“My Husband Has Just Left me and Our Two Young Children”

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I’m a mom of two young kids (my son will be 3 in August and my daughter turned 1 two weeks ago). Six months ago my husband of four years (together nine years total) told me he wanted “out.” He said he tried marriage, but it wasn’t working out for him. He went from being all in to being all out. No in between. No counseling. Nada. I was wondering if you had any advice about the financial struggle I find myself in? The kids are going to live with me, but I can’t afford the rent on my own and he doesn’t want to pony up enough child support to help us out. Legal child support probably won’t be enough either. California seems to be in favor of deadbeat dads these days. I’m so stressed out. Any advice you can offer is appreciated. Also, any advice you can offer towards…well, I’ve never felt lonelier in my life…he never fought for me and that makes me feel worthless…and I’m scared I’ll never find love again. — Suddenly a Single Mom

I’m so sorry you’re going through this. This is entirely your husband’s fault, it’s not yours, it’s nothing you did or didn’t do, this is not a reflection of your worth and your value. Your husband is a motherfucker, period. For a man to up and leave his wife, his toddler, and his baby, without so much as a single counseling session: He is either suddenly very sick or a motherfucker. It’s so unfair to you and your children, and it’s going to be a rough transition to get through, but you are not the first woman to find herself in this position, you won’t be the last, and you WILL be ok. You are going to get through this, your life will continue, and you will find joy and love and light again.

First, of course, it should go without saying: Get a good lawyer and fight for every penny you can get from him. You may need to downsize homes, temporarily move in with family or a close friend until you get on your feet, or consider taking in a well-vetted roommate (ideally someone you know or a friend of a friend). You may also consider cohabitation with another single mother — someone you find through word of mouth (again, a friend of a friend or family or colleague) or through a service that specializes in matching single mothers, like CoAbode. CoAbode also has a list of many resources helpful for women in your exact situation, from affordable housing to grants for single mothers to government services to job opportunities, counseling, and help collecting the child support you are entitled to.

As for the emotional fall-out: It’s ok — necessary, even — to grieve the end of this nine-year relationship and the family you were building with this man. It is also ok and necessary to get some professional help processing that end and the feelings of worthlessness you’re now dealing with. And it’s important to remember that, for years, your husband was, I assume, committed to you and you had a happy and successful relationship. What changed in your relationship was the addition of children and the stress it created on your marriage. Having young children is stressful on even the strongest relationships, and weak people walk away rather than summoning the strength and getting help to face the challenges and to re-invest in one’s relationship. This is 100% a reflection on the poor character and weakness of your husband and 0% a reflection on your lovability. You are not responsible for his reckless and unloving decision to leave.

The strength you are going to have to summon now to move forward, the vulnerability you will have to share to ask for and accept help, the extra love you will give your children, and the bonds you will build with the people in your life who will show up for you and show you what real love looks like, will make you a better woman. When you are ready to date again, you will have fostered qualities that make you more attractive to a certain kind of person, and you will have fine-tuned your bullshit detector to protect yourself and your kids from experiencing the hell your husband is currently putting your through. These are big silver linings that should not be taken for granted.

This will end up being a defining period in your life — a clear line in which things came before and things came after. I feel confident that with the right support (including therapy, financial and legal and career counseling, and emotional support from loved ones), the life that comes after will be so much richer and more authentic and joyful than what came before. You will have moments, days, maybe weeks of loneliness, but if you can open your heart to the support offered you, I think you will also find that the love in your life from all its many sources is huge, and that the single source of romantic love that you’ve now lost will pale in comparison.

Related: Lessons From Divorce and Showing Up: The Single Most Important Thing A Friend Can Do


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.


  1. Don’t assume what you will get for child support based on “my friends ex..” or whatever. Heck my boss pays 15k a damn month so I could say the complete opposite.

    Child support is figured out by a formula not someone’s feelings. Every court simple takes his income, the number of children, etc. also he would be responsible for healthcare, half of schooling or child care, etc.

    Just saying don’t let that part freak you out before you speak to a lawyer. A court will also usually order temporary support while the specific amount is figured out so you’ll get something right away.

  2. California does child support on formula. If he does not pay you can get wages attached. He may also owe alimony for four years. You can get through this. Find a good lawyer. The last thing you should be worried about right now is finding love again. Your children need you , they can feel the stress. Concentrate on you and your children.

    1. I think its harsh to chide her for wondering if she’ll ever find love. I think its realistic and human after being hurt like this to wonder if you’ll be alone forever.

      LW, you will find love again. Take the time to heal these wounds, take care of your kids, take care of yourself. You’ll be ok.

  3. Oh, LW, I’m sorry you’re going through this. I totally agree with Wendy’s assessment of the guy– its one thing to leave your wife (sucky but understandable) but another thing to financially/emotionally/physically abandon your two young children. He doesn’t even want to pay child support.
    I dont want to offer diagnoses over the internet but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was either some addiction or mental illness at play.

    Definitely get yourself a lawyer and fight the bastard for every last cent of alimony and child support.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      Or an affair. He might have already found a replacement for the wife.

      1. Monkeys mommy says:

        I would BET on it.

      2. Yuuuup. Someone fun and exciting who hasn’t worn herself out bearing HIS children. Ugh.

  4. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

    WEES, but I want to be a bit more blunt about something Wendy noted: please, PLEASE don’t be afraid to take advantage of social welfare programs (grants, food assistance, housing assistance, energy assistance, etc.) to get back on your feet. I know that many people feel that there’s a stigma attached to them, and some refuse to take advantage of them because of it. But your situation is exactly the kind of thing these programs are designed for: mothers who are suddenly thrust into financial hardship and need some help getting back out of it. Even aside from the money, the people managing these programs (i.e., case workers) are generally great emotional support as well, and sometimes it’s nice to just have someone simply there to cheer you on when you ARE back on your feet.

    And, seriously, your husband can go to hell. I’m somewhat defensive of the male position in a lot of letters, but this is just unacceptable behavior. Being a man is stepping up to handle your responsibilities without complaint. Your husband isn’t a man; he’s a coward. Pure and simple.

    1. A really good point. This is why these services exist. You pay into them while working to help you when needed. Not just for others. There are many options out there. It would benefit you to speak to a social services worker ASAP. Even if you didn’t qualify, children always get medical coverage if you cannot afford it, period. They also provide resources beyond financial. Housing, career and more. They also tend to be great shoulders to lean on and point you in the right direction. It will sting to ask for this help but you will walk away with some support and information that could really be beneficial.

  5. Juliecatharine says:

    WWS. LW, I am so sorry your husband turned out to be a weak pos. Follow Wendy’s advice and lawyer up asap. Document your assets, freeze your credit, do whatever you need to do to protect yourself and your kids. Don’t put anything past your husband. A man who would walk out on a wife and two kids without trying to find a way to make things work is capable of anything. I would not be surprised if there’s another woman so brace yourself for that and try to internalize the fact that he isn’t worth having. Be kind to yourself, take things one step at a time, and you will be ok. Best to you.

  6. Artsygirl says:

    LW – My sister found herself in a very similar situation when her first husband suddenly walked out while she was pregnant with her second child. He also claimed that he could not pay child support and actually crossed out the court mandated weekly payment and hand wrote in $20 thinking he could file it and would only be responsible for $80 a month for his two children – he was not particularly bright. It was tough for my sister, both emotionally and financially. She leaned on friends and family and now is in a better place. She is remarried, found a great career, and is beyond happy. Just know that it can and will get better.

  7. If you don’t have money for a lawyer, go to the website for the California Bar Association. There will be information about finding a pro bono lawyer who will donate her (or his) services to you, free of charge. You might need to make a phone call or fill out a form, but please do it. You will be able to find a lawyer, and any fees that are incurred are charged to your husband, by the way, not to you. Good luck!

  8. I want to echo GuyFriday. Social assistance programs are intended for this situation…something really bad, and out of your control, happened and it’s really going to effect every part of your three lives. There are only so many hours in a day, and only so much of you to go around. Keep those wee ones as your first priority, because your time and affection are something no one else can provide to them, and let the programs help to shore up some of the weak spots left by your spouse. And those are HIS weak spots, not yours! And if (or when) you doubt your lovability because of this situation, please “consider the source.” Anyone who is willing to abandon a family becomes immediately suspect. Their judgement becomes suspect. Their choices become suspect. Their character becomes suspect. Those who hold onto hope, and give Love a chance are the ones who we who have been abandoned need to look to for reassurance and promises of the future. Hang in there Momma!

  9. Monkey's Mommy says:

    I really am sorry OP. I know this sucks. Unfortunately, it also stinks of infidelity. Most men and women do not just up and leave their partner and kids for the unknown because they are over it… usually it is because they are under someone else. Or planning to be. Take NO pity on his ass, get a lawyer and take him to court. He owes those kids financial support, if nothing else. And don’t let him convince you he won’t be ordered to pay much… I have friends who have had the screws put to them big time. It is all about the formula.

  10. Oh OP, I am so so sorry. I really understand the flux of emotion and fear that comes with a sudden ending of a relationship. I remember fully having a “Why do I always end up alone” moment in the middle of the fear for me and the kids and the shape of our future. I think it’s human and natural to mourn the sudden loss of that even in the middle of everything else.

    Its been over a decade since that moment for me. I can say with certainty that I and my kids are better off. You will be too. He’s an ass who’s trying to gaslight you into getting less than you and the kids deserve. Dont take his word for it…talk to that lawyer. Protect their future and ensure it’s all written down. Come back to us whenever you need to vent or need someone to help hold you up. We’re all rooting for you.

  11. I have been in nearly the same situation (except he admitted he was cheating and I kicked him out) I wasn’t in California (although I used to live there and about 1/4 of my family are still there.) But I would imagine California would offer even more services(?) He threw a little money my way (like $20 here and there) then didn’t give me any support for 60 days, I then got an abandonment warrant on him and when we went to court for that I was awarded temporary custody of our daughter and child support. It didn’t cost me much. I didn’t obtain a lawyer until later when I filed for divorce.
    I went to government services. I never got welfare (I got a job right away, I was a stay at home mom during the marriage) but I did get Medicaid for my daughter, a small amount of food stamps and they helped pay for daycare. (I think I paid a small amount according to my income and the state paid the rest directly to daycare. ) He took the family car. I had to take two buses to get her to daycare and get to work. (Two this day I am paranoid about not having a car and have two cars at all times. My OWN cars in my own name. My current husband thinks I am a bit of a nut) I won’t tell you it wasn’t hard. I eventually gave up the house (it was rented and I didn’t want to continue living there, bad memories) I moved to a neighboring county that had a Family Resource Center (That is what it was called) that helped me get into an apartment that I paid for according to my income. I was so lonely and depressed at first. I felt so sorry for my daughter. It really ate at me. (He wanted us to stay together and wanted me to turn a blind eye to what he was doing behind my back. He said he would support me and stay with me forever if I let him do what he wanted. NO THANKS!) The more independent I became the happier I got.
    In the end I found a new life and never looked back. I am SO GLAD we divorced. I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like if I stayed. He was (and still is) a douchebag.
    You will survive it and in the end you will be happy that he showed you his true colors early on and you didn’t waste anymore of your life on a selfish asshole. You will love again too, but don’t be in a hurry. You will be way too busy to worry about love for a while.
    I didn’t remarry until years later and to a much better man. ?

  12. I recommend reading chumplady.com when you’re ready.

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