When I was in the early days after the text, I found Viki Stark’s blog, Runaway Husbands. I had mixed feelings about the discovery. On the one hand, it felt good to know that I wasn’t alone. On the other, especially as she was collecting stories for her book, it was filled with wives adding their own, often anger-filled, stories of how he left. I spent a few weeks there and even added my own tale. But then I moved on, knowing that reading about the beginnings every day would keep me in the beginning. I cared about how he left but I was more concerned about how I was going to live.
If you have experienced a tsunami divorce, I recommend reading Viki Stark’s work. She distills thousands of cases into facts and patterns, which bring some comfort and depersonalization to the betrayed. Although her work is with abandoned wives, it fits just as well with the husbands I have encountered that have also experienced sudden abandonment.
In her recent piece in Psychology Today, My Husband Was Abducted By Aliens, she explores the way that the deserting spouse rewrites history and reality to match his/her own needs. I remember how crazy-making this was when my ex spewed lies in his suicide letter to my mom and other wife (spoiler – he survived). In time, I came to realize that he could not live with the cognitive dissonance created by his actions. So he rewrote my reality to match his.
One of the pieces of advice I give to someone in this situation is to have a reality anchor. There are days that feel like an acid trip through Alice’s Nightmareland, where you no longer know what is a fabrication and what is real. Have something that reminds you of the truth that can bring you back. I held a copy of his mugshot in my purse for months. It was my reminder that he was a criminal. And criminals lie.
The most important advice I can give to someone who has been abandoned is to learn how to not take it personally. Sounds crazy, I know. Read this.
Regardless of what your exiting spouse says, it’s your story. Write your happy ending. Aliens be damned.