Okay. Kick off your shoes. Get a cup of tea. Get comfortable. This is a long one but oh, so amazing. Here’s a heartfelt letter I received from Michelle from Atlanta and I so very much wanted to share it with you. It’s full of great advice to you from someone who has been there and gotten through it. Thank you so much, Michelle, for giving me permission to publish it! I know it will help so many women!
When my husband essentially abandoned me I was so distraught, but in my case he strung me along with false facts for many painful months. By him telling me how awful I was, that I wasn’t a supportive wife, that he didn’t deserve to be treated so poorly, and that I should have seen this coming, he kept me in a state of panic and desperation. It also shifted the power dynamic completely to his favor, despite my knowing none of what he was saying was true. I started the long “pick me dance”, and so began my many months of complete humiliation trying to convince my husband that he should come back to the life he claimed I forced him to leave.
When I think back now on all the completely degrading ways I kept trying to get him to acknowledge me (and the children), I feel sick. Through very expensive lawyers and years of waiting for discovery, I finally found out a lot of the truth. My husband was not only cheating, but with multiple women and spending money like he was a billionaire when he wasn’t. It was only first class travel, expensive hotels, lavish meals, etc. I am too embarrassed to write how much money was spent in a typical month, and what's even worse is that he had nothing tangible to show for it except an expanding waist line.
I can't believe he was able to get away with this for so long. I truly believed he was spending all of his time working on our growing business. I mean I did see him on TV as he was interviewed on CNN and Fox News, so it wasn't that I was completely delusional! The depths of the lies and deception were incredible and eventually it did lead to his downfall at work, but that just too impacted me financially.
Now with time, I realize that a man who cared about me would never leave us for himself and blame me fully for it. That he was a coward and a covert narcissist. That I kept trying to convince him he had it all wrong and that our relationship was worth saving, probably just made him feel great, but didn’t change a thing. It also didn’t stop him from syphoning our money secretly to new accounts, setting up new credit cards or sleeping with age inappropriate women.
There were lots of red flags during the time he left before I found out the truth, but I had made it my mission to convince him to come back and stupidly overlooked all of that. Also, with the perspective of time, I can see that even if all my convincing had worked, or if the younger women had dumped him, that I never would have had the same relationship again with my husband. What I mean is that I was on such a campaign to have my old life back I never really stopped to realize that what I was fighting for wasn’t worth it anymore and that I deserved much, much better.
The only comfort I have in this nightmare is that one day I can tell my children that I did absolutely everything to try and save our marriage. Something my ex-husband will never be able to say.
Here are some things that I would recommend to anyone else going through abandonment::
1) Watch videos and read self-help articles but don’t share them with him. I scoured articles and videos online that seemed similar to our situation and sent them to him often. I was obsessed and there is a lot out there to find. I doubt he ever read or watched them.
2) Don’t send him messages late at night. I sent him repeated texts very late at night, or in the early am, when I couldn’t sleep. Sometimes they were loving and sometimes pleading and begging for him to respond and return to us. Sometimes I was upset and lashed out. He rarely responded, but that didn’t stop me from sending. I now know he was in bed with other women at the same time. This probably made him feel even better about himself since he was getting away with cheating and I was still begging for him. So degrading and disgusting!
3) It’s ok to be stunned and hope he will come back, but don’t wait too long. I told lies to our children and friends that he was busy working and out of town to cover for him and keep his spot open in our life in case he decided to acknowledge me and our kids one day and come home. Looking back I should have probably only done this for a month or two, not almost a year.
4) If it looks like a duck, it’s a duck. I found a lift pass for a 20 something year old female for Machu Picchu in our home and believed his story when he said he had no idea what it was and that he had never even been there. Later I found out that he had in fact gone there with this girl, paying for two first class plane tickets, expensive hotels and a private tour guide, all while he claimed he was working in a different state.
5) Don’t be afraid to snoop. I didn’t check the cell phone bills. I think I was afraid for what I would find, but boy how I wish I would have done so much earlier than I did. I would have known the depths of how much he was cheating and with how many random women. This from a man I could barely get to respond to a text from me or the kids, I found hundreds, if not thousands of text messages with random women. That stung.
6) If you see something unbelievable, don't convince yourself it's not possible. I saw my husband in his SUV on the road in front of me with what appeared to be a young woman in the passenger seat and started to follow him. I then called him while following him and he said I was crazy and just seeing things. I proceeded to follow him for miles and miles and he wouldn’t pull over. I think this may have been one of my lowest points. I later found out that I was right. There was a female in there the whole time who had climbed into the back to hide. Did I mention I had his own mother in my car with me while all this was going on? I still feel so sick about that experience when I think back on it now.
7) Don’t sign anything! I signed what I thought were refinancing documents for our new home that turned out to really be a way for him to pull out extra cash to spend on his secret life with women. I wish I had not “trusted in my husband” and sought outside counsel before signing anything. I was more concerned with being a loving, supportive and welcoming wife, that I went against all of my better judgement. I can see now that the time around the signing of these documents that he was charming and manipulating me and it worked. Don't fall for it!
8) If he moves out, change the locks. If you can change the locks or set up surveillance cameras to keep him out, do it! In my case leaving the door "open" for his return majorly backfired. I found out in court while on the witness stand when my ex's lawyers put papers in front of me that were in my handwriting, that my husband had invaded my privacy and stolen from me. Apparently he knew when I was out of the house with the kids and took his time going through everything, and I mean everything. He even stole some of my things and my favorite jewelry, though I could never prove it. But the worst of it is he managed to find my personal therapy journals and took photos of everything and then attempted to use them against me in court! I was beyond mortified and humiliated.
Here is some advice for someone who is in the worst part of their nightmare:
1) Enjoy the divorce diet weight loss! Seriously, I actually got down to my college size jeans and was amazed. It also helped with my low self esteem after being rejected by my husband.
2) Don’t avoid going to gatherings or events where it will be mostly couples. I always ended up having so much needed fun and it is rare that the couples stick together the entire evening. Feeling normal from time to time was so nice.
3) Keep appointments that you don’t think you can handle. This includes hair cuts, mani-pedis, doctor's appointments, book clubs, school meetings, family gatherings, etc. I always thought of cancelling, but every time I went, I came home grateful for the distraction. There is nothing worse than time alone to keep you from being able to move forward. Know that you will go there and people will ask about your husband and or talk about their amazing husbands/lives, but don't let it affect you.
4) It's ok to not want to take your wedding rings off. I found it very hard to remove my wedding rings, so I rarely did. One thing I would recommend is maybe going to a grocery store or to an event well outside of your normal living area without them on as a first step. I found a grocery store two towns over and actually had single men interact with me which was a nice and welcomed feeling. People might say something to you about still wearing your rings, but it's not their business, and only you can decide when you feel comfortable removing them, if at all.
5) Take up a new hobby that your husband would have thought was stupid or a waste of time. Mine used to make fun of me when I made jewelry. I enjoyed making it (therapeutic) and giving it as gifts to friends. Now I am trying to make a real business out of it! I know it isn't probably healthy, but I dream of my jewelry line becoming successful not just for me and my kids, but so my ex can be frustrated.
6) Try and find a local divorce recovery workshop. They usually are not expensive and typically they have a speaker first and then break into smaller groups. I met some incredible people who I still talk to today. It’s tough to even show up and a bit humiliating, but don't leave! The one I went to actually had volunteers in the parking lot to help convince you to come in because they said so many people would turn around and leave. I’m so glad I didn’t!
7) Be prepared for the people you thought would be there for you not to be. I’m not sure why, but divorce to some people is almost like you have an infectious disease. They want to be supportive but not get too close. It’s upsetting, but if you know that it might happen, you won’t take it too personally. Sadly, this also applies to close family members. There were some get togethers that I wasn't invited to when normally I would have been. It hurt a lot, but just know that it will happen. I was also told once by a friend that I wasn't invited to something because the hostess was afraid her husband might talk and flirt with me. Strange but true!
8) It’s ok to let go of the commitment you made in front of your Rabbi/Minister/God. It is ok to let go of the dreams and all those plans for your future. This really is the hardest part, especially if you have children together. When I would think about being an empty nester all alone it made me feel physically sick. I held on thinking that one day that my husband would have an epiphany and remember our vows, our life, our plans... but that day never came. A man who would cheat and lie doesn't care about those commitments and only cares about himself. Plus who wants to be with a man who doesn't honor something so sacred? Would you have married him the first time if he had done this in his previous relationship with another woman? Probably not.
9) I feel it's ok to contact the other woman, but don't say anything incriminating that can be used against you! I never did this and regret it. The main young woman my husband cheated with is still hanging on to this day. I wish more than anything I would have reached out to her once I saw evidence years ago. Of course I don't know what would have happened, and chances are she still would have stuck with my husband because she is fully supported by him, but at least I would have gotten my truth out.
10) It’s ok to put yourself out there to date even if you still believe the horrible things your husband said about you. There are several women I am in touch with from our Sedona trip who say they have just given up and don’t even attempt to look for a relationship anymore. I say that is so wrong! That means their ex wins! The ex is still hurting you despite being long gone and living their fake new life with their pre-pubescent girlfriend. It’s like taking poison and hoping they get sick.
Final thoughts - That I was willing to do anything to get my dream back was, and still is, so humiliating. It’s also tough to come to terms that my not so great ex chose someone not so great over me. I’ve heard all the sayings like, “your better off without him”, or “one day he will realize what he gave up”, but the problem is that doesn’t make you feel any better. It still really hurts that my husband gave me up, our children, our fabulous life, all for a 20-something year old art school drop out who is not particularly attractive or smart.
Yes, I may be in my 40’s, but I am highly educated, told I am fairly attractive, am a very compassionate, friendly person, who is well liked and respected. Did I mention I have two Emmy awards? None of this was enough to keep my husband committed and it still hurts to this day. Sadly, I still fight daily with bitterness, which I hate. I dream of karma but it hasn’t come. Or at least not the way I want it.
However, I do know how lucky I am. I am recently remarried to the most incredible man. He sees in me all the things my ex-husband discarded and apparently didn’t value. My kids even like him (though that took some time and removal of their father’s brainwash and lies). I feel lucky every day, and I work very hard not to sink back into my bitterness and anger since I still have to deal with my awful ex due to the kids and our business. When my new husband and I tell people our story, we often hear the words “fairytale ending” or “I just got goose bumps”. I NEVER would have imagined that would be me since I was stuck for so long believing what my ex thought of me. I am so glad I opened my heart back up.
That is the main point of this letter. Don't let these terrible men define us incredible women. We are so much better than them and we should be thankful to be free of someone who doesn't value all that we have to offer. I used to obsess over the fabulous life these young women were having with my husband, and then I realized he's not that great and he's not smart enough to keep up his fake charade of being amazing for very long. This is a guy who managed to misspell my name multiple times on birthday/anniversary cards (not kidding)! He is destined to disappoint even the dumbest of dingbats.
This is Vikki again - I’d love to hear your reaction to all the great advice Michelle has shared. Take a minute and tell us what you think below. And, Michelle, thank you so much from all of us!