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'After 20 years of marriage, my husband told me he "needed some space". He never came back.'

Last year, I found myself Googling "midlife crisis in men", desperately trying to make sense of why my previously calm, settled, happy life had suddenly and without warning been turned upside down. 

I was looking for something, anything to help me process the warp speed at which my husband of 20 years had decided our marriage was over and was leaving me in search of a bigger life. 

Now, 12 months down the track, I'm finding myself triggered by reminders of 'this time last year' and it's hard.  

My husband and I had a happy marriage. This is not me looking back with rose-coloured glasses, it is the truth. We met in London in the early 2000s. We partied hard, travelled the world then finally returned home to settle down. We started a business together, had a beautiful son and got married. We shared the parenting and the business building and for the next 17 years all was good in our world. Of course we had the occasional argument but overall I would give us a solid 9/10.

In December 2022, my father-in-law passed away of a long diagnosed heart issue. My husband did not have an especially close relationship with his father but for some reason this triggered what would become the most traumatic time I have ever lived through.

A few months after his father passed, he had moved out of our family home claiming he needed "some space". He never came back. Our son was 17 years old at the time and was completely blindsided as he had never been witness to any cracks in his happy home life. 

The narrative my husband created for me, our friends and family was that he was leaving because I didn’t listen to him, I took him for granted and he wanted to go out and live a bigger life and not sit home each night on the couch and watch Netflix. I immediately told him I could change, we could work on this and he was acting crazy. He would not budge. The next week he was looking for rental properties.

Watch: The Mamamia team share the moment that they knew their relationship was done. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Picture me sobbing, struggling to breathe, walking through my day to day in a complete daze. I had started my own health practice just a few months earlier and as I was the sole practitioner, I had to go to work to keep my business going. I was terrified of the financial implications of being a single 48-year-old woman. I called those closest to me and would sob uncontrollably as I just could not make sense of what was happening. My sister came from overseas to live with me for eight weeks and this is the only way that I was able to continue to function. By the time she left I was stronger. Still not sleeping or eating but not feeling like I wanted to die every day. 

I assume everyone reading this is thinking 'he was having an affair' but no, I asked him again and again and again and he denied it. Swore on our son’s life. It was me. I was the reason he was leaving. 

Of course, he was having an affair. 

A few months down the track evidence was presented to me by our son and by a friend that was undeniable so he admitted he'd been seeing a 28-year-old girl who worked for him. 

Could there be a more revolting cliché? For six months he had been gaslighting me, sticking to his story to all who tried to help him that there was nobody else involved. Unsurprisingly, the 28-year-old ran for the hills as soon as she heard he had left his wife so he destroyed three lives simply to boost his own ego for a few weeks.

I know my story is not unique and is frighteningly common. I wanted to share a few survival tips on how I have made it through the last year because if I can help any of you who are living this experience then I must try. 

Lean in to your girlfriends.

From the very start I was completely open with my good girlfriends as to what was going on. I had nothing to hide. I could not understand it and needed support.

My husband was not happy with me sharing details of the separation and being so open but that’s because I live my life in the light and he was living his in the shadows. You will need your girlfriends. There will be some who have been your mutual friends for 20 years and don’t want to take sides and won't say anything negative about him in case you end up getting back together. That’s ok and completely understandable but have at least one or two that you can rage with. Call them in moments when you truly hate him and need someone to hate him as much as you do.

Choose kindness. 

Be the bigger person. If you have children, put them first. Every decision I have made over the last 12 months has been with my son at the forefront. I cannot say the same for my husband but that is his pain to bear for the rest of his life.

He put his own happiness over that of his child and destroyed their relationship forever more. I know it's better for my son that his parents are amicable and that he has some sort of connection with his father so I have facilitated that even when I found out the truth. My son is exceptional. I am so incredibly proud of both of us for navigating these last 12 months and our relationship is deeper and stronger than I could ever have imagined it could be.

Get help.

I saw three therapists but none of them were really right for me. I got medicated and I'm not ashamed of this. It got me through a really hard time and I am forever grateful to my girlfriend who swooped in, took me to the GP and sat with me in emergency to make sure I got what I needed.

Listen to The Split where Mandy Nolan shares her story and talks to women about how they started their new life post-divorce. Post continues below.

Get a dog.

I cannot tell you how much this changed our lives for the better. It gave me a reason to get out of bed in the mornings; I had company every night on the couch and my son had unconditional love from a tiny sausage dog who would never ever leave him. 

Trust your gut.

A man in his late 40s does not leave a marriage unless he is leaving for another woman. That is a fact. Regardless of what he will tell you.

Feature image: Getty.

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