When I wrote this post, I had no idea so many women would find it by going to Google or Bing or wherever and typing in the words "what to do when your husband leaves". Every time I see those search terms have been used, my heart breaks a little. I wrote this in a lighthearted way...don't get me wrong, the advice is real but the delivery is a bit flippant. I recently wrote a follow-up post, called "What To Do When Your Husband Leaves You. Part Two." It's a wee bit more serious, and contains advice that I wish I had put into this one.
Whoever you are, whatever you're dealing with, I want you to know that you are not alone. A lot of us have gone through this and have made it out of the madness alive, intact and happy. You will too.
Yeah, I'm not dwelling. But I remember wanting to talk to women who went through this interesting life experience and not really finding a whole lot out there on the subject. Sure, there are divorce sites, cheating hubby sites, all that flim flam/angry chat board groupie thing. But most of those offered up the obvious stuff, and I wanted to know the subtle, little things.
Like when you're pregnant, no one really tells you there's a very good possibility that a room full of people will see you poop when you deliver. That's not essential information, but personally, that's good to know.
I made a shit-load of errors. I did a lot of things that I shouldn't have, and it would have been really cool to have had someone there to give me a heads-up when I was going about it the wrong way.
So here is my little list of "Things To Do When Your Husband Leaves You" by someone who has lived through it.
1. Breathe. Duh, right? But remind yourself to do it, do it deeply and often. When we start to freak out we get that panic-stricken breathing thing going on, and that's not conducive to rational thinking. Which you will definitely need to be doing at this point.
2. Put your emotional censor into hyper-drive. You are going to have a million things running through your mind all at once. You are going to want to negotiate, maim, give up, maim some more, accept all blame, pass the buck, yada yada yada. That's all well and good, as long as you KEEP IT IN YOUR HEAD. Don't say anything, write anything, text anything or email anything before you carefully, thoroughly decide if it's appropriate. Or true. Or self-destructive.
I turned to the written word when I was left to twist in the wind. I wrote pitiful, awful letters to Big Daddy, wherein I took all the blame for everything bad that had happened in our marriage. I blamed it on wine, on the Internet, on my hamhock arms...I guess in my damaged state of mind I figured that maybe, just maybe, if I took this one for the team he'd reconsider. In hindsight, I should have ripped these up instead of handing them over. He kept them, and not only kept them but shared them with the very person who was 1/3 responsible for the demise of our marriage. And that sucks. I still have a pretty pathetic, weepy email from him, sent after he and The Office Bicycle had started shacking up, that I printed out and saved. I think it would be...interesting to see the ripple-effect that thing would have if I shared it. But that's irrelevant right now.
Lesson learned: don't let your heart hit send before your brain proofreads. This will be something that requires constant attention. And you will slip. Forgive yourself.
3. Open up your own checking account if you don't already have one. And an addendum to this one: close the joint one, asap. Even if you are one of the rare ones who does get that "fairy tale" ending, it's never a bad idea to have your own bank account. If you do indeed end up divorced, it's wise to get your name off of EVERYTHING that is joint. I am haunted, to this day, by things that we signed on to as a married couple. I'm not a lawyer nor am I a financial expert (I made myself LOL at this one) but I do think that things may have been a little bit brighter for me, financially, if I had dumped most of the co-sign things right at the start.
4. Brace yourself for the fact that if he's left, chances are really, really good that he's got someone else. I denied this one until the proof was physically shoved into my face. When I think back on how desperately I tried to patch things up between Big Daddy and I, and all the while he was slinking back to Suzy Homewrecker, I am filled with two things: anger at how stupid I was, and embarrassment. Especially when I consider the little family trips that I begged him to attend. He'd go, alright. He'd bless us with his presence. And we'd have our awkward sex again.
I distinctly remember one cold late-fall night in a cozy cabin up north...kids all tucked in and snoring away, me and Big Daddy drinking cheap beer and fumbling around in the bedroom. He said, "Hey, do you want to try it a different way?" and God bless my naivete, I was all, "Huh??". Yes, sweet handful of readers, here I go again with the backdoor references. We all know how that "ended" up, right? No way Jose. But it did kind of click in my mind a couple months later when one of the kids asked me what "Astroglide" was. They had found it on Big Daddy's bed. I told him it was a special lotion, and that maybe he should ask Big Daddy what he used it for. Maybe ask him at a party or family gathering.
If I had known right from the start that he had found a secretary who did way more than order donuts for meetings and answer phones, I could have saved myself a whole lot of humiliation. And I could have started filling out my eHarmony questionnaire earlier (it takes days to complete. Months if you actually read the questions).
Anyhoo: Point is, prepare yourself for the worst. You may have already been replaced. Which leads me to my next What To Do (that is actually a what not to do)...
5. When you do find out he's been screwing around, don't obsess about her/him/it/them (the "other"). IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER. Keep repeating this one, over and over until it's burned into your cerebrum. I wasted non-refundable hours of my life wondering who this person was, what she looked like, what her story was, was she hot, was she young or old, did she have kids, what did she have that I didn't??? Waste of time. Because, honestly, who cares a whit about her? All you need to know is that in the long run, she has done you a favor. As poor betrayed Addison on Grey's Anatomy once said, "I don't want someone who doesn't want me." Why would you? Life is short. Don't waste a precious second of it giving them another thought.
Of course, if kids are involved, you do need to know that they are safe when not in your care. I wasn't thrilled to learn that the person who was now playing Mommy with my kids 4 days a month was a recently divorced smoker and likes her drinkies, but as far as I know I don't have to worry about their safety (although the head shaving incident was spooky).
In my situation, once I did finally see this person face to face, I felt oddly let down. She wasn't a stunner. She isn't ugly, but she wasn't the Jessica Rabbit I had pictured in my mind. As one of my friend's husbands said, "She kind of looks like she was rode hard, and put away." So all of that going ape-shit with curiosity was for naught. It was like waiting for some ominous test results (like the HIV test I took, literally the day after I found out about Secretary) and then finding out it's nothing. Quite literally, nothing.
6. Heard about the Divorce Diet? It's real. Take advantage of it if you're chubby. If you are a foodie, like me, this may very well be the one and only time in your life when you truly cannot eat. But you have to, so make sure you don't starve. This was the time in my life when I really used my gym membership to its full capacity. There is no therapy in the world that can beat ears full of high-volume kick ass music and a treadmill. You forget your woes for an hour or so, and all those endorphins will, at the very least, keep you from crying on the way home from the club.
Trust me though, the Divorce Diet isn't known for it's longevity. After a while, life settles down and you start to feel human again, and your past comforts will do what they have always done best: comfort you. If you are smart, you will keep that gym membership or at the very least, do some sort of exercise several times a week. It will keep all of those feel-good hormones chugging through your system which can help out in many, many areas of day to day life. Like when you realize one of the other things that no one tells you....
7. Have some sex. Sex after divorce is awesome. Really. When you have it, that is. Gone is the baggage that you and your own Big Daddy kept in the bedroom. There are no more feelings of guilt for not wanting it. When you're single again, trust me. You want it. There is none of the pretending to be asleep when you feel that hand under the covers, or when you are 100% sure that's not the remote you feel poking you in the back. With single sex, you most likely have a very limited window of time to do the deed, in addition to the dinner/movie/Segway tour that leads to the nookie (yes I said Segway tour. God Help Me. That was the craigslist victim. We'll get to him soon).
You get to feel that rush of taking a big naughty leap again, and the rush is fun. And even if the sex is less than awesome, you get the freedom of NOT HAVING TO DO IT AGAIN. And again and again for 12 mind-numbing years...oops. Got off track. It's kind of a sick thrill to get ready for a date and wonder what Bachelor #3 has in his bag of tricks. There really are other fish in the sea...some wonderful, fun fish who are not total assholes.
What I'm saying is this: There is good everywhere, even among the wreckage of a marriage that has gone off the tracks. Life will be completely different for you now, but when you think about it, maybe that isn't a bad thing. Sometimes even something as devastating as being left behind while the person you promised to love til death do you part begins his own mid-life Rewind can be a gift.
You will be ok.