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newly-single and devastated at the end of my marriage....any advice?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I've thought about posting here for a while, telling my story and getting some support & advice from those who have BTDT, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I still seem to have trouble thinking of myself as a single parent, calling myself a "single mother" even though I technically am now - kind of like I have trouble saying that my kids and I were "victims of abuse" even though I suppose we were, in a waymecry.gif


My STBX and I would have been married for a decade this fall, and had the four most incredible and amazing children you could ever imagine. I was told constantly that I had the "perfect" family - to all outward appearances, I did: we came from very fortunate backgrounds, had all the advantages you could want, my husband was a Ph.D. with an excellent job, we went to church on Sundays, we had large community of friends, we went to all the LLL events and he talked about how great tandem-nursing was and said all the right things and played with the kids and laughed with me and it all just seemed like the epitome of the loving, happy, Christian, attachment-parenting family.


But back at home, behind closed doors, I spent years upon years living with literally *constant* and extreme verbal and emotional abuse, and occasional physical abuse too (low-level in terms of the physical abuse, but plenty of threats regarding what he was going to do to me "someday"). He was like two completely different people; Jekyll and Hyde - and I never knew which was going to walk through the door. Most nights, I cried myself to sleep....or I fell asleep praying the Rosary over and over for God to help us, to help him, to help me, anything. I put up with a LOT when it was just me, but once he started turning on the kids (and they were old enough to realize what was going on, try to get in the middle of it, and clearly be suffering the effects of it), I gave him an ultimatum: get help, or we're leaving. In late May, I finally, finally made good on the 5,000 or so times I'd started packing a suitcase and threatened to leave....and I did. 


I left with nothing: no money, no job, no home, no car, nothing. My amazing friends and family promised they'd help. Before long, I had a place to stay, a used car, and a loan of some money for living expenses. And my best friend from college, when she found out what I'd been hiding for so long, paid my lawyer's retainer so I could file for divorce.


And that's where I am now....I have an apartment, I am working on finding a job (preferably before I lose the apartment I just got!), I have child and spousal support coming in, I got basically 90% custody of my kids, and the divorce should be final sometime in late October/early November - right around when I had always dreamed we'd be in Paris again on a second honeymoon celebrating our 10th anniversarybrokenheart.gif


But it still seems SO surreal....I walk around feeling shell-shocked most of the time. I've had a few days where I feel happy and hopeful and confident I did the right thing and that someday things will be wonderful again, but most days I am terrified, depressed, lonely, and afraid that I did the wrong thing, that I'll never be able to provide for four kids on my own, I'll be alone the rest of the my life, everyone will judge me for this...


I suppose that, deep down inside, the past couple of months I've always thought that at some point, he'd show up having had an epiphany, a changed man, begging me to come home and everything would be wonderful again. But no - he claims he's actually very happy and glad that I "finally left." How does any man - let alone a man who is smart and claims to be a Christian and pushed his kids on the swings in the yard and held them as babies and sang to them and stood on an altar promising to love me until death do us part let his wife and kids walk away and not even care, not even TRY? And why do *I* even care, when he hurt me SO badly in SO many ways for SO long? Why do I think of the good times, the funny times, the happy times....and start to think, "maybe the bad times weren't THAT bad...."


How do I move on from this? If you're a mama who left the man you fully intended to grow old with and bounce your great-grandchildren on your lap with, but he changed into someone you didn't recognize, PLEASE give me some advice. How do I get through this? How do I make this OK for my kids? How do they adjust to going to school (the older 3) and to daycare (the youngest) as I was always a homeschooling SAHM until now? (That's one of the hardest parts of it for me - having to leave my kids, send them to school and go back to work after 9 years of being at home with them!) How do you deal with the unfair stereotypes of single mothers? How do you keep your sanity so you can even BE a good mother? How do you ever trust anyone (or your own judgment!!) again?

post #2 of 14

Goodness, you are telling my story, right down to the perfect homeschooling family.  I relate to the hope that leaving would be the thing that finally spurred him to change, the loss of my dreams for our future, and the shame that somehow I failed by becoming a single parent.  Not to mention the financial fear-- apart from the abuse dynamic, I loved being a homeschooling SAHM.  I am in no way prepared to make a living at this time.


So what is keeping me sane right now?  Well, I feel incredibly cared for by God.  Support has come from unusual places, but we haven't had a need go unmet.  Also, after years of marriage counseling, I *finally* got some good info on domestic violence, and it really isn't my fault. In fact there is nothing that I can do to prevent his abuse other than remove us from the situation, and I don't want my kids to grow up internalizing that this is a normal relationship (like I did).   If you haven't yet read these books check them out-- Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft and The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans.  I also joined a domestic violence support group run by the local women's shelter.  And I started exercising out of self-preservation, otherwise the feelings overwhelm.


If you supported him at home while he established his career, you may be entitled to a longer period of spousal support while you get education/training to enter the workforce.   And, yes, honey, it was that bad.

post #3 of 14

You. Did. The. Right. Thing. Never doubt that. You did what's best for you and your kids. You showed them that nobody who's decent treats people the way you all were treated. You stood up for them and for yourself. You have immense courage. You are smart, strong, brave and most of all, you are a good mom.


A PhD doesn't make for compassion. Heck, often the kind of mind that can focus so intently on one subject to get a PhD may have some social issues, relationship flaws and inabilities to manage life's ups and downs. A LOT of PhDs probably fall somewhere on the autism spectrum which means social and emotional deficits. I say this having a child with ASD.


Your road is not going to be easy. You have a lot of hard graft ahead. But you did the right thing. I don't know you but I am so proud to read your story. Proud of you as a woman, and as a mother.


Never look back.

post #4 of 14

I agree with the PP.  Also wanted to suggest the SA forum.

post #5 of 14

Hugs to you. This is so hard. I was married for 16 years, and we were together for 6 years before we got married. The last few years I also felt like I was leading a double life and no one knew what was really going on at home. The man my X is now is worlds different than the man I was with for all those years and chose to have kids with. I often say that it really is like a death-- the person that I knew and loved is dead and isn't coming back.


It sounds like you have really strong support which is key. Lean on friends and family when you have to.


This is not the life I intended for myself and my kids-- but it's an honest life, and I am grateful for that.


Keep taking it one day at a time. You'll get through this. Give yourself time to grieve.

post #6 of 14

Greetings...I have posted many of the details of my marriage on this forum--rather than tell the story over and over, my advice to you is to read my old posts.  I was married for 20 years and I'm living the surreal, too.  I've been divorce now since March and there are crappy days but days that are OK.  I really can't give you advice--but I'll say these few things:  I never have to apologize or ASK to "do" things.  In all the years I was married, I wanted to travel with friends or family and for him to take the kids for a few days.  He was able to take week-long fishing trips or camping/four wheel trips with his friends, but I was never "allowed" to do the same...I mean, I guess I COULD go on trips or a movie once a year with a friend, but if I did, God help me, I'd hear about how crappy a mom I was for not spending every waking moment with my kids.  Divorce has some serious karma attached to it--according to the divorce decree, he gets the kids three weeks out of the summer.   As much as I missed my kids this year for the first time away from them--what a lucky break:  I went on a week-long mission trip with my church AND I got to do some serious travel that I would NEVER would have been able to do.    Now, 20 years is a long time--so yes, the thought of being alone for the rest of my life is terrifying sometimes.  And I'm lonely...but then, if I am honest with myself, I really was already alone.  This is my first summer alone with my kids--and it's probably the best summer I've ever had.  I didn't expect that.  I really hope that there is a relationship in my future--but I'm not there yet.  My advice to you:  praise yourself every day for getting through the day, forgive yourself for not being "there" yet (where ever there is for you--the perfect body, the great job, enough money in your bank account for Christmas), and ask for help.  I tell everyone what I need and I have been grateful for things people have done for me.  I give back whenever I can--babysit a neighbor's kids, when her husband helped me with taking a dead tree out of my yard--a gift card to a mom who helped get my kids on the bus when I had to go to work before the bus came...stuff like that.  Take it one day at a time and be kind to yourself.  Oh, and don't be surprised if you don't recognize your ex as you move further apart in your lives--my ex is doing stuff that I find TOTALLY shocking--like yours saying he was glad it was over--mine has done all sorts of crazy stuff.  I have to really remove my emotions from it.  That is the best protection I can suggest.   Hang in there.  You are not alone...oh, and in my case, I am the PhD...LOL...

post #7 of 14

I've been through so much of what you have written (and I have posted it in the past). I had no support in place though. Now today I have such a different outlook on things. Please know know me have commented how different I am now (in a good way). I second the books the PP mentioned and the SA forum.

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks SO MUCH mamas. I am so glad I finally did reach out for support. I should have known that since MDC mamas have been there for me through every other stage, they would be now grouphug.gif I will check out the SA forum. Been meaning to but I know you have to apply to that one and I just never got around to it!

post #9 of 14

Hang in there.  It really sucks sometimes...but sometimes it is OK.  For me, it just depends on the day.  The first year is just the worst.  After that you think, OK, I think I can do this.  Pretty soon you think:  why on earth did I stay with that fill in the blank so darn long?   LOL

post #10 of 14

If he has a good job, and it sounds like he does, you should be getting enough separate maintenance and then alimony/child support to only work part time.  Make sure your lawyer insists that a sudden decline in lifestyle for the children is not in their best interests and that you should be allowed to continue parenting and homeschooling as before.  You might not get all you petition for, but supporting the children on your own should not be what you're forced into doing.


Don't let your lawyer shirk on this. The fact that you haven't worked in nine years means that you're not easily employable (to the court, at least) and he should be paying alimony for years, not months. Also, you're entitled to half of all retirement funds, half the house equity, half the value of all assets, and, half the debt, except for school loans--they stay with the person, typically.  Financial worries should not be on your plate--given dh's education and earning potential.


Hang in--and get tough on your lawyer. Don't let religious feelings make you "too kind" to the guy and assume all the guilt for leaving!


Btw, I homeschooled for 18 years and was widowed 10 years into it.  Most of my married friends dumped me (didn't want an eligible, young widow hanging around!!) and I ended up in the singles group. We made it--you will, too.

post #11 of 14

You can still bounce your grandbabies on your lap someday... you can still enjoy Paris someday... you can still have wonderful times at home with your kids.  Except now you'll do it without an abuser present!  Trust me - that's way better! 


If people judge you, then it'll make it easy for you to weed them out of your life.  And it sounds very largely like for the most part, you have very supportive people in your life!  It is rather mind-boggling that the person we've had kids with can end up caring about us far less than friends, but it's true and it's out there and more common than you'd think.  It also sounds like your ex is a big old narcissist - they're very good at faking the whole picture, putting on a big show, but inside they don't mean it - because they have no inside.  Read up on Narcissistic Personality Disorder when you're ready because I bet you'll recognize a lot of characteristics.  Living with a narcissist is absolutely horrible and soul-draining, and it's horrible for your kids, so be so happy that you did this for them - that you got out.  I realize they still probably have visitation with him, and I hate that my son has to deal with it at all, but a small percentage of the time is better than 100%.  And, it's being a far better role-model for your children to draw boundaries about how people can treat you.  We all deserve to live with respect.  You are showing your kids that you deserve it, and that they deserve it too.


You did the right thing - the only thing you could do!  As time goes on and you are out of the "habit" of your ex, it will become very clear - and you will be 100% glad to not have to call that person your husband.



post #12 of 14

Hi there, I am so sorry you are going thru this. But i can empathize. My whole life has been turned upsidedown. There are a few things I have learned from my situation. One is never take any day for granted, b/c you never know what is going to happen tomorrow. The only thing you have command of is the here and now. Tomorrow is completely uncertain. Two, my kids are my everything. I already knew that, but this has made me appreciate them all the more. They are what keep me going and modivate me to face the day. Losing my husband has been so hard for me. He was my best friend. I always pictured us getting old together and being married until the end. But he was living a lie. How he could throw his whole life away is beyond me and it hurts so much. My boys have lost their father, and b/c I had to get a restraining order out against him. I dont know what to tell them, and they keep asking me when he is coming back. It tears me apart. I had no job, no income, myself. I am going to school for my associates in nursing, so I am ever so grateful that I will be able to get a job to support my boys after I graduate in june, but for now it is hard. I had to move out of the house we were renting b/c I couldnt afford it and had to move in with my mom. I am so grateful that we can stay here instead of going to a shelter, and that her and my stepdad are helping with childcare along with babysitters I have found in order to finish school. That is what I have to do now. I have always been a SAHM, besidesgoing to school or working part-time here and there, so the thought of having to work full-time hurts too. My kids do go to public school and always have, but my youngest is 2 and the thought of having to put him in day care so young is hard to deal with. I have nothing against day care, especially if they are a good place, but it is always hard for me to leave them when thye are so young. I also feel so lonely. I never get a chance to get out besides school, and no one to really talk to. But for my boys, I have to carry on. I hurt on the inside, but go on for them. I am still numb I think, but my kids make me smile. So yes, I can feel for you. I wish you the best of luck and peace.

post #13 of 14

oops i meant i graduate in december....but it's not letting me edit my post. sorry

post #14 of 14

Hi Mama,


It sounds like you are grieving, and that is totally normal and healthy. Even those sad thoughts you are having right now are normal and healthy. I went through it. My relationship was difficult, too, but I learned that I was not a passive victim; I was a contributor to the difficulty. And knowing that hurt, but it helped me to heal and get going in the life that I wanted without feeling victimized and angry. I have more compassion for my X and myself now. And because I went to counseling and focused on my behaviors and habits, my X is trying to grow too. He is too ashamed to go to counseling now, but maybe he will in the future when he does not worry so much about being judged.


I found a book that saved my life and my family. Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage. It is a tough loving Christian book that brings you right back to your own heart and actions no matter what your spouse did or does. I love it. I have bought it for friends and family. I wanted to be the one who was right and good, but I was not. It's ok that I wasn't because I see the problem with my behavior for trying to change him and pointing out his flaws, but it wasn't loving to my X, my kids, or me that I stayed in a cycle that led him to act out against me or me to act out against him. So one day I told the truth. I said, I don't love you anymore. It was true because love does not stand where there is no respect or reciprocity of kindness. I had run out and so had he. We just both wanted the lifestyle and to be with the children. But only love makes a happy home. So it was the most loving thing I could do to set both of us free. Now the book encourages people to stay together if divorce is not an option, but it was in our case. My X is not Christain and he has been divorced before. Still the words in that book will heal your heart, which is exactly what you need right now. I'm praying for you. My X and I loved each other for a long time and we were able to transform it in order to have a very peaceful separation and coparenting experience. I know that you have love for your family. It is not gone eventhough that family is not the same. Let grace come in a rebuild you. You will be new again one day. Have faith and pray for a new pure heart. You will feel wonderful in no time! Your love can expand even more than you previously imagined.

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