The Tipping Point

Marriages seldom end abruptly. Whether the couple realizes it or not, their relationship has been on a gradual downhill slide, which eventually brings the marriage to a tipping point. In this chapter we want you to hear people tell in their own words how they came to their decision. You want to know when it’s time to go. Perhaps hearing the stories of other people’s revelations of that moment will convince you that it’s not time for you—or that it is. Their thoughts and conversations may sound familiar, but that doesn’t mean your decision will be the same as theirs. We asked them to answer the following questions:

What was the tipping point for them?
When did they know their marriage must end?

I lost interest in her early on, but I stayed another thirty years. I took myself away mentally. The marriage wasn’t good enough, but neither was it bad enough, so I stayed. We had children. We bought a house. I successfully pursued my career, but life was empty. I felt we were just going through the motions. Then one Saturday—I remember I had turned fifty-five the week before—we were at home, and someone came to the door for a charitable contribution. It was for a family who lived a couple of streets away whom we knew slightly. Their house had burned down. They had no insurance, and the husband, who was the breadwinner, had recently lost his job.
My wife donated $5, which I thought was ridiculous. We were comfortable; we knew these people. It struck me that that was one of the things I disliked about her so much. She was so uncharitable to people, including me. Right then I knew it was now or never. It finally had to be over between us.

It was Valentine’s Day. Even though I felt my husband hadn’t been my Valentine for years, I felt obliged to buy him a card. I had waited until the last minute. We had never stopped being polite to each other, and going through the motions, but our relationship could hardly be called a marriage, more a financial arrangement. I spent a long time in the card store; every card seemed wrong because it expressed feelings I didn’t have and didn’t want to convey. Finally, I found a card that I thought was okay. It was a childish cartoon: It wasn’t loving; it wasn’t nasty; it was silly and rhyming and really didn’t say anything at all. It expressed my feelings of emptiness perfectly.
That night we exchanged cards. When I opened the one he gave me, it was a knife in my heart. He had picked out the exact same card for me that I bought him. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. I also knew our marriage was over.

Excerpted from Chapter 18

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