is, it`ll be. But I can love again – my Heart is Infinite Power 🙂 Peace.

  21. Fab says:

    Good morning Atali,

    This is a major masterpiece. Thank you immensely for it.

    I have heard and read so many stupidity and random platitude that made me feel so bad throughout the whole process. There was only one friend who told me: “a divorce… It’s 10 years. In 10 years from now you’ll feel good.” I wouldn’t believe him. I thought he was crazy. He was right. It’s been 9 years now since we separated and I can see what he (and you) meant.

    In my personal experience, I would add in the first “be prepared” a “be prepared to burn bridges. Some you need to some you shouldn’t ever. But you’ll do anyway.

    Be prepared to make irrational decisions based on a ‘survival mode’. Be prepared to live in a society where even if divorce is somewhat accepted, it still wears the stigma of a failure. Be prepared to live with that.”

    Thank you so much, again, for this strong and soothing piece.

  22. Liezle says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your writing and expression of these devastating emotions and could truly relate. I loved all the comments too. I do know how harsh it is to leave a marriage because I left a 20 year marriage and, I would do it again. I'm sorry to read that you feel you might not have done it if you had known what you know now. I took a long time to make the decision and I don't regret it as painful as it's been. As one commenter said: "we are never truly prepared" – how can we be. We are complex, multi faceted human beings with a desire to seek growth, truth and authenticity even at the cost of pain. I honour all of our journeys to uncover and be who we are meant to be.

    Thank you for you bold sharing.

  23. Elana says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I have never read a piece that so invoked my feelings as much as this one does. It is so wonderful to feel like my feelings are not all crazy. As the year comes to an end, is the perfect time to reflect and this piece does it so well thank you again so much for writing this.

  24. John says:

    Wow, Atali. Thank you for writing this. Though I'm not going through a divorce I am in the throes of a really bad breakup – and everything you list in your "be prepared" list is exactly what is hitting me. It's such a relief to see it all in writing and know that others really understand and that I'm not just crazy. 🙂

    Reading this has helped point me in what might be a new direction – whether the relationship survives or not. Thank you.

  25. Bernard says:

    So true life is powerful. Time Time

  26. Sophie says:

    This is so interesting, I was reading to better understand what a good friend may be going through yet it really resonates with me and what I have been going through these last few years. My mother in law had dementia and my husband and I were caring for her til the end. It was so tough on a personal and relationship level. Nearly broke us many times, suicide was a frequent fantasy and I got through it by excavating the depths of my soul and reinventing myself . We experienced this existential crisis and loneliness, alienation from friends and family. Yet after all is said and done we have no regrets , only grief for the loss of a sweet innocent mum. If divorce is like caring for someone with dementia, I really feel for you all!
    And yes, Atali, this makes you a profoundly better therapist, embrace the pain. XXX

  27. Christa says:

    An absolutely perfect read for me today, when each word held its powerful grasp and resonated in its raw truth and beauty. I am reinventing now, and grateful to know there are others feeling and going through the same.

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