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'The moment I knew I wanted a divorce' — women tell all

Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, is a clinical therapist, and the author of three books, among them, Love Lessons from Bad Breakups and The Complete Marriage Counsler. She gives love advice on programs including Today and HuffPost Live, conduct...

Women describe the moment they finally knew they needed to ask for a divorce

Here is exactly how three women realized definitively it was time to go.

Sometimes the decision to end a relationship comes over a long, agonizing period of reflection. Other times it arrives via a flash of insight.

1. “Gave myself a birthday present”

It was Amy’s 40th birthday (all names are changed) and her friends and family were gathered around the kitchen table to light the candles on her cake and sing. Amy closed her eyes and prepared to make a wish when her husband of eight years made a “glib” comment. Amy recalls, “I don’t even remember what the comment was, just that it was enough.” She picked up the cake, walked outside and threw it onto the driveway. While looking at the shattered gooey chocolate and buttercream concoction she realized the marriage was crushed beyond repair as well.

More: Couples whose 'break' didn't mean 'breakup' dish on what finally made it work

Her husband’s obnoxious uttering on the day meant to celebrate his wife’s existence was the last straw. She’d been miserable for a long time, and her husband’s resistance to therapy or making any positive changes had caused her to be paralyzed — hating her life, but terrified of changing it.

Ask yourself, “Am I only staying out of fear of what a future alone might be like?” If the answer is yes, it might be time to consult a divorce lawyer.

2. “He wouldn’t visit me in the hospital”

Mary’s husband of four years refused to honor the most important part of the ‘in sickness or in health’ vow. When she had a three-day hospital stay, her husband didn’t visit even once, just sent a few texts. His excuse: “A bowling tournament.” Mary says, “I knew I’d be fine, but the thought came to me, ‘This is not a man I can count on when the chips are down.’”

More: Do these things and you'll never need marriage counseling

His selfishness was her wake-up call. She’d been pondering leaving for months. The 35-year-old informed her husband she was through via text. “Sam’s behavior showed he didn’t deserve a conversation.”

Inevitably life will present us with tough, even tragic times. If your mate is not the type you can count on and refuses to make the effort to change, it is a sign your marriage is on life support.

3. “It felt like I was sleeping with a stranger”

Happily remarried for the past five years, the moment 15 years earlier Denise realized she had to end her first marriage remains vivid in her mind. “I was 23 and had married at 19. Steve and I were way too young and came to realize we had different values and goals. He never wanted kids; I couldn’t wait to start a family. I loved socializing; he was practically a hermit. The list goes on. But I felt stuck. Wouldn’t people label me a failure if I divorced?”

Many women have been in this situation — they stay in a bad situation because they are afraid of what others will think of them if they publicly admit: “I made a mistake. I was wrong.”

More: 4 Signs your partner is about to stray no matter what they say

So Denise stayed. Until one night she jolted awake out of a deep sleep. “Mind you, I slept naked every night but suddenly I felt naked. What was I doing next to this man with no clothes on, a man who was nothing like me?” She left the next morning.

A sure recipe for unhappiness is to run your life according to other people’s rules. It’s your life; no answers are owed to anyone other than those impacted by your decisions.

Denise remembers, “Steve was relieved when I left. He is now happily remarried as well to someone much more suitable.”

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