An attempt at divorce could only lead to a scandalous court trial, which would be a godsend for his enemies, for the slandering and humiliation of his high position in society. Nor could the chief goal – to define the situation with the least disturbance – be achieved through divorce. Besides that, divorce, or even an attempt at divorce, implied that the wife had broken relations with her husband and joined with her lover. And in Alexei Alexandrovich’s soul, despite what now seemed to him an utter, contemptuous indifference to his wife, there remained one feeling with regard to her – an unwillingness that she be united with Vronsky unhindered, that her crime be profitable for her. This one thought so vexed him that, merely imagining it, he groaned with inner pain, got up, changed his position in the carriage and, frowning, spent a long time after that wrapping his chilled and bony legs in a fluffy rug.
‘Apart from formal divorce, it would also be possible to do what Karibanov, Paskudin, and the good Dram did – that is, to separate from my wife,’ he went on thinking once he had calmed down. But that measure presented the same inconvenience of disgrace as did divorce, and above all, just like formal divorce, it would throw his wife into Vronsky’s arms. ‘No, this is impossible, impossible!’ he spoke aloud, beginning to fuss with his rug again. ‘I cannot be unhappy, but neither should she and he be happy.’
The feeling of jealousy that had tormented him while he did not know, had gone away the moment his tooth was painfully pulled out by his wife’s words. But that feeling had been replaced by another: the wish not only that she not triumph, but that she be paid back for her crime. He did not acknowledge this feeling, but in the depths of his soul he wished her to suffer for disturbing his peace and honour. And again going over the conditions of a duel, a divorce, a separation and again rejecting them, Alexei Alexandrovich became convinced that there was only one solution: to keep her with him, concealing what had happened from society, and taking all possible measures to stop their affair and above all – something he did not admit to himself – to punish her. ‘I must announce my decision, that, having thought over the painful situation in which she has put the family, any other solution would be worse for both sides than the external status quo, which I agree to observe, but on the strict condition that she carry out my will, that is, cease all relations with her lover.’ In confirmation of this decision, once it was finally taken, another important consideration occurred to Alexei Alexandrovich. ‘Only with such a decision am I also acting in conformity with religion,’ he said to himself, ‘only with this decision am I not rejecting a criminal wife, but giving her an opportunity to reform and even – hard though it may be for me – devoting part of my strength to reforming and saving her.’ Though Alexei Alexandrovich knew that he could not have any moral influence on his wife, that nothing would come of this attempt at reformation except lies; though, while living through these difficult moments, he never once thought of seeking guidance from religion – now that his decision coincided, as it seemed to him, with the requirements of religion, this religious sanction of his decision gave him full satisfaction and a measure of peace. It gladdened him to think that, even in so important a matter of life as this, no one would be able to say that he had not acted in accordance with the rules of that religion whose banner he had always held high, amidst the general coolness and indifference. In thinking over the further details, Alexei Alexandrovich did not see why his relations with his wife might not even remain almost the same as before. Doubtless he would never be able to give her back his respect; but there were not and could not be any reasons for him to upset his life and to suffer as a result of her being a bad and unfaithful wife. ‘Yes, time will pass, all– amending time, and the former relations will be restored,’ Alexei Alexandrovich said to himself, ‘that is, restored far enough so that I will not feel as if the whole course of my life has been upset. She should be unhappy, but I am not guilty and therefore cannot be unhappy.’
—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, p. 198