What Happens To the Ones Who Leave?

leave divorce

What happens to the ones who leave?

The ones who lie and deceive and then walk out the door into their next chapter without so much as a glance behind.

Do they feel pain? Guilt? Remorse?

Are they happy with their decisions and in their new lives?

Or do they regret the choices that ended their marriages?

For many of us, we will never know. Even if you still have contact with your ex (or keep tabs on his or her whereabouts), the life they put on display for the world may well be a front. And even if they do come back, crying about how upset they are, do you believe the tears? Or are they of the crocodile variety?

It’s common to wonder how your ex is doing. After all, they were once your partner in life, and how they felt directly impacted you. And now that they’re gone, your mind still seeks that information. Perhaps your mind even seeks retribution, wanting to see them face the consequences of their choices.

For a long time (longer than I like to admit), I needed my ex to be in pain. It was almost as though I saw it as some sort of tug-of-war with only a limited amount of happiness to share between us. And so I had to pull his away to ensure that there was enough for me.

But that’s not really how it works, is it? It’s not as though his okay and my okay were mutually exclusive. I could be okay on my own regardless of how he was feeling.

So why do we have such a strong drive to see those that hurt us be hurt in kind? Does it mean that we’re somehow malevolent if we harbor feelings of vengeance and pray for karma to hurry up and do her job?

I don’t believe so. In fact, I see these feelings of revenge as coming from a basic human need.

The need to be understood.

Intimate betrayal and deception is one of the most acute pains that one can be subjected to. It’s a deliberate act, carried out by the one you trust the most, that leaves residual tenderness for a lifetime.

And we desperately want someone, anyone, but especially the one responsible, to understand the depths and quality of that pain. We want them to feel it so that we can be understood and, in turn that they can know what devastation their actions have caused.

In even the most mundane of circumstances, it is beyond frustrating and isolating to not be understood. In fact, I’m feeling this way now after a day of attempting to teach math and interact with my colleagues with absolutely no voice. All day, I wrote commands on the board and tried to pantomime how to find the slope of a line only to be greeted with puzzled expressions. I would spot behavior across the room and be unable to do anything about it until I finished with the current student and navigated through the maze of desks. All I wanted was to be able to get my points across.

To be understood.

But not being able to talk for a day or two in a middle school is nothing compared to not being understood by the spouse that caused those feelings in the first place.

That goes way beyond frustrating and isolating.

In fact, for me it went into rage.

I was angry for a long time. And that anger feeds upon itself. I not only felt an immense need to be understood, I also wanted him to face punishment for his actions (it seemed only fair) and I wanted find some pleasure in knowing that I was doing better than him. Petty? Yeah. None of this was pretty.

I didn’t care where he was or what he was doing. I just wanted him to hurt. To feel guilty. Maybe even a little remorseful.

And it was my now-husband who made it clear to me that I had to learn to let the anger go. That it wasn’t hurting my ex, it was hurting me and, in turn, my new relationship. Releasing that anger was a process. I had to enlist some mental choreography to shape conclusions that let me find peace. It was a process. A slow process.

I have an advantage in this over many of you; I don’t have children. And I can’t even imagine what it feels like to see your ex hurting your child. It’s one thing to let go when you were the one who was hurt. It’s quite another when it’s your child. In fact, I see this with my mother, who can still be brought to tears when talking about my past even when I’m smiling because of my present. For you parents, all I can say is do everything you can to teach your kids to be resilient while taking care of yourself. Practice modeling for them what you want for them. And be willing to learn from them; kids often have wisdom that we overlook.

For the most part, I’m past the anger now. In fact, at this point, I want him to be okay. Partly for him, because regardless of everything else, this was a man I loved deeply for many years. Partly for me, because I feel better knowing that I’m not putting any more bad energy out into the world. But mainly for the others that will cross his path. I want him to be okay so that others will be okay. When I saw him and (I think) the other wife hand-in-hand at a festival a couple years ago, I really did hope they were happy. Goodness knows, I was happy I wasn’t the one holding his hand.

But want I want has nothing to do with reality. If he is a narcissist or sociopath, he is incapable of feeling guilt or remorse and most likely will never change. If he has compartmentalized his actions and his past to the point where he no longer remembers the truth, he will not feel pain but may continue to inflict it upon others. If he has spent so long living in a house of lies that he can no longer find the door, he will remain forever trapped.

Even though I no longer harbor a secret desire to fill his car with fire ants, I don’t really worry about how he’s doing. Because I trust that if he has been able to feel the pain from his choices, he will change how he responds in the world. And if he has not felt the anguish, then the negativity he spreads will come right back to him.

And as for me? I no longer have a need to feel understood by him. I think if he was able to understand how it felt, he wouldn’t have done it in the first place. I no longer care to see him punished; I put my faith in karma. And I no longer need to feel superior that I’m doing better than him because my okay is now completely and totally independent of him.

Besides, I’m just happy to be happy.

And I’ll be even happier when I have my voice back:)

Thank you for sharing!

30 thoughts on “What Happens To the Ones Who Leave?

  1. Great post! I think all of us have/had IMMENSE amounts of ANGER toward our spouse. In my case, I was the one who left. I tried everything I could to save the marriage, to no avail. My anger was that my spouse didn’t lift a finger to try and stop me. She held the door open for me.

    I’m much happier now, and I actually think she is too. We’re civil toward each other (for the kids’ sake), but that’s the extent of our communication.

    Fine with me.

  2. This is a great post and represents the goal I am seeking now. It has been too long since my wife of 15 years left. I recognize that my anger only hurts me, but continue to struggle to let it go. I am actively working on it though!

    1. It’s a difficult thing to let go of. Even this morning, I found myself reflecting on the unfairness of the court-related stuff and my ex’s noncompliance and I started fuming again… Had to force myself to derail that train of thought!

      Keep working on it!

  3. Great post…thanks!! It was just what I needed to hear today. I always marvel with thanksgiving at how just when I need something, a nugget of wisdom, a compassionate word, an understanding nod, it appears. Just the other day I was accused by my ex of “stalking” the OW……seriously?!?! Like I have time for that, let alone the immaturity that that involves. Hell, yes, I might THINK of all kinds of “stalking” to do…….but that is as far as it goes because I am a mature woman, not a high school freshman. But to be accused of something so petty tells me that there must be trouble in paradise…..oh, how I want that to be true.
    Maybe I am not the only woman that my ex lied to & cheated on???? Someone else out there saying things that may be true, but the OW doesn’t want to hear. I just say, “If he did it with you, he will do it to you”….yes, my faith is in Karma!!!!!

  4. A painful read, but extremely illuminating and reinforcing of what I know is true. For me, the highlight is the fact that a narcissist is a narcissist; there is no amount of therapy we can put ourselves through that will cure the narcissist of his narcissism. We can simply be more attuned to that sort of personality with the goal of avoiding it in future relationships.
    Thank you for your transparency and honesty.

  5. forest9patrol – North Dakota – Semi-retired writer and lover of nature and women. My gravatar is part of the cover of my memoirs, "Dying to Live" The Life & Times of Jimmy Nelson," my true account of growing up on a storybook farm, experiencing a killer tornado, surviving teenage confusion, an adventurous four-year ride on a submarine, a skydive, not maturing into your regular adult, discovering the world is not a bowl of cherries, a crash to the bottom, and, finally, accepting that the only person responsible for me, is me. But first I had to descend into the deep depths of the emotional chasm. In my fiction I do not try to create super-heroes, but rather bring alive common and regular people who try to find love, survive, and react to circumstances as best they can, and, usually, try to do the right thing. My books are more than one genre, from war to sex and violence to romance, humor, horror, fantasy, science fiction to adventure. I write in third-person with viewpoints by men, women, and children.
    forest9patrol says:

    Your voice seems to be definitely back. I wasn’t going to comment on this great post until you mentioned the fire ants–Cool!

  6. Cindi at MomVersity – Los Angeles, CA – Devoted mom of 2; Real Estate Agent, Former Freelance TV Producer; Native New Yorker; Student at MomVersity; Believer in honesty, ambition, ethics, loyalty + laughter.
    Cindi at MomVersity says:

    We can hear you…and thank you so much for voicing exactly what I was just thinking this morning… “Intimate betrayal and deception is one of the most acute pains that one can be subjected to. It’s a deliberate act (my note: even IF they say it wasn’t deliberate, it’s a level of cruelty that we can NOT understand nor do we wish to…), carried out by the one you trust the most, that leaves residual tenderness for a lifetime. And we desperately want someone, anyone, but especially the one responsible, to understand the depths and quality of that pain. We want them to feel it so that we can be understood and, in turn that they can know what devastation their actions have caused.”
    Their self-indulgence and false elevated view of themselves blinds them leaving it very unlikely that they’ll ever truly ‘get’ the level of severity they’ve accomplished.
    ***Hugs to you!***

  7. What a great insightful post (as usually expected!) 😉
    You have put into words, so eloquently, the feelings I have had of wanting to be understood and the residual feelings that betrayal leaves behind. I wish I didn’t have to interact with my ex (because of shared children) because he brings about those feelings much more easily when I have to be constantly bombarded with his self-centeredness and the fallout of it…but I’m getting better. Setting boundaries with him and myself has helped to start moving to the ‘indifferent’ side of things rather than the angry/bitter.

  8. Cory Pasqualetto – I'm in my 40's I've had two marriages and have worked various jobs in my lifetime from supermarkets to restaurants to Information Tech. This started out as a continuation of my divorce story but since my last romantic partner passed away suddenly without any warning it has now become more of a place to write out my thoughts and feelings. I have made most of my teenage dreams and fantasies come true and now I need to figure out what else to do.
    Cory Pasqualetto says:

    Reblogged this on Starting At The Start.

  9. Reblogged this on ashtx and commented:
    “If he is a narcissist or sociopath, he is incapable of feeling guilt or remorse and most likely will never change. If he has compartmentalized his actions and his past to the point where he know longer remembers the truth, he will not feel pain but may continue to inflict it upon others. If he has spent so long living in a house of lies that he can no longer find the door, he will remain forever trapped.”

  10. The Happy Family Lawyer – Brisbane – I am a mother, wife and happy family lawyer in Brisbane, Australia who is trying to change the way families experience the legal aspects of separation and divorce.
    The Happy Family Lawyer says:

    So many wise words. I agree that perhaps it is different when there are children but I think your advice still holds true.

  11. Wonderful post! This is the very subject that I have been struggling with for the past year and a half. After a 33 year marriage my ex spouse hooked up with his old high school girlfriend on Facebook. I also found out through the divorce process that he had a gambling problem for 10 years and lost tons of money I didn’t know about. The feelings of betrayal and rejection are so intense that it’s hard to move on! Even after a year and a half of therapy, blogging and reading tons of divorce stories on the web; it’s just so hard to let it go! After reading your post it really encouraged me and another light bulb came on! I truly appreciate you taking the time to post this!

    1. Oh, Amelia,……how we have all been there. I was 15 when I first started dating my Ex. He left me for a younger co-worker after 38 years together. This was 3 years ago and our divorce was just finalized last month. It was a complete blindside…..the fog has been liftling. But it has been a painful process. The first year I was a crumbling, tearful , big fat mess…..the second year I realized that he had “run away ” and was not coming back…this past year I got my voice and started standing up for myself and fighting for my future. Everyone told me it just takes time….it was my faith, my family ( my children , ages 34 & 36, no longer have contact with their father) and my friends that have carried me when I needed it. Then I re-learned to trust in myself. My strength as a person is returning. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t let the actions of another person define who you are, who you want to be. You will make it!!!!

  12. How about the other woman? She was my best friend, practically a member of my family, and I met her when the kids and I joined a church where she was the children’s director and my kids’ Sunday school teacher. That’s her part time job. Her full time job is as a children’s missionary. A position in which she also worked with my daughter. She got fired from the church job when she refused to end her inappropriate relationship with my husband. My ex told me she was fired from both jobs due to her moral turpitude, but surprise, surprise, he lied. She is still a children’s missionary! Her behavior was a violation of the trust that her position carries. They’re locking themselves in the bedroom for “alone time” while my kids are there, awake and observant. They drink and curse in front of my kids (who are ages 5 and 7). How can she still have that job?

    1. I am so sorry that you experienced the duel betrayal of a husband and a friend. Unfortunately, lots of people with questionable character hold positions of influence.

      Unless you are aware of illegal activity that impacts her work, focus more on her impact on your kids. Is it worth trying to get the courts to limit her contact with them?

  13. Hi Lisa,

    I enjoyed reading your post but not all of us who leave are the (more) guilty party. My ex-husband was abusive to me and my daughter but I was the one who had to leave as his job was tied to the house we lived in.

    My daughter and I are now, thankfully, back in the former family home (which had been rented out) but it took a while to get here. During that time we have both gone through a lot of grief, sadness and anger whilst my ex still refuses to face up to the damage he has inflicted. Despite this, life is mostly good and I really do feel grateful for my new life.

    Blessings to you Lisa and all your readers.

    1. So sorry you had to deal with this. I absolutely agree that there are situations where you have little choice but to leave. When there is abuse, often a sudden departure is the safest. Glad you’re on the other side now.

  14. EXACTLY what I needed to read this today!!! I too share the thought that dwelling on the anger and injustice of it all and wishing them (him & his now-wife) ill-will does nothing for me but cause it to bounce back on me, which I do not want.

    The discard. The disrespect. The abandonment. The fact that he went from me to her just like that! If I do nothing else in my life from this moment on but dwell on these reasons for my anger, I will miss the rest of my life, and that’s sad…

    I know I am not angry anymore, not in the raging, crying, venting-24/7 kind of anger, I am still angry at him, his actions, his choices, but I am OK with that. I have accepted it- the whole rotten deal he dealt me, I’m OK. I don’t like him, I don’t wish him ill-will but know that Karma will come around to him and I will not rescue him this time.

    I have come to another conclusion that I am not longer willing to be the “rescuer”, the enabler to a man with family or mom-abandonment issues. I no longer want to take care of my partner/spouse unless in dire needs- that’s not what I am saying. I don’t want to have to support the household, be a single parent in a marriage, not have anyone take care of my emotional needs but expect me to take care of theirs.

    I’m not angry anymore. (deep breath) I don’t care either, but I can move forward now and know that there are brighter days ahead.

  15. modular murphy – Vancouver, Washington – I'm in the midst of the biggest life crisis I've ever had. Here is my story. It's about love and hate, passion and recklessness. I hope my experiences will provide you with inspiration, guidance, and encouragement.
    modular murphy says:

    Reblogged this on modular murphy and commented:
    This is a really great piece. Please take the time to read it and think about it. Unlike the author, I do have kids. Still, she is right on point with regard to what I’m feeling. I am still holding on to some anger. Today, Demi left me and the boys to run off to her paramour. No sign of hesitation or remorse. She’s trapped in the world she created, and can’t seem to find the door.

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