My husband is suddenly moving abroad. Unilateral decision. Expected me to follow with the teenagers even though I said, before he made plans, that I had no intention of moving abroad and that it was terrible timing for the children. I have many, obvious, practical reasons to not move abroad (like a business) that he glossed over with wishful thinking. He made no practical considerations. Just got a job and a plane ticket. In the space of three weeks. He leaves in a few days.
I’ve been too stunned, confused, full of various emotions, busy with practical considerations, and uncertain of their responses to want to tell my friends. Our long-standing marriage troubles and previous attempted solutions, such as therapy and mini-separations, have been kept private. Except once when I tried to mention something minor to one friend who was rather unexpectedly and hurtfully self-focused, dismissive, and judgmental.
Well, now he’ll be gone, I can’t hide that, I would love moral and practical support, but I expect they’ll have some questions and I don’t know many answers. Nothing is certain about future plans. (We will have a legal agreement concerning finances and such that I’m happy with.) I’m not sure how friends will react. I’m not too worried about acquaintances at the moment, but I don’t know what to say to my closest friends. (None of us are on Facebook and one of us isn’t online at all, so social media and mass email announcements are out.) Can you help me with a script and ideas for when to deploy it?
Thank you, Captain!
Window in my Heart
If a close friend told you: “Spouse is moving overseas, I’m staying here, he made the decision unilaterally in the space of less than a month. I’ve got whiplash from the changes, and I’m so absorbed with being a suddenly single parent that I don’t even know how to feel or what to do next,” how would you react?
I think you’d be compassionate and kind. You’d listen, without judging. You’d ask what you could do to help – Do they need the kids watched once in a while, do they need a freezer full of casseroles, do they need all the friend-troops gathered and told, do they need a barn raised, are they ok for money, do they want to come to yours for holidays? You’d ask them hard questions, like, “What do you want to do?” or “Do you need the number of a good divorce lawyer?” but you’d do it gently and you’d wait for their answers before diving in with advice. You’d remind your friend that they deserve better treatment from their spouse. You’d probably check in pretty often – once a week, once a month – to say “I love you, Friend. Can I see you/help with anything?”
You deserve the same compassion, offers of help, honesty, and listening from your friends. You don’t owe it to anyone to preserve the picture of your marriage that your friends imagine in their minds. You don’t owe them answers! You are allowed to be In The Uncertain Middle of Stuff! If someone says “But I thought you were so great together!” or “But why didn’t you tell me you were having problems, I had no idea!” try to see it as the surprised, off-guard reaction of someone who wants to know what’s really happening with you and feels guilty for being out of the loop. People kinda suck when they feel guilty, and sometimes you have to show them or tell them how to be there for you.
Your best strategy is the truth. Don’t hide. Don’t fake it. Don’t wait until you’ve made all your decisions and tied things up with a bow. Call your nicest and most trusted friend and tell them The Thing. Once you’ve done that with one person who is close to you, you can relax a little. The news is out there.
“Things have been rocky between us for a while. We went through a few rounds of couples’ counseling. It was important to me to keep all that private while it was in process – I didn’t want to jinx the chance that we could work things out by airing my grievances too widely.”
“Could we not talk about what my marriage looked like from the outside or how to fix the marriage – I am not sure it is fixable – What I need from you is (a little help with the kids)(for you to just listen and not judge me)(an occasional sounding board)(dinner and a movie – anything to get me out of the house and distract me for a few hours)(an extra set of hands to help me conquer this file monster at work on Saturday).”
“I am really struggling with telling people. I feel a lot of shame and uncertainty around this. Could you help me out by spreading the word to (Mutual Friends) so I don’t have to have this same conversation over and over again?”
If someone is self-focused and judgmental, give yourself permission to write that person off for now and focus on the people who can handle a little vulnerability from you. Also, if you don’t have a counselor who is just for you, this might be a good time to bring one in.
I’m wishing you all the support and love in the world. What a hard thing to have dropped on you! I’m glad you told us. Now tell Team You and we’ll all bounce together into Graceland.