Dear Victoria, I read your column regularly and until recently never thought that I would be a letter-sender. I have never done anything like this but I am facing a lot of challenges right now and have decisions to make and actions to take! So I decided to write to you.
I am a 36 year guy who until a few months ago had a wife, two beautiful children aged 8 and 12, healthy parents and extended family and a good job and promising career. My wife's career had really taken off during the last few years and I was very proud of her. She was on the board of a multinational and as a result I took care of most things around the house and was the main contact with the school and after school care etc. While I am not exactly blessed with trade skills I had a go at most DIY and gardening things and thought that she was happy with how we were organised. My wife worked hard and has always been a good mother. Given her other roles I have always been keen to highlight her special role as a woman to me. I bought her lots of little presents (most of the time she brought the presents back to the shop for exchange - but I didn't mind she is formidable and very strong minded).
My own career had taken a few hits as I had gone through redundancy but while I was at home I completed an MBA, started a business which didn't work out and finally 2 years ago had found a well-paid job which was family friendly.
Last year my wife (who is foreign) became homesick and wanted to move home with the children. The plan was we would buy an apartment, she would go ahead and I would follow when I got a job there. The truth is that I resisted it first as it meant being away from the children and because I thought it was unfair given that I had only been in my dream job for less than 18 months and had worked hard to get it. However, I gave in eventually and we made a plan and followed through. I was travelling with work and so, instead of returning here I flew to the family roughly every second weekend. In total it is a 7 hour trip . In total I have done it about 15 times since last autumn.
For valentine's day we booked flights for my wife to fly over to me for the weekend. The weather was bad and her flight got cancelled. Instead of having a romantic weekend we would have to make do with a telephone call. During the call she dropped a bombshell: "I am sorry Mark. I don't love you and I have filed for Divorce." I was, am and will continue to be in shock. We talked for an hour and part of me realised that it was not that surprising. We had grown apart somewhat. There was no intimacy for the best part of a year. But the truth is that I put that down to my wife's stressful job. From reading your page and from talking to my friends I take it as normal that working women have no interest in sex with their husbands. While I was disappointed (and frustrated) with the lack of sex I never took it out on my wife as I believed that she would have wanted it were it not for the stresses that were on her. Of course, with the decision that she made I am totally confused.
I still ring her and the family every day and we are communicating well,but she is adamant there is no turning back. The process for Divorce is very practical and scarily efficient. This makes me very sad but also very lonely. As I sit here on a Sunday afternoon in the Kitchen, the Sunday Times is spread on the table and everything is quiet. There are no children, just the sound of the fridge - only in an empty, child-free home can a father hear the fridge.
I am also incredibly confused. What did my wife want? What did I lack? What should I have done differently? I asked her and ...I am still confused. She stresses that I am "a good man who deserves more" but I am obviously not worth staying with.
This experience has turned my world upside down. My legal advice in both countries is that I don't have a leg to stand on as I consented to allowing the children to leave the country. Therefore, every time I go to see my beautiful girls, I will have to stay in a hotel and won't be able to put them to bed. We are discussing what to do about the house here but I am not so sure about moving on relationship-wise. I don't think I can ever trust a woman again. I am beginning to see why some men can be suspicious of women. What do I do now? I feel that I have made a fool of myself. Help!
This is a dreadful situation and you're understandably hurt and confused. As you point out, it's so painful to be parted from your wife and children. It sounds like you've made it very clear to your wife you don't want to split up or get divorced but she's adamant that she's made up her mind.
Of course I can't give you any full explanation of why your wife has decided to file for divorce. All I have is the information you've given. But in any case, even people who know you well would probably be unable to tell you exactly where things went wrong.
I'm sure you feel like your wife should give you a detailed break down of her complaints and criticisms, but this is much easier said than done. And even if she could explain things in detail, would this really make you feel any better? From your description, it sounds like things have drifted slowly downhill over a number of years and maybe the geographical separation was the final straw. I'm only guessing, but maybe she felt resentful that she was now taking on the full responsibility for the children and running a home and you weren't there with them because you didn't want to change your job. Maybe there was unspoken resentment on both sides but I'm only speculating.
If you could turn back time, maybe you would have done things differently, but that's easy to say with hind sight. Even if you could have managed the move to another country differently, it seems plausible that things weren't going so well even before she left the country, so it may not have changed things anyway. It sounds like you might have become resentful of your wife in your own way too. Maybe you felt she should have appreciated your efforts more and not ignored your wishes. I'm not quite sure where you get the idea from that working women don't have any interest (sexually or otherwise) in their husbands, but it wouldn't have been from my articles and isn't a view that appears to be widely held.
So I'm afraid I don't have all the answers but what I do know is that it's highly likely you will never get all the answers. When you decide to split up with a partner – whether you've been with that person for 6 months, or 16 years, it's incredibly hard to be brutally honest about your innermost thoughts. Your wife will have been pondering over whether she should divorce you for a while and in that time she will have had a lot to think over. She won't have simply woken up one morning and suddenly had the thought that she should divorce you. Much of that decision will have been based on her feelings and instincts and these things are hard to sum up in words. Some people are better at describing these things than others. But even if she could put it all into words, there's a natural tendency to want to spare the feelings of others – hence the well-used saying “it's not you, it's me”, or in this case, “you deserve better”.
If she gave you an inventory of all your irritating habits, all your perceived faults, all the minor misdemeanours, would you really like it? In actual fact, you still wouldn't have all the answers because this would only be your wife's subjective version of events. When you love someone and you're right for each other, you can overlook a lot of these things so the real question isn't about what is your wife's top-20 list of your irritating traits and habits, it's why your wife finally stopped wanting to be in a relationship with you. These two aren't the same thing.
These are issues you'll need to work through yourself and it will take time to feel better but still don't expect to find all the answers. You may find some version of an explanation that makes partial sense, but more importantly, you'll eventually find that you just stop asking yourself the question “why” a hundred times a day. The need to know exactly why this happened will become less pressing and normal day to day life will start to take over again. Sometimes you'll feel terrible, other times you'll be able to get on with things and maybe even enjoy things. But it may feel like two steps forward and one step back for quite a while. If you're feeling particularly low, it might help to remind yourself that it's just a bad day and you're still making progress.
What to do now is to be calm and practical and take some good legal advice. You'll naturally want to see your girls. Eventually they may be able to visit you too during holidays. Do everything in your power to keep in regular contact with them. Even if you're not seeing them as frequently as you'd like, they're old enough to look forward to seeing you and they will miss you. For your girls to have a positive relationship with their father is an enormously beneficial thing. Even if your marriage hasn't worked out, you can still be a great father. I'm sure you'll want to do this for your girls anyway, but the knock on consequence is that it will be good for your own self-esteem too.
Accept that it will take time to get over this loss. It's ok to be hurt and to grieve this loss. It's unrealistic to think you'll completely forget about your wife and how you feel about her but try to stay optimistic that things will improve because they will.
It's quite common to become depressed when you're going through a divorce. It can be a stressful and miserable time and even though there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it's sometimes hard to picture it. Don't be afraid to go to your GP early if you're feeling stressed or down a lot of the time. Even if you're not sure if you want antidepressants or counselling, it's still helpful to speak to a GP so they can explain what sort of help is on offer should you need it.
If you have a couple of people you can confide in (besides your wife) this can be very helpful. Good friends understand if you need to get things off your chest, although once it's a few months down the line, you need to make sure friendships don't become one-sided and you try to maintain a balance in conversations. Regularly doing things you enjoy will help you to feel better, as will exercise. You could join a gym, or use your free time to take up a sport or another new hobby or interest.
As for meeting someone else, you don't need to be completely over your wife before you can meet someone new, but you probably want to be over the worst of the raw feelings of hurt and confusion. This might take a few months, it might take a year or maybe longer but when you're ready, you'll start to feel like you want to meet someone else rather than just feeling that you should.