Relationship Connection: How do I take back my husband who abandoned me for 6 months?

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Question

My husband of 26 years left me right before COVID hit hard. He completely abandoned me. There were no calls or texts for six months. I filed for divorce, and he got served and started (with a fight) spousal support. Two payments later he’s now been back for a few months.

He says it’s a midlife crisis (he’s in his early 50s). My question is how and what do I do now? Our 27th wedding anniversary is coming up soon. So should I get him a gift? I say I love him, but I’m broken. I don’t even know if I can stay with him. I’m trying, but I’m still just devastated.

Do you have any recommendations? I’m losing it.

Answer

You’ve been through some serious emotional and relational whiplash the past year, and it’s important for you to get some stability so you can map out your future. You have some hard decisions to make and it will be difficult to get clarity under these conditions. Let’s talk about how to create a new normal so you don’t lose your sanity.

First, it’s actually normal to focus on insignificant details (like your anniversary) when you’re in the middle of relational trauma. It’s a reflex we have to feel a sense of mastery over our environment when we are spinning out of control. When something is huge and overwhelming, we can sometimes fixate on narrow details that shrink our view so we can start taking action.

Whatever you decide to do or not do on your anniversary won’t have any bearing on the future of your marriage. Please don’t overthink that decision, and let’s move on to helping you take in the scope of what’s actually in front of you.

Just because your husband decided to suddenly come back after abandoning you for six months doesn’t mean that you have an obligation to receive him back without conditions. It’s traumatic to suddenly have no contact from your husband and then go months without any contact. You obviously had evidence that he was alive during that time, but it’s unconscionable to disappear without a trace and expect your wife to adjust back to normal upon returning.

It’s simply not enough to pass it off as a “midlife crisis” by ignoring the actual impact this had on your wellbeing. You took action by serving him with divorce papers when he wasn’t responding to you, and now it’s time to take action again. It doesn’t mean you need to immediately divorce him, but gaining some stability right now is taking action and will make a world of difference.

Protecting yourself financially and emotionally can look like the following suggestions:

  • Speaking with your attorney to find out what your rights are in regards to receiving ongoing spousal support even though he’s back in your life.
  • Deciding how much physical space you need to help your body and mind slow down. This could mean moving to a different bedroom or a different house.
  • Seeking outside support from a therapist, pastor, friend or others can help you sort through your options.
  • Only engaging in conversations about your marriage with third party support so you can make forward movement and get the answers you need.
  • Decide not to make any decisions about the long-term plan for your marriage until you’ve observed more stability and accountability from him.

Of course, you love your husband. You didn’t ask him to abandon you and your family. You were put in a terrible position to have to end your marriage to save your sanity. This isn’t about whether or not you love him. It’s about establishing a baseline of commitment, trust and safety.

Ask yourself what you need to observe, feel, experience and hear from him to know that it’s safe to proceed? Give yourself permission to hold these expectations as a protection against moving too quickly back into your marriage.

You can still treat him with respect and kindness. You’re not being vindictive or aggressive by expecting him to create this stability going forward. If he can own that he made a huge mistake and work to understand why he thought this was an acceptable response to whatever was bothering him, then it can open up the possibility of safe reconciliation.

If he rushes you to make a decision, then it’s unlikely you’ll ever feel secure in this relationship.

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