What just happened to us?

March 15th 2016

Dear Wendi,

My wife and I have been in marrage counseling for the last six monrths.  Due to holidays and such I think we had maybe ten sessions. In out last one,a week ago,  my wife told me that it was over. She says she loves me but can’t stay married to me anymore. I got the “It’s not you- its me thing.” She can’t tell me why she feels this way or what started it.  I have no answers and I don’t think I will ever get them.

I was devastated, and screamed myself hoarse on the drive home, in separate cars.  I am bouncing between being on the verge of sobbing and wanting to see the world burn. Some of that raged burned out after I shouted all my pain at her the morning after.  She says she wants to be friends and help me.  Its like she wants it both ways.  I don’t want the kids to hate her because she is a very good mother to them.  I turn 50 this summer and am going to be looking for work. I don’t like my prospect.  How do I move forward from this?  My wife has been seeing a therapist since the Summer. We had a couples therapist, I had just started seeing one for me because duh, about a month ago I realized I was depressed. How do you move on from rejection after you have been deeply in love with someone for 25 years? My wife says we can try a trial seperation, to see if absence make the heart grow fonder.  I don’t see it working because I don’t see anything I have to offer.

Sincerely

J

2nd email written July 29th 2016.

Dear Wendi,

My wife is divorcing me after being married for 23 years. She said that she felt we were drifting apart for the last ten years. I only felt like she had been drifting from me the last year and a half.

We are going through the process of divorce now.  She has already worked everything out so she (I think) is looking at things logically.  I am still trying to deal with things emotionally.  She has said that I am still the same person but she is not and no longer wants to be married to me, even though I am a great guy.

My question is how do I move on?  How do I let go?  I asked a friend of mine how do I stop loving her.  My friend replied, “Why do you have to stop loving her?”  I know my wife is gone and over me.  She had detached from me long before she said it was over.  While we were in a counseling session she said she was still trying to make it work but that love and that intimacy had been gone at least 6 months.

I miss her.  I miss being with her. I miss what we had, even if it wasn’t what I thought it was.  I wanted to work together to make it something it could be, but it is not to be.

How do I let go and move on?

Thanks

J

 

Hey J –

First, I’m so sorry you’re going through this difficult challenge.   Unfortunately, you and your wife are experiencing one of the most common problems in marriage during mid-life.   Sadly, the core of these challenges start small when people are newly married and then grow into a bit of a beast during mid-life.  “It” happened along the way.  Growing apart and losing those essential connections required to stay together over the long haul happens to the best of us.   It’s also not uncommon for one partner to feel something is wrong for “10 years” and the other sees it as a recent thing.   How is this possible?  Because that is the definition of disconnected.  Disconnection plus time usually equals love lost.

I don’t know enough about your situation to say what the “core problem” is in the relationship, but all couples have them.  The therapeutic term is “perpetual problem.”  Often a marriage can have the perpetual problem of poor communication or role, duty and responsibility confusion, disconnections with sex, in-laws, children, or finances.  Often these core problems go undiscovered or ignored for years.   Without skills, knowledge, work and sometimes professional help,  attempts to stay connected fade and people grow apart instead of course correcting every day to stay together.   Couples get used to a fuzzy or unsatisfying connection…kids come, bills pile up, roles and dreams diverge and disconnections don’t get repaired.  Then of course, time flies.

I know this seems so unfair and like being blindsided.  It really sucks and I’m sorry.    So I’ll do my best to answer your question – “how do I move on?”   This is overly simplified of course, but I believe there are 3 ingredients you’ll need.   Help, time and change.

  1. Do not do this alone.  Get support from loved ones, friends, a therapist, a group, anyone but your kids and soon to be ex-wife.  This is not easy I know – but will make a huge difference down the road.
  2. You’ll need to grieve the death of your marriage, the death of your wife as your wife and it will not be easy and will take time.  I don’t know how long, but longer than you’ll want it to take.   Get good at grieving.  Read some books, join a group, let yourself cry, be angry, whatever you need and get support with this process.
  3. Embrace the changes that are coming.  Let yourself change too.  Let go of pride and pain, work on yourself and your personal baggage, then you can emerge on the other side a person that you are proud of and like to be around.  So often people are stuck in wanting the things that used to be a given but are no longer theirs –like love or affection or loyalty or trust.  The longer you hold on to hoping things won’t change, the harder this will be and the longer it will take for you to find happiness again.

Warmest regards,

Wendi

 

3 Comments

  1. I have dealt with this situation recently. In Dec 2014, my wife of just under 11 years told me that she had wanted a divorce, and for much the same reasons. It was a bit out of left field and a gut punch to be sure.

    I went through similar feelings… intense sadness at the failure, anger that she didn’t tell me her feelings sooner so we could have fixed them, frustration and confusion over how we were going to handle our lives and our kids’ lives on split finances and split households.

    These days, I hear we’re much more the exception than the rule: we get along, and have a kind of friendship these days. We interact regularly and are both devoted to our kids. In a lot of ways, our communication is better now than it was then. I’ll leave that behind for a moment and talk about my own personal experiencing of dealing with the fallout:

    1) Talk to friends and family… like, a lot! I found plenty of people to talk through all aspects of things. People who’d have dinner with me, and wouldn’t mind hearing me talk. People who’d take walks with me. People who’d give me a hug when I needed it. The most important people to me, were the people who didn’t try to demonize my ex for how things had gone, and provided a balanced perspective. Talking about it helps too… the more I talked about what was happening, and got support from it, the less it hurt. That release helped me keep things smooth through the divorce.

    2) Get into counseling. Having an impartial person to talk through was also super-helpful. Someone who would ask questions that my friends would not, and who didn’t feel like they knew the whole story, helped to give me a fresh perspective.

    3) When you’re ready, work on forgiving. Its a part of the grief process that Wendi mentions, but eventually, you have to forgive your ex for what happened. The first part of that is, I think, acceptance… accept that what’s happened has happened and you can’t change it. It is what it is (as much as I HATE that expression). All you can change is how you respond on the future. In my case, I am linked to my ex for life… we have 2 kids, and nothing will stop them from being their parent. I could be miserable and make her miserable, but that would affect them, and they don’t deserve that. So you decide to forgive. You decide that while what happened is not what you wanted or even how you would have preferred, it has happened. Deal with the now and future.

    4) Find hobbies. You’ll have some new free time. Do things the way you want to do, or do something you’ve always wanted to. Always wanted to play games all day on a Saturday? Do it. Always wanted to visit that coffee shop downtown but they didn’t want to go? Do it. Always wanted to learn/read/try/experience that? Do it! Look at the upsides of your newfound freedom. Don’t turn away from going to dinner, or a movie alone… its actually somewhat liberating.

    5) Make new friends. One of the hardest aspects for me to deal with is that happens over time… and that is finding friends. When you’re married with kids, you tend to make friends with other married people with friends. When you’re single, that makes it harder to hang out with them (as they usually have married or kid things to do). Don’t neglect making new friends. Join a meetup group, volunteer, find a new favorite place; and talk to people. This will help you discover new things that you like, and new people to spend time with. In time, it may also help you when you’re ready to date again (which man, take your time there… and don’t go into that until you feel ready).

    6) Be honest with yourself. This has been the hardest thing for me. Be honest with yourself about how you feel, whether you think that feeling is right or wrong. A friend (and my counselor both) told me that Feelings aren’t inherently right or wrong, and shouldn’t be stopped. Instead, focus on what you feel, be mindful about it, and then decide how you want to act/react. The action/reaction is the only thing you can and should try to control.

    Good luck out there!

    1. Wendi, Josh,
      Its been a while. First thanks Wendi for replying and sharing your thoughts. Josh, thanks for your follow up. Sorry to hear that you have had something like this in your life too.
      I doubt if this gets read but I thought I would follow up. Its only been a year and a half. Its still hard sometimes. I don’t know why after this much time. Soon after I wrote the above, say a week. I had what I thought I never would ever have, suicidal thoughts. Came out of the blue on me. Seemed like a totally normal and rational idea. Came within a hair of it happening. Instead of walking to the garage to get the rope, I walk to the garage and got in the car. Not a good day.
      I couldn’t find work. I was the stay at home parent for almost 20 years. My degree was no good. I couldn’t find work in my old line of work. The only jobs I was interviewed for only required a GED. I took a job cleaning floors at a hospital. Pay was $9.60 an hour but the insurance was the best I will ever have. I saw and continue to see a councilor. The only apartment I could afford had two bedrooms. One for a daughter and a couch for my son. We argued over who would get the couch. I saw how much it meant to him that I didn’t do that. So I let him. For a year every other week he would sleep on the couch. The apartment wasn’t bad, except for the roaches. I hated being awakened in the middle of the night with a roach crawling on me. I sprayed, the complex said they sprayed but as much as I saw them up high I think they were in the air vents.
      I have to give the roaches credit. Only twice in a year did they let my kids see them and my kids were to occupied to know. They just said hey Dad there is a bug over there.
      Almost a year ago, I friend offered me a job doing QA as a contractor. It great work, that I knew nothing about. My friend told me when I was hired, I would rather keep you as a friend than as a bad employee. If you can’t do the job, I will let you go. I told him you are giving me a shot, the rest is on me. If I can’t cut it, I understand. I like the job, but always worried that I am not doing well enough. I feel like an impostor sometimes. I do have good days there and have been told, “Good Catch,” or “Couldn’t have made the deadline without you.” Sometimes I believe it and sometimes I just think they are blowing smoke. Just my fears and doubts I know but the worry is there.
      Company also was sold in Aug last year. Its finalized this week. Don’t know if I will have a job or not. There are cost synergies that will save the this combined company 100’s of millions. I guess its the nice way of saying layoffs. I really don’t want to lose my new roach free apartment. I don’t want to scrub floors either. It was hard for me to make peace with myself in that job. I did get employee of the month for housekeeping. That was nice. So Josh as to your great comments. Thank you and here how they are.
      1) I did talk alot for a while. I think I need to do it more. Especially the weeks I don’t have my kids. I know who to talk to that just listen and don’t cry. A friend of mine from out of town who when through this messages me. She put me in contact with a friend of hers that had similar things happening to him but about a year before. We talked. Then she had me talk to another friend that just had it happen to her. My friend seems to attracts the injured of heart and helps them along and has them help others. I have a friend that I don’t see much and same story as mine. We chat from time to time.
      It helps but over the holidays it was had. Due to scheduling, I didn’t see my therapist for almost 3 months. About a week before an appointment with her, I caught myself planning a slideshow for my funeral. That was scary, and not a good sign. We talked about it. Just saw her again today. It was a better month. Need to talk it out. Having a drink after work with another friend this week. I will try to talk more.
      2) Have that one covered. Meet again in a month
      3) This one is hard. I don’t know if I have forgiven or if I haven’t, how to do it. I can still bring up anger about it if I think about it. So I guess I haven’t. She want to be friends, when I stop by asks me to come in. I don’t like walking into my old house. I feel uncomfortable and out of place. After all the things she said about me, I can’t make the two fit. At least she has move on. That has to be good for the kids.
      4)I get together with friends once a week for games, work talk is not aloud, nor are problems. That is for coffee on Sundays. I make it on weekends I don’t have the kids. These friends she never cared or wanted to meet. So I will keep them. I have lost most of our shared friends. Only two couples left from that. One is iffy, hate to lose them but…..Work is funny, I am twice as old as some of them. I am 50 and I work with 20 somethings. It helps that I have no issues taking direction from 25 year old team lead.
      Dating. Yikes. Went on two with a lady. She was nice. I was uncomfortable and not ready for that. I do miss having someone to talk to. To be honest I miss my partner. Not my ex, I don’t know that person anymore. I miss just having someone near, close, talk about the day, ext. It sucks wanting that but not being ready for that.
      I had been hiking in the mountains to clear my head. That and gym classes. Last Summer I over worked my knee. Between rest, cortisone shot and physical therapy I have not hiked the mountain in 6 months. That hurts. Hurts a ton. I can walk 5 miles now but can’t run across the street without pain that last for awhile. It getting better, now that the issue has been finally been correctly identified. Going to start small with some flat urban trails this weekend.
      6) Honesty is harder than is sounds. Trying to figure when I am being honest or taking to much blame or to much self pity. Probably unequipped to really handle it. Growing up learning to, not burden others, keep your anger in, no discussion of feelings unless you are happy. At least I am over that whole don’t cry crap. Well in front of my friends, I am ok with it. Took my daughter to see a movie and a scene hit me out of the blue like a sucker punch. It took everything I had not to just start sobbing. Don’t think that would help her trying to explain that reaction.

      Don’t know if this gets read or not. Took me an hour and a half just to write it. Sorry for the typos and misspellings. Most likely a rambling mess. Just something I wanted to do for at least a year. Way past my bedtime. If someone took the time, well thank you. I wish you well. And hope you didn’t have to go through your own version of this. Who knows maybe I will have better news down the road.

      1. Thanks for writing in. Hang in there. Sounds like you are heading in the right direction in many areas of your life. Progress and healing literally always and only come one day at a time.

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