The “Stay” Plan and the “Leave” Plan Are The Same Thing

I had a looooooong email with so many identifying marks that I’m not going to post it or edit it, just give you the TL;DR version.

She has a prescription drug issue affecting her employment and is going through the process of keeping her license. He’s gotten depressed, messed up his job and schooling five years back, had an EA he broke off. Sex life is non-existent.  Fifteen year relationship total, no kids. He wants to leave, but can’t afford to… “what do I do?”

Or to be quite blunt. It’s a a quagmire of issues all layering on each other.

So… my reply…

Athol: It sounds like neither one of you are totally stable, self-supporting, functional adults. I don’t mean that as an insult, just as a bland statement of reality. So when you have two people like that trying to have a relationship, it’s not going to go well. You’re both making mistakes here.

My advice would be for both of you to figure out a course of action to self-improve and fix the structural issues in your lives as individuals. So you do/finish school and start working again. She needs to get drug free and find a life balance at work.

For both of you, the “leave the marriage” plan and the “stay in the marriage” plan…. are the same thing.

You need to do school and get working again no matter what. If you stay married, then you have a job and something to do. If you leave the marriage, you’re in a better place to self-support and find someone new.

She needs to get drug free and find a work balance no matter what. If she stays married, it’s good, if she leaves (or you leave) it’s good for her too.

Right now all that divorcing would do is give you both…. one more problem to solve. So you’re better off “ignoring” the marriage issue and focusing on fixing the personal issues. Once you have a better handle on those personal issues, maybe the marriage issues will self-resolve… or maybe they won’t. But either way, you’ll both be better off.

Make sense?


Basically I told them to both do the MAP.

The great thing is once you figure out a course of action that is going to have you better off whether or not the marriage survives, it’s like having a coin that has  “heads” on both sides. You can flip the coin and call “heads” and you’ll always be a winner. You can detach from the outcome and just get into action. The “stay” plan and the “leave” plan are the same thing.

They can even support each other in their plan. After all for him, either he’s married to a drug-free professional who will contribute to the marriage… or he’ll be divorced from a drug-free professional who isn’t going to be an alimony risk (maybe even pay him alimony). So that’s win-win. For her, either she’s married to a guy who finished school and has a decent job, or she’ll be divorced from a guy who is self-supporting. Win-win. Given a choice between having a dysfunctional ex-spouse, or a functional ex-spouse… I’d take the functional one every time.

There’s just something about getting into action, getting your energy level up, getting your act together and becoming an attractive in control person…. that makes your spouse want to be with you. And if not… someone else will step in and take their place.



  1. Solomon says

    This applies in many cases even when not so obvious. People have their problems but would rather divorce their current partner thinking this would magically change the situation and solve their problems rather than solving their problems. Of course in the next marriage this scenario repeats itself as problems are still not solved. Women are most often guilty for this, but some men are too.

  2. whatmeworry says

    And for the love of god don’t get pregnant until shit is gotten together on both sides….. that would be gasoline on a fire.

  3. OpusMan says

    Perfect advice. The best advice I ever got was to work on myself in my marriage. If through that process the relationship didn’t need to continue then so be it. I was told to Never divorce from a position of personal weakness. I followed that advice, it was very hard, but I am a much stronger man for it….and she is taking care of the stuff she never could have in our marriage. Growing and differentiating as a man is never a bad thing, even for your women.

  4. says

    Very sensible advice – reframe as helping each other to improve without the pressure of addressing whether should be married or not. These days many people can be without extended family and other support in their time of need.

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