Many people find it hard to believe that the abandoned wife has no idea that the marriage was doomed. I remember a few years ago, when a dear friend of mine came to work, distraught because her husband of twenty something years had, without warning, announced that he was not coming home and didn't love her anymore. I thought there must have been some signs, she must be in denial about the state of the marriage. Now that it has happened to me, I can attest to the fact that it is possible to have no idea at all that your husband is unhappy and planning an escape.
He was making plans for the future with me – we had been looking at blocks of land to build our dream home on for our old age, he was excited about a holiday that we were planning to England, he bought me flowers on our wedding anniversary.
However, with the gift of hindsight, there were several huge red flags during our relationship that should have signalled to me that all was not as it seemed. These are all classic warning signs that your husband may end the marriage suddenly:
A man that has been unfaithful in the past, is more likely to cheat on his partner in the future. My husband had affairs in his first marriage and it was highly likely that the woman that he left me for was not the first affair during our marriage. I now know that he was active on several Internet sex sites. I also know that throughout our relationship he continually flirted with women on Facebook – he had a lot of female friends on Facebook, and he was always posting messages to them, with ‘hun’, ‘babe’ and ‘xxx’. I remember early on in our relationship, before we got married, he sent roses to a woman in Texas (we live in Australia), for her birthday. This woman was someone he had met on the Internet and was his friend on Facebook. I found out about the flowers through the credit card statement. He was even friends on Facebook with the sales assistant that sold us our lounge suite and I came home one day and she was in my house drinking a glass of my wine!
Whenever I questioned any of this, he would accuse me of being jealous and tell me that he only loved me and that I was over reacting, etc. I would ask him to delete the women from Facebook, he would delete them for a few days and then add them back again, or he would delete the whole Facebook account but reinstate it a few days later.
Now I look at this and I realise that the biggest issue was that I had no boundaries. By being aware of this behaviour, but continuing the relationship, I was condoning his infidelity. He treated me with little respect because I allowed him too. I have a neighbour whose boyfriend attempted to sleep with her best friend. The friend was shocked and told my neighbour what had happened and my neighbour without any hesitation ended the relationship. As she put it, “There is no future with a man like that, if he does it once he will do it again.” What is the point of clinging on to a man who is unfaithful, turning a blind eye to all his indiscretions, telling yourself that he loves you? Take it from me, you really deserve so much better, and you will eventually be happier and emotionally healthier without him.
Often men who are checking out of their marriage will seem irritable, withdrawn or unhappy with other aspects of their life, like their job. My husband had a fly in, fly out job so he was home for two weeks at a time. He used to tinker in the shed, he would pull old pallets apart and make cool furniture out of them and sell it on eBay. For about a year prior to his sudden departure, he would sit out in his shed, watching television or be glued to his laptop. His passion for making his furniture all suddenly stopped. It was interesting that as soon as he moved out, one of the first things he did in his new house, was make a chair. I realise now his sudden lack of interest in his woodwork, coincided with the beginnings of an emotional connection with his affair partner.
Men who suddenly leave their wives invariably have another woman waiting in the wings. So the classic signs of infidelity apply here as well. My husband used to live in his old work shirts when he was home but suddenly he started complaining that he didn't have a lot of dress shirts and trousers. He had always been someone who enjoyed relaxing at home when he wasn't at work, but suddenly he was being invited to ‘work dinners’ and ‘boys nights out’ and by the time that he actually did leave he was hardly ever home anyway! Watch out for new cars, hairstyles, tattoos or a sudden interest in getting fit.
The bottom line here, and the lesson that I have learnt the hard way is that you should never compromise your values and you need to work out what your boundaries are and maintain them. I told him early on in the relationship that his flirtatious behaviour with women made me feel uncomfortable. He continued his behaviour to the point that I deleted him as a Facebook friend because I would get upset when I would see his messages to women that I had never met. I should have stopped the relationship when he crossed this boundary and refused to see how it made me feel.
I will never have another relationship unless the man is 100% on the same page as me, I just don’t need to trade my authenticity for perceived security. The way that he ended the marriage was with the same disrespect that he had for me, while we were married, I just couldn't see it while I was in it. You just don’t need to be with someone who is going to treat you like a doormat – when I discovered his affair, I should have ended the marriage then, instead of believing that he was committed to working on our relationship, he suddenly left several months later for the same woman.
“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment and inexplicable grief.” – Brene Brown.
Think about your marriage, truthfully. When he first left I was devastated, declaring to everyone who was willing to listen, that our marriage was perfect. Now with hindsight I can look at this Brene Brown quote and say well actually I did have an underlying level of anxiety, I was often depressed and feeling resentful without knowing why. I can definitely say now that I am a few months down the track, that I feel really good emotionally. I still have my down days but overall I am a lot happier.