It’s a rare divorce that doesn’t have some long-simmering anger and tension behind it. For most couples, arguments build up and soon enough, you’re one fight away from throwing up your hands and shouting, “I’ve had enough!”
Recently, we asked divorced writers to share the one fight they consider the last straw in their marriages. See what they had to say below.
The Fight About Therapy
Our last fight occurred during marital counseling. Four years later, the topic is both hazy and generally meaningless; what has stuck with me to this day is how the impasse felt so overwhelming in the moment. It was almost as if I had an out-of-body experience, witnessing us both remaining so stubborn: He was frustrated by my impassioned display in front of a third party. I was disgusted by his refusal to try to see my point of view. We reached this pinnacle and could never recover from it, simply because, in the midst of the fight, our verbal and nonverbal cues indicated we lacked any and all respect for one another. The love was gone, and a mere tolerance for one another was only hanging by a thread. For me, the fight was so metaphorical. Hitting our most hopeless point in five years of marriage, while in the company of one of the city’s most renowned marriage counselors, was both ironic and striking.” ― Nicole Lavery
The Fight About Lunch
Money had always been a hot-button issue between my ex and I. She stayed at home with the kids while I worked. What I could not seem to understand was how such a predictable schedule could be so unpredictably expensive. From my midtown office, I could feel our credit card getting heavier with every passing day. We fought about it a lot. It seems so immature in hindsight, but it was the tug finally unraveling a seven-year marriage. ‘How can a lunch for one be that expensive?’ I asked one day. It was not just for her, she also paid for a friend, she said. ‘Who was it?’ I asked. ‘A friend, does it matter?’ That is when I lost it. The conversation quickly disintegrated into accusations and threats, which abruptly ended with us bringing up divorce. She then grabbed her keys, purse and headed out the driveway. The next four months would be a whirlwind of attorney visits, legal briefs, court dates and a few failed attempts to reconcile. If you’re wondering, I finally learned the identity of the ‘friend.’ Sometime later, my kids were talking about mom’s boyfriend’s birthday dinner. I asked where they ate. ‘His favorite restaurant of all time,’ they said. I discovered the truth there: I had an old credit card receipt to prove it.” ― Kyle B.
The Fight About Paris
The Louvre was closed; somehow, that became my fault. I was supposed to look up the hours and had gotten them wrong. My husband and I were in Paris for a long weekend and since he had never been there, he had a list of sights he had to see. Each day felt like a scavenger hunt designed to collect points for some mysterious game I didn’t want to be playing. By the end of the first day, I had blisters on my feet. I wanted to relax in a cafe, sip espresso and people-watch all day. But my husband didn’t drink coffee. And once it was clear he was going to miss the Louvre, he became more inflexible about his list. I followed him from one neighborhood to another, trying to ignore the realization that, after 10 years of marriage, we no longer enjoyed the same things. It was less of an argument, just a sense that there was no ‘us.’ And when you’re in a foreign country, not to mention the most romantic city in the world, that’s a very lonely feeling.” ― Tammy Letherer, author of The Buddha at My Table
The Fight About The Phone
The last big fight in my marriage was about my phone. My husband took it and kept it because it was taking time away from him. I was furious. My whole life was in that phone, of course, and it’s how our kids communicated with me, too. I think, although it was just a phone, it represented something much bigger to me. I could no longer tolerate the attempt to control me in so many ways. I am an educated adult woman who was many things: a wife, mother, worker, lover. It became clear, in that instant, that my husband’s insecurity about our attachment and my disinterest in constantly reassuring him about it would end our 18-year marriage. It’s terribly sad, and there was so much loss on many fronts for us and our children, but when married people don’t grow together, it’s very hard to reconnect, no matter how hard you try.” ― Cherie Morris
The Fight They’d Had 50 Times Before
The last big fight we had before we decided to separate was the same fight we had 50 times before that. We went over the same things as always: ‘I’m always with these kids.’ ‘I am the only one bringing in an income.’ ‘You don’t appreciate me.’ ‘You don’t respect me.’ ‘You’ve changed.’ ‘We have nothing in common anymore.’ ‘Are you cheating on me?’ The problem with our marriage was that we didn’t know how to communicate effectively and we both decided to check out. There was no trust and definitely no respect. The 7-year marriage never had a chance, in my opinion, because it seemed hopeless. There were just too many issues and an unwillingness to get help, both individually and as a couple. I mean real help. We tried marriage counseling, but it touched the tip of the iceberg and I think we both felt it was better to cut our losses early.” ― Jackie Pilossoph, author of the column “Love Essentially,” published in the Chicago Tribune
The Fight About The Blended Family
My wife and I were lying in bed, ready to sleep, when I told her I was going to say goodnight to ‘my girls.’ We were a blended family and my three daughters were all sleeping that night in the same room. When I returned, my wife asked me if I also said goodnight to my oldest daughter, which I responded, ‘Of course I did.’ She screamed at me, ‘If you said goodnight to the oldest, then I am done with you.’ She stormed out of the room to go sleep in another room on the first floor. I knew I couldn’t allow her bad treatment of my oldest daughter, and her treatment of me regarding it, to continue. I knew this last episode was the final straw in many years of unacceptable behavior.” ― Matt Sweetwood, author of Leader of the Pack
The Fight About Spending
My last fight with my ex-husband wasn’t original. It was one we had over and over again: about money. He liked to gamble, lease a car we couldn’t really afford and emulate success through spending. I’m a saver and come from a poor background, and so we could just never relate to each other on finances. Anyone who’s divorced knows that it doesn’t happen overnight and that the fights you have, in most cases, you’ve had over and over again. Money is too important a part of marriage to have completely opposite viewpoints on. And so, just like that, I knew our nearly three-year marriage was over at least six to 12 months before I left.” ― Susie Moore
The Fight About Discipline
During what seemed like a picture-perfect evening, my husband and our two young children sat around the dinner table to share a meal. The kids were enjoying having their daddy home and I was enjoying watching all of them together. Our daughter wanted down, and like most toddlers, she squirmed and twisted until she was able to free herself. Her chair and her plate of food plopped down right along with her. My husband instantly stood up and yelled at our two-year-old, followed by a swift swat. She burst into tears. At first, I was stunned, unable to move. There was a glimmer of a moment when it first happened that I thought he was going to console her and tell her that it was going to be OK. He didn’t. It wasn’t long before the old familiar knot tightened in the pit of my stomach.
If I was honest with myself, I really wasn’t surprised by his reaction. From day one, we had very different ideas about how we would discipline our children. As I was comforting our daughter, I could hear him say, ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child.’ It wasn’t the first time he had yelled at the kids, and I at him for doing so. But that night, that fight, was the last time I saw him as the man that I would spend the rest of my life with.” ― Carol Schaffer
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Certified Divorce Coach, Parent Coordinator, Lawyer, Yoga Teacher, Divorced Parent