My Husband Left Me! Let Him Go or Fight for Our Marriage?

I came home from work the other day and my husband was gone. His belongings—and the stuff he brought into the relationship—were also gone, including our dog, which originally was his. He left a note saying he was sorry, but he no longer had the energy or interest in working on our marriage and that he was planning to stay with his parents until he could find a more stable living situation. This after four years of marriage. Those four years haven't always been a fairy tale, granted, but our problems seemed relatively minor compared to the problems my other married friends talk about. We argued about once a week (mostly over stupid things), had communication issues, occasionally argued over money, went a month or two without sex at most, but nothing catastrophic. We have talked on the phone once since he left, and he's done. I wanted us to go to counseling a year ago, but he resisted. Now he won't even entertain the idea, and seems committed to dissolving our marriage. I tried to coax reasons out of him, and he says no one else is involved, but that he simply doesn't love me anymore, which seems hard to believe. He says he wants to be friends and to end things amicably. I don't think that's possible now. What do I do? Should I let him go? I don't know if I can do that. If I don't fight for our marriage, I think that will send the message that I don't care, and I care with every fiber of my being. I am so confused, anxious, and angry. I feel helpless and alone right now. Please help. —Ditched
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Dear Ditched,

I can only imagine the range of emotions you are experiencing after a blindside like this. Based on the information you provided, the way your husband handled the situation absolutely seems unfair to you. Walking out with no prior conversation can indicate either a lack of care and respect for your feelings and your relationship or deeper issues of his own. He may be going through something that compelled him to make a major life change with no clear plan of where he was going next. Either way, trust that when he says he is done, he is done.

He resisted attempts to go to counseling in the past and has let you know that he has no desire to do so now. Take him at his word. It takes two to fight for a marriage—and if he is not willing to even engage, fighting for your marriage will be an exercise in frustration for you and potentially damage what remains of your relationship. Not fighting doesn’t mean you don’t care about your marriage. By not fighting, however, you may be able to begin your grieving process, and subsequent healing process, sooner.

It is natural to go through many stages of grieving at the end of a relationship. Denial, bargaining, anger, and sadness are to be expected. Given your particular circumstances, confusion and the desire for reasonable explanations would be natural as well.

It is natural to go through many stages of grief at the end of a relationship. Denial, bargaining, anger, and sadness are to be expected. Given your particular circumstances, confusion and the desire for reasonable explanations would be natural as well. Unfortunately, it is possible that your husband will not, perhaps even cannot, give you the answers you need to make sense of this bewildering situation.

His departure and refusal to explain or consider working on things has not only hurt you deeply, but also likely left you feeling powerless. One important part of healing will be reclaiming your power. I recommend that you connect with a local counselor who can provide support and perspective as you grapple with the emotions that naturally will arise for you.

Through counseling, you can determine how you want to grieve and move forward. You can get support to handle the anger and confusion you are feeling. You can choose how to handle future conversations and interactions with your husband. You can choose whether staying connected to him is in your best interests or not. You can choose whether or not to remain friends.

Thank you for reaching out. I hope, with support, you find resolution for the understandable pain you feel that allows you to move forward with a clear mind and heart.

Best of luck,
Erika

Erika Myers
Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC is a licensed psychotherapist and former educator specializing in working with families in transition (often due to separation or divorce) as well as individuals seeking support with relationship issues, parenting, depression, anxiety, grief/loss/bereavement, and managing major life changes. Although her theoretical orientation is eclectic, she most frequently uses a person-centered, strengths-based approach and cognitive behavioral therapy in her practice.
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  • claire

    claire

    February 26th, 2016 at 11:41 AM

    I would say to not give up just yet. I agree that with a little time and maybe even a LOT of counseling both together and on your own you will have a better shot at determining both what is best for you and for the two of you as a couple. And over time your idea of what this may be could change but hopefully that will come from a better sense of self as well as a greater understanding of what it was that actually went wrong in the relationship.

  • Leslie

    Leslie

    February 26th, 2016 at 1:08 PM

    It seems pretty clear what he wants.
    You might have to face that this is the reality, no matter how hard you choose to fight.

  • Jessie

    Jessie

    February 27th, 2016 at 8:20 AM

    When you have been a part of a couple for a very long time it can be very difficult to let all of that go even if you know that this is the wish of the other person. Just as you wish that they would respect your desires, you must learn to be the person who can also respect theirs. It is hard to think about who you are or will become without them but that is one of life’s fascinating little journeys and you just have to embrace the moment and rise above just wanting what you want.

  • Tabitha

    Tabitha

    February 28th, 2016 at 3:18 PM

    as much as I know you would love to be able to change his mind, you don’t want to do it in a way that will be deceitful and deceptive. let him come around to making that decision on his own if he wants to stay, otherwise he will always resent you for feeling like you made him do something that he didn’t want to do.

  • Sandra

    Sandra

    March 22nd, 2016 at 2:31 PM

    I know that you probably went into this marriage for better or for worse, but believe me, if he is gone then he is gone. I would not want to be his leftovers, so let him go and try to wait til someone new and better comes along.

    And if they don’t? It can be a great feeling to make it all on your own too.

  • Rachel

    Rachel

    May 24th, 2016 at 3:07 PM

    I know how you feel and it is very draining! My husband of 30 years left me over a month ago and says he wants me to be happy independently. He doesn’t want to see me in my pajamas. I suffer from clinical depression and some days are rough, other days I push myself to be a productive person. He is not happy with his life as far his job, himself and who knows what. I am a good hearted person and I have surrounded myself with a healthy support system, counselor, excercise, I journal to him every day (he doesn’t see it) and i end the journal with something positive i did or made me smile. I try really hard to stay in the present, do relaxation exercises, Of course I cry alot, I am now living with a friend. I spoke to him yesterday, he is not the same person. He seems so down and not happy with his life. I asked him, why didn’t you ever ask me to sit down and seriously talk about how you were feeling??? He didn’t know. I dont know what the future holds. We need to go to marriage therapy which he does not want to go to. I can’t imagine my life with out my best friend, but we are not on the same page communicating among other issues. I will pray that god gives you the strength to get through each day… Believe in yourself!!!! You are a good person:)

  • Cindy

    Cindy

    November 8th, 2016 at 8:35 PM

    I can relate to feeling ditched. I have been asking my husband to leave our home after 5 years of marriage because he is so emotionally abusive. He has been physically abusive in the past, but it has been a few years although he threatened physical abuse too. When he finally took me up on the leaving part, which was just a day ago, I feel totally lost and so all alone without him and his loud mouth. He could not form a sentence without swearing while he was here. He called me the worst names you can think of. He told me f___ you and f___ off all the time. He was downright mean spirited and hateful towards me whenever he did not get his way or when I confronted him about things he was guilty of, like lieing to me or stealing from me. I got so fed up with it that I told him he had to leave and then when he did, I am so sad and depressed and have not one clue about what to do with myself. He seemed fine with leaving. I feel lost. I can very much related to the part about should I try to save the marriage. For me, that would mean approving his bad treatment of me and accepting it from him. I just cannot do that so I will have to sit on my hands and find something else to do other than sit around here hoping that he will come home. He feels he has done nothing wrong. He always blames me for any conflict and for “Starting things off”. Where I see we are really the same, from your post, is learning to let go and let things take their course. I need to stop trying to control the situation and let things fall into place where they will. For me, I think my husband is just as happy not being here and he feels he does not have to answer to me, (which he doesn’t), and he doesn’t have to listen to me complain about his bad behavior. So be it. If I can just get through this initial hard time of missing him, I think I will begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But getting to that place is extremely difficult for me. If I can just let go, emotionally, I am sure I will be okay. But letting go is the most difficult part for me. I have tiger’s claws on this situation right now – a real grip. And behind that, I am scared. I am afraid to be alone. I am afraid of missing him everyday. I cannot see the light right now. I hope you and I make it to the other side.

  • Cynthia

    Cynthia

    January 14th, 2017 at 7:03 AM

    My husband left me after 20 years with our 4 year old daughter. He refused to communicate until child support services contacted him. Now he is saying that I am trying to destroy him. He has not seen his daughter in over a year because he has been having an affair that he denies to this day. I am sad everyday. I don’t eat or sleep. My daughter said that daddy left her and that he does not love her anymore. It is so hard to hear her say that. He said he would go to counseling if I turned his phone on and gave him money which I refuse to do. It is so hard to move forward not knowing what the future holds.

  • Kathy

    Kathy

    April 14th, 2017 at 4:34 PM

    You comment felt as if I was writing it myself, The situation is so similar its scary. On top of the verbal I have now been dealt a blow of infidelity for two years with the same women. he was leading a double life. One day your saying I love you see you later, and things change in a minute. I know of several underlying issues I have like abandonment and he has a narcissistic personality I know a toxic combo, He has since made an appointment for counseling next week and wants help he seems sincere this time, but I’m very very skeptical. I am loosing patience and growing older. any advise

  • Katelyn

    Katelyn

    August 9th, 2018 at 7:10 PM

    I can’t cope with the pain of my break up. Can’t eat or sleep, I feel depressed. Can’t sleep without the sleeping pills. And to make things worse I think I’m getting addicted to them. How can I make myself feel better and sleep better?

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    August 10th, 2018 at 6:18 AM

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