Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

“Women grieve the loss of a relationship before ending it, men grieve it after it has ended,” may say it best. Statistically, 65-70% of divorces are filed by women (90% in college-educated couples). As expected, women initiating divorce ultimately identify their spouse as the “true” initiator. The irony is that men, despite their own dissatisfaction are more likely to resist divorce. The majority immediately scramble to salvage their marriages, citing family or finances, prepared to agree to anything to keep their world in tact. Often this is in reaction to the shock, and not being prepared. But much of this too is to avoid the complex array of losses and challenges divorce presents a man.

Many of these losses though, are a result men’s typical, if not default, role within marriage of being the financial provider. No matter how enlightened we are as a culture, it is still uncommon for men to be the primary caregivers, and women the financial provider. Despite the security and sense of identity traditional marriages provide, they enable men to neglect the particular areas of personal growth that separation and divorce forced them to face. While he continued to develop his career skills, he did so at the cost of neglecting skills of domestic life–especially maintaining social-connectedness. Because women typically grieve relationships before end, they feel relief, experience less stress, and adjustment better after than men. Additionally, are less likely to isolate, and seek support and companionship with friends or family. Apart from career, a man’s partner is typically his most vital relationship. As a result, the loss is often experienced as trauma. Though this may sound strong, determining whether an event is traumatic doesn’t necessarily depend on the particular event, but how the individual experiences the event. Experiencing trauma weakens an individual’s basic integrity, compromise one’s confidence, and distort their attitudes about others. It’s not uncommon for men to feel inadequate, and are socially alienated when their marriage ends.

After separation and divorce, a man may find himself up against still having to maintain a career, while grieving the loss of his marriage and, arranged contact or time with his children. Because he  was working he may not previously have spent sustained time with them and have difficulty adjusting to this, the routines and the work required caring for children. This adjustment is probably being filtered through idealized expectations underlying reactive emotions, forced to cope with these new, unwanted circumstances. Relatively simple things such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, parenting and feeling the lack of supportive adult relationships can emphasize inadequacies, along with very real mounting challenges. Meanwhile, the person he once turned to for support and partnership is no longer there in the same capacity and, in all likelihood, feels like an adversary who has little compassion for his struggle with what she’d managed throughout the marriage. This can feel like payback for past conflicts around division of labor, leaving him with a sting of self recrimination. While the legal system enforces financial support, it doesn’t enforce emotional support. Even though a woman’s economic status lessons, she is at least granted a base line support and additionally, in most cases, a designated break from her children. In the emotional and domestic realm, men aren’t necessarily granted these, and often have to start from scratch.

Humorously speaking, all of this is nothing short of a perfectly engineered cluster fuck to the male psychology, especially given a man’s need to be self reliant and the typical difficulty a man has reaching out for help, appearing weak. However, the cluster fuck is that they find themselves, unprepared, ill-equipped, but forced to take on seemingly basic responsibilities they had relied on their spouses to manage, yet flailing badly. Many men typically don’t know what to do, or how to structure the time with their children—or how to parent in any way that resembles how their mother does and, much to his aggravation, his children seem to favor. But his even greater challenge what to do with himself. Simply choosing an activity may tie him in knots. Now having all the time he otherwise got flak for when married, he may not know what he wants, or even likes to do. There’s only so much T.V., gym time, Garageband, or Internet porn one can indulge in, short of risking developing an addiction to it. Again, if typical, and his social life diminished, he’ll probably isolate. As a result his feelings of loss and loneliness will be more intense, and be prone to idealize the past, comparing it with the present. Despite the male-appeal of a challenge, being divorced lacks an essential male ingredient: choice, which emphasizes the cluster. He didn’t choose the legal and financial stresses, giving money to an ex-wife or lawyers he probably doesn’t like; divvying up household items, and then having to purchase items to replace those his wife got. It’s hard to reconcile providing financial support, while feeling an ex-wife isn’t compassionate, capable of feelings, being nice, or refraining what seems like newly spawned righteousness. No wonder withholding, or being gamey, with financial support becomes the only recourse of striking back, or punishing his ex-wife for the hurt he feels she caused him. In essence he’s saying, You won’t have me, but you’ll have my money? Or If you think your life is better with out me, let me show you how bad it actually can be. This can spur someone to spend thousands on legal fees to ensure his ex-wife won’t get hundreds. The resentment caused by a divorce can corrupt an individual’s principals like a virus.

The choices for the newly separated/divorced man apart from this can appear grim. Many men throw themselves into new, sexual relationships, seeking comfort or distraction from the pain and difficulty adjusting to his new life. Some men grow bitter. Others remain fragile and insecure. A majority of men isolate—even though this deepens their sense of aloneness, and ultimately leave them stuck. Although most men feel the need to get unstuck, and get on with their lives, it’s often difficult to distinguish between action and distraction.

Know and trust that things will get better, even though right now it’s impossible to believe. But have faith. Men can heal, but not without some scars. Life will always be different, have a hitch, be slightly askew. The mind plays tricks. One may wish to be back within that intact family. But is this  because it was easier. You may feel you know you could do better now. If you honestly remember back, was it? But how long before you slip back, or on some level are there revenge fantasies? Much of what seems like hindsight is fantasy. You may have to ask whether “better” is being mistaken for easier. The advice often given to people who’ve quit drinking when they feel tempted to drink again is, “Walk yourself through it.” Imagine reconciling, and living together again. No doubt you’ve changed, but how do you imagine it being with your wife in the kitchen, or discussing what were difficult topics? How will it be going to bed? Think back, were you and your ex-wife even get along? Did she treat you as a friend, or someone in your life now would? The biggest shock men experience upon dating or starting a new relationship is that the women actually like them, or take what they say at face value, believe them, isn’t keeping score.

Give yourself time to accept your circumstances. This is your life now, own it—despite any hopes of reuniting. Remember, denial is one of the mind’s most powerful tricks and defense mechanisms, and can stall opportunities for growth. Even if re uniting with your spouse is a possibility, this doesn’t negate the potential growth. Think of it as a chance to exercise a part of yourself that you haven’t had to.

Learn to navigate the on-going emotional turmoil. Be aware of your thinking. You may re experience the most painful aspects of your divorce in an otherwise neutral, or normal occurrence. Become aware of what triggers you. But realize few triggers have a singular, cause and effect response. More often a single trigger will prompt a cluster of corresponding associated triggers. For example, your ex-wife hugging your children goodbye when you pick them up. This may bring up feelings of betrayal of separation, as in, left out, imposing impose a misplaced frame of mind over the present one, infusing the time with your children. The list could go on, and yet while all of these touch upon separate aspects of your circumstances, they all relate back to the divorce. By retracing your thinking, recognizing along the way what triggered negative feelings and your subsequent emotional reactions, then separate these from the present circumstances. That way you can deal with them at an appropriate time, rather than being at the mercy of raw reactivity.

Similarly, recognize when you’re right, but accept it doesn’t mean others, such as your ex-wife, will necessarily see this. Part of the process of divorce is learning to individuate, but by differentiating. In other words, developing who you are now, separate from your ex. This may include the ideals, values, and ways of doing things you formerly shared.

What men are typically bad at, but need especially going through separation and divorce, is support. This may just mean being around people in a café, or spending time with friends. The important thing is to still see yourself as a social being, being around other social beings, to recognize the value, and re-engage socially. This also offers another context than your past relationship, and helps in imagining a social future.

There are also more specific forms of support, such as a therapist, a divorce support group, or a friendship with someone going through the same thing. Having a one on one relationship with another man going through a divorce can be life saving, and provides a shared sense of your experience, struggles, healing and growth. It helps to tell one’s story over and over again, but also the opportunity of blending new insights and awareness. Having such a relationship can bare witness, and reflect back the changes, insights, and progress your story. Rarely will two individuals be in the exact place in the process, and may be able to help each other in the places they’ve already been through. Given the statistics, it shouldn’t be hard to find another man going through it.

Finding new interests or rediscovering former interests can re-direct, or channel, the otherwise aimlessness of being single. Most of us are, by nature, restless. Men are doers. The easiest solution for emptiness is distraction, although it often only amounts to—unproductive doing. Distraction keeps us busy, our minds off painful feelings of loss, incapability, failure, and loneliness. Don’t forget, married life occupied lots of time. Yet these feelings need to be experienced before we can adjust and move past them. What separation and scheduled custody fortunately or otherwise provide is time, perhaps the first “free time” you’ve had in years. It is only to be expected you may not know how to use it initially. It may be useful to consider this time as an opportunity to do the things you couldn’t do while you were Married. For example, creating a list of activities you  would enjoy doing. The key is to be active, but engaged. Don’t let your life remain on hold, because you’re going through this. Finding activities and interests you can develop and claim as your own, not only occupies this time, but enhances your new sense of identity. Interests can be hobbies, like creative projects, motorcycling, sports; activities that engage, challenge, and help to define you. Some activities may have a communal sense, bringing you into a larger community, or social network. Interests that help to define us also help to connect us, and connection with others is more easily established when we have something in common, than when we eventually know ourselves and our likes. Try different things.

Exercise not only helps reduce emotional and physical stress, but can help you look and feel better. Looking good and feeling good provides confidence and greater self esteem. As the grief passes, you  might become aware of being attractive, or attracted to others, and may want to begin flirting, entertain the idea of dating, even an openness to new relationship. Looking and feeling good only helps this.

One of the mistakes some men make is just getting by, maintaining the bare essentials. This often bespeaks of not accepting their circumstances, as if they were waiting around to be rescued, or reunited with their spouse. Again, whether the break up is permanent or not, one’s quality of life, including a sense of competency, is a day to day endeavor; and if one should get back together with their ex, they want to do so as better functioning individuals. So take ownership of your living space. Organize your home in a way that suits you. Many men defer to their ex’s sense of decor, or household organization, forgetting their gripes about these throughout their marriage. Take a moment and consider being able to set something down and it being there when you look for it. Ignoring your own sense of organization, style, or decor, may not only be a reminder of her presence, though more probably her absence, but continuing to keenly experience the separation, or maintain an underlying hope it will be reversed. Even a failed attempt at your own decor is taking ownership of your life through its environment. You may have to go through several attempts until you find what works and feels right for you. It gives incentive to invite others to your place, hopefully receiving compliments that reflect your re-emerging sense of self, home and life style. Whether it’s a pinball machine in the kitchen, or an ultra modern living room set, the exercise pushes one towards acceptance and potential hopefulness, and moves one further towards embracing their life as an individual.

Parenting is always tricky, but especially trying without the buffer or assistance of an additional parent. It’s not only a tactical feat, but an emotional one. When married you may have had the “one on one plan,” one parent supervises a child while the other supervises another. Now, as a single parent, you have to split yourself between two or more. Sibling flair-ups can pose real challenges, or having to walk to one side of the playground because one your children has a conflict with another child, and then immediately return to the original side because your other child needs help getting on a swing. Or how about bringing both your son and your daughter into the public men’s room because they need to go, or you can’t leave them unattended. You can quickly feel spread very thin, and incapable of providing either child with enough. On top of this, either of these can trigger loss, and anger towards your ex. Be prepared for potentially getting triggered, resist the convicting belief circumstances should be, or would be better if reversed.  Believing so, no matter the conviction will likely grant this happening. That’s just the mind’s tricks again, seeking an immediate solution to not only a long term problem, but a  far more potentially permanent on. Show the mind, you have tricks of your own, and try to re-consider any of these situations can also be excellent opportunities to exercise your own unique parenting style, and strengthen your relationship with your children. Just remember to be aware of your susceptibility to triggers, and that they in turn trigger a cluster of others associated with the original. Take a moment on the side of the play ground to gather yourself, go back and trace your chain of thoughts. With practice and experience, you’ll be able to distinguish these, and separate from the experience with your children, and set them aside for when you can process them later. But don’t worry if you forget to do this later, the important thing is to develop the ability deal with them rather than react

Invest in reading a parenting book, even one that just gives some overview. for example, “Pocket Parenting,” is organized by common problems faced by parents. Although it’s written with two parents in mind, it can nevertheless help you get a sense of parenting techniques. “Parenting After a Divorce,” is a concise book that covers many of the common problems of parenting after a divorce. While “Parenting from Within,” requires a more careful reading, provides a models to gain insight and understanding about how our experiences  growing up with our parents, may have shaped, and contribute to how we parent and react to our own children. The internet also provides a wealth of information on parenting, through forums and articles—as well as activities. Many men have challenges with what to do with their children, especially when previously activities were left up to the mother. The best advice I’ve heard is to do those things you always wanted to do as a child but didn’t. This not only can be healing, but add some authentic enthusiasm to activities.

Dealing with the ex-spouse around co parenting is an on-going process. How can one go from wanting to reach out and strangle to coming together collaboratively to discuss and decide the best for the children? First off, time heals all wounds. There are many stages and opportunities within the grieving process. Initiatively keep it to the business at hand, focus on the children, scheduling, logistics, concerns, appointments–trying to keep personalities out of it. Be aware of the functions of the left and right brain: the left does the speaking, while the right fills in the context, the feelings, associations and desire to strike. Offer the left, and, for the time being, keep the right to yourself—you can always call a friend to vent afterwards. If and when this goes well, you might try to touch upon the unresolved stuff, gently (if possible) and in bits. Remember you can dislike what a person says, or is even about, but not have to express this. It’s a part of respecting yourself as an individual and a way of letting others know you expect them to do the same. In marriage you were somewhat enmeshed, adversarially contingent, but no longer have to be in the same relational dynamic. She may be pushing buttons, pulling strings, try and simply observe this, accept this while standing your ground, self sufficiently and as an individual. Own what you feel or think and speak from your emerging sense of self. That isn’t to say out do, or act from an agenda, but state yourself clearly and openly. Again, much of this can be developed and practiced with a trusted friend or therapist. And, trust that time heals all wounds, and hokey as it sounds: This too shall pass. Like anything, it’s a practice.

While many men were resigned to their wardrobe being a bit out of style while married, they may find they can’t be after divorced. Your wardrobe may be dated, or you’ve had the same hairstyle since before getting married. You may consider some new clothes or hair stylist to feel good again about yourself—or feel attractive. The conscious attention and effort to your appearance and style shows others (and not just your ex) that you’re here, have ownership, and take pride in yourself.

Re-learning to relate with women can be tricky. After a divorce men are vulnerable in many different ways. They may be lonely, gun shy, insecure, bitter, or over compensate. In early single life, prior to marriage, many men looked to women more with “their eye on the prize,” than for the simple aim of getting to know them as individuals. Developing female friendships is a way to re-learn how to interact with women, and provides information as to the kind of woman you might find interesting once you’re ready to date. Again, since you aren’t dating yet,  but forming friendships, you doesn’t have to have an “eye on the prize,” but but free to simply check out the world around you.

At some point though, friends may begin encouraging you to get back out there…and…date. And just maybe you feel…reasonably ready. But having spent a number of years being someone’s boyfriend, fiancé and then husband, it takes time to be an individual again. Otherwise you run the risk of turning the next relationship into a transitional or replacement relationship. But it’s only understandable you might. The first new relationships may possibly wind up being learning experiences. You need to have at least a somewhat renewed sense of yourself before you begins to consider what you wants from a new relationship. Otherwise you may end up dating anyone who seems unlike your ex, but in reality, is potentially a disguised version. It’s essential to have learned and grown from the mistakes of your previous relationship or you just repeat these in your next. equally important is learning to be self-sufficient again, so you don’t unconsciously seek dependence in his next relationship. One is better off wanting a relationship than needing one. Divorce allows, if not forces, one to reconsider, not just how to make a relationship work, but how to improve one’s participation and, just as importantly, the kind of participation they need from a partner. Ask yourself, How have I been in relations? How am I as an individual now? How do I want to be in my next relationship, and how do I want my partner to be?

Be ready to find that there may be a new rules, or codes, to dating and  how relationships are established and operate. Starting to date, though tempting, shouldn’t be an actual consideration until the divorce is settled, and good portion of the loss grieved. No one can step fully into a new relationship, when they still have a foot in the past relationship. Be reasonably sure your thoughts aren’t still caught up with your ex. Have you developed adequate mental resources, gotten over feeling unbearably stretched by the process of divorce, creating a home, parenting. Haven’t made reasonable efforts to develop your identity as an single individual. Because it’s difficult to actually give anything a fresh start, when remaining attached  to previous relationship—even if it’s based only on lingering negativity. It can be helpful to talk about your ex in explaining the dynamics of the previous relationship. This can give your new partner a sense of what you’ve been through, or gain some understanding of potential triggers, vulnerabilities and their origin. For reasons like these having them out of the table can be productive. However, dwelling on former spouse, providing overtly negative actions or biased traits, may have an underlying, or overt intention of enlisting the new partner as an ally against a hostile ex. While on one hand it may keep you in your former marriage, and continue maintain your attachment to your ex, on the other, the new partner may feel like she is in completion with your ex, wonder if you’ll talk about her the same way if the two of you don’t work out, or that she’ll finally get tired of having another woman’s presence in the relationship.

When you do date: try to think if it as chance to have fun. Date all different types of women; different ages and from all different backgrounds. Really take advantage of this opportunity and diversify. Although dating after you’ve gone through a divorce can be a challenge, it’s an experience that is full of promise too. Keep your options open and try to resist comparing new women with your ex wife. Leave the past in the past and enjoy your present.

Although fear of rejection is real, and normal, try to look at dating from the point of view of your being the consumer. Consider giving priority to what they have to offer, rather than visa versa. In other words, try not to personalize their not being a good fit, or their feeling you’re not. Looked at from this perspective, if either feel it isn’t a good fit, it’s unlikely going to work and move on. Often times individuals get stuck in a completion, or the challenge of proving themselves, or disproving the other. It’s not being a bit is often just a fact, not always a fault. How ever if it is due to a fault, consider it constructively, and if it’s valid (perhaps your dating skills are rusty), use it as a way to improve. After divorce, in the absence of the real or perceived soothing a woman or a relationship offers, men can mistakenly seek this, and overlook the quality of companionship or whether they get along.

It’s hard, if not impossible work trying to forgive ex-spouse. Forgiveness is a process of practicing acceptance. One needs to accept the fact that they cannot control the things his ex-spouse is doing, saying, or thinking; nor can he stop her new lifestyle, and the reasons she gave others for the divorce. Accept the fact that you cannot control the other. Instead look for what you can control: your own actions, thoughts, and words. Eventually you need to work towards accepting that even though you were a good husband and fought—but surrendered and grieved the loss—of your marriage, you were not perfect, and contributed to the break-up in your own ways and  need accept your faults and contributions to the divorce. This is not easy to do, but gradually, to help stop laying all the blame on your ex-spouse for your anger and pain. A man who had been divorced for five years recently said, “Since we first separated my ex-wife was always being hostile, suspicious, and even now treats my prior short-coming in our marriage with a familiarity as if it was unquestionably apparent they continued. Until recently I’ve firmly maintained that I have been reasonable, relatively calm, never reacting or provoking in response. But the other day she commented that the kids were looking worn out, and could use some new ones, but my tone responding, I’m planning on taking care of this, intentionally implied that the reason I would take care of it, was because she couldn’t afford to. My response was influenced by a trigger signaling a cluster of triggers, all associated with how I perceived her initiating the divorce without considering the consequences. Specifically her not having achieved what she believed the marriage to me prevented her from, despite having now had five years to do it, and now I had to pick up the slack for it. The kids needing clothes is just a fact of life, and doesn’t merit any need to sign blame, but I realized I was inadvertently, and not so subtly doing so now, while all this time not able to recognize that I continue to keep this resentment present, maybe as much, or perhaps more than she does. Divorce never stops offering opportunities for growth.”

 

  1. lunga

    i am currently dating a divorcy and it is tough, one minute his happy the next his no. speaks about how he may die any day some day he speaks about how he wants to live long. it kills me

    Reply
    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Lunga,

      It doesn’t sound like he is ready to be in a new relationship, and is bringing much of his grief and conflict to your relationship. I think when men initially are going through divorce, they are used to having a primary support person–or at least a primary relationship, and often have a tendency to transfer it onto the next person if they don’t have some time to learn to rely somewhat on themselves. He may need to be talking with someone, either a friend, another person going through a divorce, or a therapist. Talking about wanting to die is serious, and putting pressure on you aside, it shows he may be unstable, and at risk. Part of being in a relationship is taking care of ourselves, so that we don’t push or expect our partners to do it for us and neglect their needs.

      Larry

  2. julia smith

    My lover has asked his wife for a divorce. (Not because of me, but because he has been unhappy for years: she has a narcistic type personality) It is there silver wedding anniversary next month . Obviously, he has put “us” on hold while he sorts himself and his future out. Ive told him I support him with everything, and am here for him . Im leaving him alone . hes trying to be normal at work etc etc. What else can I do to help him?
    Of course I want him to come to me after, but he will need to do whatever is best for him, which I will respect.

    Reply
    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Julia,

      I appreciate your comments. It sounds like he needs to be talking to someone–not necessarily a therapist, but someone other than you, himself, or obviously his wife. Because you said he’s trying to be normal at work, I’m assuming all of this is on the hush-hush. This can make the relationship, support, challenges, etc., kinda insular so that you wind up holding more than is fair, or possibly good for the relationship. He may end up depending on you and coming to you to manage his feelings about his ex-wife, but later, when or if you’re together, the ex will never leave your relationship. You’re right in leaving him alone, but consider too what you need from him in the meantime.

      Larry

  3. Sherry

    Hello, My lover of 1.5 years separated 4 months prior to meeting me and then just divorced in Nov 14. We had a great relationship and I was giving him space that he needed to deal with everything. However, the other week he had an argument with his children and things changed drastically. He walked in and said he just couldn’t do this any more. That he was hiding out with me and he needed to deal with all his problems. Thought couples dealt with things together. I was always supportive… Now I am confused. Help!

    Reply
    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Sherry,

      Obviously not knowing your lover, or the circumstances, it sounds like he didn’t think through all the possibilities before separating–such as how his children would react, and how could respond to them. You did the right thing by giving him space, and are also right about couples dealing with things together–when it applies to the couple. Now, while this could sound loaded, it isn’t meant to be. Your lover may consider the relationship he has with you separate from the one he has with his “family,” especially his kids. I think one of the greatest difficulties with having a relationship with a person who has previously been married, and has children, is that it brings with it a terrible realization: having always coming second to kids, in addition to their potentially always having an obligation to their ex. I don’t know whether you’ve been married previously, and may be making an assumption. I guess I’d be curious to understand what was discussed with his kids, what changed for him as a result, what is it he can’t do any more, and to be open to the possibility that he may’ve been hiding out with you. This may have nothing to do with the meaning, or viability of your relationship, but how he went about it–or came to realize he was. It would be difficult for someone to be married any amount of time, especially with kids, to cleanly shed all of this and start a new relationship. Not without recognizing the process of getting over the previous marriage or relationship. Perhaps he was trying to ignore, or push beyond this, afraid that by sharing it, he would cause tension, or questions with you, and kept it to himself.I’ve seen in cases where there has been affair and one person is pushed to leave their marriage before they are ready, they tend to hide their reaction to leaving the previous marriage, thinking it will muddy the waters of the present relationship, or expose the potential resentment they feel. So they keep these feelings–and the process, fall out, regrets, consequences to themselves and inevitably create a distance. It doesn’t sound like this was the case, although it doesn’t necessarily negate the story he was running in his own my mind about it.
      Again, I’d suggest asking for clarification and understanding–if you’re in communication, and just sitting with, or making sense of it. I have no doubt you were supportive, but I wouldn’t suggest leading with this, or even necessarily bringing it unless he expresses he didn’t feel it was there. I think that if he can see you trying to understand it, he’ll recognize the support you give, but also that it’s a safe place to bring concerns to–so that as a couple you can in the future deal with things together.

      Sincerely,

      Larry

  4. STJP

    I’m going through a separation presently. My husband is a chronic adulterer for the past 20 years of our marriage, I’ve had enough and recently ask him to move out. He is starting a new life with his lover (they’ve known each other for 8 months), setting up new home in a new country. He is in his late 60s. Despite what I’ve been through, I do not feel any hate and anger towards him. I’m too busy coping with my own pain, hurt, grief and loss and gaining back my own emotional strength.
    With a lover by his side, and a new life ahead of him, is he experiencing any loss, pain, guilt, regrets? At his age and with his new circumstances, will he settle in as easily as he proclaims or will he struggle?

    Reply
    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Pam,

      It’s difficult to say–I mean, having been an adulterer, he potentially has the abilities to compartmentalize and rationalize. It sounds too like he may use relationships as a means of salvation, renewed life, a high or sorts, and could, as the expression goes, be “chasing the dragon.” Given his track record, I would wonder if this new relationship will fizzle out, or he will continue in the same manner and this relationship will destruct. You must’ve given him a lot of understanding, compassion and forgiveness, and certainly if this was an issue for 20 years of marriage, the opportunity came up for him to address what he must’ve felt he wasn’t getting–and if so, and you couldn’t provide this, for whatever reason, he could’ve chosen to end the relationship then, instead of prolonging your pain. I’d admire your not feeling hate or anger towards him, but more so your active coping with it–despite it not being entirely your choice, and asking him to move out for your own good. That takes and says a lot. You also didn’t say he was invited by his new lover to move it, and circumstances may’ve foisted this onto both of them. This heightens things, and as a result more easily brings things into question–she may be more aware for any signs of cheating. I don’t know if you feel there’s a ratio between how much he struggles, to how “real” or meaningful your marriage was, changes are, even if he were to express struggle, pain or regret, it may be difficult to genuinely believe him, or trust his motives. If there are no children, there’s less potential for any good coming of wondering, or perhaps giving his reaction any sway. Focus on gaining back your own emotional strength and perhaps revisit it then.

      Sincerely,

      Larry

  5. Cheyenne

    I have been married for 7 months, i was 5 months pregnant, i love my husband so much, but he treated me so badly we fought because i have found numerous other emails, and texts on his phone from other women, i became so tired of of his womanizing behavior, worrying all the time, and i was always scared when i am not with him . one night he came back drunk, he also came with the another lady, when i i tried to confront him, he immediately started hitting me and he pushed me out the house and ask me to leave, i was lost and confused, i was stranded that i have to find a help from anywhere then i came across a spell caster Great zula who lives in (UNITED STATE) who had saved many marriage so as i emailed ZULA and he told me what is needed and after 3 days, he restored my marriage, i and my husband came back together as a married couple again, i am so so so so happy, my marriage was saved by

    Cheyenne Louise.

    Reply
    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Cheyenne,

      I noticed you said “was pregnant.” Does that mean you’ve had the child? If so, it’s natural survival instinct to want the father in the picture, or sometimes men react in odd, out of the ordinary ways, when their wife is pregnant for many reasons. Fear, anxiety, their own birth or childhood, or even just to be going through something, while their wives go through pregnancy. However, these are some significantly destructive behaviors for both a relationship and the raising of a child. I don’t mean to cast doubt on the Great Zula necessarily, but if these behaviors return any degree, perhaps ask yourself what you see in your husband, or understand about him, that can allow you to see beyond them. If they haven’t, I genuinely hope The Great Zula is actively helping other couples, because his results are amazing.

      Sincerely,

      Larry

  6. carol

    I dated this guy whilst he was going through a turbulent marriage. He moved to another state,for work purposes, but we still maintain a quasi relationship-sexual and otherwise . He is going through his divorce now and I don’t know how to act or expect from the relationship. I want a committed relationship ; should I remain hushed with great expectations?

    Reply
    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Carol,

      Men can be hard to read–obviously, and suggest you read my other article, “Is He Just Complacent? Distinguishing Commitment From Complacency with Men.” While it doesn’t speak to your comment exactly, it does touch upon the difficulty women have in reading what men want after divorce.
      Given this guy’s having had a turbulent marriage he may be gun shy, or trying to assure himself he can be wanted, or desired, without it requiring a commitment. It also sounds like there may’ve been an affair going on at the same time. No judgement here, but affairs add another, different, dynamic on top of things. They can sometimes be “transitory” relationships, or “Catalysts,” to get out of a marriage. And they set a precedent–the future is just around the corner. In the past, the affair probably posed lots of real obstacles, but presumably those are no longer there, and you might be feeling, What gives??? Not knowing the previous expectations of the relationship, or whether you had talked of a future, it seems like that is something you want, and may’ve been why you invested in the relationship prior to his separation and the current divorce. Or maybe you were under the belief that was a given, I don’t know. But I suggest putting what you want out there as a start. Make sure it’s a known, and see if he was under the same impression, or is willing to consider this going forward. I can appreciate remaining hushed and the great expectations, but these can have a tendency of leaking out, or always, at least below the service, being present. Worst yet, for you, going down the road before discovering he doesn’t want the same thing. It could be disappointing, so say the least, but without it having been out on the table, you might find yourself with little recourse, but lots of resentment. As long as you demonstrate being ok with this hushed state, then he will either assume your ok with it, or rely on it and continue.

      Sincerely,

      Larry

  7. hope

    Do you have a special article about how me feel after leaving spouse for an affair?
    My husband left me 6 months ago and he is confuse about what to do. He still wants to keep in touch with me because he says he wants to stay friends but I decided no to, everything he tells me hurts. So we are now keeping a distance and it hurts more but I know its the right thing to do, since he all ready has someone else. I would really like to be with him, support him, so Im looking for information about if he really feels sorry, or not at all, does he feels bad or completly happy, or I dont know.. I want to know if he is suffering as I am in a memory that perhaps he loved me.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Hope,

      It sounds like you want to continue holding on to your husband. While this is understandable, it risks dragging you and your feelings through the potentially increased pain of hearing about his new relationship, or delaying getting over the marriage, by maintaining the hope. I’d be curious as to why he wants to stay in touch. Sometimes people do this out of a sense of guilt or obligation, as a way of lessoning the pain they are inflicting. The pain of a spouse leaving–and especially for another person is bewildering and can be traumatic, causing us to feel and act in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be in our best interest. You didn’t really give much impression of how you feel about your husband as a person, or would influence you to want to maintain a relationship. I know though when we lose a spouse like this, we tend to focus on them, to the exclusion of ourselves. You may want instead to focus a bit on yourself, and do what the article read suggested but for you–like seeking support through friends, or family, and try not to stay as focused on him right now.

      Sincerely,

      Larry

  8. Chelsea

    I’m having a an extremely difficult time getting over my husband. We’ve been separated over a month and reality is starting to set in. We met while we were both deployed to Iraq and we got pregnant 3 months later. 3 months after that we got married (we thought we were doing the right thing). The first year was great. The next 3 years had its up and downs, but mostly downs. We argued all the time, we were verbally and mentally abusive, and we grew to resent one another. One of us had an affair and agreed to work through it and sought counseling. It was great for about 5 months after that. Since then, things just weren’t the same. The arguing continued and the verbal abuse continued. We were hardly ever intimate, we never kissed, hugged, touched, and barely held hands. I just recently found out he’s already seeing another woman (she’s 20, he’s 27). They’ve gone places together, places where I asked him to take me, but never has. They work together and she stays the night some nights at the apartment WE used to have together in the bed that I paid for. He made me and my child move out and into my parents. He spends his money on day trips with his new girlfriend, instead of his daughter. Everything is just so overwhelming and most days I am sick to my stomach with the thought of him being with another woman. I’m having a hard time accepting that he is taking this separation so easily and already out there with another woman. I am just seeking advice on how to get over this. I am an extremely strong woman (so I think), but I am having a terrible time dealing with this.

    Reply
  9. anne

    Hi, I’m dating a guy who’s on the process of getting a divorce, recently, he went back to his country to do some paper works and to sell some of their assets. During that time, he didn’t contact me, yesterday he send me a message apologizing for not contacting and telling me it’s emotionally hard for him to be back in his country and he didn’t know how to deal with it. He assure me that he don’t want to get back to his ex.

    His been separated for a year now but I know he needs more time, but I’m wondering how much time should I give him? He’s actually back from his country but I didn’t contact him bec I want to give him time to think. Is there anything I can do to help him or should I need to leave him alone?

    Reply
  10. Shawn

    I’m in a marriage that ended about 2 years ago. I feel it has come time to go our separate ways, which is a discussion my wife and I will be having soon. My wife has been the one to handle expenses, which has left me with no savings. Yet, just the other day, she was able to go out and purchase a $300 router. I don’t think any bill suffered, but this comment should provide an insight to my knowledge of our financial situation: I have little knowledge. I only make $11/hr. She has a job that pays nearly twice that amount. For the majority of our marriage, she refused to work because she wanted to stay at home with our children. Now, they are all teens or young adults. I’m still young at 40 and, at this time, have no interest in another relationship. My main concern is breaking away with no financial ground and no other place to live. Any advice?

    Reply
  11. Alnoor

    Hi I just separated now two months and my ex partner is now dating the person she swapped for basically ,, I where toghther for 10 years which for me is has been very hard to know and ear her saying and moving on so quickly .i going nuts it’s true it is killing on the inside and shredding my outside ,I feel alone no doubts ,,,,I not been going out at all right now because my finance now are so tight ,,,I have to get a place for my self and don’t see if I will make it I am afraid and feeling really low ,all that goes in my mind it’s her I love her I miss her ……
    When I look at her I just go into stupid mode I don’t have no other conversation with her apart from that,she as clearly moved on and does not care at all in nothing related to me which just put me in a corner and I don’t see no light out there for ,,,I feel like I not moving on and won’t i,feel and I am afraid of not finding someone else it’s just been so hard for me I feel like a failure ,,,,
    Please some I need some thoughts ….

    Reply
    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Alnoor,

      I’m sorry to hear you’re going through such pain, and I wish I had some magic phrase or words that would help turn it around. When I work with people who are out in the dating world, I tell them to take a consumer approach: don’t focus so much on whether they like you, but whether you like them. I know this may not make sense for where you are, but if your exporter can move on so quickly,and swap, leaving you feeling like you are in “stupid mode,” then (and it’s easy for me to say sitting here) maybe she isn’t or wasn’t really good for you. I think when we get left our immediate response is whether we’ll ever have a relationship again–when were in the worst place to be in terms of starting a new relationship. Again, realizing it’s far easier to say, maybe this can be a time to focus on yourself–do what you want, and take a break from relationship as a topic or a possibility. If it’s difficult being around your ex, try and get some distance. I have often heard similar things as you said in your email from individuals I’ve worked with, but ironically, after some time away from their ex, when they see them, they begin to see how their ex wasn’t right for them, or the great differences in how they go about relationships. It’s a cliche, but time does heal many many wounds. Consider talking to someone, like a therapist or a friend. Don’t isolate, but get out, and attend to yourself in what ever way (healthy way) that will help you feel better. You will get through this.

      Larry

  12. Christina

    Dear Larry,
    My husband has recently requested that we separate till he can figure himself put after 8 years of marriage and 3 small children. I have found numerous indications of adultery and have always “let it go.” That’s said, for our Twins’ birthday, he has booked a reservation for us to stay overnight post his request to separate. I told him i would not be going as he did not discuss the overnight with me and further more, we are “separated.” I feel guilty not going for the children’s sake, but he needs to have accountability for his actions in my opinion. Thoughts? Should I go? Or stay firm?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Christina,

      I understand the guilt, saying no to an overnight away. But I would also understand your need to set limits, and not let your husband “get away” with his actions and the seriousness of separating. If he wants to come back, or repair your relationship, he has to know that it can only come with work and genuine commitment to do this. Yet, kids are the most important thing, and can be a valid reason to stay together (despite all the empowerment, etc., preached by therapists). I would suggest suggesting you and he go to counseling–not because I’m in the profession, but because he it provide a place to give voice and accountability to all of this. For example, while it’s fine (I think) to say no to the over night, I will add, it’s probably best though if he understands your hesitation and/or reasons, so he doesn’t make assumptions and can recognize the consequences and significance of his behavior. I will also add (and I recognize it’s easy to say this from where I’m sitting) if you have “let it go” in the past, this may be contributing to how he’s acting, or the context within which he’s acting from. I would also suggest getting clear on what he needs to figure out and try to respect this and understand this, because knowing his reasons may not only shed light on it, but inform you of where you stand and in which direction you should proceed.

      Larry

  13. Joseph

    Larry,
    I filed for divorce after 34 years of marriage,I had brain surgery 20 years ago and lost a good portion of my long time memory. I could not remember dating my wife and or our wedding day.My wife showed no affection and i thought for a long time i was not doing a good job of making her happy.I would ask her why she could not show me any affection and she would reply that she just wasn’t an affectionate person. after living this way for 12 years i had an affair,i was very guilt ridden and glad she found out and came clean,i ended the affair.The following years were just unbearable, She tried for about a month and things went back to the same,I suggested we see a marriage counselor,she refused and said we can repair this ourselves. After thinking back i believe she was worried about her lack of affection and intimacy would be a problem for her if people knew this.She would say i was over sexed because i wanted relations 2 times a week not her 1-2 times a month. Before i filed for divorce i had asked two more times for counseling and was refused,where she left the state.I wish i could stop feeling sad and wish sometimes that everything will work out. She blew up at the fact i never told her about me filing,Would i go back to the marriage of what i know will be a repeat,i think not.We also have been separated for three years and have some one who shows me affection with out any trouble.Just unsure if i ever want to remarry again.

    Reply
    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Joseph,

      Thank you for your honesty. I wondered whether your ex-wife’s (if it’s appropriate to call her this) lack of affection had to do with your surgery, meaning did she feel you weren’t present, connected or the same. I sort of doubt this, but wanted to share it. Not willing to go to counseling, and thinking the two of you could work it out on your own, was possibly missing out on an opportunity–either to normalize or explore her limits with affection, or as well, explore and potentially demystify or better understand yours. You don’t sound “over sexed,” but that you want to share, create and express intimacy. Like the old expression, Women need to be close to have sex and men need sex to be close. But it’s tricky, because the expression isn’t meant to reduce the importance of sex for men, but to place it on an equal and valid level as a woman’s. Too often women think all men want is sex, when in actuality, it’s more often the way they best, and feel comfortable, expressing intimacy. And sex doesn’t hurt (barring problems) with couples’ feeling close.

      I’m glad you found someone who show you the affection you need, and like. A book I’ve been listening to on audio is “Mating in Captivity,” which you find helpful, if not interesting. The Author has a very realistic take on intimacy within couples, and may encourage you towards more (and intimacy includes affection) of it.

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