What do you do when your spouse leaves after decades of marriage?
Divorce is an intensely painful and difficult experience at any stage of marriage. But if you were married for many years before your spouse left, you’re likely reeling. Maybe this divorce was completely unexpected and unwanted–and it has devastated you.
You had dreams and plans for your future–and you believed you and your spouse would share those dreams together. Instead, you’re struggling to keep your head above water. You no longer know how to define your life so you can move forward.
The truth is, you’re living through a season of loss and profound grief. But on the other side of this crippling blow, there’s hope. In the meantime, though, what do you do?
First: You Are Not a Failure
It’s easy to turn against yourself when you find yourself in a situation like an unexpected divorce. You might be asking what you could have done to prevent this, or where you might have gone wrong. You might also be struggling with a sense of failure.
But you were deeply committed to your spouse. You loved them and spent decades building a life with them. The marriage failed; you did not.
Rather than calling yourself a failure, focus on the things about your marriage you can be proud of. You didn’t fail to make your spouse love you. They walked away. The problem is that when a spouse leaves, it can so badly damage your self-esteem that it’s hard to see your way through to the other side. It’s hard to dream of the future again.
Next: Focus on New Beginnings
For many people, separation and divorce are times of deep emptiness. Instead of seeing this time as a void, think of it as a gift. It’s a wide, open space you can begin to fill with new, boundless dreams of your future.
Your commitment to your marriage and your spouse has defined your life for so long. Now, it’s time to think about what you want to do with your time. Take some time to pray, think, and journal about some of the dreams you might have backburned over the past few decades.
What do you want to explore? To learn? To experience? Dreaming will help you to become energized again.
Finally: New Experiences Lead to New Relationships
As you move forward from this difficult time, you’ll start to enjoy new experiences. It may not feel like that right now, but it will come in time. As you gain more knowledge and success–and more distance from this unexpected turn of events–you’ll start to feel renewed hope.
New life experiences and dreams naturally lead to new relationships. Explore your interests and build a new life, and you’ll begin to meet new people who share your interests. We can’t stress enough how important it is to build a strong support system of soul friends (Leslie even wrote a book about it!). That’s a fantastic reason to anticipate the future.
While you’re building these new experiences and relationships, take some time to get to know yourself again. Who are you at the core? Consider taking the Yada Assessment to boost your self-awareness. The better you know yourself, the better your relationships can be.
Have you experienced the unexpected end of a marriage? How did you rebuild your life afterward? Share your story in the comments.
At age 41, I started playing the Cello 3 months after my wife left. It has been one of the best things I’ve done. The sound fills the too-quiet house on nights when our kids are with her. It requires my attention and focus, so while I’m playing my mind is not racing with all the other thoughts that often fill it. It is so worshipful, the first 20 or so pieces I learned were my favourite old hymns and Christmas carols.
I’ve managed to find other things and have a lot of new people in my life also! But I mention the Cello because I so highly recommend something similar to anyone experiencing this.
Was married 30 years, relationship was cold. Brought it to a head one day, either we work together on fixing it, or we sign papers, she decided to go (had another guy on the side already). I focused in the kids, getting all the home improvements finished up, enjoying motorcycling, other freedoms. Met someone else, started a new relationship. Still a daily fight to NOT dwell on the past. But so many good things now to think about, easier to move on. There is zero benefit to replaying the past and beating yourself up over what could have/should have/might have been. It takes two people to build a relationship, but only one to leave it.
I had to accept the fact that we have no control over the decisions another person makes. I believed marriage was for a lifetime, and so did he…until he didn’t. I soon found out about other women and that is a wound that cuts incredibly deep. That season of betrayal, loss and grief was very long for me and I had to be okay with that. I had to walk THROUGH it, there was no other way out. I didn’t see the light for a long time but somehow I knew the light was there and I just had to keep going. My kids were a big part of it, knowing they still needed me. That slowly developed a deep desire in me to show them how to rise after being nearly wiped out. I wanted to show them how to fight their way back from anything in life. How to pray and trust that God is still good even though life at times is not. 3 years later I have a peace I have never had and recognized the lack of peace I had in a really broken marriage. I reconnected with who I was, what I actually like to do, what brought me joy and explored new things and new places. Explored trails to hike to just get out and move my body and enjoy nature. I started learning a new language (German) and even plan on working toward maybe taking a trip overseas someday soon! I am still in that place of seeking out what I enjoy. I have not moved on to another person as I do believe a season alone was what I needed to allow God the space to work out some things in me. I do not know what God has planned for my future but I am hopeful that whatever it is, it will be good!
After 20 years of marriage she said she was gay and we couldn’t be married. I knew I had lost her, but had not anticipated loosing all of our joint friends. They just didn’t know how to react to it all and kept distant. I also kept distant.
The loneliness and isolation drove me to drink more. Be very careful. Alcohol is a monster that will consume you!
I think my decision to do nothing was very important (don’t buy a new house, don’t date, no new cars…) for a year. You can’t possibly think straight for many, many months after a crisis. Be in a holding pattern to just maintain is my best advice.
I’ve lived long enough to know that nothing, nothing stays the same. Life is a roller coaster. It will not always be a decent. Just hold on and the ride will change.
While in the holding pattern for that year I did the best I could to become the man that a woman was looking for. You can’t force someone to love you, but you can purposefully become the type of person that is appealing and attracts beautiful people your way.
I’ve had many ups and downs in my life. By knowing God and being in constant prayer, He saved me.
After I met my soon to be new wife, we completed Saving Your Second Marriage Before it Starts with a counselor. It is important to be proactive. Thanks SYMBIS!
Hi: I took the Symbis premarital training.
It was a wonderful experience. Unfortunately
The marriage is ending.
Can you refer me to someone in Boise,Idaho
83702. That can give us some counseling.
Clarification. We took the premarital class for our marriage.