How to Cope When a Marriage Fails

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Reader’s Question

I have been separated from my husband for over a year. We were married for seven years, and during the last five years of our marriage I financially supported both of us. I went to marriage counseling by myself primarily for the better part of ten years; he attended some sessions.

He recently stole close to $4,000 from me by using my checking account numbers to pay his bills online.

I have our son 85% of the time. He may get laid off from work and he told me that I will not get child support, and I know there is nothing I can do. (I barely make ends meet as it is.)

His family is on his side. I have reason to believe they think I’m the devil. How can his family be OK with his stealing from me and barely seeing his son?

I also feel very hurt and deceived and feel like maybe I should have done a better job of not picking someone like him to be my husband. I feel hurt and it is hard to deal with.

I wish I got more emotional support in my life than I do. How do I cope with these things?

Psychologist’s Reply

I can understand why you or others in a similar position may be feeling so unsupported and hurt at this time. You are, it seems, on a pretty clear path to divorce, or at least a longer term separation, from your husband, and are miles away from the life you had hoped to be living. However, you are also a mom supporting a son, and you need to set some priorities for yourself so that you can take back some power in this situation.

With the understanding that money is tight, I would encourage anyone in a position like you’ve described to consider seeking out a support group for separated and divorced adults in your area. Groups like this can provide a good forum for voicing frustrations and meeting other people who can truly understand your circumstances and feelings. They also might be a good resource for referrals for lawyers or therapists who can work with you on improving your ability to cope with your feelings, as well as seek some legal protection for yourself, your son, and your finances. Other resources specifically for women may provide additional information, referrals, and support.

When people experiencing circumstances like you’ve described do eventually find themselves in a more stable place emotionally and financially, it can be worthwhile to invest in some therapy to help explore the factors that led to the relationship in the first place, as well as to emphasize and celebrate the resilience that is right now leading them out of it. You have indicated you cannot rely on your husband or his family, but you are, I hope, learning that you can count on yourself.

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