How to Do If Your Marriage Collapses Suddenly

Here Vikki Stark who had written a book Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal, explains how to put the pieces back together if your marriage ends suddenly.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges faced by a woman whose marriage has ended unexpectedly?

A: The first challenge is to make sense of what happened. In a more typical divorce, when a marriage disintegrates following years of fighting and bickering, at least both parties have seen it coming. But for a woman who experiences Wife Abandonment Syndrome (WAS), her whole sense of reality is shaken because she was living her life based on the belief that her husband was honest and reliable and experiencing the same marriage she was.

WAS shakes her present and her future, but it also puts her whole past into question. She has to ask herself, “That trip we took to California, when we seemed to be having so much fun — was he just pretending?” “That time he went on a business trip to Halifax, where was he really?” She believed her husband loved her, but if he was actually as miserable as he now claims, what was really going on in her life? It’s about trying to understand how her loving husband could morph overnight into an angry stranger.

Secondly, she has to accept that all her expectations about her future are dashed and it’s now all up to her to create a new future on her own. It’s natural for her to stay stuck in the drama that unfolded and all the suffering she went through on the day he left. But now, she has to turn away from that and move on. Many women are eventually able to use the abandonment as an opportunity for new beginnings and significant growth in life.

Q: Can you offer some concrete tips on how to get past the abandonment and move on with your life?

A: THE SEVEN STEPS FOR MOVING FORWARD
1. Recognize that the chaos won’t last forever.
2. Accept that the marriage really is over.
3. Integrate the fact that your husband has changed irrevocably and is beyond caring for your welfare.
4. Understand why he needs to justify his actions any way possible — including rewriting history, lying or attacking you.
5. Give up trying to get the acknowledgment and apology that you deserve.
6. Turn your focus from the past to the future.
7. Celebrate your new life as a single person.

Here are some techniques for getting back in control of your life:

Advance Your Cause
First, define what your “cause” is in life. What is your immediate goal? Is it something concrete, like emptying the house of your ex-husband’s belongings, or something more long term and abstract, like getting a better job? Make sure that it’s a definable action so that you’ll know when you’ve accomplished it (e.g., you’ll know when his things are no longer in the closet, or you’ll know when you’ve reworked your resume). Then, do something every day that will advance your cause. At night when you get into bed, do a tally of how far along you have come toward advancing your cause.

Wait a Day
When you’re upset, you may want to react quickly, but as tempting as it is, don’t act on impulse. Think through the long-term implications of your actions and ask yourself whether this is the smart thing to be doing right now. Develop self-control and act with your head as well as your heart. In other words, don’t press “send” while you’re still in your pyjamas!

Make a Mantra
Choose three words that describe the optimum state of mind you’d like to be in and repeat them to yourself whenever you feel stressed, lost or confused. They will act as shorthand to remind you of how you should be thinking and will replace other, more destructive thoughts. For example, if you know you will be seeing your former husband at your daughter’s graduation from elementary school, you might make a mantra for yourself like “Calm, focused, confident.” As you make your way to the school, repeat your mantra to yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how it will prepare you for the upcoming encounter. It’s impossible to think of two things at the same time, so your mantra will replace more disturbing thoughts like “Oh my God, I really hate seeing him.”

Scenes from a Train
Think of the events of your life as scenery that you’re observing from the window of a train. As you sit there watching it all pass by, note that the landscape out your window is constantly changing. There is always something new waiting for you on this journey. When you’re having a dark day, it helps to think of your life in this way. Sometimes you’ll be totally immersed in the intensity of the moment, making it hard to believe that you’ll ever feel better. But the approach to life that defines a mature person is the ability to have a long view — to know that whatever you are experiencing in the moment, whether good or bad, is transient, and the future always comes. As crummy as you may be feeling, it helps to know that it will pass.