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Separation/Divorce after 20 Years


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5 weeks ago my wife informed me she had been seeing a counselor that goes to our church and she wanted to separate. I am 60, she is 45. We have 4 kids 7-18. She laid out plan for us to stay in house together with me sleeping in downstairs guest room. We alternate days taking care of kids. I don't want a divorce but she suddenly seems to not care. She stopped going to church, works late and weekends and is constantly on her phone in some chat room and never leaves her phone unattended. She says she isn't ruling out us staying together but thinks the romance and passion is gone from our marriage. We always talked about divorce as not an option because of our kids. Something changed. The obvious of course is she's met someone but she has strongly denied it. I'm basically the breadwinner, she works but makes very little. Just wondering if anyone has gone through anything similar. Some days she talks in terms of future things together but then she slams the wall back up. Help please.

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I had gone through exactly what you're going through over six years ago. Many similar details. When she says the passion and romance are gone from your marriage? That is something you can believe. Everything else? Tread softly my friend. The situation that you are in where you are the breadwinner and she makes very little or nothing at all? Sleeping in the basement and leaving you breadcrumbs by not ruling out staying together? This translates into her wanting her cake and eating it too. And you are her safety net.


Look... I know you're confused, hurt and trying to figure out how this woman that you've trusted forever can change and do this to you but you really need to keep a clear and level head and be forward thinking. I'm not here to tell you how to get your marriage back on track because frankly that didn't happen for me. I *can* tell you having gone through this experience (divorced) how to attempt to make it through the other side by telling you in hindsight the things I did wrong that I wish I would have done differently.

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Welcome to ENA,


I am sorry you have found yourself here for this reason. Jeff has very good advice for you so listen to him.


I am going to tell you some things you do not want to hear but you need to listen and let them soak in.


First do not let her know of this site, do not quote anything we tell you and do not try and get her to love you again or regain the passion. Everything you need to do needs to come from a place of knowledge and strength, not confusion and weakness.


Your wife is having an affair. It may only be an emotional one right now but it is an affair. She has taken all the emotional connection she had for you and given it to another. That is why she is so cold. She has to be because if she gives you affection and emotion it is like cheating on him.


You will not be able to change her mind with reason, logic or anything else. She has been thinking about this for some time and has convinced herself that this is the right thing to do.


She is in a fantasy right now and you cannot compete with the fantasy no matter what you do. It isn't real or logical but she will never see it no matter how much evidence you show her.


It is time for you to play catch up. Right now saving yourself is way more important than saving your marriage. Your children will need their dad when this is all over trust me on this.


Okay you have stumbled on a great forum with some really great people that have been through the very same thing. Go to this page and read and then read some more


Acceptance is your best friend right now, try and accept that what is happening is real and that your wife is not the person you once knew and loved.


Keep posting and make sure she doesn't discover this site.



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Your age difference surely doesn't help. 15 years is too much imo. It was bound to happen, unless you take really good care of yourself, even if she's not anything special.


Anyway, it seems very obvious she's exploring the single life while she's still with you. That's depressing. Only you know what can be done. With a marriage this long and with kids on top of that is hard to advice on what to do because there will be no right answer.

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Thanks for the insights and comments. Our 20 years haven't been without problems but we always worked through them. Obviously something is odd about the sudden wall and coldness. She added yesterday that she isn't ruling out seeing others during the separation. Came across as comparing to what she has to see if the grass is greener. My plan is to prepare for the worse. I have a good support team in place.

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Who knows what the best is right now. My kids will be hurt badly by divorce and I need to be prepared for that. Support team is good friends, church and counselor.

Really sucks. I feel for you.


She might not being having an affair. But with what most of us see on this website, it does lean towards it. It could be physical or emotional. It could just be that something clicked and that is why she wants to end it, but it does sound like she at least has a person in mind if nothing else.


Get a lawyer. Don't let her live in everything you work to maintain while she is out having an affair and you are taking care of the kids.


An emotionally dead marriage isn't healthy on your children. Kids see a lot. They will have some messed up ideas about what a family is living in that environment. It would be better to get divorced and share custody.


Vent a lot on hear. Get angry or complain or whatever you need. It helps.

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Great... You pay all the bills while she gets to play single mom. I'd be seeing a lawyer if I were you because if she has basically been surviving on only your income, then you may be responsible for not only child support but alimony as well. Maybe you need to sell the house because...


As long as she has her safety net (you) in place, she's not going to do anything other then meet new guys and have lustful sex with them... then go home to you to look after her financially... I don't think any man will take her seriously as long as she is still married and living with her husband. She will attract all of the men that are looking for sex only.


Have you considered actually physically separating so that she gets a taste of what it will be to look after the children half the time (or more) without your physical and 100% financial support?

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"Who knows what the best is right now."

- That's for you to decide, but don't rush into it thinking only negatives.


Husbands can save their marriages, I did.


You must first want to and then take action.

The action is counter intuitive and must happen in a timely manner.


If you can do it, your marriage will be better then ever. (A genuine marriage)

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It's very unlikely that she just suddenly decided to put this cold wall up. And it's very likely that she's been thinking about this for some time. I have a friend who's daughter is good friends with my daughter. He's 60 and his now ex wife is 46. Five years ago she wanted a divorce and they lived together up until their recent divorce. Most of that time, he had the idea that they can work on it and it would work out. It turns out, she re-connected with a guy that she was with from her teenage years. He was also going through divorce. A long lost love, him probably telling her exactly what she wanted to hear and that connection. So while he also faced that stone cold wall, the other guy got through a secret door that he didn't have access to. Sucks that he wasted five years of his life hoping. And it sucks that she basically used him those five years with no intention of making their marriage work.


Lester had mentioned, why don't you prepare for the best? Now I know he ended up saving his marriage. I didn't so my advice won't be along those lines. Now it's great that you have a good support system. That's important. You need to start thinking past the here and now though. Long term. Where you want to end up and that means closing the door on your wife and thinking solely about you, your kids and what you'd like that to look like. With you being the breadwinner and her not really working too much outside the home, know that you will be financially devastated short term at least. Be okay with that and let it go. I'd advise that you think of the following...


What is your wife's employment history?

a. Does she have a degree?

b. Is she employable full time?

c. Can she support herself on her own?


These questions will be important when figuring out alimony, which you'll most likely be paying. And it will suck big time if you're having to pay both child support and especially alimony for an extended period of time. And suck even more when you're paying alimony and she's with someone.


So with respect to this, your though should be, how can I NOT have to pay alimony for an extended period of time. Some ideas to this would be:

1. Either give her most of the assets and/or liquidate them and give her the proceeds in lei of paying alimony.

2. Agree to pay alimony for a set time in which she takes that time to go to school and/or get training so that she's gainfully employed and able to support herself.

Make very sure that you put a time limit on this. I can't stress this one enough.


Child Custody

Outside of child abuse or some major reason that the children should not be with you, in this day and age, there is absolutely no reason why you should not have joint custody. None. Period. This isn't 1950's america. Women can and do work outside the home and men can and do step up to the plate and raise their kids.


I'd advise doing whatever you can to get out of the basement. Actually, she should be in the basement, she's the one who wants a divorce. Now I don't mean that you should up and leave your kids. That would be bad. What I mean is to have a plan in place that involves the kids but the two of you living separate. And there's many options here that don't involve the two of you living together for a long period of time.


These are some of my initial thoughts along with seeking legal counsel that I think you should be thinking of. I know you're going through a tough time and entering a lot of uncharted waters. Divorce is not something you go through every day so reaching out for help is a step in the right direction. Take care of yourself, your kids and please keep posting and reaching out. I will check up and post more later.



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Thanks Jeff. My wife has had about 10 jobs/careers during our marriage. She's started another recently and doesn't make much. Maybe a thousand a month. I make 115,000. I know I'll get stuck with spousal support but there's no reason I wouldn't get joint custody. We parent 50/50 now, maybe a little more 60/40 me. I have loved my wife for over 20 years. I don't have an issue with her getting a fair settlement but I should as well. Sounds like I should get some legal advice quick.

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Thanks Jeff. My wife has had about 10 jobs/careers during our marriage. She's started another recently and doesn't make much. Maybe a thousand a month. I make 115,000. I know I'll get stuck with spousal support but there's no reason I wouldn't get joint custody. We parent 50/50 now, maybe a little more 60/40 me. I have loved my wife for over 20 years. I don't have an issue with her getting a fair settlement but I should as well. Sounds like I should get some legal advice quick.


When your spouse quits on you, she doesn't deserve . The kids do though. Make no mistake. She deserves nothing.

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Nobody is contesting that you didn't love your wife for 20 years. Heck, though I may have been blind to a lot of things and the way she was so did I. It wasn't until I was able to see again and reflect that I gained a lot of perspective and insight. Hopefully you will too some day in reflection and that will be a pretty awesome gift if you learn from it. Just know that the woman that you've trusted for so long is not that same woman. From this point forward, trust has gone out the window.


Getting legal advice quick is very important. As far as spousal maintenance goes, there's no reason that she would get permanent support only temporary. Rehabilitative and temporary to help them get back on their feet is and should be the norm. If your wife has had 10 jobs/careers during your marriage, then you'd need to look at what her potential is. And that potential is her working full time supporting herself and her family to the best of her ability. It's also good that you parent 50/50 and that your kids are a bit older so there's no case of her saying that she needs to stay home and work part time to care for the kids. Most families have two parents working and they manage to take care of school age children just fine.


Also, I know you're going through a lot but don't get attached to stuff, especially little things. All those things can be replaced. They're not important. People; you, your kids, your family (without her) are what is important.


As mentioned before, do what you can to have a plan in place to get out of the basement. Believe me when I tell you that the longer you cohabitate, the uglier things are going to become. I've been there, I know. Do not be her safety net. There are a number of ways that this can be achieved and if you're interested, I can post more on this.

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There is a lot to absorb so take your time but keep silent with her.


I agree some legal advice is in order just so you know what could happen. The best advice Jeff and I can give is what NOT TO DO. There are all kinds of things you can do but there are several things you should never do.


These include:


Making promises of support or gifts or money.

Verbal custody agreement

Living arrangements

Financial investments

Property divisions

Do not move out without a legal separation


Right now she is under the impression that you are afraid of losing her so you will agree to be strung along while she takes her bf for a test drive. While you are getting your advice let her believe just that but very soon you will need to take a firm stand. I would suggest you tell her while this is going on since she is the one wanting all this she can sleep in the basement or at the very least you take turns on a 2 week rotation or 4 week.


Are you sleeping enough? Taking good care of yourself? Spending time with the kids like always? If so step it up a little. Remember all the time you used to spend with her? Well spend that time on yourself now. Go for walks with the kids or alone, eat better, always be well dressed and smell nice, work out and even if you have to fake it be strong, confident and happy around her.


In the end I know you want your family back and there are some rare occasions when things get worked out but you need to accept it is highly unlikely. It is good you found this place, read all the advice you get and follow what feels right to your situation.


I agree with Jeff that staying in the same house will get ugly or worse. Mine walked around my house like a ghost for about 6 weeks until she moved out. It was not a good time for me...


Keep posting about what she is doing and asking of you. There are many signs we have seen before and may be able to help you see things coming.


I am sorry but just know that there is happiness after all this is over.



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Thanks Lost. I'm trying not to react when she treats me like a stranger in the same house. Flip flopping downstairs is a good idea. I am seeing a counselor and been told much of the same thing. She knows I will never walk out on my kids and uses that. She's of the opinion that if she files a legal separation or for divorce I will be forced to leave the house. I do control finances so she access to very little money. I'm guessing that's figuring in to her stringing me along with some words of hope. I think the best think to do with her is just back off and give her lots of space. She believes she is the only one that will initiate a divorce. I plan on seeing an attorney and be ready when and if the time comes. I do appreciate all the advice and perspective. My 16 year old told me she was coming with me if we split. She's mad as hell with her mom.

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"My 16 year old told me she was coming with me if we split. She's mad as hell with her mom."

- Do everything in your power to keep the kids out of this.


In addition to Lost/Jeff; weigh yourself! Don't be shocked if you see a major loss.

Losing a lot of weight will make you look sickly.


This will support her view of how pathetic and weak you are, verses how strong and powerful her hidden understanding man is.

Pick a healthy number for yourself and eat healthy to maintain it. (During this type of trauma, the brain burns huge amounts of energy, day and night.)

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I ear well and workout every other day. That's just routine, so no problem there. Older kids obviously know what's going on. They have seen me trying to work on marriage and her not. That's where the anger comes from. I hold my tongue and stay positive around them. Youngest has no idea of course.

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"The obvious of course is she's met someone but she has strongly denied it."

- Only when confronted with evidence will she admit anything. (Direct questioning, unless she's a pro, many times will get a strange body/verbal reaction too..., the real answer.)


You need to get some evidence. Log on to your cell phone carriers web site. From there you can see most, if not all of her actively.

Can you look at her phone when she's in the shower?


Did you get/read Dobson?

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Phone goes everywhere with her. Locks door when in shower. I'm not suppose to see her naked anymore. I have seen enough to recognize it's a chat room with many people but she admits some are men. Have a friend that says he went through exact same thing when his wife was in early stages of menopause. They survived but he says the feelings she had we're very real. My wife has always had severe PMS. Something to think about I guess.

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At this stage ( not sleeping with, her hurtful declarations and secrecy), no innocent explanation fits.


Unfortunately, your/ours minds aren't wired that way and you will continue to waste time. (denial)


This wasted time hurts you two ways.

1. It makes you look weak and pathetic, which confirms her corrupt actions she used to overcome her fears.

2. It keeps her from facing the hard facts of the failing union, which gives her more thrill time with the understanding man/woman.

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Anatomy of Adultery


Because the previous chapters, and perhaps the entire book*, have left the impression that infidelity is typically committed by self-centered males who betray their devoted wives, I feel I should present the other side of that coin. At least one secular poll reportedly found that among those under twenty-nine years of age, "significantly more married women are having affairs than married men." The same study also indicated that teenage girls lose their virginity earlier than boys, on the average. I have no way of assessing the accuracy of those conclusions, but I do know that sexual experimentation among women is being increasingly common today. It is apparent in the world around us.


Shirley and I used to enjoy jogging in the park near our home during early morning hours. Every day we noticed two cars parked side by side in a remote section of the lot, with one car empty and two people sitting close together in the other. The windows were always very steamy. It didn't take a detective to figure out what was going on. We surmised that these secret lovers had made their spouses think they were at work instead of kissing and cuddling in the park. Somewhere near my home are two unidentified families, and perhaps two sets of children, that unknowingly await the tragic moment of disclosure.


It has been my observation that when wives engage in extra-marital sexual activity, a unique pattern of circumstances often precedes it. Women are much less likely to be involved in the multiple, casual relationships that characterized the men described in chapter 10. Instead, unfaithful women often take the pathway pursued by Mike's wife. A vulnerable lady may find herself involved in an entanglement which she neither sought nor expected. It just seemed to "happen" when she and another needy person were thrown together at the right (or wrong) time. Yet the consequences of unexpected disloyalty are just as deadly as infidelity in the first degree.


To brace my female readers against this deceptive sin, and to help their husbands avoid the precipitating circumstances, let me describe what I have called an "anatomy of adultery." It reflects the most common pathway to female indiscretion (though not the only one), and it can be divided into eleven distinct stages or steps. I wrote it after counseling yet another family in the throes of divorce.





Wife's Perspective: The wife is in a state of emotional need. She is lonely, suffers from low self-esteem, and has had difficulty making female friends. She reaches for the romantic involvement of her husband but he fails to notice. She resorts to nagging and complaining, which puts a greater wedge between them.


Husband's Perspective: The husband has made business commitments that he must meet. He's in a highly competitive and satisfying position, and his emotional energies are drained by the time he comes home. He loves his wife but doesn't have much time to "carry her," psychologically.




Wife's Perspective: She experiences greater frustration and depression, which gradually give way to anger. She begins to "bludgeon" her bewildered husband for his failures in the home.


Husband's Perspective: He makes some feeble attempts to relate to his wife, especially after emotional explosions have occurred between them. But this leopard finds it difficult to change his spots. He is still over-committed at work, whether he likes it or not, and he constantly falls back into familiar patterns.




Wife's Perspective: This is needy woman is now in a dangerous position. She is vulnerable to any attractive, available man who comes into her life. Inevitably, it seems, such an encounter occurs. A casual introduction to a flirtatious man sets the wheels in motion, and he quickly becomes the object of her fantasies,hopes and dreams. He appears to be so compassionate compared to her husband, so much more dignified, so much more in touch with her feelings, so much more worthy of respect. Nothing elicit has occurred at this point, but she's spending a great deal of time thinking about an affair with this specific man. Jesus once said, "As a man (or woman) thinketh in his heart, so is he!" Alas, this woman is becoming an adulteress in her mind.


Husband's Perspective: The husband continues in ignorance of what his wife is experiencing. His mind is elsewhere. He wishes she would be happier because he does love her and the kids, but he has no idea how her unhappiness relates to him.




Wife's Perspective: An extramarital relationship gradually begins to heat up. It's no sudden romp in the grass. Rather, the affair grows slowly, with more secret meetings and an escalating friendship. She feels guilty, of course, but the excitement is incredible. Anyway, her husband doesn't seem to care. Finally it happens; a sexual experience occurs.


Husband's Perspective: The man of the house is still not aware of any unfaithfulness. He may notice some coolness and a lessened demand for his attention, but his suspicions are not aroused. Her hostility to him may increase during this time, but he has already become accustomed to that attitude in her.




Wife's Perspective: More illicit sexual activity now transpires, with all the guilt, fear and raw passions that accompany this way of life. Her spiritual life rapidly deteriorates, as she lies and rationalizes and lives a double standard. It is a tough assignment to play-act the role of a faithful wife when she's giving her all to someone else. Bible reading and church attendance become less frequent or even nonexistent. She loses all sexual interest in her husband.


Husband's Perspective: The man may now begin to worry about the deteriorating relationship for the first time. He doesn't yet have much evidence on which to base his suspicions, but he knows intuitively that something has changed. His reaction is still one of confusion at this stage.




Wife's Perspective: For the wife, the affair continues hot and heavy. Every minute that can be spent with her new lover is grabbed.


Husband's Perspective: Somehow discovery occurs, usually by "accident." Perhaps a tiny lie is betrayed, or an anonymous phone call is received. His first reaction is one of utter shock! He can't believe what has happened. He confronts his wife in one of the most emotional and unpleasant encounters in their lives. It will be remembered forever.




Wife's Perspective: Her feelings of guilt and embarrassment are concealed behind rationalizations and recriminations against her husband. She is going to admit nothing that she doesn't have to disclose. Depending on the quality of her husband's evidence, she may continue to lie and deny at this stage. On the other hand, some women will break emotionally, weeping profusely and begging for forgiveness. Either way, this stage is characterized by wildly fluctuating emotions from day to day.


Husband's Perspective: For the first time, enormous pain is felt by the husband. Whereas he could hardly give his wife the time of day a few weeks before, his unfaithful partner suddenly becomes the only important thing in his life. This guy who would rather go to a football game with his male friends than be with his wife — the man who hid behind the newspaper* every night after work — now finds himself pleading for her favors. He crawls. He cries. He bargains. I've known men in this fix who called me from a phone booth near a freeway where they had been driving eight miles an hour, looking for a place to crash their cars. A pitiful sights! [* Lester update - Cell Phone/games/TV/Computer, etc.]




Wife's Perspective: We come now to a critical juncture. When confronted by the spiritual implications of their behavior, some women decide not to sacrifice their families, but to reconcile with their husbands. Others are determined to have their own way and go with the new lover, who is infinitely more exciting and alluring. Such a woman may pity her mate and desire not to hurt him, but she finds him boring and disdainful.


Husband's Perspective: The pain experienced by the husband is intensified. He had never known such stress in his entire life. Jealousy burns through his mind as he imagines what his wife and her lover have done together. At alternating times he feels rage, guilt, remorse, love, hate, despair, etc. He makes all the mistakes described in the early chapters of this book, including appeasement, entrapment, panic, threats of violence, and self-debasement. Now he is dealing with the low self-esteem which his wife experienced some years ago.

Note: Since the classic pattern can go in several directions at this point, depending on the reaction of the woman, we will follow the one where her affair continues.




Wife's Perspective: It has been said, "A woman wants a man she can look up to, but one who won't look down on her." It is true. Women need to hold their husbands in a certain awe, or at least in modest respect, if their relationship is to be healthy. The Apostle Paul instructed men to love their wives, but he told women to respect their husbands. Those are the conditions needed respectively by each sex. Nevertheless, this woman begins to experience a tug of war in her mind. The welfare of her children weighs heavily in her thoughts, and she knows they are hurting. She sees the flaws and faults of her new lover for the first time, and the romantic dream fades just a bit. Sex with him is still exciting, but it no longer thrills her as it did. All the ugly realities of divorce stare her in the face. Is that what she wants? Still, she remembers her prior state of loneliness and low self-esteem. "I can't go back to that!" she says to herself. It is this motivation, more than any other, that may push her over the edge.


Husband's Perspective: The agitation of Stage 8 continues unabated, especially as the husband contemplates the details of what his wife and her lover are experiencing together. He doesn't think he can stand it, and that sense of panic is evident in everything he does. His work suffers and his face reveals the strain he is under. Unfortunately, the behavior now being shown by the rejected lover serves to assassinate respect and put a sever strain on a relationship already stretched to the breaking point.




Wife's Perspective: The decision to divorce is made; lawyers are consulted; papers are filed; hearings are held and property is divided. The children are caught between the parents and become the object of struggle and contest. A bloody custody battle is fought with numerous casualties on both sides. Harsh words are exchanged. Tears are shed. Then they are dried, life goes on: people learn to cope. But every now and then, just before the woman goes to sleep at night or perhaps in a moment of quietness, she asks herself, "What have I done?"


Husband's Perspective: The human mind cannot tolerate agitated depression and grief indefinitely. The healthy personality will act to protect itself in time, throwing off the despair and groping for stability. One method by which this is accomplished is by turning pain into anger. Thus, the husband may harbor a deep but quiet hostility toward his wife — the one who betrayed his trust, shattered his home, took half his money and hurt his kids. He no longer accepts the blame for what has happened, feeling instead that he was betrayed. He would not take his wife back now under any circumstances. He begins to brace himself for whatever may come.




Wife's Perspective: As events unfold, she weds her new lover and life is exciting for a time. But eventually, it becomes more like her first marriage. The great thrill is gone, the relationship having been "too hot not to cool down." Daily living is routine once more. The dating and laughter and the walks and talks give way to doing laundry and fixing meals and going to work. The marriage may be successful or it may not. The probabilities of another divorce are higher than for first marriages, perhaps because both partners have demonstrated a willingness to fool around with married lovers! If there is no divorce, the new husband and wife plod on through the years, moving inexorably toward the Great Day of Accountability when their lives will be laid bare before their Maker. These two people have convinced themselves they did the right thing — except...when they think of the children...they feel guilty.


Husband's Perspective: The man gradually works his way through bitterness to a state of apathy. Life returns to normal except that his wife is gone. He will probably remarry, since divorced men are in much greater demand than divorced women in our society. He again loses himself in work and slams the door on the past. Except....when he thinks of the kids...he feels guilty. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. James 1:14-15, KJV


I know I've painted a very dark picture on my canvas, but it represents reality as I perceive it. Adultery is not pleasant either to read or to write about, but I feel that someone must describe the sordid side of this sin. Night after night on television we see beautiful people jumping into bed with strangers and it all looks so exciting. Popular magazines tell us that sex, lots of sex with a variety of partners, is not only healthy but everyone is doing it. Ridiculous books like Open Marriage make extramarital affairs sound like a tonic guaranteed to revitalize tired relationships. Alas, at times it seems like the entire world of entertainment is organized for the sold purpose of propagating that one enormous lie, and no one is effectively refuting it. ...


Dr. James Dobson. Love must be Tough, New hope for Marriages in Crisis. 1936, Chapter 12 Anatomy of Adultery

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The above certainly does not fit all, or maybe even you. But as you can see, there is a common thread that runs through infidelity.

I post it to shock you/others out of the denial, and into the action stage.


Timely and informed action on your part can slow, and maybe even stop her carefree thinking/actions.

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