He was Italian and she was Irish. He was short and chubby and she was talk and slender. eSomehow they made feel in love and stayed in love for 27 years.
Then, Joey changed. The smile was gone. He wasn’t happy. He began staying out later and later. He grew angry if Francine asked where he was or what he was doing. “It’s my business, not yours!” He’d respond to her.
Francine knew something was seriously wrong. Joey would never have talked to her like that before. They were a team. They raised three children. They had weekly Sunday dinners with family and friends. They had a weekly date night and went to church on Sunday’s.
What was going on? Did he lose his job and not tell me? Is this one of those things called a Midlife crisis? Did he find a girlfriend?
Francine had just moved her middle child out of the house to college when the mess started. With one child left, she was not sure how she would carry on if her husband left too.
Within a month of his change, Joey stopped talking to Francine, pulled away and literally ignored her in the same home, same bed.
Francine fought every urge to reach to him and pressure him to come toward her. But she wasn’t going to have him disrespect her, so she suggest that he take time away from her and go move to their boat house.
Joey was shocked at first but then he seemed to like the idea. Francine not only helps him move out to their boat house but she even helped him decorate.
I asked her how in the world she was able to be so strong. Her response? “Many woman get bitter over this. I knew if I did that he’d have a reason to go, or stay away. But instead, I stood confident. I was nice, kind and treated him like a dear friend. That way he would never have the glory of saying, ‘my wife was a bitch.’ And I knew, if indeed there was another woman, one day soon she would start bitching or complaining and his last memory of me would be the Rock that I am…and he’d regret leaving. Even if I wasn’t available any more to be his wife anymore, it was that teeny tiny small pleasure that made me not crack and smack him in the head.”
Joey stayed away for two years. During that time he continued to invite Francine to the boat for lunch or dinner and they continued their friendship. She’d go to his place or he’d come to theirs. Then one day he just stopped going back to the boat. He was home. And life continued as it did before.
Also during this time their youngest son got into trouble and ended up in jail. To this day Francine wonders if she did something that contributed to he youngest feeling unloved or afraid that his family would fall apart. Francine did her best to keep the family intact and even made sure that her son stayed connected to his dad. But she still wonders. Stress and worry on a child of 16 seeing their world change can do damage.
That was 15 years ago. Joey has since passed away from colon cancer and Francine is not interested in dating or getting married again. Her two older children, who were out of the home when Joey left the family, are doing well. It’s the youngest that still struggles.
If you are dealing with a husband or wife who left, it’s hard but make sure your children know you will not leave. Ever. Say it to them at night when you tuck them into bed, in the morning when they go off to school. When one parent leaves, kids often worry that the other will as well and then they will be all alone. If you are religious, rub a cross on their forehead and tell them, “I will never leave. I will never leave you. I will always be here. When you walk out the door, I may not go with you, but God does. God is always walking with you. Always.”
It may not make a difference right away but over time, they will remember your strong, secure words. And that will keep their world as normal as you can make it.