February 15, 2015

Ask Me Anything: Husband Struggles to Accept Divorce. {Weekly Advice Column}


Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected].

I look forward to hearing from you!

~ Erica


Dear Erica,

I am a 35-year-old man, reluctantly divorced within the last year because my now ex-wife, who I was with for a total of 19 years, decided to leave me last May, and we were divorced by December.

To me, our life together was great. I work in the field of higher education—a career I worked very long and hard for in order to provide not only for myself, but to giver her the chance to follow her dreams.

What I didn’t see was that she was growing resentful and angry toward me and my career choice because it was getting in the way of us having children. I never knew and she never brought it up. I wanted children but wanted to wait until we were more stable. I should mention that we moved to a completely different state to take the job I am in now, which was a wonderful opportunity.

I only found out after she left that she was actively “talking” to someone else and she left me to pursue a relationship with him. They have never met, only talked online, but she has totally thrown herself into this other guys arms, moved back home—10 hours away—and has cut off virtually all contact with me. I asked her to come home, to enter into counseling with me, to work things out, but she said I was too “negative” and didn’t care about her and that I didn’t want her in my life. Which is completely not true.

Needless to say, I am still devastated and I still love her very much. I still long to talk to her to make some sense of this whole thing, I feel so lost all the time and I am going to see a counselor; in some ways it is helping, but it is not helping with the feelings of utter rejection and lack of direction based on what our “shared” goals were.

I know I need to move on now, but I have trouble figuring out what that looks like after nearly 20 years with one person. The only person I ever really loved or wanted.

How do I answer the question of what moving on really is?

Reluctantly Divorced


Dear Reluctantly,

Unfortunately, the two of you had no real communication while you were together.

It is hard for me to imagine being with a man for 19 years, being angry we didn’t have children that whole time and never once mentioning it. It is also hard for me to imagine being with a woman for 19 years and not having the slightest idea that she is so profoundly unhappy.

Based on what you’re telling me, you were both in completely separate orbits in your marriage. The difference between the two of you is that you were happy with this arrangement and she was not. She felt disconnected and misunderstood. She was unable or unwilling to express that to you, and instead let her resentment build until she simply left.

You are both culpable. Neither of you were brave or connected enough to keep the marriage alive.

She has now moved on and you must as well.

To ensure you don’t repeat the pattern of disconnectedness, stay in counseling. Focus on becoming more aware of your own and other’s feelings so that you might develop more authentic relationships—not just romantic, but in all aspects of your life. Once you become skilled at working on a deeper level with other people you will be much more likely to find someone with whom to share a true union.


Dear Erica,

I feel like a 1950s housewife—and that’s not a bad thing—except my husband doesn’t like it.

When my husband and I got married over ten years ago, we agreed that he would go out and work and I would stay home and take care of our children—but now that we are actually doing that, he seems resentful.

Before kids, I had a pretty well-paying corporate job with benefits, and since I’ve left we have been struggling a bit financially—but nothing I don’t think we can handle. I don’t mind cutting back in whatever ways we need to in order to fully devote myself to our family, but my husband is worried about money all the time. It is literally all he talks about.

He goes to work in the morning before the kids are even awake and comes home in time for dinner (usually), but doesn’t say much of anything to anyone. After dinner he sits in front of the TV or plays video games while I put the kids to bed and then goes to bed early himself. The next day, it’s the same thing all over again.

How do I get him to accept this situation we agreed on without making me feel like a bad person?



Dear Housewife,

You do sound like a 1950s housewife, right down to the silent, uninvolved husband.

It seems like your husband feels like little more than the underwriter of your families financial well being—a servant tending a party he is not invited to join—and he has become depressed and resigned, as well as anxious that he might not be able to do the job.

You need to change the dynamic, at least a little—it’s time you invited him to the party.

More planned family time would be a great place to start.

Instead of letting your husband veg out in front of the TV after dinner, see if he will play games with you and the kids or take a walk or a bike ride around the neighborhood. On the weekends, ask him to help you make breakfast as a family, go bowling or to a movie.

He might be resistant at first—people who are used to being on the outside looking in can be suspicious of their suddenly being included—just keep trying.

When you are all together, focus as much energy on your husband as you do on your kids, and help them redirect some of their energy toward him as well. Hopefully, over time, he will begin seeing what exactly he is putting in all those hard hours at work for—not just to support his family financially, but as a foundation upon which to build a meaningful life filled with people who care about each other.



Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Ethan/Flickr

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