Bringing Dignity to an Undignified Departure

Dear Andrea,

My friend’s husband has been seeing a woman he works with for quite some time now. He moved out of the marital home and got his own place about a year ago. The wife lives in the marital home which is located in a gated community, but the husband still uses his access in to the community and his key to the house to spontaneously visit the wife.

On the other hand, the wife keeps showing up at the girlfriend’s house when the husband does not answer her calls. And, he is usually there. She only approaches him when he gets to his car to let him know she knows what is going on. His girlfriend sometimes calls to “cuss” the wife every now and again, telling the wife, “Your ex- husband does not want you so leave him alone.”

The girlfriend, who has been unsuccessful with keeping  the husband from being involved with his family (there are 2 teenage children), has now filed a harassment suit against the wife.  What should the wife do?
1. Should she file for a divorce she cannot afford, or keep living in this immoral situation?
2. Should she change the locks and disable the husband’s community access?

She needs your advice.



Dear Mikhaila,

What a distressing situation for your friend. First thing your friend needs to do is ask herself why she so desperately wants to get back a man who abandoned her without affording her the dignity of properly concluding the marriage. What does she believe about herself, God, and this world that makes her think that the best choice for her right now is to actively pursue her philandering husband? Yes, marriages collapse and people fall in love with other people, but there are dignified ways to deal with the disintegration of a union.  The husband’s apparent expectation that the wife should exist in this state of limbo and anguish is heartbreaking, and wife’s acceptance of this new role as “occasional” wife (which she clearly does not want to be) and her assumption of the role of occasional stalker is even more heartbreaking.  She needs to abandon both these roles as they degrade her and suck the marrow out of her soul (not to mention  that the stalker role has landed her in trouble with the law).

So to answer to your specific questions,

1. Should she file for a divorce she cannot afford, or keep living in this immoral situation?
2. Should she change the locks and disable the husband’s community access?

I say she should do whatever it takes to bring dignity and peace into her life. Filing for a divorce is a legal activity that will need to happen at some point, but it is not guaranteed to bring her peace, so her getting divorced is not my primary concern right now. At this moment, she needs to let go of the marriage and accept that it’s over. Completely over. She needs to be clear that she is the only one holding her happiness hostage by believing she can’t have it without her husband in her life, and this letting go process will set her happiness free.

First, she needs to fully acknowledge how much her husband has hurt her with the understanding that it is only a wounded heart that can wound others. His behavior may be monstrous, but he’s not a monster, just someone doing a bad job of figuring how to live his best life. She also needs to acknowledge the ways she has hurt him and contributed to the demise of the marriage—no marriage ever tumbles from solely the actions of one partner, even if the other partner’s only offense is denial.

Next, she has to forgive him and forgive herself then take every single object in her house that represents her union with her husband and get rid of it! Her ring, cards, photos, and even the special underwear she bought because he liked it all need to go.  She should carry out this ritual without malice, and allow herself to cry as much as she wants. In fact, while she packs everything in boxes for Goodwill, she should play music that reminds her of when they first met and allow herself to weep until there are no more tears left within a mile of her.

When she has done all this and prepared herself to flood her life with more joy than she has ever had, she will know how to proceed with calling locksmiths and lawyers. Not sure which should come first, but at that stage I don’t know if it will really matter—she’ll figure it out.

Good luck to her!