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Dear Chump Lady, He left to go “find himself”

Dear Chump Lady,

I am a 38 year old mother of two small children (4 and 1) with my husband who I’ve been with for ten years, married for seven. We are from two different very distant countries, having met in a third country and ever since moved internationally every 2-3 years or so for work. We’ve been INCREDIBLY happy and close.

My husband wanted to leave for several months when I was pregnant and shortly after we had our first child, but managed to snap back to himself and we’ve been very happy since. However, since I got pregnant with our second child, he had gradually built up resentment, distanced himself, and finally snapped when my daughter was five months old. This time around we’re in a much less exciting city, have a mortgage and I’m financially dependent on his job, although I work freelance, I anticipated returning to full-time work this year.

Last September, he dropped the bomb saying he didn’t love me anymore, he wanted to leave me and go to find his spirituality in India, selling the house with everything in it.

I was still breastfeeding exclusively, almost every three hours around the clock, exhausted, and also managing my 3 year old. He helped very little. It is the classic behaviour since then, sleeping on the sofa, hiding his cell phone, stopped communicating, out all hours, disinterest in marriage counselling despite attending, blameshifting, gaslighting, etc etc. He says he was looking at other women, he says he feels trapped. I was such a mess that he threatened to take the children off me, I ended up going to my home country with the children, to recover at my parents home for three months, also to give him the “time and space” that he requested. During my time away, he went on holiday for six weeks, his therapist seems to be justifying his behaviour to him, that he has stopped “living a lie.”

I’ve now returned and he has moved out to his own apartment. Now he wants access to the children, he wants me to live where it is easier for him to fly in and fly out. He sees the children one to two evenings a week, when it is convenient for him, and makes them dinner, puts them to bed, in our home, I go out during these visits. I don’t want him taking them to another home, I feel it is more comfortable for them in their own home as they are so little.

He remains adamant that he doesn’t have anyone else, but wants to find himself and cannot do that whilst we are a couple and he is sorry about that.

Of course, I’m devastated. It is such a critical turning point in my life and the children’s lives, I don’t want to mis-step. We have all the issues. We don’t come from the same country, I don’t speak the native language where we live, we own a property here that I can’t afford to maintain on my own, if I return home I’ll have the warmth of friends and family around, but economically it will be challenging until the kids are in school, I would be cutting out the relationship the children have with their truly beautiful extended paternal family that is in a neighbouring country, and their father. He says he will stay another two years in this country, then leave, but I really don’t want to be trapped here by custody rulings. Thankfully I implemented a separation agreement early on which stipulates that I can travel/relocate with the children within the first year and also that he’d support me financially for that time. I sought legal advice given that if he had gone to India indefinitely I would have been able to fly home to make a life with the kids.

But, I genuinely miss my loving, caring, and truly kind husband. This guy I really don’t recognize. So cold. So cruel. My therapist says that he is acting out like an adolescent and has to grow up all over again, he’s having a psychological meltdown as he really wasn’t prepared for all the responsibility. She thinks that he will come out of it in time, but when is anyone’s guess. It could be months, or years. I feel like if I return to my home country, I’m leaving a “man down.” I think if I go that there will be no chance of reconciliation. I promised to love this guy forever. I want to give my kids the best life I possibly can. It seems that whatever path I choose right now, it just won’t feel right, so here I am in indecision and limbo.

The only thing that helps me cope is to research future work/life prospects in different places. Thanks to my freelance work keeping my CV fresh, I’ve got quite a lot of work prospects, but am also concerned about taking a parent away from the kids, then also working long hours myself so I see them very little each day.

I’ve come to truly appreciate your take on life and would really love your advice on the matter. “Know your worth” really has become my inner mantra since reading your blog.


Dear JJ,

The smartest, best, most un-chumpy thing you did was have the presence of mind to get legal help when he announced his intention to leave for India. The fact that you have a separation agreement in place to escape with your children for your home country is PRICELESS. But it has a one year deadline! You MUST get out of this limbo NOW and save yourself!

I wish I could fly to wherever you are and sit with you while you buy that plane ticket home. I wish I could help you with those two preschoolers, strap them into their car seats, entertain them on the plane, and carry your diaper bag. I would pack snacks, and coloring books, and hold crying babies. I would joke with you, and hold your hand during turbulence. I would do freaking ANYTHING to get you from point A to point B away from your asshole husband.

I wish I could be of more practical help. But know that I am there in spirit. Please know that all of Chump Nation is there for you in spirt while you make that journey. We are urging you forward into that new life. Please buy that ticket home today.

But now you’re stuck in a hopium daze, waiting for your “loving” husband to come back to his senses. JJ — you don’t have a loving husband. You’re married to a fraud. You wrote:

But, I genuinely miss my loving, caring, and truly kind husband. This guy I really don’t recognize. So cold. So cruel.

The cruel guy is WHO HE IS. He wanted to “leave for several months” during your first pregnancy! Then he completely bails on you when your second child is born. What kind of MONSTER wants to sell the house out from under his children — one a NEWBORN — and abandon his wife and children to go “find his spirituality”?

What church is that? The Temple of Fucking Around? Where God is made Man-Child?

You don’t come out and say that he’s been cheating in your letter, but that is certainly what it looks like. The secret cell phone. The staying out all night. The anger and disdain. And now the separate apartment, where he can come and go as he likes playing “daddy” when it suits him.

This situation is NOT SUSTAINABLE. You cannot just leave the house at a moment’s notice when he gets a wild hair to see his children. You cannot keep your life on hold while he fucks around on you. It’s time to put down the spackle. This man does not love you or your children. You report being “INCREDIBLY happy and close.”

Bullshit. Incredibly close people do not abandon you. You are projecting a connection on to him that does not exist. His behavior tells you everything you need to know about his character — he’s a selfish, immature piece of shit. He CHOOSES his own gratifications over your well-being every time. While you were in your home country, devastated — he took a month and half long VACATION. Oh, poor sausage needs a holiday from the incredible burden of being an absentee parent and full-time cad.

You need to wake up and realize he is NOT a “man down.” He’s not lost — he CHOOSES this. And you and your children are the victims of his selfishness. JJ, how about you start choosing YOU? It’s time to put your welfare and your children’s welfare first. They need a secure home with your family. They need to not be uprooted constantly for his whims. (Maybe he’ll sell the house, maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll move in two years. Maybe he’ll go back to India. HIM. HIM. HIM.) Are you going to ping pong around the Continent waiting for him to know his mind? Hiding in coffeehouses when he comes home to play parent?

If you go back home, your children can still have a relationship with their father, or as a wise chump here refers to such fathers — Uncle Daddy. But it won’t be the relationship of an intact family that you imagined they’d have. You’re mourning that dream of what you thought it was. We’ve all been there JJ. But it’s time to wake up to what this IS — abuse. He’s a coward and a bully. He’s behaving in this abhorrent way to make you dump him, so he can claim he’s just a lost soul and not the bad guy that he is. Again, we’ve all been there. You are NOT leaving him — he LEFT YOU. Your husband is checked out, on his secret phone, living in an apartment, out all hours fucking around. Quit trying to revive what is dead and GO HOME.

You want to give your children the best life you can? Give them the gift of One Sane Parent. If you stay with this man they will have NO sane parents. They’ll have one asshole, unstable cheater, and one devastated pick me dancing mother. The best bet for the best life is to take them home and rebuild a solid life for them, allowing for visitation from Uncle Daddy and his clan. (And if they’re so loving and wonderful, why the hell aren’t they slapping some sense into him or disowning him for his dishonorable behavior? Let me guess — he’s the Golden Child.)

You have many blessings JJ. You have work prospects. You have a legal agreement. You have support. You are so much further along than many chumps who’ve had to start over with far less. Please for the love of God, escape this terrible situation and leave this idiot. We’ve got your back. You can DO THIS.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I believe when she said she would leave ‘a man down’ she meant that her support team would be short one person. I may be wrong, however.

    But, that having been said, I am a grandmother, and were this to happen to my daughter, I would say in no uncertain terms, come home with those two precious children, and we will get things back in order, for the long haul. The long haul is what needs to be taken into account in this situation. It will not be easy for the mother of young children, and being where the support for her and the children is a priority would seem to me to be the best option. Her stbx may ‘love’ the children, but he does not love her. Her need for help and support will fall on deaf ears, adding to frustration and anger. I would go where I know I would be loved, as well as my children. I truly despise the man child syndrome. Idiots.

    • Thank you so much CL, finally after reading your blog daily for months I get your take on my situation.

      I don’t know if there is genuine cheating taking place, I actually chose not to snoop, it hurts too much. It makes little difference really, he has still abandoned me.

      Older Wiser, by “man down” I mean, he’s part of my team, so by leaving the country whilst he’s going through some deep trauma, I feel like I’m abandoning him, although I realize the reverse is actually the case.

      You might have a point, man child syndrome does seem to fit well. He’s the youngest of six from a big Italian family.

      • I certainly stand corrected, and you are a much nicer person than I! I suppose I find his actions not those of a ‘man down’. It would seem he resents that he is not the center of attention any longer. His place in the family speaks to that.

        Good luck with those two lovely children. You seem to have a good deal of common sense and good problem solving skills!

      • “…whilst he’s going through some deep trauma…”

        I don’t think so, JJ. Sounds to me like he’s cheating. He has every single earmark of it. If you knew this for a fact, it might really change your opinion of him, and quickly. Trauma? Not to be harsh, but he’s not going through trauma – he’s most probably having a great time, having naughty sex in his new apartment, all the while telling his care-free APs that he’s newly divorced – leaving you to endless child care and sleepless nights, and a broken heart.

      • My father was the “favored” son of a big Italian family. I think his disordered personality/NPD was fed by that early sense of entitlement. Fatherhood worked for him as a grand, ego-driven concept but he wasn’t good down in the trenches of parenting. He sought his “escape” in affairs that we paid for by living with his moodiness and detachment and a mother who coped by drinking. Although he stayed in our home, as our father, and husband to my mother, at the end of his life he was still voicing his regrets and disappointment about family life. One of his last words to me before he died was, “…if I knew then what I know now, things would have been a lot different….” Thanks, Daddy.
        JJ, let the beknighted @$$hole follow his “spiritual bliss,” so your children will never feel the abandonment of a parent who while in the home, wants to be anywhere but. It will also free your kids from becoming accustomed and thinking his behavior as an adult male, is “normal” … which will help immeasurably if/when they choose a mate.

      • Oh, believe me, genuine cheating is taking place.

        Hiding phones, being out late, treating you with disrespect and contempt, like you are invisible and your needs (to be treated like normal human beings are treated, the way all your friends are being treated right NOW, today) are not bothering thinking about?

        He is cheating.

        Go home to your family ASAP. When you are surrounded by people who don’t have an agenda, who give you the simple courtesy, of hi, how are you today? (I SEE you) – your bewilderment and fog lifts that much quicker.

        Go home, JJ!

      • JJ, I got fooled by this. I gave two years of completely unconditional love and concern to someone who told me he was depressed, having a breakdown and didn’t know what he want.

        He was fucking his co worker in our house, in my bed and confiding my deepest secrets in her.

        The way he treated me was complete emotional abuse.

        When I told my therapist he was confused, my (male, marxist, atheist, gay) therapist replied: ‘how do you know he is confused? Why do you not think he knows exactly what he is doing?’

        Don’t imagine how he is feeling. Look at what you are prepared to tolerate. Please don’t tolerate discard and abuse JJ.

    • I believe men like this say they “love” their children as part of their impression management strategies. They know what their social circle and society at large would think of them if they said that they really don’t care about their children and view them as an obstacle to their true happiness. It is anathema to these men to be seen for what they really are. So instead, they feign love while continuing to do whatever it is they want for themselves. The key here: Pay attention to his actions, not his words. He will say ANYTHING to get his way. Ignore his words. Believe his actions. They show you what he’s really all about.

      JJ: I feel for you. You have found yourself in the excruciating position of being faced with the reality that you married a real monster. To extend your analogy, you would not be leaving “a man down.” Instead, you are now realizing that you have been sleeping with the enemy. Run for cover. Get back to a place that is safe. Take those precious children back to your family and let them support you and care for you.

  • JJ my heart goes out to you. I’ve been in a very similar situation, with a husband who found being a parent all a bit too much like hard work. Mine definitely had an affair, which was a merciful release in a way, because it gave me clear grounds on which to ask him to leave.

    So, with 11 years of hindsight, I say to you – do what will work best for you. You are clearly going to end up being the parent to your children. Your H may flit in and out as & when he has time / energy / inclination / nothing better to do but you will be your children’s parent. So, what is going to work for you? Sounds like you know the answer to that.

    Be brave & stay strong. Don’t wait for your H to “come back”. You know that he has gone. He has proven himself unworthy of your love and as a father to your two precious children. Don’t beat yourself up that you promised to love your H forever – you both made promises to each other. As far as I can tell, he has broken most of those. You cannot be partners / married properly when one partner has opted for “time and space” over the marriage.

    Big hugs to you.

  • Dear JJ,
    Your situation really struck me in that you were so smart and wise to immediately protect yourself and children from being trapped by this moron who can’t think beyond himself. Be so grateful for having the smarts and fortitude to prepare for protecting both yourself and the children from being prisoners of this loser. That is a huge blessing you just gave to yourself and your children’s future, FREEDOM from A SELFISH, UNCARING DICKTORIAL ASSHOLE who is a child, ” WAHHHH, I DON’T WANT THIS, WAHHHH, I WANT THAT, WAHHHH, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT”. Run fast and figure it out after emotionally. Stay in protective mode for your self and your children. Think only of yourselves regardless of what he says or does. He will only to continue to regard himself and doesn’t have your back or his own flesh and bloods, his children. This is 100% FACT.

    Just my piece of advise to add after a conversation I had with a good friend of mine who is a single and divorced MOM (9 years now)who is stuck living where she lives until her daughter turns 18. Her daughter is now 10. She (my friend)is not happy about living where she has to live and has to suffer that consequence of having been married for 10years to an irresponsible addict.

    What we have discussed and realized together after my experience for 1 year with a lying, manipulative, abusive, serial cheater is that we People (men and women) really only the NEED the opposite sex for one thing, to reproduce. With science that is no longer necessary. Other than that, we are capable of doing everything else ourselves including taking care of ourselves and our children if we have them and having full lives and being happy, safe and secure. Therefore, we have the freedom of choosing who we want to share our lives with whether it’s friends, family or a significant other.

    We live in a great time as both men and women in that we all have the ability and freedom of choice of how we live are lives and are not trapped by the old shackles of the marriage contract combined with longer lives in which to live a longer and happier, healthier life.

    So with that said. once you know your worth as CL says, and you do clearly by taking the actions you have already taken in caring for yourself and your children’s future well being. The rest is just easier and better as you make the choices for yourself as to who you bring into your life to add to it and enrich it.

    Nothing in life is permanent, not even ourselves. That’s the wondrous adventure of life.

    I know you have just lost a lot or what you believed to be a lot and it makes you feel crazy, sad, scared, lonely etc… BUT that is only TEMPORARY. It really really is as everyone here can attest to.

    It’s not the end of the world, it’s the end of a bad experience, a really, really bad experience but one that will move you forward to many more good experiences. YOUR LIFE IS NOT OVER, it’s just beginning anew. It’s not easy but it will get easier and easier and the growth you go through will give you strength and clarity you never imagined you had. CL is the perfect example, her strength and clarity has moved everyone here to get on with life and to care for themselves and their children and she is living proof that smart people make mistakes and bad choices but that doesn’t mean they are bad people who make bad choices. None of us here are bad people, that’s how we got into our bad situations, because we can LOVE. We all just LOVED people that we didn’t realize at the time didn’t have that reciprocal gene. NO BIG DEAL in the larger scheme of life, a mistake. But one whose lesson learned is invaluable and will serve you well the rest of your life. It will teach you to love and care for you and in turn, those around you will become people who love and care as well.

    Life is fluid and every changing and moving and that’s what makes it so wonderful. People will always come and go from your life and others will always be there and new people will enter your life as well as new loves. All in time. It takes time and hard work but the rewards are a plenty.

    Just wanted to let you know how you affected me with your strength and foresight to do all the right things for your and your children’s future, that is a huge correct first step and I am so happy for you and your children that you made it and am in awe of your courage and strength. The rest is easy in comparison. Making the decision to leave and get out is the hard part and the rest you can figure out as you go but do go without a question. Don’t allow yourself to become a prisoner, take your freedom and run!


    GET OUT NOW! Don’t waste another moment or give the abusing asshole the opportunity to do any more harm to you or your children.

    Sending you love, strength, tissues and hugs!

    • Deborah – I’m adding this to my journal in bold print – this is a gem. Thank you.

      “It’s not the end of the world, it’s the end of a bad experience”

      • And a mantra that TRULY worked for me that I had to repeat and repeat…
        EMOTIONS ARE TEMPORARY. EMOTIONS ARE TEMPORARY. Meaning this crazy, desperate, out of control, unsafe, “what-do-I-do” feeling… These are emotions. They will pass, maybe in an hour, maybe while you sleep. They will wax and wane. They will eventually subside and you will feel stronger, safer, better, happier. I promise.

      • Me too!! I had the same reaction as I read that beautiful line!

        I have started a collection of ‘wise sayings’ from the “Wise Chumps Of Universal Wisdom” and this one is a sho-in!

        Hugs and love to you, JJ! and Welcome!

        Forge on, you wise and wonderful chumps, Forge On!

        • I hope you like this wise saying ForgeOn? “Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been, to stand up taller than you ever were.”
          My best wishes to you and all the Chumps.

          • Yes, Maree, indeed I do like that one!
            That is an apt description of how it is for all us chumps!

            Thanks for sharing that one! Goes in my collection….

            Forge on, Maree…..

    • I wish there was a like button. This is gold and just what I needed today, thank you!

    • I have to say, I cried for a full 2 hours solid in the shower before booking that first ticket home. I had a BEAUTIFUL friend come and stay with me and help me pack for a whole week, in between crying fits, to help me make that step to go to my parents for help. She even came on the first leg home of a 26 hour journey on my own with two small children. I didn’t know if I would ever come back to our home as I had purchased only a one way ticket as he said he might join us in my home country on holiday, but not to depend on him for that. I felt like a refugee. I cried daily for two months, I was like a puddle of goo on the floor. Thankfully, I had loving friends also in my home country that helped to pick me up. Funnily enough, it wasn’t until I read the entire back catalog of that I started to know my worth. It REALLY helped me turn it around. Getting all your feedback here is giving me even more strength to make the next hard step of selling the house and leaving permanently. You all know it is hard. Thank you all so much for support and strength.

      Please don’t diss his family though. They are all equally displeased about what he is doing. He wont listen to anyone except those that tell him he should focus on himself. “when do I get to be happy”. For ever and ever Peter, in Never Never land.

      • JJ
        he said it himself when he said to not depend on him for being there. He’s actually said it. Don’t depend on me. I may have married you, made vows to be your teammate, have your back, love and cherish you, but…. hmmm…. it’s not fun at the moment. Being a parent is haaaaarddd…. I don’t wannnnaaaa…

        You already have 2 little children, do you want to spend the rest of your life at the whim of a 3rd? Do you want your children to see this sort of thing as normal? Because they will. Children internalise their reality and it becomes ”normal”. I know. Scary.

        So. Pack up. Again. Sell, throw away, do whatever. Do not tell him until you absolutely have to and cannot avoid it. Then announce one day that you are at the airport and will be returning home and he is quite welcome to come and visit by prior arrangement but that you ”will not be depending on him” for that, rather depending on your family and you just feel you need to do this ”for yourself” as you need to ”find your spirituality and really take a break, you’re not sure how long for”. Go on, feed him some of his bullshit, I’d pay to be a fly on the wall!!

        • Ugh, this is it, isn’t it? It’s not fun anymore so they bail. My ex pulled that crap ‘too much baggage I want a clean slate’ because all those years of memories meant jack shit. Then again, he thought we’d stay friends so he could still sit around doing memory time with me and was quite annoyed when I said no fucking way. the man actually said he’d still come over for a drink and listen to some music and talk with me – lucky me! I said no way. One dinner with the kids and I realised this was not every going to happen again.

          They’re children at heart and fuck that, I need me a man.

  • “My therapist says that he is acting out like an adolescent and has to grow up all over again, he’s having a psychological meltdown as he really wasn’t prepared for all the responsibility. ”

    Hopefully your therapist was ethical and presented ALL sides of the equation…telling you point blank that it could take YEARS for this man to “grow up” (if ever) and that it would be extremely unhealthy for you and your children’s live lives of chaos and stress during these crucial early formative years for your children.

    You cannot control this man’s behavior. Only he can do that.

    The variable you do have some control over is your and the children’s circumstances.

    Smart move on the custody arrangements within the separation! This gives you choices. Prioritize yourself and the children when making these choices.

    Best of luck.

    • I agree. Her H is not cut out to be a husband and/or father. Some people just aren’t. Some people just do not have it in them to be part of a marriage and/or to be a parent. I really wish those people would not be so selfish and try to “have it all” when they know deep down that they don’t have it in them to contribute to such arrangements and that them having it all will come at others expense.

      Her H was all happy and loving just as long as it was the two of them, globe trotting, having fun and games. I bet he was even all for having kids, in theory. He probably fantasized about little mini hims to entertain him and show off to family. But then shit got real and he couldn’t deal. But I also bet he knew from the start the he couldn’t and didn’t want to deal with the reality of children, but he tried anyway at her expense so he could reach for his fantasy. Selfishness 101, that is.

  • JJ,

    I’m from a Pakistani background, but raised “in the West”.

    Go home to your extended family. Gift your children the gift of not only the sane parent, but the extended family–that support is invaluable, and rare over here.

    And as for spirituality–the word “integrity” comes from the word “integration”. It means you don’t get to have the “family” file, the “me” file, the “other woman” file. It means you are you wherever you are, and you are the same you whatever the circumstances. A spiritual person has integrity. A fake has lofty words. CL is right when she says to ignore the words, and look at the actions.

    • Thanks CinS. That was quite beautiful and sums up what I believe about integrity, only a lot more eloquently.

      • Yes, and I wish you would put the short version in a quote Pin for Pinterest so it could go viral. “A spiritual person has integrity. A fake has lofty words.” Brilliant.

    • I was thinking the same thing regarding that description of integrity. I even made a note of it because I didn’t want to forget it. So much of living as an authentically decent person is rooted in character and integrity. It doesn’t mean you’re perfect or that you don’t have flaws, but it does mean that when confronted with with doing what is right, even if the wrong thing is easier and works to your benefit, your default is in doing what’s right.

      Thank you Chump in the Sand.

    • Thank you, CintS.

      My STBX is all about lofty virtue. He belongs to a men’s organization that, besides offering fellowship, helps “good men become better.” He’s never been one to volunteer, but he’s volunteering now–and you helped me understand that he wants to create a facade of integrity where none exists.

      Thank you for the insight.

      • KB,
        If you are speaking about the Masons, I can speak from experience…. My father was a Mason – that was his life. He loved being a part of it. He was also a cheater. My exFIL is a Mason….also a cheater. My ex is also a Mason and also a liar, cheater, piece of shit cop. Now don’t get me wrong, I do think they do wonderful things. However, in my experience, ex joined to be a part of something, just like you said a facade of integrity. It used to be that it really sought after organization. I don’t think much anymore. And don’t worry, I would imagine the volunteering will only last for a while because like all lying piece of shit cheaters, they need more time to focus on what is really important in their lives……themselves.

    • Wow, yes CiS – just copied your integrity comment into my notebook. I have been grappling with it for months. When I think of personal integrity, I always think of structural integrity, which is about how strong a building is but more particularly, how well the different parts fit together to both create and support the whole. Your comment about not having different files is perfect – my husband does not have integrity because the different parts of his life were kept separate, instead of those parts contributing to a whole, complete person. He split himself in two.

  • JJ, you might even have had a pretty good relationship w/your husband, AS LONG AS it could be all about meeting his needs and providing him kibbles. Many narcissists can be fairly satisfactory partners, especially if you’re willing to spackle, as long as the focus can stay on them, and there are very few demands for adult behaviour.

    But once the kids start taking so much of YOUR time and attention, once it’s no longer about him and how he wants his low-responsibility life to be, everything crumbles. The underlying entitlement starts to show, the resentment grows …

    Kids are probably the most common way this happens, but it could have been anything; if you had gotten sick, or someone in the family really needed a lot of your time and attention, or your work suddenly needed to be center-stage for a while …. Anything that required this adolescent to act like a grown-up would have caused this sulking, tantruming ridiculousness.

    The therapist says he has to grow up all over again? No, he never did grow up, but that just hadn’t shown, he was able to live essentially an adolescent life until adult reality hit too hard for him. And the likelihood he WILL grow up is soooooooooooo low! He liked that low-responsibility life (I’m betting you were the default parent even when you only had one child, no?), that’s what he actually wants! Look at how he behaves, he’s telling you who he IS.

    Run. Then mourn and grieve for the man you thought you had, the life you thought your family would have. That is gone, it’s very sad, but since he won’t, you are doubly forced to live in reality.

    • PS, it might also help to remind yourself that if he really is having having some kind of crisis that will lead to growth and maturity, he WILL do the work necessary to get you back and rebuild your family.

      I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one, though. Sigh.

  • JJ,
    Hang in there, my situation is somewhat similar to yours. My STBXH is from another country and we have relocated many times due to his job. We have 2 kids (10 & 8 years old) and we are all financially dependent on him because of the many relocations. A year ago he started having an emotional online affair with a married woman, he then relocated all of us to Washington state and a few months after meeting face-to-face with the married woman, he dumped me and the kids. After much thought, I decided to move to Florida to live with my mother. I felt that my kids needed to have a stable and nurturing home and I felt living with my mother was going to enable me to provide that for them. If I had stayed in Washington, I would have abandoned my kids too because I would have to be working full-time and not be able to see them as much. With my mother with us, we have a solid family and this is priceless to me.

    Prior to my relocation to my FL, my STBXH hardly shared any parenting responsibilities. On the contrary, he dedicated his time to develop his new relationship with the OW and basically contacted the kids whenever it suited his schedule.

    So even though he lives in one end of the country and I in another, I feel that choosing to have a family and a “pack” was the best decision for the kids and I. We are starting fresh in a new place and my kids are thriving. Single-parenting is hard but I feel happier to have control of my life than to wait for my STBXH to “find himself” and get out of his fog.

    So I vote for you moving back to your home country and let your husband go on his on way. This was HIS choice, not yours.

    Best of luck!!!

  • Dear JJ,

    I am so sorry to hear you are going through this. It’s horrible. I agree with everyone who is advising you to leave him, go where you know you have support and plan for a future without this poor excuse for a man.

    He wants to go find himself? Wanted to ‘go find himself’ during your first pregnancy? Perhaps he’s been looking in the wrong places – direct him to the nearest midden.

    He loves only himself, he doesn’t love you and he doesn’t love his children. Love does not abandon vulnerable people – pregnant women, babies. His value system makes doing that condonable in his head. Certainly gave him no pause for thought the first time he did it, found no ‘cognitive dissonance’ in doing it a second time.

    You are such a wonderful and lovely person to be caring for his mental welfare and feeling bad about leaving him during his ‘trauma’, but he keeps proving he himself is not someone you’d want in the trenches with you, he certainly doesn’t care a jot for your trauma, nor the trauma he’s causing his babies (and 4 years old is quite old enough to be affected by abandonment). Cut the elastic band he thinks he’s got you on and get well away from him.

    Should he ever emerge from his second adolescence and think he can return to his loving wife and family, I really hope you will have had enough time and distance to realise you deserve a better friend and lover who you can trust to have your back when you are vulnerable, and he has certainly proven he’s not that man.

    No matter how sparkly he is, no matter how close and happy you once appeared to be together, it wasn’t valuable enough for him to step up and behave like a proper man, and take care of his family. In searching for himself perhaps he should be on the look out for his proper testicles, a real man knows they are not just for producing sperm.

    Huge big massive hugs and best wishes

    Jayne x

    • PS,

      You don’t say how old he is, but I am assuming you are both around the same age group. This means he was coming up to 30 years old when he met you. You didn’t rush into marriage and you didn’t rush into starting a family. He had plenty of time to contemplate the responsibility of marriage and he had plenty of time to contemplate having a family. This ‘psychological meltdown’ when faced with the realities of life, and the choices HE made, is ridiculous. As human beings, of course we all make mistakes, but running off to India to ‘find ourselves’ when life becomes a bit too real is beyond contemptible.

      He wants contact with his children? Why? If he cared even slightly for these babies he’d be mortified by the harm his coming and going is doing to them. He’d at least question himself about why ‘finding himself’ is so much more important than their emotional development. What is he teaching them about true love? What is he teaching them about commitment?

      It doesn’t really matter if he is cheating, (of course it matters to you, it would be yet another example of his abusive, disgusting character) he’s checked out of the relationship – wanting to play at being daddy, but with none of the infringement on his daily life.

      I’m curious to know (my ex’s father abandoned his family and ‘normal’ was daddy turning up once in a blue moon for donkey’s years. Ex’s mum did the pick me dance forever it appears and family were poverty-stricken. No known cheating – just a irresponsible, sparkly narc who put himself FIRST about everything) did his father desert him when he was a child?

      • You know, we both come from stable, loving parents that are still together. Sadly we can’t explain away this behaviour so simply.

  • JJ,

    What an awful situation and place to be in…my heart goes out to you.

    I agree that were I in your shoes, I would be heading closer to my family and friends–people I KNOW I can count on to have my back and love me and my children.

    I caution you, as you seem to be in a fragile state and hoping beyond hope that the man you thought you knew will come to his senses…realize that who he is right now is who he is. He’s proven to you that you can’t count on him. Your children can’t count on him. In his childhood state, he may well beg you to stay when shit gets real and you’re set to go. Please, I implore you, remember that it will not last. Remember how it felt to be abandoned not once, but twice while you were at your most vulnerable. This is who he is. Please believe that, and if nothing else, believe it for your children, who deserve so much more.

    Get yourself to your family, where you will be loved and supported.

    Hugs, JJ.

  • “Last September, he dropped the bomb saying he didn’t love me anymore….He says he was looking at other women, he says he feels trapped….During my time away, he went on holiday for six weeks, his therapist seems to be justifying his behaviour to him, that he has stopped ‘living a lie.'”


    Sorry but this sounds very eerily similar to things that came out of my exW’s mouth while I was unaware of her cheating ways. What you write suggests you already suspect he is cheating as CL points out. Cheaters aren’t very original.

    From my extensive reading, I was taught what such lines are designed to do–i.e help the cheater silence his/her hurting conscience. For example, the idea of not loving you or calling your marriage “living a lie” is an attempt to absolve the conscience of your husband so he feels free to act however he wants. It only works if his conscience is completely dead because deep down he is only engaging in this “justifying” behavior because he knows what he is doing is wrong. Also, remember: he freely chose to marry you, and it is only him who can decide whether or not to be honor HIS OWN choice. Trapped? Yeah, right! It’s like him punching himself in the face and trying to blame someone else. Childish. Pathetic.

    I wished my therapists had told me these sort of things up front. Plus, I wished they had told me early on to give my ex an ultimatum–shape up or divorce. It’s up to you if you want to give him another chance, but that’s the advice I wished I had been given from a good therapist. I am not a therapist, fyi, but just another chump.

    • Yeah, stop “living a lie” sounds all very noble doesn’t it? The truth with win out! I’m being so AUTHENTIC!

      Talk about Orwellian double speak. He IS a lie. His authentic self is a LIE. He’s a narcissistic man child. He made commitments to his wife and he created two children by his own damn CHOICE. There is nothing honest about cheating and abandonment. He pretended to be a loving husband and parent. His real self is a facade, a liar who shifts reality to suit himself and bails on what is difficult.

      JJ and her family aren’t the lie that needs to be run away from and exposed. HE is the lie.

      • Agree with CL. This “living a lie” phrase is a particular bug bear of mine. I think it is thrown around in a cavalier fashion and is often used with regard to relationships to excuse very bad behaviour.

        What “lie” exactly is a consenting adult living, who chose to get married and have children? Unless the adult in question suddenly discovers that they are gay – what other lie could they be living?

        Maybe it is the lie of “I don’t fancy this grinding hard work of parenthood very much” or the lie of “I don’t fancy this being faithful promise very much” or the lie of “I have foo issues and need to find myself” or possibly even the lie of “My skein of fuckedupness is so tangled, I need space”. Except ………….. what is that I hear you say? Ooops, they are not lies, they are ‘truths’ of the selfish, the entitled, the spoilt, the indulged, the ‘me, me, me’ folk.

        • Yes, their supposed holier-than-thou exclamation that “I don’t want to live a lie” is total BS. It makes them look better and/or feel better. But it’s just a way to excuse their behavior.

          And btw, it’s also BS that people need to cheat or divorce in order to “find themselves”. You can find yourself quite well while still being married. The only thing you can’t do it fuck other people. If finding yourself means fucking other people? Well then, yes, you need to dump your spouse.

          • They don’t want to live a lie but they are perfectly fine with living a lie until they’re caught.

        • Yup, as I commented below, the “living the lie” is a blind;
          In my exH’s case, he meant the that the lie part was our life: he never wanted the job, he did not love our life, etc., etc,
          Turns out in reality, the “lie” was that he did have an affair 12 years earlier, but stayed with me instead even though he was “in love with” her (gee, sure wish I had known that); 12+ years of guilt, walling himself off emotionally, etc. The last affair did not count because the marriage was long over, etc. (again, funny, I did not know that when I encourage you to take a job in another state because you were “unhappy at work”

          The “living the lie” was HIS CHOICE. Sure wish I had been given full disclosure so I could have made my choice.

          • My ex told his mom our marriage had been over for a long time. Sure wish he’d told me so I wouldn’t have spent all that time waiting for him to come home from his many “business” trips.

  • JJ, my heart goes out to you and your children, and as always CL’s advice is sound.

    What struck me was your H saying “tired of living a lie.” What?!
    My then H told me the same thing, and I did three months of the pick me dance until some of the truth came out. The selfishness and revisionist history still boggles my mind if I dwell on it too much. But yes, he cheated, and more than once (still claims the new wife was not directly related to the divorce however)

    Leave now, and put the kids (and yourself) with an extended family that loves them.
    The person who loved no longer exists, if he ever did.

    Also, do not get stuck in a country unable to move with the children. That happened to my sister. She has spent 6 years thus far, away from family, unable to even afford to fly herself and the kids home 1x per year. She is stuck having to interact sith her NPD exH because they have three children. Difficult to move on.

    I think as with most letter writers, you know what needs to be done, you just need to also hear it from others.

    Best of luck.

  • JJ, I cannot add anything to what the wise chumps have already stated but feel compelled to comment anyway. I applaud you for having the savvy to obtain a fine legal separation agreement. It is brilliant and I urge you to not waste this opportunity to make yourself and your children the first priorities in your life. Focus only on yourself and your children. Your children need a strong parent who puts their interests first.

    Golden Boy will be fine. Actually, he already is fine. Very, very fine. He is getting everything he wants at your expense and your children’s expense. The scenario you paint is all too familiar. You will learn this with time: you are not his concerned mother; he is not your struggling adolescent son. You will eventually see that he is a poor excuse of a husband and as a consequence a poor father too – these two roles are intertwined, no matter what a therapist might say, because you cannot compartmentalize integrity. But don’t wait for these realizations. Act now and they will come later.

    I so look forward to your writing us back informing us that you have put the wheels in motion to move back to your home country.

    • Yes! We want to hear from the other side.

      Speaking about your home country, you probably already know this, but if not, you will meet so many other women in the same boat you were in. As a child of immigrants, I have seen this kind of trans-Atlantic pick-me dance since the 70’s–you are NOT the first, nor are you the last to have this sort of thing happen.

      My experiences with these kinds of men is that he may say he’ll want to see the kids, but honestly, he never will. Money will suddenly be too tight to see them during a holiday (probably spent on someone else). He’ll have some work deadline that will prevent him from having the time (working some woman, probably…). Aquarius will be rising in the wrong house (or he will be….). He has the sniffles.

      And that’s even if you hear from him down the road.

      Your children can have the father figure(s) they need in your family who won’t abandon them. I believe emotionally, moving will be the best place for them and you.

    • Jamberry, I actually got a return ticket way back in January, I’m due to fly back in May. I have a 6 week contract here, and then an exam mid May. I’ve given myself a week to say goodbye to my friends here after that and to pack up my things to go. Leaving is the default. But it still really feels wrong, as does staying.

      • JJ – it feels wrong because being in this situation is wrong. But let’s not forget who put you in this situation. Not you! Your husband made the choice for you by saying, AND THEN PROVING WITH HIS ACTIONS, that he does not love you. And you cannot put your life on hold waiting for him to change his mind (which he won’t). You are a smart and protective mother who will do what’s best for her children. The fact that you already have a separation agreement and a return ticket speaks volumes. There are no “feel good” choices here. Leaving sucks, staying sucks. But leaving sucks for the short term, until you build the life you and your children deserve. You already know exactly what to expect if you stay… more of the same. And your children deserve so much better than that… as do you. I wish you all the strength in the universe as you maneuver the next 3 months, holding everything together, working, taking exams and PARENTING TWO SMALL CHILDREN. You are amazing. *applause*

        • JJ, I am relieved to hear that you will be returning to your extended family in May.

          I understand the internal struggle. Someday in the not-too-distant future you will look back and know that you did the right thing by leaving. Please trust us. And rely on us for support as you navigate through this death of a cherished dream.

          I agree with Dani, you have already proven yourself MIGHTY. Your children are so lucky to have you as their mother! You go, girl! (Your husband was so lucky to have you as his wife but he no longer deserves you, if he ever deserved you at all.)

          Lots of hugs!

      • Precious JJ,

        You said: “But it still really feels wrong, as does staying.”

        That was totally me, as well!

        But once I left, (one year ago come March 21) I KNEW it was right! But, actually, all along I believe we all know that leaving is the only sane solution. And it sounds to me as if you have ‘known’ all along the right thing to do…..Especially with the little ones to protect……

        Sending my love & hugs to you & the little ones! Kiss the children for all of us!

        Forge on, JJ, Forge On!

  • Hallelujah Sister!
    Listen to ChumpLady.
    You know how much you have.
    You too are blown away by all the choices you have.
    Take the one best for You. That fulfills your needs and dreams. In doing so your children will have a happy Mother who adores them 100%. That is enough. That is all they need and in return they will love and adore you.
    You are a top bird! Go out and live enjoy flourish in that big old world!
    Never let anyone stop you doing that again.
    With all the love in the world.
    Your pal

  • JJ on the “man down” theory. My H has humilated me and saddened me by having an EA with another woman and wanted a divorce although he did nothing towards that end. I hung in here hoping things would change; they didn’t. After a year when he said he didn’t want to celebrate our anniversary and stopped wearing his wedding ring I said OK I get it and planned to move out after Labor Day. Wham a tree hits our house. Well how can I leave him now? So I stayed 2 ms later house done he texts OW saying he can’t wait for me to move and so I get a lease for an apt and the day I am going to sign the lease Wham he has some medical problems so I stay again. Man Down! I even offered to move and let OW take care of him. Oh no he NEEDED ME. Ok medical problems over but oh so is the OW guess she got tired of waiting. Now he sits here lovebombing me lying about the whole affair and kind of expecting me to just get over it. And I wish I had listened to CL when she told me to dump his ass in the first place. My point is (oh yes there a point honest) is the longer you stay the more you will get caught in the quagmire of this situation. It sounds like you have support and love far away from him which is just what you and the children need. Take that leap of faith and go home.

    • Janet,

      It sounds like you think you have to have some “event” in order to leave, that you have to find him cheating again, lying, abandon you or file himself. Why? The “event,” a continuing one, has already happened.

      You don’t owe him another second of your life just because you don’t think he’s cheating ‘now.’ He will most likely cheat again, he just hasn’t found the opportunity yet. Why would you waste another day or year or a decade waiting to find out that the truth you already know is the truth that will always be?

      Instead of struggling to “get over it,” you should be lining up a great attorney and quietly getting yourself ready to be on your own. He has a life emergency? Please. What did he care about your life emergency when you found out everything you thought you knew was a lie? One of the best lines I’ve read on this site is “When you had an affair, you fired me from caring.”

      My cheating ex, while never admitting to an affair, and after I’d gone NC, has continually sent me the most pathetic drivel about his life struggles. His brother died. He had to have surgery. He needs help picking out carpet. The car rental company gave him a car that was just like mine. Waaaa. Who cares. It just reinforces what I know: it’s all about him, him, him.

      I’d hand your husband a life emergency that looked exactly like a process server handing him your divorce papers! If you could plan it on a day when he’s sturggling with a hangnail, all the better.

      • CnC,

        I think I just messed myself ROTFLMBO!!!!

        Yeah, I sounded a lot like Janet. The good & positive in us gets hijacked by the ‘horse’s putoot’ we are married to!

        And you wrapped it all up with that awesome snippy remark: “…..plan it on a day when he’s struggling with a hangnail, all the better.” You rock!

        Forge on, friends…..

  • Oh JJ, the movies, the books, our culture – they all reinforce this idea that the man is such a good man, he only needs a good woman to help him. We learn so young that we should help that guy because we love him and he’s broken right now. There is a shining warm and loving man inside, we know this because we’ve seen him! I spent years helping that guy, getting glimpses of his loving self and believing in his inner goodness. Don’t be me, you don’t want to look back and realize that you gave yourself to him and he gave you little in return. Let him go find himself, if that person really exists he will come back to you whole one day. You can’t fix what is broken inside of him, it’s highly unlikely he will fix it either. He will go from woman to woman trying to fill up the empty hole inside him – he will never succeed in doing it, but he will leave a trail of pain in his wake.

    Find your own path without him, you will heal, you deserve a whole person and he is out there. Jedi Hugs JJ

    • Dat,

      What a perfect summary of what so many of us have done. Absolutely perfect. Hugs to you too 🙂

      • Datdamwuf – YES! The movies and the “message” in our media culture! … And who where those movies, books and television shows written by…? MEN! Big Baby Men living out the fantasy of the woman coming in to save their sorry ass. So we’ve been taught this is what we should do. No. No, it is NOT.

        • I disagree. I think the idea that infidelity is somehow noble, or deeper, or whatever the fad-word-du-jour, is generated, aimed at, and consumed by both genders. I remember when The English Patient and Bridges of Madison County were celebrated love stories (ok, I know I’m dating myself here).

          As a teacher, I worry about the literature our young girls are reading. Twilight and the House of Darkness are series where the heroine feels love for more than one guy, and is torn, swayed,wooed, and she broods over whom she should choose, while the poor male chumps dance the pick-me mambo. The authors of these books are women. We don’t think it’s okay for teen boys to treat girls that way, and I don’t think girls should be encouraged to treat boys that way either.

          • Oh Infidelity is targeted at both genders for sure. What they were talking about above ( I think) was the idea presented in media that a good woman can help a man grow up and find his maturity and himself in general. It puts us out there as rescuers. I think that message is pretty prevalent and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with them being a cheater.

            I worry more about young girls reading Twilight and thinking that Danger, Violence and Mixed Messages are true signs of love. Just replace Vampire with Narcissist and the relationship in those books gives a dangerous example for young women. Not to say that the love triangle isn’t also unrealistic and a bad example. There are not a lot of good role models out there for men or women. I think a lot of women write detrimental romance novels, but a lot of guys write the comedies and sitcoms that we see pushing us to believe that it’s normal for a guy to be a tool, and not only that but that decent women will still marry one of these guys.

          • I actually dislike that a lot of culture perpetuates this ‘sacrifice all for love’ mumbo jumbo. It’s bullshit. And yeah, I loved Bridges and now I bloody well hate it.

            • Yeah Nord, but “sacrifice all for decency” just isn’t as romantic. I think some of what we value has to do with our age too. I’ve wondered for a while now what age range we are here. I was a lot more enamored with love in my twenties. In my thirties I value commitment, hard work, decency…etc. I wonder how many twenty somethings read this blog.

    • Or then there’s the songs about the unrepentent cheater, mythologized, admired, who all the women want to tame and all the men want to be – this is a lovely take on that meme –

      Can’t you just hear these lyrics running through your cheater’s head?

  • JJ,

    Big hugs to you, and you have found the right place here.

    My ex did not admit an affair initially either – and he also left when our children were young (2 and 5). He had been the one I doted on the first 5+ years of marriage, and my oldest child was “easy and fun”, so he didn’t seem to resent her. Our youngest however was not an “easy baby”, and exH’s resentment of him was apparent. Instead of even attempting to bond with his son, exH spent those early years “traveling for work and family issues”…there was also talk of “his needs”…blah, blah.

    My exH is also from a European culture very similar to yours. That may be part of the puzzle as well – but when my oldest was a baby, we had moved 2 blocks away from my family (after living over 100 miles away). Living so close to my extended family was a true godsend when exH left (for a week trip and then never came back…). My mom (grandma) IS my kid’s other parent. My other extended family, church, and friends have parented my children with me every step of the way. You need that support while you husband does…whatever this is. You don’t need to go out “scorched earth” – go to your family, re-establish your life, have limited contact for your own sanity. IF he “finds himself”, he can find his way back to you when he is worthy of you and your children. Until then, be momma bear. Protect your children – I was told countless times that my children needed ME to be healthy and well – and they would still be ok. There are still bumps in the road, but you can do this. Hugs and prayers…RDM

    • Totally agree!

      As a side note, my STBXH is also from Europe, makes me wonder now…

      • Just to reassure, there are lots of us Europeans who live decent, honest lives! 😉

        • This is the third EU country I’ve lived in for a period of more than two years, and the first instance that I’ve heard of this type of thing happening. That said, since discussing it with my friend network here, I now know of about 8 cases in the last six months. So. not. cool.

          • JJ,

            I understand you are going through a hellish time, but please, don’t let this experience make you judge an entire continent of people.

            I too am English, and last week I was lucky enough to join with my wonderful extended family in helping to celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary. No cheating, no desertions. In a total of 30 marriages within the family, there have been only 3 divorces. I am 50 years old and (though travelled) have lived in the uk for the majority of my life and it has been my (considerably greater than yours) experience that cheating and shit marriages are not actually the norm here in Europe.


            • …. And yes, for those astute readers, my naughty mum and dad had sex before they were married, and even had a child out of wedlock! More evidence of the lax morals of the Europeans, I guess! 😀

          • Proof positive that stupidity is an international language…

            • Oh, that comment was supposed to be under JJ posted about being in the third EU country and still seeing cheating behaviour! I am sooooooo NOT dissing Jayne’s parents!!! I promise!!!!!!!

            • I fully agree chump in the sand. I think it is just a common trend in society for narcs and entitled man children to pop up. So sad.

  • “I wish I could fly to wherever you are and sit with you while you buy that plane ticket home. I wish I could help you with those two preschoolers, strap them into their car seats, entertain them on the plane, and carry your diaper bag. I would pack snacks, and coloring books, and hold crying babies. I would joke with you, and hold your hand during turbulence. I would do freaking ANYTHING to get you from point A to point B away from your asshole husband.”

    CL, I almost cried reading this. It gave me flashbacks of my own cross-country journey away from my abusive ex….by myself, with young kids, with planes and layovers and messy blowout diapers right after the “seat belt” sign turns on. But it was all worth it, because now I’m with my family who love me and my children. Actually love me, not just with words, but in action. Family who has our best interest at heart, even when the going gets tough. Instead of being on my ex-cheater’s turf, now I’m on my turf, with my people. If he decides to be an a-hole? I still have a support system. If he decides to man-up and show up for visitation? Then great. Either way, I’m not putting my future in his hands any longer.

    JJ, please listen to CL. Make that journey home. It will be the best thing you’ve done for your kids. And for you.

    Your husband may be visiting the kids now, but given his past behavior, it’s highly likely he could split to go “find himself” at any time, maybe for a year at a time. What then?

    Protect yourself and your kids while you can. Go to your own turf, where you can make a good “nest” for your little ones, and where he doesn’t call all the shots. You think his extended family is great? Maybe so. But if the shit hits the fan, expect that they will take his side, mostly. Just a fact of life, in most cases.

    Buy that plane ticket. We are with you.

  • JJ, I don’t have much else to add to the wonderful advice here, except that if you’re not on the plane out of here tomorrow, hire a PI to document just what he’s doing now that he’s not “living a lie”. You can look at it anytime you need to get yourself motivated, or to snap out of the “man down” mindset (which I had in spades — I got that reference).

    I bailed my ex out of so much crap, and I put up with so much screwy behavior, including moving to an apartment to “have some space”, that I’m ashamed of myself. But when I caught the whore sneaking out the back of his condo as my son was going in to do his homework for school, it was over in an instant. Plus, I got to scream a lot of shit into his voicemail. That felt good. No more going into rescue mode for that asshole. Ever.

    Best of luck to you — being near family saved me, and my kids turned out great!

    • I was looking at all the nics with ‘Chump’ in their names, and wondered why I didn’t. (Chump – a foolish or gullible person; a sucker; someone easily taken advantage of)

      Then I realised why I chose Patsy (easily taken advantage of, blamed, ridiculed, scapegoat. red herring. person accused of a something as a cover for a bigger more elaborate crime).

      It is what Lee Harvey Oswald said: I am just a Patsy.

  • JJ – Big hugs to you! None of this is easy, especially when you’re stranded in another country with pre-schoolers and no money.

    My cousin had a very similar experience. Her XH decided being a father was more work than he was interested in, so he made her life miserable until she felt she had no choice but to leave. She was six months pregnant with her 2nd child when she called her parents to come get her one night. They were in Pennsylvania, she was in North Carolina (about 500 miles and an 8 hour drive away), and they came down with two of her siblings in 3 cars. They packed everything they could fit into their cars and hers, and left. She had the baby 3 months later; her mother was in the delivery room with her. They divorced. Over the course of their childhood, the XH stopped by once every couple of years to take the kids to dinner.

    My cousin remarried 5 or 6 years later. On his next trip through after the wedding, her XH met her current husband. He looked him over and said, “I guess you’ll do to raise my kids.”

    Clearly, the XH had NO interest in children. But instead of discussing it like an adult, he put my cousin through HELL to get her to leave. Thankfully, she’s been happily remarried for 20 years, and the kids have a GREAT step-father. Much better than their natural father.

    You CAN survive this, JJ. Go home and let your family help and stop putting him first when he puts you last. He hasn’t got your back; there’s no reason you should have his.

    “When people show you who they are, believe them.” – Maya Angelou

  • Looking back my ex had the perfect life. A great career, a loving supportive wife, three beautiful children. Looking back my ex had the freedom to do what I couldn’t. Travel for business, travel for sport (who wants to sit around and watch the Great Man play, plus his “friends” were all lousy parents/partners), spend money on things he wanted (of course their were issues when I wanted anything), and the freedom and time to pursue a job he loved. Did I benefit? He was GONE for the majority of our marriage and as each year passed he grew more unloving. By year 18 I was finding it difficult to figure out who it was I had married. He had all the traits of a man unable to LOVE. And I still made excuses for him. Fast forward to “sparkly” OW, a financially devastating divorce, and a man who still hasn’t “found himself” but has remarried quickly with all the stuff a sparkly man needs to live a drama free fuck. New everything. Don’t be that. GO NOW. Get a great settlement before he destroys you financially. Then take your beautiful children and go to where you know they’ll be loved and supported. I moved home at 46 with college aged children in tow. All mine to support. And I can’t tell you how much my family has meant to me and my kids. Cousins, aunts, uncles. Children are so magical, please be strong enough to get them away from someone who has only his interests at heart. It is not a love you want for them. Best wishes.

  • I am lurker, but this story hits a nerve with me.

    I fell in love with someone (during my undergrad) whose was from another country. We ended up living overseas together (in his home country) far way from my family, friends, and support network. The reason for this was that my ex-partner had a disability (usually he was fine, but some days he would be in great pain. His disability was serious enough that it had previously required heart and lung surgery). Basically, he wanted to be permanently close to his longtime doctors and family in case anything went wrong. That seemed reasonable to me.

    I lived overseas with him for a few years (thank god, we never married). During this time, I finished my master’s degree and he sometimes went to university (although he often used his disability as an excuse to stay home alone and play on his computer). Basically, I discovered that any time I’d leave the house he’d be on the internet flirting with strangers, having phone sex with women overseas, emailing ex-girlfriends, or arranging meetings with prostitutes. I found this all out gradually over time and each new revelation came with excuses that shifted the blame towards me. It didn’t matter what evidence I had, there was always some explanation that left me looking like the bad guy and feeling guilty.

    I gave my ex-partner a lot of sympathy based on his messed-up family. His father abandoned him. His mother was on her fourth or fifth marriage, each with a new child who wasn’t allowed to know their father for one reason or another. These were also people constantly asking for money and who’d often abandon my ex-partner anytime his health took a serious turn for the worse. So I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt — he needs the attention of other women to feel better about himself (his disability also gave him a very obvious physical deformity) and his messed-up family never taught him loyalty anyway. So I forgave and tried to wait for him to “grow up” or “fix himself”. I did this while acting as her nurse, tutor, cook, maid, laundress, etc…

    It had been my long standing dream to do a PhD. I had originally been a high school dropout, so getting accepted as a PhD student was a long shot — but I got accepted thanks to years of hard work. At the same time, my ex-partner had convinced me that he was a changed person. He went to therapy, was showing more maturity and responsibility towards his family, and being more transparent about his computer usage (most of his infidelity took place over or started with the internet). However, I realize now that this was just him getting better at hiding things. Just as I was about to start my doctoral studies, he starting acting weird again. He’d get strange text messages in the middle of the night and need to check them instantly, he’d go out to lunch with ‘people’ (this was a person who never took me to a restaurant better than an IHOP — and that required massive begging on my part to please, please, please go out ANYWHERE), he was suddenly interested in buying new/better clothes (again,this was a person who’d wear the same sweater every day for a week or two), etc…

    I’m not an idiot, so I came out and asked him to just tell me the truth. Was he seeing someone else? There was one particular woman that he mentioned too often and who would just happen to ‘show up’ places, so I just knew in my heart that I was being played. But he begged me to stay, claimed that I was crazy, told me that he loved me, etc…etc… That was a Monday. He told me that he’d prove his love by coming with me the next day when I paid my first PhD tuition installment (of $10,000). Tuesday, he did indeed come with me to pay it. Wednesday, when I came home from my first official meeting with my supervisor, he informed me that we were broken up and I’d have to move out immediately. Of course, I was officially broke (thanks to tuition) so how was I supposed to magically move anywhere? He lived completely off disability cheques from his government, so I don’t think money ever occurred to him as an issue. I think he honestly thought that I would pay my tuition and then feel forced to stay in his country. That meant I’d still be conveniently close enough for him to use me whenever he wanted, all while screwing around with other women without me being allowed to ‘nag’ him about it. Too bad he didn’t account for the fact that I was at the end of my rope. So I withdrew from my program, took the refund and bought a plane ticket home. I was 14,000km away from him within four days. He was in my bed with the other woman before I even got off the plane back home (I found this out later).

    At the time, I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing. I was an emotional wreck and worried that I was acting more on impulse than rational thought. I had put so much effort to get into my dream program with a supervisor that I adored — I didn’t want to run away from the opportunity. I also strangely thought that I would be abandoning him: who would be there to help him get through grad school, go with him to the hospital, help him with his family’s next inevitable crisis, etc…? Yet, I was broke, homeless, and not in the zone to focus on my studies at that moment anyway. So I went home. Honestly, I was humiliated getting on that plane. I had no plan, no job to go to, no friends who knew I was on my way back (too embarrassed to tell even my siblings). I thought I was giving up too easily and that I could somehow make things work if I just tried hard enough. I now understand that no matter how hard I tried, the entire situation was in his control. This is the grey area of abuse — people can run to the police if their partner hits them or screams at them or threatens to hurt them or stalks them. But how can you run to the police if all your partner does is cheat on you or threaten to leave you to “find themselves”? Who do you tell if all your partner does is make you constantly think that you need to work harder to ‘earn’ them? That’s not a crime, right? But that IS abuse — sick, life-altering, self-esteem destroying psychological abuse. I know now that I was in an abusive relationship, not because he hit me or called me names…but because he controlled the entire situation in a manner that made me think if I waited long enough or did the right things, he’d suddenly be a good person.

    When I woke up at home that next morning after my arrival back in my home country, I was shocked to feel overwhelming relief. I was still devastated and worried about my future. I was still embarrassed to be back home just weeks after informing everyone that I’d finally attained the goal that I said I’d always wanted. I was scared to be seen in public by anyone who knew me, after all what would I say to them was the reason for my sudden return? But I was still relieved. I was relieved that this person — with his moods, his secrets, his illness, his dysfunctional family, his guilt trips, his passive-aggressive hostility, etc… — was NOT MY PROBLEM ANYMORE. It was not my duty to save him from himself and it’s not this poster’s duty to save her husband either. These are users — they honestly think that you should wait around for them to have their fun, find themselves, fulfill their bogus destinies, etc….and that your life can wait. But it can’t. You deserve your happiness, your kids deserve stability, and your family and friends want to be there for you (whereas he does NOT). Don’t spend any more time waiting out your husband’s selfishness. If he really wants to be a dad to his children or a husband to you, he’ll find a way regardless of whether you leave now or not…but you need to do what is right for you and your children, not him. He’s a grown-up making his own choices. Don’t postpone your life in the hope that he’ll magically become the husband you’re wishing for; that is not going to happen…at least not if you keep letting him be the controller. So take control of your life back by getting rid of this burden of a husband. It will be hard, but it will be liberating.

    • Bee, that is a very powerful story. Thank you for sharing. Your strength and wisdom come shining through. Truly, you earned your PhD from the school of bitter experience and hard knocks.

      • Bee, You showed remarkable courage and insight. This, in particular, really resonated with me:

        “I know now that I was in an abusive relationship, not because he hit me or called me names…but because he controlled the entire situation in a manner that made me think if I waited long enough or did the right things, he’d suddenly be a good person.”

  • JJ, you wrote, “But, I genuinely miss my loving, caring, and truly kind husband.”

    That really hit me like the proverbial Mac truck. I understand intellectually that Chump Lady is right about that one, your husband is definitely not that guy. But emotionally, you have invested that he really WAS and that’s the hook.
    At no point in my life would I have ever said that about my own husband. Before getting married, sure, but not since. And I’m still having trouble getting him out of my life.
    The difficulty and struggle for those of you with small children who feel that way about your husbands must be overwhelming and enormous, in a way that I didn’t realize until I read your post.
    All I can say is Thank God for Chump Lady and I am really sorry for what you are going through.

  • A friend posted this in my facebook feed today……
    Words of wisdom here!
    On top of Chumplady’s wonderful truth!

    “After A While”

    After a while
    you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul
    and you learn love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t always mean security.
    And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t always promises
    and you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and and your eyes ahead with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
    And you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
    After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much
    So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers
    And you learn that you really can endure, that you really are strong and you really do have worth and you learn and you learn
    with every good-bye you learn.

    Author: Veronica A. Shoffstall

  • Dear JJ,

    My X also requested a vacation. Every birthday and Christmas for the last two or three years of our marriage he’d say all he wanted was “at least” a month in a cabin (with a lake and some nice amenities) so he could really relax–despite the fact that I worked full-time and he didn’t, our kids were in afterschool care because managing them for 2-3 hours every afternoon didn’t work out for him, and that I did virtually all of the household work. And every birthday and Christmas he got snitty because I didn’t give him a “vacation.” (Not that it was ever a financial reality–we didn’t have the $5000 or more dollars his “dream” would require). One year I scrounged money for a week’s stay in a cabin during the summer. He couldn’t have been less impressed or grateful–it would be too hot and unpleasant.

    Expecting to be provided with an extended vacation while a spouse takes sole care of two young children is outrageous. You’ve already been too supportive and understanding. All he has learned is that he can continue to take and take and take from you (and his kids).

    You deserve more. And if you have trouble feeling confident about that without guilt, then hold onto the knowledge that your kids deserve more. There isn’t a blessed thing selfish about wanting your kids to be safe and provided for.

    Tell the extended family thanks for whatever they’ve helped you with, keep the lines of communication open, and head for home. If your experience is like mine, it will take a year or two for them to come around, but once they recognize that you are truly working in the best interest of the children and are not expecting them to choose between their grandchildren and their son, they’ll offer what they can in terms of contact or affection for the grandkids.

    I can’t imagine the exhaustion of navigating all this with such young children in a place where you don’t know the language well. You’ve been a hero. You’ll have to keep being one–but you and your kids are worth it.

    Take care.

  • JJ, the best thing I can say right now is RUN and do what’s BEST FOR YOU. Because hindsight will be 20/20 on this one and you’ll WISH you did it (moving to the best place for support and prospects for you). I don’t have to tell you to do what’s best for the kids because if you’re already the one parent who does that then whatever place you go will be the best for them too.

    Take their Dad out of the equation. He already removed himself as being a good thing or a priority for those kids. If he does somehow grow up and snap out of it then he can come make good wherever you are. It sucks because you have gone from being a wife with kids to being a single parent for them. Because a real parent puts them first and he has both quit and lost that privilege.

    Detach and RUN RUN RUN…or call it plan and get the hell to where you’re better served.

  • Dear JJ,

    This comes at a time when I threw a pity party for myself (yesterday) lamenting how most of my angst and pain could be traced to the fact that I hung on to someone who was never going to love me the way I deserved to be loved – and I was thinking that I may have missed my chance to ever experience what it feels like to love and be loved the way I deserve. I really needed someone like Tracey 20 years ago, but alas, better late than never.

    Leave that husband of yours to “find himself” (you might suggest that he should begin his search under a rock) and, as everyone else has advised, take your children and go home to your family. You and your children will have the love and support that you need and deserve and which you will NEVER get from your husband (unless he is struck by lightening while being beat over the head with a two by four – and even that’s an iffy proposition).

    I know what it is like to love someone and remember how wonderful it “used to be” and keep waiting for that person and that time to return. It won’t – and even if it does – it won’t last, and as the years go by they will become less and less frequent until they don’t appear at all. And it could be 5 years, 10 years or more, but the end result will be the same – you will be forced to leave him anyway or he will leave you and you will wish that you it had happened sooner.

    Life is too short to have the regret of not living your best life and not providing the best life you can for your children. Unfortunately, that life cannot be with the selfish loser to whom you are currently married. You and your children deserve to be honored, loved and cherished for the unique and special people that you are.

    Your friends here at Chump Lady will provide the wind beneath your wings – all you have to do is spread them and fly. (((HUGS)))

    • Chump princess
      Throw an “I’m great day!” Your words are an inspiration to me. My situation is different as my kids are grown, but the words you said apply to me. I’m going to copy them and read them to get me going and out of here. Wish me luck!

      • Oh Danabern7!

        Good for you and I’m happy that I could provide you with inspiration. I will be wishing you well, as the Universe will provide all of the luck that you will need once you get going. Have faith and move forward.


  • m Uncle Daddy and his clan. (And if they’re so loving and wonderful, why the hell aren’t they slapping some sense into him or disowning him for his dishonorable behavior? Let me guess — he’s the Golden Child.)

    That’ll preach. A clan of losers hanging onto the wee sparkly one, just begging to get his attention, a laugh at their joke. Like a family wide crush. Freak show all day.

  • Another escapee from an European cheater/abuser. I managed to get my son and I back home legally to the US with barely anything. That was almost 2 years ago. Getting him adjusted to a new culture, language, school system, finding a job, place to live with good schools – all that took my mind off what my ex had done. Too damn busy to curl up in bed with Ben and Jerry’s lol Last year was all about the divorce – did my research, filed in the US (again legally), did most of the legwork myself as international lawyers aren’t cheap 😮 and was granted release right before Christmas with agreements in place that even his home country said they couldn’t help him if he tried anything. Son is old enough now to travel as an unaccompanied minor so he visits his father for summer school break, and also Christmas on the odd years. This leaves ex to play single as much as he wants, I don’t have to see him at all, limited contact between us and he can also project the image of the poor misunderstand father who misses his child (I get snarky over his behavior at times – talk about words and actions being polar opposites lol). Point is, my son and I moved near my parents, my son is doing awesome and has turned into a typical American kid, loves life here, and told me several months after coming back that he finally feels completely safe and loved. We’ll be getting our own little house by the end of this year and putting down some serious roots. 🙂

    Make the move for your kids. They will need the safety, security and love from your clan. You’ll be a much happier, calmer parent once away from his shenanigans. If he wants to see his children so much, he can come visit them until they are old enough to travel as unaccompanied minors. I’d be very careful about visiting him outside the country as he could decide to take off with them, and it will be hell to get them back (happened to a friend who is still trying to get her daughters to safety). And once you’re back on home ground and surrounded by love and support, you can start thinking about what you want for your future. You’ll find that you’re a lot stronger than you realize.

    • Matrilineal clans are going to make a comeback; I can see it from here. That’s how it worked out in my family. You might even say that’s how it worked out in the ex’s family since his sisters totally run the show.

  • If he wants to leave you, let him. Make sure that you have what you need to support your family, then let him go to India, or Siberia, or Timbuktu. If he’s not ready to be a father, trying to force him into the role is going to hurt everyone down the line, particularly your kids who will feel guilty for “holding Daddy back”.

    If a fifteen-year-old has a kid and is not ready to be a parent, the kid is adopted to a couple that is ready. In this case your “husband” has the maturity of a teen not ready for adulthood. He wants to be free, see the world, find himself, live a little, blah blah blah. So you need to be a parent and find other adults to help you raise your kids while you’re at work and he’s learning how to juggle or whatever. Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, friends, a support group for single parents.

    You can’t force him to grow up faster or be the person you want him to be, you only control you. Think of your husband as a teenager, wanting independence and not ready for responsibility. Then give your kids the parents they deserve.

  • JJ – as everyone here has said, go. Just go, take your kids, get back to family and the authentic life you deserve. You’ve given more than enough to your man-child, and don’t owe him anything else.

    My STBX left when I was 53, my kids almost grown, my mother ill. A year later two of my kids had moved out, my mother and dear neighbour Bill had died, and people I had thought were my friends disappeared from my life.

    Since then I have built my live back, remain close to all three of my kids, have kept my loyal friends and made some new ones. But it has been hard watching people dear to me disappear from my life, as is the way of things, hard to fill the hole in my heart at this late stage.

    Raising two kids won’t be easy, but you are smart and prepared and deserve better, and have your family to go back to. Don’t wait.

  • Get rid of the smoke and mirrors in your letter. The one, and only, thing you need to concentrate on is the extremely pathological way he reacted to your pregnancy and the babies. Are you seriously going to sacrifice their stability for Mr. Sunshine? He “is just not into you”. Go back to Maya Angelou when she says when someone shows you who they are believe them. You need a large ocean between him and those kids.

    • Hey Thewatcher,

      It is really unfortunate that with the first pregnancy, we had a really traumatic few months leading up to high blood pressure, emergency birth, and two months of hospitalization for our son. It was impossible at the time to realize that husband was freaking about responsibility. This time around we’ve reduced drama to an absolute minimum to stop any more of the stress taking place, outcome, it took him 6 months longer to crack this time, but more like an atomic bomb than a firecracker.

      • What a monster — your pregnancy has to go according to plan? Or it stresses HIM out? Children mustn’t get sick! Pregnant women must not inconvenience him with complications! (All things, btw, YOU DO NOT CONTROL.)

        You’ve been living with a narcissist wing nut.

    • I know mine does that too. Damn iPads! If you’re going to correct me please do it right!

  • JJ,

    I found a letter today that I wrote my XH in 2004!, before I evn married him… outlining why I had to leave him. At that point, I wasnt aware of any actual cheating… but amazingly, the sentiments my 28
    yr old self captured 10 years ago almost mirror exactly what I feel post-horrifying college girlfriend abandonment era.

    I felt unloved, abandoned, like I was wasting my time, energy and love on someone who didn’t give a shit.

    If you asked me today if I felt that way 10 years ago, I would have said hell no, not at all- because I was shortly thereafter love bombed with an engagement and all my desires come true… for a short few years, enough to alter my perspective anyway.

    I wonder if you’d feel that everything was wonderful and amazing earlier on if you’d chronicled it too. Spackling, as CL calls it, is a damn good distraction/intoxication/delusion.

    Don’t let it get the best of you, especially with children involved. Put your big girl pants on and stay rock solid strong. Your 10 year from now self will be damn proud of that righteous lady, I promise.

  • “Find himself”? Bet he’s gone a bloody long time and still comes back empty handed!

  • What a mess. One thing that jumped off the page at me was this: “but am also concerned about taking a parent away from the kids”.
    JJ – YOU aren’t taking a parent away from your kids, your ass of a STBX already did that. Long ago. So, that is not your thing to worry.

  • JJ,
    I feel for you. The kids are young and you are far away from family. That is tough. However, you know you are all the kids can really depend on right now. Do what is best for your mental health, so you can keep being everything that your kids need.
    My kids are young-4,5 and 8. My divorce will be final this month. I find it a blessing they are young. Less questions from them or at least easier questions to answer, and a life without their father living with them will just be what they grow up with. They will hardly remember anything else. It is good he is seeing them twice a week. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to head home, if that is where you have more support, get your residency established and file for divorce. He is a husband and a father, the time to “find himself” has long since passed.

  • JJ,
    You said “He remains adamant that he doesn’t have anyone else, but wants to find himself and cannot do that whilst we are a couple and he is sorry about that.”
    Mine said the same thing, “there is no one else” and when picking up our child a couple of weeks after at his new place, I found proof that he was already with someone else. He had cheated on me before of course, so I was not blind to the arguments instigated, blaming, lies about late nights out with co-workers in the month prior.. and connected the dots. He had said, “this time, at least we can break it off not due to infidelity.” And still swears he did not “cheat” this time despite having moved said co-worker into his new place a mere month after.

    He has not apologized or even admitted he did anything questionable.. his only response was “how did you find out?” (Same thing he said previous times, I assume trying to figure out how to prevent future girls from figuring out what he is up to on the side.)

    My point is, please do not believe he has not been cheating. It sucks trying to rebuild your life when there are small children involved (I haven’t yet.. but I did get a good job thank god with no support from him when baby was small, to support us, and now can support us both) and I don’t know either what to say to child exactly when asked why daddy is gone, but family will help you get through this. I am glad you have the support of his family too at least. My STBX’s family encouraged me to take him back after many revealed indiscretions, and continue to support him telling him ” Just do whatever makes you happy.” Hence why he has turned out this way no doubt.
    Also, mine was very nice -to me, but not always others – until pregnancy reached 6 mos – at which point he decided to go out every night, continuing the night baby was born and post. Couldn’t deal with the responsibility, and later, couldn’t deal with me taking care of someone who was not him. Now, he has a new GF and he shows up 1x/wk to see child. She can stroke his ego etc… I get the joy of raising child.
    Very happy to hear you at least have the right to move back to your support system.. and wish you the best!!

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