Melanie says her husband, David, is a professional man and has always earned a good income. Melanie was basically a stay-at-home mom. But after the kids were "launched," David suggested she look for a job. She was 50 at the time, and David was 52. They'd been married for 27 years.
"I looked around a bit, but there wasn't anything suitable available." Melanie had a 27-year-old college degree and no recent work experience. "If we'd been in a financial crisis, I would have pitched in however I could, but that wasn't the case. As a matter of fact, David claimed his business was up because of his competitors' going out of business."
One day, David went from "suggesting" Melanie get a job to announcing that "it was time" she started "contributing something."
"And to that end, he was cutting off my household allowance — just like that!"
Melanie looked for a job. The only one she could find was "team leader" at a big-box store. "That meant all the responsibility of management with none of the authority or pay."
"It was entirely second-shift and didn't pay enough to replace the household allowance David was withholding. I hated it. After the first week, David complained that I was never home and told me to negotiate for better hours and pay. Yeah, right!
"After the second week, I decided that if this was what I would have to go through just to live, I did not need to be married to David."
She told him she wanted a divorce. "He acted like he couldn't have cared less. All he said was we'd have to sell the house, as if that would scare me off."
Melanie saw a lawyer and started divorce proceedings. "I was assured that at my age, I would receive the bulk of the assets and perhaps some maintenance. That would free David up to restart his life with whatever was left. I'd have to move into more affordable housing, but so would he."
Melanie decided not to keep the divorce a secret. She told everyone immediately. "I didn't have an announcement party, like with an engagement, but as I saw people, the first thing I told them was about my changing status. I offered no explanation. I was too humiliated to tell them the truth — that my well-to-do husband had stopped supporting me — but they all seemed to accept that that was why I'd taken that bad job.
"I guess that was the worst thing about the job — the public humiliation of what little power I had in my own marriage. What man in his right mind does that to a woman and expects to stay married?"
Melanie's church wasn't very supportive, so she joined a different one. Neither was her family, but David's family was and made it clear that they wanted to remain friends. "Some friends dropped out of sight, but I cultivated new ones.
"As for my feelings about the divorce, I managed to set them aside, believe it or not. I purposefully cultivated new interests on my own to discover the dreams and abilities within myself that I'd never had time to develop. I read books about getting through a divorce. That helped me handle my feelings a lot."
Next, Melanie and David go to court. Or do they?
Has your relationship been tested? Did it pass? Has your relationship been tested? Did it pass? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to [email protected] And check out my e-books, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front" and "I'll Call You. Not."