Feeling lost

My husband left me after 20 years, I'm disabled, and my dog is dying. How do I go on?

Published November 10, 2003 8:10PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I feel lost. I'm 47 and going through a divorce after 20 years. My husband decided that he no longer wanted to be married, and left. I feel like the typical trusting wife. I never knew there was a problem. We had a wonderful sex life, we were the best of friends, we struggled through things together, and we had just reached a point in our life where things were going well. My husband started a new job four years ago, making four times the salary we were used to, so I thought this was when life was supposed to get easier.

Now he is gone. No word. No talking. Everything is done through the lawyers. It's not bad enough that he is gone, but he seems focused on destroying me as well. I recently became disabled and now have no income other than my spousal support. He was court-ordered to pay the mortgage; he has not. Now the house is in foreclosure. My vehicle, with three payments left, is in danger of being repossessed. My only family is my elderly mother in a retirement home. And I have no friends. I feel that because I was the "old married lady" that my friends could come to with their problems, now that I am in crisis, they don't know how to deal with it. Or don't want to.

But the very worst thing is our dogs. We have had two beautiful, wonderful dogs. One died a month ago at 6-1/2 after emergency surgery. The next day the other (7-1/2) was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to live. My husband doesn't care. That hurts me more than his leaving me. This was a man I thought I knew inside and out. And now he is a total stranger.

He is now living with his mommy. After he left I discovered he had a conviction for solicitation of a prostitute from eight years ago. He and his mother kept it from me. And once we got the computer, there was tons of porn.

But does porn stop a person from caring about everything that used to be important to him? How can a man not only leave, but seem bent on destroying the person he left?

If I didn't have to go on every day, nursing my dying dog, I would wonder what is the point of going on? How do you ever trust again, after 21 years of trusting someone, who turned out to not be the person you thought you knew?

I've gone from being a "regular" person to one now having to depend on help from food banks, having a house in foreclosure, losing my love and the life I thought we had, and losing both of my loving dogs. How much grief can one person handle? And why must we?

Wondering How to Go On

Dear Wondering,

You cannot let this senseless and baffling act of your husband's ruin your life. You've got to call on your lawyer, social service agencies, medical personnel and your friends to ensure that you do not become homeless, disabled and destitute.

Keeping your house is your first priority. Consult your lawyer and also take a look at the various organizations such as Foreclosure Assistance, which will show you the laws that govern foreclosure in your particular state, and Foreclosure Help, where you will read the following true words: "Time is not on your side. You must act now to protect your home."

Do not assume your lawyer will think of everything. Ask him specific questions: Can you get an injunction to stop the foreclosure? Can you negotiate with the mortgage holder? Can your husband be forced to pay? Do you live in a community-property state? What rights might that give you? Write down a list of questions for him. Push for answers. As my lawyer told me when I asked him about your situation, you have to take the reins: "You can't just let them [lawyers] tell you what to do, because they don't know shit!"

It's a lot to take on, but this is an outrageous act and you must not allow yourself to become the victim of it. Stop at nothing. Start loudly asking questions: Where is all your husband's money going? Why has he gone to live with his mother? Did he perhaps have some kind of breakdown? Is he addicted to drugs?

Think through your situation with your lawyer. If your husband was court-ordered to pay the mortgage and he has not done so, can't the court seize his bank account, and/or enjoin the mortgage company from taking the house? Can't you sue him? There must at least be legal tactics to delay foreclosure until you can scrape together the money to make the back payments. All the mortgage people want is their money. Talk to your lawyer about refinancing the mortgage with a five-year ARM for a lower monthly payment.

Who else knows what he has done? Cousins, nephews, in-laws, aunts or uncles? What about your husband's friends? Go through your address book. Have no fear. You must contact these people and find someone to help you. Demand to be heard. Give them a way to help you. Someone could lend you money to keep the car from being repossessed. Perhaps someone can help you find a roommate so you can afford the house. It would probably help you to have someone living with you while you go through this. And if your mother has any assets, you have to ask her for help. Perhaps she could leave the old-age home and come live with you; that would help you make the payments on the house, and you and she could help each other through this.

About the dogs: You're breaking my heart! It's counterintuitive, it's morally wrong, it's indefensible, but still, we're talking about your bare survival here, and I'm not sure you can take much more grief, so, sad as it is to contemplate, if I were you I would seriously consider euthanasia for the sick dog. You need to cut some things loose. Let that dog go. Get yourself a new, loud, disobedient little terrier. Fight the bastards. Make them pay. Take your little terrier with you everywhere you go.

Don't let your life crumble around you while you're in shock. This is a crucial time. Hard as it is, you can get through this. You must muster the strength to hold your world together through the shock and the tears and the pain and the hopelessness. If you can just make it through the next couple of years, you can make it through anything.

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