Ask Dr. Christina: How Can I Find the Strength to Live When My Husband Deserted Us?

Dear Dr. Christina,

I am 42-years old and I have been married for 22 years. I just found out that my husband has decided to leave me for a younger woman. We were high school sweethearts who got married when I got pregnant and I have totally devoted my entire life to him and to raising my 2 young boys. I was a stay-at-home mom and never had the opportunity to finish high school. I feel I have been left with nothing other than my children and now I have to find a way to raise my boys on my own. It is so hard to even find a decent job, for I have no degrees, and I don’t feel capable of raising my children by myself. I never thought I would be in this predicament, but now I am the sole provider for my family. My children are my life and I do not want to let them down. How am I going to make this work out? I am not sure if I have the courage or strength to help and support my family. I feel panicked and alone. I am going to have to sell my house because I cannot afford the house payment. I do not want to lose my children. I needed to write to someone and express my fears. Can you help me?


Dear LZ,

I would like to begin by telling you how sorry I am that this has happened to you and your boys.  You must understand that raising a family for 22 years is not something that everyone can do.  First, give yourself credit for keeping your family safe at this time of crisis.  Your boys have you as a role model to look to during this strange and probably scary time for them. They will look to you to know what is needed to continue to have the trust and love they desperately want to continue to hold on to and how not to be overwhelmed by their fears of total abandonment.  The fact that your husband left you for a younger woman is his loss, for he has lost you and your children in many ways, with his choice.

Never consider this experience a failure. Perhaps it is something that needed to happen in order for you to escape your present life so you can have a better one.  Think about it this way for a moment: why would you want to stay with someone who says they don’t want to be with you when you can find someone who does want to be with you and love you?  It is all about what will make you happy and feel loved.   We can never understand when a twist of fate happens. It usually occurs when you are not expecting it and it tends to throw things into chaos and confusion. People do not realize what it actually takes to manage a household as well as the responsibility of raising two boys.  You are a housewife and mother and know all the responsibilities you have for taking care of your home and everyone in it.

You say you do not have the strength to go on, but I say to you it is a matter of utilizing the courage and strength that is inside you to realize that this must be done now, for survival.  Yes, you may have to move to an apartment or into another house. I’m guessing, though, that during past experiences when you have had to move, you have found the incentives, strength and energy to conquer these types of tasks.

The strength comes from within you.

The strength comes from being a wonderful mom.

The strength comes from utilizing that inner power that is in you to never give up.

When stress like this occurs, one of two things happens to us as human beings: we feel either the fight or flight response.  You being the person you are, the mother of two children with an objective of protecting them, will allow you to fight with all your might and not allow yourself to give up.  I know it feels overwhelming.  The first small steps consist of organizing your thoughts as to what needs to be done.  I know you can do this because you have probably done it for the past 22 years.  Do you remember when you went into labor with your boys? We all wonder, “How am I going to do this?” You did not do it once, but twice!

Now I understand your fears about finding a job and that it may be scary for you; but there are many things you can look into.

If your children are at home, then you may want to consider getting a certificate or being bonded as a licensed childcare worker and get paid for watching other mothers’ children while they are at work, so you are still the “stay at home mom”, except now you are doing this for other people’s children too. (Note: Find out the laws and requirements for doing this in your area and state and/or country so you can make a more educated decision about this.)

Look for jobs posted in local newspapers and on boards at the grocery stores.

If your children are in school, ask about getting a job at their school as an aid to help teachers.

You may also want to speak with an attorney to discuss if there is any way you can or can expect to get child support.

Go to the Department of Economic Services (DES) to see if there are any programs that can help support you and your children with healthcare needs, food stamps and housing.

If you are considering going back to school, there may be student loans and/or financial aid available to help with your education. Some of these may even include housing.  If you enroll as a student at your local college, seek employment while you are going to school. (Depending on the ages of your children, when they are home and when they are in school, and when you are in class and when you are not, you still may be able to find some type of employment that doesn’t interfere with your desire to be there for your children, your commitment to go to school, and your availability in between.)

All of this requires you to have the strength and courage to believe in yourself and to believe that you are capable. Plan. Focus on your priorities.  Remember, you can do anything that you set your mind to.

If you feel the need, please allow yourself to discuss your feelings of loss with someone, whether it is a counselor, a religious person you trust, or a friend.  You have to remember it was your husband who deserted your family, not you.

There are also self-help groups you may want to look into at your local community centers or churches. You may also find sites on the Internet that may offer an online version of this type of support group or forum.

There are also stores where you can buy clothes and other items at discounted prices, which will help you economically to weather potential changes in your finances.

It is usually not until we face a crisis that we realize how strong we really are.  Sometimes we go through life thinking that we are weak, but instead we find we have the strength of a tiger.  We realize, in fact, that we have a level of strength that we really didn’t know we had.

Sometimes we get complacent with marriage and we just let another person be in charge of our lives. We feel during this time that this person will watch out for our wellbeing and the lives of our children. When this suddenly changes and we find this is no longer the case, we experience discomfort and distress. We also tend to learn things about ourselves only challenges like these can show us.

I know if you were to allow yourself to see how truly gifted you are, nothing could prevent you from succeeding and moving on with your life.  Your love for your children and yourself will give you the strength you will need during this transition—and beyond.

I wish you the very best. I just know you are capable of whatever you put your mind to.  Just remember the strength that you already have and believe that it will enable you to succeed and soar into a much happier and safer life.

Dr. Christina

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