He was Italian and she was Irish. He was short and chubby and she was talk and slender. Somehow they met, feel in love and stayed in love for 27 years.
Then, Joey changed.
The MidLife Crisis:
His smile disappeared. 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 together. They had weekly Sunday dinners with family and friends. They had a weekly date night and even 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 helped move her middle child out of the house to the local college when the mess began. Now, with only one child left at home with them, she was not sure how she would carry on if her husband left too.
Within a month of noticing his odd behaviors, Joey completely shut down. He just stopped talking. To anyone in the home. To Francine, he pulled away and literally ignored her even though they were in the same home, and shared the same bed.
It didn’t make any sense.
A Wife Blindsided:
Francine fought every urge to reach out to him and connect with him. But she feared he would blow up and run for the door so she held back. Often times they had a meal together where he looked down and away and she just sat quietly.
Then came the day where Francine had taken enough. She wasn’t going to have treat her as if she was a ghost, so she suggested that he take some time away from her and go move into their boat house.
Joey was shocked at first but gradually seemed to like this idea. Francine not only helped him move out to their boat house but she even helped him decorate the interior so that it felt more like a home than their weekend getaway.
I asked her how in the world she was able to be so strong? Help her husband MOVE OUT? And then decorate his place for him? Most women would have snubbed him and ran the other way.
Her response? “I have seen many woman get bitter over a man doing what my husband did. I knew if I acted with anger or fear, he’d have a solid reason to leave, or stay away. But we’ve been married and friends for a long time. Something was happening to him and I just decided to help not hinder. So I stood confident and 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.'”
Her Secret Motivation?
Francine also shared her secret motivation with me: “I also knew, if indeed there was another woman, one day soon she would start bitching or complaining about something, and his last memory of me would be the happy, rock of a wife that I’ve always been to him and continue to be…and he’d regret leaving.”
It was that teeny-tiny shred of hope that helped her stay steady and not whack him in the head till he bled on the driveway. Even if she wasn’t his first choice to be with right now, she was grateful he had not mentioned getting a divorce. They technically were still married and she decided as long as she was his wife, they didn’t have to live together. She was going to keep her vows and continue to be his wife, even if he took a vacation from it. At least that’s what she called it.
It was not an easy time. Francine had heard through the grapevine that Joey was ‘entertaining’ several women at their boat house. The thought of this gave her so much pain she crawled into bed that day and isn’t even sure when she crawled out. But she did. because deep down, she knew, even though he was choosing to behave like a single man, his behavior was not going to change her from her goal and commitment to their marriage.
During this time he was gone, Francine stayed busy. She had to. If she didn’t her mind would win with thoughts and worry of what he was doing, where he was, who he was with. These wheel of never ending, unable-to-answer thoughts would go round and round making her depressed and basically ruin the life she still had left to live. All because of thoughts of him, her husband on vacation with a bunch of losers? Why would she do this if she could control her mind and her thoughts to STOP thinking about him.
Controlling Her Mind:
How does one STOP thinking about someone when they ARE ALL you think about? Francine’s world was turned upside down. Her husband was gone. Not dead (that would be easier) but living on their house boat, alone? And she was just supposed to ignore it all and move on with her life? She looked at her choices (she literally wrote them down):
1) Sit in a tearful “I’m-a-victim” ball of mess?
2) Get up and change something she could change and control.
She admits once she did that list she walked away and just left it sitting on the counter. It was scary to see these options laid out. The first was easy and kept her in the comfort of the life she lead for so long. The 2nd was scary. She would need energy and confidence and she was terrified heading in that direction would take her so far she wouldn’t come back. And then if he wanted to come back and she didn’t want him anymore, it would be her fault they didn’t work out. Or at least these were her thoughts. Didn’t mean they were right or wrong or possible or impossible, they were just her thoughts. And, of course, if she did nothing, she couldn’t get mad at herself because she never made a plan.
Survival was all she cared about now because she also knew she couldn’t feel this massive depression now setting into her daily being, destroy her life.
The 2nd was her choice and once she made it there was no stopping her. She wrote a list of all the things she could control and make her life more interesting and busy. She immediatly connected with old friends and worked hard to make new ones adding, “So many people are hurting and lonely. All you have to do is stop out of your own world, open your eyes and your heart and you will find many people to do things with and connect.”
In the end, Joey stayed away for almost two full years. During that time he oddly would continue to invite Francine over to their boat for lunch or dinner and they continued to talk and talk and keep up their friendship. Sometimes she’d go over to his place or he’d come over to theirs. During this time there was never any pressure from her and she was flexible in letting him come and go as he pleased.
Then one day he just stopped going back to the boat. He was home. And life continued as on as it did before.
Note to You, The Reader:
What I want everyone reading this to realize. When you are friends with your spouse, nothing can break that bond. Friendship rules and connects. It’s the one consistent thing that has kept marriages that were on the brink, find their way back.
Also I want to share that during this difficult time, their youngest son (the only child still living at home when his dad left) got into trouble with drugs and ended up in jail. To this day Francine wonders if her husband leaving and the stress it put on her that contributed to her youngest feeling unloved, unsafe or afraid that his family would fall apart.
Francine did her best to keep a sense of normalcy for her struggling son in her husband’s absence, and even made sure that her son stayed connected to his dad over on the boat. But she has her moments of doubt. Stress and worry for a child of 16 seeing their whole world crumble overnight can do real damage no one ever thinks about.
That was over 15 years ago. Joey has since passed away from colon cancer and Francine (as of this day) 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 her youngest that still struggles.
If Your Husband Left:
If you are dealing with a husband or wife who left, remember to do whatever it takes to make sure your children know you will not leave. Ever. Say it to them at night when you tuck them into bed, say it in the morning when they go off to school.
When one parent leaves, kids often fear (or worry repeatedly in their heads) that the other parent will leave as well and then they will be all alone.
If you are religious, rub the sign of the 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 with you. 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 you were the one that kept their world safe and secure.
Hopefully your husband will come back. Read everything I’ve posted her to make sure you are doing all the right things. Read my story too.
If you need my help, advice or hand holding to get him home, it’s something I do daily with many women, contact me at TheWifeExpert @ gmail.com (take out the spaces! I put them there for spam prevention!!)