It sure isn’t an Oscar!
The challenge is, when hubby bolts, you’re supposed to feel humiliated. Well, you do. That’s true. But he made the choice.
We both faced the nasty reality of a “runaway husband”, the subject of a new book by marriage therapist Vikki Stark, whose own husband ran out on her after 21 years.
I was with my ex for five years before we married, and our marriage barely made it past our second anniversary. He was re-married to his second wife (whom he’s still with) within the year. She’s even in my wedding pictures, his “best friend” (cue Psycho music here) from work.
I’ll spare you the grim details, but it was hell. He was gone a lot — a doctor, officially overnight “on call” at the hospital or, helping her with her young baby as a single mother, at her home. I relied on his income 100 percent, which left me unwilling to push back as hard as I needed to, let alone move out or kick him out.
For those of you whose hubbies have strayed, or you fear they might:
1) Do your due diligence before you marry. Seriously. I had plenty of reason to worry about my ex-husband when I met his family. His mother was so miserable in her marriage she told me all about it. His older brother had already bailed on two wives, each with a young child. Not a good sign! I loved my ex deeply, felt sure we’d figure it all out — and still demanded a pre-nup to seal the deal, just in case.
2) Pre-nup. If you are entering a marriage, like Bullock and many other women with assets, protect yourself. Make sure your finances, if entwined, won’t drag you into court for decades. Know his FICO score. Know what he earns, saves and invests. I was sufficiently alarmed by my ex’es family misery I wanted a pre-nuptial agreement to protect myself, having left my country, family, friends and a thriving career to marry him. As a nosy, mistrustful reporter, I went and interviewed a divorce attorney — $350/hour in 1992 — to find out my legal rights should my marriage end, especially if it ended quickly. I would, he said, have gotten nothing — after putting my career on hold and marrying someone making a lot of dough. My ex had to write me a five-figure check once he’d left, and that was before alimony kicked in. Divorce is expensive, so I calculated in: moving costs, lawyers’ fees, therapy fees and a month or two to get back on my feet.
3) Protect your assets. These include your professional skills, the one thing many women let atrophy if they stay home and mother their kids exclusively.
4) Keep your friendships strong. I was extremely isolated when my husband walked out, June 15, 1994, a Wednesday night. Yes, I remember. I had very few friends, had quit my job and my family of origin was far away in Canada. I didn’t eat for a week (looked great, though!) and only the kindness of a compassionate, elderly neighbor I barely knew put food in my mouth after she took me into her apartment and made me a sandwich and made me eat it.
5) Keep your professional network, even sporadically, alive. There’s no excuse now. Between Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can, and must, maintain some professional networks, even if you’re convinced your marriage is made in heaven and can’t possibly (hello, Titanic?) fail. Should you suddenly need income, and you will if your husband bails, a few colleagues or clients who’ll come through for you quickly is essential.
I knew my marriage faced challenges — I begged my maid-of-honor, just as we walked up the stairs to the church, “Just be my friend if this doesn’t work out.” She did and she is, celebrating her own 20th. wedding anniversary this year. Every marriage faces challenges, whether you’re clutching an Oscar or struggling with infertility or unemployment or illness or you hate his mother or he hates your sister.
The brave, loving husbands are honest enough to say, clearly and without screaming — and before bedding a skank, or a whole bunch of them — “This isn’t working for me. We need to talk.”
And we need to listen.