Dear Dr. Laura,
After listening to a call from a man whose wife wanted to leave him because she was “unhappy”, I feel compelled to write.
I was “unhappy” because my husband of 20 years was not communicative. He didn’t know how to deal with my feelings of sadness and grief over a series of painful losses in my life unrelated to him or our kids. I too thought the only way out was divorce. I rationalized that somehow my kids would be happier if I was happier. This faulty logic resulted in the biggest mistake of my life and an ongoing tragedy for my kids.
I was in therapy at the time and was advised by my female therapist I “deserved” to get my needs met. She told me kids are resilient and would bounce back from a divorce. BS. This was terrible advice, but I take full responsibility for my choice to leave. At the time, our 4 kids were 6, 9, 12 and 15 years old. I did not look down the road to see the longer term consequences of what life would be like as a divorced person. All I cared about, selfishly, was my own happiness.
Fast forward 8 years and I can say the following things about what I did not anticipate: All 4 of my children have suffered tremendously as a result of the divorce: my oldest became a father at age 19 and while he married his girlfriend, he has shouldered immense responsibility at a very young age in an attempt to replace the family he lost. My second oldest son dropped out of college and developed extreme social anxiety and is now in therapy. My daughter started cutting herself at age 14 to deal with her pain. My youngest son is unable to attend high school. He suffers from crippling migraine headaches and other health problems, including depression.
My ex-husband has been dating one of my former friends for the last 6 years. She has a significant influence over our kids’ lives. Holidays, birthdays and other big events are complicated with a fractured family. Instead of gratitude and togetherness, we all have to deal with resentment, sadness and disconnect.
We are grateful for things like health and financial well-being, but our hearts are fragmented. The swath of devastation left in the wake of my deciding I wasn’t happy and needed to leave is far reaching and will continue in the generations to come. I never anticipated I would be in the position of having my 5-year-old grandson ask me, “Grandma, why do you and Grampa not live together? Why don’t you love him anymore?” My heart breaks in writing this, but whatever pain I have now, is nothing compared to the pain I inflicted on my family because I was simply “unhappy”. I urge wives who are considering divorce to think 10 years, 20 years and more down the line. The price of pursuing happiness was devastating, not only to me, but my family. I sincerely hope that in sharing my mistake, it may help someone else.