Advice Column: Start Fresh or Continue on?

Dear Hailey,

I met a smart, fun, successful, beautiful, and fiery lawyer 3 years ago while working in DC. It was the best year of my life to that point dating her. We married a year later and she moved to Colorado. The marriage was great for 9 months, and then we let the stresses of work, parenting, finances, and being 2 alpha personalities get the better of us and we got into a volatile environment that we were unable to resolve. I moved from our marital home with my kids after a year of marriage to remove them from our volatile relationship after some extreme situations happened that they shouldn’t have been involved in. 

We went through periods of working on the marriage and periods of taking a break, the year was full of grand gestures, commitments to start fresh, therapists, and more fights that culminated with her filing divorce in January. 

We didn’t speak for nearly 4 months. Our only communication has been through lawyers. The effort and expense of the divorce is done, paperwork is ready to file and sign, and now 3 weeks prior to the divorce date she reaches out in an effort to save the marriage. After a week of ups and downs without resolution, I decided to proceed with the divorce. My position is I’d rather not go back and forth with threats of finishing the divorce, or need to reopen the painfulness and annoyance of the process if things fall apart again.

However, I am still open to the idea of slowing way down and starting over the relationship to see if we can regain trust and stability despite finalizing the divorce. Her position is, if I proceed with the divorce (although I did not initiate it) that is a sign of devaluing her and our relationship and she will close that door forever. I value her, I love her, I am hoping to spend a period of time dating again, having fun, and proving we can be functional and supportive before committing to being serious again. Am I wrong to have a position where I am open to dating again, while still wanting to finish the divorce?


Dear JT,

It comes down to what you are comfortable with. It’s a complicated history that you and your wife have. It sounds like you aren’t sure about what the future holds as far as your relationship, but the one thing you are sure about is that you want to proceed with the divorce. 

You want this to be a new relationship, in addition to keeping things simpler while you work this out. Explain this to your wife. You aren’t going through with it because you are done. You’re wanting to start a new chapter. You want to essentially start a new relationship with your wife, which you can’t do while you are still married. It’s a more practical choice. Especially considering that trying to work through your differences has not worked thus far while remaining married. 

I don’t personally take issue with your decision to proceed with the divorce. I don’t think it is an incorrect choice, or that you are wrong. However, your wife is viewing this not through the practical lens that you are, but through an emotional lens. She can’t be blamed for this, it’s an emotional issue involving the life you have built together.  The important thing is making it clear to your wife how you feel. It sounds like she feels that if you move forward you are giving up and moving on, but that is not the case. 

Another note, alpha personalities can make it work in marriage. It’s hard, but it’s possible. While it sounds like there is a very complicated history between the two of you, it’s clear you still care for her and you aren’t ready to give up on your relationship. I would definitely recommend you continue with couples counseling to help you find healthier ways to work out your differences and live in harmony together. I wish you luck. 


Posted in Q&A

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