How do I live without you?

DivorceI received a question by email, and was asked to blog my answer. The question was “How did you go from being a family to move out and accept your circumstances?” From what this person has told me, s/he is stuck in a miserable marriage and is afraid to leave. Kids involved etc.

I am going to try to answer to the best of my ability. You just do it. When there is no choice in the matter, you do what you have to do to get through day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute sometimes.

For much of my first marriage I was afraid that my husband would leave. Not that there was any sign of it – it was all the baggage I brought to the relationship. My father left when I was a toddler. In my mind that was just what men do. Fact. Marriage was not for life, it was for until the men left. My grandparents had a long marriage – over 50 years. But in my mind that wasn’t going to be possible for me. Most men leave.

As such, I was always afraid to disagree with my former husband. If I fought with him he’d leave. If I disagreed with him, he’d leave. If he didn’t like my food he’d leave. The fear of him leaving colored every interaction.

I am not shy to admit that I started seeing a therapist. This behaviour wasn’t healthy. At this point there was nothing happening to warrant me even thinking my ex would leave. The first session I told her that I was married, but that one day my husband would leave. I now understand why I thought that way, that at that point it was all my unfounded fear. Even after many therapy sessions, and improvements on my part, that fear was still there, albeit quieter. (BH I have conquered that fear with my new marriage).

Our marriage, toward the end, was unraveling due to circumstances that I will not discuss publicly. I knew subconsciously what was coming, yet I fervently prayed my prediction wouldn’t come true. This was one thing I hadn’t wanted to be right about. But he left. Our marriage was over and he moved out, leaving me and the children on our own.

Honestly, the morning after he left, when I woke up, there was an initial feeling of relief. No walking on eggshells, no being afraid of the possibility of him leaving. It was a done deal. It was final. I no longer had to live in fear of him leaving. He left. I was left to pick up the pieces with the kids. By myself. And there really is no guide book that tells you how to get through those first few agonizing days when all you want to do is curl into a ball and ignore the world. Those dear sweet children needed me. They needed my hugs and my love and to be reassured that everything was going to be ok. My world AND theirs was torn apart. I had a clue it was going to happen, they didn’t.

What got us through those first tough days, weeks and months – our friends and our community. They fed us, held us, rocked us, cried with us, spent time with the kids, and supported me in every way that I needed. Without judgment. It is a time that you learn who your friends are. Some people will not get involved in any way because divorce might be contagious. Some people who you never thought liked you will send a cooked meal, a card, a phone call.

That summer I learned on the job how to be a single mom and to rely on myself. I found I had the inner strength. I could have given up and retreated into my shell and just wasted away. I chose to fight to give myself and the kids a chance at living life to the full, albeit differently from what we had envisaged.

So dear reader, if you are so miserable, do what you can to try to fix it. Counseling etc. If you have gone that route and it hasn’t helped and you are at the point of no return – you are not alone. Speak to your rabbi or clergy person. Don’t do anything impulsive. Make a plan if you can. (I didn’t have that opportunity, it might have helped) It’s horrible to be in a marriage where you are unhappy. Putting the children first is always a good thing to do – focus on them and what their needs are. Reach out to family and friends for help – asking for help is so hard, but sometimes we have to swallow our pride. Good Luck!

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22 Comments

  1. tila says:

    Its like a comfort zone. I guess the blanket of the outside world seeing YOU as a married individual with children covers for what ever flaw one feels. In my case, if he left, but left me here in the house I cannot even call my own I guess I would be Ok. If he left supporting us finicially again, that would be OK.
    I have no family, and the person I have become is so ugly that all my friends have left, and my neighbours snigger right in front of me. It goes as far as social services that when I call for couselling they sigh heavily, “Again?” that I don’t even want to try.
    The day starts, and I say “today I will call” by the end of the day I have not called. I fear that they will not listen to what I need and how I want it to go. For the most part, I want someone to knock sense into my husband’s thick skull and wake up to realize we are a family and to take into consideration that to be a family he needs to be there. Nuture, support, and be an actively involved participant.
    I believe he is ill, mentally. He could say the same about me, but i would just agree and show him how hard I try to overcome it.
    I hate my life, and I hate that he will never be the husband I hoped he would be. I don’t think it would be any better if I were on my own with the kids.
    Motherhood was great when the needs of a baby and a toddler were so easy (for me at least) to tend to. The needs of older kids are so great that I cannot mother properly. I cannot do the homework, and I cannot discpline. I do not have the finaces to make the delicious meals they want (just the basics, but thats OK I guess), and to get the finances I am emotionally hanicapped.
    I asked my father In Law if he would hire me part time. He took on my 19 year old nephew without experiance over the summer. His first answer was :”So, I could loose all my customers? Besides, you cannot converse in french”. I asked his wife the same question. She constantly wonders why I cannot find work, so when she answered me like my FIL did, I said that is why.
    When my husband married me, as a joke I gave him the book “Taming of The Shrew”. I wish I did not. To this day in heated arguements he will bring that up. I have no patience for being cricized or judged or to be rudely asked to do something. I will be rude back and will tell you how I feel about your comment with a nasty retort. I try to hold back, but I am so tightly wound that I cannot help myself.
    I am protected, and thought I would be for a long time. I sighed happily when I passed the helped wanted section of the newspaper. “No need” I have a family to care for. Now I am desperate for work just so I can get out of this.

    • hadassahsabo says:

      wow. ok firstly a father HAS to support his children no matter what. Especially if he has been the sole breadwinner. You are entitled also to alimony. I am not a lawyer, so please know this only comes from my experience. I cannot tell you amounts etc.

      when my ex left I was unemployable. I have a high school education and nothing beyond. i had been a full time SAHM for years and years. Yes i had French (a requirement here in Quebec) but not enough to be considered bilingual. add to that the fact that i was emotionally drained and unable to even think of working.

      there are community organizations that can help you financially (and emotionally) until the legal stuff gets sorted out, and if the dad defaults on his payments there are consequences to him too.

      I am a different person that I was when my ex left. Totally different. Before he left i thought like you. I am depressed, I have no friends, no one will help me etc. Like you, I had pushed people away. They came running once i needed their help.

      My family is far far away and were not able to help me physically. Emotionally they were there for me, BH.

      Taking the first step is always the hardest….

  2. Meira_Davi says:

    My situation may be different from yours. I left my husband. I was 50 years old and my mother died when she was 50 (when I was 18) and in my marriage I felt that I was dying a slow emotional death. My husband and I didn’t fight. We just chose not to discuss much–we made small talk. We were like roommates. I was suffering from depression, seeing a therapist and taking anti-depressants. I remember feeling like the life I was living was not MY life. I felt like I was playing a role in a play and it was getting harder and harder to pretend that we were a happy couple when I was so miserable and lost.

    My then-husband scrambled to get everyone on his side. I chose not to do that. I thought people would ask me my side of things, but they accepted his. My daughters were young teens and he told them I abandoned them and cared more about myself. My self-esteem was so battered and my sense of self so unfamiliar that I didn’t fight back well. I kept thinking people would see me and what I was going through but they heard his version and blamed me.

    The years to follow were very hard. I still cannot believe that the person who claimed to love me could have done so much to undermine my relationship with my girls. But those girls were his strongest weapon with which to hurt me.

    It is now over 3 years since the divorce. My girls and I found our way back to each other because I showed them over and over that I had not abandoned them and I faced their anger and fear head on. I remarried a wonderful man who really sees me and loves me and supports who I am. We moved to another state for his job. My youngest is finishing high school and living with her dad. We see each other as much as we can. My oldest is a college junior and we get along well.

    Before I decided to leave my marriage, I kept saying to my therapist that I felt invisible. People only saw who they expected to see, the role that I played. But few people really saw ME. Leaving costs me many friends, but not all. My ex and I speak as little as possible because there is no trust left between us.

    Sometimes you get to the point where you become more afraid for things to stay the same than for change. I couldn’t stand being invisible anymore. I was dying inside. Not everyone has the issues I had to deal with but I couldn’t have stayed. Now I know who I am and my kids know who I am too. The friends who deserted me were not my friends, they were friends with the role I played.

    Leaving a marriage is one of the hardest things you can do. But sometimes, staying becomes harder. Then it is time to go.

    Blessings to you as you confront this difficult situation. Get help, therapy, rabbi, girlfriends, family. It’s a tough journey but you just take each day as it comes.

  3. hadassahsabo says:

    A very honourable man once told me and the KoD (at different times) this quote “When the pain of same is greater than the pain of change, then change occurs”

  4. Nine years ago I came home to an empty home. Nothing in it. A baby daughter 6 mos old in my arms, 2 and 4 year old sons running around the empty house. 14 and 16 year old daughters just sitting there.

    My now ex had emptied out the house, sold it (we bought it four months prior and his company had gutted and rehabbed it….so it was in the company name still..we hadn’t gotten around to making it ours. Funny how you just trust when you are married). I had 3 days to find a place to live on soley my income. My ex? Nicely set up in his own place with no notice.

    I scrambled. Cried. Panicked. I knew this was coming but didn’t. He had another life he was enjoying and I just kept holding on because I had no idea how I would support 5 children alone.

    I begged a man to rent me a small home with no security deposit. I found furniture and got my kitchen table and a crib back from my ex—but I had to rent a truck and carry it all myself. He snickered at how independent I would have to become.

    For years I struggled. I still struggle. BUT I did it. I have no help. My parents both passed away in the first few years post divorce. I am truly on my own and THIS is my family.

    My children are now 9, 11, 14, 23, and soon to be 25. Beautiful adults, creative children. Love them so much.

    I’ve been thru every trial and tribulation. I’ve lived without and had massively successful moments.

    My ex played a small part in the lives of my children. He’s been arrested 4 x and to court 28 times in 9 years for non-payment of CS. Still it goes on…he enjoys travel, his wife and his fancy things more than his children. Six weeks ago he disappeared and I am just used to the struggle…

    Saddest? My son’s 14th birthday yesterday and no call. Happiest? We have the BEST time here in our house. It’s not big, we aren’t rich but we laugh so much and have so many good times that aren’t centered on money.

    I am so fortunate that I didn’t cower to his offers to “come back”. EEEwww… Never.

    Do it. You can do it. We are a family—single mom-hood is a challenge. I wouldn’t trade my struggles for anything.

    Chin up

  5. Raizy says:

    A good marriage is a wonderful thing. A bad marriage can make you feel depressed, angry, full of doubts, and physically ill. At my very worst (right before I finally decided to leave my husband)I found myself sticking my head out of the window of our 4th floor apartment, wondering if I could survive the jump or not.
    Deciding to leave was terrifying, but I knew that there was no choice. Even with 3 very small children and absolutely no money at all, I knew that I had to get out of this mariage.
    The best advice that I can give anyone in a similar stuation is to let your family and friends carry you until you are strong enough to walk on your own. Don’t resist their help, don’t feel like you are being a burden. The people who love you want to help you, and seeing you suffer is hurting them terribly. Ask for what you need, accept what they offer, and you and your children will get through the hard times and will eventually reach a place where you are calm and confident and able to function and take care of your children.

  6. Lady Lock and Load says:

    I respect you more and more Hadassah! What a special person you are, I am speechless! And look how you want to help out and comfort others! wow is all I can say.

  7. Z! says:

    I wish strength and good wishes to all those suffering in bad marriages. May you have the strength to make the right decisions daily for yourselves and your children.

  8. KoD says:

    Lady Lock and Load: Hadassah is VERY special!!! I realized this when I first met her. And every day, I realize this more and more.

    QoH: I know, “Awww Dude”.

    Tila: I was saddened to read what you wrote today. I have a great deal of respect for you that you felt comfortable enough to share this with us. QoH and I will help in any way we can. Stay strong. You will get through this, as daunting as it may seem now, and be happier in the end.

  9. frumgoth says:

    It’s been 9 years since my ex and i separated, and thank goodness we are all doing so much better now. Your reader should know that it’s hard at first, but if she is so unhappy then leaving can only improve her life, and the lives of her children. They will have peace with her, and peace when they are with him, but separately. If she lives in NY i can give her contact info for organizations that can help. Counseling is definitely important, and reaching out to friends and neighbors. Please let me know if i should forward that info.

  10. tila says:

    I am the person. It would take hours to explain the dynamics of this family. I was looking to be taken care of. Instead I am a prisoner in a cage. Yeah, being guarded. I want to do this without losing the tiny bit of integrity I have now. There are days when i want to just pack a bag and leave without my kids. I think of all the minor stupid things that keep me attached here. Like a magnet, the pull is so are to resist. I just want to curl op and fade away.

    • hadassahsabo says:

      how many women get married for just that reason, to be taken care of? I know I did.

      curling up and fading away would accomplish the same thing as leaving the kids, Tila. you won’t be there for them. I cannot tell you the right thing to do here, i think in your heart of hearts you know.

      the implementation is the hard part. where to go from here??

  11. frumgoth says:

    Tila,
    I’m sorry, When I wrote my comment I didnt realize that the first response was yours. I went back and re-read it carefully. You’re right, it’s hard to give you advice without understanding the dynamics. What I do want to point out is that there doesn’t seem to be actual abuse going on, so maybe there is hope for your marriage to improve, with counseling. Maybe the counselor can help your husband realize that you need for him to be more involved, to be present for you and your kids, physically and emotionally. What do you think Tila? And what do you think Hadassah?

    • hadassahsabo says:

      Tila said in one of her comments that counselling has been tried with social services. i get the sense that this is a long time issue that is just coasting along, never been resolved. i think Tila is at the point that she needs some kind of resolution, that living within this marriage is hurting her emotionally.

  12. hadassahsabo says:

    I just wanted to add that most cities have a women’s shelter, some cities even have a Jewish women’s shelter, so that if you feel you need somewhere to go with the kids there is a place that can help you. with those first difficult steps.

    If anyone wants to contact me for help in finding a local shelter, my email is hadassahmilner at gmail dot com.

  13. Z! says:

    Tila- Do you really have no family on your side that you go to for support?

  14. tila says:

    No family. I am an only child. Ironically, after my last post, Social Serivce called and said that they will be there for me when I am ONLY ready to leave. I told them I will find a Rabbi that is willing to get involved. Spoke to one, but hesitant.

  15. tila says:

    THANK YOU HADASSAH! You are very special!

  16. Rebecca says:

    Are manyh Orthodox husbands, standoffish, with their wives and children? I am surprised to read from the women how unhappy they are. R some of these marriages arranged, or have the couples had very little time to get to know one other. My understanding of relationships is that the couple do not spend time together alone. Is that an accurate statement. I think that as a woman and mother, as tough as it will be, she should look at what kind of message is she sending her children. As someone said here, as soon as her husband left, when she woke up, her feelings were so much lighter. I think this woman needs to find help to support her move. It is outthere, she just needs to look, look, look. If she were to give out the information of her location, there might be people on here who could direct her. I wish her STRENGTH, for she will need it and she will surprise herself with it. Also, there are books in the library which she could read about feeling stuck and how to move out and on.

    • hadassahsabo says:

      Rebecca, the answer to your question is long and involved. i am going to attempt to answer you in a blog post this week. I hope that’s ok.

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