My partner won't divorce his wife.
My partner's sort-of-ex-wife is still very much a part of his life, and not just in a co-parenting way.
A SWEET, SWEET PERFECT ANGEL:
My partner and I got involved in a *very* complicated way that could be its whole own email. He had 2 kids and a wife when I met him, and although he never cheated, it was messy to say the least.
I’ve known I’ve wanted kids for a long time, and just as certain as I was that I wanted a baby, he was as certain that he didn’t want more kids. He is 11 years older than me and his kids are teenagers now. He made the decision to get a vasectomy, and while I was very upset at the time, I don’t get a say in his reproductive choices. I knew that I still wanted kids, so in the back of my mind I had decided to stay with him for a while but keep my options open. You know, if someone came along and I thought I could have something with them I would easily be able to leave the relationship I was in.
I realized pretty quickly that I was really in love with him and wasn’t going to leave.
I started coming to terms with having him in my life without a child of my own, and for the most part I think I am good with it. I recognize it’s better for the environment, my anxiety, a whole bunch of reasons. I love him, I love his kids, I love his family, everything is good.
Here’s the problem: his wife is still very much a part of his life, and not just in a co-parenting way.
He is not divorced after 4 years, even though I continually harass him about it. He says he “feels divorced” because everything is so final, that it’s just paperwork. But to me it’s not paperwork, it’s our future together. We can’t get married until he is divorced, and not getting married is a hard line for me. I’m not giving up having a baby AND getting married.
But it’s a bunch of smaller things too. We live together now, and yet his wife is still on his health insurance which means that I can’t be. They don’t even have a separation agreement in place so they are still doing taxes together, things like that.
I know ultimatums are never good in a relationship, but I just want to say “get divorced or we’re done”. Is it acceptable in just this one instance?
Other than the him being married thing we are totally happy. He’s still my favourite person in the whole world, but I just don’t know how long I can go on still feeling like the other woman, especially since he seems to know this but still won’t take any action. I just feel like a good old fashioned ultimatum might spur him into action.
Please tell me what to do!
This lady is me right now, about to lose my shit at this situation!!!!!!!
Ok, I’m going to try to be as loving as I can when I say all of what I say next, but some of it may come across a bit…harsh. Or at least hard to read. I have so much love and empathy in my heart for you and that’s why I’m going to be honest, and usually honesty sucks ass to hear. So I pre-apologize. But I do think you need to hear it.
The worst thing that happens is that you read what I say, think I’m a big dumb asshole and my letter makes you realize exactly what it is that you actually want to do and you take none of my advice but you find your own way. And that’s a pretty good outcome!
So let’s dive in!!!
Excruciating honesty starts now!!!
What the fuck are you doing, my friend? This is not good. Every single new line of the letter you just sent me is more banana pancakes than the line before it. The worst part right now is that you don’t seem to know how apeshit + horrible this relationship is.
Or at least you don’t know the full extent of it. I think you’re starting to hear some whispers in the back of your mind that things aren’t as good as they seem, you’re starting to realize that some parts of this relationship aren’t exactly adding up to The Way You Want to Live Your Life. You’ve noticed that the really really big stuff (LIKE HIM STILL BEING FUCKING MARRIED ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME) is a bit off.
But I’m not sure you get just how fucked this relationship is top to bottom. This relationship is fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked, by the way.
I’m so, so utterly sorry. No one on earth wants to hear that the relationship they’ve poured themselves into, justified loss after loss after loss for, given up dreams for is bad. No one wants to hear that so I’m sorry. That sucks so much and I wish I could give you a big hug and a $50 Target gift card.
I’m going to break down some lines from your letter that made my eyes pop right out of my head; hopefully, this might help those little whispers that something might be wrong turn into normal-volume-voices that are clearly stating, “Yes, this relationship is not working.”
He had 2 kids and a wife when I met him, and although he never cheated, it was messy to say the least. Excuse me, but this seems like fucking bullshit. The man doesn’t even have a separation agreement now and you’re telling me there wasn’t cheating involved? I find that extremely hard to believe. That doesn’t make you the devil or unworthy of love, but I think you need to be a whole lot more honest with yourself about how this relationship started, the ethics of it. I get—and I will repeat this below, I’m sure— that divorces take time and that a court can’t decide when a relationship is over any more than they can decide when it starts. BUT COME ON. You started dating a married man that was wanted to date someone a decade younger. That is what it is, and when something doesn’t look good from the outside, it is USUALLY (not always) because those types of relationships are bad on the inside. Cliches are cliches for a reason, and leaving your wife and dating a younger woman is certainly a specific type of cliche.
You say this dude left his wife and things got “messy” and do you know what “messy” means? Lies. LYING. He lied to his ex-wife at some point and I’m sure he’s lying to you. About what paperwork needs to be done to get a divorce. About why his wife is still on his insurance. The thing about people who do shady shit in their first marriage is that they almost always do it in their second.
Could I be wrong? ABSOLUTELY!! Maybe YOUR love is the exception! Maybe this guy really is different!
I’ve known I’ve wanted kids for a long time, and just as certain as I was that I wanted a baby, he was as certain that he didn’t want more kids. Ok, this right here is what we in the business (the business of writing this letter) call A MASSIVE FUCKING DEAL BREAKER. This is one of the few things that is a true full ass dealbreaker. Someone wanting kids and someone else going and getting a vasectomy is a dealbreaker. It could not be more clear that you two are at entirely different stages of your lives and want entirely different things. On top of that, while it is 100% absolutely his choice to get a vasectomy, you made it seem like there wasn’t much conversation around this moment, which is HUGE. I’m not saying that you should have tried to sway him or change his mind— you should not have!!!—but a healthy relationship where someone is ready to get a vasectomy and the other person wants children WOULD INVOLVE A LOT OF CONVERSATION. Namely, conversation around topics like (and I’m just spitballing here) SHOULD WE REALLY BE TOGETHER IF WE HAVE SUCH A FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE IN WHERE WE SEE OUR LIVES GOING??!/!?!?!?!
This is too big of a thing to compromise on. That doesn’t mean that some people aren’t truly on the fence and totally ok either way— some people are! That doesn’t mean that those people can’t be influenced by a partner! A lot of people do not have the child situation they would like to have for a whole lot of reasons. It’s heartbreaking and gutting and full of grief. Dating an old married dude is NOT a good reason, in my humble option.
I knew that I still wanted kids, so in the back of my mind I had decided to stay with him for a while but keep my options open. GIRL WHAT? This isn’t a thing!!!!!! This is how “messy relationships” (cheating) happen. You and this man both need stronger boundaries around fidelity. Maybe that means open relationships, maybe that means something else, but my god! If someone isn’t good enough for you, you don’t stick around until you get something better. It’s not like a bed frame where you just use what you have until you order one you like more!!!!
For the most part I think I am good with it. I recognize it’s better for the environment, my anxiety, a whole bunch of reasons. I’m not sure I buy this because it does not sound like you’ve done any of the work to actually grieve what it means to have lost the opportunity to have children. And the whole being better for the environment thing is mostly (racist) bullshit anyway.
He says he “feels divorced” because everything is so final, that it’s just paperwork. But to me it’s not paperwork, it’s our future together. He does not care about your future together otherwise he would have filed the paperwork. He has told you that in MULTIPLE ways!!!!
I’m not giving up having a baby AND getting married. Do you notice that this relationship is all about what you are giving up???? I haven’t heard a single thing this man is giving up. On top of that, while it is totally normal to compromise on some things in a relationship, giving up marriage and children IS WAAAY TOO LARGE of shit to give in on. What are you talking about???? Do you know what my boyfriend and I have compromised on? He wants a nautical themed bathroom and I think that’s the tackiest, ugliest shit on the face of this earth so if we ever have a place with two bathrooms I’ll let him decorate one. NOT MARRIAGE AND CHILDREN.
This is a self-esteem issue to put his wants so far ahead of your own, or to think that it’s worth staying with a man— any man!—even if it means giving up so much.
They don’t even have a separation agreement in place so they are still doing taxes together, things like that. Are you….. are you sure he’s actually separated from her at all? Like does she know about you? What’s happening? Does he have two families?
I know ultimatums are never good in a relationship… Ultimatums are death knells in a relationship NOT because you’re telling someone “Do this or else!” (which is not great) and not because they might one day resent you for it (also not great). The reason ultimatums are so bad is that you should not ever need to get to that point. Ultimatums only exist in a relationship without good communication. If you are at that point, it means that shit is very bad in the relationship. It means that you two have a fundamental disagreement that will not work. It’s toxic all the way down.
Other than the him being married thing we are totally happy. This is like saying “other than the terminal cancer, the patient is very healthy.”
Especially since he seems to know this but still won’t take any action. 💥 BINGO BINGO!!!! THIS IS IT RIGHT HERE THIS IS IT!!!! 💥 He will not take action because he does not care about a life with you. I know that is ugly and harsh and heartbreaking to hear. But you—to him!!—are the other woman. You’re the younger, hotter person he left his wife for. You’re the person who doesn’t ask too much of him, unlike his unfun old wife who was too much. (I'm guessing here, but I would also put down money on this). You’ve given up the baby issue and if he just waits long enough you’ll get off his back about the whole wedding thing. That is his bet right now.
DOES IT NOT CONCERN YOU THAT YOU HAVE A PARTNER WHO IS TRYING TO FIND OUT HOW LITTLE THEY CAN GIVE YOU WHERE YOU’LL STILL STAY???
I mean, please for the love of god, your partner should want to crawl on hands and knees over glass for your day to get better and this guy doesn’t give a fucking shit.
Please do not get into the sunk cost fallacy that you’ve already given up so much for him that you might as well give up more. That’s bullshit. Get out. Run. Get out as fast as you can as soon as this pandemic is over. Start saving money and getting ready to leave now.
No one person is so good that they should take away major goals you have in life. You think you can’t be loved again? Loved so much that someone would never dream of not divorcing their wife for you? Loved so much that you don’t have to question someone’s interest? Loved so much that someone also wants to marry you? I mean that is pretty fucking common, for as much as books/movies/whatever try to make it seem spectacular. Do you know more people who have been loved or who have never been loved? It’s…out there. This random trash ass dude is not worth giving all that up for. I swear. And even if it weren’t out there (it is) YOU ARE WORTH SO MUCH MORE ON YOUR OWN THAN A DUDE WHO WON’T FILE DIVORCE PAPERWORK FOR YOU.
You are going to have such a good life with someone who is so over the fucking moon about you, but you have to love yourself enough first to get the fuck out of this relationship. That’s a requirement. You’re going to have to work on yourself, work on your self-esteem, your insecurities. You’re going to have to grieve, grieve this relationship, grieve what you miss about this guy and also grieve what he took from you. But then, after all that: you’re going to have a really, really, really good life.