Husband is furious, ashamed and exhausted. Is there anything he can do?
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: My wife just left me and I am so angry at her I can barely stand to talk to her. She’s had mental-health issues for most of her life but until this last year she dealt with her depression pretty well.
We were together 15 years and have four kids who need her.
She just left one day with no explanation, no warning, nothing. I literally came home to a note and my bewildered children. She told them this was temporary, but now she’s asking me for a legal separation. I am left to take care of the children, the house, and go to work so I can still pay all of the bills, including hers.
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I think I could stand it if she were in a hospital or seeing a doctor or something, but she’s rented a house at the beach and snuck back this week to take more of her things and our cat. The one thing I guess she actually cares about.
I’m afraid to go see her in person because I am so angry. I am too ashamed, upset and exhausted to call our lawyer, and I haven’t even told my family yet. What can I do?
— Furious at My Wife
DEAR FURIOUS AT MY WIFE: You can go to a soundproof place and scream.
And you can find a therapist as soon as possible so you have a safe place to dump out enough of this confusion and sadness and rage to maintain a strong presence for your kids.
Not that you can’t show them you have feelings, that’s natural and healthy for them to see, but you want to air the potentially destabilizing ones out of their earshot.
And in a bit — sooner rather than later, I hope — you can see that being in the family home with the job and the chores is the far better place to be than a beach rental, even with all the work and stress it entails, because you’re the one with the kids, and you’re the one who hasn’t broken your promises to them. You’re the earth beneath their feet. It is sacred.
It is also this: Healthy. Your wife is either too ill to manage her daily life, or she just threw away this sacred thing for the life equivalent of a sunset poster with an inspirational quote.
Neither one promises a better outcome for her than your laundry and dishes and pain will bring you in the end. Please keep that in mind, too — even as you cut whatever corners you must on those household responsibilities, because that’s where you are right now. (There should be a magazine — Crisis Homes and Gardens.) Hang in there and show your kids the love that sticks around.
Re: Furious: This guy also needs to call the lawyer ASAP. Obviously his children should now be his first priority, but if his “wife” continues to act out her anger, or whatever it is, she may file for divorce and demand half the house plus half all his assets, including company pension benefits. He needs some protection.
DEAR GENE4655: Thanks — though the custody issue seems most urgent to me.