How to live with my wife before the divorce?
September 6, 2013 12:52 PM   Subscribe

My wife wants to leave me. In late March I discovered an affair she was having. We went through several months of what can best be described as "limbo" while she tried to decide what she wanted to do (leave or stay). At the end of July she announced "when I'm able, I'm going to move out." Problem is - the economics of this are basically impossible. So we still live in the same house. How can I make this easier for me?

Unfortunately couples counseling is out of the question for her. She has stated on repeated occassions that "it's over." She goes out to spend most of the evening with her new guy twice a week or so.

We have two kids, 3 and 4. I'm the sole breadwinner. We don't have any savings to speak of, and basically make it paycheck-to-paycheck. There is certainly fat in the budget that could be trimmed, but not enough to support two households in our area. She's looking for work, but has been looking since the beginning of the year without /any/ success to speak of. Money isn't important to me (in the sense that I'd [mostly] gladly pay for anything she needs] - but I can't afford to pay for the mortgage on our house (mortgage is in my name, title has both of us on it, fwiw) and another household. She has said she does not want to live with the other guy. The shitty situation is that, honestly, she's getting her cake and eating it too right now.

We have separate bedrooms now. Nothing has been communicated to the kids about the situation, and they don't seem (but surely are) to pay much attention to the sleeping arrangements.

What I'm struggling with is the day-to-day. The tragedy and "nothing you can do" parts of this cut especially deep. I want very much to work on our marriage, see a counselor, do *something*, but am rebuffed at every turn. She has said she can only offer me friendship now, not a romantic relationship.

Intellectually I understand this, emotionally I can't accept it. She's my high school girlfriend (we're 30ish now). I've basically lived my entire life to this point around her. I don't have any coping skills for this situation and am floundering.

Can anyone please offer any advice for how to "make it" day-to-day? Some days are better than others, but every day still starts with the same dread of walking upstairs and seeing my wife and facing the harsh reality of my situation. I can imagine a far off future where things are "different" or "changed" and that feels alright, but that isn't happening tomorrow, or next week or next month. I am seeing a therapist, and all of this is basically the only thing we talk about, but I don't feel myself any more capable or "better" at handling the situation. Maybe it's just a matter of time, but I am struggling between now and that intederminant "then."
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (66 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am glad that you're seeing a therapist, hopefully they can help you get through this. But you have to face the fact that your marriage is at an end. What you need to do now is get a lawyer. TODAY. You need to protect yourself financially and make sure that your kids will be in a stable environment. Good luck, Hon.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 12:56 PM on September 6, 2013 [31 favorites]


Has she explicitly stated she wants a divorce or formal (legal) separation? Do you think she has the best interests of your children as her priority in terms of thinking about their economic well-being in whatever arrangement you guys make in the future? I think those are important questions that need to be understood before any course of action is recommended. Just remember that there are all kinds of different arrangements that can be made. There are even a lot of couples who are divorced but still live together for economic reasons or for the sake of their children. There is no right or best arrangement for everyone - you should do whatever is best for your own situation.
posted by Dansaman at 12:59 PM on September 6, 2013


I think you need to sell the house and find two places you can afford. She is using you.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:00 PM on September 6, 2013 [69 favorites]


1) Call a lawyer, now.
2) Kick her ass out with maximum expediency (per lawyer's advice)
posted by Oktober at 1:01 PM on September 6, 2013 [43 favorites]


I went through a very similar scenario with my ex, although we were not married or financially codependent. I thought we could do the whole roommate thing until our joint lease ended in January just so that I didn't have to deal with that headache. Nah. He couldn't handle it either, particularly when I moved on and started dating again, and he honestly shouldn't have had to. It took a very violent confrontation for us to create the distance we both needed, and that he needed most of all to move on.

My best advice is move out as fast as possible. You won't learn to cope with living with her and most likely you won't learn to accept her decision until you cannot see her on a daily basis. But since you asked how to cope day-to-day:

1. Get out of the house often. Avoid contact with her at all times. Spend time alone discovering/rediscovering hobbies or interacting with your kids outside of the house. Try to avoid doing the coupley things you used to, even grocery shopping. These can cause a bit of soreness.

2. Build boundaries between you and your wife that will help YOU cope emotionally and respect hers. Don't overshare information regarding your separate lives. You are not her friend. YET. So don't fall into that role when you are not ready to handle that she has moved on. I didn't respect this with my ex and it caused a lot of harm to him that I either intentionally ignored or I was just oblivious that it would matter to him to due to other circumstances in our relationship.

3. Therapy for YOU. She's done. She's made that clear. Now you need someone to help you mourn the end of the relationship.
posted by Young Kullervo at 1:02 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nth'ing "lawyer up." There is nothing else that will help. She has declared your marriage over, and yet she still wants you to support her. That's not a thing that people do to each other, and it is why we have lawyers.
posted by Etrigan at 1:04 PM on September 6, 2013 [35 favorites]


Definitely protect yourself by speaking to a lawyer. Right now you're willing to do whatever it takes to make her happy in the hope she'll change her mind, willing to trust her despite her own words and actions, but she has made up her mind and you really need to put the children and yourself first.

There is no day-to-day: you need to work on an exit plan for yourself and the children (figure out if you want custody), and see the interim as the temporary situation it is. Cry on your own, talk to someone you're close to, but don't let your emotions cloud your plans or prevent you from executing your task at hand.
posted by Dragonness at 1:05 PM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well if my spouse was actively having an affair like this, when she left to visit the boyfriend I'd change the locks and leave a packed bag for her on the doorstep.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 1:06 PM on September 6, 2013 [22 favorites]


Why can't the new guy in her life take her in, provide for her etc rather than have her become available for him while you maintain her at your place? In sum: tell her to shit or get off the pot. Sounds harsh, yes, but it is like one comment said: you are being used.
posted by Postroad at 1:07 PM on September 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


1. Get a lawyer.
2. Stop talking to her about this separation.
3. Follow your lawyer's advice.
posted by xingcat at 1:10 PM on September 6, 2013 [17 favorites]


Lawyer up immediately. File for divorce. She may have decided it's over, but you can still make the divorce happen on YOUR terms.

Tell her if she wants out of the marriage to get out of the house ASAP.

Her continued presence in that house is incredibly cruel.

Sorry this is happening to you and good luck!
posted by PsuDab93 at 1:10 PM on September 6, 2013 [28 favorites]


I want very much to work on our marriage

You're way past that point. The marriage is over; the only question now is how long you're going to continue to let her use you for free rent.

Get a good divorce lawyer.
posted by ook at 1:10 PM on September 6, 2013 [18 favorites]


Oh, and tell her to stick her friendship up her ass. She's not your friend.
posted by PsuDab93 at 1:11 PM on September 6, 2013 [35 favorites]


FYI, if you live in Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, or Utah, you can actually sue her boyfriend for "alienation of affection" to recoup the money you're wasting on her now.
posted by Oktober at 1:11 PM on September 6, 2013 [23 favorites]


So sorry you are going through this, it's an unbelievably cruel situation.

I agree with everyone who tells you to lawyer up - maybe you don't want to do it, because that would be like officially admitting your marriage is over, but the truth is, seeing where you stand is a good idea even if she miraculously were to change her mind and asks for your marriage back (I'm not saying anything about what you should do in that case...). You need to know where you stand with regard to the house, the kids, who owes what to whom etc, what next steps are available for you etc.

Because I truly think that, outside of the legal situation, you would be best served by her not living with you anymore/ not being financially carried by you to the extent that you are doing now.

Also - think hard what is feasible taking the kids into account, sounds like right now she is looking after them whilst you are at work and you take over once you are at home. What arrangement could you come to if she moves out? Current situation sounds like a good idea keeping the kids in mind, but the kind of tense unhappiness which must dominate the atmosphere in your home at the moment leaves marks in time.
posted by miorita at 1:13 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nthing lawyer. Begin actual divorce proceedings (sorry to say, your marriage Is Over), so that you can begin to craft an enforceable agreement about her place of residency, etc. Yes, it's a terrible economy, but if she decides that that's the only factor at play here, then moving out when she's "able" may very well become endlessly deferred, thus potentially leaving you (and your children!) in this awful limbo for years.

So sorry you're going through this. If it's viable for you to see a therapist (for yourself, not as a couple), please do that, too. And actively take care of yourself as best you can -- exercise, healthy foods, adequate sleep, etc. All of these things will help keep your spirits and strength up.

This internet stranger is sending you hugs. My best to you.
posted by scody at 1:14 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


You need to through whatever means necessarily find seperate residences ASAP. There's no way you can start to heal while you're still under the same roof. Since she's the one who decided the end the marraige, I think she should move out. If she can't afford an apartment, she can move in with her parents, sleep on her friend's couch, whatever. She's an adult, she'll figure it out. But you need to tell her you're no longer willing to provide her with a free place to live.
posted by Asparagus at 1:14 PM on September 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


While she is living in your marital home, and living 100% off of money you bring in, she does not need to be going out and spending two evenings a week with her "new guy." See a lawyer soon to protect yourself. Lay it out to her exactly what kind of circumstances you will all be living in if the two of you split into two households (i.e., that you will both be living in crappy apartments in bad neighborhoods, etc., nobody is going to be living large and having a good time). Tell her that if she doesn't devote that time to finding a new job rather than romantic evenings with her "new guy," you are going to put an end to the "living together" experiment and things will quickly get a lot worse for all of you.
posted by cairdeas at 1:16 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


More tips on the "day to day":

1.) Do you work out? If not, you should start. Exercise helps immensely in getting through periods of depression, anger, etc. And as someone who did the in-house separation thing, you will go through ALL of those.

2.) If you drink, watch your drinking.

3.) Find and join some sort of divorce support group to help you get through it. Your friends, well meaning though they may be, won't always "get" what you're going through. A divorce support group can help with that.
posted by PsuDab93 at 1:17 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


I experienced something similar except we were sans kids, and we were both employed.

Mommy is done with your relationship. Mommy needs to go. Mommy needs to take a small vacation to a friends house. Mommy needs to contact her family and visit them. Mommy needs to find herself a job - regardless of her situation.

You need to immediately contact your family and see if there is some childcare assistance that they can offer. You want to contact a lawyer. You need to contact a real estate broker and talk about how to sell or short sell your home. You want to contact the bank and get all current account balances.

What you are experiencing is not a 50/50 divorce. Do not make the mistake in thinking that it is. Money is important to you. Every dollar your wife is wasting right now is a dollar taken away from your kids. Two households though - that is absolutely necessary. This is a very good time for your family to come and visit while she leaves.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:17 PM on September 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm truly sorry to say this, because I know you love her, but unless there's a LOT you left out, she sounds sociopathic to me. The thing about dealing with sociopaths is that it's really pretty easy once you get the hang of it. They don't care AT ALL if they are hurting you or others so lines of argument based on that have no effect. But they are really good at immediately recognizing what is best for them, and avoiding the path that will lead to bad consequences for them. (Careful, they are also really good at recognizing who has the upper hand, and using it if they have it.). If you can explain to them how what you want is actually way more in their own best interest than the alternative, you have an easier time getting them to go along with it.
posted by cairdeas at 1:22 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


One of my good friends had a wife who left him and moved out, and very quickly started doing her own thing (no kids). But, she would do these bizarre things. Like, out of nowhere, many months after she moved out, and weeks of no contact, she would show up at their shared home, with a (platonic) work colleague or two, and being using their home for a work meeting! Like my friend would be sitting there and with no warning the door was unlocked and all these people would walk in.

He told her it was time for her to give up her keys to the house. She cried and told him it hurt her feelings for him to ask that.

I could see your wife doing something similar, engaging in EGREGIOUS behavior, and then using the fact that you obviously still love her very much in order to get away with it.

What your wife is doing is really, really cruel in my opinion. I hope, for your own sake, you start saying that you will no longer accept the more egregious stuff.
posted by cairdeas at 1:27 PM on September 6, 2013 [19 favorites]


Wow people are being very aggressive, not to mention ill-advised, in this thread. I think people are angry on your behalf, and thus making punitive suggestions here, but a lot of these suggestions are not in the best interests of your children or your own legal position.

OP, you need to see a divorce lawyer really quickly here. Things you SHOULD NOT do without legal advice and strategy in place:

-- change the locks and leave a packed bag for her on the doorstep
-- move out as fast as possible, either with or without the children
-- figure out if you want custody when you know nothing about statutory custody in your state
-- tell her you're no longer willing to provide her with a free place to live (WTF????)
-- treat her as if she is not your friend when you have to parent together in the immediate future

The legal framework for dissolution of a marriage where one party is the primary earner and one party is the primary childcare provider will be firmly established in your state, but not a single person in this thread knows what state that is and following a lot of the suggestions here could land you in a ton of hot water in a lot of places. CONSULT A LAWYER.

She has declared your marriage over, and yet she still wants you to support her. That's not a thing that people do to each other

When one parent has been out of the employment market taking care of the family's children, it absolutely is.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:27 PM on September 6, 2013 [82 favorites]


How much equity do you have tied up in your house, how much of your income is going towards the mortgage? If you both GTFO and rent the house out, could you afford two apartments? If you sell quickly, are you looking at enough cash to put down payments on two crummy condos?

Both of you need attorneys. If your therapist has not been making this ("lawyer up") clear I think you need counseling from somebody with more experience.

I'd change the locks and leave a packed bag for her on the doorstep

Tell her that if she doesn't devote that time to finding a new job rather than romantic evenings

No and no. WTF? The poster does not need to involve himself in drama with regards to the boyfriend. Poster is not his wife's parent. There should be as clean an end to the relationship as possible and there should not be advice to do anything about the housing or finances that isn't "lawyers." And the advice about looking to both your families for support is sound. But do not move out or try to coax her out without both parties getting legal advice.
posted by kmennie at 1:28 PM on September 6, 2013


Nth-ing get a lawyer and end the marriage. The situation sounds intolerable. You need to make it so there is no more "day-to-day." Tomorrow is the last day. Tomorrow you are visiting a lawyer and starting divorce proceedings.
posted by Leontine at 1:29 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


More advice to lawyer now and to file for divorce now. Once the divorce proceedings begin there will be, presumably, alimony, child support and custody agreements among other things. Your housing situation will be part of that as well. Beginning divorce proceedings will help define some of this and may provide closure. If you do decide to live together longer for familial or financial reasons, you can do so divorced and with legal papers defining the terms. DO NOT change the locks, leave her things outside, do anything drastic without speaking to an attorney. This is not just a monetary housing arrangement, you are about to go through custody hearings possibly, do not do ANYTHING that might be construed as irrational without going through both your attorneys.

I would also suggest cutting the fat from the budget even though it wouldn't afford two homes. It will help you down the road with finances, and any little bit helps.

I would also ask your therapist if there are group sessions or unaffiliated support groups they recommend, as it sounds like emotional isolation is becoming very difficult for you. Similarly, if you feel like interacting with others without sharing about your situation at all, try play dates with other children and their parents, or looking for a meetup.com group you could reasonably attend or something as a distraction.
posted by itsonreserve at 1:38 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


You are asking for day-to-day solutions. I would create a schedule so that you don't see each other at all. Can you go to work an hour early so that you don't have to see her in the mornings? And then you could take the kids from the afternoon to bedtime. She needs to be on her way out the door as you are walking in. Then she can come back whenever they are in bed. And make it so that you have a few nights out for yourself too.

You don't need to be doing activities as a family, it's too hurtful to you. It's ok to protect yourself in this situation.
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:38 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


treat her as if she is not your friend when you have to parent together in the immediate future

Sorry, she's not this guy's friend. Friends don't do these things to each other.

She is now his co-parent. That comes with a whole other set of obligations, but none of them involve being her "friend".
posted by PsuDab93 at 1:46 PM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I want very much to work on our marriage, see a counselor, do *something*, but am rebuffed at every turn. [...] Intellectually I understand this, emotionally I can't accept it. [...] I don't have any coping skills for this situation and am floundering.

This sounds like an awful situation, OP. You're right; the time for working on your marriage has long passed. You really don't have a marriage any more and what your former wife is doing to you is completely unfair. As others have said you should consult a lawyer immediately. A divorce attorney will have seen similar situations in the past and will be able to help you navigate these waters. He or she may not be able to help you emotionally but he or she will absolutely be able to help you get on the ball with the practical aspects. And you'll need help with that while you accept emotionally that your marriage is over.

Really, talk to a divorce lawyer. Do it tomorrow. Hell, do it today if it is early. Making the initial call will be the hardest thing. But right now your future ex-wife basically has you holding her purse and buying her stuff while she goes out and has sex with her new boyfriend. It's not a tenable situation.
posted by Justinian at 1:53 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Be careful about rushing to lawyer up and possibly creating a very hostile and adversarial situation that can be extremely expensive and lead to the worst possible outcomes for everyone. Not all lawyers are created equal - some take a more aggressive approach and some take a more friendly approach. If you want to hire a lawyer, first figure out what approach will be best for your situation, in particular for your kids. Divorces (and separations) done wrong can leave deep emotional scars in children.
posted by Dansaman at 1:57 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Join a divorce support group. (This is cheaper than therapy and will probably work better unless you have a therapist who specializes in divorces)

Definitely consult a lawyer (first thing!) and learn the how the laws of your state apply to your situation. Some people will tell you to cut all social ties with your ex-wife and just communicate through lawyers but I think that's a shitty idea, especially if you want to preserve some goodwill in your relationship for later, after the divorce, when you need to make decisions about your kids together.

Sell the house. The memories will haunt you as long as you stay. Use the income to fund separate residences for the both of you. Make it clear to your wife that it's temporary, that you cannot afford to sustain 2 residences, and that she has only until the money runs out to get her shit together and get a job so she can pay her own rent. As far as I can see, selling is the only way you're going to get out of the same physical space as your ex-wife anytime soon. She may be stalling on getting a job, this is a way to force her hand without being too cruel about it.

Be the bigger person. Don't be petty, don't be cruel, don't be vengeful. Don't bad-mouth her. You will regret it later. Carrying anger is like carrying a hot coal around... you're the one who gets burned.

Most importantly... love yourself. Rediscover yourself. Definitely go to the gym, go for long walks, meditate... don't lose yourself in alcohol or drugs, tempting as it might be. You're already in a deep hole and drugs and alcohol will make it harder to climb out. Have a crazy night once a month or so but as previously stated watch yourself during this time.

Good luck!
posted by signsofrain at 2:02 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nthing lawyer, and nthing the advice that she needs to leave your residence pronto. You mentioned that you're the sole breadwinner, so I *hope* that when she goes out to see her new fella she isn't spending your money to do so. If so, I'd suggest cutting that tap as well. She can do what she wants with her time, but her going on dates with money you earn belongs in blues songs and nowhere else.

I'm so sorry for your painful situation. You have my sympathies and support.
posted by Gelatin at 2:03 PM on September 6, 2013


IANAL; TINLA.

Please talk to a lawyer, if you haven't done so already.

Divorce laws are different based on the jurisdiction in which you live. For example, here in Maryland, you cannot legally file for a divorce until you have each lived at a different address for one full year. I realize that's a slim chance that you and I not only both live in the US but also in the same state, and I do not know if that is a common rule, but the clock will not start ticking on that until she moves out.
posted by tckma at 2:10 PM on September 6, 2013


As the child of a situation sort of like this, my advice would be to resign yourself to the situation. The more antagonistic it gets, the way worse it will be for everyone. So be nice and cooperative. Don't let your (legitimately) hurt feelings mess up what little harmony there is in the home. You still have to be co-parents, and the better you can work together on these things, the better.

But that doesn't mean you should get walked all over, either. If your ex wants to go out two nights a week, you should also go out two nights a week. If she spends money, you get the same budget. Even if you don't need to or want to. Get used to the idea of being solo parents, because that's going to be the reality. Etc.
posted by gjc at 2:14 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Worst case scenario, there is life after foreclosure.

PLEASE see a lawyer.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:15 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


4 months of 'deciding' is probably too long. 6+ of deciding/living in the same home/best of both worlds stuff is nonsense. She is not 'coming back' or changing her mind. She could/ is (in my book) doing something I'd describe as 'torture'. First step is lawyer.

A important step also, is, get a good therapist for the kids. From personal experience, kids know something is going on, though they are probably too young to know what it is, what it all means, etc, at under 5. But therapy now can save a lot of trouble later.
posted by Jacen at 2:15 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Money isn't important to me (in the sense that I'd [mostly] gladly pay for anything she needs]

OP, I recommend dropping this line of thought immediately. She has forfeited your financial support. I understand she took herself "out of the employment market" to stay home, which makes her choice to betray you and the children even more bizarre. You have no obligation to feed the jaws that bite you. She's now her boyfriend's problem.

Definitely lawyer up. And, as a lawyer (although not your lawyer and not a family law lawyer), you want a pit bull. Get referrals. Some law firms specialize in men's divorces. File the divorce so it will be on your terms. You are not the one creating hostility - your so-called "wife" is.

I don't recommend self-help like changing the locks. Stay within the legal process. See if your lawyer can advise you about what can be done with the living situation. Listen to your lawyer's advice.

The poster does not need to involve himself in drama with regards to the boyfriend. Poster is not his wife's parent.

Poster doesn't need that drama, but poster's "wife" has involved him against his will. Poster is not his wife's parent, but he is the person who is financially subsidizing his wife's betrayal. That anyone would think he has a duty to do that is beyond me.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:16 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hey, everyone telling this guy to kick her out or leave the house now or go find hobbies so he's out of the house all the time -

They have two children, 3 and 4 years old.

My advice: focus on the kids. Go do fun stuff with them. Take them to the park. Take them to a museum. Take them to the grocery store. Make play dates. If you can schedule your work so that you get home before dinner time - like if you can leave for work early in the morning and then get home at 5 or 6 and take them out for some fun, do that. When you aren't at work, spend time with them, because they're the most important part of all of this. What she does is up to her. This is about what you do for yourself and with those kids.
posted by incessant at 2:17 PM on September 6, 2013 [29 favorites]


I *hope* that when she goes out to see her new fella she isn't spending your money to do so. If so, I'd suggest cutting that tap as well.

Again, no. Consult a lawyer. If you are in a community property state, anything in the bank is not your, singular, money but rather your, plural, money. And house. And assets.

Do not dick with the assets. You wouldn't know what is legal and what is not and neither will anyone else in this thread, so blanket statements like "she has forfeited your financial support" are literally not worth the free bytes used to compose them. Consult a divorce lawyer and ignore any other advice. Move first and protect your rights, but don't damage your position by trampling hers, even inadvertently.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:20 PM on September 6, 2013 [17 favorites]


God, this is such a hard situation. I agree with everyone that you do need to consult a lawyer immediately. Like, tomorrow. And part of me wants to write a long righteous screed against the awful, awful thing your wife is doing. But I'm not sure that would be helpful as I think you already know she's being cruel.

So here's a suggestion/question. What do you think would happen if you sat her down, alone, and asked her - without judgment in your voice - if she thinks what she's doing is right?

What if you said something like, "I understand that our marriage is over. In fact, I spoke with a divorce lawyer this morning. I want you to know I have no antipathy towards you. In fact, I want the best for you, because I want the best for our children. I am committed to doing right by you and by them. And for their sake and yours, it seems infinitely better that we figure out the living situation slowly and thoughtfully, and we don't make any decisions that are financially disastrous. But at the same time, I think you must know that a situation where we share a home and you conduct this affair is unbearably painful for me. Is that what you want? Do you really think that is a reasonable thing to expect, and the best way to go forward from here? Help me understand."

Essentially, I'm advocating a path of non-violent resistance. You can't win this battle outright, because in this interim period you care too much about your kids to kick her to the curb, lock the doors, and let her lawyer fight his way back in. So the alternative may be to lay down your guns and say, "If you want to hurt me, I'll let you, but I think you know what you're doing isn't right." If she retains any moral compass at all, that might be the kind of moment that could serve to shake her out of her psychotically self-involved state and convince her put her affair with this guy on ice until she has amicably ended her relationships with the father of her children. (And maybe not, in which case you'll just have to tough it out, and count down the days til it's over.)

This is tough. I'm so sorry you're going through it. Good luck.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 2:31 PM on September 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


I personally think that s/he who initiates the divorce get the hotel/apartment, but I guess you can't convince her of that.

Yeah, also, there is no "friendship." This is not how you treat a friend.
posted by radioamy at 2:31 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did this come out of nowhere or was it within her previous character to act in this manner? I'm a tad worried about her hormone levels or other psychological issues at stake. I'd ask her to make an appointment with her primary care physician and talk about thyroid levels, hormone levels, and any signs of mania. How was she right after the birth of your second child?
posted by barnone at 2:45 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


She announced "when I'm able, I'm going to move out." Problem is - the economics of this are basically impossible.

Presuming you are in the US, that is simply not true. My parents are immigrants, too old to be employable, and they get all kinds of government support. Your (hopefully soon to be ex) wife does not have to be your responsibility for life! She can get on government assistance to receive basic food, shelter and healthcare. Most homeless people are homeless because they are incapable of functioning within the system - if your wife is a normally functioning adult, she can definitely use the system (funded by your taxes in case you are inclined to feel guilty about that too) to get on her own two feet. She won't be as comfortable as she is now and she will have to account for every dime she spends and she will have to find work eventually, but she will not be out on the street as you imagine now.
posted by rada at 2:45 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am going to be in the "work on it if you can" camp - which, I realize, won't be popular.

I applaud you for wanting to make this work, but you need to make it clear to her that if she's going to live under the roof that you pay for, she has to stop seeing the other man.

Adultery is not an automatic road to divorce - it's an acceptable reason to divorce but it doesn't mean you have to. You have children, and let's face it - we've all thought about it (adultery) but not all of us have actually done it. Make it clear that you will no longer finance her affair and that you love and forgive her. If she wants to leave at that point, let her go, change the locks, and call your attorney.
posted by brownrd at 2:46 PM on September 6, 2013


I really want to strongly second DarlingBri's advice, and to tell you to ignore all the advice about kicking your wife out and cutting off her access to your money, because if you are in a community property state, your money, house, etc are all still joint property. Do not take any action with regards to your bank accounts, your house, etc until you speak to an attorney and/or begin formal divorce proceedings. Seriously, do not touch the money. Same goes for her, but we're talking about protecting you right now. Consider that everything you are doing right now may potentially come up in court before a judge.

I really think the best thing you can do right now is to begin divorce proceedings, because otherwise, this shitty situation is stretching out before you with no visible end. Once you see a lawyer and begin taking concrete steps to dismantle your life together as a couple, you can start working on your emotional health.

Also, whether you want a super aggressive lawyer is up to you, but if your wife is still the primary caretaker of your children, and if you don't plan on seeking primary custody of the children, please consider the potential impact of messy divorce proceedings on your children. By which I mean, don't fuck over your children to fuck over your wife.
posted by yasaman at 3:00 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think you'll be able to cope better when you and your wife have a concrete plan in place for how you'll proceed. Having an end date to this difficult situation will help matters. Coping is easier when you know how long you have to hold on. I had a friend in your situation, and the moment the house sold and he rented his own place, he felt much better, even though some weeks remained till the closing.

If your therapist is a good therapist, he or she should offer you more than listening. If your therapist isn't offering you coping skills, they should be. What these are would depend on their training and theoretical orientation, and your needs. Some folks upthread have mentioned exercise. Relaxation and mindfulness techniques might also be helpful.

That you can imagine it having it all behind you IS a coping skill. It's gonna happen in time. Hold on to that!

I hope you have friends and family you can rely on. Please don't be embarrassed to ask them. Now is when they need to be there for you.

Your wife can't wait around for her dream job in this situation, either. Also if she has resources, such as family or friends, it's time for her to call on them. If she feels as though the current situation is somehow okay and that y'all can exist like this indefinitely, something ain't right with her.

I'm nthing the lawyer, Monday 8 a.m., but I want to add that getting a lawyer shouldn't necessarily signal hostility or aggressiveness on your part. Having a good lawyer and having arrangements stated legally as soon as possible will protect everyone, including your wife and the children. Legal and binding agreements about property and custody can defuse unpleasant discussions rather than stoke them. I'm a stepmom, and I can't tell how many times my husband's ex has proposed some weird change in arrangements that would benefit no one but her, and my husband has calmly pointed to the custody agreement and said, "If it's that important to you, take it to court." It's never been that important yet, believe me.

I wish you lots of strength and luck.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 3:03 PM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


i think this is one of those situations where you are going to have to be the one to take action because your wife is way too comfortable right now. she's behaving abominably. yes, the economy is still bad but if she really wanted out she'd find some low level job and take it and/or rent a room somewhere. of course she doesn't want to do either of those things. go ahead and consult with a divorce attorney to get things moving. yes, be kind in all this even if your wife is behaving terribly. it's in your best interest--and certainly your kid's--in the long run. she'll always be your kid's mom so no need to make things even harder by making things even more difficult in an already difficult situation.
posted by wildflower at 3:06 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The way that this will start to get better day-to-day is if you start moving forward through it. That means seeing a divorce lawyer immediately. Don't tell your wife about this. Get good advice and start acting on that advice. If paying the lawyer means cutting some fat out of the budget, do it.

This is a horrible situation and emotionally, you'll be catching up for awhile. But, the endpoint of the misery will only become a reality if you get started with planning and executing a divorce.

Your responsibilities are to your kids. Their mother will have to start dealing with the consequences of her actions as well. Protect yourself and protect your kids. Your wife is an adult, she will have to adjust to not having her cake and eating it, too. That's hardly a tragedy.

Keep moving forward. One step leads to another. See a lawyer and rally your family and friends around you. You will come out on the other side and, one day, this will be far behind you. That can only happen if you get started.
posted by quince at 3:35 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


While legal advice is a great idea, it is also expensive. Maybe you can afford one meeting with a lawyer. But you can also check out some other reputable, low-cost resources. Also you can consider professional mediation which could help you come to some shared agreements.

I do agree with others who say do not let her dictate the length of this situation.

I was cheated on by someone I loved and was devoted to. One of my only real regrets in this life is that I didn't make more, stronger boundaries immediately after finding out. After doing some legal research re: your financial obligations to her, I would require her to choose a very-soon deadline for moving out. Unfortunately for her, you are no longer obligated in any kind of moral or emotional sense to take care of her. She decided to leave the marriage, therefore you are no longer operating under the previous agreements of the relationship where you financially supported her.

Take good care of yourself. I wish you the best.
posted by latkes at 3:36 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


you are no longer obligated in any kind of moral or emotional sense to take care of her. She decided to leave the marriage, therefore you are no longer operating under the previous agreements of the relationship where you financially supported her.

Whether you you have a moral or emotional obligation is something reasonable people can argue about, but whether you have a legal obligation is a separate issue. And, I would argue, the legal obligations that exist in this kind of situation exist to serve an ethical one: when you (and by you I mean both of you) made the decision to take her out of regular employment--possibly a career--to raise your kids, you made a decision which damaged her ability to support herself in a long-term way. Sure, she might not be looking hard enough, might be a sociopath, etc., but it's also the case that the economy is still crummy and candidates with spotty employment histories are at a severe disadvantage.

Furthermore, the actions you take in the short term may have implications for how this shakes out down the road. That's why 75% of the responses here are "forget asking Metafilter, you should be asking a lawyer." Unfortunately, the infidelity peanut gallery is also out in force to suggest emotionally-satisfying-by-proxy actions which also happen to be ethically questionable. Listen to DarlingBri, call a lawyer, don't do anything vindictive.
posted by pullayup at 4:09 PM on September 6, 2013 [16 favorites]


Most homeless people are homeless because they are incapable of functioning within the system - if your wife is a normally functioning adult, she can definitely use the system (funded by your taxes in case you are inclined to feel guilty about that too) to get on her own two feet.

The number one predictor of poverty for women with children is divorce. The number two predictor of homelessness for women is divorce. The average wait time for subsidised housing in the US is two years. Ironically, the best way to accelerate that process is to be a woman with children in a homeless shelter. Win!

She may qualify for SNAP (food stamps). I'm sure the average payment of $289.61 will make it all better, except since child support is counted as parental income, she may not qualify.

And you know, whatever. We only have half the story here but sure, I'm willing to believe this woman is a misguided, selfish, even sociopathic bitch. None of that means that legally she can be turned out on her ear with no settlement or support. None of that means that her grabbing the nearest available minimum wage job will cover the cost of childcare for two children not yet of school age. People are gunning for vindictive here, when what's really in play is what is practical and financially feasible, with the best interests of the children put first.

And none of us know what that is. Maybe they're upside down with no equity in their house. Maybe the best plan is that they rob their 401K and convert the basement or garage to a studio; they can share custody, with the kids remaining in the house and the off-schedule parents rotating in and out of the granny flat, while she goes to school at night and they all work towards changing the arrangement when the 3 year old reaches school age. Maybe it's that they sell it and buy two two-bedroom condos. WHO KNOWS? None of us, that's for sure.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:23 PM on September 6, 2013 [33 favorites]


And you know, whatever. We only have half the story here but sure, I'm willing to believe this woman is a misguided, selfish, even sociopathic bitch. None of that means that legally she can be turned out on her ear with no settlement or support. None of that means that her grabbing the nearest available minimum wage job will cover the cost of childcare for two children not yet of school age.

Let's keep in mind that the OP has suggested nothing of the sort; in fact, it seems rather the opposite.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 5:21 PM on September 6, 2013


Well if my spouse was actively having an affair like this, when she left to visit the boyfriend I'd change the locks and leave a packed bag for her on the doorstep.

Yes, and the 3- and 4-year-old will magically learn to take care of themselves!

The OP is the sole breadwinner, folks, but it's not like "women's work" doesn't matter. If the OP is out earning money, presumably his soon to be ex is taking care of two young kids and maintaining the house. The cost of childcare would probably outweigh the benefits of any full-time job available to her at the moment. Divorce is expensive for men, but it is a major cause of poverty for women and children.

But yeah! Let's just get a pitchfork mob! What a sociopath!

OP, listen to DarlingBri.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:32 PM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


[Folks, we need to ramp down the debate and stick to answering the specific question. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:37 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went through an amicable divorce and we lived together a long time for financial and logistical reasons. We turned the master suite into a studio apartment for him and he took as much work-related travel as he could to make things easier. I though I would talk a lot about that but as I read on deeper into your question, something else caught my attention.

I am a woman who was unfaithful to my spouse during the marriage and my spouse handled it better than a lot of men would have. During the divorce, I had a string of online relationships that I do not think he knew about and he flippantly told me at one point "It is California. You can do what you want. It won't effect the divorce. They don't care." I feel like we had kind of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. I assume he was not sleeping with anyone but I didn't get all up in his business about where he went in the evening.

Yet, I cannot imagine going out with a boyfriend openly while living with the future ex. That just seems assholish to me. I think that is part of why you are so devastated. I wonder what the deeper dynamic is. It seems kind of spiteful. I think if I were in your shoes, I would wonder why she was so very angry towards me and do some serious pondering. I mean, wtf?

I suspect you won't make much forward logistical progress until you address some of the underlying issues causing her to behave this way. She doesn't want to live with the guy and isn't successfully getting a job. Yeah, I know the economy sucks but it makes me wonder how bad she really wants it. I am not sure she really wants to leave, more like make you suffer for some crime against her heart?

I am not accusing you of anything. I do not know the backstory here. I don't know what kind of baggage you each brought to the situation. I just know that toxic situations tend to not improve until you at least understand that such hostility exists and preferably also why. People who are really deeply angry and want you to suffer can do all kinds of crazy stuff to drag out the suffering. If that is what is going on, you will need to be aware of it and account for it. You cannot trust the promises of people who just want you to suffer.
posted by Michele in California at 8:58 PM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Intellectually I understand this, emotionally I can't accept it. She's my high school girlfriend (we're 30ish now). I've basically lived my entire life to this point around her. I don't have any coping skills for this situation and am floundering.
I was married to my college girlfriend until a couple of years ago (I'm close to 40 now), and it was similarly difficult for me to even conceive of a life without her. Fast forward to now, and I'm living the life I couldn't imagine. It's pretty good.
I can imagine a far off future where things are "different" or "changed" and that feels alright, but that isn't happening tomorrow, or next week or next month.
The far off future is not as far off as you think. You'll probably feel very differently in a few months. That's not to say you'll be over it. You won't be, but things will change.

The first big emotional turning point for me happened when I moved out. Before I moved out, I thought that waking up in some strange place would make the situation more real, and more painful. It did feel more real, but it was not more painful. I mostly felt relief. The daily dread of seeing my wife was gone. The terrifying, unimaginable future was filled in with a totally non-terrifying, mundane new reality. It really is just a matter of time.

FWIW, I ignored an unbelievable amount of advice I got from friends who wanted to help me get over my heartbreak by getting drunk, getting laid, getting even, etc. Many of those things would have made me feel like a jerk, and I'm glad I just waited it out. Your situation is not what mine was, so the right thing to do might be different. Just be aware that you're not going to suffer forever, and do what feels right to you.
posted by Courage is going from failure to failure at 11:47 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Your wife has dumped you already, and she's only sharing a home with you now because it's convenient for her. And she's dating some new dude, while you're stuck watching her do it. And while all this is happening, she expects you to pay her bills.

I think what you need to do to get over her, is get angry. You are entitled to be angry. People write country music about the kind of shit she's pulling on you.

Does she have any friends or relatives nearby? She should go stay with them. She can come over during the day to watch your kids, and then leave when you get home at night. Or she can stay at her new guy's house. Or she can stay in some ratty hotel. The point is, she has dumped you, the father of her children, and that means she can't expect you to pay her rent. If she wants to be friends, she needs to act like somebody who gives a damn about you and get the hell out of your house.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:03 AM on September 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can anyone please offer any advice for how to "make it" day-to-day?

You need a good therapist, a good attorney, and perhaps a consultation with a good financial planner. But those appointments might be days away, so in the interim I would say:

No matter the circumstances, even if your range of options is very limited, you can still choose to conduct yourself with dignity. You can follow your values and set an example for your children. Take an interest in their lives, make them feel loved, and be a positive influence. Take care of your health by eating right and exercising every day. Start to accept that your marriage is over. That doesn't mean you must feel wonderful about it, but don't internalize things and let the anger/bitterness eat you up from the inside. Process it out, make a private list of what life lessons (if any) you learned versus what is still confusing, and use these private notes when you consult the therapist.

Your period of limbo will come to an end. Be it a day, a week, a month, or a year. But the memories of how you conduct yourself will be long-lasting. Even if you have nothing else, you can always conduct yourself with dignity and use that momentum to slingshot past the bad stuff.
posted by 99percentfake at 2:09 AM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Divorce this woman now. Don't let her take advantage of you anymore.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:03 AM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


None of that means that legally she can be turned out on her ear with no settlement or support. None of that means that her grabbing the nearest available minimum wage job will cover the cost of childcare for two children not yet of school age.

None of that means they cannot get a divorce and live in separate apartments. OP, I think it is critical that you start asking yourself what you want and how to get there. Right now you need a divorce. She is asking for one by telling you the marriage is over. The fact that some women fall into poverty after divorice is not a reason for you not to have the life you want with someone else. You do not have to be guilted into accepting all of this based on statistics thrown at you, (on top of what appears to a heaping of guilt from your wife).

You are a human being. You are entitled to the life you want, especially as your wife is trying to get what she wants.

The answer is to start divorce proceedings. It will be hard because it means admitting your loss, emotionally and otherwise.

But under no circumstances are you required to just sit there and support someone who no longer wants to be in a marriage with you without a resolution and a legally-binding settlement.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:15 AM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Get a lawyer. I think you're going to need to sell the house ASAP, and that may come with legal issues for which you need a family law attorney's guidance.

She is absolutely taking advantage of you right now.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:38 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I should have added that the reason you need to get a lawyer is to start the process of getting divorced (and with that, dividing property).
posted by J. Wilson at 8:40 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am struggling between now and that intederminant "then."

Contemplate the fact that it's in her best interests to keep you struggling that way for as long as possible, and the fact that she's made choices that have moved your marriage from a win-win arrangement to a one-of-you-loses arrangement.

As for deciding what to do: your guiding principle needs to be the welfare of your kids. You need to examine every action you think about taking through the lens of its likely effect on them.

This might help.
posted by flabdablet at 10:24 AM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Specifically for how to make it through TODAY: Cut the fat from your budget, and use it to pay for a gym membership that comes with child care. Take the kids to the gym every day and work out while they get some awesome playtime. (I recommend the YMCA, in case you need a place to start looking. As an additional advantage, many YMCAs have community support activities like movie nights and family dinners that will help you build a social life without your STBX-wife.) This will give you desperately needed exercise and time to yourself, and give your kids a break from a toxic and uncomfortable situation.

One person can't fix a marriage; if your wife has decided it's over, it's over. I have a friend who, four years ago, was in a very similar situation to yours; her husband, who did not work, had begun sleeping with someone else, refused to be at all responsible for the care of their child, and refused to leave the house. She moved out and filed for divorce. It was very painful and very expensive, and she paid him alimony for 18 months, but she ended up retaining full ownership of the marital home and he moved out on his own.

In almost every jurisdiction, you can't just change the locks; she owns that house as much as you do. Hire a lawyer and do everything scrupulously legally, or it WILL come back to bite you in the end.
posted by KathrynT at 12:45 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some lawyers allow a free consultation. Get a few of them. Any attorney you consult with cannot be hired by your soon to be ex. Take a look at a site called survivinginfidelity.
posted by scottymac at 4:33 PM on September 7, 2013


In my experience of being the dumpee in a divorce, there's a phase where your brain is still treating your ex in the same way you did when you had a relationship, and everyone else wonders why you're being so nice to them. A long relationship is going to wear a pretty deep groove in your behaviour patterns. Changing that can't be made easier by the fact that she's still in the house. I can't imagine what it must be like to see her every day knowing she's carrying on with another relationship.

You have to lawyer up, not just to protect your finances (which you may not care about now, but will probably start caring about if you can get out of the groove), but because some of the changes that'll help your mental state might have legal consequences: in some jurisdictions, you're at a disadvantage if you move out of the martial home, for example.

If you can, I'd arrange it so you don't have to see her every day and preferably don't see her at all (this is the standard Mefi "no contact" advice after a relationship breakdown). I don't know how that works with looking after the kids (lawyer, lawyer, lawyer, lawyer). I tried to treat the divorce as a business negotiation: this applies now, when you still want to be nice to her but need to remember that she's not on your side anymore; and later, when you want call her names but need to remember that it's a lot easier if you can keep communication open between the two of you rather than paying your lawyers to write each other letters (in my jurisdiction, you can negotiate about stuff yourselves but you should make it clear that this is "without prejudice": again, lawyer, lawyer, lawyer, lawyer). The other thing I tried to do was imagine what I wanted to get to a year down the line, say, and avoid doing anything that might work against that.

After that, go and prevail upon all your friends for company and food and so on, and do new stuff. Something physical and fun is good: sports, dancing, walking, whatever.
posted by pw201 at 6:00 AM on September 8, 2013


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