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Sandra A Doron LCSW

Dear Sandra:

I am 36 years old and suddenly find myself without a wife. We have 2 wonderful children, who are 12 and 10 years old. I am shocked and devastated by my wife’s leaving after 12 years of marriage. How could this happen? I knew we had some problems, but nothing that serious that would make her leave. I am in shock and cannot understand how this could have happened. HELP!

Dear HELP!

I am very pleased that you chose to reach out and talk about the pain you must be feeling at this very moment. You are devastated, feelings undoubtedly made worse by the fact that you did not know that this was coming. You are not alone. More and more men are finding themselves in this emotional crisis, and asking the same question: Why did this happen? More importantly, you may need immediate help with how you can begin to deal with the loss and the emptiness that you feel right now.

You may still be hoping that she is coming back. Perhaps you will try to contact her and make many promises to change. Perhaps your hurt will turn into anger and indignation, and you may find, as time passes, that you are so angry that you don’t want to try again. You can expect that you will go through many mood changes, and be in much conflict, especially since you have two children, whom you clearly do not want to lose. The most important things you can do now are:

1) Find out as quickly as you can whether your wife has left for good and is filing for divorce, or whether she is doing this to send an important message to you. If your wife shows signs of possibly changing her mind, write to her, call her, and acknowledge the mistakes you have made, and share with her the steps you are taking to change.

2) Talk about your pain with trusted friends or family, or clergy. Share what is happening to you with them. If you come to realize that the marriage is indeed over, perhaps the kindest, most compassionate thing you can say to yourself is that this is painful, but it is an opportunity for you to grow and to come to understand what went wrong. The grieving process will take a long time and it is not easy. Remember that the break-up of a marriage is rarely only one spouse’s fault. It is the interaction between the two of you.

3) Find out what your legal rights are with regard to your children. Having a close relationship with your children is possible, if you know what you need to do, and work to make that happen. The pain you are feeling will be diminished if you are working to maintain, and even enhance, your relationship with your children.

You may still be wanting an answer to your question: How could this have happened? My guess is that your wife has been contemplating this for a couple of years. Rarely do partners separate and then divorce without thinking about it for a long time. She may have thought she had given you many messages, and tried to communicate her concerns to you. Was she talking less? Was she going out with her friends more? Was she acting “strangely”, or just not acting like herself? All of these are signals that something had gone awry. By recognizing these red flags, even now, in retrospect, you have a chance of preventing similar problems if your wife returns, and if not, in another marriage in the future.

I believe that it is worth the enormous effort and hard work to save a marriage. However, no matter how much you want this marriage to work, it will not, and cannot, if both of you are not committed to making it work. If your wife does come back, both of you need to be willing to find out what happened, jointly assume responsibility, and begin the arduous and painful process of growth and change. If she does not come back, begin the arduous and painful process of change in yourself. Though it may not seem possible, this process will alleviate the devastation you are feeling at this moment.

Sandra A Doron is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker A & A Couples Counseling Acknowledge and Appreciate (Keys to a Successful Relationship)


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This site was last updated 01/22/06