Confession: I Want A Divorce From My Wife But I Can’t Tell Her

Alex wants a whole new life - but can’t bring himself to ask his wife for a divorce after she put her career on hold to look after their children and then nursed him through cancer.

I want a divorce

Everyone loves Sarah. Why would I want a divorce?

She’s kind, smart and very capable, and over the last two years she’s looked after me and our family while I’ve been treated for cancer.

She gave up work when our first son was born eight years ago and works a few hours a week now our second son has started school.

All her focus is on creating a happy family life – but I want a divorce and I can’t tell her.

The only person I’ve talked to is my brother and he thinks it’s a reaction to being so ill. I work long hours but I’ve always been very fit and do a lot of cycling.

When I came down with the same sore throat everyone else in the family had, I was annoyed. I rarely get ill but I couldn’t throw it off and eventually went to the doctor, mainly because it was affecting my work.

Sarah was amazing. Positive and encouraging and so practical

I was referred through my work health insurance to an ENT consultant within ten days, but neither Sarah nor I thought it was a big deal. I was alone when I was told I had invasive throat cancer and my prognosis wasn’t fantastic.

They kept telling me treatment was curative not palliative, but I did the usual Google search when I got home and didn’t like what I read. Sarah was amazing. Positive and encouraging and so practical.

She told our parents and friends, made sure the boys knew without scaring them and kept on top of everything. All the boys’ activities, my hospital appointments, household chores and keeping everyone informed were handled so smoothly the children hardly noticed much change, apart from me not going to work.

She researched nutrition and changed our diet to organic and free-range and worked really hard to make delicious food

Sarah only cried once, when it seemed as if my treatment wasn’t effective. Then she washed her face and came with me to calmly discuss the options with my consultant.

As well as all that, she researched nutrition and changed our diet to organic and free-range food, and worked really hard to make delicious meals the boys and I would like.

Sometimes I felt my cancer was a project, but that’s how Sarah copes with any challenge – looking at the practicalities.

I don’t mean to make her sound cold. She was really good to me and I know she was sad for me over all the horrible little details you don’t want to think about. Or don’t know about, till you get cancer.

My skin was burned from the radiotherapy and was sore, but I kept thinking it would be worth it if I was cured. Then all my food needed to be very soft or pureed and Sarah just made that part of her meal preparation.

I really snapped at her, telling her I wasn’t a child, she didn’t have cancer and didn’t know what it was like

I hated that. It made the kids aware life wasn’t normal when I couldn’t sit and eat properly with them, so I kept pretending I’d already eaten.

As a result I ended up so constipated I had to go to hospital, and again Sarah took it in her stride, gently suggesting I remember I’d been warned that might be a side effect when I was tempted not to eat.

I really snapped at her, telling her I wasn’t a child, she didn’t have cancer and didn’t know what it was like to go through the humiliation of something like constipation. She didn’t snap back – just said she understood and made me feel like a total pig.

When things started looking more hopeful I couldn’t believe it. My consultant told me nine months ago I was cancer-free, and Sarah and I both cried.

We left the children with my sister and went away for a weekend together, planning to walk and relax. It was strange now that my illness was over because it felt like we’d spent the previous 18 months obsessed with it.

I couldn’t relax and I couldn’t sleep properly. On the Sunday, I got up at 5am and went for a long walk by myself, really enjoying the feeling of striding out without being exhausted in minutes.

What I actually want is not to live with Sarah any more

When I reached the beach I stood and watched the sunrise, thoughts of my family and our lives going through my mind. I was 43 and it felt like I’d been given a new life.

I know that’s common if you’ve been very ill, but gradually I realised something I’d been struggling to admit to myself for months.

At first I thought I wanted to be alone and get some peace and quiet after all the treatment and hospital appointments, as well as everyone worrying about me.

Then I realised that’s not quite true, and what I actually want is not to live with Sarah any more.

I don’t know why. Maybe my feelings changed over all those months when she was more like my nurse or mother rather than my wife. Perhaps I would have felt like this at some point in our relationship anyway.

I haven’t met anyone else and I’m not out there looking for someone, though maybe in time that could happen. I just know for sure I don’t want to be with Sarah, though I’d like to be friends with her for the sake of the boys.

I kept hoping Sarah would be the one to suggest we separate but that didn’t happen

Our sex life had been pretty much on hold for months but after that weekend it disappeared for good. I kept hoping Sarah would be the one to suggest we separate, but it didn’t happen.

I started getting picky and critical and trying to push her away, but she said that was due to the stress I’d been through and was sweetly reasonable about it all.

The boys shouldn’t be living in a tense atmosphere so I’m going to be kind, but I’ve set myself a deadline of two years. I’m not sure yet how I’ll do it but I’ll be out of this marriage by the time I’m 45.

It’s a cliché that life’s too short, but it’s true. My aim now is to get past this part of it and start again, causing as little pain as I can.

All names have been changed.