Dear Cheryl: I should be celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary in a few weeks, but four months ago, my husband Jack told me he wants to split.
We have three children. The youngest is in his senior year of high school. I've been a stay-at-home mom for the past 14 years, although I do work from home. All the money I make goes to the kids and our home. I have no money of my own.
I'm essentially broke if he leaves. I'm in my late 50s and have an autoimmune disorder that will make it even more difficult to find work. I need Jack's medical insurance, or I'll probably get even sicker.
Naturally, I'm upset that he no longer loves me and that he waited to tell me until I'd given the last quarter-century of my life to raising our children.
His actions meet all the cliches of a midlife crisis. He joined a gym, doesn't come home until 11 p.m. on weekdays and won't tell me where he's been. He leaves me alone all weekend. When I ask if I can come along, he says, "I don't want you." He recently misplaced his cellphone and acted as if it was the end of the world, but he didn't want me to look for it. And on and on.
He's a Jekyll-and-Hyde guy: Mr. Best Buddy to the outside world, an emotionally distant crank at home. He doesn't want me to talk to our adult children, family or friends about this situation. He says I will poison their opinion of him.
I'm an emotional wreck and need to talk to someone. I've thought about suicide to end the mental anguish, but I'd never do that to my children. My parents and other older relatives have all passed away, so I have no one to rely on. My older children are in college and just starting out in the work world, with little money (or room) to spare.
Tell me that other women have made it out of situations like this. — I Feel Hopeless
Dear I Feel Hopeless: Jack has a rude awakening coming. You can't discard a wife of 30 years like a used tissue.
Before this day is over, make an appointment with a divorce attorney. If you don't know one, ask around. Forget Jack telling you not to confide in people. His days of telling you what to do ended four months ago.
And while you're at it, ask for a recommendation for a good therapist. No one should go through this without support. Make an appointment.
Then gather up every financial document you can find — bank statements, bank books, mortgages, tax returns, titles, deeds, pay stubs, retirement accounts, 401(k)s, pension plans, etc. — and make copies of them. Put them in a safe deposit box.
If Jack wants out, you can't stop him. But you don't have to make it easy for him, and you don't have to follow his schedule. You have rights.
Channel all your sadness into action. You're not the first person this has happened to, and you won't be the last. You will get through it. Millions have.
And stop asking Jack if you can tag along. Make your own plans, even if it's going to the movies alone.
Get out of the house and get on with your second act.
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