What if Your Spouse of 20+ Years Suddenly Decides to Leave You?
As the summer gradually winds down and the days start getting cooler, I’ve been thinking a lot about a growing trend in divorce.
The case of spouse abandonment plagues our world. In the common case, you think your decades-long marriage is fine, you even plan your retirement together – and then POOF! Your spouse, out of the blue, says these shocking words:
- “I’m leaving.”
- “I want out of this marriage. I haven’t been happy for years.”
- “We both know this isn’t working.” (But you didn’t know!) “I’m moving out.”
- “I want you out of the house. I don’t want to be married to you anymore.”
It’s devastating when your spouse of 20+ years suddenly decides to end a life-long relationship, especially when things seemed good to you, and there had been no signs that they were suffering.
You Get the Short Straw
But here’s where it gets sticky.
Trying to figure out the “why did they leave?” is going to slow down – or even stop – your healing.
You may end up spending months – even years – wracking your brain, trying to understand why your spouse just up and left when you thought your marriage was fine.
You may toss and turn in your bed at night, unable to sleep, trying to figure out if there was a certain day, or time, or life event, or something you said during your decades together that could have caused your spouse to decide they no longer wanted to be with you.
And you tell yourself, as you dissect the past, that if you get your answers, if your ex gives you the explanation that you are owed, then, and only then, can you get that closure and move on from your long-term marriage.
Ugly Truth #1: You May Not Get the Closure You Want
But lo and behold, that’s rarely the case as you may never get the closure you hoped for.
I know this truth stings, but it’s better to embrace it rather than fight it.
Does your spouse owe you an explanation of why they blindsided you?
Heck yes. It’s the decent, kind and human thing to do. When you were married to a person for years – even decades – and you stood by their side and made sacrifices for the sake of their wellbeing, you at least deserve an explanation and a heads-up.
But the truth of the matter is, a spouse who goes out of their way to just leave you hanging and did not think to give you an explanation when they left, will probably not provide one later either.
Their character shined through in the manner they chose to leave the long marriage, and it’s unlikely that they get a visit from the Human Decency Fairy and knock on your door to a) apologize and b) explain. Chances are, your hopes to get that closure you crave from them may very much be in vain.
Ugly Truth #2: Being a Detective of the Past Will Get You Nowhere
Of course, the logical part of you already knows that the past doesn’t hold the answers. But your heart is a completely different story.
“That’s BS! If I can only find a reason why, then I’ll be able to move on!”
“I can’t move on until they tell me why they changed after all this time.”
I get it. You want those answers. You want to know why. You want to corner your ex-spouse, tie them up and sit them at a chair, where they cannot leave until they provide you with a full and concise explanation of what made them act that way.
You want to know why they left and how long they thought about it. Were they thinking of leaving the last few times you were at dinner together? When you were discussing retirement, sharing the bed, going on vacation? The list goes on and on.
You want to be the detective and look for clues as to why your spouse left. Often, you are guided by the belief that those clues to the past will make you feel better.
That all sounds great, but let’s suspend reality for a second. Let’s imagine your spouse gives you a full explanation – a line-by-line account, day-by-day – of why they left.
What do you expect would happen then? Do you think you’d feel somehow vindicated?
Probably not. In all honestly, it may have the opposite effect, and guess what?
The outcome is the same. You’re still going to be in the same place you are now, trying to figure out how to establish your independence at 50 and beyond. The only difference in this scenario is, you’ve spent more emotional energy playing detective than the joker who left you deserved.
Your emotional energy is finite during this recovery time. Don’t waste it on playing detective – invest it on yourself and your life after 50.
Ugly Truth #3: If You Want Closure, It May Have to Come from Within
Someone who left you without an explanation is someone who does not deserve to spend the rest of your life with you. It doesn’t matter if they were your spouse, co-parent or partner for years.
If they walk out the door without having enough decency to let you know why, you are better off finding the closure and moving on by yourself.
Their explanation won’t unlock your emotional recovery. Waiting on them to grace you with that honor, and wasting your time playing detective robs you of the precious time and energy that you should be investing in your own recovery, healing and moving on.
You Shouldn’t Figure This Stuff Out by Yourself
No one’s saying you have to go through this process alone. In fact, thinking you have to just “suck it up” can actually stifle your healing process, and that’s not cool, either.
There is a ton of resources out there that you can turn to for help, and many of them deal specifically with abandonment issues. A great place to start is Runaway Husbands, which has a supportive community of folks who all share a similar story – both men and women are welcome!
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words ‘spouse abandonment’? Have you had to deal with this kind of thing in the past? Are you dealing with spouse abandonment now? What helps your healing process? What type of advice would you share with others going through the same difficult life circumstance? Please join the conversation below.