Fait accompli – noun: a thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept it.
Someone asked me recently if I was ever angry enough to want to pick up a chair and throw it at the TV. No, I’ve never been that angry at the TV before. But I have been angry enough, enraged actually, to want to take that rage out on the ones responsible for my marriage ending. I have never felt such rage before. I was told it was righteous anger.
I also became angry at how my marriage ended. My choice in the situation was taken away from me. I didn’t get to have a say in the matter. It also hit me out of nowhere. I was blindsided by the decision. I knew my marriage wasn’t perfect, I just wasn’t expecting things to end and certainly not in the way they did. I didn’t want my marriage to end. I wanted to work things out. I didn’t want to just toss away an entire life together like it was nothing. I mean we experienced a lot together. We had been together for more than half our lives – 34 years. We raised our kids together. We were enjoying our grandbabies and looking forward to the next chapter of our life together. Or so I thought.
This sudden end to a marriage and the wife being caught off guard is called Wife Abandonment Syndrome (WAS) or Spousal Abandonment Syndrome. It’s a real thing. I discovered it when I came across this book, Runaway Husbands by author and therapist Vikki Stark. It was a real eye-opener.
In the book, she describes the symptoms of wife abandonment and shares her real-life experience as well as those from other women who suddenly found themselves abandoned by their husbands. Here’s a description of the symptoms from her book and website Runaway Husbands:
- Prior to the separation, the husband had seemed to be an attentive, emotionally engaged spouse, looked upon by his wife as honest and trustworthy.
- The husband had never said that he was unhappy in the marriage or thinking of leaving, and the wife believed herself to be in a secure relationship.
- The husband typically blurts out the news that the marriage is over “out-of-the-blue” in the middle of a mundane domestic conversation.
- Reasons given for his decision are nonsensical, exaggerated, trivial or fraudulent.
- By the time the husband reveals his intentions to his wife, the end of the marriage is already a fait accompli and he often moves out quickly.
- The husband’s behavior changes radically, so much so that it seems to his wife that he has become a cruel and vindictive stranger.
- The husband shows no remorse; rather, he blames his wife and may describe himself as the victim.
- In almost all cases, the husband had been having an affair.
- The husband makes no attempt to help his wife, either financially or emotionally, as if all positive regard for her has been completely extinguished.
- Systematically devaluing the marriage, the husband denies what he had previously described as positive aspects of the couple’s joint history.
When I read that list, the emotional rage (and grief) became palpable. I realized that I was suffering from Wife Abandonment Syndrome. I had no idea that there were patterns of behavior, or symptoms for anything like that. Who knew that was a thing? And while it didn’t make the anger or grief any easier to cope with, just the acknowledgement alone helped to make sense of what I was and am feeling.
But attempting to hold on to my marriage after being told it was over was like trying to hold sand in my hand. It just slipped through my fingers until there was nothing left and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it. I can’t put into words the intense feelings of heartbreak and helplessness evoked by the realization that I wasn’t wanted anymore. That I was disposable.
I wholeheartedly loved, trusted and cherished this man. I willingly traveled down the marriage road with him, thinking that it would last forever, only to be left at the side that road in some deserted place and expected to find my way back to civilization on my own. I would have rather he’d said thank you and then went on his way early on, allowing me the opportunity to choose another path if this is where things were headed. As it is, I feel like I’m now running to catch up to the life I should have had.
Hindsight is 20/20. So is experience. Rotten. To look behind and see all the things that led to my marriage ending. Now they become clear but in those moments, not so much. Funny what you get used to and dismiss as some random or trivial things that eventually become turning points that lead to the end. The outrage comes when you finally figure it out after the fact. Hoodwinked!
I look back and can’t understand why I didn’t see the red flags, the warning signs. Why? Was I really that blind? Or was I only willing to see what I wanted for the sake of holding things together – or thought I was holding things together – so we could be the family I always wanted.
And now I’m angry because I can’t get back what was taken from me. I’m angry because the life and family I wanted – had- is gone now. I’m angry because I was left scrambling to pick up the pieces. I’m angry because I’ve been thrown onto an emotional roller coaster ride that I didn’t want to be on in the first place and now I have to ride it all the way to the bloody end. I’m angry because he moved on with his life long before I knew anything was amiss. I’m angry because my kids and grandchildren have been cheated out of the family they should have had. I’m angry because he made a selfish, self-serving decision. I’m angry because this was not what my life was supposed to become. I’m angry because now I’ve been forced into a situation I never asked for or wanted. I’m angry because I wasn’t given a choice. I’m angry with him!
He devalued and disrespected me. He devalued and disrespected our marriage. He devalued and disrespected our family. Where’s the remorse? Where’s the accountability? Where’s the regret?
Indifference is a methodical, silent killer. It will slip in unnoticed and begin its tireless work to destroy anything of value. It erodes the very core of a relationship until there is nothing left but the hollow shadow of what used to be. It turns the someone you knew into a stranger at best, an enemy at worst. Even now I still can’t wrap my head around that concept.
Experiencing all this anger and grief, I find that I desperately want the world to stop so I can get off. I’m so tired and I can’t take it anymore. It’s a cruel reality, that the world – people, daily life, work, bills, laundry, everything – just keeps right on going with its own version of indifference for what you’re going through while you’re crumbling inside.
I don’t have a nice, neat ending to this anger. I wish I did. Like grief, it comes in waves. They seem to take turns tossing me recklessly about, going this way and that while I fiercely fight to keep my head above water. I’ve come to realize that this anger won’t be satisfied either. If grief is a demanding companion, then anger is an insatiable one. For all the answers, for all of the remorse, for all of the reckoning that I want; that I think I am entitled to, anger will never be satisfied.
And while my anger may be a righteous anger for what’s happened, I know that my desire for a reckoning isn’t. It’s not mine to dole out. It’s not mine to make right. It’s not mine to set straight. It’s God’s. There is comfort in that knowledge, believe it or not. There is also tremendous comfort in knowing that while I’m on this crazy train, this obnoxious roller coaster ride, God is in the seat right next to me. I am not alone. For all my grief, and anger, and wild emotions, He’s right there holding onto me and isn’t going to let go. And while this doesn’t feel good, and I don’t understand why I have to go through this awful experience, I have this hope, this truth: I know God will take me through this. He promised.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Footnote: If you or someone you know is experiencing Wife Abandonment Syndrome, I highly suggest this book Runaway Husbands by Vikki Stark. (I receive no compensation for this recommendation).