My husband has just announced, suddenly and out of the blue, that he wants a divorce. He has fallen in love with someone else and doesn't want to work on our relationship or even talk about it or the reasons he's leaving. (We have been married four and a half years; I am 28.) He says this has been coming for years, and while I knew we had some rough spots to work on, I had no thought of separation and no thoughts of divorce, and he never indicated he did either. We used to talk about our relationship, and he always assured me that he loved me more than anything and loved being married to me, and he never gave any indication that he was unhappy. I am heartbroken, devastated and numb.
Less than a week before he announced this, we bought new furniture and new towel sets for our home. We made love less than a week before he announced this. I cannot understand why a man who would tenderly make love to me one weekend would shatter my world the next. He insists it has nothing to do with this other woman, but what am I to think when she told him she loved him one night, and he broke my heart the next morning?
I am desperately trying to be optimistic about the future, but to be honest, all I have thought about in the last few months is having a baby with this man, and all I can think of now is how that will never happen. I know I'm not the perfect person -- who is? -- but I tried really hard to make this marriage work, and I simply cannot understand his actions.
I am terrified that this experience will make me distrustful of men for the rest of my life. How will I possibly believe the next person who tells me he loves me when that was the one fundamental thing I believed from my soon-to-be ex and he lied about it? How can I trust new people and even my own judgment of people anymore? Will anyone ever look at me without seeing the neon sign of "failed marriage" over my head? Is there hope for the brokenhearted? I desperately need to believe that good things can happen and that I can have that baby and that marriage I once thought I had. Is there anything you can say to comfort me?
Would it comfort you to know that you will get through this, that women have been bearing up under sudden abandonment for as long as there has been marriage and that you also will bear up under it and emerge, eventually, stronger, happier and wiser? Would it comfort you to know that some men carry a secret void where their heart would be, like a sinkhole under a road that no one can see until a love the size of a Buick collapses into it, and a crowd gathers, and the amazed and stunned woman brushes back her hair and looks at the crowd and says, "I've driven this road a hundred times. I drove it just this morning. I don't know what happened." But somebody extends a hand and pulls the woman out of the sinkhole and a wrecker with a winch hauls the Buick out and off they go.
Or maybe they don't go right away. Maybe the woman and the Buick sit on the side of the road for hours, or days, or years, marveling at the sinkhole, how it could just appear out of nowhere, marveling that a man's heart could have a space so large inside it.
And then for years you're afraid of men and sinkholes. So how can you know if someone is lying to you? How do you find a space behind a wall? You keep sounding it and sounding it, listening for the echo, listening for the difference between a stud and a void. The next man you meet, first chance you get, put your ear to his chest and listen. If you hear the fluttering of pigeon wings, he may be empty inside. But if you hear a solid thumping, like the giant steam pistons of an ocean liner, perhaps he has an engine that can carry you across the water.
You'll be a long time shook up, angry and hurt, empty and bruised, sobbing on occasion for no reason except it takes some getting used to, this enormous space where you thought there was a heart. But wherever there's a sinkhole there's a man in a wrecker, hauling you up with strong hands. What's better, if it's raining he wears a yellow slicker and stands out in your headlights like a school crossing guard.
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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.