Why Won’t He Take Steps To Finalize His Divorce?

I have been with someone for six months. He and I are very compatible and have a great time together. He has two kids who I’ve grown to adore. The only problem is that he’s still married. 

He’s been separated from her for three years (she cheated on him). He wants a divorce from her and she’s a massive pain to him, but he just won’t take the steps to begin his divorce. Until recently, he was still paying her bills on top of his own (she refuses to get a job because she’s a “musician.”) She has custody of the kids and all he can talk about is getting custody of them, but I can’t get him to begin to take the steps he needs to go through to get to what he wants.

On top of this, any time I bring it up, he accuses me of being worried he wants to go back to his wife. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I just want him to be happy and it is obvious to me that he’s not happy in his current situation. Please help me. I love my boyfriend and he loves me. I love his children. I just want him to take the steps towards being legally separated from her. -Caitlin

There’s absolutely nothing preventing your boyfriend from getting a divorce.

Your question reminds me of one I got a year ago, in which a man wrote in that his girlfriend wanted him to get a divorce, but he wouldn’t because he was on his wife’s healthcare. In that instance, I sided with him. He was clearly in love, but he was caught between a rock and a hard place, because getting married would cost him tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

It was one of the rare instances in which the majority of my readers disagreed with me. And while I haven’t changed my position one bit, it’s always stuck in my craw that I couldn’t get more people to see his point of view.

And that’s why I chose your dilemma, Caitlin. Because while your situation is similar, there’s a very important distinction that tilts my sympathies in your favor:

There’s absolutely nothing preventing your boyfriend from getting a divorce.

In the previous case, a divorce wouldn’t benefit the man at all. In your case, a divorce would free him officially from his ex and allow him to start over with a clean slate.

So that begs the question: why would a man who has been separated for three years from the wife who cheated on him NOT want to divorce her?

Beats the hell out of me.

Which is why your question is better directed towards HIM than yours truly.

I can’t omnisciently declare what’s going through the minds of all men, especially when it’s not clearly rational.

The best source of clarity, therefore, would be your boyfriend.

When he says, “You’re afraid I’m going back to my ex,” and you say, “No, I’m not. I’m afraid that if you never get divorced, we’re never going to get married,” you’ve ended his false line of reasoning and put the ball back in his court.

Now, instead of letting him wiggle out of it with another non-answer, nail him down and get an answer to the following $64,000 question:

I can’t omnisciently declare what’s going through the minds of all men, especially when it’s not clearly rational.

“Why don’t you initiate divorce proceedings and get legal shared custody of the kids? What’s holding you back?”

You may learn that he’s financially dependent upon her.

You may learn that he still hopes to get back together one day.

You may learn that a divorce will cost him a lot more money in alimony than he wants to pay.

You may learn that the status quo is fine and that a divorce may hurt the amount of time he has with the kids.

Or you may just realize that he’s a doormat – a man who is willing to pay the bills for his cheating ex-wife and play entirely on her terms.

No matter what you learn, Caitlin, at least you’ll get some clarity moving forward.

And if marriage is your endgame and he’s not playing, it’s time to walk.

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  1. 61

    I appreciate all the comments on here and i can feel the pain thru the words.  I have reached a point to finally say enough is enough.   I would rather be alone than in a dysfunctional family that can and do only care about their selfish wants.  I gave to no end only to my loss and their gain.  Its an eyeopener to see how very self centered people can be and its disheartening.  I am going to force my heart to close the book and hope a brighter path awaits.   Best of everyfhing to all the good women out there that allow their lives to be lovingly strung along for the sake of hoping that this is it. I unfortunately have learned that you will never be puf first with a married man who lacks the courage to end it. It will take a toll on you physically, mmentally and possibly financially while you enable his family to reap from what you sow. 

  2. 62
    Jenna Vincent

    I was in a relationship with a married man for two years. Just recently, it all came to a head and we haven’t spoken In two weeks. He just pulled away with no explanation and attempted to contact me only once with a half assed apology. He is married, he will never leave his wife, and you will always get the short end of the stick. Please, I beg you, leave him before he breaks your heart, bc trust me honey, it’s inevitably going to happen. You deserve to be a wife, not a mistress.

  3. 63

    I have been with my boyfriend for just over two years and he is still married. They have been separated for almost 7 years and she is currently in jail. He has full custody of his two kids, whom I am helping to raise. It hurts me every day that he wont get a divorce. Where i live, it costs $200 to file for divorce. We do not have a lot of money, but I’ve told him we can save up and get it all done with but he says we cant. He claims he wants to marry me and start a family and i want that too as i love him very much, but its just getting harder and harder to believe he really loves me. 

  4. 64

    I have been in a relationship with a married man for 2 years now. He wasnt honest about being married at first but then after he told me he said they were going through a divorce which he could never could furnish any type of paperwork to prove so and there was no records on file either…he made it like he had custody of his kids and she lived elsewhere well come to find out a year and a half into the relationship they still resided in the house together (I lived 3 hours away)…after quite a few red flags I knocked on his door and found out she was still living in the house…big confrontation…found out they apparently are trying to divorce but for whatever reason nothing has been filed….he has since moved out but still will not be clear on whats going on with the divorce…he says he filed a dissolution but never shows me any paperwork….he has been throwing smokescreens to keep me from leaving even went as far as creating a fake divorce decree…has made it a very intolerable situation for me and tired of the BS. 

    1. 64.1

      why on earth have you not dumped this guy?  He lies to you, plays games with you, refuses to give you direct answers…  Is that the kind of person you want to build a life with?

  5. 65

    Thats a good question, still looking for the answer myself… but no, thats not the type of person I want to build a life with.

  6. 66

    Never get involved with a married man. Separated or Not. The minute you find out that he is married turn around go the other way, quickly!

  7. 67

    I met a guy One night while I was out with my male cousin. The guy kept asking is that you boyfriend, once I introduced them it was fine. Anyways so he asked for my number and asked me out the next day I delayed it for A few day. He seemed to be  perfect out the military, worked for homeland security..had his own apt with roommates!! Well let’s get to the real deal.. I always said this guy is too perfect something is not right .. I found him to be shady .. he was hungry for my attention daily. And I was away in the hamptons a lot.. So once I was home he chased me day after day. Blowing up my phone any chance he got.
    He invited me to go out one night for drinks with his marine buddy .. After I had maybe 3/4 drinks.. His busy pulled me aside and said oh we need to talk.. I said ok.. It turns out he is married and has 2 small kids that lives in Florida. He is still 1000% legally married and talks to her daily ame she calls and says oh the kids need so he spends. But is cheap with me. 
    Anyway I said so are you getting divorced he said yes. This was July.. I asked every month what are you doing? He said in November that he did not want to file it because his wife bday was coming up and did not want to upset her. I said go to hell! He said he will file it which I never saw proof. But his roommates were his wife’s cousins and made me look like a fool he lied to me about that too. I honestly tried and he continued to lie.. And now I’m December he goes to FL to see them and I went we stayed @ my brothers home.. I spent Xmas alone because he was with his wife, her mom and his kids. And left me 2 hours away @ my brothers. That entire week I had to deal with that shit. He was so disrespectful. 

    Once we came back to NY he did nothing to move the divorce ffwd.. And I said do it or I’m gone.. He did nothing.. I got fed up & left his ass. Honestly if they are married leave it along and find another man that is single. I was married but once I knew it was not working I got divorced. 
    He tried to fill my head with you are wife material, I want to have a baby with you.. Oh I’m going to marry you. Don’t fall for that!! It’s a pack of lies.
    now he texted me last night that he loves me. I did not even Reply. The mistake he made was lying and now I just don’t care. 


  8. 68
    Margaret Thomsen

    Morning – I am up early this morning because I am in a relationship with a man who will not divorce his wife. He and I have been together three years – he has been living apart from his wife for six years prior to that but – still operated as part of a couple – part of a family unit. He and I are not a young couple – and I have to admit it is nice to have companionship and the security of knowing there is someone I could turn to for help with things. The trouble is – he has a family that he needs to be with, as have I. He has become more and more secretive about his visits to his family where I am an open book. I believe families should be close and so would never hinder his relationships with his children. It would appear that his ex-wife now wants him back as she is lonely and as a result he now hides his visits and phone calls. He says I am at fault as I am too jealous. I actively encouraged him to visit his children, become more involved in the birth of grandchildren etc, but now I am excluded from births, birthdays and other family events as his first wife has not as yet met me. I now know he will not divorce her and feels that there is nothing wrong in that – but he wants to be with me and says that should be enough. The intellectual part of me understands that – he and she are not young and he doesn’t want to hurt her. The emotional side says, hang on you idiot – after three years he should be clearer on his position with me.

  9. 69

    This really did help thanks now i know what i need to do.

  10. 70

    I’m in a very different situation. I cheated on my wife’s and then i  told my wife of 33 years I was leaving to be with this woman. She was in total shock for a few weeks. After about a month or so I got cold feet and moved back in with my wife. She was very willing to work on our relationship but it was I in the end that could not do my part so I left again. Now I’ve dated this same woman for a little over 2 years now. I am no closer to divorce now than I was two years ago.

    I know most of you are thinking this guy should go-ahead and get the divorce. What are you waiting for?

    well, I’m gonna tell you. It’s pretty compliacated but I’ll do my best to explain the reasons for not moving forward. 1) she will get half of my 401K and retirement which is fairly substancial 2) she will get half of the house that I built with my bare hands, blood, sweat, and tears 3) she will get a very nice alimony check from me each month. And on top of all of that all my children and grandchildren live within a 100 yards of our house. So if I divorce her, I’m gonna lose half my nest egg (she didn’t work or contribute) and it’s very likely I will greatly decrease the opportunities to see my children and grandchildren, which is something I can’t live with.

    1. 70.1

      It’s not complicated at all: You are selfish. You’re the one who cheated and left your wife. She very well should get half the 401k, the house and everything else but you don’t recognize her work and contributions because they don’t resemble yours.

    2. 70.2


      I didn’t cheat on my ex and she’s getting those exact same things. I kind of want to go back now and show your response to see if I can get a discount! 😛


  11. 71

    I am in the same boat…I’ve been with my guy for almost 4 years. We both were married to other people when we met. I got my divorce but he has not. His wife wants a divorce but he tells me he is not giving her a divorce in till he gets his stuff from her. But hasn’t told her that just text her and says we need to talk. But the way I see it he hasn’t had them in 4 years why does he need it now?

  12. 72

    I’m currently in this same situation.  However, for the first year I had no clue he was even married.  I did not find this out until the death of his mother when my mother snooped and found his mothers obituary in the paper and found out he was not only still legally married, but has four children!  I was heart broken.  I confronted him about it, and with a heavy sigh he did come out clean with me and told me that the reason he did not want to tell me was because he was afraid of loosing me.  I told him that I forgave him, that it happens.. however, two years later (and then some) he has yet to get the divorce.

    I’m growing extremely tired of the waiting game.  Even moved out of the state because he refused to divorce his wife (who makes him extremely happy, I’ve hear her do nothing but scream at the children and even him) because he doesn’t want to loose his children.  He said he would get the divorce if I moved in with him.  Not happening.  His kids know about me, even spoke to me.. even called me his girlfriend right in front of their mother.  The wife even knows about me and doesn’t seem to care (she’s simply using him to babysit the kids and get his money anyways).

    Its killing me more and more everyday that he doesn’t get the divorce done.  I’m at the point that, which I’ve told him, I’m starting to fall out of love and I’m starting not to even care anymore.  Now that were over 500 miles away from each other, you would think he would do anything in his power to get me back, and that is only happening when the wife is gone, which I’ve told him.  Looks like it’s going to come down to when I bump into a guy in my town and his worry comes true.. loosing me forever.

  13. 73

    This is the third time I’ve read this post over the last few years plus the comments. I’m in a similar situation. He promised me beginning of this year that he’d file for divorce over the summer. When I asked at the beginning of the summer if he had started filling forms yet he said that ‘they’ had decided to postpone it till next year. We had a massive row and I was ready to walk out on him. He had the nerve to call me controlling when in fact I’ve been as patient as I can be (probably the wrong thing to be in the first place reading all the comments here). In the end he said I was right, that he was disrespecting me, that I deserved more and that he needed a kick up his ass. Over the last months I’ve told him to shut up about marrying me and other things involving our future that do not seem realistic with him seperated but not divorced. In my opinion we are drifting apart. Daily I think about what life will be like without him. He seems to think we are doing great despite me showing far less warmth than I used to. I used to think he was my soulmate but I realise that a soulmate would be aware of my increased unhappiness and would not put his head in the sand and pretend it is not there. Next year is around the corner. Divorce has not been mentioned and, as far as I know, no papers have been filled. I feel very conflicted at the moment. Not looking forward to the holidays or next year, despite having many other things in my life to be happy and gratefull for. I feel like I’m being taken for a ride despite him showing commitment in many other ways to our relationship. He loves me but apparently not enough to go through this unpleasant business. It makes me feel hollow inside. I feel my love for him slipping away and I cannot believe that after all we’ve been through he is forcing me to say goodbye to him. Actions do speak louder than words.

  14. 74

    He does not want to marry you. I have dated a man that swore up and down he wanted to marry me and he has not. He loves her still.  I just wasted my time. He never intended to marry me EVER.

  15. 75
    Asylum patient#879😉

    I am involved with a married man who keeps throwing out financial obstacles as to why he cannot file for the divorce.  This has been going on for almost 8mos. We are currently living together elsewhere while his wife resides in their home. It is my thinking that if he weren’t paying (perhaps guilt-driven)for the rent, utilities,etc. for her, he could easily afford the divorce. He feels a need(whatever excuse sounds reasonable at the time)to contact her daily(usually after her 30th voicemail) usually in my absence, and lie about it, then let something slip like “Oh,well, yeah…I did give her a ride the other day”. After going on about how crazy she is..blah,blahh. My assumption is that he may not actually want a divorce & he’s simply enjoying having two women squeaking about the other over him.

    1. 75.1
      Karmic Equation

      Dump him.

      Why did you get involved with a married man in the first place?

      And once you knew he wasn’t divorced and after he’d shown you he prioritizes his wife over you, why do you stay with him?

      I’m sorry. You made this bed yourself. And you have no one to blame but yourself for your unhappiness. He’s not divorcing her because you have no boundaries.

      The good news is that you can fix the situation yourself.

      Just dump him already.

  16. 76
    Nicole Motherof2

    I have two children with a married man and I got my tubes tied so I will never have a family with anyone else. We were both married when we got together. I got divorced and well, he didn’t I want to pay for his divorce with my taxes and ask him to merry me as a V-day gift but he avoid talking about it when I bring it up. Talk about STUCK… I was abused by my step-father and refuse to take a chance for one of my boys to have to go through the same thing.

  17. 77

    I would guess he cheated on her also, maybe first, and really doesn’t want to deal with that ugly part of who’s fault it is, or have his children learn he did that.  As long as she has the kids, he’ll have to pay her the greater share of the child support. There are things he’s not telling you, I’m certain.

  18. 78

    My situation now is similar. I am in long distance relationship with my boyfriend. Recently,  ı went visited him and wanted to meet his family but he didn t allow me. That’s when I realised something are not cleared. He told me he is divorced when we first met last year. Now after asking so many questions,  he admitted that he is still married on paper but seperated not staying together. This is because of his son and he won’t allow a stepfather living with his son for now and in future. So they willing to stay seperated until his son is 18 years old. İt was heartbreaking after i got to know he is still married on paper even though he admitted( by islamic syariah law) he is already divorced.  As for now,  i am in silence but he keep on accusing me of leaving him and that i dont understand his situation now. We are in love and care for each other. But now i really couldnt say anything. İ couldnt talk to anyone about this as nobody would understand. Obvıously,  people would say walk away and move on. He told me if i fly to meet him again he will explain everything. Well now like i said i am in silence , in a way i am trying to get hold of everything that’s going on in my life. İ feel my heart is stabbed 1000times.

  19. 79

    Or maybe he doesn’t want to be with her seriously,  as long as he’s married,  he doesn’t have to worry about marrying her or dealing with the shortcomings if the relationship

    1. 79.1

      Spot on.

  20. 80

     I’ve been with my separated boyfriend for about 61/2 years now (he left her 2 years before I met him). I’ve been through HELL. His ex is a total nut job; I have two court orders of protection against her. He has several police reports against her, etc.  He actually had her served with divorce papers 3 years ago, but for some reason nothing has come of them. I live in total AGONY. I’m lonely, I’m sad, I’m mad, I’m anxious, I’m WAITING… I really can’t take it any more. I too feel like I’m being taken for a ride because he knows all of this and still nothing is happening with the divorce. I know that if it were me, I would NEVER let him feel the way I’m feeling! NEVER! I would make it happen ASAP. I think he’s very happy with his dysfunctional life (fighting with her on a daily basis), and having me to comfort him… I’ve walked away from him several times, but he cries, begs, and makes all kind of promises, and me, the fool that I am, feel sorry for him and take him back. I am finally at the point in which I don’t care any more. It’s been months since I’ve stayed at his place, however, no matter what I say or do, his divorce is still at a stand still. I KNOW that I deserve better. I KNOW that I should love myself more. I’m empty… I KNOW I need to walk away because he’s just WASTING my years away. I truly love him with all my heart, but I REGRET the day I met him.

  21. 81

    I am not trying to be mean here but you are committing adultery and God is never going to ordain an affair which is what this is. Married people are off limits.

  22. 82
    Brandy McKnight

    Married men who are cheating do leave the wife. I have seen this first hand. They even take on other children and raise them while leaving their own flesh and blood behind. Just depends on the situation. Only God can judge us.

    1. 82.1

      RARELY, does this happen. Both cheaters are typically low quality people.

  23. 83

    I am 29 and was dating a man 13 years older than me for almost 2 years. Of course when I met him he told me he was in the process of a divorce and he no longer loved or was physical with his soon to be ex. They have a now 13 year old and now he and I have a 6  month old .  Everything was great, he was always with me and he even played the daddy role for my almost 3 year old. I feel, HARD! About 3 months after our son was born he began to act distant,  of course I would always call him out but he made me seem like a crazy person. One day I found out he and his wife were still together. He never fully admitted it until I gathered evidence. Until this day, he won’t be honest that he was living two different lives. Under certain circumstances he ended up coming clean to her, of course he didn’t tell her the entire truth. He pretty much made me out to be a crazy girl who he’d been trying to break up with. He then told me he was trying to find guidance with the Lord… needless to say,in a week  we went from speaking and being together to not speaking at all. He is now with his wife again… did she forgive him? Not sure, but I am almost certain they are working things out. The entire time he made me believe paperwork was being filed. I am completely broken hearted, but for some reason I cannot tell his wife everything that she needs to know. I know that she would be hurt. This man met my family and my daughters real father… the relationship was 100% real until it wasn’t.

  24. 84
    Lesley Lovera

    I really feel for you Caitlin. I was with a man for 4 years, when we met he was married and living separate lives in the same house with his wife. 9 months after we began dating the house was sold. He had the money to divorce but never did. I stupidly put up with his multitude of excuses for 4 years as to why he would not divorce. Caitlin, the way your boyfriend is now is who he is and this will never change. If he cannot consider your feelings so early on in your relationship or have an honest conversation about why he will not initiate divorce without passing the blame onto you by, in effect, saying it is you with the problem and fears about his wife then this begs the question “does he really care about you”? I’ve learnt the hard way and hindsight has taught me a valuable lesson. How the relationship is now is how it will always be. Why would you want to be with a man who says he loves you yet his actions, or rather lack of them, say differently? There will be many times in the future you will need to discuss your feelings and this man clearly isn’t taking yours seriously. How can you build a relationship with anyone until they truly underline their previous one? I think this man is lazy and though less and is taking the path of least resistance. While he is still married he is not only unavailable emotionally but also legally, his wife is his next of kin. I would save yourself a lot of heartache and leave. You deserve to be with a man who adores you, is actively working with you to build a future together and who genuinely listens to you and takes your feelings seriously. Don’t settle for less. We all get what we are prepared to put up with.

  25. 85

    I have been dating a man who has been separated for almost 8 months now. He has no ties with his wife, no children, etc… he says he has to wait until he’s financially stable to file for divorce, then it’s he has to wait certain period of time before filing, when I ask him about the subject he doesn’t want to talk about it. He wants me to move in his house, and his 2 children from previous marriage I get along great with. I just am not sure I can wait much longer , the story never seems to change.

  26. 86

    My answer is from my opinion I am a wife separated for 4 years.  My husband been cheating before our separation still is. I have asked for a divorce but he will not respond and have told women he will never divorce.  The answer simply he wants his cake and eat it too. Some men want to keep their wives around so once they done playing want make it work. It also a control thing feel they want have to worry about the wife having a Stable relationship because they are still married.

  27. 87

    I am at the same situation!

    I just left him yesterday!

    Trust me! I suffering a lot but i really want more in my life! I want someone complete ! I want a new life with everything clear, nothing dark and durty! There are so many girls who would take him not divorced and who has stomach to hear about what his ex did or she didnt do this time! I dont! I dont wanna be in another couple story, i have the right to make my own story with someone who really wants the same! I am divorced and i will find a strong man who  is as strong as me!

    For now, i am crying, but i have hope! I really do!

  28. 88

    Long story short I’ve been involved with a married man for 12 years now. We have two children and him and his wife have two children as well.During the first 2/3 of the relationship I thought he was the man of my dreams to only find out by his wife that they were still married. Shortly after I found out I was expecting. So I decided to stay with him only cause he promised he would divorce her soon. 5yrs role by now 10 still no divorce Im at my wits end at this point Im starting to dislike him and everything about him.12yrs later I finally come to a conclusion that this man is never going get a divorce and sad to say he’s stringing me along. To make a long story short if your involved in those type of relationship please get out as soon as possible don’t wait around for them to finally make the decision to go threw with a divorce.  Time is the only thing you can’t get back don’t let a man who is confused about his life cheat you out of your happiness. Needless to say Im going to move on to someone that appreciates me and puts my happiness first.Men that do this to women that have absolutely NO clue he’s married are the devil in disguise .

  29. 89

    My ex and I have been separated for almost 4 years now. I wanted to point out that I am (it seems) part of of the minority of people: Not in love with my ex at all but have a mutual respect. We OFFICIALLY filed a year and a half ago with the courts kicking back our paperwork twice (3 month gaps in between). Then we had an incident with our child that made us pause CARING working on a document.  My ex had a boyfriend who THOUGHT this meant we were getting back together. He actually sat down with me to talk and I put his mind to ease.

    So, sometimes LIFE gets in the way of a piece of paper.

  30. 90

    I’m currently the wife in the same scenario…separated for 4 years, still aren’t divorced. Here’s the curious part: I have no idea why my ex is dragging his heels on the divorce. He was the one who cheated, initiated the separation, moved in with his girlfriend, and they’re still together, happily enough, I guess.

    I haven’t been motivated to push the divorce because he’s got a volatile temper, and frankly, I’m afraid of him. He gets very angry when he’s not in control, and so my best guess is he’s been slow to complete the divorce because he knows he’s in a shaky situation (he’s pushing for a 70/30 split, with him getting the 70%).

    My point in posting is this: if you are dating a man (or woman) and it’s taking years to finalize the divorce…GET OUT! There is something very, very wrong.

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