The Key to Leaving a Bad Marriage: Finding Your A-ha Moment

I was recently talking to a close friend about her divorce experience to try to gain a better perspective for the benefit of my coaching clients.  I often have coaching calls with prospective coaching clients that just don’t seem ready to move forward with a divorce. I find this the most perplexing when they are so certain about the misery of their marriage yet won’t do anything to remove themselves from the situation.  I wonder: what holds them back?

I  spoke to my friend about this.  (We’ll call her Ava).  She said that she spent many years unhappy in her marriage and even though she had no hope that it would ever really get better, it was just easier to stay.  Since she is presently divorced, I knew that this must have changed for her at some point.  I asked her what was the magical moment when she finally decided it was time?  She said, “I had just had enough.”

So there is an A-ha Moment?

Yes!  Apparently there is.

Ava had a lot of “reasons” not to get the divorce.  Possibly reasons you can identify with: she had minor children and she was worried about disappointing them, she was not the breadwinner in the family and she was worried about supporting herself, she was worried about disappointing other people, she was afraid she would be ostracized in her social circles.

But didn’t all of those concerns still exist when she finally made the decision to leave?  Surely they didn’t all go away?

Yes, those reasons all still existed.  So what was different?  She had an A-ha moment at which her life became divided in two: there was everything  before and everything after.

What was it?  For Ava, it was sitting in her counselor’s office talking about her unhappiness and the counselor saying very matter of factly, “you saw me 7 years ago and told me all of the same things then that you are telling me now.”

Ava thought, “Oh my God.  She’s right.”

None of the reasons to stay were new.  In fact, they were quite old.  What was new was Ava.  She simply wasn’t going to tolerate it anymore. It was time.  She didn’t want to be talking about the same things 7 years from now.

Ava recognized at that time that she just didn’t want to be unhappy anymore and what she really needed was not to wait for all of these reasons to stay to go away.  She needed a PLAN.  An exit strategy.  And then the real work started.

Ava’s plans involved getting herself into the best possible situation to leave.  She knew that the circumstances of her leaving would never be perfect but she also knew she could take some measures to control the pain.  She adjusted her circumstances just enough so that she had a landing spot.  Here’s what Ava did, which may work for you too:

(1) She made sure she had bank accounts set up in her name. She had joint accounts with her husband but she wanted the security of having an account in her own name that he couldn’t touch.

(2) She moved money around.  She had savings accounts for the children.  She made sure she was the named custodian on those accounts.  She made sure her accounts had money in them that she could access without his interference.

(3) She saved money.  She made sure she had a cushion in the bank accounts in her name.  She was more mindful of spending money on frivolous or unnecessary items or spending money on things they would just fight over later.

(4) She kept a divorce journal.  She started documenting events in the marriage that would give her leverage in a contested custody dispute e.g. when he forgot to pick up the kids at school, when they are argued over discipline of the children, when he neglected their doctor appointments.

(5) She got important papers together.  She had primary control over the finances,  but she made sure she downloaded all of their bank account statements so she would have them handy.   She took an inventory of the items in the safe.

(6) She turned the “we” into “me” wherever possible.  She determined what assets were in their joint names.  She checked all of the insurance policies, titles to the cars, and bank accounts to determine a “to do” list so she knew what she would have to do later.  She made sure she had online access to anything that was held jointly so she could keep track of things.  Anything she could remove his name from, she did.

(7) She accepted that life would be different.  She knew there would be casualties in their social life and she was ready to accept that.  She knew some people would be supportive, some people would not and some people would just abandon her or avoid her.  And she was okay with that.

(8) She owned her decision.  Once she made a real decision to leave, she executed her plan and there was nothing that was going to change her mind.  She didn’t waffle.  She wasn’t wishy-washy.  She made up her mind and the train had left the depot.  There was no turning back.

To this day, I am happy to report that Ava is very happily on her own.  Her divorce was painful but it is now referred to in the past tense.  She said, “I could never have imagined my life back then the way it is now,  but I am so happy to have my life now.”

That could be YOU.  You have to make a decision.  A REAL decision.  Not just a thought or a wish.  A decision.  Once you do, that will be your A-ha moment.  The moment at which there is everything you are moving toward and everything else is in the past.

When you are really ready to make a change, I can help you with your plan.  But I can’t want it for you.

When you’re ready: 732-529-6937

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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