A Reader Writes…
My spouse left me and the kids after 4 months of yo-yo relationship (leaving/coming back) to move in with the woman he had an affair with for the past 9 months. A typical tripod relationship. She is the great other. I am the persecutor. He is now living with her.
I have started divorce procedure, but what if I am rushing into this? Although financially I kind of have to as he is asking me to pay more and more stuff. I know he is in mid-life crisis but he also seems besotted with her to have left everything for her.
I gave him 7 chances to try to work at our marriage..He never worked and took them really. He always continued to see her and lied. I wonder whether you’d have an advise.
I fear for the future. Being the one left behind is difficult. He says he loves me as a great friend but not as a lover and that our relationship was not fulfilling (sounds textbook!). I am lost.…
I get lots of people writing to me saying ‘my husband has left me, what do I do now?’
It’s especially hard when, like you, they can see clearly what’s gone wrong but they haven’t had a chance to put it right. So I have six pieces of advice for you…
It’s not about you
Your husband will try and lay the blame at your door. And even if that’s not his goal, ‘our relationship was not fulfilling’ will sound like ‘you didn’t fulfil me.’
But it’s really about him, he’s responsible for making his life work (that’s not your job) and if he’s unhappy about specific things that weren’t working about your relationship, then he could have spoken up.
As you’ve probably guessed, it’s not really about the other woman either, she’s not so wonderful that he can’t resist her. Basically, he’s in pain—because his life isn’t working—but instead of rolling up his sleeves and working out what needs to change (which is tough and requires soul searching) he’s looked about for a quick fix and found her.
If you tell yourself—like a mantra—‘it’s not about me’, it will help you keep calm and communicate better.
I’m sorry but he can’t have you as a ‘great friend’. It sounds to me like he doesn’t want you as his wife but he still wants you to still manage parts of his life for him. For example, he wants you to intervene and plead his case with your son or daughter who is upset about him leaving.
He is an adult, he can sort his own relationship out with his children. He has their phone numbers and he can make his own arrangements (assuming they are not toddlers or at primary school).
So ask him what he means by ‘great friend’? You can be a polite business partner in the business of bringing up your children but he can’t expect you to listen to his problems or how wonderful his new life is.
Unfortunately, many wives still manage their separated husband’s emotional life for him—in the hope this will bring him back—but their husbands don’t realise the reality of what divorce will be like.
Discuss the finances calmly
Rather than rushing towards divorce, which it sounds like you don’t want, see if you can sort out some kind of interim financial agreement. You will need to have done your research and know all the budgets—perhaps your divorce lawyer has already asked for this.
Set up a meeting to go through the figures and even if he gets upset, don’t get angry and tell him he’s a fool. Just keep calm and ask for his suggestions of how to make it work.
If he comes up with something sensible hear him out and negotiate. The rule of thumb in a crisis is: if you don’t have to do anything, do nothing. If he comes up with something sensible talk to your lawyer and see if you really will be in a weaker financial position if you put the process on hold—that could be more your fear than the reality (but I’m not a legal expert).
Look after yourself
It is really hard to be rejected and it could bring up some painful material from your past. Read my book Heal and Move On because this will explain what’s going on inside.
Ask your friends for moral and practical support, do nice things to pamper yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself when things go wrong (because your husband is in pain and lashing at everybody at the moment).
Understand what is painful
Take some time to work out if the pain is fear for the future, if it is the natural upset of a relationship breaking down or whether you still love your husband (and want him back).
You will probably need time and help to understand what’s the main driver of your pain. A relationship therapist could help but you could also keep a diary as writing stuff down helps—not only to get it off your chest but to start to analyse your feelings too.
Keep the door open
So you reading this post because your husband has left and you want to know ‘what to do now?’ The other woman is not the answer to his problems but there is a danger—if you and your husband are fighting all the time—that she will help tend his wounds (and appear even more like The Great Other).
However, if you step back and let him carry on down the road he has chosen, he will discover that this other woman is not made of cream cheese—in fact, she has rather a lot of human failings too. At this point, he might realise his mistake and if, the door has been left open, he might decide to come through it.
In the meantime, you will feel calmer and instead of concentrating all your energy on him, you can look after yourself. I call this radical acceptance and I explain more in my book My Husband Doesn’t Love Me and He’s Texting Someone Else.
So how do you keep the door open? Be polite, take no notice of his blame game and get on with your own new life (because that’s a whole lot more interesting than obsessing about the past or worrying about an unknowable future).