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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.
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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.