I received an email the other day from Christine whose husband had suddenly bolted from their long-term marriage and moved directly in with his girlfriend. She’d believed herself to be secure in a happy marriage. His leaving came out of the blue — a classic case of Wife Abandonment Syndrome.
All this happened over a year ago but she was still intensely suffering. Christine asked me a question that so many women ask, “Do they ever feel remorse?” Her husband had justified his choice by blaming her for his actions — listing everything that wasn’t right about the marriage as his excuse. She’d spent the last year examining his explanations over and over in her mind, and came to the conclusion that if he only could say “sorry” and really mean it, it would go a long way towards freeing her from her pain.
The short answer to her question, though, is simple. No. According to the hundreds of women who have contacted me following experiencing this kind of loss, very few men expressed remorse later on after the dust had settled. Which is not to say that they don’t actually experience remorse — of this I’m not sure. But I think that the prospect of a heart-to-heart talk with a person you have so gravely wounded is not something anyone relishes, and it would take a very courageous soul to volunteer to do so.
But that leaves Christine, my email correspondent, feeling stuck and unable to turn to him for relief. The turning point for many women who have gone through this, however, comes when they wrest their vision from the past, from him, and turn to look towards their own future. I think we need to accept that there are things in life that just trail off. A sense of closure, or coming full circle, is a luxury that we’re not always lucky enough to enjoy. It’s the continual search for closure keeps you stuck.
It’s unrealistic to hope for a time when you will not longer get a twinge of sadness or hurt when your special song together comes on the radio, no matter how much time has passed. That’s human nature. But the goal is to take back your life into your own hands and fight like a banshee to make it be happy, in spite of the heartache you have experienced.
I received another email today from Suzanne, whose husband left six years ago. The subject of her email was “Healing” and this is what she wrote:
I heard something that seemed to really let my mind rest for the first time in six years! Some things in life are so traumatic that it’s not be possible to ‘Let it GO’ as everyone has been telling me. It simply cannot be done! Long term marriages that abruptly end with no explanation leave a gaping hole in your soul! What CAN be done however, is to ‘Let it BE!’
And I like that. Let it be.
I’m a family therapist and the author of Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife's Guide to Recovery and Renewal and My Sister, My Self: Understanding the Sibling Relationship that Shapes Our Lives, Our Loves and Ourselves.