Divorce: Why Did I Stay?


By Kristy Gaisford, LCSW

I sat on the therapist’s couch with my soon-to-be ex-husband. She looked at me and asked, “why did you stay as long as you did?”

“Why did I stay?” I repeated as dozens of thoughts and images flew through my mind.

For starters, who wants to get divorced? Who wants to be that person? That family? And who knows when enough is enough? For years I asked myself, “Is this enough to get divorced over? Am I being a baby? Am I over-reacting? Or am I being abused?” After living in the marriage for so long, I lost my sense of normalcy. Abnormal began to feel normal. I got used to the way I was treated. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t realize how bad it was either.

And then there was this…How do you get divorced? I had no idea. I would think about getting divorced, but my next thought was always, “How? I don’t even know where to begin.” I would think of my kids tucked in their beds in our home. I would see them eating breakfast with their dad and then walking up to the bus stop for school, and I would think, “How? How do I rip them out of this home and away from this neighborhood, and break up their family, their life? Where would I go? How would I pay for another place to live? What would my life look like?” I couldn’t even begin to answer these questions. So, I stayed.

There are so many reasons to stay in a marriage. I think the real question is “Why did you finally leave?”

It took me years to get to a place where I was sure that divorce was the best solution. I had tried everything else. I left when the pain of staying became greater than the pain of leaving. I left when I felt that my soul would die if I stayed. I felt smothered and beaten down, like I was suffocating and desperate to break free. I finally got to a place where I didn’t feel like staying would be best for my children either.

But even then, I was scared. I remember calling a divorce attorney and saying the words, “I want to talk to someone about getting divorced.” It felt surreal. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

Going through divorce was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was a time full of conflict and turmoil. It was confusing and filled with hurt and misunderstandings, disappointments and loss. In an instant my lifestyle completely changed. Instead of going to yoga classes and on hikes with friends, I was doing graveyard shifts at the hospital, trying to make ends meet. There were times I was working 3 jobs and still trying to be there for my kids, who were also struggling with all the changes. It was painful. It was so stressful, I could only take one day at a time, because more than that felt too overwhelming. It was survival mode.

It’s been over 5 years since I filed for divorce. Although these years have been full of challenges, I have created a happy and fulfilling life. I know I made the right decision. I have grown so much. My children have grown. They are resilient and beautiful. I have a wonderful husband who is supportive and kind. We still have many challenging things to work through (blended families are not for the faint of heart!) but he is someone I can grow with and that’s a beautiful thing.

If you or anyone you know has gone through a divorce or is going through divorce and feels alone, doubts their worth or future possibilities…we are offering an online workshop February 19, 2022 from 12noon – 4pm EST, 10am – 2pm MT

Click here for more information and to register.

Join us. You are not alone.