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What To Do When Your Husband Walks Out the Door


I was married for 20 plus years when my husband walked out the door leaving me with three teenagers. To say that I was devastated would be an understatement – I was crushed beyond measure. During those first days, weeks, and months, it felt as though I had fallen down a deep abyss of shock, confusion, and sorrow. But I survived, and yes, I have thrived. Over the last five years, I have recreated a life that is filled with laughter, love, friendship, and beauty.

Suitcase by door

What to do when your husband walks out the door:

1. Let the feelings flow – shock, sadness, grief, confusion, hatred, rejection, misery, depression, bewilderment, disappointment, anguish, heart-ache, sorrow. You are living in the middle of a traumatic event, let the feelings flow.

2. Pick yourself up and call a friend.  Surround yourself with friends that love and care for you. You need them, and they are there for you.

3. Beg him to come home. Yes; it is hard to let go. Yes, I begged. But when he refuses. know that you will be OK – you will be better than OK; you will flourish. Not right now, but in the future. You will be happy, you will lead a life that you have rebuilt and that you want, you will do more than survive, you will thrive. Believe it now and fake it ‘till you make it!

4. Cry, scream, and find a quiet place to fall to pieces – it’s normal – it is OK to not have all the answers, to not be able to hold it all together. Give yourself the space needed to crumble – for a bit.

5. Know that you are loveable. Love is a choice, and he chose not to love you. He is one person living on this planet of over seven billion people. He is an idiot. Your family loves you, your friends love you, your children love you, and most important you love you! You are lovable.

6. Smile and go out in public . As humiliating as this feels – you did nothing wrong – you are beautiful, you are smart, you are kind, and you are wonderful. His choice is not a reflection of you. Go out and be seen. Remember, fake it ’till you make it.

7. Rage! Yes, rage is real – feel the rage and then let it go. You have been wronged. You both chose to get married and make that commitment, you both chose to bring children into the world. He chose to leave, not you. Rage is real.  But for your health, feel it and then let it go. Don’t let the rage poison you. Fantasize the retaliation – but keep it in the fantasy world! Your kids need you. The rage will pass.

8. After the kids are in bed soak in the tub, light candles, turn on soft music, and pour yourself a glass of wine. One glass. One bottle? Maybe. But not for long. Keep alcohol in check. Too much alcohol will lead to bad decisions. Remember to be kind to yourself.

9. Cry some more. Give yourself the space to grieve. You have suffered a great loss. Grieving is part of the process. But don’t drown in the sorrow. If you feel yourself sinking too low call the doctor. Call the doctor today – not tomorrow. Get professional help. This is a great loss, and your life has been turned upside down. Your kids are counting on you.

10. Remember, You Are Lovable.

11. Do not “date” your husband. Do not let him play games with you. This is a marriage, he is either in or he is out.

12. Yes, people in your community are talking about it – but you are a survivor – do not hide – put on some clean clothes, put on your make-up, and be seen. You did nothing wrong. You are wonderful. Stop and chat with acquaintances in the grocery store aisle. Smile. You are surviving. Hold your head high.

13. Hold your kids tight – let them cry, be there for them. They are sad; they are confused, they just lost all the stability that they believed was their family. They need you.

14. Encourage and support a relationship between your children and their father. As much as you despise him, he is their father. They are sad, angry, and confused. Do not add to that. You want your children to grow up to be healthy and whole – they need their father. Do what you can to keep their relationship alive. Even though he is an idiot for leaving.

15. Take down all of the pictures and photos that include your husband. The kids can keep them in their rooms if they want, but you don’t need to be walking through the house looking at them. Take them down and shove them in a closet.

16. Be present during the day for your kids – fall apart after they go to sleep.  Take it day-by-day, hour-by-hour. Call a friend.

17. Sleep in the middle of the bed – it is yours now.  Go out and buy new sheets, a new comforter – make it all yours.

18. Clean.  If you husband walked out the door with just one suitcase like mine – throw all his clothes into garbage bags and toss them into the garage. Or better yet, insist he picks them up – why give his stuff garage space? Keep yourself busy. Clean your home. Find peace in your everyday routines. You are now 100% in charge of your home. You will now be doing little (and big) things that he always did – know that you can do it! You will learn and friends will help.

19. Look to the future – the future is yours to design. What do you love doing? Do it! Find a way – this is your opportunity to reinvent yourself to be your best. Take a class – learn something new. Engage yourself in new opportunities.

20. Hire the best attorney you can find. Interview more than one!  Ask around. Best does not mean most expensive. Find one that will work for your best interest. For the record my first attorney (the more expensive one) did not work out. After a four way meeting where I really felt that she was not looking out for my best interest, but was rather racking up a large bill, I went looking for a new one. After more interviews I found an amazing attorney, and she charged considerably less! It was easy to change attorneys – even though I was already eight months into the process.

21. Organize all your finances.  Start hunting and gathering all the necessary paperwork to support what you need financially. Be prepared with supporting financial documents when you head to the attorney.

22. Find a good therapist. Need I say more?

23. Get outside and explore nature – go for a walk, take the kids to the park, go on a bike ride, hike, walk a beach – whatever is closest and easy to get to. Surround yourself in the beauty of nature. Breathe fresh air – nature is majestic.

24. Exercise. Endorphins are a powerful feel-good drug. Take advantage of them and stay healthy.

25. Join a new group. Make some new friends that don’t know your “before,” just your “now”. Better yet, try to join a group that involves exercise – a walk group, a hike group, a bike group. lists all kinds of groups in your area. Keep moving.

26. Believe in yourself – the best is yet to come. You have all the power you need to survive and to thrive.

27. Breathe and move forward. One baby step at a time.


*** I am the first to admit that rebuilding my life to took time, effort, self-love, and a posse of friends. During that time, I often asked myself, “What do I need right now to help myself deal with fear and nourish myself?” What did I need to do in order to move forward?

It’s crazy to think that ten years ago I could barely got off the bathroom floor where I laid sobbing the big ugly tears with the snot filled nose that had me gasping for air. While the grief cut deep, and I had moments of self-doubt swirling through my mind – I never truly doubted that I could and I would survive. I had to dig deep to find that belief in myself, so I dug deep. I put one foot in front of the other and figured out how to deal.

I lost a lot. Still today, I can think back and feel the loss. The loss of a family unit, a home we built together, a job I loved, and even a few friends. Yet, through this loss and my divorce I have also gained. I have learned and I have grown. I take the time to nourish my whole self, my marriage, and my family in a way that I did not before.

During your time of loss, be sure to take the time you need to take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself, you are grieving. And grief is a heavy job. If you need some ideas on how to start with self-care and moving forward, check out my free on-line class, Nourish Your Whole Self.

Nourish Your Whole Self 

It’s just three easy steps to get you started on your journey to bring more joy and balance to your life. When you sign up, you will have access to a six minute video that walks you through the three steps and a downloadable journal sheet to get your ideas on paper. Click here for the course: Nourish Your Whole Self.

This class is a first! I am having fun learning how to create courses for my readers. Admittedly, there is much more for me to learn. But I am not waiting for perfection. Like everything else, it is a process. My goal is to bring to you more ways to help you create a beautiful life for yourself. After you complete the course, please let me know what you think. I am totally open to your feedback.

(27) Comments

  1. Valerie says:

    My husband walked out on our marriage after celebrating 24 years. He said he’s unhappy, not in love with me anymore. He says he’s tired of me talking to mean to him. When overwhelmed by work kids house meals I did snap at him sometimes in hopes he would help me. This is the 3rd time he has walked out for the same reason. The reality I’ve come to is, he can’t handle the bad/hard times. 90% of our marriage was great… We were best friends, parents to our 2 beautiful kids, lovers, companions. This totally shocked me beyond belief that this was happening AGAIN but a month later now I’m getting by now. I feel so resentful towards him for leaving me everything to do. He doesn’t have to worry about clean clothes for the kids or if there’s enough milk or mowing the grass or trimming the hedges. Do I sound lazy??

  2. Carmen says:

    Thank you so much to everyone for sharing. My husband has left after 20 years (for someone else). We immigrated here from another country and have been together most of our adult lives. We have 2 beautiful children. The situation is profoundly sad and I mourn the fact that it ended without kindness, dignity and respect. I understand relationships end (although I had no idea of the affair), but I don’t get the suddenness of simply walking out. It seems so cowardly and quite brutal. My children feel that we are no longer a family, without Dad at home. It is so terribly heartbreaking and I battle to keep it together sometimes.

    1. Stacey says:

      Carmen, I am so sorry for the loss that you are suffering. I wondered, “why it all happened to me” for a long time. I felt as though I must have never really known my ex. The man I married would not have had an affair for two years (saying all along that there was not another woman) and then walked out the door. But the reality is people do things, people change, and we have no control over that. I did have control over my life. While I believed that my ex destroyed our marriage and the family that my children knew and loved – he could not destroy my life. I did have control over that. Reach out to those that love you for support. You do not need to keep it all together alone. It is hard. But you can do it! A full, happy, and healthy life awaits you!

      1. Carmen says:

        I appreciate the wisdom and kind words. It is so encouraging to know that I/we are not alone at this awful, bewildering and unfamiliar time. I felt so alone until I read everyone’s stories and found such support in the honestly and bravery of the experiences I read: a common shared experience of being deceived, betrayed or abandoned abruptly. We can all relate to the suffering and struggle and there is comfort in not feeling so alone in this: my darkest hour (the “dark abyss” you described so well Stacey). The stinging humiliation I feel at being replaced for another woman is unbearable at times too. A long road of rebuilding my self esteem lies ahead. I have read this group chat several times as a constant reminder that I am not alone and the affirmations are encouraging, a literal lifeline in a dark place when it is hard to see light at the end of the tunnel.

        1. Stacey says:

          Carmen, I am glad that you are thinking forward. It is a long road, but full of many wonderful surprises. Really there will be moments of strength and self-love that will remind you of the incredible person that you are. When I look at my list, I really cringe over #3. Looking back, one of my regrets are that I did not say, “Enough is enough” sooner. I should not have begged – really begged – a man that did not love me to stay. For whatever reason, he no longer loved me and wanted to be with someone else. I (and you) deserve better.

          I am currently cleaning out my office and came across a photo book that I made for my husband for our 20th anniversary. It was filled with so photos commemorating our life together. Our wedding, honeymoon, birth of our three children, raising them, family vacations, home improvements – all of life’s milestones. We had many, many wonderful years together. I would have expected to feel a bit sad – looking through this, but I did not. They were great memories, and while I am sad that my children lost the family that they new, we have all gone on.

          My life is full. Yours will be too, as you travel down the road of healing and rebuilding. Hugs.

  3. amanda says:

    How do you let go when he walks out for another women leaving behind you and 3 kids and then goes on to half a child with her and now im heartbroken coz i didnt see any of this coming been together 14 years and he moved on so quickley its only been 2 years and he already has a new family(first 10months spent begging him to come home then he tells me by phone about her. After christmas i find out she pregant by facebook and he denys it then tells kids first and then didnt even tell them it was born ) i want my family back so badly im not coping at all

    1. Stacey says:

      Amanda, it was hard. No bones about it. It was hard. But it came down to the fact that we cannot control the actions of others. I begged, too. I really did for a very long time. It didn’t change anything – the end result was my ex left for another woman. That is completely humiliating and I felt it to my core. The fact remained – I did no want to give the control of my life to another person. I am in charge of my life and the choices that I make. I learned a lot about myslef through the divorce and the aftermath. It was about picking myself up off the bathroom floor and putting one step in front of the other and reminding myself to breathe. It wasn’t easy. Exercise helped immensely. Feeling strong physically helped me gain the strength to know that I could do anything I set my mind to. Please see a counselor. Mine helped me deal with the anger and sadness.

  4. Jody Smith says:

    After 11 yrs of marriage and 3 kids, my husband is stressed with work, helping his parents rented homes and my grandmother and mothers homes. I’ve told him i feel alone and am lonely and I’ve always been put last. We dont communicate well. We get stressed from our daily lives of sports and we blow up on one another. Tonight after many of him nights coming home late due to him helping family we had a huge argument and he left. This isn’t this first time he left and stayed at his parents but I feel this time was the last time. I’m devastated. He takes his stress out on me and all I want is qt time. Im not letting him come back this time nor kissing his butt and calling him. I heart broken but I need him to realize what he has here. I just pray I can do it because all I want is him here with us.

    1. Stacey says:

      This sounds like a very stressful situation! There is a lot going on for sure. Be sure to take the time to breathe and take care of yourself and your kiddos, too. It sounds like with all the demands that talking with someone about how to balance and how to communicate would be very helpful. I am a total believer in therapy!

  5. Lori says:

    My husband walked out on me on Christmas Day 2014. I was totally blindsided but in some aspects of the past 14 months had that “woman’s intuition” that something was up! I dismissed much of his behavior that I was susspicious about because we had both been in a motorcycle accident and we were both recovering physically and mentally from this tramatic experience.

    When he left, I made a fooled myself as I thought it was a temporary separation because I gave him the opportunity to stay with his mother as I could see he was overwhelmed with his own emotions. I was dealing with mine with a therapist where he was not. I was advised that there should be weekly contact so things would not fall apart, but the first time I saw him he was not my husband! He was my husband on the outside but not the inside!!!! OMG who is this man who is rejecting me and the love and support I have for him? I walked away terrified to see his eyes, as they where black????? I now realize he had the emotions or shame and guilt and could not face the one he love, so it was easier to push me away both with his body language and his words.

    There was no contact between us since this point and even the day my father passed (3 weeks) after he walked out, he did not pay his respects to myself, my children, and my family! This was a man who I had been married to for 31 years and been with exclusively for 36 years……ever since I was 14 years old. Something in side of my died for my “one and only” the day we said fairwell to my father! How can I love a man who could do this to everyone but most important, my late father, who loved him because he loved me?

    I have had many days/moments of greive and I am still taking my recent experience of the death of my marriage, along with the death of my father. I have had to really look deep down inside of the person I am and have become due to these experiences, and I must say I love who I am!!! I believe because I have remained positive and only allow myself to speak of this for a moment of each day, I have moved on from this with personal growth and love from my kids, my family and my true friends. I have been able to step back and look at myself in the mirror only to say……….I do not have anything to be at fault for………He has to own this because he should have been able to approach me (something we both took pride in throught our 36 year relationship) and tell me that he wasnt happy. I will not own his actions nor his unkink words he speaks to my adult children! They are not at all part of this
    decision so why are you not involving them in you “new life”? Be angry and upset with me, not them!!!

    I only feel the hurt from him because of what he is doing to my kids! I will never stop being the mumma bear, no should I! I can not control what he is doing to me but mostly what he is doing to them.

    I do wish he finds much happiness in his “new” life, as I will in mine in time, but I don’t know how anyone can run away to another city only to think they can be another person and put on a mask daily? I believe that he still has to face his personal shame and guilt when he comes home after being the wonderful man he wants to be, only to have to take off that mask as he also looks in the mirror, and knows in his heart who he really is.

    1. Stacey says:

      Lori, you have had to deal with a lot of grief – and for that I am sorry. I found it powerful to hear you say that you love yourself and you fell positive about the future. That is strength. And that is what will help you rebuild a life full of good stuff.

  6. Karen says:

    My husband left me. We were married 28 years and divorced. Stayed apart two years and remarried 2 months ago. He left me after 6 weeks and moved to another state. I am devastated. Shocked. So hurt. He was so mean to me in the end. So cruel. You wouldn’t treat a stranger like he treated me. I flipped out and threatened suicide. Now no one in my family wants to deal with my “drama”. My parents and kids have closed their doors on me. If i didn’t feel like suicide before I sure do now. I’m scared. I cry when I’m not asleep. I don’t understand “why”?. So hurt. So rock bottom. He said the cruelest things to me. He threatened to punch me in face and “break my face”, he bent my arm backwards and tripped me in the kitchen. He mocked me sobbing. I don’t understand. Beyond devastated.

    1. Stacey says:

      Karen, I hope that today is a better day for you. Sometimes it is a day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment situation. It does get better, but it is work to get to that point of “better”. It sounds like you really need to reach out and get some professional help. I did. There is a lot of grief and hurt to wade through and it is easy to drown without the right support. No one should be hurting you, emotionally or physically! Take care of yourself and build a new support group that will help you get back to healthy and whole. You can do this!

    2. Shae says:

      I’m so sorry. I’m hurting for you. God will deal with Him. He has serious issues. Please don’t take him back.

    3. shirl says:

      my husband of 35 years just walked out on me. there was no fussing, no arguments, no angry discussions, no sign that our marriage was in trouble. He just walked in, said he was leaving, packed his clothes and left. He cut off his cell phone and moved somewhere (unknown). We had both been married previously and have adult children but none together.
      His previous wife got EVERYTHING so he came into our marriage with absolutely nothing but a bed and his auto. Now I’m facing the fact that he may get half of everything because he has chosen to walk out. There is something wrong with laws that say a person can bring nothing into a marriage, but profit if they decide to walk out on the marriage. I have a small amount of money from an inheritance and a small amount I received from an age discrimination lawsuit. I will now have to give up half of this to him after he walked out on me. . . This is just SO wrong! I am devastated on so many levels. I’m on an emotional roller coaster, my heart actually hurts and my stomach feels hollow and sick. I’m praying for strength!

      1. Stacey says:

        Shiri, I am sending prayers your way. Strength is what you need right now. I will say that I, too, felt a lot of anger. Time and working on re-building your life will help ease the pain. Put one foot in front of the other – you can do this! It is not fair – but you can survive and thrive.

    4. tricia says:

      He sounds like a real “catch”. Why are you sad that he is gone?? He is beyond cruel, vindictive and immature. Mocking your sadness shows what a mean spirited guy he is, it also shows his lack of self esteem. When someone sees grief, sadness or heartbreak in another and then mocks that what do you think that says about them?

      All the caring and love you have for this man should be redirected to your children and yourself.

      Sweet girl, give yourself a break.

    5. Karen,
      I know this sounds unconventional, but if you ever need someone to talk to, I’ll gladly give you my number. What you need is a friend, or a few, and the support of your family. I also have been locked out by my mother and blamed for my sister walking out on her 25 year marriage, after she tried and possibly ( who knows) succeeded to seduce my husband that I’ve been with for 17 years. They don’t want to face the truth so it’s drama. Well so what. He walked out on you and mine has one foot out the door and has tortured me for the last 4 years. This is not the man he was before we married 4.5 years ago. He simply adored me, treated me like a princess, was so affectionate, giving and kind. Now, he’s left me sick enough that I nearly died from an infection 3 years ago. Left me near death to go drinking 7 nights a week. He’s pulled a gun on me to bully me into leaving our home while our kids watched, threw hot pork on me, came after me with a hammer, called me horrible names wished me dead etc.
      Please let me say I’m wondering if he’s got demons in him or on him, but I have to let go at some point and move on, for I got married to be loved and together as one, not tortured and hated.
      We deserve so much better girl, please hang in there suicide is not an option even though it is so hard to go on, I promise. ..much better things are in store for you and it’s definitely his loss !

  7. Anne Marie says:

    Hi, Have not written in awhile. I wish really I was invisible… But I breakdown when I am alone not in front of my son. My breakdowns are so bad that I can’t even catch my breath.
    I have no friends that have been through this so they cant’t really be there even though they have tried.
    I have found out so much more than I really probably wanted to know. Basically through the whole marriage he was repeatedly unfaithful.
    With my daughter-in law 3 years into the marriage, then who knows how many more times.
    Then left me for his ex-wife but then I let him come back 10 weeks later. Now 10 years later almost to the day.
    It is over I am done done done done…

    I hate myself for allowing this to happen…

    1. Stacey says:

      Anne, you did nothing wrong. I too was angry at myself for not calling it quits earlier. But my intentions, like yours, was to hold together a marriage and a family that I loved and treasured. Had I known what was really going on, I might have decided to end things sooner – but there was so much that I was in the dark about. We can only make decisions based on what we know (or believe) to be true. My intentions, like yours, were good ones. We did the right thing by trying to make it work – for our kids and ourselves. You are strong and you will make it through this. Believe me, – brighter times are ahead if you are willing to move ahead. Grieve and move forward – one baby step at a time.

  8. Anne Marie says:

    My husband of almost 20 years left this past week second time. First time almost 10 years to the day. Could not wait 3 more months till our son graduated, really!
    I feel like I am to blame for ruining my sons life , I never should of let him back the first time.
    These are not the only offenses he has in his past.
    I feel so embarrassed.

    Anne Marie Adams

    1. Stacey says:

      Anne Marie,
      Oh I felt complete humiliation; I wanted to hide from the world! I had to force myself to go out into public – and when I did, I realized it was OK, and that I had supporters in the community. Believe me there were times that I wished I was stronger and wished I did not let my husband come back after the first time he left, also. But, honestly I loved him, and I believed in making it work. I believed “in good times and bad times” – I figured we would weather the bad times and come out stronger. Unfortunately, it takes two to make it work – both need to be all in. It’s hard to take those baby steps forward – but you can do it. This is a time to recreate yourself into the person you want yourself to be.

      1. Anne says:

        I feel as if I am in a car with no breaks…everything just is flying by and I can’t focus on one specific thing.
        I do not sleep very long and when I wake up my heart is beating so fast.
        I want to be the strongest for our son he is 17 getting ready to graduate.

        1. Stacey says:

          Anne, I too had a hard time focusing. My job and my kids kept me busy. I made lists of what needed to be done and worked my way through the lists. I cleaned a lot! I also joined a hike group. Nights were hardest. I worked with a really good therapist and saw my doctor. They helped. When you suffer a great loss many emotions hit – like waves – unpredictable and at times overpowering. It is OK to reach out for help. Remember your son needs you.

    2. Shae says:

      My Husband walked out on me yesterday. For the first time. We haven’t been married a year. I tried so hard to be the best wife I could. Nothing was ever good enough for him. I’m not taking him back. I want peace in my life. So now my marriage is over.

      1. Stacey says:

        Shae, I hope you find peace. Love yourself and allow time to heal – the peace will come.

    3. tricia says:

      Guess what? you did nothing wrong, letting him in the door ten years ago says more about how positive you are then anything else. Did you have a crystal ball, did you know he was going to be that man with no integrity again.? No, you thought it could work, of course, you did. We women tend believe and look for the best in people, especially those we love, we want to encourage, support and strive for happiness for those we love and ourselves. The fact that he left again says that he probably wasn’t totally there for the past ten years and that is ok, that has NOTHING to do with you. What ever is going on with him is his deal, not yours.

      My husband also left after twenty years also and I was shocked because there was no conversation about this at all. On his birthday he told me he was leaving and wanted a divorce. We were out to dinner at the time and this came out of the blue. I laughed because I thought he was kidding. But he was very serious. I was shocked and confused. As time has gone on, it is now ten years later, I realize he never loved me and we never should have married. I am more angry about the fact that he lied to me, that he asked me to marry him when he wasn’t totally committed then the fact that he left. He took twenty years of my life by living a lie. I realize he is nothing like I thought he was and I am glad he is gone, however, I hate the fact the he was soooooo dishonorable to begin with. I am living my life to be honorable, hopefully, a loving person and I am better off being divorced that I am being married to this person. I am closer to God than I was when I was with this person and I am loving the fact that I can be totally alone and find happiness in the simplicity of life.

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