There used to be a joke about the husband who went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came home. For some people – particularly women – that joke hits very close to home. Some people only learn that their spouse no longer wants to be married when they one day announce that they’re leaving or just leave a note.
One psychotherapist and author has been studying this phenomenon since it happened to her. While not all of those who end their marriages with seemingly no warning are men, enough of them are that she calls it the “Wife Abandonment Syndrome.” Most of those it happens to are in their 40s or older and have been with their spouse for many years.
There are clues that someone is ready to leave
While the psychotherapist says there’s not a clear pattern in women who do it, there are common warning signs in men. The more of these that are present, the more likely it is that your spouse is ready to leave. These include:
- Changes in personality
- Changes in values
- More absences from home (either explained or unexplained)
- New interests or habits
Many spouses chalk the last one up to a “mid-life crisis.” Their husband buys a sports car, gets a gym membership or has some cosmetic procedures.
Indeed, these can all be signs of an identity crisis that some people feel as they get older and realize they’re not satisfied with their life, which can lead them to end their marriage. This identity crisis often goes hand-in-hand with infidelity, which is present in most cases where someone abandons the marriage.
It’s normal to be in shock – but it’s necessary to protect yourself
A spouse may leave relatively suddenly, but their parting words can hurt. They often claim that they never loved their husband or wife and that the marriage was never happy. This kind of rewriting of history can be a coping mechanism for them to more easily walk away.
If you’re the one dealing with a spouse who has suddenly left, it’s important to recognize that you’re going to be in shock for a while. This isn’t the time to make big decisions. However, it is important to take immediate steps to protect yourself and your children financially. Even if you’re not ready to begin the divorce process, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.