Dear Amy: I recently returned from a week-long visit to help my 90-year-old father, whereupon my husband of 46 years sat me down and said he had contacted a lawyer to file for a divorce, rented an apartment, and wanted me to sell our brand-new home.
He has ALWAYS been a good, solid, loving partner up to this point.
I was completely blindsided by this.
He says there's no affair. He doesn't want to see if marriage counseling will work out, although he's been going to a therapist privately for a year.
I'm in complete shock.
Where do I start emotionally? Legally?
Thank you for your insight.
– Mourning in Montana
Dear Mourning: This is … a truly terrible shock, and I am so sorry. You seem to be stepping into a new demographic of elders: those experiencing what is being called “gray divorce.”
My main advice is for you not to make any financial moves (certainly do not put your home up for sale) until you see an attorney who will represent your interests and help you to approach this dissolution in careful stages. Developing your own game plan will help you to feel – and be – more in control.
Immediately gather all of your tax returns, retirement accounts, income statements, deeds, and any other financial records, and make an extra set of copies. Your husband cannot force you to sell your house on his timetable. Do not agree to anything until you are certain it is the wisest course for you.
Your husband has been deceiving you and has spent the last year strategizing and putting his plan firmly in place without giving you the benefit of any warning. That is both cowardly and brazen.
Until your relationship stabilizes, I don’t think it’s wise to believe everything he says (or possibly anything he says) about his decision or the reasons behind it.
I realize that this is a highly charged and emotional time, but if you start to focus on some of these business matters, you will gain some clarity and feel less blindsided.
It would be a big help if you could confide in savvy and stalwart friends or family members. You need people who will not add to the drama, but be a sounding board for you. This is an extremely challenging and emotional time – a time of deep sadness, confusion, and anger. A compassionate therapist would be invaluable. An in-person or online divorce support group will offer you ongoing help and advice.
Dear Amy: I'm a millennial male about to turn 40 next year.
When I was 26, the "Great Recession" hit and my business sunk. I had to move back with my parents for a few years and I was deeply depressed.
I eventually built another business and got back on my feet. I was able to travel to four continents and nine countries. These were my modest life goals.
I have no wife, kids, or pets. I try to help others and volunteer monthly. I also support charities through financial giving.
I feel like I've already accomplished my goals before age 40. This is a good and bad thing because I'm slightly bored.
What do you recommend I do?
– Bored Millennial
Dear Bored: Bored people are boring people, and so the obvious answer is for you to set yourself some new goals and seek new and life-enriching experiences.
You could work to enhance your education, set an ambitious health or fitness goal, start a garage band, or read a book a week.
Or, if your work-life will allow it, you could combine two of your interests and work for a charity overseas for a month or two.
A book you might find inspiring is “Be the Hero of Your Life: Ditch the Excuses, Take Your Hero’s Journey, and Find Your Life’s Purpose,” by J. Scott MacMillan (2019, Mobes Publishing). The author describes the concept of “the hero’s journey,” and illustrates how understanding these stages of life can lead you to insight and change.
The hero’s journey typically starts with a “call to adventure.” This could be yours.
Dear Amy: I know you don’t like the term “maiden name,” but what do you propose to replace it with?
The term is outdated and reeks of a paternalistic society, but "birth name" has its own connotations.
– Are There Any Maidens Left?
Dear Are There: You bring up a great point. Women could refer to their original surnames as their “family name.”
Weirdly – just yesterday I was asked about my own “maiden name.” Sigh.
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