Life Hax: My wife left me with the kids and the bills

by DGO Web Administrator

My wife just left me and I am so angry at her I can barely stand to talk to her. She’s had mental health issues for most of her life but until this last year she dealt with her depression pretty well.We were together 15 years and have four kids who need her.She just left one day with no explanation, no warning, nothing. I literally came home to a note and my bewildered children. She told them this was temporary, but now she’s asking me for a legal separation. I am left to take care of the children, the house, and go to work so I can still pay all of the bills, including hers.I think I could stand it if she were in a hospital or seeing a doctor or something, but she’s rented a house at the beach and snuck back this week to take more of her things and our cat. The one thing I guess she actually cares about.I’m afraid to go see her in person because I am so angry. I am too ashamed, upset and exhausted to call our lawyer, and I haven’t even told my family yet. What can I do? Furious at My WifeYou can go to a soundproof place and scream. And you can find a therapist as soon as possible so you have a safe place to dump out enough of this confusion and sadness and rage to maintain a strong presence for your kids. Not that you can’t show them you have feelings, that’s natural and healthy for them to see, but you want to air the potentially destabilizing ones out of their earshot.

And in a bit – sooner rather than later, I hope – you can see that being in the family home with the job and the chores is the far better place to be than a beach rental, even with all the work and stress it entails, because you’re the one with the kids, and you’re the one who hasn’t broken your promises to them. You’re the earth beneath their feet. It is sacred.

It is also this: Healthy. Your wife is either too ill to manage her daily life, or she just threw away this sacred thing for the life equivalent of a sunset poster with an inspirational quote.

Neither one promises a better outcome for her than your laundry and dishes and pain will bring you in the end. Please keep that in mind, too – even as you cut whatever corners you must on those household responsibilities, because that’s where you are right now. (There should be a magazine – Crisis Homes and Gardens.) Hang in there and show your kids the love that sticks around.

I have been seeing someone for the last year and a half. We are both in college. I recently found out he cheated on me with a girl we have been arguing about (on and off) for the last six months. He calls her a “friend” even though she tries to use sex to get him to spend time with her. We almost broke up but I decided to forgive him and take everything slow. The problem is that I had asked him to tell her he will not be spending any time with her and that she needs to stop calling him, but this hasn’t stopped. We agreed to work on the trust issue but if she keeps calling, I don’t think I can deal with it. How do I approach the situation now?F.C.She does not “try” to “use sex” to “get him to spend time with her.” They spend time together, of their own mutual free will, and have sex. The difference is more than semantic.

Especially because it means this isn’t a trust issue. He chose to keep hanging with this girl, which makes it a duh issue. A do-you-want-to-share-your-boyfriend-with-another-girl-(again) issue.

No wait – an is-this-drama-really-what-you-want-to-spend-your-college-years-worrying-about issue. I like that one better. If your answer is, “Yes, because I love him!!!” then wad it up, throw it away and start over.

My husband’s sister is expecting her first child in the next few months. My parents-in-law are over the moon about this, and it also seems like this is really important to her husband.The thing is, I’m 98 percent sure she doesn’t want and never has wanted children. I was really surprised to hear the news. She has seemed really ambivalent throughout the pregnancy, and is acting a bit depressed and isolated now.I worry that when the baby comes the disconnect will only be greater. New motherhood is isolating and exhausting, her husband works crazy long hours, and her mother can be a bit overwhelming.My husband and I aren’t very close to her, but I worry about her. Any suggestions on how to support her in those difficult early days?Supportive

At this point, your best move is to put yourself in a position to see what kind of support she might need. Start checking in with her in a regular but non-invasive way. You live close, it sounds like? Since you notice how she’s acting? If that’s true, then you can invite her to something, or offer to help. Make the offers specific, though: “I’m running to the store, can I do some shopping for you?” Even plant the idea that you’re available for unburdenings, if you see an appropriate opening. “If you ever need to vent, I’m here.”

Re: Pregnant Sister-in-LawI was the same way when pregnant. I was indifferent about babies and the idea was conceptual to me. When the baby came, it took a bit to warm up to my new life, but I did, and love my baby – now teenager – fiercely.Does that always happen with every mother? No, but it’s a strong possibility she’ll embrace the baby once it’s actually here.The Same Way

Re: Sister-in-Law:If neither one of you were close to her before, why start now? Serious question. I’ve never been comfortable receiving overtures from people I’m not close to or who never made the effort. I assume they want something from me as everyone seems to want something from this sister-in-law: closeness, a baby, enthusiasm, etc. Maybe you should examine why you and your husband weren’t close to her to begin with before you start acting like her best friend.Not Comfortable

Hm. Easy to get lulled into the logic of this at the expense of more compassionate possibilities:

– That “Supportive” doesn’t “want something” from the new mom, but instead has awakened to the fact that the new mom might need her, or that both would be richer for a stronger connection.

– That maybe the sister-in-law’s friends are letting her down right now. It happens.

– That maybe the ethos of leaving people to their own stuff is fine as an option but not as a default.

– That showing she cares is a lovely, low-key gesture that her sister-in-law can choose either to receive or politely decline, at which point “Supportive” takes no for an answer and steps back.

– That cynicism may explain some things but applying it to everything is an admission of spiritual defeat.

Maybe there were reasons they aren’t close, but maybe those reasons have changed.

Carolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at [email protected].


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