Jill is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist working in private practice in London. She is a frequent broadcaster on family matters and has written several books. We highly recommend 'Find Your Way Through Divorce,' 'Where's Daddy?' and 'How to get married again.' These are written not only by a professional but also by a grandmother with personal family experience of divorce. For details, please see our Books section. Jill also has her own self-help, family problem website dedicated to parents and grandparents.
Divorce Aid is so very grateful for all the time and consideration Jill has given us in the past. We have printed a selection of letters and her replies below.
Please see our current section on counselling and therapy
Scared to Death
I have been thinking about getting a divorce from my wife of almost 30 years. I feel content and trapped. It's not that my wife is not a loving caring person. I have been unfaithful quite a few times, some she knows about and most she doesn't know about. I believe that in our earlier years of marriage she has had an affair, which she denies. I love her dearly, it's just I don't want to be married anymore. I am currently in a relationship with another woman who I care for deeply. My kids are grown and I have 2 grandchildren. I am alone most of the time even when she is here with me. The only time we are together is when we go out somewhere. I have been by myself for so long that it doesn't matter if she is here or not.
I am ready to leave and have a relationship with the woman that I am having an affair with. She is divorced. I am scared to death. I don't want to hurt anyone but I'm tired of living a lie. I don't want to just sit here alone for the rest of my life. We have an active sex life, even though I would like more, she works and is tired most of the time. She has forgiven time and time again for having affairs. The reason I am thinking about leaving is not about the woman that I am having an affair with but it's for me. I have been having these thoughts for many years. Scared to Death
I can well imagine you are scared to death. There are some questions you might ask yourself. You say you have been unfaithful over the years but it seems always happy enough to stay with your wife. How do you understand that? Did you ever try to work at your marriage? Or was it just a safe haven to come home to? What do you make of your wife forgiving you for straying time and time again? You say you are alone at home, yet say you have an active sex life, go out together, and I would guess have an extended family life also. Don't bank on your children 'understanding' your motives if you leave their mother.
Also, you say you don't want to hurt anyone, but you must realise that your actions will cause tremendous pain to your wife, your children and your grandchildren. Have you thought of that? The fact is that you will have to weigh up the gains and the many losses.
It may, or may not, be too late
to mend your marriage of 30 years Be cautious.
Editor's note: "Find your way through divorce", by Jill, is available via our book section.
I am turning to you for some advice as I have spent the last 6 years of my 15 year marriage feeling like I do not love my husband as a wife should. I had an affair 6 years ago that made me realise that what I have with my husband is not enough. The affair did not last but the feelings stayed. We do not talk to each other about anything but trivia, we share very few similarities, we do not laugh together, go out - I probably would not choose for him to be a friend if he was not my husband.
As I write this, it sounds so obvious I should leave but how do I know? What if I leave and life is no better by myself? We have two children who love their dad to bits (he is a great dad), in my head I have it all planned - we sell the home and but 2 separate homes close by and share the kids.
I still would want to do family stuff together but desperately need to find someone I can love and feel loved by. My husband is in a stressed state (which must be partially caused by our unhappy situation), I am on anti depressants - when I'm not I am dreadful to live with and show my true feelings to my husband.
I met my husband through a dating agency and have never felt like he truly loved me, I have also had a pretty sad childhood (abuse, bullying at school). Part of me thinks that this may have impacted on the way I react to my husband and it doesn't matter who I am married to as I will be the same.
It is all such a mess, my friends are probably sick of hearing about it as I have felt like this for so long. The kids need an environment that is relaxed and fun - neither which they get at home. Please offer me some advice. As I am writing this I feel so sad and deflated.
I can hear how miserable you are but there are several things to think over. As you are discovering, leaving a partner of 15 years is not an easy thing to do. Over the years couples do become entwined, and to untangle a relationship because you say you are no longer in love, is a complicated matter. If it was not difficult - then you would have already left.
Of course the situation is made even more complicated by the fact that you do acknowledge he is a good dad - and the plan 'in your head' sounds good on paper, but I think you know that once feelings come into the picture it would be more complex than that!
I am truly sorry you are feeling so sad, but I do urge you to find a professional trained in these matters to talk to. Friends can only help so far. I think you need to look at why you are so restless. If you do not truly understand how you have got into this situation, and even what you have brought into this marriage, then the danger is that you will repeat something in your next relationship. Also, from what you say there is a lot to talk about your past, and if that is not untangled and understood, it can cast a long shadow on your present life.
We had been married for 24 years when out of the blue my husband said he didn't love me. We have 4 children who are now busy with own lives. They come and see me now and again. I asked him if he was having affair and he said no. Turned out he had been and he was moving to live with the new woman and her 3 children. I had no idea that anything was wrong and now he rarely phones me, seems as if I am being punished. The children don't have any contact with him, they rang and tried to see him and he ignored them. He worked away most of our married life and I stayed at home to raise our family. I have no friends or family close by and spend most of my time in tears. I just wish that he would ring and talk...he was my world and such a good future lay ahead, it was 'our' time now.......
There is nothing in the way of counselling where I live, nobody to talk to and I just feel as if it is the end of world and I don't know why any of this has happened, feel so hurt, rejected, as if I don't matter and nobody cares. I can't just switch off my feelings and I miss him so much. It is as if he has shut the door on me and our children and everything we meant to each other. Why did he do this?.....why doesn't he care?.....he knows I thought world of him. The kids tell me to move on and forget him, he isn't worth crying over for what he has done and they hate seeing me hurting. One of our daughters gave birth to twin boys a month ago and he hasn't even acknowledged them .I just feel so lonely and don't know what to do. Please help me and tell me the pain will start to ease sometime.
I am so glad you felt you could write to us, especially as you say you are very much on your own in such a difficult and painful situation. It is good to find your voice, and we are here to listen.
You don't tell us how long ago your husband left you in this way. After being married for 24 years, you must have believed you knew your husband inside and out, and then to find out about his betrayal must mean you are still in shock and still viewing what has happened with disbelief. What must be hard, too, is not being able to understand why this has happened.
I can understand that at this moment
your confidence in yourself has taken a battering and that you feel
you are being punished, and I only wish I could tell you that the pain
will go overnight. But I cant do that, and the hurt will stay with you
for a considerable time as you go through different stages of shock,
anger, grief and mourning. Because you are going through a bereavement
- loss of everything you thought you had together, and the future you
had thought was there for you as a couple.
Your children probably dread to think how hurt you are, and for this reason try to encourage you to move on and forget him. You can't do that yet, but there will come a time when the pain feels less.
Congratulations, though, on the
birth of your twin grandsons. I hope they bring you much happiness.
Being a grandmother is a very special relationship. So, give yourself
time and try to take great care of yourself. You will find that gradually
there are ways of dealing with the pain which at the moment is all-consuming.
Do keep in touch if you feel you would like to; we are always here to listen and to help whenever we can.
Dear Divorce Aid
I wrote to you before, saying my husband had met someone else. He had told me some months ago now. My daughter had twins as i told you, so that was something good. However, feelings of grief and fear are so close all the time. He wanted us to be friendly and amicable and so tried for that. He hasn't bothered ringing for past month, I rang him tonight and he told me he is not paying any more bills for here, with him not living here, he seems to be so cold and doesn't care.....just feel like an old bit of rag that has been discarded 'just like that' and the hurt.......what did i do to deserve this....have 4 children, all living away from home. I rarely see my nearest son although he lives minutes away and another son lives many hours travelling away. I just feel so lonely and now will not have the phone so friends can ring me and vice versa, not that I used the phone a lot anyway....I am so scared, lonely and worried, will life ever get better? After all these months, it doesn't feel like it.
You sound as though you don't have a solicitor. After such a long marriage, you may have many financial rights but you need to take advice. Just let me know your nearest large town, I will put you in touch with someone who provides legal aid.
We can also give you a number for a local counsellor or support group.
It is sad that your husband behaves this way but this is not abnormal. While you are suffering such pain, people back away. He will also feel guilty and your sadness is a reminder of this. Some things we can't change and we just have to make the best of it. Do reach out to your family for help but most of all, do let us help you to obtain legal advice so that at least you can seek a financial settlement.
I look forward to hearing from
I am glad you have written to us again. I agree with everything that Christina has said - please give her the information she needs to be able to help you find some more support. I suspect that from what you say, guilt plays a large part in trying to explain your husband's behaviour. But this is not right, and you must get some help to combat this.
Have you talked to your children about how you are feeling? Our kids often like to think Mum's okay - and you need to let them know you are not. You need them to spend a little more time with you, not so that you can go over and over what has happened, but just for some loving company while you are going through such a major change in your life. Don't be too hard on yourself - how could you be feeling any differently? You are still in shock. Are you talking to friends, and letting them know you would like to see them? Friends, and family, are often worried about how to approach someone who is in your situation. They may need a signal or two from you!
Keep in touch with us - we are
always here to listen.
It has been 12 months since my husband left me because 'he wanted more space'. He took my two stepchildren aged 15 and 12 with him, and left me with our two kids aged 4 and 7. Since then he's come back once for a couple of weeks but left saying it's not what he wants. What gets me is he went to his mother's and is still with her. My stepchildren haven't been to see me, and that's after bringing them up for many years.
In that time I've gotten a job and have had to pay the mortgage myself. He said he wanted half of the equity on the house but I told him that was making a profit out of me, if it wasn't for me we would never have bought this house. I'm getting a divorce and now he's turned around and said he'll sign the house over to me in a clean break settlement.
I just feel so lonely and that no-one understands my pain. At the beginning of the year my doctor prescribed antidepressants but I didn't take them, but now I am going to as I'd rather be a zombie than face this pain any longer. I stopped talking to my husband a couple of months ago because it was so painful seeing him but him not wanting to be with me.
I feel so used. It seems like he used me to be a mother to his kids then left me to bring up mine alone. It took a letter from the solicitor to get him to agree to keep the kids overnight. I wish I could forgive him but I can't. I really want to get on with my life, but I seem to be fixated on him. I wish dreadful things will happen to him so he can experience some of the pain I'm feeling. Then when something bad does happen to him (his job may be ending after 19 years) I worry about him and that's annoying because he doesn't seem to worry/care about me.
When will this end? I'm up and down like a rollercoaster and so negative. My 11 year old niece died recently and there has been another death in the family this year. It seems like life is all endings, not beginnings these days.
A break-up of a relationship like the one you have experienced is a devastating thing to happen. From what you say, I can understand that you feel that there are so many endings - loss of a partner, your stepdaughters, your dreams for the future, and recent family bereavements. The last fifteen months must have been dreadful for you and, of course, while you were trying to keep afloat, you have had to parent your two children who must be upset by what has happened. I wonder if part of what still distresses you is why the break-up has happened at all. Your husband has not really given you any reasons, and so it is hard to understand why he had to go, and probably leaves you searching for what went wrong. This hinders any healing process, and makes it very hard to move on. This contributes to the rollercoaster feelings you mention. Is there any way you could find a professional trained in family relationships to talk through your feelings, and to give you some support? Many G.Ps have a counsellor attached to their practice. Perhaps you could explore this?
Time is a healer
My friends keep telling me that time is a healer and I should just get on with my life now as it is four months since my husband left me and our two boys aged 9 and 11. But I still feel in shock and, although I somehow manage to work and take care of the children, deep down I feel very vulnerable and afraid. I am usually a strong woman and I don't recognise myself. There are so many questions going round my head. Can you tell me if these feelings are normal and what I can do to help myself?
Ann, from Harrogate
First of all, you must realise that four months is a very short time to be expected to get over the shock of your husband leaving you. On top of that, you have to care for two boys who must also be dealing with the break-up too. I think you are doing wonderfully to be managing to work and take care of the children. One thing you must do is get all the backup you can from friends and family. This is the time to call in favours! If there is none around, you may want to consider talking to a counsellor who will help you to get some of your thoughts on track. Secondly, take care of your health. Don't try to blur the pain with an extra alcoholic drink. Make sure you eat well and get enough rest. The temptation can be to race around to show the world you are "okay". Take some time out for yourself too.
Barefoot Doctor replies:
Totally normal to feel vulnerable now. In fact, it's positive; for only through that vulnerability do you grow properly stronger as opposed to pretending to be stronger. Meanwhile, strengthen your kidney energy by massaging your lower back with fists in a circular manner 36 times in each direction twice a day. Take Bach flower remedy (walnut) to help you with this transition. Do upper body strengthening exercises of your choice everyday to stabilise your emotions and keep affirming, "All change is good. I'm a warrior - I can do it,I can do it, I can!"