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Divorce After 20 Years of Marriage

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I received a call from a 42-year-old woman who heard me on the radio. She was practically out of breath, saying her husband walked in the door one day and told her he doesn't want to be married anymore.

wedding picture torn in two

Lisa Conrad Cohen: I met with her the following day and talked about her 22-year marriage, her three children and what might have happened to cause him to feel this way. She said there were no signs, and they seemed to get along very well. They would take three big family vacations a year, owned two homes, and lived life to the fullest. When I asked her if she thinks he's having an affair, she said "definitely not!" I then asked her if he was going through a mid-life crisis. She said she didn't think so. We talked about their sex life, how often they spent alone time together and did he travel a lot on business. She told me he travels two weeks out of every month. She said they had sex twice a week, and when they go out it's usually with other people. She asked me to help her get through this devastating time. I offered to coach her and she accepted.

The next day we met again and she conveyed to me that she and her husband met in college and that he was her first love. She's never been with another man and was petrified to go out into the dating world. I noticed how insecure she was on the inside and that it would take time to get her self-esteem back. I assured her that she would be dating again, but it might take some time to feel comfortable with the process. I could see how distraught she was and that it would take time to get back her self-esteem. A lot of women blame themselves with a failed marriage.

The Affair A month later she told me she found out her husband was having an affair with a younger woman. She was so angry and humiliated, but after doing all of the exercises I gave her, she said she was finally ready to meet someone. I told her to go out on dates with different people. Don't expect to get serious with the first person who comes along. This is your time to have fun, be adventurous, and feel like a kid again.

Here's a list of things women ask themselves:

Do I do enough to make him happy?

For some men, it's never enough. If he's not happy with himself, he can't be happy with someone else.

Do I give him enough sex?

You could be dropping the kids at school, going to work, coming home and cooking dinner and then he expects to get his sexual needs met. Well buddy, you're barking up the wrong tree. He needs to understand how exhausting being a mom is.

Am I still attractive to him after having children?

You're the person he chose to marry. So if you're a few pounds overweight he should still love you.

Maybe it's my cooking ...

So if you burn the lamb chops so what? If he wanted to marry Martha Stewart, he would have.

Am I sexy enough?

Has he looked in the mirror lately. There's nothing worse than a man who is critical of his wife and he's got a beer belly, losing his hair and needs to use Viagra to close the deal

If you ask yourself these questions, you'll make yourself crazy. So don't waste your time and give yourself a pat on the back that you put up with him as long as you did.

The following is a list of exercises to help overcome the emotional pain and sadness:

Keep a notepad by the bed and each night write down the following and the reasons for each one:

I am a loving and giving partner
I am a wonderful mother to my kids
I deserve to be in a happy, healthy relationship
I deserve to be happy in my life
I am a beautiful human being

Get Your Self-Esteem Back

Go to the gym, take a yoga class or a long power walk in the neighborhood. This is a great way to help depression.

Go to the hair salon and try a new sexy hairstyle, color or highlights.

Go shopping and buy yourself a new dress because you deserve it.

Go to the spa for a massage, facial or manicure. You deserve it.

Surround yourself with good friends and family

Take a dance class, art class, travel to a place you've always wanted to go to.

If you do these things you will feel better about yourself -- and will have a more positive outlook on life.

next: Salute Sergeant Mom
11 comments so far | Post a comment now
tennmom December 10, 2009, 10:08 AM

Being a father isn’t always a walk in the park, either.
My husband is a very “hands on” dad to our daughters. I’m a stay-home mom, so of course I spend more time with them than he does but when he is home he spends all of his time with them, helps with homework & dinner, helps tuck them into bed at night, all after driving for an hour and a half to work and back.

Deborah December 10, 2009, 2:45 PM

I have been married 26 years and consider myself in a good marriage. I think the key is to have good support system and a strong sense of self. I would be devastated for awhile too, because I love my husband deeply, but I know that I have lots to offer as a friend, companion and lover. It would just take time to move on.

Steve December 11, 2009, 12:25 PM

I suppose it is the same thing you do when your wife decides she doesn’t want to be married anymore after 10 years, EXCEPT, she still takes the kids, the house and half your paycheck for the rest of your life…so it could be worse…at least HE is out of your life when he leaves and you get the time to heal.

sharongilo December 11, 2009, 3:10 PM

When someone is totally shocked when a spouse asks for a divorce, some kind of connection and dialogue has been missing, and often spouses, without really recognizing, have been living in some separate ways in their marriage. In my many years as a marriage and family therapist and in my own marriage of 26 years, I have found certain behaviors critical in not letting this happen - take a look at “A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage” and visit at

Herald December 22, 2009, 4:15 PM

What about when it is the husband who has held everything together for years, been subjected to the emotional abuse and humiliations, stayed in shape, etc.
You make it sound like the man is always and totally at fault. Get real!! We can be hurting as bad or even worse.

Herald December 22, 2009, 4:16 PM

What about when it is the husband who has held everything together for years, been subjected to the emotional abuse and humiliations, stayed in shape, etc.
You make it sound like the man is always and totally at fault. Get real!! We can be hurting as bad or even worse.

marke December 23, 2009, 7:33 AM

The first half I understand but the send half of this sentence is hurtful. So two wrongs make a right.

“There’s nothing worse than a man who is critical of his wife and he’s got a beer belly, losing his hair and needs to use Viagra to close the deal”

Krystal December 23, 2009, 7:49 PM

Interesting, naturally this hit home with guys. However i think the most important thing to remember in a marriage is it takes two to make the marriage and it takes two (working together to keep it going). Although I only have seven years of marriage. I know that its something i continuously have to work towards. I am not convinced that there were not signs in this situation. I do believe she may have ignored them or didnt simply pay enough attention. Men have just as much responsibility on them sure being a mom we bare the brunt of the caring for children in most situations and its difficult. But we are moms we have been doing it for years. If it was easy id be concerned i wasnt doing something right. Not to mention woman are emotional people. This is none the less a situtation of it was just not suppost to be any longer. It was time to go seperate ways. It happens and it dosent happen, its just life. But there are always two two people responsible for the change in my opinion.

Edna  March 10, 2010, 3:37 PM

Great stuff. si killer.

Thad  March 10, 2010, 4:34 PM, how do you do it?

Sanjuanita Klingenberger December 20, 2010, 7:18 PM

I’m grateful for taking the time to talk over this, Though I feel conversant about it, I steady prefer reading on this topic.

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