What is a Tsunami Divorce?

English: Tsunami hazard sign

What is a Tsunami Divorce?

A tsunami divorce is one that completely blindsides a spouse, flattening him or her with a wave that was never spotted.  A tsunami divorce is characterized by a normal marriage and a normal life up until the moment of total and utter destruction.  The spouse that embodies the wave may simply disappear, abandoning their significant other with little to know communication or explanation.  Infidelity, substance abuse, and mental illness can all play a role in a tsunami divorce.  The causes of a tsunami divorce are rooted in the past and far away from the marriage.  These contributing factors lay buried beneath the placid sea of the marriage until they burst forth in a great wall of destruction.

What Are the Effects of a Tsunami Divorce?

A tsunami divorce catches the other spouse completely off guard; it is a shock and awe campaign that leaves the survivor stunned and disoriented. One of the more damaging effects of a tsunami divorce is the survivor’s tendency to question him or herself about why no signs were spotted.  Others in their lives may echo this sentiment.  It is difficult to come to terms with the fact that the signs may have been minimal or only visible in the rearview mirror.  The survivor is left devastated by the end of the marriage, confused as to why it occurred, feeling foolish for being “taken,” and angry at the tsunami spouse.

English: Tsunami Evacuation Route signage sout...

How Does a Tsunami Divorce Differ From Other Divorces?

Most divorces have a long, slow decline or a visible, yet rapidly building disintegration.  This leads to a protracted period where one or both partners are wondering if they should stay or go.  There are nights spent feeling alone while one remains in the marital home.  There are difficult discussions and perhaps heated arguments.  One or both partners may be holding on to hope that things will get better or that he/she will change his/her mind.  This is a painful process that can slow or even stall healing.  On the other hand, it also allows time for pre-grieving of the marriage and it gives both partners a voice in the divorce.

In contrast, a tsunami divorce is sudden.  The marriage is often good up until the point it simply doesn’t exist anymore.  There are no painful discussions.  In fact, there are no discussions at all, which can leave the survivor feeling as though his/her voice has been stolen.  There is no chance to pre-grieve, but the healing process can be easier as the abrupt amputation leaves no room for false hopes and no hesitation in the correct path to follow.

What Are Some of the Lessons That Can be Learned by the Survivors of a Tsunami Divorce?

1) Understand that the causes of the tsunami are found in the past and far away. Don’t spend too much time there.

2) Examine your own tsunami warning system.  Did your fears and anxieties cause you to look away from some signs of the impending disaster?

3) Realize that, although your devastation was complete, the flattened earth is a clean slate.

4) Don’t be afraid to rebuild.  Statistically speaking, tsunamis are pretty rare.

You can read the entire story of my tsunami divorce in my book Lessons From the End of a Marriage, available on Amazon.

Tsunami Divorce in the Huffington Post

How to Surf a Tsunami: A How-To Guide to Healing

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36 responses to “What is a Tsunami Divorce?

  1. This is very insightful. Where did this term originate from? Did you coin it? There may be a book here.

    • There are signs, but the hard part is recognizing what they point to. The reality is so unexpected and extreme, it is difficult to imagine unless you’ve been there. For example, my husband took the coat he wore to our wedding to the cleaners a few days before he left. I only learned later that he wore it during his bigamous wedding. Can’t say I would have seen that one coming!

  2. Yep, lived through one of those. Looking back I can now see signs – the small cracks in the terribly-laid foundation. I beat myself up about it for a long time. How did I not see it coming? And better yet – how did I even end up marrying someone who really didn’t like me (let alone love me)? Hard questions I’ll never know the answer to. But my therapist has taught me that my Intuition is always right – where there is smoke there is fire. I lived in fear for a long time that it would happen again and the tsunami would hit again – but that’s a lie. That’s my old self living in fear. Today I am a stronger and more independent woman because of it, and I now see my divorce for exactly what it was – a gift!

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      • I hope so! It is the whole story – no stone left unturned – of the relationship, the tsunami, and how I found happiness through the pain. I think it gives hope and understanding for any one who has been through the end of a relationship. I know that when it happened to me, I felt like I was the only one who had such an abrupt end. I don’t want anyone else to have to feel that way.

      • I felt that way, too. I know I’m not the only one who’s gone through divorce, but I thought no one had experienced such a quick demise of their marriage. I honestly can’t express how much it meant to me to read what you wrote and know that I’m not the only one. Thank you so much for writing! :)

      • You are so welcome! I felt alone as well, which is one of the main reasons I started the blog and wrote the book. There are many of us who have felt the sudden destructive power of a tsunami divorce. And there are many of us who can prove that it is a survivable tragedy.

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  7. When my husband left suddenly it felt like i was hit from behind with a baseball bat; a complete blindside. I agree with the other comments on here…it’s the perfect way to describe what I have been going through.

  8. This caught my attention and I sit here reading it because the other day, January 9, 2013 I greeting my girl friend/partner of 14 years from work about 7:30 a.m. Everything was better than ever, and she had just moved back into my home, (not from separation reasons. Was a family reason, which is another mind blowing discussion), mid December. She was preparing soup and we were normally, pleasantly talking. I decided to mention to her how it made me feel to get up in the middle of the night, 1:30, 3, 4 etc. to find her texting and silently laughing. Or taking her phone in bathroom staying an hour…no water running sound, dead silence. I felt like she was texting. WELL, she casually turned to me and said: “I don’t want to be in this relationship anyway. I’ve wanted out for awhile.” It was like she fired a gun right in my chest. All this took place within about 15 minutes.

    Within a few hours, she had gathered her things AND LEFT. I am still in SHOCK!!! I can’t fathom any of it. Sheer devastation. Day by day, I’m trying to make it to the next day. It’s been 10 days now. I think I am getting better. I am riddled with anger, contempt, and hurt. I thought I’d share my tsunami. I’m devastated. Fourteen YEARS.

    • That initial shock is so overwhelming. Incomprehensible. It took months for me to comes to terms with it, much less begin to work through it. You’re doing the right thing now – day by day. Keep taking baby steps towards where you want to be and you’ll get there. Hugs:)

  9. Amazing blog.

    My tsunami happened last year, after I suggested a day out with the kids, he said no I want to leave you, and he left, that was it, no txt, email, discussions etc. A relationship / marriage of 12 yrs – dead.

    He left me with a 5 yo and a 3 mo, yep a 3 mo! What man can leave a women just after he watched her give birth, it makes me feel sick,
    8 months later still had no explanation, luckily I am not waiting for one now, he doesn’t deserve my time. Like you say just taking baby steps and, well thats it!

    I look forward to reading more of your blog – Thanks

    • Thanks:)

      So sorry you’ve had a tsunami as well. I hear from many women whose husbands abandoned them during pregnancy or soon after the birth. Doesn’t make it any less despicable, just now you’re not alone. You’re smart not to focus on an explanation. It took me a while to let go of that desire/need.

      Keep taking those baby steps – they’ll take you far!

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  12. WOW.. I just love this term, “tsunami divorce”. I was also blind-sighted after 20+ years of marriage. But then I was so broken that I did not realize the extent of his psychological abuse. This explains the devastation that I experienced. How can someone be so deceitful to hold someone everyday and say how much they love them … only to walk out and say that they never really loved them and waited till they were ready to leave. The pain from these deceptions is excruciating. You will help many with your story. May God continue to pour out His blessings upon you!

      • It will be 10 years this summer. Mine was devastating so I can not even imagine what you went through. He told me that he never loved me and I found out that he married me because he was told that he would never be able to date me… I was a challenge to him. So much deception and so much abuse… he broke me but God restored me. Thanks for sharing your story. It will help many.

  13. The seventh month anniversary of my tsunami is coming up. November 17 is a date that I will never forget. I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I now bore the status of “crime victim”, feeling unsafe in my own home. The man I loved more than any other, after picking me up from work, told me in a single sentence that he was outta there. This was on a routine drive home. It took him less than a minute to undo years. At first I thought I was hallucinating because this kind, wonderful man who had only been good to me would *never* do that. It took months for the reality to sink in. My victim’s services counselor told me that it’s fairly common for people to abruptly leave spouses and significant others in situations like mine.

    He would have eventually left me for another reason if not this one, and I don’t take it personally, because I know I was not to blame in any way. Oddly, this is of no comfort, because if I had done something wrong — one thing to offend him or hurt him or make this justifiable — I could make sense of it. So I am left wondering why I chose not to see the signs. Why I couldn’t see his true nature.

    • The endless questions can be so difficult. One of the conclusions I reached was that I actually didn’t want to be able to understand because that would mean that I was capable of doing the same.

      Hang in there. 7 months is still early. It does get better and the shock lessens. Although the unreality of it all will remain.

      Hugs.

  14. I just discovered your blog a few days ago. This post in particular describes what happened to me extremely well. My tsunami started about a month ago and peaked with the revelation of her infidelity 2 weeks later. I’m really hoping the flat earth is indeed a clean slate.

    Thank you for this.

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  16. Happened to me too. We were, I thought, not just happy – but completely happy. He texted the day before from work “Just sitting there thinking how much I love you”. He was widely regarded as the nicest guy around too. Totally devoted to me and the family. Then he just sat there and said he could not continue, he left 5 minutes later and within a week had got his own house. He left me financially, emotionally, physically. I barely survived. There was never anyone else – he had depression I the only “reason” I was ever given. He simply said he had loved me until the day he left, but quite suddenly changed his mind. He then changed from the kindest most thoughtful person in the world to my attacker. He didn’t want friends and family to think he was a bad guy, so he went around blaming me, making things up. He was so successful that he got his parents to cut me off and he walked away the victim. I honestly will never understand as long as I live, why he did what he did, or how someone I knew and loved for so many years was capable of it.

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