Mom abandons children for beach

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September 26, 2018 - 10:27 AM

Dear Carolyn: My wife just left me and I am so angry at her I can barely stand to talk to her. She’s had mental health issues for most of her life but until this last year she dealt with her depression pretty well.
We were together 15 years and have four kids who need her.
She just left one day with no explanation, no warning, nothing. I literally came home to a note and my bewildered children. She told them this was temporary, but now she’s asking me for a legal separation. I am left to take care of the children, the house, and go to work so I can still pay all of the bills, including hers.
I think I could stand it if she were in a hospital or seeing a doctor or something, but she’s rented a house at the beach and snuck back this week to take more of her things and our cat. The one thing I guess she actually cares about.
I‘m afraid to go see her in person because I am so angry. I am too ashamed, upset and exhausted to call our lawyer, and I haven’t even told my family yet. What can I do? —Furious at My Wife
Answer: You can go to a soundproof place and scream.
And you can find a therapist as soon as possible so you have a safe place to dump out enough of this confusion and sadness and rage to maintain a strong presence for your kids.
Not that you can’t show them you have feelings, that’s natural and healthy for them to see, but you want to air the potentially destabilizing ones out of their earshot.
And in a bit — sooner rather than later, I hope —you can see that being in the family home with the job and the chores is the far better place to be than a beach rental, even with all the work and stress it entails, because you’re the one with the kids, and you’re the one who hasn’t broken your promises to them. You’re the earth beneath their feet. It is sacred.
It is also this: Healthy. Your wife is either too ill to manage her daily life, or she just threw away this sacred thing for the life equivalent of a sunset poster with an inspirational quote.
Neither one promises a better outcome for her than your laundry and dishes and pain will bring you in the end. Please keep that in mind, too — even as you cut whatever corners you must on those household responsibilities, because that’s where you are right now. (There should be a magazine — Crisis Homes and Gardens.) Hang in there and show your kids the love that sticks around.
Hi Carolyn: What responsibility does a wife have to push her husband to be a decent friend? For years, my husband was close with a few guys from grad school. As they got married and started families, the frequency of their get-togethers died down and the friendships have understandably cooled, but they are still the people my husband calls friends.
One lost his mother last week and asked my husband to come to the viewing. For nebulous reasons, my husband wavered and then backed out at the last minute. This week, there’s another opportunity to support the same friend — helping him clean out his late mother’s garage, which a few other guys are gathering to do with him — and my husband is again starting to spin together some flimsy excuses.
He’s not too busy, he’d just rather not, which I think is appalling, considering the length of the friendship. Do I need to do anything here, or do I stay out of it and let my husband’s friendships take whatever shape they will over the next several decades? — Spouse
Answer: I think this warrants an exception to the leave-him-to-it rule. A well-placed “Get your butt over there and be a friend” can be a friendship-saver, as well as a gift to your husband given that the chances he comes home regretting that he helped are probably verging on 0.
Just in general, I think the (very) occasional butt-kick is in the job description of close friends and family — and that avoiding it in every single circumstance is taking the hands-off approach too far. Besides — this isn’t about pushing someone to be a good friend; it’s reminding him what it looks like to be a good person. Tomayto-tomahto, maybe, but the stakes sound higher this way.

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