Help! My husband is leaving (Part 2)

Question & Answer With A Buddhist Nun

Help! My husband is leaving, Part 2

Please read Part 1 first.

Some weeks later, Justine telephoned me. During our talk she indicated a belief that it would be too risky, even immoral, for her to take any action to protect her interests, due to the chance that she‘d be perceived (by him or others) as pushing Kirk away. She was choosing to remain passive and let Kirk make any decisions. She begged for advice to help her feel less devastated. Then our call was interrupted. Unable to reach her, I wrote the following practical advice:*

Dear Justine,
Unfortunately I lost your call when I accepted the call-waiting. I do not have your phone number. Just before I lost your call, I had been talking about possible actions for a wife in your situation, such as taking control of family assets. Not to advise that you should do these things, but I wanted you to see that there are various options and choices to make.

You are a loving woman who is making difficult choices every day: choosing to stay with your husband, choosing to be patient, choosing not to take family assets, choosing not to push him into making a decision. These choices require a lot of strength, and I appreciate your strength.

Thus far you also choose not to talk with an attorney, but I hope that you will change your mind. She can tell you your rights as a wife. Hopefully you will not need the information. But one day you may suddenly need to know what to do, and may experience difficulties due to lack of advance knowledge; so it is good to prepare just in case. Furthermore, after you talk with an attorney, then if Kirk mentions legal issues, you can know whether he is bluffing.

In my recent email I already gave some suggestions to hel pyou get through this difficult time. Some more suggestions:

Do Buddhist practices. Something good for you and your daughter is doing Buddhist practices together. You can make a little shrine in your house. (When I stayed at your home, I looked at the room in which I stayed, and wished that you would remove the bed and make a nice shrine room out of it!) A large shrine is more inspiring, but with even a little shrine, you can do Buddha puja every day. You can put on Pirit tapes and take 5 precepts every morning. Perhaps you can get your daughter interested and teach her how to do this.

Focus on the career you set aside for him years ago. You may decide to prepare yourself to easily re-enter the workforce full-time, by going back to school or doing an internship or other re-training. If you cannot be home every evening, arrange with friends (a family whom your daughter likes very much) for her to spend those evenings at their home until you can get her.

Get active. Turn your mind from Kirk. Try to remember everything you ever wanted to do but couldn’t because Kirk didn’t want to, and take advantage of the opportunity of this time without him constantly controlling your lives. Stay active so that you do not have time to notice what Kirk is doing. Look for ways to bring pleasure back into your lives even though Kirk remains disinterested. Examples:

  • When he goes out, perhaps you and your daughter can rent a movie; or go out to dinner; or you can both spend time with a family whom you like, and you can talk with them while she does her homework.
  • Maybe re-paint the house or remodel it.
  • Find some women willing to come over at dinnertime, and prepare an elaborate, fancy dinner-party just for women; your daughter can help.
  • Undertake an art project: you and your daughter can paint or draw to express whatever you are feeling; or do a sculpture.
  • Put on loud music and dance; maybe bring over friends who can dance with you (or teach you to dance).
  • Let your daughter do something Kirk would object to as irritating, such as playing loud music or having a party. Let her bring girlfriends home overnight for a “pajama party”.
  • When he is out, enjoy cooking food that he wouldn’t like.
  • Rent movies he would hate.
  • Go to museums or other activities he thought to be too boring.

Develop compassion for this man lost in evil. It seems like Kirk is really in the grip of Mara [evil] right now. Whenever you make a wish for him to change his ways, focus on compassionately hoping that he will stop the evil deeds that will hurt him — rather than focusing on what you want from him for your own benefit.

Change your thinking. Whenever you get upset over Kirk’s actions, you are actually getting upset from your own thought or attitude about his actions. So try not to believe that “Kirk is hurting me,” and realize instead: “My thoughts and attitudes about Kirk are hurting me.” Then you see what you can change to help yourself feel better.

Try to figure out what was the last thought that made you feel pain, and write it down. Analyze the thought and try to see if there is anything in that thought that is not ultimately true. If there is even the slightest untruth, reject the thought as a lie.

For example, if you think ”my husband,” you can reflect something like this:

“How can anyone be ‘mine’; how can someone belong to another person? Even my own body does not belong to me. It belongs to nature. I did not command it to arise and I cannot prevent my own body from eventually deteriorating. When even my own body is not mine, how can I hope to own another person? He is fellow sufferer in Samsara; but he could never be ‘mine’.”

If you think, “I wonder where Kirk is. He may be at ‘her’ house right now. I wish he would come home,” you can decide to think instead, “My husband is not himself lately. As long as he is so strange and unfriendly, I may be better off if he stays away from the house. I hope he does not come home too soon and make me see him look at me without friendliness.”

Keep the kid out of it. One more thing. If you can avoid telling your child anything about your marriage problems, that is best. If she feels like she is in the middle of this situation, it is a heavy burden for her. All she needs to know is that “Daddy is having a difficult time right now” or “Mommy is having a difficult time right now.”

Earlier we talked about counseling; you ended counseling because Kirk wasn’t sincere. Nonetheless, if you can find a good family counselor just for you and your child, it may help the two of you a lot. Many times children feel irrationally responsible when parents have marital problems, so your daughter may really need counseling to deal with what is going on.

Hope these ideas are useful.

Kind regards,
Bhikkhuni Sudhamma

Epilogue: Kirk was indeed having an affair. He moved out and sought a divorce, along the way inflicting unpleasant, hurtful surprises. Justine and their daughter went through much misery.

Last time I saw Justine, a few years after our correspondence, she lived in a lovely new home with her daughter and a lively kitten. Kirk was no longer part of her life. The divorce had been settled, and Justine looked bright and confidant. She seemed happy, perhaps happier than she ever had been while living under her domineering husband.

Have a question about Buddhism, ethics or life in general? Write to DearAyye [~at~] gmail [~dot~] com. 

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